Wednesday, August 27, 2014

There's also a shirt and a hat

Official shirt, hat, health-care, vacation-time, sick-leave, much more money than I would make as the unsuccessful freelancer that I was, plus a plethora of people being officially (and also sincerely) nice. THANK YOU. I haven't, of course, had any of this "belonging" during my past 7 years in the wilderness. I need this right now. I don't know that this represents "my soul" or anything, but I need and appreciate every single bit of this simple, sincere kindness right now.

My Desired Life as a Woman



I can't think of anything with more Realistic Good Vibes than the opening credits from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show," which ran from 1970 to 1977. This version here is not the exact opening sequence (it's the original singer Sonny Curtis's extended version, complete with awkward "you're so sexy" add-ons -- the show wasn't ever about Mary being a femme fatale; she was attractive and had regular dates, but the focus, realistically, was on her everyday interactions with neighbors/friends/co-workers); YouTube doesn't have the definitive opening right now.

What opening image I was remembering right now, and looking for specifically, was from the later seasons, where she's walking along the lake -- in one version, she strides ahead as people pass her; in another, she turns to look back at them. In this video, you can see what I was looking for around 1:27 - 1:31.

What made me think of this: Weeks ago, the receptionist at work stopped me as I came in the front door after my tedious half-mile lunch-trudge back from the McDonald's up the street. Though she and I hadn't talked before, she all-of-a-sudden said, "I like how you walk! You always walk like you're going somewhere!" When I looked at her quizzically, puzzled at this out-of-the-blue epiphany, she elaborated: "You seem to walk with real purpose." I laughed and made a joke like, "Oh, it's probably because I lived in New York! You've got to be fast!" And "I think it's because I'm just late back from lunch!"

That was a couple of weeks ago. Then today, I was walking down the hall and said Hello in passing to a lady that I'd gotten supplies from in the past. Her response to my "hello": "I really like the way you walk!" This woman, I'd chatted with before, so I felt free to be honest and say, "No! Do you think I look PURPOSEFUL?! Have you been talking to [the receptionist]?" This second lady laughed politely but also looked puzzled, so I explained what the receptionist had said to me earlier. No, this lady said, she just thought I looked very confident... like I was going somewhere!

In general, I always have walked fast because I find walking between places pretty boring. I want to get there! I have never had any Sashay or Sway. I have always just had a STRIDE. While living in NYC briefly did probably contribute mildly to this, my fast walk was definitely already in place before then.

When I watched the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" as a kid (it ended when I was 12), one thing I really noticed, and liked, from the opening credits of the later seasons was how, yes, "purposefully" she was striding along the lake! I remember thinking back then that I would love to walk, and look, like that!

Up until now, no one's ever said that they liked my walk. Instead, I've almost always gotten from companions, "Slow down! WHAT is your HURRY?" No one, 'til now, has ever said, "You look like you're really going somewhere."

Rewatching this non-exact version of the opening credits to the show reminded me in general of just how good I felt as a kid while watching it, and while looking forward to watching it. At 10 or 12, I didn't know anything about shopping for meat, or greeting someone from an elevator, or strolling along a lake, or washing a car, or getting along with coworkers (much less the non-pictured reacting to a clown's death at a funeral, or having a bad hair/eyelash day), but I constantly thought while watching Mary Richards: "This is what I want to be like as a woman." At 49, I still can't think of a better role model.

Monday, August 25, 2014

This was playing while I bought donuts in the supermarket today.

If I lived in a town that wanted to spring for elevator music in the few tall buildings, I'm sure it would have been playing in them, as well. While profoundly depressing, also a bit comforting: It's all momentary fashion: The Revolution will be anesthetized.




RV'ing

Back when I was in my 20s and 30s, I constantly heard derogatory comments from my contemporaries about "old people," including the mocking of older people taking their RVs to travel the States... I always wondered what younger people perceived as "the problem" intellectually, or whichever way, of people of whatever age using their free time to travel and explore.

At 49, I've been alone forever. I can only hope and wish and pray that one day I'll have somebody to travel around in an RV with.

Slowly Unfolding

A really pleasant transformation has been ongoing for me since June.

3 months ago, I was informed by my temp boss that I was as of then on the "temp-to-perm" track, with the real job to kick in the last week of August.

And so it does kick in tomorrow. And as of Monday (yesterday), the city of Austin has also initiated a "MetroRapid" bus going exactly where I need to go. Since February, when I started the job as a temp, the #3 city bus from work to home has been a Cesspool of Crazy. This #3 still exists, but now in addition is the brand new bus route running every 15 minutes (as opposed to every half hour, which gives the psychos time to gather).

And my one-room apartment lease is up either 5 or 6 months from now. (Can't find the latest lease!) For the past year or more, the place has been quiet and great. But, please --- every human being, especially any human over the age of, say, 25, needs more than the one room/400 sq ft I've been living in for the past 4 years! Now that I know that I have a real salary kicking in TOMORROW, and a lease-end in sight, I have all the time in the world to start looking... In light of what I've been through in recent years, this whole "slow unfolding," giving me plenty of money and plenty of time to plan for a move, is miraculous. In 2010, I never quite thought I'd make it back. (Well, 40% of me did, but 60% was in full, constant, shock-and-horror mode.)

I am so grateful for this current breathing space.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Only Five More Shower Curtains

Last year when I bought a new shower curtain featuring Joan Crawford for (to me) a crazy amount of $125, I first started thinking about various patterns of life. Such as: In my adult life, I've probably changed out my shower curtain every 5 years or so. And, now that I'm 49, I've lived two-thirds of my life, and will probably have only 5 shower curtains left to go. That's it. I'll only see 5 more shower curtains in my life.

That kind of blew my mind. Reminded me of Charles Manson's jailhouse observation that, during the time he'd spent in prison, every single dog on earth had died. You don't think of it like that, but that's exactly how it is. Reality is hard-core.

Appreciation

I've been very lucky for the past 3 months, after being given word back in June that my boss wanted to make me a temp-to-perm employee. As I've said, all benefits kick in this coming Tuesday.

Aside from just the past 3 months as a result of good job news, I've also been feeling fairly content for the past year or so due to both a backlog of money from freelance work way back in 2012, plus an inexplicable change in the residents of the apartment complex I've lived in since 2010. Within months after I moved in to these apartments, there was first an aggressive dick next door who constantly played his music super-loud and wouldn't change his behavior even after I talked to him. Luckily, he moved out fairly quickly. He was followed by a passive young guy who was also loud and incredibly, sloppily fucked up. I once passed by his open door and witnessed garbage lying everywhere --- once he moved out, also quickly, the roaches that had been feasting on his waste quickly spread over into my apartment. It took weeks of roach treatments to get rid of the infestation. This outer disgustingness completely mirrored my inner feelings --- I was a loser who couldn't find a real job, I deserved the shitty neighbors that I had.

For the past year or so, though, my apartment complex has been almost completely quiet. Scumbags gone. It took months, though, for me to relax once I came home... I was always "on alert," waiting for something to be tense about. Similarly, when I first moved in in 2010, the neighbors living in the house behind my apartment were also aggressively obnoxious --- firecrackers 'til 3am on holidays, etc. They, too, have not been much heard from recently.

In short, I was in full PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)-mode from 2010 until about 2013. Which included my relations with Sandra. When she first contacted me in 2008 back in NYC, things were exciting and fun for about 2 months. Then, all sorts of creepy emotional shit started kicking in... What random guy she was sleeping with, etc.

While I was in "Fear Mode" in NYC, her behavior seemed to fit right in with my circumstances. I was fighting for survival there, not feeling very secure about anything. I desperately needed SOME anchor, had none, wanted her to be one... She wasn't at all. She was as flighty as what was going on around me. Same with once I was forced to come home to Austin. I then desperately needed some support from someone... Nothing. Nothing.

Things have calmed down for me now. I'm able to take a step back and look honestly at what I'd been through for the past few years... I'm actually horrified by Sandra's behavior toward me. And horrified at myself for how I let her affect me. My old poetry professor David Wevill giving a rare reading at UT a couple of years ago, for example... When I told Sandra about it, wanting her to go with me (we'd both been in his class back in the '80s), she first said that she wouldn't be able to go... and then went anyway, not telling me... while I was at home that night crying. What kind of shitty person does that? When I was feeling like shit myself, I was very tolerant of others' shitty behavior --- I felt like a loser, like I didn't deserve any better. In my current frame of mind: What she did was awful. And there were multiple "awful" things that followed.

I was desperate for some human connection, in lieu of nothing else working out in my life... My now having a new satisfying job is, on the surface, shallow... But in reality, it's actually quite meaningful psychologically: My boss likes me and appreciates my good work. I'm incredibly thankful, after years of knowing what it's like NOT to be appreciated for ANYTHING.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Change of Life

Wait, is that the euphemism for "menopause"? Oh, well. That, too, will probably be happening any day now.

But in this case, it means that in a few short days, I will once again be a "regular person" with a regular job, health care, vacation/sick days, and MONEY, honey!

What a GRIND these past 7 years have been! Starting with when I dropped everything and moved to NYC in early 2007. In search of adventure and excitement after approximately 7 years of having a job/(rented) house/car/cat and being bored to death (bored, that is, with all BUT my cat, Gracie).

It's a cliché about "the 7-year itch," but in my case, I do seem to be following roughly 7-year life cycles:

1980-1987: When Lennon died in December 1980, I was 15 and had been a huge Beatles/Lennon fan since only the summer before, when a local radio station was playing Beatles songs several times an hour all summer long. The Beatles made me unreasonably happy. I was trapped for the summer out in the country, too young for a car. My mother had forbade (forbidden?) me from associating with my friend next door -- which meant that I could no longer participate in ANY of the summer neighborhood-kid activities, since my friend, of course, was at all of the them. There were only 4 houses where we lived, surrounded by undeveloped land, and a total of 9 kids. We all used to organize things like softball games, relay races, dirt-clod fights, even "performances" of KISS concerts and duets from "Grease." I enjoyed all of this. Once my mother isolated me, I was completely bereft of any companionship until school started. The Beatles helped very much to relieve the utter loneliness.

So this was a point at which I first recognized a couple of things: I deeply hated my mother for her (what I realize now was) sadistic isolation of me. And I loved how immersion in an artist (in this case, the Beatles, then Lennon) allowed me to feel true happiness -- and to feel that I was somehow understood by SOMEBODY: I typed out the lyrics to "Working Class Hero" and "God" and taped them to my wall. And when Lennon was shot, that was the first time I experienced true depression. Not just blatant things like uncontrollable crying (at which teachers were troubled) that went on for days, but also a deep sense of darkness and evil that lasted for months. I'd never felt such a frightening thing, such a psychic disturbance, before, and there was nothing I could do about it but wait for it to pass.

'83, I fell in love with Ginny in the early spring, went off to college 3 hours away in the late summer (pre-Internet and e-mail); by Christmas, Ginny had found a new "best friend." My despair over the emotional loss colored what should have been fun college years. '85-86, I discovered poetry, became a real writer. (Yes, I knew I was a "real" writer even by that early point.) 1987, I discovered "Joan Crawford" -- who, like the Beatles, would remain an important source of happiness.

1988-1994: In the spring of '88, the "Ginny Fever" finally broke when I met twins, Kathy and Kris, who were the first people I'd felt a strong connection to since Ginny. I loved Kathy platonically, and I fell in love with Kris sexually, which ultimately caused huge problems. I actually left Austin in August of '88 to go live with K/K back in Fort Worth (the area where I was also from), where their mother was dying of cancer. A huge mistake. Their mother had a generic, cheap, small 2-bedroom apartment -- the twins and I all in one bedroom, the dying mother in the other. A last-minute road-trip that Kris and her mother took to a New Age cancer-treatment center in Arizona didn't help; their mother died in late September of '88, a month after I arrived. In my naivete, I then expected a "period of mourning and contemplation" -- nah. Instead, the young women (then 20) had a constant stream of people over to party. And their older sister moved into the apartment, so it was still the 3 of us in one small room, the sister in the other. And I was in love with Kris. It was a nightmare. I ended up getting my own apartment down the street, which I broke the lease on in February 1989 to hightail it back to Austin, a mere 6 months after I'd arrived in Fort Worth.

Two months later, in April of '89, I, at age 23, finally came out of the closet when I met my first girlfriend/first sexual partner at a gay pride march in Austin. She was a dominatrix, complete with various whips/chains/cuffs/what-have-you "decorating" the wall above her queen-size red-velvet headboard. And she was also an ex-con, with a 7-year stint for bank robbery 15 years earlier. I was in slightly over my head, ya think?! :)  But I thought she looked like Annie Lennox, and at least I was FINALLY having sex...

The above went about as well as you might imagine: After 8 months of dating, and of her fooling around with various people, we moved in together. I was 24, I wanted to live with someone, I thought she'd stop fooling around if we were under the same roof, for Pete's sake! :) Nope. Weird phone-calls and hangups at 2am. Overtly coming on to women right in front of me when we had them over to watch movies. I moved out after 3 months.

1990 to 1993 were a weird combination of me still pining for her (and us sporadically sleeping together) AND me buckling down to finally finish up my Bachelor's degree at UT-Austin in '93 (after first entering college 10 years earlier, in '83). School was what kept me sane. I remember thinking at the time, "I am utterly miserable, but at least I'm simultaneously doing something productive!"

In '92-'93, I also had a very positive experience with my fellow-Leo friend/co-editor Brian (whom I'd met in an earlier writing class at UT) putting out 3 issues of our little Austin literary magazine --- very good, exciting vibes that were, unfortunately, also overshadowed by my obsession with the sleazy ex-girlfriend.

And for a few months in early '94, I had an "affair" with the first man I'd ever had sex with. My boss at a short-lived job.

1994-2000: In August of '94, I went off to San Francisco State's graduate writing program. Was utterly dismayed and depressed by the political correctness of both the program and the city. RE the program:
(1) A gay writing professor treated me disdainfully after I'd said, upon his initial question on the first day of class, that I'd (uncool-ly) been reading Norman Mailer the previous summer, and that I thought (crudely) that Mailer had "balls." I was ignored for several classes, until I brought in a poem with a brief mention of my own gay sexuality. After that, the professor was uber-supportive and friendly.
(2) A minimalist poet-professor was highly critical of my writing. One day, I decided to take a few hours to explore this professor's own work. Upon discovering exactly how pared-down and minimalist this professor was, I revised one of my poems and re-submitted it for class discussion: Voila! Once my poem looked and read exactly like hers, she was filled with enthusiasm for my work for the rest of the semester.
(2) The director of the program and my thesis advisor once argued with me about a poem, then let it slip that she'd only read the thing once, on her way to work. While driving. She became irritable when I suggested that perhaps she needed to spend a little more careful time with it. (This same director also asked me, when I mentioned that my mother was German, if my family were Nazis. When I explained that, yes, my German grandfather was a civil servant and did join the Nazi party because it was required to keep his job, she snidely said, "Germans always have excuses.")

Ugh.

I got my Master's, got out of that intellectually creepy place as soon as I could.

'96-early 2000 after returning to Austin were utter wilderness years. Back at the library where I'd worked 10 years earlier; drinking/clubbing heavily, trying to connect with the ex-girlfriend, the married man, a local singer that I'd had a crush on. Nothing Going On in any way.

2000-2007: A real Job-Life finally kicked in after getting hired at a local publishing firm. With their steady work (initially freelance), I was finally able to leave the extremely low-paying library job that I'd hated so (hated for the low pay and utter laziness of coworkers, though I liked the environment: the time and space to wander around reading and exploring ideas).

With the stability that this "real-job" money provided, I was able to rent a house for the next 7 years. Had the best car I've ever had ("best" because it had a V-6 engine, unlike the V-4s that I'd been driving up until this time, plus it was black and looked darn cool). Had my beautiful cat Gracie, who had adopted me in late '99.

And my mother bought me my very first computer, Christmas of 2000 (since I couldn't afford one myself) --- whereupon I discovered a whole online "World o' Joan Crawford." Plus, once I had "online people" to chat with, my need for going out to clubs 4 times a week faded away. All I'd wanted was some intellectual stimulation, and I found it online. Saved my life.

Created my Joan Crawford website in 2004, which has continued to be intellectually and artistically stimulating for the past 10 years...

In mid/late 2006, though, the economy started wavering and the publishing company that I worked for started having round after round of layoffs. I'd survive one round, get laid off the next, get re-hired weeks later, get shuffled from one department to another. My relationship with my boss deteriorated, and then was the time to GET OUT. Luckily, my then-boss had earlier flown me into NYC for a job interview at the office there, thus giving me a bit of comfort with the city -- a city that I immediately loved and felt comfortable in.

2007-2014: New York City, 2007 to 2010: Aw. Too soon. Well, not "too soon" if you've been reading my blog entries for the past 7 years, but "too soon" for me to coalesce just now. I remain melancholy about having been forced financially to leave. I didn't in any way want to leave. I was ripped from it. I liked it there a lot. After the Crash of September 2008, I personally experienced for the first time economic hardship beyond my control.

2010-2014: Survival in Austin. Psychologically damaging. First, having to live with my utterly denigrating mother for 3 months when I had nowhere else to go, a psychological non-home that I'd been eager to escape when I was 18. Then, back in a one-room 400-sq-ft apartment (which I hadn't lived in since the '80s). Temp jobs. Hating some high-level secretarial jobs that I was assigned to, yet weeping when I was not given the permanent position. Having to be spoken to condescendingly by bosses just because they could. Having to ride the buses that were overcrowded and filled with smelly assholes and just-plain-crazies. Bad, bad, bad online/attempted real-life "relationship" with Sandra, a woman that I'd initially met in an '85 poetry class and had reconnected with online in '08.

2014 -      :  After the previous 7 years of utter chaos, grateful and glad to finally be offered shelter from the storm by something, anything. And an interesting job, at that. With decent pay and benefits. I can now live where I want, travel how I want. Talk to you again about this in 2021, when I'm 55...

There, I've done it. Told my story to the ether. In lieu of anyone in real life to share with. You make do with what you have. Like waiting dumbly, interminably at bus-stops in a town that hasn't planned for public transportation. Yeah, really, pretty much just like that.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Adult Milestones

A 40-something/family-man coworker returned from a 2-week vacation today and we were chatting about where he'd just been, plus the fact that the new car that's he'd ordered months ago was finally going to be ready later this week. He mentioned that it would be the first entirely brand new car that he'd ever owned.

"That means you're officially an adult now!" I said.

(I've NEVER had a brand new car. I still don't have ANY car, much less a new one, after 4 years back from NYC, but when I used to own cars (from '81 to '07), all of them were either hand-me-downs from my father or mother, or else used cars.)

He laughed and agreed: You're not a real adult until you get your first brand-new car!

But then I had to point out to him: Oh wait... This isn't YOUR first Adult Milestone, by any means! You have a wife, you have a child, you have a house... AND you have chickens!

Now I, on the other hand... of the same age as this man... have utterly FAILED at reaching every single one of said "Adult Milestones"! No wife/child/house/car/chickens. Damn.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stop Crying Wolf.

When the Trayvon Martin shooting story first broke in 2012, my first reaction was the result of exactly what I'd, trustingly, been fed by MSNBC and CNN, complete with photos of what looked like a 12-year-old child (Martin from years earlier): "Oh my god! That poor little kid! And he was just carrying Skittles and a tea!"

Well, as it turned out, that "child" was 17, over 6 feet tall, and he'd bloodied the nose and back of the head of his neighborhood-watch pursuer before Zimmerman finally shot him once in self defense, to get Martin off of him. (Hospital records documented Zimmerman's bloody nose and the injuries on the back of his head.)

In other words, what I'd first been told by a couple of media outlets -- that a "vigilante" had randomly shot an innocent junior-high-age kid carrying a bag of candy -- was completely false.

A couple of days ago, when the Michael Brown shooting story first broke, I was immediately more wary.

According to the first thing I saw on CNN, an interview with Brown's friend who had been walking with him when the police pulled up: "We were just walking along. Big Mike was a gentle giant! He had his hands up! The man just shot him when he was running away!"

That indeed sounds terrible! What kind of monster shoots a Gentle Giant while he's running away?!

From the friend's tale, the two young men were simply "strolling" in the middle of the street when a cop car pulled up and told them to get out of the street. Big Mike didn't like that and started arguing. The Wicked Cop then tried to pull him into the squad car. Big Mike started running. And so the Wicked Cop shot him multiple times.

Just from that alone: When a cop tells you to get out of the middle of the street, then get out of the middle of the street. Cops are annoying assholes sometimes. I can think of 3 occasions in my 49 years when I personally thought I was stopped unfairly:

One: Middle of the day, I was frequently switching lanes (with blinker) while driving my Ford Pinto down Guadalupe in Austin. Cop car thought I was switching lanes too much and pulled me over. I guess my Ford Pinto with multiple bumperstickers looked poor and weird. The cop came to my window, asked me what my hurry was. When I explained, "No hurry, just trying to pass slow people; I thought I was using my blinker. Was I speeding?" he let me off with not even a warning.

Two: 4am at an Austin lake after being out clubbing all night, after doing mushrooms for the first time. Me, a fellow white-girl co-ed, and two older Middle Eastern grad students. I was wading knee-deep in the lake, "feeling the one-ness of the universe" after the mushrooms, when the cop car pulled up and shined his brights on us. One officer got out and came over to me, still in the water, and asked what we were all doing... I told him something about how pretty the lake was. He and his partner conferred and then drove off.

Three: Coming home circa 4am from a friend's house party in the west hills of Austin, I was lost. At some point on some road, some asshole in a sports car pulled up at the light next to me. After which we proceeded to RACE! He beat me, but I was overjoyed to see him get pulled over by the police a mile or so later. Only problem for me was: According to the police, while they had him stopped, they had apparently also "signaled" to me to pull over. I didn't see any such signals, so I drove on, laughing at the poor sucker who got pulled over. Well, a couple of minutes later, there were police on MY tail as I was trying to find my way back to town. When I pulled over, 4 or 5 cop cars soon joined us. 4 in the morning, 10 cops all standing around getting off on watching my sobriety tests... I passed all the tests, but got a ticket for speeding.

OK... see the difference there in the very RUDIMENTARY behavior when stopped by the police? I may have thought the cops were acting like assholes, but did I act like an asshole and attack them either verbally or physically? No, I did not. Lesson to those in the "Black Community" who are obviously teaching their kids that the police are "to be confronted": You've been teaching your kids wrong. When you teach your kids to ATTACK the police over minor slights, then -- surprise! -- the police might just attack in response.

All of the above thoughts were PRIOR to my learning via a televised video that the "Gentle Giant, Big Mike" had, minutes before being stopped by the officer, stolen some cigarillos from a local convenience store, shoving the owner when he tried to stop him from walking out.

When the officer stopped the walking pair re their jaywalking, is it inconceivable that "Big Mike" was feeling guilty about what he had just stolen and was afraid of getting busted for that?  Is it inconceivable that he behaved aggressively in an attempt to avoid arrest?

Initial autopsy reports show that Mike Brown was shot 6 times IN THE FRONT. His friend lied when he said that Brown was shot in the back. And his friend lied when he said that he and Brown had simply been walking along innocently (failing to mention that Brown had just stolen something).

MSNBC and CNN have pondered tonight: "Why aren't people believing the witnesses?" Well, because the witnesses have clearly LIED. Brown wasn't simply "an 18-year-old BOY" just moseying-on-down-the-street but rather, a 6'4" thug who'd just robbed a store and was extremely anxious to get away from a cop who had just caught him.

A side-note: How many young black men were just shot in Chicago alone last week by other young black men? 90% of black homicides in this country last year were committed by black males. This dwarfs anything, ANYTHING, that ANY police officer might have done to the "Black Community." Most sane people are completely aware of these statistics. Why aren't black people out on the streets of Chicago protesting? Clean up your own backyard, folks.