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.")


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.

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