Monday, March 31, 2014

Shrieking

Last Saturday night/Sunday morning, I ended up SHRIEKING at the world. This has happened ONE time in the past 4 years since I've been back in Austin (in 2011, waiting for the bus on my way to my mother's house to drop off the birthday gifts I'd bought, after she'd made it clear that she didn't want a birthday after my brother was going out of town to party with his friends; it was about 7 in the morning; I screamed out loud at the bus-stop; once I'd dropped off her fucking presents, I cried profusely all the way back home.).

Prior to these two Austin shriekings, the last time I was howling was back in my Weehawken apartment. I lived there for 2 years (2008 to 2010), and I lost it (aka "howled") maybe twice.

Why? Utter desolation at utter isolation. Ya'd think ya'd get used to it after 30 years, huh? I think what sets it off is hints at closeness (like a mom's birthday, where you think things should be nice; or Sandra in town, needing help) --- and then the kick in the face of the ones you wanted to love you not loving you at all.

The worst part of all of this: Things might be going decently (i.e., not necessarily "great," but they're "going"; the loneliness has begun to seem "pure"). But then once you start wanting, and don't receive... your nothingness, instead of being Zen-like, feels all utterly shitty again.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Even I can be soothing

From my uncle via Facebook months ago:

"I was very happy to receive your message. I carried your baby picture in my wallet for many years until I misplaced the wallet. Four and one half years in Vietnam, your picture was in my pocket. Of course, I still love you and wish our families had not been so scattered. Hope to hear so all of us could have known and been closer to each other."

Soothing, like a forgiveness phone-call


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The House is Rockin' (with Domestic Problems)

My parents divorced in late fall of '78 after my father came home drunk from a bar and then tried to shoot my mother when she wouldn't go to the bedroom with him.

Hours before, I'd watched him strutting around the house, getting ready to go out, putting on his cologne and his 70s suede "going out" jacket. This show didn't happen very often, but when it did, there was always some problem afterwards. I knew that the "suede jacket" and the "cologne" were bad news.

He came home a couple of hours later, while my mother and I were still up watching TV, demanding that my mother have sex with him. She said no. I got sent to my room. Peering out from down the hall, I saw him slap her around; at some point in their arguing, she grabbed the gold chain around his neck and tore it while falling to her knees. At that point, pissed off that his gold chain was torn, he went to the hall closet for his gun. She ran out the back door. He ran out after her. I closed my bedroom door and huddled by it, my ear pressed against it to find out what was happening.

I don't know how long I waited like that, but at some point I heard my father come back into the house. Luckily, he went straight to his bed and fell into a drunken stupor. Once I heard him snore, I crept out and went to make sure he was asleep, then went outside to look for my mother. I have a fuzzy memory of seeing her huddled in the garage and her gesturing to me to go back inside, but I'm not sure about this. At any rate, I eventually went to sleep. The next day, my father was not in the house. A day or so later, my mother told me that they were divorcing.

All of this a preface to '79, after the divorce, when my father was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Fort Worth, and my 13-year-old self and my 7-year-old brother were forced to visit him on weekends for several months before my military dad got himself transferred out of town. My brother missed his dad and didn't at all mind visiting, but I hated it. Not just hated my father, but also the whole crappy apartment and being forced to spend time with someone who had been mean to me since I was about 5. I had about 10% fond memories of him as a little kid, and the other 90% of the memories were of hate and fear. And now I had to be cooped up in a tiny apartment with him to make him feel better about losing his family... (At one point, he even showed me a classified ad he'd taken out in the Fort Worth paper: "Wish we were together, 3 and me.")

I never did anything to make him feel better about losing his family. I was glad that he'd lost all of us. (I'd always seen on TV that kids were upset when told that their parents were divorcing. When my mother came to tell me, the first thing I said was, "Thank god." While thinking, "What took you so long.")

One weekend of forced visitation, I knew that a local album-rock station was going to play the entire just-released "Dream Police" album by Cheap Trick, a band I liked, at a certain time. Dad gave me "permission" to go listen to it on his clock-radio in the bedroom. Hearing it felt like something illicit and strange. Dad kept coming in the room to see what I was "doing." (This time not getting violent with me as he had with me in his/our old home -- this time, wanting desperately to get back with my mother, he had to be on his best behavior.)

Used to own the "Dream Police" album, just recently re-purchased it for cheap as a CD. Listening to it tonight flashed me back to a very strange, unpleasant place.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Like Dreamers Do

Written by Paul in 1957 when he was 16; recorded by the Beatles in '62 for their unsuccessful Decca audition:


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Toast

I "love" (sarcastically) this KFC ad, where the mom brags about how she's usually unable to feed her family, except for toast and cereal, until KFC comes along with its cheap bucket-meal.

Ads don't go on the airwaves until they're extensively vetted. Somewhere along the line, the ad folks at KFC thought that white trash unwed mothers (the ad character makes a point of mentioning her "mate" in italics) who can't fix dinner for their kids are a great target audience.


Frank!

Austin's a college town. You get so bored with dumbly sincere college kids and their tenured professors (who have no excuse for being so dumbly PC). Here's the glam, swaggering antithesis:


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king..."

Other people's dreams are, for sure, boring as shit. But I just wanted to record for myself about an hour's worth of lightweight horror this early morning.

My alarm is set for 6:20 every weekday morning. Last night I went to sleep around 9:30pm, woke up around 3:30am. Lay in bed flipping channels until about 5am, when I drifted back off until the alarm.

Here's what I dreamed in that last hour-and-20-minutes:

My mom finally woke me up long past the time my alarm was supposed to go off, making me very late for work. (I have longstanding anger with her for how she, in my childhood, used to wake me vs. my brother up: She'd fling open my door and say roughly, "Get up!" Then go to my brother's room and spend at least 15 minutes sitting on the edge of his bed and stroking his hair and back until he woke up. So this dream flashed me back and made me feel tense. Plus I felt tense for being late to work -- I happen to like my current temp job a lot and don't want to be late for it.)

When I sat up and looked around, I first looked at the clock and realized that it was completely out of whack and that I didn't know how to fix it. I felt stressed about future days that I would then be late. I then looked down and saw all sorts of toads writhing around between my bed and my wall. And then my dead cat Gracie and two other stranger-cats came over to me and wanted attention. Petting them was kind of relaxing, but I was still freaked out by the toads and the broken alarm.

I then found myself in a big Victorian house that had been split into a duplex. There were frat boys living next door. And they started traipsing through my half of the house, being really rowdy. I tried locking the door that separated our halves with a latch, but it didn't work. Then all the frat boys' parents started coming to visit, entering through MY side of the house to get to the other side. I kept trying to tell them, "This is MY house! Please stop coming in here!" but nobody was listening to me. I even yelled out the front door to passers-by: "Somebody make them stop!" It was a very vibrant street scene and people stopped to look at me yelling down from my front steps, but nobody did anything to help me. At one point, some friendly German exchange students came to my front door specifically to see me, but I was so angry at everyone else, I yelled at them to get away, also.

When I went back inside, some frat boys were standing at the door dividing our halves of the house, tossing cards over into my half. Which enraged me 'til I felt like killing someone. Then the comedian "Ant" came over from the frat-half of the house -- here he was tiny, about 2 inches tall. He started griping at me about how I was acting. I picked him up and started pinching his nose and flicking at his head and doing all sorts of aggressive, nasty things to hurt him, then threw him down, leaving him for dead, like a bug.

Cut to some sort of foot-race down a hill. I thought I was doing pretty well, cutting in and out of lots of car traffic, but then a random girl that I hated, with big hair and wearing a bustier, ran ahead of me. She then turned around and faced all of us still behind her, and started to belt out a song and direct all of us. I tried to talk smack about her to my fellow runners, but no one else would judge her.

Cut back to the Victorian duplex: me and 3 guys were all trying to dress up like Frank Sinatra for a costume party. I had bobbed, waved hair, with a white shirt and jacket; the guys were dressed similarly. None of us looked particularly like Sinatra. Then Sinatra himself showed up. As in real life, he was little (at least smaller than me)-- 5'7". And his bones/frame were very fragile. He started telling me that he'd take care of everything, not to worry. And I felt incredibly relieved to have someone looking out for me after everything I'd just been through. But then I saw a black sore behind his left ear and was, again, worried and nervous...

And then my real-life alarm went off.

Damn! I intentionally went to bed early sans drinking so I'd get a good start on the next day. But instead I woke up massively, emotionally drained, worse than any hangover. The bad feeling lasted all day long. But there's always Frank.



That's life
(That's life)
That's what all the people say
You're riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I'm gonna change that tune
When I'm back on top, back on top in June
I said that's life
(That's life)
And as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks stomping on a dream
But I don't let it, let it get me down
'Cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin' around
I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race
That's life
(That's life)
I tell you, I can't deny it
I thought of quitting, baby but my heart just ain't gonna buy it
And if I didn't think it was worth one single try
I'd jump right on a big bird and then I'd fly
I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself layin' flat on my face
I just pick myself up and get back in the race
That's life
(That's life)
That's life and I can't deny it
Many times I thought of cutting out but my heart won't buy it
But if there's nothing shaking come this here July
I'm gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die, my, my


Sunday, March 16, 2014

"I'll Meet You Halfway"

Ignore Shirley Jones and her ruffled frontis-piece (as a pre-teen watching these shows, I always wondered why in the world they stuck her in there -- completely superfluous/Linda McCartney), and the dinner-theater setting, and the smarmy guy at the front table.

The song, though, is good! :)


I wonder...

...what Americans would do if sat down en masse and told definitively that there was no "God" (aka how your parents did with the "Santa" news, except probably a good, sincere friend told you).

Yes, of course, there's "energy" abounding in the Universe. This has been proven scientifically. The "stuff" that causes everything ranging from gravity to plant growth to attraction between people, etc. But this "stuff" isn't "God." There's really not a mythological all-powerful being out there listening to your pleas (or your fervent wishes for a Red Ryder BB gun).

I'm astounded that this childish, 2000-year-old cult concept is still a constant presence in America (or anywhere else, for that matter -- what? the uneducated masses in Latin America?). It would be mildly humorous were it just a trope of the counter-culture, but... it's a mainstream thing, constantly referred to by educated politicians, etc. There's an excuse for the uneducated... but when rich, educated men in power perpetuate the myth... You've got to ask why they're doing it.

Faith No More, 1990 MTV Awards



At the time, thought this was the first step in the glorious, intense future of a rock/rap fusion. Nah. The metal guys went on to do exactly what they'd been doing since 1969. The rappers continued to sing about "bitches" and their dicks and money (soon accompanied in videos by cheesy back-up dancers a la Michael Jackson, a la "West Side Story").

The Kitty Genovese Murder: March 13, 1964

The Kitty Genovese story has always horrified me, after reading about it for years while growing up, in both newsmagazines and in college textbooks. (In my younger, wannabe-punk days, I carelessly fantasized about a band I'd be in, to be called either "Trip" or "Kitty Genovese.")

As the New York Times reported days after the March 13, 1964, attack:

"For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead."

Pre-Internet and sans any other information, I thought of the drawn-out murder as a lovers' quarrel, taking place in the courtyard of a tenement. I damned the onlookers, damned a non-caring, misogynist society in general.

As I've just learned this week, thanks to a New Yorker article upon the 50th anniversary of Genovese's death and subsequent Internet research:

No, there weren't anywhere near "38" witnesses to the murder who all ignored the attack. A neighbor yelled out the window to "Leave that girl alone!" upon first hearing screams. The killer, a stranger to Genovese, Winston Mosely, then fled. After being stabbed the first time, Genovese then tried to make her way to the hall of her apartment, then collapsed outside of it. Which is where the psychopath Mosely found her when he came back. As Mosely was stabbing her for a second time, her neighbor, a gay guy across the hall, opened the door an inch and witnessed the attack. The neighbor then retreated and called a friend, asking what he should do. (The friend advised him to get out of there -- so the neighbor crawled out his back window and didn't call the police. When later questioned by police, this guy is the source of the now-infamous quote: "I didn't want to get involved.")

Was this a mass-sociological case of "I didn't want to get involved" as the media/textbooks claimed? Nah. It was the case of one psychopath (Winston Mosely) and one coward (the gay neighbor). Other neighbors did in fact call the police and an ambulance. Genovese died in one neighbor's arms.

Some interesting things about the case that I just learned upon reading the New Yorker article and other Internet articles: Kitty Genovese was gay. She lived in her apartment with her lover. She was a 28-year-old manager at a sports bar. Her mother had insisted that the family move from Queens to Connecticut 9 years earlier after witnessing a murder, but Kitty, raised in the city, wanted to stay in NYC.

The murderer, Winston Mosely, was married with kids, gainfully employed, had been picking his victims at random. In 1968, he escaped from prison and raped a woman before being recaptured. He's still alive, incarcerated in the NY prison system. In 1977, the NY Times published his essay "Today I'm a Man Who Wants to be an Asset."


Kitty Genovese mug shot from a bookmaking arrest

Kitty Genovese at her job at Ev's 11th Hour

Queens murder site: Austin Street 1964

Austin Street 2014

Mosely's mug shot

Mosely's arrest

Mosely in 2012

The initial New York Times article.
Crime Library account.
Murderpedia photos.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Betty Who: The Ebonics of SXSW

I normally like Andy Cohen/Bravo's "Watch What Happens," on at 10pm Sun-Thurs, and this week broadcasting live from Austin's SXSW. Last night, though, I was more than a bit puzzled by the "house band" that Andy had on-set: Betty Who. The singer was way off-key. Her dancing was merely aggressively flailing, not anywhere near "charmingly clumsy." The various songs she and the band played sounded like bad remakes from 1990 (a year that was already rife with bad remakes of good mid-80s songs).

I initially thought that Andy had found some local band and was subtly making fun of Austin (as in, "ha-ha, look what the locals have to offer"). But when I looked up "Betty Who" today, I found out that this Australian singer is supposed to be a current hot commodity! Unfortunately, I couldn't find a YouTube clip from her Bravo performance last night, but here's a nearly equally bad clip of a "hit." (I understand that this is a video reference to "Flashdance" and "Desperately Seeking Susan." But to no purpose. The song is dull, the singer's facial expressions are forced and painfully uncharming (unless you're a fan of Kim Novak's acting)... And all of the desperate references to actually good mid-80s pop don't come anywhere near salvaging it.)

This Betty Who video is nearly as embarrassing as the Bravo appearance last night.

)

Directions

SXSW-ers are in town this week, and apparently I look pleasant and motherly or something, 'cause I've been getting asked for directions a lot at bus-stops and on the bus and in the 'hood.

Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I was annoyed at the annual influx of out-of-towners wearing their pants tucked into cowboy boots and their "ironic" straw cowboy hats. Now, though, outsiders seem to have calmed down a bit with the idiotic dress-up and condescension and recognize Austin as simply a music/film/tech center. (Though Andy Cohen's "Watch What Happens" on Bravo, live from Austin this week, still has stupid "Yee-haw!" cowboy graphics at the beginning of each show -- Austin has NEVER been a cowboy town, has always, since the '50s, been "alternative." And Jimmy Kimmel, also live from Austin this week, actually asked the audience last night if they'd heard of RuPaul!)

So anyway, since last Friday, I've had 4 people ask about where our bus was going and could it get them to [whatever South By event downtown]. And once I had to turn around and volunteer some info to a group of young guys who were yelling at one of their friends for supposedly getting them on the wrong bus: "Look, dude! We're heading the wrong way! We need to get off NOW!" I, being motherly as is my wont, had to calm them and say, "No, no, look, we're turning right and then we're heading back downtown..."

Today, though, I had a freaky experience with an out-of-towner: At the bus-stop from my workplace way up north, a young, dirty white woman with dreads and a whole suitcase (not just a backpack) literally PUSHED her way past me to get on the then-empty bus. She made her way to a window-seat near the back. And I then sat right behind her, in a spot that I usually like to sit in.

She turned around and said to me, "Do you HAVE to sit right behind me?"
Me: [puzzled] What?
Her: Do you have to sit RIGHT BEHIND ME?
Me: [still puzzled] What are you talking about?
Her: There are all of these empty seats. Do you HAVE TO SIT RIGHT BEHIND ME?
Me: It's a BUS! It's empty right now, but I promise you it's going to get filled up pretty soon, and there's going to be SOMEBODY sitting behind you!
Her: This is very weird.
Me: YOU are VERY WEIRD. What is your PARANOID PROBLEM?!
Her: [dramatically picks up all her heavy stuff and moves across the aisle]
Me: [dramatically taking out my reading glasses and opening up my "New Yorker" in the hopes of not appearing like a bus-freak who SITS BEHIND PEOPLE]

I was gratified to see that at the very next stop, someone else got on and sat down right in front of me without being freaked out, AND that someone else got on and sat down right BEHIND her new spot! I looked over at her to see if she recognized the IRONY, but... no reaction. (I was also gratified, about 15 minutes later, to hear her suddenly burst out with a stream of cursing directed at her suitcase. Gratified to know that it wasn't just ME...)

"Grave disfunctii sexuale," et al.


For the past several years, I've been spending about $56 for a carton of Marlboro Red Labels (formerly known as "Mediums"). I could deal with that, just barely, but...there's recently been a spate of bad cig news: The supermarket where I always shop just recently stopped selling cartons. You can still get individual packs, but they're over $6. And the pharmacy chain that for the past few months has had multiple $1-off specials on packs just announced that they'll no longer carry any cigarettes at all starting in October. 
 
And so I have finally been driven to shopping at places online for cheaper cartons of Marlboros, manufactured in places like the Philippines and Moldova. But my kind, "Red Labels" and "Mediums," apparently don't exist over yonder, so I gambled and ordered something called "Flavor Note" for, after taxes, about $33. At first I was horrified by the huge black-bordered warnings: 
 

 
(Death and sexual dysfunction await if I smoke these weird third-world cigarettes!) But then after some Internet research, I discovered that the EU had passed laws requiring these warnings on packs, so every smoker in Europe is walking around with these, not just me.
 
As for "Flavor Note": They're not bad at all. Turned out a lot milder than my "Red Labels" (I had not done any research beforehand into the comparative tar/nicotine content: Red Labels = 7 mg tar and 0.5 mg nicotine; Flavor Note = 3 mg tar and 0.2 mg nicotine). At first, I was disgruntled -- my body not being used to a different/lesser intake of tar/nicotine -- but I kept telling myself, "Look, just smoke 'em 'til they're gone; they're friggin' $3 a pack." Still, I bought myself a couple of expensive packs of Red Labels just in case I was craving one... For the past week or so, I've delved into my Red Labels only a couple of times; the rest of the time, Flavor Note has been fine. I HAVE been smoking more of them, but even when smoking 1-1/3 of a pack per day instead of 1 pack, I'm still saving a ton of money AND intaking less tar/nicotine overall.   
 
After this Flavor Note experimental carton is gone, I'm thinking of trying the European Marlboro Gold -- 6 mg tar and 0.5 mg nicotine, which is a lot closer in strength to my old Red Labels. Whatever I decide on, I've been forced into it, which pisses me off. Cigarettes costing over $6 a pack is insane, as is the refusal of my local supermarkets and drug-stores to sell cigs any more. I absolutely cannot stand this smug, PC, bandwagon, "slippery slope" of the past 20 or more years to "criminalize" smoking.
 
In the beginning, laws that banned smoking in restaurants, airplanes, movie theaters and the like were perfectly fair and reasonable. But then came the ridiculous "no smoking in bars" and "no smoking in the apartment you're paying rent for" and "no smoking on campus or city streets" and "if you're a smoker, you pay more for health insurance." Not to mention being taxed completely unreasonably.
 
Bars = They're bars. You're there to drink too much. And listen to too-loud music. And maybe pick up people. And stay up too late. They're not SUPPOSED TO BE health centers -- they're there as OUTLETS. They're there for FUN.
 
Rented apartments = You're paying WAY over cost for the space. You should be able to do anything legal there that you want to do. So what if the management company has to pay to repaint after you move out? You've more than contributed to the cost of a roomful of paint.
 
Campus/City streets = In public spaces, the rule should be: "Don't be a nuisance." Don't hang out on street corners drinking and harassing passers-by. Don't blow smoke in people's faces. Don't blast your music.
 
Health insurance = Smoking is bad for you. But so is a lot of stuff. Why, for instance, should I -- a smoker but also well within my weight range, walking over a mile a day and eating mainly non-meat -- pay more than, say, a grossly fat person who eats junk food almost every day and will probably require a lot more health-care over the years for heart and diabetes problems than I ever will? And what about the supremely fit thrill-seeker who eats vegan and bikes 10 miles every day but who also likes to sky-dive and bungee-jump? I'm 48, a smoker for 30 years, and thus far, I haven't cost the health-care system much of anything -- what, though, have we all been paying for Mr. Thrill's sprains and broken bones? You can't just randomly pick a group to discriminate against, when there are multitudes of other "risky" categories.
 
And an argument that I keep coming back to: Have you ever heard of someone smoking a carton of cigarettes and then (1) beating the wife and kids? (2) robbing a bank? (3) getting into a shoot-out with police? (4) driving and killing people?  Conversely, you CONSTANTLY hear in the news about people legally DRINKING and doing all of the above. And I'll wager that drinking causes a LOT more health problems (both mental and physical) than smoking. Yet you don't hear anyone calling for Prohibition again. Alcohol CLEARLY causes more societal problems than smoking. So why aren't there new Carrie Nation Societies forming every day for the PC crowd? Because people are group-thinkers and cowards. Being anti-smoking is an avenue for feeling smug and superior about yourself without much backlash. (I feel similarly about the anti-fur-wearing activists who don't hesitate to throw paint on old ladies' coats -- but would they dare do the same to a leather-clad biker?)


Saturday, March 08, 2014

Almost in a Play

When there were tryouts for a 7th-grade play, a crippled girl and I were up for the same part. (It would be much more meaningful if I could remember the name, or even the theme, of the play, but I can't.) My audition was better than hers, but... only very slightly. We were both in the same narrow band of "7th-grade-talent." She got the part. The teacher in charge of casting told me that the crippled girl had gotten the part I wanted, but that she wanted me to audition for something else. (Hint-hint: She'd cast me in another part so I could be in the play.)

All stubbornness, I refused. I wanted THAT part. My 13-year-old friends even talked to me about just taking any other part: "Come on! It's going to be fun!" But no. I chose to be pissed off and self-righteous instead. And "self-righteous" about NOTHING! :)  Like I said, it wasn't that I was so supremely talented and the other girl was terrible but just got the part 'cause she was in a wheelchair --- I was only slightly better, but she was nearly as good, in fact, just about the same.

Just thinking about this tonight because I think I've kept up the same pattern throughout my life: "Humph! If I can't be the lead, I'm quitting the play!"

(1) I got over that idealism when it came to college (both undergrad and grad) -- finally, despite not "feeling it" and recognizing the scam of it, just getting my damn degrees so I could say I had them.
(2) NYC taught me that there are thousands and thousands of people at roughly the same level of talent all competing for the same work.
(3) The temp work I've been doing for the past 4 years since returning from NYC: Trying to be accepting of the secretarial jobs I'd always hated, not wanting to be that self-righteous (and self-destructive) 13-year-old... But still continuing to hate that type of work and finding it utterly degrading, yet still being upset when I didn't "get the part" -- i.e., hired for a job that I hated just to feel good about being hired.

I suppose being in a relationship somehow relates to all of the above: "despite not 'feeling it' and recognizing the scam of it, just getting my damn degrees so I could say I had them." I relaxed my standards with college(s). I relaxed my standards with jobs. What's to keep me from relaxing my standards when it comes to a mate... just to say I had one.