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Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
1:13 pm - political bile about the shut-down
How do you get invited to negotiations 19 times across months of interactions and then claim you were never given a voice? Refuse to call a vote because you don't like how that vote will go if you do? Exploit a powerful position, manipulating the technicalities of the system to disproportionately represent the interests of small fraction of the populace? It is not the case that they haven't been heard. They are not a disenfranchised minority; they are a grotesquely entitled, over-represented, and ennabled coalition of many of the worst elements in government.

Also, Facebook puts me irritatingly in touch with how ignorant people are. When I read the insane, or annoying, or uninformed politics of people I grew up with, it gets really hard to respect them. Also, when someone I found to be a sexist asshole twenty years ago has ignorant political opinions about other things, it all fits together into such a neat picture that it really starts to grate.

And I got up before five to finish grading.
Feh.

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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
1:50 pm - Summer's End 2013 (running list for an hour tempo run)
Same Love (Macklemore w/Ryan Lewis)
Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke/TI/Pharrell)
Roar(Katy Perry)
Elephant (Tame Impala)
Back Seat (Atlas Genius)
Get Lucky (Daft Punk)
Come a Little Closer (Cage the Elephant)
Wake Me Up (Avicii)
Sweater Weather (The Neighbourhood)
Breezblocks (alt-J)
Out of My League (Fitz & The Tantrums)
Dark Horses (Switchfoot)
Safe & Sound (Capital Cities)
On Top of the World (Imagine Dragons)
Lessons in Love (Neon Trees w/Kaskade)
We Used to Be Friends (The Dandy Warhols)
Lighters Up (Snoop Lion)

current mood: bouncy
current music: Get Lucky, Daft Punk

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Thursday, August 8th, 2013
9:19 am
am feeling silenced in a way that I haven't experienced often in the years since grad school. Why is it that liberal romanticizing of (largely white) poverty still fills me with inarticulate rage?

Seriously? My grad school chair and A's wife are going to tell me how awesome and utopian trailer parks are? I may vomit.

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Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
4:00 pm
We were
all of us
terribly,
fully
ourselves.

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Friday, April 26th, 2013
4:08 pm - a few thoughts to remember
I've not been coming here much as I've gotten busier. Today, while I was running, it occurred to me how useful this place can be as an actual journal. As such, it's a helpful place to put down the thoughts I'm trying to integrate and make real for myself. I used to do this, repeating sentences on here like mantras, and to some extent it was successful. It certainly can't hurt.

I cannot control the outside world. I should not become upset about the things that I see happening on the news, because it is well beyond my control, so getting upset about it is a waste of energy and doesn't help the people for whom I feel empathy. Instead, it would be better to feel compassion, offer assistance to others in the ways available to me and according to my means, and not contribute to the deafening chorus of people only listening to themselves and their own fears.

The internet is not better than television. Believing what I read there does not serve me, unless I have committed the time and energy to verifying information. As the opportunities to connect flourish, all of the old schoolyard problems resurface. Cliques form. Bullies emerge. Celebrities are born. None of this means anything. There are also new problems, unique to the digital environment--trolling, online harassment, circulation of stolen private materials. These problems will persist, though we will also fight against them.

All technological progress comes with a long list of benefits and problems. There are no magical solutions to the problems which vex us, the first world problems of obesity, declining literacy and critical thinking, rising rates of autism, OCD and other largely affective disorders. The solutions are the same things we've known all along--fresh air, clean water, physical labor under safe conditions, nourishing food in modest quantity, limited engagement in technology and electronic stimulation, social interaction with a wide range of other people. These are the ingredients for a good life. The rest is just window dressing. It is just toys, games, and ways to stay busy.

I do not need to be busy in order to be valuable as a human. My worth is not measured by the number of gigabytes of information I encode, the data I've memorized, the money I bring home, or the number of people who find me attractive. My worth cannot be measured, will not be quantified, is not subject to measurement and adjustment. I have value. I hold that value, and it endures with me. My value does not extend beyond myself. I do not need the world to value me in order to be precious to myself.

My values are my own. I respond to the will of my heart and mind, trusting them to guide me true. I will put, always, my best efforts into reasoning through a problem. I will also turn to my emotions and take honest stock of what I feel and weigh it against what I think. I will spend the longest time with my conscience, weighing all that I know and feel against what I believe. When there are conflicts, I will check the strength of my beliefs and the reasons for them. If the reasons hold and the belief persists, then I will abide by it, even when it hurts to do so or creates conflict. When I find conflict between my values and my actions, I will work to resolve the conflict by changing my action, not my justifications.

My rights matter. Because of this, the rights of others must also matter. For my rights and privileges to have meaning, they must be widely available--they must be recognized as rights. This means that I will endeavor to support the rights and privileges of others, so long as they can be categorically applied to all and do not infringe on the rights of others.

Nobody has the right to harm another. That includes me. Harm is inflicted through violence, but also through neglect. Harm is about feelings, as well as about bodies. Nobody can protect the feelings of everyone, nor should we try. However, intent can be measured, controlled, and changed. I can choose to harm none, I can intend to harm none. Still, I must be vigilant regarding my actions. Still, I will sometimes fail in this and cause harm to myself or others.

I both am and am not special. I am special in that I am a unique combination of genes, experiences, observations, thoughts, feelings, and actions. I am not special in that I am not better than anyone else. I am qualitatively and quantitatively different from others in many ways, but like others in many ways also. I do not need to see myself as better than another in order to have value. I do not need to degrade another in order to advantage myself. Humanity is not a zero-sum game; dignity is not a scarce resource to be hoarded.

That I do not agree with another does not prove that one of us is right and the other wrong. Compromise, change, growth and process are all things to value and strive for, despite the difficulties and frustrations of achievement. There is not an end. There is no victory that will somehow end the fight.

The battles of life are there to be fought by the willing. They are worth fighting, even when they are(n't) battles I can win--or that anyone can win. Some things are worth fighting for because the fight keeps the darkness at bay. Some are worth fighting for because appreciable change for the better can be made in real lives. Some, like the battle against self-destructive impulse and for health, are worth fighting because the fight itself is the point.

Luck plays a role for everyone, and that death could come at 90 after a lifetime of boozing; it may just as easily come at 39 after a life of responsibility and healthful living. I do not expect guarantees. We all owe a death. Only the brave, the willful, the spirited and the adaptable have the capacity to live in the manner I choose for myself. Therefore I must be those things. I must be brave, willful, spirited and adaptable. I am brave, willful, spirited and adaptable. I choose these qualities in order to be my best self and to live a life of dignity, engagement, and compassion. I endeavor to leave the world better at my end. I vow not to leave it worse.

current mood: thoughtful

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Thursday, April 4th, 2013
12:13 pm - Radio Silence
There is nothing truer than the lies we tell ourselves.

~~~

There are conversations we do not have. I think about this a lot, in many different forms. I feel like somewhere in this nexus is a truth about how we live and why we do it these ways. Thinking about PTSD and my students and rape consequences and all that connects acts of violence got me thinking about silence and its eerie relationship to moments of trauma.

~~~

Maintaining radio silence is a way of speaking of the unspeakable. In a time of war, it is a recognition of the grave danger one faces, of the impossibility of the task, the sheer hope that one clings to in order to do what one believes must be done. The radio goes off after the last bomb strike code is issued, before the flight into forbidden air space, before the incursion into hostile territory by forces outnumbered and outgunned. The silence descends as lines are tossed from helicopters, as SEALs touch land, as prisoners are located.

In heist and adventure movies, radio silence indicates the breach of the inner sanctum, or the con-artist’s moment to perform, or the second before an explosion will detonate. It is when trust must be relied upon, because we’re among professionals—but also thieves we call our friends. It’s when the characters find out who their real friends are.

People die. People kill. Much worse, people live there, in moments that stretch to eternity, the silence a psalm and a purgatory.

What will happen during that silence determines all that will—or can—follow. And it will remain unknown except as the isolated experiences of those under the silence. Those moments cannot be shared, or even really seen. Those participating in them are under pressure of permanently altering levels and do not make good observers or storytellers after the event. The stories are broken, jangled. Always, hard to believe and filled with “had to be there” that cannot, must not, translate. The tellers are themselves sometimes broken in ways not easily seen. Those broken places are born in the silence.

When the communication stops and silence descends, training, instinct and impulse determine the next action. Split-second decisions must occur, with such frequency as to blunt all thought. Thinking no longer helps and can only get in the way, make the impossible more so. Which wire to cut? Does that device look like yesterday’s IED or last week’s false alarm? Is that huddled figure a frightened resident or a disguised insurgent? Can I hit this guy hard enough to get away? Escape the fire or save the fallen? Stop the attack or let loose the beast? Duck. Dive. Turn. Cut. Lift. Aim. Shoot. Now. Fire. Fire. Fire. These are not thoughts, but they are the sound of the silence.

Walls are breached. Idols are toppled. Heirlooms and icons are destroyed, or stolen. The accumulated worth and meaning of generations disappear, sometimes forever. It is not metaphor to apply these same words to acts of violence between individuals, crimes of passion, acts of vengeance. These too, happen under a kind of radio silence, a lapse in communication and a turning inward toward the voice of reaction and survival. Meaning is lost, sanctity destroyed, hope stolen. These are always acts of war.

Ideally, radio silence is tactical. In choosing it, one creates the possibility of stealth, focus, and extraordinary feats of skill and sacrifice. Even in this ideal version, though, the choice comes at a cost. The silent lose connection to others, an assurance of their humanity despite what they face, the comfort of knowing there is somewhere to return to when the chaos ends. The radio end loses all perspective on what their counterpart faces, loses the chance to offer support and guidance and a taste of home which promises to be there should they find a way to return.

Too often, silence descends through another’s carelessness or malice. Too often, silence is a consequence of drunkenness, or jealousy, or unchecked aggression. This too is tactical, in a war whose acts degrade all participants. Then again, that is true of all war.

Radios are just a technology. Technology is rarely the thing that matters when it comes to understanding human experience. Radio silence is not about the loss of technological solutions. Technology can create silence every bit as well as it can help to eradicate it. Like all things, it is value neutral in itself. It acquires its meaning in our hands and hearts.

So much of what matters most happens in the moments of radio silence, of disconnection, of turning off all voices which connect us to the larger world and other people. It would be a lie to say that what happens there can be anything but selfish. It would also be true to say what happens there can easily be heroic, tragic, and transcendent all at once.

Silence fascinates because it is impenetrable. It is unknowable. It offers endless mystery and reminds us that we never really know another, nor even ourselves. We are beholden to it, in awe of it, and profoundly terrified by it. These are the reasons we substitute a moment of silence as the secular prayer. In silence, we find fear and trembling; we bow before the infinite.

Silence fascinates because it is inviolate. It is untouchable. It promises one the final edit, the right to determine meaning and content. We exploit it, manipulate it, crave it like an addiction and secret it away inside ourselves. These are the reasons both traumas and one’s own crimes are experienced so often as silent. In silence, actions have no meaning and elicit no judgments. Each detail weighs the same and must be experienced in itself. All is equally important, which is to say, meaningless; we stand as gods of the infinitesimal.

current mood: contemplative

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Monday, March 25th, 2013
7:41 am
So, I looked it up, and ...hmmm..

Dreams of furniture are about relationships and lifestyle. Looking for furniture suggests missing old relationships, or seeking a change in lifestyle. That it's my own old furniture would then suggest an effort to get back to a former self.
Dreams of lost purses signal lost identity or purpose, un-dealt-with trauma.
Dreams of labyrinths indicate complicated business dealings or unhappy home life. Full labyrinths, especially those full of wood (pallets) can suggest complicated dealings that end in financial rewards.
Dreams of warehouses (full) --this one I'm C&Ping: To see a warehouse in your dream represents stored energy or hidden resources. The warehouse also refers to memories. Alternatively, the warehouse means that you are putting your ambitions and goals on hold.
Dreams of brothels suggest a need for comfort, or unexpressed sexual needs.
Dreams of strip clubs (another C&P): represents a constant sense goals being out of reach. Always feeling disappointment that what you want isn’t happening.

So, what to make of that? What I get is equal parts me being riled up about all the Steubenville stuff, which has surfaced some of my own not-entirely-dead history. Also, I'm overloaded from work and desperately need some time for myself that actually is that, and not just another fucking pile of obligations and demands. That's my take, anyway. Also, I need to get laid more. And probably with more staging, props.

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7:33 am - nothing leads to nothing
So, no idea what happened there. Yesterday, it was like somebody just pulled the plug, and I was suddenly running down on juice. I managed the morning part fine—solid market, lots of stuff. On the way home, my shoulder were hurting, and the bags felt heavy, but there was a lot of heavier stuff and I’ve gotten used to David acting as a pack mule, so I’m spoiled. I think, now, though, that it was more. I was already tired and done in from two solid workouts the previous days. That’s pathetic! Am I really that out of shape, already?

How can it be that pilates gives me such great results visually, but my cardio fitness has eroded ridiculously in just a few months? No wonder people get into CrossFit, especially over 40. A workout short enough to complete that leaves you feeling badass. I wonder if it actually leaves you badass, but that’s another concern for another day. I think I’m going tennis in my 40s.

Anyway, I’m totally counting this as last night’s writing, because I meant to blurt but then couldn’t hold my eyes open. David had to go to bed early, and I laid down with im to read for a little bit, and that was all. I was done in. I don’t even think that I brushed my teeth. Plus, I fell asleep in last night’s yoga clothes. The night before, I started to fall asleep sitting up. I don’t know if this is a good sign of a hard workout, or a sign that I’m old—or should smoke less.

Factor.

So, what does this week “off” look like? So far it looks like:
1. Grade 8 stacks of papers for Southwestern
2. Turn all the rough drafts for my night class.
3. Final grades for the night class are due next week, so all the small assignments needs recorded.
4. Finish and file the taxes
5. Pay the back taxes and get Toby to kick in for his part.
6. Finish the filing project.
7. Clear the filing cabinet of all the old files on top.
8. Cull the files for 2012 receipts for the tax file.
9. Shred the old year that 2012 will replace in the files.
10. Tons of daily cooking, laundry, etc. All the usual shit.
11. Procurement.
12. Host an Easter brunch—cooking, cleaning, dressing up, pretending it’s easy and convenient.
13. Writing the unpacking for the history paper with Miriam.
14. Posting a new column.
15. Update CV, write an application letter.
16. Plan and write up curriculum for four classes for Florence.
17. Work out enough to feel good about myself.

Wow. What a vacation. Now, I know I’m feeling kind of sorry for myself. But, also, I’ve had several people ask me “aren’t you on Spring Break now?”—usually before asking me to do something for or with them—and I want to say, “really not.” Whatever. At least now I’ve got a To Do list I can refer back to later in the week, when I can’t remember what other shit I’m supposed to be doing. Some of this will be fine, and some has been waiting for far too long.

I’m dreading the grading most, really, because that is the shit I need a break from, desperately. It’s almost time for the end stretch with them, and about half aren’t really ready. I’m not yet to the place of giving people a C because they tried, but I see how people get there. Then they land in the UC or CU system, and cannot keep up, and really it’s our faults for letting them believe that a C is a measure of failed effort, and not a reflection of having tolerably mastered the materials.

I shouldn’t wake up at 7, after a very full night’s sleep, already dreading the day. When I’m on light duty from work. That just doesn’t seem normal. I wonder if I’m depressed. That might account for the super sleepiness and all of my internal don’t-wanna lately. I feel pretty regular, just more irritable and feeling put-upon. That probably reflects my desire to do nothing, right? Just basic laziness.

I’m going with that. It’s a lot easier to cure lazy than to approach depression. So, let’s just agree that it’s laziness, that I’m a ridiculous lazy cow—which is, of course, how I got fat in the first place—and get back to work. Actually, it wasn’t just laziness that got me fat. It was also greed. Nobody needs to eat as much as I did, and still probably would.

I have dreams about regaining the weight. This morning, though, I woke up to a dream in which David and I had gone to a strip club which may or may not have been a brothel. Someone I worked with at the co-op was working there, which was weird and disconcerting. We had stepped outside for a minute, because I was also there retrieving furniture because I had lived in the space before the strip club was there, and my stuff was in their attic storage. (?)

In going on a doomed adventure to find my furniture, I left my purse behind. When I went to retrieve it, it was gone, but I was sent after it into some labyrinth of storage that rather reminded me of the backroom of museums. Everything was palleted and numbered. There was a whole section just of black purses, as though this wasn’t a lost & found for a small strip club, but a warehouse of all the lost stuff in the city, or just a collection of things that had been culled from others.

The really weird part is that this was disturbing enough to wake me up. I have no idea why. Somehow, in it, the experience was upsetting and sordid and vaguely surreal. Maybe I just had enough sleep. Maybe sometimes, nothing really means anything and we just tell ourselves it does to feel like we mean something. Maybe.

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Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
11:53 pm - memory, drugs, trauma, Steubenville
I really wonder about how memory works. I can lose my way in the middle of a thought. Just as easily, my brain will bubble up a bit of ephemera (“here we go, Redskins, here we go! *clap* *clap*) from a lost edge of the slipstream and it will feel as vivid as if it were now. (I can hear the squeak of soft soles on varnished basketball floors even now.)

Is it all in there somewhere, lost under all the other things that we’ve seen and done and decided to store? Is it only that we don’t know how to access it? Why do some bits distort more than others? Why don’t they always distort in the same ways? Why is it that I can have failed to think about something for thirty years, and could not consciously recall the event at all if pressed, but then a conversation with Melissa can bring it all back in a flood? Is that normal?

Does everybody have that?

Talking to my mom these days makes me very aware of the big gaps in her memory. She’s always been flaky, and tended to ignore or delete things that she found it emotionally inconvenient to remember—but within some bounds. The gaps seem to grow bigger. I wonder how much of that is illness, how much is senescence, how much is drugs use (then), drug use (now), medications interactions, neurological idiosyncrasy (aka “the crazy”)…and how much is just the way memory works for everyone.

I can see how people like Sacks grow fascinated with how we lay down our cognitive processing, and where we store our sensory data. This is reminding me that I’ve now scoped three of his books I want to read. He’s going to move up the list pretty quick here, I think.

Anyway, what else? I have no idea. There’s been a lot of work lately, and then a lot to manage away from it. I’m so ready for Spring Break. Even not really getting one, I’m looking forward to the relative down time. I know that I’ve got a lot of rest coming over the summer, so I don’t want to be an asshole who complains all the time. This part of the year is a struggle. That’s all.

Had a weird conversation with Miriam this afternoon. It was intellectually very interesting to me, because it was on a case I’ve been following pretty closely, and it was with her, and it dealt with Facebook politics. This Steubenville case has been really upsetting. And yet, there I am, following it. I have such mixed feelings about media coverage, and internet discussion, and my own participation in the voyeurism, and the role of Anonymous, and all of it. It’s such a muddle, and it serves as both a litmus (for any number of things, from perceptions of women to enshrinement of athletic prowess) and a distraction.

It makes a good litmus because it contains so many of the elements of our problematic relationships with each other. It’s riddled with discussion topics: small-town politics, male privilege, violence, exploitation of women, underage drinking, social media harassment, vigilante hackers, reluctant law enforcement…it keeps going. It’s also ultimately a distraction.

For most of us, this is only a litmus test. It is a series of discussion points. It is also, much more problematically, a melodrama we’re watching unfold. It’s our stories, our soap opera. It is someone else’s pain, played for our entertainment. It’s running on the news, but it can only affect most of us indirectly, as a measurement of where we stand on violence, rape, and the prosecution of minors as adults. For the families it affects and the town that has divided over it, it’s a source of much more immediate feelings and import. For the children in the room(s) that night, it was in many ways a life-defining event. The criminal proceedings are certainly going to have an effect, but it was the night in question that really defines things. The rest of us are rubbernecking.

This is not to say that there’s no role for the public in the proceedings of criminal cases. That’s a question I do not pretend to have the answer for, nor is it terribly important to me. I just think there’s something really morbid, and perversely prurient, about watching a rape case play out in the public discourse. There’s a sick and obsessive quality to my own reading about the case. I don’t want to know, but then I do. I don’t mean to keep reading the comments, many of which are upsetting, some of which are valid thoughts about rape, none of which are ultimately important.

What’s important is what happened that night.

And that’s where the sickness is, too.

I’m doing a terrible job of expressing what’s nagging at me about this, so maybe it’s not ready yet. I know, though, that it’s related to the nausea I feel when I realize the traffic has slowed purely because people are trying to spy what the rescue workers are doing at an accident site. It’s also what made me so angry about the half dozen (all men) standing around watching that young woman get alcohol poisoning at The Bellagio. The watching is self-serving. Worse, I fear, on a few levels.

Additionally, the watching of legal drama and crime is complicated even further by the enormous popularity of reality television—which blurs the line between real life and staged drama to a point that my students seem sometimes bewildered that they aren’t on camera. It’s also complicated by the seemingly endless variety of police/legal/forensic procedural shows.

I’ve been getting the case in words, through the internet. I cannot imagine watching the events of the case unfold on my television, before my evening of reality television and Law & Order, or after it. It’s just one more staged drama, one more projection screen for one’s own politics, ethics, and capacity for violence.
Somewhere in there, it gets really sick indeed.

Looping back around, I hope the girl subjected to violence has loving family and good friends. More importantly, I hope she has a robust immune system, a wonderfully attentive and intelligent dog, and access to good drugs of whatever variety make the next few months bearable. I hope, too, that she has the capacity--or the survival instinct--to choose where the gaps in her memory will be, at least for a while.

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Sunday, March 17th, 2013
12:10 am - St. Patrick's Miriam Day
I have probably been drinking too much—or too little—to do much creatively, but I desperately need to check the box again for getting some writing done, so here I am again. We had a good evening, I think. David, Miriam, and I spent the evening bonding, going to Mister A’s for Mir’s birthday celebration, and reminiscing about the now-distant past. It was funny, and fun, and a delicious meal, and still a little bittersweet. We are old enough now, I think, that birthdays will inevitably carry that bittersweet flavor, that feeling of getting old.

That said, dinner sure was tasty. Everybody looked good. We cleaned up well, without getting too over-the-top, which was nice. It was great to be a grown-up in there, and get to enjoy its various delights, without feeling totally overwhelmed by it. It was also cool to be the people who could give her that experience.

I still can’ t believe she felt up the busboy. That is equal parts hilarious and embarrassing. Though also, hilarious again. Drunk Miriam is funny. I also wonder a little how much she was playing Drunk Monica for us, because she does that sometimes. Anyway, it was a good evening, and I felt like we all got to enjoy each other’s company in the various two-somes and overall threesome that has always formed our relationship. It was a good date, one that was many years overdue.

David kept saying how lucky her Dave was that we took her home to him. I think that’s an interesting, and very male, way of looking at it. Ah, compromises. We all live with them in such complicated ways. If only it was possible to communicate this to people of 18-25 years old.

I can’t even believe I’m saying that. It’s surreal to be this old. And I know any number of people who might very well be like “bitch, please” about my saying that, but it still feels true. I’m old enough to know I’m no longer young, but I still *feel* young—until I’m around actual young people. And I’m told that this feeling basically doesn’t go away. So, I guess I’m just young enough for it to feel new. Feh.

I wish that I had something really great to say here, but I really don’t. Sometimes, this fills to a thousand words in what feels like no time, and other times, I can empathize with my students who feel like a thousand word assignment is almost more than they can bear. Luckily for me, this doesn’t have to mean anything.

I cannot believe of all the music I heard today that what stuck in my head was “Suit & Tie” by Justin Timberlake. Thanks a lot, brain.

I wonder how Lady M will wake up feeling tomorrow. I saw that she tried to keep drinking water, but she drank quite a lot for her. She may wake up feeling pretty hung over. Upside—it will make that horrid burger she wants to have for her birthday sound even better, probably.

David went to sleep—or at least he plans to sleep. We had an awful lot of caffeine tonight for him to just drop of that quick. We shall see; I will call myself unsurprised if he’s up within the hour and wanting to play some Blood Bowl or something. Then again, it’s midnight. I feel like I may be up for hours, so we’ll see how that works out; I may not be going to Farmer’s Market tomorrow either.

It’s weird what a ritual that becomes. I go so often that it now feels weird if I don’t get a lot of our week’s groceries at the weekend market. I go to the regular grocery for dairy, meat, bread, and fill-in groceries, so I’m there all the time. But it now feels strange and kinda dirty if I buy produce there, especially if it’s that damned South American produce. Stupid Chilean agriculture. It’s ridiculous to import food from that far away when there’s no pressing need for it. It’s just a waste on so many levels, and it doesn’t taste as good as fresher, local fare. That said, it’s ridiculous to feel guilty and shameful because one gets groceries in the typical manner of one’s countrymen for a week.

These are the times when I really wonder how I would adjust back to somewhere semi-rural. David and I talk about retiring to somewhere like Boise, or Flagstaff, or something. Somewhere that’s mountainous enough to withstand climate change, but has enough infrastructure and access to cities to have some cultural options and expansive views—at least compared to surrounding areas. Then I think about my social views and expectations and wonder how I would make that work.

I do like New Frontiers, though. So, I suppose those things work out; you just find the right community within the larger one. My version of living in Flagstaff would look somewhat different the way that I live now, compared to how I lived when I was in town.

I have insane piles of grading to do again, still. I wish that felt more important. I’m getting burned out, so it’s good that I’ve got the two light weeks coming up; that should help me to stay together. I just have to keep it all moving this week, and then I’ll get a little extra time to fit it together and actually get ahead of things, for once. Having the week between National classes will be crucial, and it will also let me get ready for conferences at Southwestern.

It feels weird not to be taking a Summer class there. I know that a few people got classes that usually don’t, because they got Prop 30 money that has to be spent, and opened more sections. I feel kind of guilty not taking one. Of course, I am doing the extra National classes to cover it financially, and it does make it possible for me to have some amazing travel opportunities. It’s just so hard to turn down the possibility of work.

So, in some ways, my grandparents are always with me.

current mood: awake

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Monday, March 11th, 2013
9:12 pm - sometimes I feel like a gyno in a bad joke...
...constantly just checking boxes.

Today has been Monday all over, and even this blurty is just me making another checkmark--I have been busy or lazy or something the last few weeks, and have not been getting in as many writing days as is necessary to stay on track with my year-long goals. It's hard to know how much of that is because I'm very busy, and how much is because I've not been feeling great, and so have been lazy.

There is also a component to it that it likely about my reluctance to be held to an account, even one that I've imposed on myself; I'd like to think I'm past that one now, though. After all, I've gotten a lot better about being able to get work done on time, and completing tasks that I start. So for now, I'm tentatively blaming other things. That's usually a good plan, right? Heh.

Interestingly, my students have also been low energy but needy today. It’s interesting to me in that I often find that our moods synch up like that, and I don’t know how much of it is push and how much pull. How much do I set the tone for their day, and how much do they set my affect? Also, how much of this is just Spring Break approaching? There’s a reason we take these breaks, because at some point the return of the sun just makes us all go nuts at being cooped up indoors all day.

In any case, here I am—in class, with the last few who didn’t bolt the second I stopped keeping track of the night’s attendance. In keeping with my word goals, but celebration of my general motivation level, this will now begin being a list of places I’d rather be, things I’d rather be doing, and books that I want to read again.

I would rather:

*be writing my pages on the paper for tomorrow, so that tomorrow me could take a nap and have some reading time just for fun.

*research Edinburgh and Lisbon, to come up with awesome options of things for us to do. This also means two different kinds of research, too, which is kind of exciting. Edinburgh is going to be about 20 degrees cooler and a lot damper, plus the cultures are wildly different and we’re travelling with people for the first half. So, it will take my usual pre-trip skills, but extra. That actually makes me stupid happy, because I’m a loon that way. If only I could figure out a great way to make a living from my love of open-web searches. (assuming that this class doesn’t count, because it’s barely a living)

*eat a Cadbury egg.

*yell at Melissa for sending me Cadbury eggs, which is totally undermining, but in the guise of being nice. That kind of shit is just toxic. Total mean girl.

*call Aaron, if only to see what he’s got going on (nothing, probably, based on all our previous convos) and if he’s planning to come out for his birthday this year. Last year’s didn’t end great, what with David’s injury and fainting spell. I’d at least like his next visit to end on a better note. It felt like a totally undermining celebration of his birthday, especially since we’ve gone pretty light on gifts for him over the last few years.

*rewatch some season 3 of Community, to see if it really is that much worse this season, or if I’m just overreacting to the knowledge I have about all that’s gone on behind the scenes and the tone shift of the “senior year” season. After all, all shows with a school arc tend to undergo a transformation during the senior year, in order to open up the world to allow for continuation beyond the school years.

*read the Dark Tower books again, at least the two that would frame this story—and probably the Waste Lands, too, to see how well the new story fits in and how much is this elder writer mimicking the voice of his younger self because he can’t put down the pen. Sometimes I think old Uncle Steve is caught in his own version of the film Speed, and he’s afraid if he slows his writing pace, he’ll explode or something.

*Read Tabby’s Survivor & Small World, because her novels that I’ve read have all been excellent, and I find it fascinating that they are married to each other. They have such different prose styles and sensibilities. I really wonder what their book conversations are like. They’ve got to be big readers, because most novelists seem to be, and their books are laden with references—but not the same ones. I know they met through writing circles in college. I just imagine their book convos to be very interesting, and heated, and probably not in agreement. I’d love to listen in on that. Long term marriages have their own language, though, so I’d likely not understand a word anyway.

*track down the novella that Stephen did with Joe Hill. And inter-generational effort like that is worth checking out, and I’ve liked the little bit of Hill that I’ve read. I’m also curious to know what kinds of things Owen writes, having only just run into him on Goodreads. I didn’t even realize he wrote. And, unlike Joe, he didn’t mask his pedigree, which has to be both blessing and curse. Isn’t there a daughter somewhere, too? I hope, for her sake, she went into another field.

*cuddle up with Leos, both big and small. It’s kind of lame of me to put that this late, but if I think about Leo too much while I’m at work, I get even more whiny and tend not to get things done, because I feel sorry for myself, or imagine that he’s doing. It was nice to spend a little shower time together this morning. I’m glad we got the weekend together, because the first half of our week allows for precious little time together, and what we have is tempered by how tired we each are. Damn. I just read that sentence, and holy shit are we middle aged. What bullshit.

And on that note, I’ve met my quota. Now, what I’d rather be doing now is quitting.
So I’m gonna.

current mood: bored

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Thursday, February 28th, 2013
8:57 pm - Wednesday, but like Monday
It’s funny how quickly it changes. I had a pretty good day, getting plenty of sleep last night and waking up feeling good. I got some work done, did a little laundry, did some cooking, did a little more work, and went to the farmer’s market. Then I got ready for work—still feeling pretty good, so I put on some cuter duds Leo might like to see me in and out of later—and headed out, ready to take on this last real class.

In all, it’s been going okay, though I’ve felt like there were various forces trying to undermine me for much of the day. Now, after some presentations, we’re in the home stretch and I find myself not knowing where the time goes, and behind the eight ball on papers again. Dammit. This is how I end up not making quotas…it’s always something that has to give. Meh. At the end of the day, what will happen is a grading blitz next Tuesday. I won’t like it, but I’ll do it, and then I’ll be okay again. So it goes, so it goes.

Spent a good portion of this evening texting with Melissa. Apparently, they had another big blowup, the biggest yet, and Melissa is still fuming. I wasn’t really able to tell if the fight was yesterday, last night, or today, as the timeline was a little hard to follow. At some point, Mel went out with her loser friend (which one?) and another pal. One brought her flowers. The other probably expected her to pay for dinner. But, anyway…somehow, Melissa and Mom got into it about the renovation again. This time, there was name-calling and threats made about kicking Melissa out, and it all sounds an awfully lot like high school.

I don’t know what to think. I know that Mel is kinda hanging by a thread right now, mentally. She needs counseling, and a plan for the future, and a more positive social network. It seems like she feels isolated in Flagstaff, but really she felt isolated in Phoenix, too, and she knows lots of people there. I think the isolation is coming from internal stuff. Also, I know how hard to live with my mom is, and how judgmental and cruel she can be, especially when she feels threatened or is not getting her way. So, that’s likely a pile of crazy happening, too.

It was not a good idea for them to live together again, I don’t think. I was trying to tell Melissa to get out and find herself another living situation. I mean, the girl has inherited over $125K in the last five years. Surely she has enough nest egg to get herself out of my mother’s house before one of them ends up dead, right? I don’t know why she doesn’t pursue that angle. Instead, she’s saying, essentially “fuck it all,” and that she’s going to put grad school on hold because she wants not just out of my mom’s house, but out of Flag, and out of Arizona. I have no idea where it is that she plans to go, nor what makes her think she will have more and better social contacts there, when she feels isolated in her home town.

I don’t think she’s thinking very clearly. I am certain that my mother’s not thinking clearly. Together, they are hopelessly toxic. At least right now, they seem to bring out the worst in each other. I have no idea how much of that is the renovation and the stress of that—something neither has had to deal with before, and each likes their routine. I don’t know how much of it is Mel’s trauma issues surfacing in other forms. I don’t know how much of it is personalities, how much reintegration, how much desperation and projection. I know all of these things are operating there, though.

In entirely different news, Matt’s in town, so I guess I’m going to go downtown or the gaslamp and meet him for a drink tonight. That should be odd. Last time I saw him was two or three years ago, and it wasn’t the greatest time. I had thrown my neck out, and so wasn’t much fun and quite short on patience. He was in town for a tech conference, and had clearly been spending his days in sales-pitch mode, as he spent a lot of energy essentially bragging about his self-proclaimed awesomeness, which I found alienating. He was always like that, egotistical and vain. But, he can mostly get away with it because he’s scary-genius capable, which tends to silence critique.

I’ve known him for over twenty years, and am not so easily taken in by his hype machine. I remember him when he was getting slammed into lockers. I think that’s uncomfy. It could be good, or it could be sad. We shall see. He’s interesting, though, and lives a very interesting life in many ways, so it should make for a good hour or two. I hope. Potentially, it will just remind us each that we’re not really friends anymore, that life has moved on too much. I’d like to think that’s not true, though. Besides, as a child-free person, he’s good to know. As we get older, it gets hardy to keep friends who aren’t in baby central all the time, so each one matters. I can’t have the gays be all of my social life; they’re too fickle.

I am now down to about ten days to write a column before I lose my title with Examiner. I don’t really care about it that much anymore, don’t like to do the style of writing that they currently pay a decent amount for, and that kind of eating doesn’t really suit my lifestyle very well these days. Yet, I am reluctant to let the title go. I’ve enjoyed having it. I wonder if I could get moved to a healthy eating title, or something like that. I’d certainly have a lot more things to say about it, as it’s much more a part of my daily life. The catch-22 is that I’d need to be posting more regularly, build up my good-kid points, to get transferred, I think. Maybe I will have to make publishing there a mini-goal for March & April. That might bring enough good will to get a transfer. It’s worth a shot, anyway, because I’m running out of fun on ethnic restaurants, I think.

This was totally work-a-day. I need to carve out the time and creative energy to do some more interesting writing. Blurty is serving as a crutch, and I have any number of partially-completed and only-conceptualized projects to work on instead. Feh. Just thinking about it makes me tired right now. I think most of my creative energy went into tonight’s dinner, and talking Mel down from today’s tree.

current mood: frustrated

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Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
8:59 pm - Gargoyle, scars, white trash weekends
Last night, talking to Mom, I had the strongest feeling that I knew why I was reading The Gargoyle now. It’s ridiculous, of course, but it’s also true that I often read things at the right time for it to help me make sense of my emotional life, a thing which has never been my strong suit. But, a story about redemption, love, transformation, and deep scars is appropriate for the next round of things going on in the family.

So, since Bedros’s death, his (apparently, ex-) girlfriend Della has been squatting at his property, and has apparently turned it into a meth manufacturing house, as well as a perpetual party and dealing spot. Gene had a sister, with whom he theoretically owned the property, and another sibling as well. The sister, who should be in charge of things, didn’t want to deal with Della and that whole mess. In fact, the sister and Gene had been estranged for many years because of his wild lifestyle and all that went with it.

Bob Wilhelm has been angling to get my dad’s bike, in part for his own sentimental reasons, I think, and in part because it hurts and angers him that it’s in Della’s possession. Apparently, he told my mom that it hurt him that she gave it to Gene in the first place. We were really just looking to get it off my dad’s property before one of his many loser hangers-on could grab it, like they did with most of his stuff.

Melissa and I took things of sentimental value, and then we got his bike out of there, because seeing it stolen was just too much to risk. And I believe that Gene took the best care of it that he could. The last time I saw him, about two years after my dad’s death, it was still running, which is frankly more than it would have done if it had still been Dad’s. He stopped doing the perpetual maintenance necessary to keep it on the road when it became impossible for him to ride it. So, I know Gene cared.

But, he was far down the road toward his own alcohol and lifestyle-induced death, and he was in his sixties and really not up for the riding anymore, so what are you going to do? So here the plot thickens.

Gene’s death was not expected to come as abruptly as it did. He knew he was reaching the end, so he went in to see the lawyer and make revisions to his will. He sent Della and her son out of the room so he could make his wishes known without feeling under pressure. He had moved another woman into the house and his bed, and Della was sleeping on the couch, but seems to have been still running a lot of his day to day affairs, likely because she was doing all the driving for him.

Over the next two days, before his will could be finalized, he died. Della retained possession of the property, and went back to the same lawyer after Gene’s death, so he’s now in a conflict of interests. In order to see his notes toward a new will disposing of his property, his records will have to be subpoenaed by a new judge. Man, what a mess.

Besides which, Gene never officially obtained the motorcycle. It’s physically there, but he sent my Mom back the pink slip, as he couldn’t register it. She filed for a new copy, and signed it over to Wilhelm so that he could try to retrieve the bike and get it out from under Della’s crazy. No dice. She threw a nutty, and besides that she has moved the bike offsite, because nobody is afraid of being stolen from like a fucking thief.

Having been down there a few times with no luck, Bob called my mom again to make some plans. She called the sheriffs in Lake County, who basically are Unser from SOA and didn’t want to get involved, because then they would have to go to Della’s party house, which is a lot of work. She has no fear of police and considers them a cost of life, apparently. (When Bob last saw her, she had just finished a stretch in county for KIDNAPPING of her son’s girlfriend, pending trial. Jeebus.) So, next Mom called the Arizona cops. They wanted to know why she was contacting them, and when she told them, they promised to shame the Lake County po-po into doing something, because nothing makes Zonis happier than getting to make Calis look lazy and undergoverned.

In the meantime, Mom next talked to Gene’s sister, and pushed her to move on getting Della evicted from the property. It doesn’t directly bear on getting the bike back, but if the sheriffs go to move her out due to an ownership claim, they will have the chance to search the property, which would at least be a step toward reclaiming it.

She spent all day on the phone, trying to coordinate this. It means more than I can adequately express that she’s trying so hard to get his bike back into appropriate hands. Also, Bob rallied the few friends of Dad’s who are still alive and together (Plateman & Larry, basically, plus a few old ladies), to arm up and go over there to have it out with Della. It means a lot, too, that the last of his boys are willing to make an effort on his behalf. Other than Bob, they wouldn’t come to the service, but at least they aren’t willing to let his ride land in the wrong hands. Some shit matters, even to brothers long since estranged. It would matter to him, too. I know that’s true.

I think that some of this is about her trying to figure out how she can help Melissa, and show her that she cares. With the new realization that Mel has hard feelings about our childhoods, too, Mom is looking to atone somehow, I think. Also, in trying to deal with my grandmother’s death, and realizing that she does have some regrets and wishes they could have made better peace, she’s realized that she doesn’t have to hate my dad forever. She’s starting to remember that it almost worked, once, and that they really did love each other.

She told me last night that she has good memories of him again, and that she wouldn’t let his bike be stolen by that fucking trash. The man was flawed, deeply flawed, and he put his love in strange places. But, he did love us, and it does matter to me—and to Mel—that we all remember that. At this point, it’s all we’ll ever have of the family we might have been. And that bike is all that remains of the man he made himself into, to save his soul as best he could. I hope it finds its way to Bob. If it can’t be me & Mel, I’m glad it’s him.

And over my dead body will it be Della’s son. If I have to load up myself, that cannot be the way this ends. It’s like that now-dead man who turned out Dad’s pockets when he died; some shit is sacred, and violating it cannot be allowed.

current mood: drained

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Sunday, February 24th, 2013
10:15 pm - weekend wrap-up
I had not thought about the fact that writing anything for myself while grading the first comp papers was destined to be a fucking nightmare. Not only are they—once again—so bad and so painful to read that they make me miserable, but they are also making me dumber. I don’t know if it’s all the energy spent trying to parse the tortured sentences, or the mind-numbing repetition of correcting the same 50 errors over and over again, but I swear that the process dumbs me down every time. I just hope it isn’t cumulative.

Today was the first day that I’ve even come close to making my quota, which is both funny and totally unsurprising. I never really make the quota. I read a few and then dig in, hiding from them. I’ve really been trying to make at least some headway every day, but there are so very many of them and I lost a week off the top due to our trip, so I started out feeling behind the 8-ball this time. It’s never a great feeling. It means, too, that my students will get their papers back after three weeks, which is a long time, even for me. That’s not exactly ideal either.

It also feels like I see them constantly. This is probably because of the night class on alternating days, so I had a Saturday class this week, which makes it feel like there’s never really a weekend. That has to be a factor. Also, the MWF schedule means that I only ever get two days off before I see them again, which just feels like too often when I’m in the middle of reading their first papers and hating them. Every semester, this feeling hits, and every semester it seems to take me by surprise. The first month, I have such high hopes for them, and then the papers come in and I remember. It’s like a very specific form of amnesia.

Hal’s party was today. It seemed to go well, in that everyone got along well enough, the conversation kept going, and the pairings kept shifting. The girls dropped in and out, as they are wont to do. Rae apparently got into SJSU and is applying to NAU, which is cool. I didn’t want to ask too many questions, as she tends to retreat under scrutiny, and there are a lot of questions about how college is going to work for her and where the money will come from, but it was a nice moment to get to hear about her admission and tell her congrats.

Hal and Raquelle have done a real thing there, in giving this girl a stable home for the second half of high school. Living in a car in a horribly unstable environment, there is no realistic chance that she’d be considering her college options right now. In fact, she’d probably be dropped out by now, either to work and support herself, or due to the gaps in enrollment that come with a lack of a home base. She has to know how big a thing it is that they’ve done. What a strange position to be in, as she’s essentially a foster child, but to a family that she already would have known. They know her family situation in far more detail than most foster families would, and she can have an ongoing relationship with her biological family. I don’t know if that’s better or worse, really. It certainly seems like she has a fairly normal teen’s life right now, all things considered, and that’s no small feat.

Jordyn is back on her move to Arizona plan. Apparently, she plans to take a year off to work before looking at beauty school. On one hand, I get the desire to run off and play with your friends rather than “buckle down” and head in a clearly adult and career-oriented direction. On the other, wow is she choosing the path of least ambition. Then again, what do I know? It is definitely interesting how divergent her path is from her sister’s. Natty is marrying early, went right from college into a corporate job, and is looking to buy a house as a newlywed rather than take a honeymoon and save up for longer. It’s the plan of a couple marrying at 40, not 23. And at the same time, they are very close siblings; Jordyn is moving to Arizona in part to be near Nat.

That should all be fascinating to watch play out. I also wonder whether Hal & Rocky aren’t going to be grandparents here in the next few years, which—whoa. David was saying today that he has always felt under pressure to grow up, and like other people around him have done so much faster. I think some of that is the youngest-child thing, particularly because his siblings are so much older. But some of it, too, I think is that we don’t have kids and haven’t bought real estate, and both of those things are markers that people use to remind themselves that they are adults. It’s because those things give you inescapable obligations. You have a duty to provide an adequately stable, nourishing, and structured home for a child. You cannot simply walk away from six figures of debt (well, you’re certainly not supposed to, anyway). Those things keep people getting up and going to work, flossing their teeth, eating their veggies, and mowing the lawn on Saturday. We don’t have that.

At the same time, I think that we are adults. I’ve pretty much always felt like I was at least as adult as most of the people around me. This is because when I was a kid, my parents were terribly unstable. It is also certainly because I’m the older sibling, and I was put in charge a lot, had a lot of childcare duties and domestic tasks. But, I really do think that I’m very much an adult. Kids and houses are bad measures of these things, because some people are bad parents and others shirk their financial responsibilities in various ways. I fulfill my obligations, make my best effort to improve situations rather than worsen them, consider my actions and their likely consequences, and try to find a balance between taking care of my needs and being available to support others. Those are the criteria that count, to me. The rest is window-dressing.

And now, I'm off to play Diablo. Heh.

current mood: awake

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Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
4:35 pm - Gargoyle, scars, pain, secrets
Scars are hidden by all of us, sometimes because we fear the judgment of others, and sometimes because we judge ourselves as wanting for varying reasons. Maybe they are physical scars and we think they make us less beautiful than the other people around us, less sexually desirable, less wo/manly, less whole. Maybe the scars are just metaphorical, a way of remembering all the hurts we’ve endured and the damage it’s done to our sense of self, our optimism, our ability and willingness to open up to others and share the intimacy of moments, much less that of a lifetime.

Reading The Gargoyle definitely gets me thinking about scars, because it’s a story about horrible physical trauma and mental illness, but also about love, faith, and the search for redemption. I’ve been resistant to reading it for some reason (sometimes my subconscious chooses the moment for me to read particular things, and I feel like my conscious mind doesn’t even really get a vote in it), but started it last night. I’m already 140 pages into it, because it really is a well-crafted and moving tale.

Anyway, it touches on a lot of my favorite subjects—love, faith, religion and atheism, schizophrenia and manic-depression, the various ways we deal with our creative urges, the consequences of a failed or absent family. So, it makes sense that it’s so engaging. Interestingly, it hasn’t yet pulled me into its redemption story or the central puzzle of the main characters as much as it has gotten me thinking about scars and what they mean to us.

Last night, I found myself fingering the scar on my wrist from when I was a teenager. I used to cut to free myself from unresolvable emotional pain, and I burned myself for similar reasons. I had some notion that if I could get to a place that it didn’t hurt, and I didn’t dread it, I’d be proving something. I’m not sure what. I used to hit myself a lot, sometimes bruising, scratching and otherwise doing minor damage. It was usually when I was really angry, either at myself or at someone else. Then, that anger at someone else would spin into shame and rage at myself, and it would happen. It always felt like that, too: like it happened, rather than I did it. Anyway.

I went through a period of thinking that I should have a lot more scars. It was a strange way of trying to literalize the pain and wounds I was trying to heal and deal with, I think. Like the more that I examined the baggage of my childhood and the violence and psychological pain I’d been through and been part of, the more that it felt necessary to create some kind of physical mark to memorialize it. I think there was also a part of me that was afraid to let it go without keeping some kind of sign, like if I didn’t show the scars, the suffering part would have meant nothing. Nobody would know, and it wouldn’t count. I don’t know who was supposed to be counting, and what that accounting would have been for or done, though. Strange, the mental loops.

The burns got better for a while, and then much much worse in grad school. Grad school and all that I had a chance to read, discuss and consider there have been such a blessing to me, but it also came at great price. There was real pain there, too. I think of it now as the kind of pain that is necessary to make something new of my life. I wonder how much of that pain I was already carrying around, and grad school just made it both possible and necessary to examine it. Given how it turned out, I’ll probably never know for sure. I have burn scars all over the place, though I’ve found that my skin is surprisingly hearty when it comes to healing and eventually fading scars. For someone with such pale and seemingly delicate skin, I can take some damage and come out the other side. That, too, has been an important lesson.

It’s so much easier to see the boundaries than to see the places where they bleed into one another. Where does the blending of the boundaries happen between hiding our scars, our pain and imperfections, and poisoning other people and our relationships with them by wallowing in our own suffering and causing it to deepen as a kind of performance art? I feel like I’ve seen a lot more people toeing one line or another, more than I’ve observed those in the middle. In reality, though, I think it’s just that the fringe cases are more memorable. The ones who wall their pain up tight and become a stoic mask are mysteries to be unlocked; those who drown us in their pain are vampires to be avoided. Both of those positions are easy to see precisely because they intrigue and/or repulse us.

Most of us are in the middle somewhere. We must be. We let out our pain when we can’t help it, if nothing else. At times, the mask slips and all that we fear showing—anxiety and unresolved conflicts and hurt feelings and unkind thoughts and all of it—comes out, unwillingly. We grow overwhelmed, vulnerable, needy. Or we turn to our friends and loved ones, choosing a moment of unguardedness, seeking help or solace, or offering condolences or words of comfort and love to someone else, connecting to them in their pain by letting them know they do not suffer their wounds alone.

We find each other through our scars, too. Self-help groups, AA and related meetings, those are obvious examples. The internet has done a lot of this, too. What is a place like Literotica but a meeting ground for those with social anxieties and sexual strangeness? The web is full of places to meet others on the basis of a shared fear, a shared ailment, a strangeness that makes it hard to find like-minded people without taking great risks. We bond over our eccentricities and the ways they’ve marginalized us. We built cathedrals to our marginality in the forms of blogs and other direct-publishing venues in which we can shout our pains and pleasures to anyone who will listen.

Still, though, I feel like we keep some part of our pain hidden. Even the ones who perform it to the rafters, using their pain as a cudgel to keep people in line or a sneaky maneuver to garner pity and attention despite problematic personalities, still don’t reveal the things that really keep them up at night. My mom talks about her illness, her addictions, her bad marriage, her unhappy childhood. These are her standard talking points. She doesn’t much discuss her fears of judgment, her feeling that she’s not as smart as people around her and is missing part of the conversation, her real regrets about the kind of parent, wife, and daughter she’s been at various points. I talk about and make fun of my violent, painful childhood, but I do not discuss my crippling social phobias, my class anxieties, my loneliness and struggles, both real and imagined, to retain control of my mind and body.

There’s something here. I’m interested to see where this book leads my thoughts. I’ve got a project going with Miriam, but I feel like something’s heating up elsewhere, too. New poem efforts almost always suggest something is brewing.

Also, had a new idea for how to finish “Needles,” which I think is a chapter. The next isn’t “Paper,” after all. I think it’s “Bridges.”

current mood: pensive

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Thursday, February 21st, 2013
8:37 pm - Vegas, second pass
Friday night, I wanted to check out the Cosmopolitan hotel, which has gotten a lot of press for its design, and which is apparently the currently “in” spot on the Strip. So, we went to China Poblano for dinner, and to see the hotel. The hotel is pretty, though in a self-consciously retro-modern way that isn’t going to age very well. But, for now it’s enjoyable and has the smack of trendiness to it. China Poblano promised Asian/Latin fusion, and idea I enjoy very much. The menu was…good, not great. There are people making tortillas all the time, which is kind of cool, and they have two open kitchens: one Chinese, one Latin. That’s where it was a little surprising and disappointing, really.

With such flavor links, and so much opportunity to marry cultural uses of the flavors of spice and salt (among others), the menu tended to keep Chinese and Latin each to their own. Other than duck tongue tacos and a spicy pork dim sum, it was not fusion so much as side-by-side tapas. The food itself was very good, with the lamb dumplings, mole tacos, and spicy/sweet/salty hand-shaved noodles all working for me. I was least enamored of the dumplings, and D wasn’t all sold on the noodles, but it worked out fine. Also, they had excellent margaritas, which never hurt. Dinner was right in the range, though we also ate fairly lightly, due to the tapas style approach—that part I liked. Lots of flavors to try, and not getting bogged down in too many heavy dishes was nice. We checked the place out, and then headed over to Fremont, an experience I have already mentioned.

But, the D! OMG, how ridiculous. In the middle of Fremont, there is a big casino called “The D”, and it has a huge McDonalds, around the corner from a bar with gogo girls. From what I could tell, it seemed like it was actually McDonalds, the Casino. Holy crap, that’s wrong on so many levels. It was so wrong we stopped to take pictures. It made me at least as sick as all the stinky cigar smoke in the downtown casinos. And wtf is up with that, anyway? When did cigars get big again? Ewwwww.

So, Saturday we went to Qua. I’ll admit that I was initially a little skeptical, because they charge $45 per person to go in there, and given how often Vegas shakes you down for things that aren’t worth it at all, I thought it might be a huge rip-off. From the jump, they were very nice and helpful. We got up and had a quick breakfast in the room and then headed off with gym clothes and bathing suits in tow. David was particularly excited to go there, so he was very cutely wound up about it and eager to get going.

Once we checked in, they separate us to go to the men’s side and women’s side, and we get situated. I was given a tour of all the tubs and rooms, of which there were many. The staff was friendly and helpful, and could not have been more apologetic for the fact that they were giving tours to someone else when I got there, so I had to wait maybe a minute or two. I was assigned a locker, and then left to my own devices. I changed into workout clothes, and then met D in the co-ed gym for a workout.

The gym had all the current equipment, plenty of room to spread out, and a corner for pilates/yoga/functional movement work, as well as having the meathead section of the gym isolated from the more cardio and core section. This made it friendly for both the lifter and those like us looking to burn out some toxicity. We got a good cardio in, with me getting to indulge my appetite for cooking shows while I exercised, and then D headed off for his adventure while I stayed around to do some pilates. After, I went back and changed into my swimsuit and headed off to try rooms.

I spent time in a dry sauna, then took a few minutes in the ice room when it got to be too much. I liked that so much, I bounced back and forth a few times. I took a Jacuzzi in the smaller room just for it, but it was dominated by some very loud Chinese women, so I shortly left for the larger Roman baths room, which has three different pools in it—a large hot tub at 98 degrees, a very hot tub at 104, and a cool pool at around 80, which feels freezing after the other two. I did a little reading, had a nice soak, and then took a quick dip in the cool water to finish.

Honestly, the whole thing was the most relaxing and refreshing thing we did the whole weekend, and made me feel legitimately detoxed and rejuvenated. I hate that I sound like an ad right now, but it really was a great experience. I had a little time left before I needed to met D, so I had a banana and a cup of coffee to warm my body back up for the day, took a shower in a three-directional shower with yummy products, got ready in a fancy room with all the hygiene and beauty supplies needed to get going, and then went down to meet D feeling like a million bucks.

Given how expensive everything has gotten in Vegas, and that this is an experience inside Caesar’s, it was really worth it. I would do that again in a heartbeat. And it tells me that we may be to a point now that we like the spa experience at least as much as the woohoo experience. It was great to work out and relax and all, and we could easily have spent the same money having some experience we didn’t even particularly enjoy—like gambling for half and hour! So, totally sold on that. Enough so that we may have to check out day spas on other trips and see if we just like that kind of thing.

Next time: being common at the MGM, being exotic at GoldDiggers, a very exuberant but unconvincing transvestite, the hug record-breaker, dinner at LeCirque, and the dangers of Vegas.

current mood: bored

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Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
3:27 pm - Vegas, memories
I don’t know what’s making me so sentimental today, but I just spent about half an hour watching reunion videos, first of soldiers coming back to their families, and then of dogs greeting their returning masters. It’s weird, because I don’t think of myself as either very invested in the military, or as a dog person, but damn those videos do a good job of tugging at the heart strings. It’s manipulative, and weirdly voyeuristic to be watching someone I don’t know in their moments of intimate connection, but it’s also very effective. As to what that’s about, that I even went there? No idea. Maybe because Vegas made me really sentimental. Then again, that may be reaching for a thematic connection where there isn't one. I'm too tired for insight.

So, Vegas was a mixed bag, as was inevitable. The room was gorgeous, and could not have been more well-appointed. The management company through whom we booked are a bunch of dicks, though. There’s only one of three pools open, and MGM’s pools are closed at this time of year, which sucks because I chose this place in part to have access to MGM’s lazy river. No dice. And the president of the company was a complete asshole about it in the email he sent. David had made a few calls to bitch about the misleading billing of the place, and we got an email that said essentially “tough shit.” They claim they can’t give back any of the fees for the place, even though people who booked Signature direct were getting it back if they complained. So, they are just dollar-grubbing. It’s a short-term solution to a long term problem, and one that’s likely to get worse if they have that attitude.

Speaking of which, wow is Vegas hard up but trying to pretend otherwise. It was interesting, because that city has always been even more of a tawdry whore than Hollywood. But, it used to be that its seediness was part of what it had going for it, part of the attraction even. Now, there’s this weird Disneyland-with-tits vibe they carved out through the 90s and early 00s. There’s still an endless river of booze, and more nudie shows of more varieties than anyone could ever want or need. But, everything is covered in a layer of glitter so deep they hope you won’t see the shit on their shoes. Plus, everywhere is failing but faking it.

The Wynn & Encore have cornered the cabs, putting vid screens in nearly all of them to hawk their places. I couldn’t figure why anyone else would let them have a monopoly, until it occurred to me that the Wynn is a flagship. It was one of the more recent builds, it cost a fortune, and it’s supposed to be the ultimate expression of this newer, high-end Vegas. But, the economy doesn’t really support that kind of excess right now. The usual excesses of Vegas are barely enough. So, they get the cab concessions. Meanwhile, the Aria is giving away VIP passes to their clubs on the strip to any comers. The Sahara has been empty for two years, with no signs of future plans for it. Ten years ago, it would already be something else by now.

Old stand-bys like Caesars aren’t putting money into their big shows or venues. Instead, they are revamping their buffet and reminding people of all the shit they’ve always had. The shows are universally underselling, with the exception of one-off concerts. Over half of the casinos, downtown and on the Strip, now have GoGo dancers working the floor. I think it’s to compete with the titty bars and shows, to try to keep a few asses in gaming seats. Nobody is doing much cocktailing anymore, and instead there are bars EVERYWHERE—on the street, in the fronts of casinos, and all over the place. Gone is the free cocktail while gaming, largely, and in its place is a not-quite-cheap bar staffed by less than half as many people.

And everywhere, but everywhere is catering to the Chinese tourist. There’s always been a Chinese influence, as I can remember even from the old-school buffets and their food selections. But, now, every hotel is celebrating Chinese New Year, which was already significantly past—and nobody even mentioned either Valentine’s Day or President’s Day, both of which were that same weekend. So, I think it’s pretty clear the money they are hoping to attract to the city in order to keep the place afloat. Because if Steve Wynn fails, and those huge hotels with him, then the whole domino game starts to fall.

In several ways, I would really love to see that happen. Vegas has gotten well too big for its britches these last ten years or so. They could use a return to their cellar-dwelling roots.

And that brings me to Fremont Street, which is easily the most fun part of town these days. There is still general seediness. If anything, it’s upped the ante on it. There were awful hair metal bands, low-rent patrons, drunkenness to a degree rarely seen among the conscious, deep fried everything, dancers on bars and boxes who were well past their prime or deep into their drug years. It was shady, but in a street carnival kind of way. If ten years ago Fremont was old Vegas, today it’s the new French Quarter. So, that was interesting.

The first night, we went down there just to see what was up and escape the never-ending money grubbing of the big hotels. It was packed to the rafters, but reasonably fun. We gambled a little before remembering that we don’t actually like to gamble that much. Then we tired out early, having gotten up super early for the drive and still being on our home schedule. The next night, we headed back there because the strip clubs weren’t doing anything much and Saturday night seemed likely to be wall-to-wall douche dudes, and nobody needs that. Rather than go to a noisy club and listen to house music spun by some second-rate DJ, we thought we’d go to a bar overlooking Fremont and enjoy the people show we’d been part of the night before.

That was the plan. The reality was significantly more strange—but that’s for next time.

current mood: tired

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Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
2:41 pm - scratch that, reverse it
So, Sunday early I was feeling better, on the mend, doing well on the scale and in exercise, thinking my family is doing a little better. Working hard, but making progress.

Dammit.

These are the times that I feel like I shouldn’t get my hopes up about even the most mundane things. Shelley was saying the other day that there’s something strangely embarrassing about disappointment, and it’s true. I think that embarrassment is retrospective judgment of ourselves for having had the hubris to form expectations. We’re chagrined to have been caught wanting something we thought we could easily have. We’re ashamed to have been revealed in our lack. Isn’t that always the way?

Figures. I think of Shelley and end up in cul-de-sacs of theory. I wonder if she’d be pleased by that.

Anyway, managed to drop a plate Sunday morning, lunge for it to prevent the breakage, and then have it land hard on my big toe. Fuck me, that hurt. Intense, traumatic pain like that is such a different beast from ongoing conditions. Somehow, going through an hour or six of contractions every twenty-eight days is more tolerable than the five minutes of excruciating pain. Go figure.

No wonder I’m not getting any real writing progress. I am fragmented like a mother right now.
Which is more true than true.

I’m realizing that I keep most of my reserves of emotional energy for myself, because it allows me to smooth over the various unhealed parts and be functional. It’s hard to gauge how selfish that is. On one hand, it means that I just have less to offer people. I do so much less hand-holding than I used to do. I just don’t open the door to people’s pain very often, because the only help I can give comes at such cost to me. I can turn vampire and eat it, but it robs me of life. Ah, irony. (and here’s the Miriam paper, ticking away)

But on the other hand, when I take care of myself, which includes leaving myself enough energy to manage my own life and feelings, and cope with the elements of my past that cannot be simply left alone, I have more to offer. I am more alert and positive, and stable and dependable and all the things I think of as virtues. Isn’t that me a better person to bring to my relationships? Is it possible to be a better person and still a worse friend?

I don’t know.

Spent a long time talking to Mom yesterday, while both Melissa and David were away, which is always how it goes if we go deep. She’s really hurting right now, largely because Mel’s been so confrontational with her. I can see both sides of it, because Mel has real pain and real anger that my mom has coming, and she deserves a chance to be heard. Then again, Mel is also super-bossy, judgmental, stubborn, and histrionic. Most of the shit she’s so angry about was a lot of years ago. Of course, some of the shit that was twenty and thirty years ago in my life still hurts today, so who am I to say she should let it go?

And I don’t know how not to be in the middle of it. I’m the most even-tempered of all of us, and the most diplomatic. Usually, I’m getting along with both of them. I was never going to be the one who blew up at my mom. We had our little confrontation, and that was it. I was just done. We’ve talked a lot of things through over the years, but usually either she brought it up in one of her apology cycles, or I gained some insight from something I read and opened the door via some element of compassion I’d been able to find. So, we’ve let in some light along with the dark at most of the points, and it’s still taken years to get to a better place.

Mom didn’t even know she & Mel had this kind of shit to deal with, and that upsets her. Because the beatings were so much more obvious a problem, I think it’s been easy for her to tell herself she was a good mother to Melissa. And, they’ve been much closer as adults. I pulled away and stayed more distant. I got away from my mom. Melissa was never as tight with her, never as codependent (until later), and also never got nearly as much distance. And my mom doesn’t realize how much she left Melissa alone, or with me. How many times she was giving her attention to me (usually violent attention, but at least I was visible) when at the very same moment, Melissa was present but not a participant. All of this is hard for her to realize.

Also, I think Melissa is taking out on my mom some of the anger and fear and other traumas responses she’s carrying around with her. And that’s not fair. My sister deserves a chance to work through her issues, and to tell my mom what has hurt her, but there’s no reason to be emotionally abusive, or to rage. It’s unproductive and ultimately destructive to both of them. So, Mel needs to go get some of this rage out, and deal with the more recent traumatic violence that is triggering her resentments against my mother to flare into rages.

It’s no way to live.

My mom doesn’t seem to remember to role that violence plays in all of this. She’s gotten away from it for enough years that she forgets the rages that come after having been victimized. She forgets how crazy she was, and how arbitrary was her targeting. This came out in talking to her. And then I felt like an asshole, because I think it was also painful to her to realize that Melissa is behaving a lot like she did at the same age—it’s painful because it’s not a comfy mirror to look into, and it’s painful because it really lets her realize how much Melissa’s suffering right now, how out of control and powerless she feels. It hurts to love someone, see them in such pain, not be able to fix them, and then also be treated badly for trying because they can’t *not* hurt you.

And the whole thing? Wakens dragons better left sleeping.
It’s not always a great thing to have perfect understanding of where people are coming from. Sometimes, that empathy feels like punishment.

current mood: tired

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Sunday, February 10th, 2013
1:18 pm - week-end thoughts
Once again finding myself pressed for time and not over-supplied with creative ideas, I turn to the journal to get my daily writing points tallied. Actually, I did pretty well this week, putting the finishing touches on a poem, getting a good start on another, and putting in a good day with Miriam toward the Brazil paper, which is taking shape. I wanted to make up a day because I ran short last week, but it just didn’t happen. I don’t know why it’s so hard to get things going sometimes, but there it is.

I worry that I’ll run short for the year because I’m off that one day, which is really kind of silly. Like David’s smoke dragons, those anxieties. I find it strange that we both have sudden bursts of insecurity and anxiety over seemingly nothing. Out of nowhere, question everything. What is that about? Is everybody like that? Often, I can rationalize it away and just get moving again. It feels like a very bourgie problem to me, which makes me extra suspicious of it. It’s the kind of non-problem, a neurosis, that people with too much time and too little real struggle make for themselves, I think. It reminds me of reading Elliot or Pound or Fitzgerald.

Because I’m angsty, but also cynical, so I have to make fun of my angst. Good times.

It seems like Melissa’s crazy is settling down a little. This may be partly because she’s taking things under control about her diet and lifestyle, which makes it easier to keep the head together. It may just be that she’s keeping herself in check so she doesn’t kill my mom, who is getting crazier and more demanding all the time, it seems to me. She has now decided that she needs all new furniture to go with all the other changes to her house. I don’t know. I want her to have a nice space and to enjoy her remaining years. I just also know her to be a person who has never taken any real responsibility financially, and who spends money like it has no end.

I don’t think the reality of her limited means has really hit her yet. I mean, she’s got plenty of money. What her parents left to her should be enough to insure that she can live comfortably, well above the minimal standards afforded by social security support. It also means that she can afford to update her house and take a trip, of course. But, it also has to last her for the rest of her life, including end of life care, and from what I’ve seen, she will have spent about a quarter of her inheritance in one year or less. That’s not a plan for the future.

Also, I do resent that she’s giving it to her junkie, loser friends. My grandfather would NEVER have supported her giving money to her hangers-on friends. He was very suspicious of money between intimates, and was always on her ass to be more responsible with it. He wouldn’t even give her large blocks of money, but would make her call weekly and talk to her mom and get it in small increments, so she couldn’t blow it on stupid shit or put it in her veins. It’s funny how she chooses to forget these elements of control and containment in her mythology of him.

Anyway…I really don’t like Tina, and I think she’s a totally toxic influence overall, in addition to being a junkie and thief who will both encourage the worst traits in my mother and rob her blind. I think that Ellen is married to misery, and comes around when she wants things or is too lonely—because she drives everyone else away with her constant complaints and tendency to go into crazy rages. Emily seems like exactly the sort of person who gets fibromyalgia—someone in love with pain and misery. I know I cannot understand what it’s like to lose a child and blah blah blah, but also I have little regard for people who decide to curl up around their pain and make it their home. It’s just…tedious. It’s the easy choice. In all, I wish my mom had better friends. It’s not a good sign when I think the Mormons are the best influences she has around her.

For her, I’m glad that Melissa is there, because I think Mel will help her turn her diet around and get the house put together in a really good way. For Melissa’s sake, I hope that she can get a job and apartment this fall, or at least get into student housing or something, where she can have her own life and some safe place away from my mother’s demands and tantrums.

I feel bad that I don’t want to be part of all this. If anything, I’m pulling away from my mom, because her constant blather is exhausting. She calls me every day, usually to tell me the same thing she told me the day before. Then she forgets that we already talked. Sometimes this happens more than once in a day. I don’t think it has anything to do with illness. I think that’s how much weed she’s smoking, if not also pills that Tina’s feeding her.

I miss my grandma. It’s weird, because we didn’t really talk that often. We largely communicated through my mom. I just…well, for the last several years, I felt like she kind of *got* what we were doing (me and D), and supported the direction of our lives. And unlike most people, she didn’t just tolerate my/our decision not to bear children, she understood and supported it. I think she had real regrets about the shape of her own family, a decision she didn’t really get to make for herself due to the restrictions and expectations of the 40s and 50s. I think she would have loved to have the freedoms that I have.

It’s weird, because I wouldn’t be here if she’d not had kids, and that complicated any possibility of talking about it, but in some ways I think she and I were closer than she could be to her own kids. The boys were first boys and then deeply troubled men. My mother was an addict and rage case, and so different from my grandmother in terms of how she relates to and relays her emotions. I think I was the first one in a while whose feelings ran as deep but showed as little as hers, and that made us linked.

It may just be that I want to see it that way, though, because I have always felt like something of an alien in my family. I’ve never been huge for the emotional chow-chow, and I’m just different from them in some key ways. Part of me is always in reserve around almost everyone. Grandma was like that, too. She was guarded, and brittle, but strong. She was in real ways the strongest person in my family, and I respected and admired that, and would have it for myself. So maybe I choose to see her in me, because that’s what I wish were true.

I think she’d let me have it, though. And I think it would please her.

current mood: contemplative

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Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
3:45 pm - strange week
Much of this week has felt like I’m going, going, going, but getting all too little done. I’ve been trying to keep that anxious feeling from manifesting at home and undermining David’s healing, but it’s leaving me feeling unsettled and irritable.

Of course, it doesn’t help that my period is due soon, my breasts hurt, I’m not going to be able to participate in the showcase I’ve been (tentatively) writing for, and I’ve had two days this week where I couldn’t stay asleep and slept four hours or less. So, I’m not at my best overall.

The “unsettled” feeling probably has just as much to do with David’s car accident this week. We both had been feeling the creeping dreads a little bit, and sleeping poorly, and dreaming of losing each other. Then, he got run into by someone, hard enough to start a multi-car collision. When he called me, I was immediately relieved that he was okay enough to call, but also spun by the realization of how close we come all the time to death. I just don’t know what my life would even look like without him, and those moments that kind of force me to examine it fill me with horror and pain.

It’s such a relief that he’s going to be fine. He seems to be well and truly on the mend, with all his little internal soldiers doing what they do—putting him to sleep and making him hungry while they fix stuff. The man has an admirable constitution, with the exception of hypertension/anxiety.

I’ve been doing my best to nurse-maid him a little, without making him feel bad, and to push him to take really good care of himself, rather than push to do things too soon for sake of pride and risk hurting longer or more deeply. I think it annoys him, at least a little, when I push him like that. Frankly, it annoys me too. I hear myself riding that edge of nag, and treating him like a kid that needs reminders, and I don’t know what to do about it.

On one hand, I know he’s a grown ass man—and one with considerable medical understanding—and that my reminders aren’t needed in that sense. However, I also know that he tends not to apply standard medical reality to himself, in that conventional doctors-don’t-get-sick kind of mentality. And, I’m babying him. That slides into condescension—or at least infantilizing behavior—very easily. Such a narrow line to walk, sometimes, between concerned care and something a lot less productive.

Speaking of which, we had a conversation yesterday about which of us was the “leading partner”, or dominant power holder, in our relationship. We each made a case for seeing the other as slightly holding the edge. I don’t think either of us was upset about it, or complaining, just fundamentally seeing the balance of power a little differently. At the time, I of course pled my case for how I see it, and he defended his position. Thinking about it again today, two things occurred to me: 1) the fact that we each think the other has slightly more power probably actually means that we run about even, and 2) it’s probably for the good that we each content ourselves with having a little less than half, in that it means we’re each trying to give up a little to give the other more and contribute to the greater happiness.

Pretty to think so, anyway.

I’m deciding not to overthink this point any further, because I think we’re in a good place right now, with each of us trying to give the other happiness and satisfaction without giving up on our own ambitions and dreams. That’s the goal, right?

It’s interesting, wrapped up with this, that we’re doing a kind of role reversal for Valentine’s Day. He’s cleaning the apartment while I’m at work that night, and I’m taking him to Vegas subsidized by my “blow it” fund from Mom. It’s interesting that he thinks of cleaning our space as a gift to me, and that I see spending money earmarked for me on a vacation together as a gift to him. I don’t know what I think it means, but it’s definitely …overdetermined is the word I’d use if I were writing it up in a paper. It’s complex, weighted with gender and other sociological baggage. Doesn’t make it not-good, though. Just makes it interesting.

In fact, I am really excited about this upcoming trip to Vegas. We’ve got the suite, the dinner spot, the silly activities and shows all ranged before us. I need to make some reservations next week for dinners and the like, but overall I think we’re in good shape. It’s too bad that David is unlikely to enjoy the drive very much, both because the desert is a boring landscape to pass through on the highway, and because the joys of driving fast in a light and lithe car are likely to be lost on someone who was just in a fairly serious wreck.

Dammit.

Lady M told me this morning that her father was forced to resign from his job of forty years this week. It’s a horrible upset to him, of course, and a strain for the family—with worry for him, and it would seem some amount of secret keeping about how it happened. I felt bad that I kept worrying at the unanswered questions and holes in the story, but at the same time, I know that her mind is going over the same terrain. She seemed strangely relieved to talk about it, but also entirely at a loss as to how she should process it.

What a shame for her dad. Forty years in a profession—all at the same school—and it’s tied to their faith community. To be pushed out so abruptly that you don’t even get to say goodbye to the kids is just an awful way for it to end. Also, what could he possibly have done to be treated as such pariah? It seems petty, and so spiteful, to treat him so callously if this is a matter of political and personal conflict rather than professional misconduct. Nobody thinks their career will end like that. And very very few people deserve it. I sincerely doubt that he’s one of those that do, and I hope very deeply for his family that he’s not.

I’ll send my little thoughts out into the collective for him today. Let Papa R find his inner strength, take warmth and comfort in his family, and find the way clear to return to his church and other community contacts. This is a time to lean on those who know and love you, not to let pride, hurt, and fear cut you off from them. Bring him peace, understanding, and forgiveness. Let him be unbroken by this.

--
This was not the writing I was hoping to get done today, but some days, I’ve gotta take the wins where I can. Hopefully, this week will include a new column (with paid list), completing the now-unsolicited piece about phone sex, a few hours of work on the Brazil paper, and getting everything updated and ready to roll for NU (which starts on Tuesday).

Yikes. No wonder I’m tired. Man, I hope I sleep better tonight.

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