Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Death, rebirth, and an estate sale.

I want to sell all my crap in a giant Estate sale inside my home in preparation for homelessness.  I know that I am consciously trying to turn this into some vast buddhist experience and I acccept that.  We've all got to have goals.

I think I will spend all my time turning my home into the catalogue of my dreams, with big carefully written price tags that seem a bit old fashioned.  I think I will fill two suitcases (and a small storage space) with everything I want to keep.  I keep thinking of evolution, survival of the fittest, except it's a hard and fast attempt.  It's like a crash cource in tangible enlightenment.  Darwin announces from heaven, "Here, this is how you have to live to be alright in the universe."

That reminds me of the time I mentioned the Galapagos Islands at a table of priests and no one knew where I was talking about.  But I digress.

I have a vague idea it's all ridiculous.  My therapist thinks half of it is genius and half of it is reckless.  Many acquaintances have no conception of it, like I'm out in the ether.  For other friends it seems entirely natural, the shedding of all that materialist baggage and living as cheaply as possible.  I think the one piece of the equation not entirely evident to the rest of the world is necessity.  The simple logistic problem by having too much stuff and no place to live.  Couch surfing, though plausible, does not bode well for a person with too much stuff.  I've always been a lot of earth and fire, and maybe even a little flow like water, but I think it's time to be light like air.  Swift like wind.  I mean, it seems like the universe could not insist more adamantly than it is now.  It will not let me keep anything.  It pulls from my grasp everything I hold onto.  And so this whole, let it go, well it seems like the thing to do.  Let it go.  I know what I need to do.  I know all these therapists and guided mediation tapes can't be wrong.  Let it go.

So like the entrepeneur I always wanted to be, I'll perfect every aesthetic I've been striving for and then put it all out there.  Manifest incarnate the glossy spreads I gorge on daily.  Use this digital realm to increase all odds of success, cater a private opening like a gallery night, and oh that reminds me.  Gallery night.  Sparrow Gallery.  May.  I guess this will be my project, finally manifesting the surrealist portraiture in the form nearest and dearest to its inspiration: advertising.

I have a very good photographer "by the balls" as we speak, and a literal plethora of beautiful people waiting to be models.  I will bring down to the detail every marriage possible between practical and pure fucking art.

Forgive my language.

It's a fucking snake pit.  It's a bad tangle of electrical cords behind your TV.  It's a rat's nest.  It's a mess.  Psycho-social-bio, they say, all in one.  And then there's housekeeping.  It's all a big mess, and I haven't got a lot to lose, so I'm gambling I can turn ash to clay and clay into pure absolute genius.  Pretty genius that sells, piece by piece, like that guy who made e-bay famous.  Like when old ladies die and their estranged sons and daughters open their front doors and let crowds of strangers root through their jewelry boxes, their basements, their kitchen drawers.  Death and rebirth.  Estate sale.  It all makes sense to me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas is about giving and receiving crap.

It’s that time of year again. It’s officially December and everyone is bracing themselves for the holidays. My relatives have begun the month long process of holiday shopping for a large family, and part of that process is hassling everyone for gift ideas. Though I’m no longer a bright eyed kid, I’m still one of the youngest in my immediate family. So like I did when I was 10, I am expected to make a Christmas List.

Writing a list of my personal material desires should be easy. Lately being materialistic has provided a certain amount of comfort; where hearts and bodies fail, objects remain. Collecting, organizing, using, and admiring my possessions all create a life where the other kinds of living have become impossible.

But a Christmas list is the particular and peculiar task of asking for things from other people. Trusting them to choose the color and flavor and texture wisely. Guessing the amount of money they’re willing to spend on you and choosing a gift that’s in their price range. Preventing relatives from opposite sides of the family tree from buying you the same gift.

The easiest thing of all should be asking for things that you want. What do I want? To wiggle my way out from under this mountain of debt. To stop living from paycheck to paycheck. To establish enough financial stability to become self employed. To marry someone with great health insurance.

I’m no stranger to crafting a Christmas List around practical needs rather than superfluous desires. College taught me the art of asking for non-perishable food and appreciating your grandmother’s habit of buying you socks. But even then I knew how to add a few items to give the list some personality. Now I am so strictly set to my priorities that anything other than food and medication is bought at a lower quality for a paltry sum at thrift stores. Thrift store shopping is my one hobby, my one pleasurable activity, and even that serves the double purpose of acquiring household necessities.

I tried the usual trick of requesting gift certificates. Where from you ask? Pharmacies and grocery stores. If hospitals gave out gift certificates I’d ask for those. My one eureka moment came when I thought to ask for stamps and a memory foam pillow. And then I even managed to ask for a perfume which seduced me from the sample page of a Vogue magazine. But if anyone actually gives it to me, I’ll feel guilty they had to spend that kind of money in a recession. Even the memory foam pillow seems indulgent.

I put money on the list, like I always do. I’m aware it’s tacky, but I actually pray to god to win the lottery. If I’m going to have the gall to ask the divine presence in the universe to fatten my wallet, I might as well ask my relatives too.

The bottom line is, I have a lot of crap. I have enough crap. I don’t need more crap. Sure I’d like a scanner or a better camera but I’m low on rich relatives. Right now my Christmas list looks more like a grocery list. And believe me I’ve been trying. But as easy as it was to ask for stupid plastic crap when I was ten, is as hard as it is now. I have all the crap I want except all the crap I can’t have.

Christmas 2005:  All those gifts were for my sister and I.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Self-aware denial.

There’s a threshold for awful beyond which the human mind cannot sustain itself. I have found in the last year, when things have pushed beyond the ordinary limits of unpleasant, I have suddenly boomeranged into a more sustainable state of self-aware denial. I have mastered a whole arsenal of self-defense mechanisms and by all appearances become what others call “strong”.

A Good Housekeeping magazine on my living room floor has a picture of Michael J. Fox grinning and saying, “Happiness is a choice.” The article is all about how he’s found the silver lining on his the pile of crap god personally assigned to him. Though there’s a certain sickly saccharine quality to the advice that he doles out, the underlying message remains potent. Generally if there’s any way for me to be not-miserable, I take it. If it is at all possible to ignore the nasty, disturbing shadows that lurk around every corner of my life path, then I do. I’m totally conscious of my efforts, and so therefore I am more comfortable than I imagine I would be if my denial were less intentional. If there’s something I can do to actually improve my situation, I do it. But generally most of my problems require little more than time, and therefore a great deal of patience and, that insidious word see on motivational posters the world over, perseverance. And indulging in the few pleasures still allowed to me (television, chocolate, gossip) is one of the few ways I’ve found to pass the long hours between now and the better days that I can only assume will one day arrive.

Still, my sarcastic optimism seems to be a terrible way of communicating my situation to others. My off-color blog entries that attempt to squeeze some silver lining out of my own pile of crap come off more like a Hunter S. Thompson imitation than a genuine attempt to look at the brighter side of what is in fact pretty damn sucky. My periods of secrecy created rumors more dramatic than the truth, and my bouts of compulsive honesty have numbed my audience to my dramatic flair for telling the truth. The funny thing is, whenever I have been brave, and been flippant about the dark times, I may put others at ease but I may have done myself a disservice.  Maybe people have no idea what's really going on.

Still, I have no interest in wearing a serious face and giving out personal details about my health problems (unless they are about poop or drugs, and therefore at least somewhat funny or compelling). I’d rather sell my story to my friends like a dirty joke or an Oprah reccomended novel.  I'd like to wander sleepy eyed through the gray area between OK and the kind of awful you never admit to, and let my life just happen to me.

Unlike other blog entries, this has no theme, no inspiration. I got into a weird, thoughtful, blah mood and decided to write some of my thoughts down. I don’t know that it actually ends up being as revealing as it is cathartic. I wanted to show how I maintain the balancing act between optimism and sarcasm, fool’s paradise and reality. I always say to others, if you’re self aware, then I think that it’s OK. And I couldn’t write this blog entry if I wasn’t self aware. So I guess it’s OK.  Even if it is a little self indulgent.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Drugs are pretty remarkable things.

Growing up, my family did not use medications unless absolutely necessary. When I flew through a double plated glass door at the tender age of 12, the doctors tried to recommend oral antibiotics to prevent my wounds from getting infected. I didn’t take them. My mom allowed me some say in my treatment, but I was already hardwired to the idea that too many antibiotics crippled children’s immune systems. Psychiatric medications were met with even greater skepticism; hyperactivity and distractibility were considered traits inherent to childhood rather than problems in need of treatment.

But sometime during my adolescence, when my mother’s own chronic illness took hold, the family policy was totally reversed. To this day, there’s a fruit bowl filled with orange plastic prescription bottles on my parent’s kitchen counter.

This year I began my own collection. My medicine cabinet is as equally filled with over the counter solutions as it is prescriptions. My collection of remedies for “GI disturbances” is particularly large. Pills to keep my crap soft, pills to prevent the crap from getting too soft. Pills to get the crap moving, pills to slow it down. There’s more than just pills stored in my bathroom; there are suppositories and enemas and medicated wipes, all with the singular purpose of replacing my youthfulness with an old woman’s sour countenance. Though I must admit, many of these products have been familiar to me since I was only 14. It was my freshman year in college when I was first forced to explain that enemas were not actually a sexual device, despite the famous fetish of Marilyn Monroe. Some people have a fetish for feet, but that doesn’t make them sex organs.

And despite my family’s change of policy, my own reluctance to take prescription medication continued into my early twenties. In the last year, many hospital staff members have been surprised at my apparent lack of experience with drugs. During one particular hospitalization, I was given a shot of morphine to relax the blood vessels around my heart. I complained to the nurse that my brain was on fire. She said, “You haven’t taken many opiates, have you? It will go away in a little bit.” Though she was not rude, she still had an annoyed tone that indicated she expected a twenty something like me to just be grateful I was being given such great narcotics. Later that night, at about 5 a.m., the nurse finally convinced me to stop watching Lifetime movies and to take a sleeping pill instead. They gave me an Ambien®. It wasn’t long before I buzzed the nurse and complained, “I feel drunk. Am I supposed to feel drunk?” She literally seemed shocked at my apparent inexperience with drugs of this kind. “Yes, that’s supposed to happen.” I slept through the night and through most of the following day, despite hourly blood draws and an ultrasound of my chest.

But after that particular lesson on the startling effectiveness of certain medications, I was taught through experience the uselessness of meds in the face of “interactions” and “contraindications”. Medications for migraines can cause heart problems, and medications for heart problems can cause migraines. When you have heart problems, you can’t eat grapefruits. When you have migraines, you shouldn’t drink coffee even though coffee helps with migraines. And when you’re anxious and tired, you are particularly screwed, for no immediate solution for one will not make the other worse.

So while I am enjoying the amazing effectiveness of my anti biotic at controlling the infection that was troubling my throat, nose, and ear, I am missing work due to the “significant gastro-intestinal disturbances” that are (according to my pharmacist) “notorious side effects” of this medication.

But I’m not complaining out of self pity. I still have health insurance and my tax-sheltered Flexible Spending Account has turned my many prescription co-pays into the help I need to pay rent. And as I’ve said before, some of the drugs still available to me have very few interactions and their side effects are on the more pleasant end of the spectrum. It’s not exactly problematic to be swimming in a sea of orange plastic bottles, but it’s definitely symptomatic. Of what, exactly? Don’t ask me. I just write this blog because I’m kind of narcissistic. And I don’t want to get rusty.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An education in the buzz.

I have to admit that college didn’t really work the way it was supposed to. The academic aspect of my education has been almost entirely useless except to help me sound smart at dinner parties. But being suspended between adolescence and real adulthood for five years had its advantages. I’ve had my fair share of hedonistic adventures in the realms of recreational chemical experimentation. And nothing else could’ve prepared me for the drugs that doctors give.

The idea for this blog entry occurred to me while lying awake in bed sometime between late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. But let me digress…

I recently reintroduced caffeine back into my diet. I’ve never been the kind of coffee drinker that my mother was (two pots a day) and even at the height of my caffeine usage I still preferred fancy drinks that were more chocolate and whipped cream than espresso. When I had to go straight edge for health reasons earlier this year, caffeine was an easy sacrifice, though a few milligrams snuck into my blood stream via the occasional green tea. But, forgive my language, chronic fatigue is a bitch and a little caffeine goes a long way to maintaining functionality during the long afternoons at work.

Well, I had under estimated my sensitivity on this occasion; apparently 8 hours is not adequate buffer time for caffeine to exit the blood stream. At about three a.m., four brain racing hours into a nasty case of insomnia, I gave in and took a cocktail of pills that has never failed to put me under before. The following four hours did not include sleep.  Instead I was treated to a heavy floating cool tingly warm fuzzy body buzz and a few mild visual hallucinations. The combination was actually a recommendation from my doctor, and I’ve taken it more than a few times before with unmemorable results. Something about the addition of caffeine , insomnia, and maybe the recent increase in dosage of my SNRI… as the kids say, I was trippin’.

I remember thinking, I’m going to have to remember this combination later. Of course that’s something a poet thinks in the midst of a cerebral euphoria which makes every thought seem beautiful and important. The exhaustion next day was enough to deter any future attempts at recreating the blood chemistry. I’m not the party monster I once was.

During my early twenties I was the average student. I drank like a fish, I smoked like a chimney, and I dabbled like the liberal middle class English major that I was. There are things that no one ever tries, except in cautionary tales of overdoses and car crashes. And then there are things that almost everyone tries, even the cute virgin Jesus freak that works in the children’s section of the library. And then there’s a buffet table of “wild” experiences from which people like me pick and choose. I was never as feral as some of my lady friends, but no one called me na├»ve. Thanks to a combination of common sense, good luck, and good friends I always came out on the other side of my debauchery with hardly more than a hangover.

So when I found myself watching whispy gray ghosts of silver light dancing around the ceiling, thinking magical thoughts that I prayed I would remember in the morning, I didn’t freak out. I took my temperature, checked my body for signs of allergic reaction, drank a tall glass of water, and just rode it out.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if the medications to treat my illnesses have pleasant side effects, than please and thank you. I’ll be happy to get high, doctor.

Some photographic evidence of my wilder days...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sex sells almost as well as fear.

Although I usually discuss my shopping experiences in my other blog, I decided that despite my deep love of wigs and face paint, Halloween stores are just full of crap.

My friends and I visited two Halloween Boutiques last weekend. At the first one, Closet Classics, we had no luck. When we complained about the lack of “plus sized” costumes (which in Halloween Costume terms is anything more than a size 8) the owner said, “I didn’t think anyone other than anorexics would want to wear something like that.” Because chicks with big butts and big tits don’t want to be whorish super heroes, too. Ugh.  Not liking that lady right now.

The next place, Halloween Express, was better.  It was large and well stocked, even though the floor was a gross grease-stained cement.

Now, most of the costumes I discovered could each yield a thesis worth of social commentary.  Like, a Halloween Store isn't complete without hooker boots...

And although I could let the photos speak for themselves, I am going to indulge my desire to categorize and comment.

Making the ordinary and everyday overtly sexual is nothing new to Halloween, but this year I discovered some newly whore-ified professions...

And public servants aren’t the only ones subjected to the sex worker makeover, apparently inanimate objects and fictional serial killers are also open to re-interpretation (read the brick house packaging carefully)...

Then there are the costumes that turn childhood memories into sex fantasies...

Some costumes are clearly intended to be pervert and pedophile bait...

Now, fear sells just as well as sex.  I found only one truly terrifying costume...

And we can’t forget the offensive costumes.  Some costumes are offensive because they aren't really costumes.  I mean, maybe your parents didn't have as many old hippy friends as my parents did, but this guy is a dead ringer to someone who was a guest at my parents' wedding.

But there's more than one way to be offensive, sometimes all it takes is a big ol' dose of misogynystic sexism...

And then there's the method of being offensive by creating grotesque caricatures of beloved public figures.  Is it just me or does that mask on the right look like a demonic Barack Obama?

And just so I don't come off like a dissapproving curmudgeon, here are some things I'd actually buy if I had the money... 

I miss the days when my uncle ran a haunted house and I'd get this stuff at wholesale prices.  Then again my hat collection is probably big enough.