Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Inside Jokes

Small, thin cow. “Hole” Foods. Klokora Rrrrrovel. Fortuna’s Wheel (that wench). Rojo Pony. Desmond. Paul Robynson.

I love inside jokes. They bring depth and creativity to a relationship. They are pieces of absurdity that no one can understand, other than those who have shared in a particular experience. There is a sense of freedom with this type of humor. Who doesn’t love taking the liberty to say something to a trusted friend that would be deemed completely unsuitable for the rest of society to hear? Inside jokes provide us with hysterical laughter, countless conversations that start with, “Remember the time when…,” and unique ways for people to deal with things in the context of their own relationships.

The words at the beginning of this piece may seem random and nonsensical to you, but to me, they mean everything. For me, each statement makes sense because I am one of the keepers of the inside jokes to which they are attached. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about those stories, and I smile to myself. The smile turns into a giggle. The giggle turns into an urge, which turns into a strong physical craving to talk to the other keeper of the jokes. There is but one person in the known universe who would understand the hilarity of the “small, thin cow.” If I tried to explain any of these stories, I’d probably be caught in that awkward moment of an amused look, followed by the statement, “I guess you just had to be there.” What happens to the inside jokes and the stories when one of the keepers is gone? I think about this often because on April 30th, 2012, this particular collection of private humor was, all at once, suspended in a space where perhaps only unused inside jokes can float around. The warden of the “small, thin cow” (and many others) was Paul. When Paul died in 2012, I carefully hung up our jokes and stories, and I didn’t start taking them out again until very recently.

Paul’s death was hard on me for a ton of reasons. We spent a lot of time in a parallel process of growth-- recovery from things we had been through, and learning how to manage our lives differently than we had before. We worked on this mission alongside each other, with the light falling upon us differently, and sometimes, not at all. One morning in April, I lost my journey partner when Paul ended his own life. He did so in a way where he could protect himself from anyone having to interrupt his objective (because I had tried so many times before), and in a way where he could protect me from having to agonize that he wasn’t doing better this time (although I never stopped worrying about him for a moment). I will always remember the last text that I received from my Paul: “It’s a beautiful day. Using coping skills. Love you Blu J.” Two days later, I woke suddenly, my brain racked from a terrifying early morning dream. A frequent and intense dreamer, I distinctly recall sitting in bed, thinking how it was the worst I had ever had. The panic of what had disturbed my sleep hung around through my waking hours, despite my efforts to peel it off entirely. I had not experienced anything like this before. Two days later, I would learn that this horrific dream took place around the same time my dear friend had ended his life. Partners, we were. Connected, I suppose, even in living and dying.

There are better things to remember Paul by. Of course, I experienced anger, devastation, sadness, and guilt. There was confusion, forever questions without answers, and more anger. These feelings, although not meant to be minimized, are obvious byproducts of a suicide, and are not the reasons why I wrote this piece. Because there are better things.

I work in a field where, sadly, I have seen suicide attempts, accidental overdoses, and completed suicides. I have also lived a lifestyle that has allowed me to develop close friendships in the recovery communities of substance abuse and mental health. Unfortunately, when you collect enough of those friends, you almost inevitably end up seeing some sadness on the other side of the people you have had the fortune to know. Every single one of those lives is so much more than the reason, or the manner, in which they left this world. Because there are better things.

Paul bought me my first pair of running sneakers, and even some super sporty highly ventilated socks to go with them, just because I said that I thought about running. He also knew me well enough to know I would probably never follow through on that particular ambition. We routinely hit up the Whole Foods buffet for takeout, which we would eat at his apartment. He would arrange the items in his container in a fairly organized manner, while mine was disaster of foods that do not go together. We were regulars at the “The Last Drop,” a coffee shop that we refused to acknowledge by it's proper name, preferring our own name, “The Lost Drip.” Most street corners in downtown Philadelphia remind me of him, of us. I always felt safe and comfortable around him, and that is the reason he was so special to me. I have forever struggled with having relationships that feel genuine. Historically, it has been difficult for me to feel that I can just be who I am, in any given situation. For me to come upon that type of a friendship, as I did with Paul, is an extraordinary occurrence. To lose it, is incredibly difficult. I thought that Paul’s death would be a reason for me to shut down-— a kind of confirmation that there is no point to opening myself up to such relationships if they are going to be painful, and ultimately, lost. Instead, it is his living that taught me that I am capable, and willing, to continue to build relationships with depth.

Paul’s struggle with suicidal thoughts was no secret to those who were closest to him, and they were evident throughout our entire friendship. It came up in our conversations, emails, and texts. Sifting through my old emails between us, I found one dated 7/29/11, in which I had written, “I’m glad you want to live. It would suck if you were dead because then we couldn’t be friends.” I did not know that nine months and one day after this, this would be a world without Paul. However, I was wrong about something. You see, Paul and I would not, could not, cease being friends, if he was to die. It would be impossible. I know that now because I have finally figured out where the inside jokes go when one of keepers is no longer around. I found that we still get to hold them between us. They never disappear, and no one ever takes them away. I know that, because Paul is forever the keeper of the other half of our inside jokes.

In memory of Paul R. 4/13/1964-4/30/2012
Philadelphia cannot possibly be the same city without you in it.
I hope, that wherever you are, you are looking down in disbelief, and laughing at me when I jog. I think of you each time I do it.  Your presence is with me in all that I do.

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

From “Desiderata,” Max Ehrmann

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Kids, Fire, and Suicidal Goldfish

I never liked kids too much. If you know me, you may think this concerning, as I live with two of them. I was never focused on having any, figuring there would only be a small percentage of a chance that I’d be even slightly fond of my own child. My ex-husband and I did not have any children together. He liked them even less than I do, and I doubt they would have enjoyed his company much at all. One time I saw an elderly, sick cat get up and leave the room when he walked in. That should tell you enough. Ironically, I ended up dating a man who has two kids. We have been together for almost four years now. From the beginning, I knew that if I wanted to have a chance with him, I could continue not liking kids, just as long as I didn’t dislike these two in particular. We are now a family of four humans (and by the way, it turned out that I love the kids to pieces), plus three parrots and two elderly goldfish who experienced some type a miracle by being restored to health after “resting” on the bottom of the tank for one week. By the way, they tend to do that now, every couple of weeks. They convene at the bottom left corner of the tank for a few days, and then start swimming normally again. I believe they are plotting something huge, and it makes me nervous. Their former tank-mates had become ill, and then dead, right before the current fish began staging their first sink-in at the bottom of the tank. Those deaths ended with two separate occasions of hearing boyfriend in the bathroom: “Thanks for the fun times. I love you. Goodbye,” followed by the flush of the toilet. I wasn’t sure what these fun times entailed, but I didn’t bother to ask.

I would really like to continue with this entry as I had planned it, but now know that I need to write about the time when our largest goldfish committed suicide. It was December of 2012, right before I officially moved into the boyfriend’s house. I had been staying there a lot, but didn’t have my own key yet. I had my very own dresser drawer, which was lovely and exciting, but I was more comfortable spreading out my belongings in every available space of every single room in the house. That’s how I knew I almost lived there. The morning of the suicide, I locked the backdoor from the inside, as I normally did, and left for work. On the way there, I became paranoid that I had left my flat iron on. I was extra nervous because I was so close to officially moving in with boyfriend. I felt like burning down the entire house might work against me. I had to make sure it was unplugged. I went to his parents to get the spare key for the back door, which ended up not working. This led me to have to climb through a window in the rain. Once I finished breaking into the house, I ran upstairs to shut off the flat iron, in order to save the house from burning down. Naturally, I found that I had never left it on in the first place.

On the way to the front door, I noticed something orange on the floor in the dining room. I stopped to take a look, and to my horror, found that our largest fish, Mr. Roy Halladay, had jumped to an untimely death. I immediately started panicking. Of course, I called boyfriend; my first thought being that he could somehow fix the dead fish situation from work. I now know that this was the dumbest move I could have made. At the time, I did not anticipate that he was going to tell me to pick up the fish. Dead fish just give me the “creepy-crawlies” (one of my mother’s favorite terms), and having to relocate a dead fish is one of my worst nightmares. Angel directed me to scoop the fish up into the green net that we keep for these purposes, and then dispose. To my dismay, I noticed that the fish, while very near death, was still breathing slightly-- not enough to have survived if I had put him back in the water, but still breathing, nonetheless. There was no way I was going to be able to endure this task. I presented boyfriend with the following argument of logic, while crying on the phone: It was about 10am on a weekday. Normally, no one would be in the house at this time, given that the kids are at school and we both work. I reminded him-- if I didn’t think I had set the house on fire, I wouldn’t have had broken in through a window, and I would never be where I was standing, at that moment. I would have been at work, just like any other day. He would have gotten home before me, and fish disposal services would have been his responsibility. My closing remark: ‘Why interfere with a situation that we wouldn’t have known about on a normal day?’ Boyfriend did not agree with my rationale, although I thought my argument was pretty solid. In fact, I was pretty pleased with myself for having come up with such a strong case while panicking at the same time. “But you are home, and you did see it,” he kept saying. “You can’t just leave a fish on the floor.” I was still crying, but now I was mad at him, too. Why couldn’t he see that avoiding the situation and pretending that it didn’t happen, was the best option? I realized that he wasn’t going to let this go, and I didn’t want our relationship to end over a suicidal goldfish.

I picked up the net that we keep under the fish tank, and considered the task. The handle was only like one foot long, which was completely unacceptable. It would place my hand no more than 12-inches away from the fish. There was just no way. I decided to invent a device for people who need to pick up dead fish at more than 12-inches away. I figured this could be a very marketable product, and I would have felt quite proud of myself, if not in the throes of a crisis.
I taped the handle of the net to the end of a long broom. This put me at several feet away from the fish, which was still not ideal, but better that what I was dealing with before. Scenarios began to run through my mind. I imagined that when I touched the fish with the net, he would start going psychotic. Also, we have hardwood floors now, but at the time we had carpeting. My next image was one of attempting to pick the fish up, but inadvertently smashing it into the carpet because I couldn’t get the correct angle on the net. My further attempts to correct this would only make it worse, further smashing the fish until the carpet fibers were mixed with mashed goldfish. I took a deep breath and with my eyes nearly closed, I guided the goldfish into my Dead-Goldfish-Picker-Upper invention. It went smoother than I expected. Then I laid Mr. Roy Hallady on top of the trash, which I had pulled can in from the kitchen to the dining room, so I wouldn’t have to parade around the house with a dead fish. After that, I left the house as quickly as possible, not caring if it did go on fire, or even if it completely exploded two minutes after I left.

Rest in peace. I would also say "thanks for the fun times," but there really were none.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Boyfriend and I Have Been Together for Almost 18 Years

If you know me, you know that I have been with my current boyfriend for three years, so maybe you are wondering what I'm talking about. Maybe you don't give a damn.

Well, I'm talking about my other boyfriend, the one I met in September of 1996, when I was 15. Our actual "date" is September 14th. We are still together, making this my longest lasting relationship ever. I'll tell you how this happened:

As I mentioned, it was September of 1996. Bush, Pearl Jam, Oasis, and Smashing Pumpkins all had number one hits on the Billboard charts that year. My boyfriend and I met the very same week that Tupac Shakur died, and even more importantly, the week that Alija Izetbegović was elected president of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the country's first election since the Bosnian War. I was 15 years old, and in the 10th grade-- not quite grunge, but not quite goth. I had tossed my flannel shits, but it would still be a couple years before I was dressing in vinyl. I was a total fashionista-- for my first day of 10th grade, I wore a Radiohead t-shirt, black wide-leg jeans that I cut on the bottoms, imitation Vans, a wallet chain that was so heavy that my pants were actually in danger of falling down from being pulled by the weight, black Robert Smith-like eye makeup, and green lipstick. The place to be that year was Roosevelt Field Mall-- not to buy anything, but just be cool-- not that I needed any validation of my coolness.

So, back to that legendary week in the middle of September-- there was upheaval in the world of hip-hop, history was being made in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I met my boyfriend in the Sam Goody music store at the mall. He was everything I wanted in an 18 year old man-- straggly chin-length blond hair, reminiscent of the late Kurt Cobain, six feet tall with the build of a female waif, and ill-fitting clothes, obviously purchased from Pacific Sunware. He also had a wallet chain. I knew we were meant to be together.

Our initial courtship was intense, but divine. He told me that he loved me in the parking lot of the East Meadow library after we had to evacuate due to a fire. It was my first mature relationship. I had to hide in the backseat of his car while we drove past my house because I wasn't allowed in a car with a boy.

As the one month mark approached, I began hearing from my boyfriend less. I sensed his interest dissipating. I would beep him my phone number, or call the alpha text lady to have a message sent to him (remember-- it was 1996), but he would not respond. I was distraught. I did the only logical thing I could think of-- I made out with his best friend. Still, nothing. Our relationship fizzled, but a portion of the spark clearly remained, as he never actually broke up with me.

Our 18th anniversary is approaching this year. I have desperately tried to be a good girlfriend over the years; however, the amount of space and freedom that he was so liberally taking, did begin to affect me several years after we met. As such, in 2001, I began dating a man who I eventually married in 2005. That didn't work out too well, and the marriage ended in 2010. At the time, I reevaluated my relationship my boyfriend, and I reached the conclusion that he is most likely still taking some time to figure things out. Therefore, I met someone else in 2011, and we have been together ever since. There are times, though, when I feel I owe it to my boyfriend to let him know of the developments and changes that have occurred since we first got together. Undoubtedly, there many specific questions that that are worthy being asked, such as: Where did you go? What happened?

I have no way of knowing what's in store for us, but I sure am excited. We have had so much time to grow and mature as separate people. I can only surmise that we are becoming even stronger as a couple.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I am the Biggest Jerk in the History of the World

As I look over my blog, I realize a lot of it is about me being a sociopath. Ruining other kids’ ceramic projects, cutting up the carpet, giving false opinions to people in stores, kicking a hole in a neighbor's Halloween decoration, and tipping over a dresser and making the goldfish fall out of it’s bowl (you will have to read past entries if you want more detail about these things. It’s all in here, trust me). So, I figured it was fitting to add yet another entry about my sociopathic behavior. Then I realized I’m probably not a sociopath at all, if I’m using this blog sort of as a cleansing process. It means I feel bad about the things I have done. However, since I am cleansing myself of my wrongdoings on a public forum, it must mean that I’m actually a narcissist.

I am not the most patient driver. I am a good driver, and a safe one, too. However, some might describe my style as slightly aggressive. I think it comes from all the city driving I have done. Yesterday, I was obviously the one and only person on the road who had somewhere important to go (the mall). Given my unique situation, I had less patience than usual. I was at a red light, and was waiting to make a right turn. There was van in front of me; also with his right turn signal on (I refer to everyone on the road as male. “What the hell is that guy doing? Why is that guy at a stop in the middle of the road? What’s wrong with him??” It could be a car full of women wearing frilly pink dresses. I will still refer to them as one guy.) The light turned green, and the guy in front of me did not turn. I gave it a few seconds, but there was no movement. I decided I was going to do the “gentle reminder” beep that I had practiced. I developed it as a way to decrease the aggressive nature of my driving habits. Instead of slamming my hand on the horn before the person can even move his foot from the brake pedal to the gas, I wait a few seconds, and then with a swift, but light motion of the hand, I beep the horn as though I am gently tapping a tambourine in the middle of a quiet song. That is my “gentle reminder” beep. Unfortunately, the driver ahead of me did not respond to my tender notification that the light had turned green. This time I stepped it up to the “You-are-not-even-paying-attention-not-even-a-little beep.” This beep has undertones of anger and aggravation. After I executed this beep, there was still no movement. At this point, I was getting extremely pissed off, so this time, I really hit the horn. I don’t even have an official name for that type of a beep, except that “beep” is too jolly of a word to describe it. No movement. Muttering curses to myself, I decided that I was just going to go around this guy. Well, unfortunately, since his car was large enough to block any view of what was going on to the right side of him, I was not able to have seen that the reason he wasn’t moving was because he was waiting for a crossing guard to help children cross the street. I felt like the biggest jerk in the history of world, ever, in life (key indicator that I am actually not a sociopath). At this point, I made the choice to completely abandon my original route, cut through the parking lot of CVS, and go on a completely different road. I did this because I did not want to be driving near any other driver who was around me, who may have been a witness to what had just taken place. I especially did not want the guy who was in front of me to end up right behind me, or next to me at a traffic light. I did not want to be driving near anyone who would be thinking the whole time, “Oh, that’s the car of the person who wanted to run over little children and kill them. Yes, that’s the car of the person who has absolutely no respect for the job of a crossing guard.”

The moral of the story is that it was the guy’s fault who was in the car in front of me. He should have gotten out, personally visited me in my car (I would have rolled down my window), and told me that the reason he had stopped was because he was waiting for children to cross the street, and he sincerely apologizes that he purchased such a large car, which blocks important views.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I Had Art-Related Behavioral Problems

Four examples:

1. In pre-kindergarten, I was in art class, and I was pretending that the paintbrushes were actually people with hair, so I sat in the back of the class, giving them "haircuts." I had to stay after class to clean up the mess, which was dumb because usually in salons, the stylist doesn't have to sweep up the hair that drops on the floor from the haircuts-- normally the shampoo person does that.

2. I was at a ceramic-painting party, around the age of seven. I was painting Bart Simpson figurine, and the boy across from me was painting Homer Simpson. For some reason that is still unknown to me, I began painting blue dots on the back of his project. When he finally noticed, he dipped his brush in brown paint, and painted all over my Bart Simpson. He then pressed his fingers into his eyes and cried. Although I started it, I remained emotionally unaffected.

3. I practiced writing the number 9 on the walls inside my closet in my bedroom. I wrote a couple other things, but mainly, it was just the number 9. My house was always well-stocked with paper. I doubt that we somehow encountered a paper shortage just as I had learned to write that particular number. It just seemed more appealing to write on the walls.

4. I was playing with hot pink paint, and I dropped some of it on the tan-colored carpet in my bedroom. I panicked, and tried to wipe it up, which only resulted in further smudging it into the carpet. I came up with the fairly solid idea of using scissors to cut out the carpet fibers that had paint on them. The result was a carpet with bald spots. Looking back on this incident, I wish I dealt with my anxiety in a more appropriate manner, such as blaming my parents. This was obviously their fault, as it was their decision to have light-colored carpeting in a child's room.

Intruder/I Ate Fish Food

You must look back at this entry, to get the full effect of this post. I was off from work today, and went to the mall to get my eyebrows threaded. I am rather obsessive about having my eyebrows threaded every two weeks. I have black eyebrows, and this is exactly what I look like if I don't adhere to my strict grooming schedule:

Once I was finished, I went to grab something to eat. You know how at the food court, usually a bunch of two-person tables will be pushed together to form larger tables? Well, I was sitting at one of those-- I think it was about three tables pushed together. Since it was a Monday afternoon, there were approximately 12 million empty tables in the food court. I was eating, and happily reading a book on the Kindle app on my phone. Suddenly, I felt the presence of an intruder. I looked up, and standing there was this guy with his stupid little lunch, hovering over the table. I noticed he was in possession of food from Sbarro, which is only the worst pizza, ever. Does Sbarro exist outside of malls? I just Wikipedia'ed Sbarro, and found that they filed for bankruptcy three months ago because the company's financial structure was found to be unsustainable. THAT'S PROBABLY BECAUSE THEIR PIZZA TASTES LIKE BLEACH (maybe they wouldn't be in bankruptcy if they had gotten to the root of the problem a little sooner).

By the way, my dad would get so perturbed by my food-to-inedible-substance-or-object analogies. I would say something like, "This cookie tastes like pencils," and he would be all, "That is so dumb. Have you ever eaten a pencil? How would you know what a pencil tastes like?!" Now, if I had compared something to fish food, and he was like, "Have you ever eaten fish food? Do you even know what it tastes like?" My answer would have been "Yes, I do know what fish food tastes like because I have, in fact, eaten it." I did eat fish food (flakes, not pellets) when I was about seven. The flakes taste exactly like they smell, which is somewhat comforting, because at least you know what to expect.

Back to the food court situation. So I glanced up at the eater-of-bad-pizza who was standing at my table. "Do you mind if I sit here?" he asked. I was in disbelief. There is a universal rule (or so I thought) that if someone is sitting at a big table in the food court, made up of smaller tables pushed together, that you ONLY sit at that table if ALL OTHER FIRST-LEVEL SEATING OPTIONS HAVE FALLEN THROUGH. First-level, by the way, refers to being able to sit by yourself at any large-sized table in the mall. If every single large table is already occupied by one person or more, and no small tables are available, then first-level seating is no longer an option, and one must move to seek second-level seating. I would rather eat my food on the floor, than have to seek second-level seating. Now the problem here is that eater-of-pizza-that-tastes-like-bleach was seeking second-level seating when first-level seating was plentiful. My reaction to this guy was quite similar to my reaction to the guy on the train (again, you must read this post to understand what I'm talking about). I grabbed my stuff and got up before this guy could even put his bleach-pizza down on the table.

When I told my boyfriend this story, he immediately said that the guy wanted to hit on me, so that's why he sat down at my table. I disagree, as he didn't even attempt to speak to me (although I did get up pretty quickly). I just think he was another clueless person, with zero social boundaries, unaware of the rules of the universal, multi-level seating system. I think that if you enjoy eating bleach disguised as pizza, while seeking second-level seating when there is no viable need, then you really have to take some time to get your life together.

Friday, June 6, 2014

You Make Me Sad: Disappointment of the Day

My favorite movie of all time is "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." One of my favorite parts is when Graham Chapman, as King Arthur, is trying to recruit the Black Knight for the Court of Camelot. The Black Knight refuses to respond, and eventually, he tells the Knight, "You make me sad." I thought this would be a good platform for discussing disappointments.

A couple nights ago, the boyfriend and I went out to dinner. On the way to the restaurant, I spotted a Rita's Water Ice. It wasn't just the normal stand; it was one that allows you to go inside. The only time I have been to one like that, was on the boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ, and it is like THE GREATEST RITA'S EVER because they have approximately 93287432472397429347329423048230 more flavors than the average Rita's. After dinner, we drove over there. I was beyond excited. "This is just like the one at the beach, only there is no ocean and no sand!!!" We got inside, and as I stood at the counter, I saw a sign with, like, six measly flavors. One was the sugar-free peach, so that doesn't even count. And one was cherry, so that doesn't even count, because it's only the most generic flavor, ever. So basically, it was like zero flavors. THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE WILD BLACK CHERRY. Suddenly, there was a glimmer of hope, as I scanned the short, pathetic list. Watermelon! No, not just watermelon. Watermelon chip. "Are the "seeds" in the watermelon made of chocolate chips?" I asked the girl at the counter, who looked like she would rather be involved in waterboarding, than working at Rita's. She confirmed that the watermelon "seeds" where, indeed, chocolate chips. I can understand the logic. It seemed that the Inventor of Water Ice Flavor (IWIF) thought it would be cute and adorable to make the watermelon water ice look like actual watermelon, by adding "seeds." What IWIF failed to consider, however, was that watermelon and chocolate do not go together.

I ended up getting the blue cotton candy water ice because I am a mature adult with refined tastes.

I just realized that this is not my first post about frozen treat disappointment.

You make me sad, Rita's. You are the Disappointment of the Day.