Suburban High School, Northern California, USA

By the time I hit my Senior year of high school, I just used the classroom as a means to check out, using my desk as my pillow.  

At one point, I had loved taking French class.  I really did want to learn all of the nuances of a different language.  Plus, my mom spoke French, and I was looking forward to having secret conversations with her.  

However, at some point, in early September of 1993, fresh into my Senior year, the skeleton bones of the school administration announced, unceremoniously, that we would no longer be referred to as ‘students’.  We would now be known as ‘warm bodies’. This was around the time that the cyclone fence went up around the school.

At that time, I was working at Tower Records.  It was quickly known that I was the first person that location had ever hired who was younger than 18.  I was 16 when I was hired. Even being a retail slave, I had a liberating amount of autonomy. I could dress any way that I wanted, I could be as odd as I was, and I got to take a smoke break every two hours.  When lunchtime came around on my shift, I could go and eat whatever I wanted. I worked 5 days a week, usually after school,2pm-10pm, and then on Saturday, 9am-6pm. Sunday was my day off. I spent my work days filing CDs onto CD racks, practicing my 10-key ability, managing credits and collections for the Video Rental portion of Tower, being Accessories Buyer (CD racks and Cassette storage, then incense and CK1), and alphabetizing the porn videos when my boss was particularly irritated with me.  Most of my co-workers were in their late 19s to early 20s, with a few man-children thrown in because they simply loved the music.

Again, this was 1993.  Grunge was in full swing.  And we had a Bass/Ticketmaster kiosk in our store, where I often spent my days selling ‘Phantom’ tickets to picky old ladies who couldn’t decide upon right or left mezzanine.  But we also had first pick on tickets. While the fans camped out overnight outside, waiting for first pick on Lollapalooza tickets (which, admittedly, is how I got the job in the first place), we waited an extra two minutes before unlocking the door so that we could have first dibs on any soon-to-be-sold-out tickets.  That was how we all ended up seeing Pearl Jam and Rollins Band at the Warfield. And Nirvana at the Cow Palace. And White Zombie and Pantera. But I digress.

Somehow making $4.25 per hour at the time was worth it, because I had autonomy.  I had freedom. I could be exactly who I needed to be, whilst making sticky labels for the Lazerdisk section of the store.  

But then, there was school, where I was merely a ‘warm body’ to the faculty, and a ‘fucking freak slut’ to the student body.  When bullies attacked a vulnerable kid, the teachers just looked the other way and pretended it wasn’t happening. When my boyfriend, in 9th grade, started slapping, berating, and punching me in the middle of the quad, the only person who came to help was a little, short, friend of mine, who came up and bravely told the dude to ‘stop fucking with his friend’.  By the time he came up and confronted my boyfriend, dozens of students had come out of their classrooms to see what was going down. Not a single adult intervened.

And then there was English class.  I’ve been writing since I could put a pencil to paper.  Suddenly I’m stuck for an hour each day in a fucking freezing Portable, while the English teacher/track coach, assigns us to read a fucking CHAPTER of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn over the next TWO WEEKS.  What better way can you ruin Mark Twain than by this method? I’ll tell you how. After two weeks, wherein I had completely forgotten the chapter I had read two weeks ago, we all had another grueling week to go over the chapter, line by fucking line, until the brilliance of Mark Twain was whitewashed in the gray water of generic bleach and suburban complacency.  

Then there was psychology class, wherein I tried to merely doze on the table, rather than having a full nod-off, because the subject interested me.  I would lay my head down on my folded arms, and then simply fling my arm into the air when an interesting question would come up. But that was rare- not for lack of trying on the teacher’s part, I’ll admit.  On one occasion, the teacher was talking about mind-body connection, and my attention was piqued because I had just read an article about cancer patients having a better prognosis if they have a more positive attitude and outlook.  But then, one particularly insightful student chimed in: ‘Oh yeah, my leg is broken…Oh wait, no it’s not!’ I gave up on the argument and promptly went back to a deep and restful sleep before my work shift at 2:00 pm.

It felt as if the Northern California Suburban Public School System had zero interest in actual education.  It was simply made up of a bunch of tired, old non-persons who had finally given up on life and had decided that putting up with bratty teenagers for half a day was worth the paycheck, as long as they could sleep through summer.  This fact was made even more crystal clear when one day, I walked into my psychology class to find that my teacher had come down with a serious illness, and our substitute teacher was actually one of my more inept supervisors at…yes…Tower Fucking Records.

So I spent part of a semester listening to this douchebag struggling with the basics of Freud, calling him ‘Mr. Garminder’, and having to ask permission to go pee.  And then, at 2:00 pm, he was ‘Craig’ again, and I was saying, ‘Dude, I need a fucking cigarette’ back at the job.

 

There was a point when I left that suburban teenage wasteland.  While signing me out with my well-deserved D+, my newly ambulatory and actual psychology teacher told me, ‘One day, I know I’ll see your name in lights.’  And while taking a break from mauling what was left of Mark Twain on the linoleum floor of that warm-body-ridden school, my English teacher said, ‘You were not meant for the public school system.  I wish you the best.’

 

And when I left and finished off my high-school career at the esteemed Martinez Adult School, I finally felt the freedom to learn.  And I read the first curriculum-required book that ever nudged an inspiration and passion in me. The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. I could read it at my own pace, and I loved reading every word of it.  I got straight A’s that final semester at Martinez Adult School. And when I graduated, the administrative staff gave me a big hug, and there was a picture of me on the bulletin board for a few years after.  
On the day of my graduation, I remember my father rolling his eyes and saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re graduating in a Multi-Use Room.’  But I paid no mind.  I wasn’t merely a ‘warm body’, and nobody there would ever allow abuse upon my body, and I was able to really, truly, and fully absorb and enjoy The Grapes of Wrath.  And I’ll never forget it.

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2019 midlife

I first wrote the bio for this blog in 2010.  I had no idea what my late 30s and early 40s would hold for me.  I had a plan for this blog, but it got sidetracked along the way.  My initial intention was to simply try to write again and connect with other people.  But then, at some point, (roughly April 14 of 2010; 2:37am), a rug was pulled out from beneath me.  Everything I thought I knew and understood was gone.  I was 33, and I thought I had all of my version of Adulting figured out.  I was so wrong.  This blog has become my journey through this mess of realizing that we never, ever have it figured out.  And that Socrates was right:  I am wisest when I know that I know nothing.  I have been a drunk, and I have been a fool.  I have been a slut, and I have found the Marianis trench where depression can sink us deeper still.  I used to liken panic and depression to a slick and muddy pit.  So slick that when you try to climb out, and almost reach the precipice, one wrong foothold pulls you back down into the muddy and sickly bottom.  The past ten years have only solidified that metaphor in me.  I am a contradiction in terms:  I am a broken mess, and I am whole and unshakable.  I am a dirty slut, and I am pure and innocent.  I am cruel, and I am kind.  I love you, and I might hate you as well.  I am shattered, yet some strange glue put me back together, stronger than before.  I am a lazy slob, who hates to see dust on the wainscoting.  I am a poet who needs to see numbers reconcile to the penny.  I reject the conventional lives of those who marry, breed, find joy in visiting Costco on a Sunday…yet there is a tiny part of me, in the pit of my stomach that aches for simple…comfort, reliability, a chance to exhale.  I hate the poetry of Robert Frost, but alas, at some point, two roads diverged in a wood.  And I-

I took the road less traveled by,

and that has made all the difference.

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Torqued Hard

A poet once told my mother

that I am ‘torqued hard’

that I will need to write

or I will die.

As if these words

are aspirin

or insulin.

And maybe they are;

maybe I need to find my way

back home

and shoot myself up

with a warming cool injection

of words

to release that tightly wound

and torqued pull

deep inside

this burning hole.

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Freedoms in the Abyss

I am Bukowski

I am the inconvenient ail you feel

I am the need to ‘handle’, or don’t.

I am the drunk.

The Black Sheep.

I am the part of you that you don’t want to face.

I am the brilliance you could have realized

and the failure you always feared.

I am every extreme you dreamed of:

The exquisite and euphoric high,

and the diminishing and catastrophic low.

I am Plato in the cave,

Rilke in his quietest and secret moments,

Camus with the flash of a knife on the beach;

Orwell hiding in a corner where the cameras won’t see,

scratching the ulcers on his infected leg,

Bukowski finding magic in the sway

of a woman’s hips;

Hemingway catching the impossible marlin;

and Huck Finn finding the irreplaceable feeling

of being young, free, and screaming down a wild river,

not knowing what will come, but being ready

for whatever storm is thrown at him,

as long as he is free.

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When I fall back asleep

My brain’s Witching Hour seems to be between 6:00 and 9:00am.  This is when I have already woken up, decided I am still tired, and I go back to bed for just a little nap before I need to face the work day.  This is when the morning cold sweats come out, when the vivid dreams come crashing into my brain, when I wake up shaking from a trauma I can’t quite put my finger on, until the dreams come flooding back to me, and it feels so completely real again.

Last night (this morning), I dreamed that I was staying at a guest house somewhere up in Montana or Canada, far from home.  I was sleeping in a guest room on an air mattress next to the master bedroom, where there was a computer with internet access.  My friend Selena was sleeping in the master bedroom, and the owners of the house had graciously offered us these two rooms to sleep in.

A friend of the owners, a man in his late 40s with short gray hair, a polo shirt and smart slacks, came through to use the computer in the master bedroom for some business matter.  He didn’t disturb Selena as she slept in the master bed.  But once he was done, he came back through to the room I was sleeping in, and he crawled on top of me.

He held my arms down and forcefully tried to rape me.  It felt so real.  I remember his weight upon me- roughly 165 pounds of polo shirt and khaki pants with the fly undone and his drunken penis trying to escape its way out of it.  I screamed, ‘NO! NO! NO! Stop this! SAFE WORD! NO! NO!’, but he kept going, trying to make himself hard with his hand until he was ready to penetrate.

He wouldn’t hear any word I said.  His weight upon me was almost suffocating.  I knew that he was stronger than me, and that there was nothing I could do to stop his assault.  I kept screaming, and nobody could hear me.  He was hurting me, and I knew that he was about to hurt me more; more than I have ever experienced.  I longed for Selena to wake up, for someone to hear me, for someone to pull him off me.  I felt completely powerless, and the worst case I could imagine seemed inevitable.

In this dream, I had fallen asleep in a skirt, and for some reason wasn’t wearing any underwear.  And as this man kept trying to get his dick hard to rape me, I felt so vulnerable and angry at myself that I had somehow allowed myself to go to bed with no underwear on.  I screamed and cried and begged for somebody to hear me, but nobody came.

Finally, I struggled my way off the bed, with him still on top of me, trying to enter.  I could feel the tip of it threatening to push in.  I found something sharp on the ground by the bed, and somehow I managed to reach behind me and slice off his nasty and intrusive dick.  It flopped down onto the floor like a sad little slug, and he stopped, as if all of the rapey energy had been suddenly drained from him.  And he just looked at that sad little slug of a penis on the shag carpet before him, and seemed to reflect on the fact that he had maybe made a bad decision.  I then picked up that poor little nugget off the floor, wrapped it in a paper towel and handed it to him.

Then I said, ‘You should put this on ice.  And you might want to head to the ER.’

He took it from me as if it was some foreign object he had never seen before, and didn’t know how to handle.  He just held it in his hands and stared at it, without making a move.  As if I had handed him some strange and discolored spider from the Amazon, or a slice of some exotic meat he had never tasted.

I told him again, ‘You might want this later.  I think you need to head to a hospital.’

He walked away confused, holding his sad little shriveled dick in a paper towel in his hand, and I almost felt bad for him.

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Thoughts, two years later.

We pissed our pants.  Rafting down the river, we all pulled over to shore for a beer and cigarette break.  You stood on the shore with a PBR in your hand, and I watched the piss run down your leg below your swim trunks.  You looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘What?  I have to piss.’  I laughed and let loose as well, letting the piss leak out from my bikini.  My boyfriend at the time looked at me in horror, ‘What the FUCK are you doing!?’  I just looked at him deadpan and said, ‘I had to pee.’  And then we all got back into the river and continued our passage down the river.  We were all pissing in the river, but you and I let go of conventions and just let loose because there was nothing to lose.

We often stayed after hours at Baggy’s; you let me finish my beer while you cleaned up the bar.  Once you were done, we sneaked off too fool around and tried to hide from the security cameras, like two kids sneaking cigarettes behind the high school gym.  Until Parisa told you that the owner had seen everything, and she might have too.

One night, a tall man sidled up next to me at the bar, and kept trying to get my attention.  All 5’3″ of you stayed directly in front of me, ignoring all other customers.  You asked him, ‘Can I help you?’.  The man ignored you and kept trying to get my attention.  You repeated, ‘Do you need a drink?  And please leave my friend alone.’  Suddenly this 6’3″ man turned to you, looked you dead in the eye and said, ‘I am from Africa, and I have killed many men.’  You actually gave him one chance and repeated, ‘Ok, but can I get you a drink?  And will you please leave my friend alone?’  The man said again, ‘I am from Africa, and I can kill you if I want to.’  And while I blinked, you ran from behind the bar like a bolt of lightning, came up behind the guy, twisted his arm behind his back, and physically hoisted him up and threw him out of the bar and into the street.  Then you came back in, as casual as can be and said, ‘What a douchebag’, and went right back about your business.

I don’t have a neat and tidy ending to this post.  No full circle realizations or epiphanies.  I have no real point, and no poet’s wisdom or metaphors to tie all the memories and feelings together.  I simply miss you Jason.  Still, and every day.

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The Finish Line

Many of my journal entries end up being a meager and futile attempt to capture something profound within a drink-induced haze.  In any case, it happens.  But now is the time to actually put in the work and do something viable with this pen.  Just like we always promised.  Just like we always promise.  Just like we have been trying to do for 25 years.  Have we done anything at all?  Have we achieved it?  And who is the judge?  Who decides if we have succeeded at the task we set out to accomplish?  Is it a publisher?  A devout reader?  Our own complete self, Dear Reader?  Who decides whether or not we have accomplished what we set out to do?  And what exactly did we set out to do?  Our goal was vague.  We never outlined it all in a clear and vivid manner.  It was always some nebulous goal up ahead, some vague red ribbon to cross, for a race we never even thought to define.

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