The right fork

I want to be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers.

I want to learn swing dance and be light as air.

I want to know all the cool jazz and wear sunglasses and have my hair in a twisted bun and have stockings that have the lines on the backs.

I want to be classy. A few problems with that:

(1) The closest I've ever got to dancing was at raves, and that wasn't so much "dancing" as it was "I'm really fucking high and don't want to fall over."

(2) I trip in tennis shoes.

(3) Stockings with the lines up the back, thanks to being in such short supply during WW2, are still considered a luxury item - and are priced as such.

And the largest obstacle to having class - money. I have no money. Oh, you can learn to speak, to walk, in a way that mimics classiness. You can learn to sit stock straight, use the right fork, and never curse. You can get your nails manicured in the most inoffensive pastels and never put your elbows on the table.

But mostly it's money. Money in amounts that I'll likely never see pass through my bank account. I wonder what it's like to have money. If everything else would stay the same, save being able to afford two gallons of milk at the same time. Or if the money would change me, if I would find myself refusing to curse and thinking a top at 80$ is a steal.

I don't know anyone who went from rags to riches and I'm sure as hell not going to have that story myself. But I wonder.

Jesse and I have been watching an 1980's show called "Tales From The Darkside." A collection of short horror themed stories, many of which have to do with the poor suddenly finding themselves rich.

It never turns out well for them. And in many real-life-celebrity-cases, it turns out badly for them, too. I like to think I'm smart enough to avoid the pitfalls. But I have a tendency to fall face-first wearing flat shoes, so I can only imagine I'd break my nose tripping over suddenly having a disposable income.

We, the poor, are very good at convincing ourselves that we don't want such niceties or fine things. Too stuffy, we say. Too restrictive. Rich people don't know how to have REAL fun.

We are also very good at noting that while money doesn't necessarily make one a happy person, that it's a hell of a lot easier to be happy when you don't have to choose between rent or food. It's the most bizarre dichotomy.

So I'll never be rich. I'll never be classy. There is no confluence of events that could domino and make me more comfortable shopping at an exclusive boutique than in Walmart. I'm not even sure that I'll eventually be able to pick rent AND food in the same week.

But I wonder. I look at Fred and Ginger and wonder if they knew just how classy they were. I wonder if I would have even a chance of being HALF that classy.

I'll never have that kind of money. Not even quite sure I'd want it. But I'd like to live it for a little while. See what white-trash roots stick around even if I use the right fork.

I mean, seriously, who ever thought one meal would need, like, six utensils?

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Dragons

Sometimes I'm afraid to leave my apartment.

Not because of some twisting, psychiatric anxiety. Not because the outside world is too much to bear. Sometimes I'm afraid to leave my apartment because I don't want to get mowed down in a spray of bullets. I want my death to have some kind of relevant connection to my life, rather than just being in the wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time.

Of course, mass shootings are nearly impossible to predict. You can't put a timer on when some insane loser is going to throw a murderous, adult-sized temper tantrum at society. And America is no longer the Wild Wild West - most people will never have to hit the floor to avoid a maniac with an automatic weapon.

But sometimes, it still gets scary. Other countries deal with these unpredictable forces by removing the weapons that make mass murder so easy. America?

There is rarely a place, an establishment I visit, where I do not idly check the exits, or do the calculations of how well I could hide behind a tipped table or cabinet. It's so insidious. I don't even notice how strange it is that preparing for war-time conditions at freaking Subway or my work has become perfectly commonplace.

I manage to leave my apartment. I go into the hall, lock my apartment door, and trundle down the stairs. I get in my car and I drive to work and then I go to the grocery store and I come home. I do all of these things, wondering what it would be like to do these things and not wonder, if only in the slightest sense, where I would hide if some asshole pulls a fucking Uzi out of their coat and aims at the crowd.

America - here there be dragons.

With guns. With lots and lots of guns.

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If I could just get L. Ron Hubbard's advice on this....

I also want to start a religion. I will call it "Brotherhood Of The Rolled Down Windows." Cuz I every time I see another car on the road with all four windows rolled down in this 100+ degree heat, I know they are just as broke as I am, as they obviously can't afford to have their AC fixed, either. I swear I feel a nearly spiritual kinship with those folks.

And hell yeah, we push those yellow lights, because that extra five minutes at an intersection, heat baking up from the asphalt and radiating in the metal box we're sitting in, is as close to hell as any other religion preaches.

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Smoking and poverty

I'm going to have to quit smoking. This isn't me being sardonic. I'm really, really going to have to quit smoking.

But not today and not all at once, says my doctor. Thank god.

I'm borderline COPD. Emphysema. Chronic lung disease. The shit that leads to very unsexy oxygen tanks and heart attacks. If arrested before it takes hold, the effects can be mostly reversed. If not arrested?

Incurable.

We did a breath test yesterday, where we figured out how much oxygen I am getting out of my breathing. I had to push really hard to get an 88% oxygen level reading. 85% is what one is diagnosed with COPD.

The "comfortable" breaths for me? Where I didn't have to push or cough or wheeze? I was getting 73% oxygen. The norm should be nearly 100. No wonder I feel like crap. I'm literally suffocating myself.

Duh, of course, what-else-did-you-expect rings the chorus. What other end did I think smoking two packs a day for ten years might have? But I can stop this and I can stop the oncoming train. I can do what I do best, and that is to get the hell out from under the piano 2 seconds before it's dropped from a 15 story window.

She said she doesn't want me to go cold turkey. I was so relieved I nearly cried. A two-pack a day smoker has a much better chance of staying quit, she said, if they can get it down to a pack a day to start with. Made sense.

So now the trick is to cut back. She wants me to back at a pack in two months. Quit entirely within six months.

This is a more daunting task than one would assume. Giving up something entirely is, in its own way, almost easier. But I don't want to cold turkey and I don't want to get COPD. So, if the doctor says cut back, I cut back.

Smoking is a part of my entire day, it marks nearly every ritual, it is beyond comforting, and let's face it, I fucking love smoking. I enjoy the hell out of it.

But "hell out of it" just might be what winds up happening if I'm not careful.

The other thing we found out is that my electrolytes are out of whack and I'm slightly anemic. This, she said, was likely more a result of the diet of decades of poverty. I'm taking a multi-vitamin and she's going to see what else I can do, outside of spending huge chunks of my paycheck on extremely perishable foods.

Here's the bitch of it all: We still don't know why I'm losing my hair. COPD can cause hair loss in advanced stages. I'm not in any official stage yet, let alone advanced. My thyroid levels are normal. I'm not diabetic, pre-diabetic, or anything of the sort.

More tests, she said. I asked her if I should just plan on losing most of my hair by the time we figure it out. She looked at me, pained, and said that with how fast I'm losing hair, that in the meantime...yes.

I do have some small level infection, blood in my urine. Kidney and liver functions, however, remain steady and normal. I have an antiobiotic and Vagisal. Bring it, bitch.

A doctor's office is so different than a minute clinic, which have been my only medical excursions for 20 years (and then only a couple of times, as I always have to borrow money to pay for that.) A minute clinic's purpose is to get your symptoms under control and move you out.

Doctors do what they can to figure out what's causing symptoms. It's a big difference. I'm still kind of shocked.

So I have the chance to stop something before it kills me. I have the chance to bring up the stupidly delicate balances of chemicals and hormones in my body. These are good things.

I'm still going to be my losing hair, though.

One thing at a time. I don't have to climb a mountain all at once. I've just got to grasp the handholds right in front of me and haul myself up. Just what's in front of me.

Besides, Halloween is coming up. Maybe I can get some decent quality kick-ass wigs.

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Heels and giggles

You know, I think I figured out part of what I'm missing about recovery from David, from my history, from everything.

Kesha. No, seriously, Kesha.

I go back and forth. Prove them wrong? Pah. Nothing there to prove. Use the history to limp forward when I've broken my ankle trying to run in heels? Pah. There ain't no better way to climb a mountain than in stilettos anyways.

But that mirthful, snarky, laugh-lolling-at-the-back-of-your-tounge feeling...I gotta remember that. My tragedies were tragic. The pain rolls over like a tidal wave sometimes. I got bones that I had to rip out of my limbs and build crutches out of.

But you know what? That hasn't kept me from being able to look back and see just how ridiculous some of it was. If I've been touched by sorrow, then by god I've been touched by the laughter of the gods as well, because holy shit, looking back, I can't help but falling into peals of giggles.

Surviving is a hell of a trick to manage in this world. Surviving while finding ways to point at the sky and cackle, slightly insane if not wildly triumphant?

But having climbed to the top of it all, I can laugh like a goddamn god, because holy shit, sometimes just as deep as any sorrow rips, so does the amusement at having broken the clouds at all.

So yeah, I think of David. I think of my mother. I think of all the things that cracked me. And then I think -

"I heard our song on the radio
And I see your face everywhere I go
I thought I'd call just to let you know
I've been thinking of you, thinking of you...

But now my song's on the radio
And you see my face everywhere you go
I thought I'd call just to let you know
I've been thinking of you, thinking of you...
"

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I know the 1980's was like 30 years ago, but -

CH: I couldn't access my online account. I knew I had a bill, but I couldn't get online to pay it. Could you waive that late fee and take a payment over the phone with me?

So I waive the late fee. I take their payment over the phone. I dig around in their user information to fix their online account. If it's a younger person needing this help, I feel a bit more patient with the process. But most often, these are folks who were born well before ARPNET screeched over anyone's modems.

What I REALLY want to say?

"Were you or anyone you know alive in the 80's?"

You know, where people didn't have the internet to pay bills. However in the world people must have paid their bills then, god only knows. A secret lost to Time itself, apparently.

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Someone else's job

I've spent the last 30 hours being chewed alive by the Bitch Goddess Migraine. It's taken a tentative break, though I'm sure it'll come roaring back later, and likely once I'm at work.

So there's this set of tweets from David, days ago, which I can't figure out if the anger from it is part of what's causing the migraine or if it's the fact that I've done my damndest to not think about how angry I am about it. Yeah, if I never read another word from him, I'm sure my anger would just melt away like an ice cream bar on a freshly paved Arizona highway. NOT.

But I damn sure am getting defensive about it, which means there must be something to something about it. (I are so eloquent when my skull hurts. Seriously. My SKULL hurts.) But I'm gonna bitch about it and see if releasing the anger helps or if it just makes the icepick-behind-my-eyes double down. Anyways.

"I hate modern capitalism, for it's abhorrent greed, and for it's abusive ableism. I I can think of things I'm able & willing to do for money

I'd cook, I'd bake, I'd barista for money, but the demands are either too high, the pay is too low, or most often both.

Any job I could get that will not fire me due to disabilities, will not pay me enuff for basic needs, food, rent, medication, help I need.
"

Ragey Responses:

* You had NO PROBLEM with ME working a job that didn't pay enough for basic needs, food, rent, medication, or help.

* You had NO PROBLEM with ME taking out 20 grand a year for school loans to cover for the fact that my job couldn't support us both and you steadfastly refused to get a job yourself.

* You had NO PROBLEM with ME experiencing mental health issues so badly that I had to change my meds every three months.

* You also had NO PROBLEM with ME borrowing tens of thousands of dollars from my ex's to make up for the tens of thousands of dollars of school loan money you misspent.

* You had NO PROBLEM with any of that...so long as it was someone else doing all of the work. Apparently, these things are only problems if they are something YOU have to do.

You'd cook or barista...bitch, you don't live in a fantasy world where being depressed suddenly means you get to pass up on any job that doesn't sound like JUST THE FUNNEST. Take a look around you. You think people LIKE working at Walmart? Or McDonald's? Or at a call center?

Yeah, yeah, but you're so special and so fragile that of course you could never be expected to take on a survival job. That, of course, would be someone else's job.

"I don't know how to live in this world. I don't know how to thrive. I just know I don't want to die."

You're right, David. You do not know how to live in this world. And you have done your best to ensure that you never will. Living in this world is someone else's job, because it's sure as hell never something you're going to step up to plate to learn yourself.

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(no subject)

This whole waking up early thing is for the birds. And thanks to my work schedule, waking up "early" constitutes eight or nine in the morning. I don't even get the bonus of watching the sunrise (which was, for decades, one of my favorite things to do.)

Things I should do: Laundry. Go get cigarettes. Write something halfway meaningful.

Things I'm going to do: Be tired and grumpy and bored with writing. Maybe scoop out the litterboxes.

Jesse and I talked about how writing often seems the most useless thing in the world, even as we are compelled - nay, driven and obsessed - by it. It's a frustration I share. A frustration I think all writers share.

It's not writer's block. Writer's block is accepted as an inevitable part of the writing process. Inevitable, unavoidable, and pretty much the flip side of any word that we pen. Maybe writer's block is where a lot of other people give up. But that's not the problem here.

It's the act of churning out a product using our own words. Having to navigate the description of what is all around us in a way that allows us to dive under the words. It's a tall order and some days it just feels stupid to even try. My fingers are tired, I wish to remove them, to get under someone else's hands and keyboards and write something completely new.

But I don't write like someone else. I write like me. Jesse writes like Jesse. A person can sympathize with someone else, but it will always be your own voice reaching out. Everything you digest and spit back out will always be in your own voice, as there is no other place for a human being to live other than inside of ourselves.

Sometimes this is sacred. Other times, it is maddening.

In other news, I've got to stop antagonizing the Universe. All that ranting and raving about how I must never ever again have my period landed me with starting my period. It's odd, as my last Depo was only a month and a half ago. But then stress, diet, hormones, barometric pressure, the placing of the stars and the feng-shui of my apartment...the female body is a hysterical thing and bleeds at the slightest provocation.

I'll take "Not Being A Ridiculously Psychosomatic Person" for 200, Alex.

I'd not thought of ISIS that way - or in a way that would explain why people join ISIS. I guess it really is a terrorist/freedom-fighter deal. Or maybe like a cult. Even the smartest of people can get roped into a cult.

Young people want to feel as if they are doing something for a cause. That, too, like you guys said, is probably a huge part of it. And youth and extremism can go hand in hand. I just don't understand the kind of extremism that requires you to kill yourself or others for the cause.

There are some acts of murder that I can understand, at least intellectually. Crimes of passion, mostly. Come home and find your wife and best friend in bed together? Grabbing the gun and blowing both of them away while they're still in your sheets? I can understand that. Unplanned, unmediated murder that comes in a fit of human emotion? I can sorta get that. Murder for a cause that promotes genocide?

I don't get that. My mind just slides right off that, off any kind of explanation that could even be nominally satisfying. I guess it's a good thing I don't understand. It's probably one of those things I NEVER want to understand.

It is now 10:30 AM. My day will not be done until midnight. And as I didn't sleep well enough or long enough for my meds to finish doing the voodoo-that-they-do, I'm guaranteed to be exhausted within the next hour. Medicinal grogginess is SUCH a bitch.

SUCH a bitch.

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I'm not a foodie, but fer fucks sake -

* I first thought AHAHA TAKE THAT, DAVID!, as chocolate cake (and then only from the Betty Crocker boxed mix) is the only cake he'll eat.

* And then I read that General Mills is only recalling the chocolate chip chocolate cake mix. David, ever the food "purist", loathes anything in his cake, up to and including delicious, melty chocolate chips.

* Not that I want him to contract E. Coli. That shit's nasty. Still, it made me giggle.

* Jesse's ex-roommate once brought over some cookies he'd baked. The cookies were fantastic. I mused that I might run down to grocery store to get some milk to go with the cookies.

* Rarely have I seen someone pull up so short, so quickly, and with such a sudden display of revulsion as Jesse's roommate did. "EWWW!, he cried out. "Milk and cookies? Yiiick. Who would eat THAT?!" His face scrunched up into such a ball that one would think he'd been whacked in the shin with a hammer.

* I, baffled, asked him what in the world he DID eat cookies with, if not with milk. Soda was his answer. Jesse's roommate ate cookies with soda. Which is a fine combination, to be sure, but his extreme reaction to the idea of eating two of the world's most traditionally paired food items was bewildering.

* I have been split from David for two and a half years now. The novelty of having a wealth of restaurants to choose from when eating out has not yet worn off. I don't think it will. Not after five years of being limited to a very small handful of restaurants due to David and his family's picky eating. This is a big city with tons of places to eat.

*What a waste it was that for those five years, that I could only eat at perhaps 10 places, half of those being only fast food. Not having to endure fits, tantrums, sulking, or driving miles out of my way to pick up food from another restaurant is still fucking amazing.

* Don't get me wrong. I love fast food. FOR REALS. If I could eat fast food three times a day and not keel over from a heart attack inside two weeks, I'd do it. I'm an American and we loooove our greasy, obesity-causing, heart-attacks-on-a-plates-food.

* But fer fucks sake, it took over a year after the breakup before I could stomach going to McDonald's even one more time.

* One of David's pipe dreams was to open a bakery. Given the mettle, he might have even been good at the venture. But (1) the know-how for running a small business includes things like accounting and not-blowing-over-ten-fucking-grand-on-Magic-cards and (2) David would only reluctantly, and I mean with great cajoling, entertain the idea of cooking something that he, himself, didn't like.

* And sorry, David, but a lot of the world loves chocolate chips in their cake mix. They love brownies with walnuts and cake balls made with spice cake and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. They love eclairs, cannolis, and pretty much everything that David (and Jesse's ex-roommate) despise.

* What a bakery that would have been. It'd be like the pastry version of that Henry Ford quote. "You can have your car in any color you want....as long as that color is black."

* Or Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix. An entire glass display filled with nothing but Betty Crocker chocolate cakes.

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Also random

* A Tolkien quote on one of the manager's white boards: Not all who wander are lost.

Except for the Israelites. They were lost for 40 years. For fear of religiously offending anyone, I haven't let that joke slip at work. I want to. Just not badly enough to risk alienating anyone who may later become my boss.

* First female ISIS recruit to be gunned down in an airstrike Why would someone join ISIS? I know that 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter', but seriously...why? ISIS are the bad guys. They are so clearly the bad guys.

* I can never decide if Sharon and Ozzy are a forever love that can triumph over anything or if their relationship is just a decades-long display of codependency. Probably both.

* I read yesterday that an astronaut, floating in space without a shuttle or a suit, could be theoretically preserved for thousands of years while floating in the vast blackness. Possibly even millions of years. Assuming the body doesn't crash into debris or get close enough to a warm star to burn to a cinder, at least.

* If that's true, then it's possible that some future space-faring species could find a human corpse, even if we have long since wiped ourselves off the face of the planet. I find this both creepy and wildly comforting.

* Someday I want to visit the river Strid in England, which claims to be one of the most deadly rivers in the world. What makes it so deadly is that at its narrowest, it's less than a six foot jump to make it the other side. Unfortunately, if you miss (and the rocks are mossy and wet, so you WILL miss), you'll discover that the river is six feet across.....and so deep that no one has yet to properly measure its depths.

* The underwater chasms are thought to have corpses crammed and pinned in like sardines, as many of the bodies of those that fall in are never recovered. The thought of staring into the water, wondering if ghostly hands are waving back up to me, is surprisingly compelling.

* Just not compelling enough to actually jump in and SEE if anyone is waving at me. I like the idea of haunted rivers being a purely intellectual exercise, instead of, y'know, becoming a part of the story.

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