Random Rants and A Possibly Good Thing

I don’t get this obsession with knowing every little detail of a terrible thing. For example, I do not wish to know the intimate details of the recent death of a loved one. I don’t want to know how badly he suffered or how awful it was. I know how awful it was: it’s why I keep crying. So please stop trying to tell me. This is not idle gossip. I did not wish to know every brutal detail of how my cousin died of melanoma a few years ago, but I was told – by many sources and even after asking them not to tell me. Now I have to live with this mental image of his final moments as he succumbed to respiratory failure.

So yeah, as you can tell I haven’t been having a great time of it. Everything is seriously fucked up in my kingdom and therefore I haven’t been up to blagging. I have mostly been trying to fix the unfixable – a process very much like voluntarily and repeatedly slamming one’s head into a wall (and in my case, while the house is being firebombed). As a result I’ve been in a right shite mood, and every little thing is setting me off.

The meaning is yours to experience and discern.

For example, I am so frelling sick of Hollywood making shitty movie versions of really good books. It irks the shiz out of me, but there’s not much for me to do about it but rant. Rant rant rant. I’m sorry but I like the way the story looks inside my head. I am not the kind of reader who hunts down all the interviews of their favorite authors trying to figure out what they were going for. I don’t believe that this is the point of literature. I believe it is like art – paintings, for example – where the artist composes the picture, applies the details and takes you to that other world. What that other world is like is now a construct of your mind. The meaning is yours to experience and discern.

The writer gave me all the information I needed to build their world, to live in it, experience it and feel it. If the information was good it will have a transforming effect; it will make an impact, resonate, and take hold. That’s why I read books. I do not read books so that directors can interpret them as they see fit and then build stunted visual interpretations of them that will forever taint them and compromise their integrity.

(I’m looking at you Joseph Gordon Levitt).

My dresser.

My dresser.

Sometimes I feel like perhaps I’m doing therapy wrong

I’m also super ticked because a lot of really awesome events are happening in my area that I would love to go to, but I can’t because of my crippling panic disorder. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman will be doing a musical/reading event with a bunch of other artists and musicians in honor of Ms. Palmer’s upcoming book release. The New Pornographers have been oot and aboot. Various book events and cons. Just so many things I would love to see. But I can’t because I’m a fracking mental case.

Sometimes I feel like perhaps I’m doing therapy wrong or it doesn’t work the way I think it’s supposed to. Or perhaps it doesn’t really work at all. Anyway, everyone’s answer to my issues outside of the medical/therapeutic fields is generally ‘take something and get over it’.

I find it amusing how people who have never had issues like mine or who have never been on any sort of medication have the attitude of ‘just take a pill’ and shrug, as if that’s all it takes to make the shittiest parts of your life just go away. But they have no idea how the medication works, how your brain works and what goes into both the disorder and the medication. (Let me say right now that I think it’s disturbing how little the average person knows about how their own body works.)

Popping a pill is just not that simple. And don’t you think that with this whole nightmare that I go through on a regular basis, that I’d have done that already if that’s all it took? Trust me; I’m not a glutton for punishment.

 banana books

In interesting and non-shitty news, this week I got an intriguing email. I had submitted a portfolio to a charity that was looking for artists to make and donate work for an auction in December. This is sort of a big deal, both the charity and the auction. Plus it’s a cause that is really important to me.

Anyway, the other night I get an email from the committee or whoever that decides these things, and they loved my portfolio and want my stuff. Not only that, but, along with my portfolio I sent a proposal highlighting three options for what I could create for them, and they want all three. So they want at least (and they stressed the ‘least’ bit) five of each thing, all in less than a month.

I went into this thing thinking that it wasn’t just a long shot, but that I’d never get picked at all. But here I am, more than a tad shocked and excited. So I’ma gonna be crazy busy, what with NaNoWriMo, an art competition with a local art shop (for a much needed supply prize package), and now this. So it’s very likely that this will be my last blaggins for a while. Which is fine by you, I’m quite sure.

So with that I take my leave of you. Enjoy yet another musical road map, provided by the Psychic MP3 Player.

Portugal. The man – Everything You See (All the Kids Say Hallelujah)
St. Vincent – The Neighbors
St. Vincent – Black Rainbow
Lykke Li – I’m Good, I’m Gone
The New Pornographers – Failsafe
The New Pornographers – Go Places
The National – Conversation 16
Grizzly Bear – Ready, Able
Lou Reed – Andy’s Chest
MGMT – The Youth
Guided by Voices – The Future is in Eggs
Portishead – The Rip
Zoe Keating – Forest
Fleet Foxes – The Cascades
The Kinks – Who’ll Be the Next in Line
Say Hi (To Your Mom) – Toil and Trouble

P.S. I’m trying out a new theme. If it’s disgustingly pretentious, please let me know. I don’t mean to be, I swear.

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NaNoWriMo and Brain Leakage

I’ve decided to take a break from my weird life shits and discuss something of great and ill-advised import: I’m finally going to give NaNoWriMo a go. For many years it has been my intention to participate, but something always thwarts it. Although, really, that something has generally been me: I typically am too busy, forget when it starts, or just forget it exists altogether. Forgetting is a skill at which I excel.

But this year due to a series of badness culminating in my taking a semester off for the first time in three years (including summer breaks), I’m jumping in. I am not sure what I’m going to write though, which I guess is a big ‘oh shit’ thing in the NaNoWriMo world. Most people spend the year preparing for this like you would a marathon. Many have outlines, titles, plotlines, character profiles – everything ready to go come 12 a.m. November 1st. I’m not like that. I don’t really know what I’m going to do.

That’s not to say that I don’t have options or whatnot. I have a notebook full of story ideas that I draw from and add to frequently. So I’m set for something to write about, I just haven’t picked yet. I’m not sure if I should choose one I’ve been mulling over for a bit, contemplate something from the idea book or go completely random and pull one from a hat.

I took the semester off – as in started classes and then withdrew when life became too overwhelming – because of the stress, but also because my migraines are back. With a vengeance. I had successfully whittled them down to one every once in a while, and now I have been having them every day for weeks straight. And there really isn’t anything I can do about them other than take this medicine that doesn’t make it better so much as make me sleepy and weird. Sleepy and weird with my brain leaking out my eyes and ears. It’s crazy frustrating. I can’t read or go online like I’d normally do. I have so much to do and am just unable. Did I mention that my migraines are vertiginous? Yeah, so that’s fun. Now I think that maybe I’m setting myself up for failure with this NaNoWriMo thing. Glutton for punishment am I.

 

Arts

I’ve been encouraged to do art-type things on a more frequent basis, studio access or not, to help me deal with my current shituation. So I got this tiny Moleskine knockoff. It’s roughly 3” x 4” and I’ve been trying to scribble in it at least once a day.

In the midst of my grandfather chaos, my uncle, aunt and father have been having this sibling painting competition. Meaning they’ve been painting in these Barbie watercolor books with my nearly three year old cousin, and have decided my art degree qualifies me as judge. It also apparently qualifies my uncle to make snide little comments about my being unemployed. This is a thing with this particular uncle. I couldn’t list the bullshit immature crap he’s pulled on me since I’ve been born. No, that list would take many blog entries. He likes to take little digs at me for no reason. Literally no reason; he would say mean and nasty things to me and about me when I was a TODDLER. The man is immature as fuck. Even in his 50s.

He spent a few days using my art degree as an excuse to make little digs, implying that I’m so bad at art I can’t get employed. So I whipped out my tiny sketchbook that I have been keeping on me at all times, and his wife snatched it up and dropped her jaw. ‘CAUSE I CAN FUKKIN ART. “That’s how it’s done son.” I declared, thus slightly smiting him in front of his laughing wife, sister, brother, mother, nephew, teenage daughter and one of his teen sons.

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the pencil.

So that’s all I got. Next time perhaps I’ll regale you with tales of amusing librarians, and tell you what it’s like to cry in the basement of a house that is falling over.

Until then, please enjoy this Andrew Bird playlist, composed by my psychic MP3 player just for this occasion.

 

The Psychic MP3 Player Presents: A strictly Andrew Bird Assortment

  1. Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses
  2. Anonanimal
  3. Polynation
  4. Happy Birthday Song
  5. Hover I
  6. Far From Any Road (Be My Hand)
  7. The Giant of Illinois (Dark Was the Night version)
  8. Orpheo
  9. Unfolding Fans
  10. Desperation Breeds…
  11. Tin Foiled
  12. Near Death Experience
  13. If I Needed You
  14. Grinnin’ In Your Face (Fingerlings 3 version)
  15. Pulaski At Night
  16. Cathedral in the Dell
  17. Fitz and Dizzyspells
  18. Frogs Singing

A stupid update and stupid Ebola

IMG_7788

I realized that I haven’t been posting lately and although I’m sure no one has noticed, I have, and that right there goes against the whole point of this blog experiment. This is not to say that I haven’t tried. I went and started about half a dozen of these but then got too overwhelmed or tired to complete them. So here I am with a brief synopsis on my junk, which I may or may not go into further detail on at a later date.

When last I posted it was shortly after my cousin’s memorial service. It’s been really hard, and affecting me in strange little everyday ways – but also in big ways. Like how I celebrate Christmas sort of ways. This year has been upsetting and disruptive to my routine, traditions and things that make someone like me – someone with major anxiety and depressive issues – on edge.

My great aunt, who is really my grandmother (she was there for me like a grandmother when her sister, my actual grandmother, wouldn’t be), suffered a series of strokes that have left her barely able to think, see, hear or speak. The matriarch of my family, as well as the single wisest person I know, has now lost everything, is in a senior living facility, and her life is being dictated by this monster of a cousin-in-law whose motives in the whole situation are dubious at best. I feel so entirely helpless in this that I don’t know what to do. TheRapist has tried to help me with it, but she doesn’t understand our relationship. She doesn’t get how for the majority of my life I felt that only one person in my entire family understood me, and I’m losing her: systematically, and in most despicable ways.

A terrible run in with the cousin-in-law has also started a strange thing in my family. People by and large are on my side because this woman is particularly offensive. However, it’s making things hard in other ways.

My house is entering its fourth year of renovation. Meaning that my entire house is in disarray, half of it has little to no electricity and no lighting, many of our belongings are in storage (including stored in my studio – thereby preventing my being able to use it) and it’s just not a big enough house for this much disruption. The main reason this is happening is because my father insists on doing these renovations by himself, but he doesn’t want to do it. He’d rather play with his boat or his band. So a project that could be finished in a weekend or two has taken nearly four years. Any interference from my mother or me is met with hostility and accusations. It’s created an environment of stress and resentment that is just too much right now.

Especially considering that my mother has atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. We finally got the heart failure into remission when she just made all of her stress worse and now it’s acute again. Awesome. Add to that my father quitting his fucked up (once epically awesome job) for a new one, and having to wait for the new health insurance to kick, it’s been a ball over here.

And it’s not just my mom who is sick. Our ancient greyhound is not doing too well either; and we don’t expect to spend another Christmas with him.

Personally I’ve not been in a good place. I may have to have a surgery next year that I’m not really on board with but am afraid I am without choice. My anxiety is at epic levels (obviously), I’m unemployed and unemployable. I am now, for the first time in years, officially broke. I don’t know what to do anymore.

Everything has been coming at me from all angles (even more things, things that I don’t want to even mention, lest I well up or throw up), and just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, my grandmother called crying yesterday. My grandfather isn’t well, and instead of going to the doctor or the hospital, he’s refused medical treatment and aid. He won’t let us move him or let the ambulance take him. He’s announced that he wants to die and won’t get out of bed and eat.

So right now there’s this epic vigil going on at my grandparents’ house. We’re all just waiting for him to knock it off or die. And seeing as he is a stubborn old fool, and he isn’t well to begin with, he’s going to slowly die in his bed, breaking the hearts of his four children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren. And there is nothing we can do about it.

For the first time I really don’t think that I can handle this. It’s literally too much for me.

So there’s that. My completely bullshit life, and the reason I’m not really up for much socializing or generalizing or blogging.

____________

Before I go, I do have something I’d like to say about this Ebola outbreak. There’s been a lot of panic, a lot of bullshit reporting, and apparently even some ignorant and ridiculous conspiracy theories. But what it comes down to is this:

The reason why Ebola is spreading through Africa uncontrollably right now is because of poor sanitary conditions. The poor sanitary conditions are a direct result of having no access to clean water. This is a larger, much more terrible, much more difficult, underlying problem that needs to be addressed and no longer ignored.

Having no clean water is a major and horrific reality that you almost never hear about, and that most people in the western world don’t give a shit about. But the fact is, around a billion people worldwide have no access to clean water. An estimated 345 million of those people are in Africa alone. So now these diseases that are rare, that are containable – hell, some that should have been obliterated ages ago – are free to go unchecked because there is just no way to maintain sanitation when there is no sanitation to begin with.

What is happening with the Ebola outbreak in Africa is only an issue with us in the Western world because it’s starting to affect us directly. And like most things that happen around the world, they get ignored until they affect us directly. It’s sad.

Coming up with new treatments that only first-worlders can afford, or doing special new screenings at airports is ignoring the real issue and placating the few. It is the equivalent of walking into the most used room of your home, seeing a steaming pile of shit in the middle of the floor, covering it with a facial tissue and then walking away.

Without fixing the whole problem, the core problem, the ACTUAL problem, things are going to get worse and worse. For all of us.

Everything that happens everywhere in the world, everywhere on this Earth affects us directly. There is no us and them. There is only us. This is our problem and it is spreading. It won’t be long before it’s a rampant issue in the US. And note how I said ‘rampant’ – because it already is becoming an issue here.

So I just wanted to point that out. I also want to point out that these massive problems aren’t impossible. There are solutions. Everyone and anyone can help. You can raise awareness. You can demand it become a central political issue. Go to water.org to get further educated and see what else you can do to help bring clean water to these areas.

That’s it for now. Later.

A Memorial and a Song

rat pack

 

We were heading past the funeral home, down Mass. Ave searching for parking, when I saw him and recognized him immediately. No one else in the world naturally looks like a forgotten member of the Rat Pack, slightly stumbling in his dark suit, smoking a cigarette in that particular way. “There’s ____.” I told my parents. It couldn’t be, they said, he can’t be here; he has a show tonight. But I was right, it was him. He was stumbling away from his godfather’s memorial service, crying, escaping. Doing exactly what I wished I could do. I worried for him. I always worry for him. He has MS, and he is gifted, and sometimes I worry that he’ll feel too awful or too good and push himself too far and get hurt or lost or stuck or what. I can only imagine that he must feel trapped in his life these days. It’s because I feel that way too.

We found a spot across the avenue, practically beside the crosswalk that ends directly in front of the mortuary. I hate the place. I have been here, so many times that I often find myself outside the door giving directions to incoming mourners. “The viewing is in the reception room, through the lobby on the right – just follow the line. Yes, there are restrooms. Go straight, through that small anteroom there and they will be in front of you – it’s a straight line from the front doors.” I’ve memorialized so many loved ones here, that I can tell you where the phones are, where they hide notepads, pens, extra mints and tissues. I’ve even been upstairs in the residences/offices.

When Mum gets out of the car I am worried. She doesn’t handle these situations well, it’s hot out and she isn’t healthy. She has atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. I am beyond paranoid that sometime soon I’m going to be in this situation again, only this time I won’t be filing in to pay my condolences, I’ll be on the receiving end.

We get across the stairs and go inside, only to be greeted by the countless throngs that comprise my extended family. Everyone is smiling, even those who are crying. People are reminiscing and laughing. My cousin – who died this week of a sudden (mere days between diagnoses and death) and devastating re-occurrence of cancer – wanted this to be a day without tears. And being atheist and not one to stand on maudlin formality, this memorial service would be it. So we were instructed to be happy and not to cry; there should be no sad tears in the celebration of a life.

I spent most of the time in a corner talking with some of my close cousins (the deceased’s niece and nephew) comparing photos of our dogs and talking about our new grown up lives, the other part of the time I spent with another cousin, an eleven-year-old with whom I am so close I consider her a little sister. We were in a little anteroom, next to the central air vent, goofing around. When a family member asked us (bemusedly) what we thought we were doing I replied: ‘Putting the ‘fun’ back in ‘funeral’.”

All around us was this almost painless, least-stressful wake/memorial service I had ever spent in this particular building. That is until I encountered the widow, a woman whom I have loved and respected and truly admired throughout my entire life. I should say rather, that she encountered me. She appeared seemingly out of nowhere, a specter, a ghost. Pale and in obvious shock she said my name, hugged me lightly, kissed my cheek, and then disappeared.

I have never in my life seen someone so completely devastated, heartbroken and destroyed. My breath left me. I was afraid for her; I am afraid for her. I wonder if she is eating, if she is sleeping. I worry that this is all too much for her, and that she shouldn’t have had to endure this stupid event.

 

I want to tell her how much I love her and that I’m there for her. But I’m the weird, black sheep little cousin, more like her niece than anything else. But I worry. I so, so worry.

 

We left the funeral home after two hours – four hours early, therefore missing the speeches and official reminiscing. This was surprising as my Mum is usually a stickler for the formalities. We wound up at my grandparents home, the ancestral manse, conveniently within walking distance of the service. We talked to my Gran, who having learned that I recently began seeing a therapist (or The Rapist, as I call her) insisted on knowing what for. “For lunacy” I told her. She was not amused.

 

 

My cousin died this week. He was a brilliant man, gifted and giving. He piloted planes and helicopters. He taught English in inner city schools. He was a sports car aficionado and driver. He was an accomplished bluegrass musician and he was teaching me how to play Jolene, the banjo Santa left for me by the tree. What’s more he was a survivor; he wasn’t supposed to die – he had been cured.

I feel cheated, but what’s more I feel like the world was cheated. Because it was.

 

Anyway, all week I’ve had this song trapped in my head. It came on when I was told he was dying and hangs on even now. I don’t know why this song, I don’t know if he even knew of Andrew Bird, and I don’t know that the subject matter has anything to do with anything at all or what it means that it’s trapped in my brain. But here it is.

Pain, Therapy and Lapin Gardening

So my cousin has posted an ultrasound of her baby on social networking sites. I hate when people do that. First of all it’s icky. Second of all it’s yucky. Third of all it’s tacky. My cousins keep doing this too, as if I want to see the strange sea creature/squirrel shaped parasites invading their abdomens.

Anyway, this ultrasound is really early. So early that it’s mostly space and just this tiny bean you kinda have to look for. There are a million people ‘oohing and aaahing’ in the comments, but I’m terribly tempted to ask her if she’s sure it’s not just a big fart. Trapped gas man, it’s a bitch.

 ____________

Okay, so I’m in a fabulous mood, as if you can’t tell. I’m snarky and sarcastic because I’m in an exorbitant amount of pain and there isn’t really anything I can do about it. I can’t even sleep (it’s nearly three a.m.). It’s been about ten months of this, and after numerous tests and one serious week in November where the doctors told me to brace myself for cancer, all they can come up with are shrugs and theories: another mass, a random tiny hernia, or muscle damage. The only way to really tell one way or the other or to do anything about it is to have an exploratory surgery. Now I’m sorry, but I don’t want random surgery. I have many reasons for this, the most significant of which is I’m convinced that the surgeon will come up with nothing or with more shrugs and I will have endured all of this for nothing. Not to mention that the doctors will stop taking my complaining about the pain seriously.

This means that until I decide to do the surgery, or my insides explode, or this stuff takes some kind of turn, every few days I will experience different levels of pain in that area. Tonight (or this morning, rather), I’m hurting badly. I took a pill for the pain but it hasn’t even taken the edge off. So not worth it. It’s bad enough that I’ve been taken to the ER twice and both times I was sent home with drugs and more shrugs. Rhymey.

On top of all of that, things haven’t been working out so well for me. I’m completely skint, unemployed, and frankly unemployable at this point. Plus all of this other stuff is weighing on me. I wrote this long blag post (a two-parter!) about what’s been going on, but it’s so terribly personal that I’ve not posted it. Yet. There is always the possibility that I may egg up, especially when one considers I’ve not a lot of followers and only a few of those actually read my posts and only two or three of those actually know me. It’s basically about how I’ve taken up therapy and how I have a colourful history of despising therapy and everything that goes along with it, and why.

As for this therapy thing, I’m fairly certain that I’m failing at it. Seriously, I think that maybe I’m doing it wrong. I don’t really talk about anything, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to talk about. And I talk to the therapist about her problems too. I know there’s this period of time in the early days (which is where I’m at) where you talk to your therapist about stuff just so she can learn about you and know what you’re on about (to discover and exploit your weaknesses). But I am still rather unsure.

___________

And in banal life stuffs, I grew lots of seedlings and plants for my garden, spent two days with Thunderball excavating and ravaging the very Earth, only to have this random apocalyptic downpour today eviscerate all our hard work. After all that, only about three plants of the hundreds we planted are still standing. I feel like the Charlie Brown of gardeners. Everything I touch get’s ruined.

But something exciting and interesting did occur in gardening. Our garden patch is about four feet by twenty feet. So in the soil turning and weeding phase on Saturday, Thunderball took one end and I the other and we worked our way towards the middle. About four feet in Thunderball suddenly stops her violent assault on the land and says “Uh, what is this?” She tosses over a wad of fluffy white fur, so naturally I ask: “Is something dead?” So she pokes at the spot with the garden fork and receives a terrified tiny squeal from the pile of furry earth. After she jumped away, we inspected the spot and discovered:

Bunny Seeds Germinated June 7 2014 01

Thunderball took this sessee shot.

Yes. That’s right. Babies. There were five or six tiny baby bunnies in there, all blind to the world. So now it’s like FUCK, we’re a mommy. So we’ve cordoned off that section of our garden (which will be devoted strictly to sunflowers), and recovered the nest we’d uncovered with an upturned bin. I keep periodically paranoiacally checking up on them, as I now feel responsible for having inadvertently uncovered their crèche, basically erecting the equivalent of a flashing neon arrow pointing right at them (hence the protective covering). Two days after finding them, I checked on them again only to find they were even closer to the surface with even less stuff covering them. I was amazed at how much they’d developed in only two days. They went from being blind and dark furred to being larger, open-eyed and more active and alert (although, clearly still too tiny to be on their own). Their little ears are still flat against their heads. According to some wildlife experts that means they are around 5-7 days old now.

I was so upset at seeing them almost completely exposed that I did some research to see if there was something else that we should have done or should be doing. But the wildlife rescue experts say that I did exactly the right thing, covering them back up and putting the bin over them. Now we just have to hope that they survive to adulthood despite living in a backyard that is full of raccoons and skunks and cats (That Cat and That Other Cat have both been sighted recently), not to mention our dog.

Plus they are so adorable one wants to take them in and love them forever (or at least until they reach their forever), but every wildlife place is like NO YOU CANNOT KEEP THEM. Shut up! You can’t tell me what to do! I am a paranoid mama bunny, hopped up on painkillers and out for blood! I do what I want!

“There is love in holding. And there is love in letting go.” – Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

And there is love in mauling a Animal Control officer. Just saying.

 

 

The Unfortunate Garbage of Life: Hoarding, Couponing and Superfoods

Yeah so, today is Monday, which is apparently hoarding day on television. I don’t like that it’s seemingly okay that a mental illness is being paraded around on all of these shows just because it’s weird enough for most people to gawk at. It’s basically a freak show that we pretend isn’t. We (the general public) pretend that it’s fine to watch these people at their lowest point, falling apart, living in garbage, because we’re “helping” them; look: we’ve got them a garbage truck, a shrink and an organizer. We’re fukking saints.

It really bothers me. Not the getting help bits but the exploitation stuff.Because that’s all this really is: exploitation.

Hoarding is an interesting thing. I mean, I’m not a hoarder, but I’m a collector who has had messy moments that made me question myself and even purge my once precious loot. I don’t live alone, so my stuff isn’t distributed throughout the house. I have a teeny room that we’ve remodeled to give me the cleanest lines and the most optimal storage which resulted in sacrificing a tiny closet for a built-in unit. On top of that I have my own shed that is just a wee bit larger than my room, and it’s full of bizarre shiz. I mean really bizarre, like bags of bottle caps, stacks of pressed paper beverage trays, no-longer-salvageable jeans, and junk mail. I even have a small collection of dead bugs (primarily moths). But the shed is actually quite organized and all of those things I have because I am an artist and the shed is my studio. I like to work with repurposed or salvageable materials, so it can sometimes appear to be a mini recycling center in there, depending on what I’ve got going on.

From the outside looking in, someone would see my stuff and go ‘what the fu-‘ but never think that I was a hoarder. Unless everyone considers Martha Stewart a hoarder, because while my shed is not nearly as nice as Martha’s craft rooms, it’s probably even more obsessively organized. (I should say ‘usually’, as right now it’s more of a construction storage as it has been designated housing for the overflow from our endless home renovation.)

So, other than making me paranoid about my own things, I also find hoarding interesting because I know some hoarders. The first hoard I had ever encountered was when I was a teenager and moved to this sorta-suburb from the inner city. I became friends briefly with these girls from my new school, one of whom lived just around the block from me. She was a pseudo-intellectual with average grades, but an above-average idea about how much smarter than the rest of us she was. I may sound bitchy and bitter but I’m not; she was always making little comments here, insinuating that we were all imbeciles who were lucky to be within her orbit. Her mom was a substitute teacher in the local school system, and I believe her father was a mid level engineer. They seemed like they were a put together family and they really sort of exuded airs – if that makes any sense.

Anyway, the first time the girls and I were invited back to the smart girls’ house I was floored. Going into the enclosed front porch was like a peril from the Lord of the Rings: the room was filled floor to ceiling with stacks of newspapers and magazines. There was a narrow little pathway leading to the backdoor and into the kitchen. Navigating it was accompanied by a genuine (and realistic) fear of avalanche. Their excuse: ‘we are really passionate about recycling and the town hasn’t begun its recycling program yet.’

The kitchen was incredible. The door didn’t open all the way; there was too much garbage on the ground behind it. The place smelled moldy and chemically off all at once. Every surface, every countertop, was covered by what I could only assume was garbage. Nothing appeared functional, useable or salvageable. There were two refrigerators – both broken. They were using a cooler to keep their food. Before I could ask they told me that they ‘couldn’t replace the refrigerators yet because one of them was leaking Freon.’ To which I responded “?”

Half of the kitchen table and one chair were clear and empty. There was no treacherous path like on the porch, but the floor was littered ankle deep with trash.

The next room was a family room, with things – books, videotapes, magazines and random electronic equipment – stacked everywhere on everything, very much like the paper goods on the porch. Some of the stacks featured precariously balanced potted plants on top. There was a mostly clear couch aimed at a small television with a bunch of VCRs and Beta cassette players stacked on top (and no, this was not the 1980’s). I would later learn that only one of each worked. There was a basement room that the kids used as a game room. It was functional on one side and completely smothered in crap on the other side. It was unnerving – more potential for avalanche. The only other room I ever went into was smart-girls’. It was fairly clean and neat compared to the rest of the house. When we came over we mostly spent time in there or watching a movie on the couch.

(The other thing I remember about that house was the girl had a balalaika hanging on her bedroom wall, which I completely coveted. She said to me “I don’t know what’s wrong with it; I can’t get it to work for me.” So I tuned it and played it, and she was PISSED.)

That was the first time I had ever seen anything like that. I didn’t even know what to call it, I had never heard about hoarding before. And I suppose an argument could be made that these television shows are doing a service by educating the public. But if that was what it was all about, I’m sure they could come up with a way to do it that didn’t feature humiliating people, annoying therapists who are too aware that they are being filmed, self righteous haul-away organizers, and horror-movie like soundtracks. Back in the day however, I was completely floored. I didn’t understand how people who considered themselves to be so above everybody could think that that level of filth was acceptable to live in. I couldn’t even adequately explain it to my parents until very recently that this was why I didn’t want to go over that girls’ house anymore. At the time the concept was so out there they thought I was exaggerating.

Since then I have met two more hoarding families. This time around however, I knew what it was and how to handle myself. When I was a kid it was sort of stressful trying to remain in the situation (trust me, I wanted to leave) and be a polite guest. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t judging that family or that girl and I still don’t. I was just really taken aback and confused; I couldn’t reconcile these people and their external, intellectual image with their home. I had no context for what I was seeing. Now I get that this is a disorder, one that needs a lot of outside help and work to resolve.

I can understand hoarding to some extent. I can understand the need to seek comfort, and finding comfort in objects makes sense. You can touch material things; you can hold them and look at them. You cannot touch emotions; you cannot touch memories. What I don’t understand is the point when the hoarding leads to unsanitary conditions. When there are smells and feces and rot; when your home just deteriorates from the filth. I mean, clearly this is when it becomes severe mental illness, but one would think something deep down in your lizard brain would alert you to the health hazards.

So I guess the moral of this story is: ‘Hoarding is a mental illness that deserves our understanding and shouldn’t be exploited on television. People in pain are never casual entertainment.”

I can’t stand how channels like TLC and MTV and Discovery are such shitpiles now. Remember when the L in TLC stood for ‘learning’ and the M in MTV for ‘music’? Remember when the Discovery channel was awesome, and showed documentaries and not ‘reality’ shows about drunken hillbillies and motorcycle builders who fight? And it happens to every channel that is good. Animal Planet has shows about bounty hunters and tree house builders now. SciFi changed their name to Syfy – supposedly to incorporate fantasy (as in science fiction/fantasy) – but it plays wrestling matches. Sleuth played mysteries and then changed its name to Cloo and now plays USA reruns and castoffs (that’s when it’s not playing hours and hours of Law and Order spinoffs).

I swear, TLC makes my eyes catch fire. What the frak happened to that? They should be ashamed of themselves: Fake Gypsies and mocking trailer park families, and Rumspringa romps, hoarders and couponing.

Oh and by the way, those couponer people are assholes. Why? Well I’ll tell you. First off, hoarding food is seriously shitty, especially when something like one in six (or five depending on who is doing the counting) children in the United States goes hungry every day. I mean really. If you’re doing it for a food bank or something then good for you, but we all know that most of these people are stockpiling for themselves. Another thing that may be equally significant is this: people doing this couponing thing for sport, and this series on television documenting it and making it more popular, is making manufacturers and groceries change the rules on how they accept and distribute (and if they distribute) coupons. It’s making it harder for people who actually need coupons to stretch their very small budgets to do so. So these super couponers or whatever they call themselves are just unbelievably selfish, there really is no other word for it.

I got Ed Bighead from my local farm stand.

I got Ed Bighead from my local farm stand.

Before I go I have one more brief rant, and it’s about so-called superfoods. Just so you know superfoods are contributing to cost inflation (and unfair farming practices) of important nutrition. Groceries – and unfortunately, especially ‘health-conscious’ stores – use the term superfood as a marketing tool to inflate prices on key items. The problem is, these key items are truly as nutritious as they say they are and in many situations the new inflated costs make it so that people on a limited budget (poorer people) are unable to get them. Therefore, when at one time they were able to purchase proper, more-bang-for-your-buck foodstuffs, they now can’t afford it at all and are forced to go without proper nutrition. This is called food gentrification and you may have heard of it. The best example of this would be kale, which was primarily eaten by lower-income families, and was affordable, but since being declared a superfood has risen in price over 75%. Next on the ‘superfood’ chopping block are collard greens.

This sort of thing is done in the free market all the time – a manufacturer has a product and they reimage it in order to appeal to another, more affluent demographic. The problem is food isn’t a manufactured item. Food is a necessity for everyone despite their demographic. Food gentrification is making it so that only wealthier, or better off people, can afford to eat properly. It’s not only unfair, it’s unethical and immoral. So next time you hear of a superfood in some magazine, don’t buy it. Or, don’t buy it from a store like Whole Foods that is trying to turn a profit at the expense of people’s health. Better yet, grow it yourself or buy it directly from a local farmer or farm stand or food coop. Trust me, you’ll get better quality food, without a marketing team behind it. That alone should save you some coin per pound.

Hamster Cardiology, Rabbit Euthenasia and Synthetic Pain Management

crane

When I was a kid, somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10, I performed surgery on a hamster. I removed worms from its pericardium, and put them on a slide.
I still have the slide.

Now, dear reader, I suspect you have some questions. I mean, that first line is upsetting in itself. And yet, not too surprising; little kids are known to do such things. They torture bugs: burning ants, dissecting beetles, and tearing the wings off of flies. They take apart little things like frogs and minnows. All of this of course is done generally out of curiosity, and only occasionally out of psychopathy. Most little kids don’t even get the significance of their actions and feel that perhaps they can glue the little things back together and everything will be okay.

So that last bit there about pericardia and slides must have really thrown you.

Would it help if I mentioned the hamster was part of a laboratory trial, and the laboratory in question was at Harvard University, and that the entire procedure – from sedating the little guy (which I remember to this day as being a strange combination of horrifying and cute) to the surgery and subsequent staining of the slide sample was all done under the supervision of one of the head researchers in the trial?

What was I doing in a major experimental research laboratory after hours performing life saving surgery on a cute hamster? I DON’T KNOW.

Well, I sort of know, but it’s not really important. What is important is that this really happened and it would go on to support a long held belief in my family that by now I would be a doctor or a veterinarian and I’d be successful and happy and at the very least smart and stable. Well aren’t I a colossal disappointment?

I think however, the most significant thing about this particular childhood incident is the fact that whenever I replay events in my mind, I imagine that the hamster in question is clothed. I believe this has everything to do with how it reacted when it was going under sedation: it rose up on two legs, then sunk down into a very human-like sitting position – on it’s rump with it’s little back legs stuck out straight in front of it and it’s tail sticking up in the back. Its jaw dropped open in a dumbfounded sort of way, its tail drooping, before finally falling onto its back – hind legs in the air.

Despite how human and adorable my rodent patient, I had no trouble going through with the procedure. I followed every direction, did not get ‘grossed out’, and later I found the worms on the slide endlessly fascinating. I was remote, practical, professional and clinical. And I was still in primary school.

So fast forward some decades later to last summer, when I woke to find an amazingly horrific sight: my ancient rabbit (we suspect him to have been at least fourteen earth years in age), Killer, was in a condition so awful I can’t say here what it was. Let’s just say that it was so disgusting that when I FREAKED THE FUCK OUT and ran for help NO ONE BELIEVED ME. It was so unimaginably awful all I could keep saying was “Why is he still alive?”

This prompted the urgent and immediate necessity to put him out of his misery. And I, as the only person in the house not in cowardly denial, was the obvious one tasked to do it. So I tried and found that I couldn’t; I just couldn’t. I don’t know why exactly. It needed to be done, it was the merciful thing to do, and I knew this. I cried and I vomited and then I cried and vomited some more but I couldn’t do it. I even went so far as to try and poison him with prescription painkillers but (not surprisingly) he wouldn’t drink or eat anything. I didn’t know what to do.

I often wonder what happened to me between then and now – between hamster and bunny – that made me change. Especially when you consider how absolutely shitty life has been to me. I mean, why am I suddenly kinder and not a serial killer? Where did I go wrong? Why couldn’t that clinical, in control reserve that allowed me to cut into a hamster as a child help me now? I mean, I call it up more often then you’d think. So why, when I needed it the most did it fail me?

When bad shit happens I’m usually the only one in the room with their head on straight. Be it driving somewhere with Mum when lost, calling 911 when someone needs emergency care (and riding in the ambulance), taking everyone’s shit when someone dies – I’m the one who keeps everything together. And seeing as I have an awesome case of panic disorder, this is really saying something.

I keep finding myself wishing I could tap into that clinical 8-to-10-year-olds’ magical detachment. I think these days it would really help.

Ultimately BB put Killer down, and it’s been a few weeks since my last nightmare about it. But I can’t help but wonder and question, all the time, why I was so weak.

So…

I have to take vicodin more often. It makes me write the BEST blag posts ever. Really.

Yeah, so I’m on painkillers. WOOO! Or, if you’re me: woo.
I hate being on drugs. I don’t like feeling out of control of my brain – understandable, especially when you consider it’s all I’ve really got going for me.

Last Friday I spent in the ER at a not-so-local local hospital, and after a few hours of agony where they determined I was not in fact a drug-seeker, they gave me an intravenous cocktail of painkillers and antiemetics which was just… awful. Granted, it dropped my pain level from a 7 to a 5 and at one point a 4.

This is the World's Most Accurate Pain Chart. Possibly the ONLY accurate pain chart. It was created by Allie Brosh. (Please don't sue me.)

I borrowed this from Allie Brosh (please don’t sue me). It is the World’s Most Accurate Pain Chart. Possibly the ONLY accurate pain chart.

But it also did a few awesomely shite things like give me mushmouth and make me a bastion of profundity, dropping such gems as: “I hate my hair now. It’s not fair that my hair can’t be purple anymore.” (Tear slips down cheek).

When they put it in the IV, and then into me, it HURT. And I mean, it was like suddenly hot lead was being poured through my arm, across my shoulders, out my other arm and down through my head into my neck. It physically felt as though a great hot weight was suddenly forcing me down. And the taste in the back of my throat was awful.

After they sent me home I spent the night having crazy fucking vivid dreams and hallucinations. I literally could not tell awake from asleep, and I couldn’t do anything about it but ride it out. This resulted in my not taking ANYTHING for the crazy pain – that is nowhere near resolved – for the next few days. Not an unreasonable reaction under the circumstances.

Unfortunately I can’t keep up the pain side of things, and have succumbed to the prescription I was sent home with.
Right now I’m just trying to head the pain off at the pass until some better plan arises. I am taking the ‘conquering a migraine approach’.

So that’s been fun…