Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to Free Will

So we're entering the third year of The Gypsy Prophecy.
What, you thought, being a reasonable and rational person, I would have forgotten about that? Nah man, if I think of it enough to write an entry about it, I never forget about it.

I did move, and drastically redecorate. If keeping every single article of clothing I own on the bedroom floor at all times can be considered redecorating, which I think it can.

I did not meet my soulmate - unless Lou from Pittsburgh is my soulmate, and in that case, we probably both want a recount.

I did have a drastic change in my career I guess, as in I had a career and no longer do. It did not bring lots of money, and I think success is a bit further away than one short year, but hey, I'm working on it as fast I can. Turns out I am hardworking, who the fuck knew?

A guy at work and I were discussing consciousness, and he asked me what I thought about Free Will, and it may have been my tiredness, or the pain in my broken toe, or just the general ennui that has settled on me in the past month as the adrenalin from The Move wears off, but I realized I didn't have an opinion about that. So I tried to formulate one, and it made me think about the Gypsy trip.

How much of my journey to the east side Slavic ghetto to have someone tell me what is going to happen in my future was totally predictable based on the sum of my past parts? Lots of fairy tales. A mother who bought the little rolled up horoscopes at the grocery checkout line. An innate sense of where the roughest spots of Cleveland are, from my dad. A desire to belong to somebody, thanks to the inevitable emotional fuckups of third generation immigrants.

I think Free Will is a gift, a spreading growing algae bloom bestowed on us by Culture. If our entire Self is defined by the choices we make, Culture and Education give us exponentially more choices, and more forks in the road to make contrasting decisions with, and therefore more Self. The more we know, the more possibilities we see, the more "Free Will" we have - it becomes a network of tree roots, capillaries, neurons - a cloud of tiny little footpaths leading off from the main roads, until it is indistinguishable from Random. Free Will is a Choose Your Own Adventure book with an infinite number of pages. Though each scenario can be traces back through preceding factors, who the fuck cares anymore, it's practically the same thing as Chaos.

Unfortunately, my liberal white girl upbringing has a lot to do with the entire preceding paragraph, so you would be perfectly justified in writing it all off. Free Will is Retrospective Justification, after all.

When we were primitives, and had to think about survival all the time, we didn't have the luxury of an opinion. It didn't occur to us to have opinions, instead we had only emotions - tired, hungry, scared, happy, horny, sad. But then there were more of us, and the people who wanted power invented blood religion in order to control the numbers. And there got to be even more of us, because civilization gave us food and safety, so we just kept fucking and breeding. Religion discovered that just saying "you're going to hell" wasn't having the same effect, it needed more guilt and personal investment, so it invented Free Will. Opinion. What's more powerful - having a blind follower, or a follower who believes he came to your side by coming to the same conclusions as you? And when he does something because he Wants to instead of Should, he feels terrible about reverting to his base nature? So it went from Blood Religion to Thinking Man's Morality.

And how could Hell even exist without Free Will these days? Oh, you're going to burn this person just because he has something we want, or she made us angry and hurt our feelings? That doesn't really fly with the Thinking Man's Morality. Much better to say "This was her choice, or his choice, we told them what was going to happen and they didn't listen to us, and you did, so you should feel pretty good about yourself."
You need fallibility of man, to justify the infallibility of god.

Free Will is a tool, used by Oppressors and Ideologues, to convince some men they are better than others. Fox News is what comes of Free Will.
But so am I.

However, the philosophy of Evolution and Statistics is also cold and unkind. It's so lacking in magic. Free Will is a tightrope spell. In my little hands at least. I guess for other's it's a giant stone falling from the sky. Statistics are a monotone sleeping chant though. They are warm and secure and lulling.

Can't there be some kind of warmth in between? One where I don't have to be predictable to everyone but myself?


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Correct Plan for the End of the World

Just so you know, I am an Expert about the End of the World. Not sure how it happened, but it's an indisputable fact I am absolutely the only person you should listen to about what's going to happen in our dark and not so distant future. It's like a gift, only scarier.

I know, I don't look like Rasputin, do I? I mean, maybe in the right light. It's that steel glint of meanness. It sparkles in the sunlight right before it Burns Your Soul Out.

So let's talk about what happens After the End of the World.

Right. So after the plagues have ripped through our genetic pool, the oceans have covered the Sinful Shores, the tallest monuments in the world have been laid waste by the deadliest weapons, Atlanta has burned and burned and burned until the famous Southern Sun is only a dimly lit circle in the black smoke sky, feral pigs have taken over the Scrublands, gigantic Carp terrorize the inland oceans....what do we do next? The End of the World is such a misnomer. It's really only the end of OUR world. It's the charred beginning of another. A brutal primeval place where life pushes violently to survive and no organic creature will think twice about ripping out your throat and using your abdomen for warmth.

Where is your place in this fricaseed wasteland? Well, not to be rude, but you're probably dead. Did you even have a plan? Or were you one of the suckers praying in the basement of a school somewhere, counting on the National Guard to bail you out when even the top tiers of government were fleeing the hinterland? Whatever. Maybe you had a plan. Maybe you should try to make one now. Don't be a sucker. I guarantee Glenn Beck has one, and we can't let him father the new population.

My plan is to run back to Cleveland, where the world has already ended but we still have this huge reservoir of fresh water and we're so immunized to modern chemicals that our skin secretly glows green when we get angry. True story.

But the End of the World happens over and over again, so the second part of my plan is to hole up in the giant salt mines underneath Lake Erie. People think I used to frequent trashy bars in Western Ohio just for fun, and while it's true I do like fifty cent jello shots, I was also assembling a network of rough riding miners who will be my mercenary pack when shit goes down. They all have secret names, so I can communicate with them through Craigslist. PolishBear is my head strategic chief. He has this amazing idea for accumulating all the abandoned hot dog carts and turning them into hydroponic gardens. Then there is LonelyInLima, who is designing a fabric that will not only suck up excess radiation, but then temper it to provide Vitamin D to the wearer. Also a nice tan.

Think about it. An entire community, safe hundred of feet beneath the water, secreted away from marauders, radiation, and disease. And when the world starts to recover, salt will be an incredibly valuable resource to trade for goods. We'll be totally rich. Our children will be beautiful. When the deadly gases have finally integrated themselves back into the lower atmosphere and ecosystem, we will have a headstart as the beacon of a new civilization.

Don't let those other End of the World plans make a dead zombie sucker out of you. I don't care how deep your mine shaft in Nevada is. It's Nevada. Why would anyone want to start a new city in a desert? With my community, you'll emerge in a verdant Eden of farmland, groundwater reservoirs, and wild dairy cows.

Applications are being accepted now, and can be emailed by request. Please include an essay detailing your religious and political upbringing, a recent physical with bloodwork, and 10,000 in heavy metal for consideration. Cash will not be accepted. I do not discriminate against felons, but only useful felonies will be considered, like murder or grand larceny. Entertainers need not apply, unfortunately we've got our quota of useless attractive people. Michael Raymond-James, don't worry, I saved you a bunk next to mine.


Hey, you can buy my new Little Book of Sexts here now for 6.99.
Or my "good" book, Cleveland is Your Best Friend here. For slightly more, cause there's photos.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Fear is something I think about a lot these days

The morning of the Connecticut shootings, I was at work, and didn't even know it had happened until a co-worker told me about it. To tell the truth, I was more obsessed with another act of violence that had happened the night before - a man had been shot in downtown Wilmington on 2nd St, apparently as a result of a mugging.

It happened while I was downtown myself at Nutt St. for the open mic, at 11pm which is right in the middle of the Thursday drunken college kid bar crawl, and Downtown was particularly packed that night cause it had been the last day of UNCW finals and the beginning of Christmas break. There were also cops everywhere, on every block. We had speculated earlier it was because of an amber alert, but in general there are a million cops downtown anytime, this city makes its budget off DUIs. So...crowded streets, lots of police presence, and still a murder. Two weeks earlier, there was a home invasion murder a few blocks away from my house. For a place this small, there's a higher than expected proportion of violence.

So while some people at work were in a sad shocked state because of the murder of lots of little children, this girl at work and I were freaking out over the fact that both of us regularly walked around Downtown by ourselves late at night. We've both lived in much larger cities, and just hadn't expected crime to be a problem  here, in this tiny little coastal college town. My roommate and I talked about how neither of us should be walking the fifteen minutes down to Front St. anymore once it's dark, and we had both been guilty of it lately.    Another girl friend and I got drunk together the next night, huddled in her downtown apartment, and commiserated over walking to her car alone, over bus stops late at night, and I thought about how when I had moved down here everyone had warned me about a very violent rape that happened earlier that summer. I had completely blown the story off, assuming it was just a big deal here because Wilmington wasn't a real city. I wondered if my guy friends felt anything like the same Fear that is a constant stress for the girls they know. After all, neither of the murder victims were women. But there's a very real, always present fear of rape and violence that girls grow up with, a sense of danger right around the corner, a twitching of noses and eyelashes as we try to keep a look out.  And we want so badly to be independent and brave, to not look like wusses. But I didn't stop at any of the red lights on my bike ride home last night, and it would be a lie if I pretended that I wasn't feeling scared and vulnerable and soft the whole way home.

I want to say some things about the school shooting, about all school shooting, about shootings in general. I want to say them, because I think my thoughts are just as important and meaningful as yours, even though we disagree.  But I wanted you to understand my own version of the Fear at the moment.

1) I don't think it's wrong that I was more shocked and concerned over a single mugging than a mass murder. I think it's completely normal, I was more emotionally affected by the violent event near me than the one far away. By the same token, I understand why people are more shocked by a school shooting in their own country than the ubiquitous violence perpetuated against children in other countries all the time. They are good points to make, that other schools get shot up all the time, that state sanctioned mass murder happens all the time. They are true too. But...shut up. That's like someone's grandmother dying, and you responding with "well, grandmothers die all the time, some of them a lot more painfully than yours."

2) The other side of this is...I don't have the same reaction of shock to a school shooting, or any mass shooting, because I assume lots of people are being murdered in the world, all the time, always. I'm not saying it isn't terrible or tragic, it is both of those things. But so many things are. Like any sane citizen of the internet, I've learned to regulate my emotional responses to tragedy. This is called Not Letting the Fear Take Over Every Day. Frankly, Connecticut might as well be Pakistan to me. The world is huge, and full of more people than I can rightfully conceive of.  I'm sorry if you think I should be more emotionally connected to all that pain and suffering, but I'm over here trying not to go crazy myself. Some of you can do that by focusing on one particular area of pain and making that your cause, other people fail miserably at focusing and end up depressed and ineffective. I choose to keep my eyes and head open to all of it, and my heart closed. That doesn't make me a bad person. But I gotta be honest - the fact that it was children instead of adults doesn't make it worse for me. I wonder about how you all can make such a big deal about that, like it would be better if it had all been adults murdered? That makes no sense. For a world that operates through systems of oppression and bloodshed, and has since its very inception, everyone is surprisingly sentimental over babies. I wonder why you can't see that it's biologically, instinct controlled? Like, this seems worse to you because of how you're genetically programmed. So much of the story of this Reaction is about evolutionary instinct, and the mutation of same.  At least for those of us not related to any of the victims. 

3) I watched all of you yelling at each other for days.

"Only idiots have guns!"
"Only idiots want to ban guns!"  
" This is because of healthcare!" "
"This is because of gun control!"
"This is because of Pakistan!"
"This is because of god!"
This is because of no god!"
"How dare you tell me how to feel!"
"How dare you not feel this way!"

It is like watching a small child who has been told his friend has died, and he is incapable of dealing with the reality of it, so he screams "it's not fair" over and over. It's not the kid's grasp of metaphysical policy that leads him to scream, it's his inability to articulate The Fear.  Confronted suddenly with a symptom of how the Universe actually works but unable to comprehend the mechanics that led to this moment, he resorts to a childish denial and blame.

Something terrible happened, and you are all scared of it, and you want someone to blame. It is easiest to blame the person who disagrees with you, especially when that person is also scared, and yelling back at you. Everybody is sorta right and everyone is sorta wrong. The ones who want to ban assault rifles are not wrong. The ones who point out it's not the guns fault but the person holding it are not wrong. The ones who point out that maybe the blame should be placed at the feet of our society's highly ineffective healthcare system of diagnosing and treating mental illness are, in my opinion, the most right.

But... regardless of how we feel about policy, couldn't we all just stop for a little bit and appreciate the fact that you are all upset about the same thing, you feel the same disconnect and vulnerability and grief? We're all reacting differently, but the common emotion is there, promise. Everybody just stop yelling, grieve a little, calm down, and then maybe talk policy when you've had some time to process.

4) The Fear. There are six billion of us. We lived packed into houses, cities, tax codes. We are told from the moment of our birth how to behave, how to survive the constant interaction and judgment of society, how to act and look and buy and work and think. We are set up to standards of beauty, of intelligence, of popularity, financial success, religious morality. We are pumped full of sugars, indigestibles, drugs, adrenalin, serotonin, validation and sex and failure, all the brain chemicals that go along with those emotions.  We are put into the system of judgment as soon as we're able to speak, and we stay there our entire development, then move right into another system of grading in the workforce. We are constantly on the lookout for love and affection, because we recognize it as a survival tactic.  We throw ourselves into the communities that will take us because we need the security of numbers. And there are so many numbers. Think of all the stresses you face just every normal day - talking to strangers, getting lost, worrying about how you look, driving and trying to avoid dying, finding food, paying for food, disappointing people, finding affection, feeling stupid, feeling sad, trying to not get raped, trying to not get shot on your way home. There are so many people out there, and most of them are broken and just trying to function - we are the Misfit Toys all of us, and every once in a while someone cannot pretend to not be broken, or they give up, or they can't help it because they are THAT broken, and they do something horrible and evil. It's not something you can pin on one particular cause or consequence - the human brain is a delicate fragile desperate thing.

If you packed ten million rats in a cage, some would become petrified and comatose, others would try to create their own power structures, still others would adjust and just go on doing normal ratty things in a state of denial. But for sure a few would start killing and eating the others.

I guess what I'm saying is all of humanity is crazy, and the more beings we try to squeeze into this tired dated cultural trope, the harder it gets on everyone, and also the higher the proportion of actually broken people we're going to produce. I guess I just expect that this sort of stuff will keep happening more and more frequently. I guess now I'm a nihilist? We can try banning assault rifles, that would be a pretty good step in general I think. Less weapons is always a good thing, at least until the next revolution. Also a rehauling of how we diagnose, treat, and pay for the support of those with mental illness (you know, everyone), from the lightest seasonal depression to the most violent schizophrenia, that would probably be good for all of us. Since we all live so close together. Is it any wonder that the city dwellers are more in support of social welfare programs than the ones living by themselves in the country? Hey Country Boys, if you don't support family planning policies, how much longer do you think you're gonna be able to live in low population areas? Guess what, it's a lot harder to ignore the ills of society when they are 500 feet away from your door instead of 5 miles, or 50. 

In the end, I don't think we're gonna learn any lessons from murder, we'll just use it as another badge to justify The Fear. We've had centuries to learn, and it's never worked. It's never not the end of the world, or even the end of Society. The Fear is always out there, it's been out there since the days of Demons and Sea Monsters. The more people we have, the more receptors for The Fear we have, it's just going to keep getting stronger, more frequent, crazier. So the insight I'm choosing to take away from this latest violent episode is that I need to get faster on my bike, and I need to get some pepper spray.

Monday, December 10, 2012


It was 75 degrees the other day. I realized it was December and I was still just wearing a hoodie only occasionally, and I thought Jesus I Live in the South. Are the Northern climes just full of people exactly like me except they grew up in the South, do we all move places for contrast? I watched Flashdance for the first time, which takes place in Pittsburgh, and all I could think about was how cold the rain looked, and how gray everything was. I guess part of me believed all parts of the world were more similar than different. Wrong. Plants are different everywhere, and so the air smells different, and the colors are different and the water is a stranger.

The other day a co-worker asked me if I believed in astrology, and I launched into a long explanation of how I didn't really believe in it all, but I did love all the story and detail and potential conflict of it. The trivia. Liked it all so much, like played along with it all the time and asked people what their signs were and laughingly "interpreted" their personalities, that I wondered if in fact this was the same as believing in it? I think pretty much it is. We all believe Monopoly's real, don't pretend.    

 I told her the story of Huntington, WV, that I talked about in the last post. Huntington is maybe where I left my heart, that weekend when it wasn't wanted anymore, and I came back to Cleveland without it. Then, heartless, I was able to leave, and even though I'm building a new heart now, all the native sons and daughters of Huntington can sense that my old life got discarded there. That's the sort of narrative I'm talking about, the thing that happens that tricks me into feeling that there's connection and meaning, even though really there isn't one, but I've trained my brain by repetition, by TV and books and religion and being social, to always look for the overarching structure. So it's natural that it looks for it in the rest of my life too, and it's a constant struggle to keep yourself sober and remember it's not a destiny or a fate or a secret. The Narrative is both a Faith and a drug.

This older customer and I had an interaction a few weeks ago where I was wearing a gold glittery sweater and she told me she had this other gold sweater she never wore anymore and would I like it? So I said sure, and then yesterday she came in and said "Oh I have it in the car for you!" She brought it in a white paper bag after we checked her out. There was a rush going on, so she dropped it behind my register, and said "here you go sweetie" and totally touched my cheek with her hand, which was simultaneously unsettling and sweet as all get out. There was this overwhelming sense of age versus youth in that physical gesture. 

This place is messing with my sense of age. Nobody thinks I'm as old as I am, which is complimentary and nice, but also puzzling, because I don't look young, and it makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable. But this woman must have thought I was so young, to touch my cheek like that, and maybe she thought of me like a daughter or a granddaughter. One of the other girls at work, we figured out I was born in the exact year and month as her older sister. She didn't believe me. I'm starting to think it's just because I didn't grow up at the beach and my skin doesn't have any obvious sun damage, 'cept for the freckles everywhere. I wish everyone would go around with their ages pinned to their shirts, so I could begin to learn some proper context for all this. 

Things are so much older now than I think they are, and so much younger. In fact, it's just sorta becoming, do I like this thing (person, place, activity) or do I not like this, and the more I like it, the closer to my own age I think it is. Like, The Bravery is exactly 33 years old, and so is Watership Down, and so is that super cute ECU student who was hitting on me. He wasn't under 24 at all. No way. 

I've been missing The Ex a lot recently. I think it's because I wrote the book, and I had to spend so much time sitting around thinking about my years with him and everything we did, but you know, only the good things. Now the book's done, but my brain is still all like Him Him Him. Ooops. Also I've reached that point in a Move to a New City where the excitement plateaus and regular living begins again, which is hard. That's when you miss your old life the most, just far enough away from it to see only the niceties. I texted The Prince yesterday, at the edge of a long wet rope, about to write a letter and fucking mail it to The Ex, desperate for contact or news of him. The Prince talked me down in twenty minutes. That doesn't mean anything to you maybe, but I think of all the times I've gone back to The Ex, or he comes back to me, and being able to talk me out of it is not something anyone, my family or friends, has been able to do before. He's pretty perceptive, The Prince, he's sharp. It's like talking to myself, only the non-desperate, non-lonely, more pragmatic version of myself, which is to say the version of myself that's giving advice to someone else. 

And then I think to myself "Man, the Universe has provided for me at every turn of this, but mostly by giving me him just when I needed him and didn't know it" and then I get really fucking mad at myself for giving in to that easy thought, that somehow there's a Narrative, when I know perfectly well there isn't yet till I fucking put it there, Geez. 

Anyway, this is how people get religion, by life being hard and lonely sometimes, and being so relieved when someone loves them. 

This wasn't very funny, but I guess you could go read my Ways to Pretend You're from Cleveland if that's what you came here for. You can read guys insulting me for no reason, cause Good Men Project is great at collecting meaningless insults. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December Here is Super Gentle

me:  I am going to listen to this Mariah Carey song like at least 150 times in the next week I bet
 scott:  why?
that's bad
 me:  shut up this song is amazing
it's the best christmas carol ever
 scott:  oh the christmas one?
 me:  "the christmas one"? OF COURSE THE CHRISTMAS ONE 
 scott:  i hate christmas songs
 me:  No, I mean Butterfly

I have been stuck for something to write about it. I've had schoolwork, and work work, and then the book the book the book. Every time I think about sitting down to try, I'm just tired. Tired and bored with it, the internet, the computer. 

I'm listening to Mariah Carey sing her grand Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Gloria medley. It's played straight church. I love it. Those used to be two of my favorite songs to sing when I was in church choir. The holidays were so great, all lots of colors and swathes and candles, and then dressing up and singing in front of people. I remember one particular midnight mass at St. Boniface, where the church was darkened and everyone had those little white candles with the paper holders on them. It was just after everyone had lit each others candle. I don't remember what we were singing, and now I sorta wonder if it was one of the more morbid Easter masses, but regardless I remember being extremely happy right then. My mother used to tell me that I should pin my bangs up, that my face looked better that way, bangs up, hair down. Man, glasses ruined my face. I used to wear the worst glasses, and they were terrible on me. But I mean, I was a kid. You can't give kids contacts. That's just asking to put their eye out. Anyway, in this memory, I definitely have my bangs pinned back.

When I listen to the more religious songs, like Hark, or anything in Latin, I like to picture the singer gazing upward adoringly at the church ceiling, where a giant nitrous breathing ice encased ancient demon tentacled monster is hanging suspended in space time, his one huge sparkling eye crusty with age and malice, his squid-like beak mouthing along to the words. 

I do this a lot to Come Oh Come Emmanuel too. 

Who was it I was talking to the other day who had never heard of Classical Gas? I was trying to explain that I thought Classical Gas was the guitar recital equivalent of Fur Elise for the piano, or the Tarantella. And I was telling you about how I had such a crush on the boy in my grade who did play this at his recital, which was also where I was playing Fur Elise, or maybe I was just thinking that and never said it out loud to you. Which should probably explain the whole thing, huh? Anyway, here, you should listen to this. 

The other thing I've been thinking about is that Green Mamba at the Serpentarium, and that feeling I had watching it watch me. Yesterday I was talking with a poet I knew a long time ago, like Livejournal days, and he brought up that he was mildly obsessed with that feeling to, how did Andrew put it? I don't know, he may have been quoting someone, but it was something like "its us looking at nature, and nature looking back." Which to me is a primordial flight or kill feeling, mostly flight. My civilized interpretation of Kill is "well I'm not going to kill it myself, but I wouldn't mind if something else killed it." I think our chat helped me finish a short story, but it also got me listening to The Gerbils a lot again, so it's a toss up. What if The Gerbils has done a Christmas Album? omg

Work is good. It's been a long time since I've worked retail. I had forgotten. I got sick like immediately, and then was like "oh yeah, public money, public school, public bus". Really what's gotten into me is the virus of Man. I am a chicken in a cage, all packed in. My body is a nesting ground for every personal failure in a 5 mile radius of me.

But I like the job itself a lot. I like people in general. I have some really nice smart friends here, I feel like the proportion of decent interesting people is higher than normal here, at least Downtown. The other night I was sitting in my friend's (super beautiful high ceiling third floor of a goddamn southern mansion) apartment, and we were eating pizza from the tequila bar, and talking about books and PTSD and the self awareness paradigm shift, and so... this town has done pretty well at people so far.

Except when it comes to dating. This is weird, but almost every person I've gone on a date with has been from Huntington, WV. And they all went to Marshall. Also one of my very favorite girls in town, this girl Melissa, who was my first school friend and then helped me get a job, she's a happy piece of luck but also? From Huntington, WV. So if I was writing this as a chapter of an autobiography, I would write about the weekend last October when Sean and I went to Huntington for the first time to see Elvis Costello for his birthday, and some drunk guy tried to pick me up so Sean let him try because he wanted to hit on some twitterati girl at the bar, and how that was Total Fucking Foreshadowing. Only at that time, I had not even conceived of moving to Wilmington, I hadn't even applied to UNCW yet. So hello Weirdest Year Ever, What's up? An idea I had at roughly this same time last year has led to me being here now in a totally different city, job, school, and social group. Fucked Up. So much has happened this year. This New Years is gonna be weird. Anti-climatic almost.

The other thing I like a lot these days are  People Reading My Book. First of all, because I can't believe I got that Tumblr name, that it wasn't taken already. I mean, that's going to be useful forever. Second, it is possibly the cutest thing that's ever happened to me. Selling a book on the internet is a weird experience and one that leads to a lot of moments of gratefulness. Maybe that's the other reason for all the Christmas music.

I really don't know what I'm going to do for New Years this time around, it's weird and vague. I want something really neat to happen, but I suspect I've used up my quota for a while, and now it's just time to work a lot.