I sling words with feeling without skimming on the surface like a cockroach across a puddle.

I get drunk and cry with my pen instead of writing about my tears.  Anyone can do that.

I drag myself through a slimy alley of darkness and live to keep it a secret.

I don’t have time to spout pretty words and platitudes and cocktail party phrases.

My life, my existence is this: every word counts.

Every stinking drop of sweat on this table is a poem. Every lamentation for lost vices pushes a limit. Every painful sunrise is a testament to being laid bare every night.

Every click of the compressor motor on the refrigerator counts down to the end, closer than the beginning, and I am alive to feel every second of it, taste every bitter dreg of it, lose myself in all the places where I don’t matter.

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“It’s not looking too good to be me today, and tomorrow doesn’t look any better.”

Day one: wrangling this damned depression. It’s not going away.  I cannot wish it away from me any more than I can wish to sprout wings.  The idea is good, the desire is there, but the laws of reality are as immutable as gravity. So. I have taken my fish oil, krill oil, vitamins, and drunk some wonderful green tea left over from yesterday. In the past, I took pharmaceuticals and I found the side effects to be more debilitating than effective.

Next: coming to grips with the fact that I no longer have a part-time job. This is a funny one–not ha ha funny, but strange funny.  I was getting bored with it anyway, and it was taking up more time than I wanted to give to it, so I was relieved when I received word that my services were no longer needed.  My time was at last my own again.  I ordered new art supplies, cleared off my work table, and set about doing what I really want to do. Well, that table stands in judgement as we speak, waiting for me to do something. Anything.

So, there’s a big ball of unrelieved anxiety that shouldn’t even exist. And it’s about money and self-worth.

All my life, I equated my job with my worth. I’ve had wonderful, unsuitable jobs that paid well. I’ve had crappy jobs that I kept because that’s what you do. Along the way, my body has broken down, my mind has shut itself off from the hell I was in, and here we are.

I’ve set goals for this month. They are modest and attainable. One goal is to write every day, even if it’s just an exercise for a half hour or so. I will post on here every day. My next goal is to work on my art pieces every day.  I have enough of them in various stages of completion that I could always have something on the table. My art website is next. Even if I just look at it every day, I will have it in my mind.

This is my job and I am going to treat it as such, instead of an interesting hobby. This is what I love. I’m not a writer or an artist for mercenary reasons.

That voice says, Hey, why waste time doing something that may not bring you money?

Holy crap.  That’s it.  That’s the whole reason I’ve turned away from regular writing, regular craft work. It’s not considered “worthy” without money. I wonder where I got that notion? I wonder why I’ve held on to it for so long? That thought has to go.  It has to disappear.

 

I went out between rain showers to stock up for the next few days

and my guy was in there, doing his thing, selling the booze, chatting up the customers

I got my stuff, he showed me a stash of a rare minibottle that I covet

He said he saved it just for me, and you know, just for a minute, I thought that we are more than just customer and clerk. He thought of me when I wasn’t there.  In my pathetic isolation, I believed that.

But it was ok in the end.  I told him I needed to write today, and he said, today is a good day to make some great poetry, what with the rain, the grey skies, and a couple of pops of liquor to lubricate the wheels, I mean, that’s what I do when I want to create.

And in that moment, we connected. He said, your eyes are twinkling today.  I said, you look about sixteen with your new glasses. He said, write about it!  It’s a good day to write!

In the half dark, I write.  The rain falls soft, then hard. The tv murmurs in a back room. And I write.  I write. The booze sits untouched, waiting for a celebration or maybe a wake, but the words come

strong and sharp and cut me to the quick.

 

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You wanna know what’s sad?  I’ll tell you what’s sad.

It’s sad knowing that your cosmic twin, thirty years younger and fifty pounds lighter, is

sitting in an apartment in a giant, never sleeping city

feeling just as alone and isolated as you are, but she

still has hope.  She thinks she’s jaded, but she’s not.  She thinks she’s weary, but

she doesn’t know yet of the soul-crushing exhaustion of chronic empty bank accounts and crummy lovers and shitty food

She has no idea what despair is, and that’s a good thing because her still pure soul would disappear with the realization that nobody cares. Not really.

Imma tell that girl, my cosmic twin, to make friends with her isolation because it’s gonna be there for good.  Imma tell her that despair isn’t so bad when it’s a catalyst.  Broken dreams pave the way to reality. Imma tell her to drink the good booze when she’s flush and the shitty stuff when she’s broke.

I know she won’t listen, because she holds out hope that it gets better.  She has to believe it gets better, otherwise, she will shatter into a million pieces, maybe end up pushing a grocery cart and feeding pigeons with the crumbs in her homemade dreads, drinking buzzballs, collapsing into a heap in the park.

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keeps the kitties in kibble and me in tacos

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Wondering where the dream went.

If she’s lucky, she will claw her way out to the other side and sit under a bare bulb over the kitchen table, thinking about her younger cosmic twin just starting out, sipping a fine microbrew and sending not good vibes but survival vibes.

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There are certain foods that can cause vivid, lucid dreams and nightmares.  I have a wild time with tomatoes.

The acid rewires my brain and causes some of the strangest dreams I’ve ever had.  Tonight was no exception.

After four homemade tacos, my body wanted to lie down for just a bit.  As my body is getting older and thus deserves all the respect, I acceded to its wishes.

In that ninety minute nap, I dreamed of electrodes fastened to my body while I entertained that weightless feeling one gets when the plane descends for a landing.  I was dredging up memories for a therapist, which I obliged, recounting happy times, sad times, all flashing like a newsreel with missing frames.  I was narrating, of course.  The therapist gave me a hug, and I felt warm and safe, sharing all these secrets with her.  I have no idea what these memories actually were, but they didn’t feel nearly as devastating as waking memories do.  Small thing to be grateful for, nevertheless.

At some point, I started talking.  Out loud.  For several minutes.  I woke myself up.

I got up, rubbed my face, noticed both cats staring at me, and the little one had her patented wide-eyed “you gonna eat me?” look.

Jane called from her room.  “You OK?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You were talking away in there.”

“What was I saying?”

“I don’t know.  It was gibberish.  Lots of it.”

“I guess the cats understood.  They are right here.”

“Maybe so.”

At that, I landed with a thump, gathered my mythical baggage and trudged off to reclaim life.

 

Where is the middle ground between my loving altogether in the whole sense

and walking an ascetic life?

It’s no accident gurus and crones are long in the tooth

It takes decades to learn anything in this life

Anything that is worth a damn, anyway

Those of us who claim to be forever youthful and therefore excused from

learning lessons and little grievings of maturity, mortality

whistle through the day with a jaunty tip of the cap and a nod in toasting

We, the orphaned children of Pan, we winking curmudgeons,

for us, there is no middle ground for anything

and I’m fucking grateful for that

The general public is stupid. Crazy stupid. “Were you raised by goats??” stupid.

Not just “Dang, I locked my keys in the car” stupid. Not just “Crap, I put the case of beer on top of the eggs” stupid.

I mean “Let me put a starving wolverine down my pants just to watch it run up and down my leg” stupid.

Professional grade, “Let’s bypass all those pesky safety regs so the machine runs all the time until someone loses a finger, oops!” stupid.

Weaponized, “I know texting and driving is illegal and dangerous, but Imma take a bunch of downers and text for fifteen miles until I kill an entire family” stupid.

Dear reader, who among us hasn’t accidentally microwaved an egg until we realized too late that it’s not a good idea? Indeed, who among us hasn’t forgotten that jalapenos will bite mucus membranes hours after being handled?  Lastly, how many of us are completely wed to ideas that no longer serve a valid purpose or even make sense anymore?

All of us, at one time or another, have done, said, believed and supported stupid things, stupid ideas, stupid people.  Schadenfreude would not exist if no one had a frame of reference for it.  “What goes around, comes around” would not resonate had it never happened to me or to you.

So, stupidity is universal.  Just as there are degrees of intelligence, there are degrees of stupid, and I like to think there is a bell curve wherein fully fifty percent of us fall in the middle of the spectrum, on the side of car key locking, but not far enough to the right for steering a four thousand pound rolling missile with a bare foot while shooting bottle rockets out the window because it will generate tons of views on Facebook live.

Funny thing, those of us who detest those people who are more stupid, we also tend to mistrust those people who are much less stupid.  Really smart people are nerds, of course, unless they are dead, disabled, or so enlightened that they don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks anymore. At that point, they are put on a pedestal and essentially trotted out for photo ops.

So, right now, we have really stupid people in government, but not so stupid they can’t con a significant portion of the public.  Start locally, and work your way up from there.  I’ll wait.

Let’s just take an example that presented itself a couple of days ago from Fort Worth, Texas.  I won’t go into the particulars of why the cop got fired, but suffice to say, his actions were egregious.  Not so much criminally egregious, because nobody was killed, but stupid enough for the department to say, “So long, hoss. You’re out.”

Now, what caught my ear from all this wasn’t his actions, but the Union rep coming on TV and saying that the firing would cause all cops to rethink their actions and take into consideration the consequences of their behavior.  Please note, he was not endorsing the firing by any means:  he was saying in essence that holding cops accountable for their behavior would have a chilling effect on law enforcement.

Um, duh. Now, a significant portion of the public agreed with him that holding cops accountable for their stupid actions would be a very bad thing.  After all, if someone obeys the law, they won’t have to worry about it, right?

Let’s just take a peek at events of the past few years to realize this really isn’t a wholly true statement.  Let’s dig into the histories of all involved and try to figure out why things went down the way they did.

No?  You mean, I’m not allowed to look at Officer Cop’s bullying behavior of the past, but I need to look at dead suspect’s weed smoking past?  Why not?  And so it goes.  Knowledge can be used two ways, no?

Truth and facts are not mutually exclusive, as it were.  You can have facts without truth, and you can have truth without facts.  Myths and archetypes are two examples of truth without facts.  In the example of the fired cop, looking at the facts and ignoring the truth is not likely to assuage anyone’s outrage on either side of the issue.

The roots of weaponized stupid are long and deep.  It’s gonna take more than a hoe and fire to keep it beat back to a manageable level.  Education, specifically teaching self-discipline, will help.  Reinforcing consequences will help.  If we live long enough, most of us understand that certain behaviors are not worth the consequences.  Live and learn.

Likewise, if children don’t ever face consequences for behavior, they will continue to engage in behaviors that hurt or even kill others. Wisdom isn’t a gift bestowed on the lucky, believe it or not.   Wisdom is like grits; whether you like them or not, you never forget them.  Never. You can eat them. Or not.  You might complain, but if your belly is empty, those grits will satisfy and warm you.

And now, I present to you, our government.  Our wonderful, “We elected these numbnuts” government.  I’m going to tell you a secret, so lean in and listen closely to this fact, scattered, smothered and covered in truth.

Our elected officials, the ones we trust to keep the train on the track, the ones who promise the moon and stars to get elected, the ones who swear they fight for all of us?

They know the general public is stupid.  They are smart enough to know that white noise from back home is just that–white noise.  They know that all they have to do is keep the money coming in, the contacts refreshed in their phones, and photo ops with the yahoos-er, constituents and they are set for life.  Set. For. Life.

See, they don’t really give a damn about their brethren’s behavior. It’s all white noise.  No matter which side of the aisle they reside on, they don’t really care, as long as the yahoos-er, constituents are at home, outraged and donating their pittances in the forlorn hope that their voices will be heard.

The Roy Moore fiasco? Believe me when I tell you that nobody in Washington gave a rat’s ass whether or not he was elected. The GOP didn’t care whether he won or lost: their stupid rubes would support Atilla the Hun if he had an (R) behind his name.  The Dems didn’t care except that a dem win would appease their base and give them a shred of hope for at long last, decency. And in doing so, keep their coffers full.

They. Don’t. Care.

Are the Republicans concerned they will lose in mid-terms?

Nope.  Why not?

Surely they want to stay in Washington.  Well, sure they do, but they don’t have to be elected to be powerful. Rich. Set for life.

How many members of Congress come back home to the suburbs and cut their own grass?  How many retired Senators kick back on a fishing boat at a little cottage on the lake? How many just chill out and live on a tight budget like the rest of us?  I’m going to take a wild guess and say, none.

You see, they all survived the white noise and rampant stupidity long enough to get theirs in the form of lobbying jobs, chairmanships, guest professorships, and other positions that they feel they really deserve for gutting it through all the rubber chicken dinners, interminable town halls, backroom deals with this racist oilman, and that billionaire industrialist.

They are professionals at reading us, the stupid.  They are so good at running the con on us that most of us don’t even know our pockets are being picked by pros. Believe me when I say there’s not a member of Congress wringing his or her hands over the plight of their poorest and most vulnerable yahoos-er, constituents.  They may SAY they are, but nope.

So, here we are.  Fighting among ourselves, lurching from one outrage to another, wringing our hands and writing letters, calling our MoCs, all because of one nebulous thing: our belief that good will win out.

Sadly, good cannot win until stupidity is marginalized and real consequences are paid, and not just by the innocent.  Good cannot win until we understand on a visceral level that we give away our power to people we wouldn’t hire to rake leaves, much less make life-altering laws. Good cannot win until we set aside our feelings about what we don’t like and start pulling together for the common good.

In the next installment, I will tackle this contagious sense of entitlement that seems to be pervasive in society.

 

 

This depression spreads more like a slough or a valley of barren dusty bowls of tinny wind chimes and

wind that whistles through a crevice or two in trusting minds that all will be fine if one just keeps on

through just one more day and one more night

Really?  Another day of this muddy cloud?  Another hour of active, yearning boredom for comfortable satisfaction?

The arid sunset promises another day of static from mortality

that whispers in that bare murmur of voices that grow louder

with every death of a past lover, a beloved relative

The tongue of grief is sharp, lashing out wildly while

soft righteous regret smells like burning natural gas from

an iron stove that used to bake biscuits and boil stock pots

of beans flavored with tasty bacon grease

Hang on just one more day, I say

slog through one more hour

chew just one more kernel of popcorn

that tastes of tears and stereotypes

 

I never thought that my best friends would have been objects instead of people, but here we are.

I liked to smoke.  I loved to smoke.  My favorite time of the day was early morning, with cup of coffee in hand, pack of cigarettes on the table, and an hour to leisurely peruse Facebook and Twitter before my caregiving responsibilities came into play.

I cherished the twin jolts of caffeine and nicotine, and to a lesser extent, the solitude to indulge in those old friends.  Of course, at night, there was nothing better than a few beers, a lot more smokes, and hitting the hay with a pleasant buzz.

Then, the virus happened.  It started like my usual infection that happens every year at the same time:  sore throat, headache, nasty asthmatic cough.  I took my usual store meds to keep the symptoms to a dull roar and continued to do my usual, albeit with the added stress of Thanksgiving just a couple of days away.  I powered through, prepping for the big day, hacking and blowing my nose, smoking less and drinking more.  Alcohol is a disinfectant.  The logic seemed impeccable, really.

Then, my roommate started sniffling.  Started wheezing.  By Friday, she was puffing like a steam engine.  I was somewhat concerned, but not unduly so.  Although she indulged in the same habits, her smoking took a big hit.  She just couldn’t draw a deep breath.

By Saturday morning, she sounded like Darth Vader and looked like him without the helmet; grey, sickly, weak around the eyes.  Her stubbornness would not let her even touch her rescue inhaler until it was too late to do any good.  Off we go to the ER.  She spent six days in the hospital, struggling to draw a breath, taking breathing treatments and injections every two hours.  I had another day of self-recrimination and smoking, until I gave it up, too.  There was no way I could continue to smoke after what I saw her go through, even though I hadn’t planned to quit, exactly.  It just happened.

So, this Saturday, she will be two weeks smoke-free, on a strict heart-healthy diet, one drink limit, and as much walking as she can handle, which is to say, not much right now.  my drinking is down to one beer a night.  I didn’t plan that, either, but it happened.  Sunday will be two weeks smoke-free for me.

My so-called best friends ended up not being my best friends after all.  They didn’t care about my wellbeing.  They just wanted to kill me.  With friends like that, who needs enemies?  I can live without them and I have more free hours to do what I really want to do.  I thought I would be depressed, but the opposite has happened.  I feel more energetic, more positive, and I cook a whole lot more because I feel like it again.  I’ve noticed that my back no longer aches when I walk a lot.  I don’t get in a hurry to finish something so I can have a cigarette and a beer.

My roommate still has breathing treatments for the next few months, but she sounds better now breathing-wise than she has in years.

As for me, I’m still taking doctor-prescribed meds, still sniffling, still keeping a headache, and still smoke-free.  The gut-punch of wanting a cigarette happens and I let it come and go.  If I could train myself to not smoke in the car or the truck and be happy with it, I can train myself to not smoke anywhere, anytime.  I thoroughly enjoy my one beer and don’t miss the other five or six at all.

I once thought that being an adult meant doing what I want when it turns out that real maturity means doing what is necessary and liking it for the sheer joy of having the choice to make good decisions.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, the house vibrated with each beat.

Jane cocked her head, startled.

“What’s that noise?”

I told her it was a car speaker booming somewhere close.

“A CAR SPEAKER!” “WHAT??”

I walked out on to the porch and the next door workers were blasting from a truck as they threw trash into the bed. my triangle neighbors across the street came out, too. Left angle neighbor said that her twin toddlers woke up from their naps. Right angle neighbor came out barefooted, hair all askew, throwing up her hands.

“What the fuck??”

I jerked my thumb over to the offending house. Dude, they shaking the house. She said her windows were rattling. She shouted over in Spanish to cut the music down and they ignored her. We talked for a few minutes and went back in. I texted the PD and said the neighbors were raising the dead over here. I came back outside and the music was turned down enough that all you could hear was quiet little booms, like a cockatoo that’s been told to shut the fuck up but he mumbles just enough to let you know you are not his mother and he doesn’t have to listen to you.

Right angle neighbor came back over and we smoked and talked about her casino trip the night before. She said her old man was gonna shit when he pulled up and heard what had happened. Not that he’s a crazy guy or anything, but he is the opposite of little man syndrome. And he’s a short guy. I know good and well he won’t start anything but he will sure finish it. Couple of weeks ago, he was outside raking leaves when he heard another neighbor, elderly, yelling at some dogs that were chasing her out of her backyard. He ran over with his rake and they turned on him. He made them turn around and hop over the back fence to the crackheads’ yard, which is probably where they came from in the first place. He told me to keep an eye out for the dogs when I came outside, and sure enough, as soon as I got back in the house, they came running into my yard and charged at the storm door where the cats were looking out. I yelled so loud that they stopped and ran off. The cops called me that day when they finally had the dogs cornered and I could hear them barking like crazy as the cop told me he thought he had found the right ones.

My neighbor told me she had called the cops earlier, so we watched for them, and sure enough, they came rolling by right after boomer left. They chatted with us for a few minutes and were the epitome of polite and even tweaked me a little on my ballcap.

This neighborhood is small, one way in, one way out. It’s a mixed, diverse neighborhood, with a trump supporter at one end, hispanics at the other end, and every color of the rainbow in the middle. The town itself is small, just a dot on the highway, but less than ten miles from a good sized urban area. Hundreds of brand new neighborhoods are getting thrown together by a builder of dubious reputation, but people don’t care. They are desperate for affordable housing and this is where they will find it. The older neighborhoods here are getting top dollar for shitholes, even though there are no bad neighborhoods to speak of, but Texas is cursed with soil that moves. Foundations crack. They can get so bad that a house can look like it’s broken in half on the inside and still command a premium price because of the location. So, this settled little subdivision is mature, quiet, where little kids ride their scooters and big wheels up and down the street under shade trees big enough to cool the yard but no so big they will send limbs into the neighbor’s roof the next little tornado that skips through.

The cops ride through and don’t mess with anybody. They didn’t say anything when we, four middle-aged adults, sat at the edge of the driveway to watch the fireworks down at the park and smoked a blunt and drank beer. They just waved at us. You know what happens when the Policia roll up on people reliving their bad old days:

“Shhh! Shhh! Be cool! Shnork!”