Archive for February, 2009


Breaking points


Last night I got a call from Twila.  Twila hates the phone, despises it.  When any phone at all rings, irritation springs up within her and the look in her eyes is that of a trapped animal.  When it’s her phone that rings, it’s the animal to the tenth power.


She tells me her mind goes through a process like a flow chart:  after the irritation comes the fear—of an unwanted caller, of a wanted caller wanting to talk too long—and, if yes, she’s amenable to answer, she steels herself and answers gruffly; if no, she’s not in a place to deal with it, she presses “Ignore,” and sits for a moment in the spin of what just happened before trying to right herself.


And so it is that Twila rarely picks up the phone to “bother” anyone.  She wouldn’t want to put anyone through the misery of a call that wasn’t either pure business, very important, or emergency-important.


I understand Twila.  I used to work for her.  We’re kindred spirits, both of us soft and sweet dreamers, quiet souls content to be alone and amusing ourselves forever and ever.  We were once pretty, knotty pine pegs now with edges and corners from having been brutally pounded into the constricted square holes of the business world. 


Both of us just ended up in that world.  Our paths meandered that way and parts of us rose to the occasion and enjoyed the status and the money and parts of us rebelled deeply, eternally.  It’s just that I happened to have a little more resistance to stress built into my DNA than Twila does.  She had to leave to try and grow pretty and knotty and full of creative potential again.


And I stayed.


“Humans are more playful than I remembered…” she told me.


“Remembered from when?”  I asked.


“From when I only thought like a hermit and lived less like one.  From the days I had to show up at an office every day and act like I knew what I was doing…”


“Oh, right,” I said, smiling to myself.  “What brought this on?”


“Facebook,” she said.


“What on earth are you doing on a social networking site?” I asked.


Twila blew by the question.  Her hollow-sounding voice continued like her mind was off wandering, trying to make sense of things, while her mouth was getting distant signals from her mind, just moving, relaying remnants.


“People are more playful…  More like playful puppies than I remembered,” she said.  “And I realized I’m more like an old, mother dog…  Of course I’m not old or a mother…  But it’s my mind.  My mind feels old and tired, impatient with all the tail-chasing…  Do you know what I mean, Zan?”


“I know it like me, like you, Twila,” I said.


“I signed up to interact with Gina.  Do you remember her?”


“Yeah, yeah!  In Legal.  What a sharp lady!  Man, I admired her…”


“Oh me too.  Anyway, that was fun until others started finding me and I thought that was fun until I started getting invited and tagged and interviewed and poked and chatted to and my wall written on and the blow-by-blows of everyone were snowballing—Dick is now friends with Jane, Sally is barking at the moon, Bobby is pulling out the wedgy Suzy gave him—all threatening to roll me up until I became part of the impending, absurd avalanche…”


I waited a moment, heard her swallowing back a rush of emotions.  I thought maybe comic relief would be good about now, so I said, “Just a little too much like the work world, eh?”


I could hear the relief in her laugh.  And I could tell she’d broken free of being balled up, that she’d figured it out, what she needed to do, just in the telling of it to me.




“But nothing seems to change,

the bad times stay the same,

And I can’t, oh I can’t run.


Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,

Like I been tied to the whipping post

Tied to the whipping post

Tied to the whipping post

Good lord, I feel like I’m dyin”


“Whipping Post,” Allman Brothers Band



A fine line


We were having a nice enough lunch at the Cosmic Cup, when Marcy blurted out, “Why do you have two blogs when you don’t have time for one?”


Miffed by the truth of it to the point of devil-may-care, I just let residual mind shit roll out and splat on the table.   “Because ever since Derrick, I’ve felt the need to wash, to come clean, to purge in print,” I deadpanned.


“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Marcy said, “Can you not be real?”


I just screwed up my face at her, took a sip of coffee, and shrugged.


Marcy pushed her foot into mine and sing-songed, “Who’s Derrick, anyway?”


“Oh, God,” I said.  I looked to the heavens and back down, down, down.  “You don’t want to know.”


“If you’re trying reverse psychology on me, it worked.”


“No,” I said, sighing.  I looked at her, “The only psychology going on here is me blurting out that name from hell in front of another human being.  My mom brought his godforsaken name up last night.  Obviously, that’s what worked.  On me.”


“So?”  Marcy pushed my foot again.


I stared at the floor and wondered if I should trust even the likes of Marcy with such gory details.  I mean, I had to tell her something because I slipped up and said the name, but I had control over what I said next.  Hell, it’d be more merciful if I made something up.  I’m not a good liar, but I’m a good actress.  I think there’s a convenient difference.  And the issue of mental health could come to bear on us both, here. 


If I described Derrick in detail, if I described the fright of his face, with its pitted little lump of flesh left for a nose from an operation of vanity gone terribly wrong; if I described his ansty-pantsy, bossy childlike behavior that tormented everyone who knew him; if I described the depth of his brokenness, then Marcy’s mind might also be seared with a bloodied, sepia image of Derrick, after a drunken brawl, holding in his hand a chunk of his scalp with his long scraggly hair coming out of it.


I liked the band he ran with.  And he’d pestered the sense out of me to date him.  It was a freak thing, like him, that I did.  For two seconds out of time I saw that his eyes were nice and he tried to do a lot of kind things for people.  For one second I was impressed by how single-mindedly he went after what he wanted.  But the other stuff was too big, too insane, woke me up puking my guts out.  And needing to shower.


“Well?” Marcy queried.


“Oh man, what a flashback,” I said shaking my head, shaking it off.


“Do tell.”


“Wow,” I said.  “OK, well, you know I go for youthful faces, baby faces, but Derrick’s was older and pockmarked from acne as a youth.  But he was a successful architect and developer and so confident, I mean, this guy wreaked totally and mightily of confidence, and you know what that does to me!”


Marcy giggled.  “Oh, yeah.”


I continued, “He went after me like I was the best thing he’d ever seen.  The only time we were apart for two straight weeks was when I had to go to work.  He had two Jaguars, a lovely house, and he talked like we’d be together forever.  He wasn’t my dream guy, but he was my dream situation, you know?”


“I sure do.”  Marcy nodded.  “Sugar daddy heaven.”


“That’s right,” I said.  “I’d always thought that’d be nice.  But I didn’t ever think I’d be fooled by it, that I’d ever lose touch with the reality of it…  We’d started collaborating on a project, even…  I pictured our life together and I was so happily swept up…  In just two, short weeks…”  I trailed completely off this time.


Marcy let a little time go by before she said, “And?”  When I didn’t answer, she sensed the need for a delicate mix of understanding and light, so in her awkward Marcy way, she put one hand on mine and patted my face lightly, “C’mon, Zan!  Stay with me!”  She laughed, had cracked herself up.


“Sorry,” I said, frowning, realizing my own head had mutinied, had swapped one story for another, and this one really hurt.  Derrick was just the annoying buzz of a fly compared to this guy. 


So much for acting in the way most of us think of acting, like we imagine something we’ve not necessarily personally experienced and act out what we’ve imagined or researched.  That’s more what I’d planned to do, but my brain went on auto pilot and crashed with icy wings straight into a house.  It performed the function of real acting, to go back through the emotional arsenal to find some real thing to evoke real tears, real emotion.


I lifted myself up just long enough for the last act.  I told Marcy, “It was all a big mistake.  Even my mom, when I called her up to tell her about Mr. Sugar, said that he sounded too good to be true.  He was.  One morning he told me he needed several hours of alone time to take the remainder of his ex-wife’s things to a field to burn them as a purging exercise.  That night he called me to tell me the truth.  He’d rendezvoused with his on-again-off-again true love and was dumping me.  I was just filler between the off and the on.”






Objects in mirror

The struggle to find the answer to what appears so simple a thing is maddening, is apparently deceiving, like gashes vs. paper cuts, the paper cut is the most painful during the slicing.  Like writing in a journal vs. blogging, keeping the thoughts private vs. public, receiving answers from the air vs. receiving comments from people, receiving comments vs. no comments, participating in active relationships vs. passive relationships.


I regularly visit two blogs, about the same age, that are authored by really hot writers.


One blog is so popular that it’s come down to a god-and-worshipper relationship.  The choice to the reader is clear:  you can go to that site and bow down in the form of commenting if you like, or you can suck up the writing and leave.  Either way, it makes no nevermind to the writer.


The other blog offers the same powerful writing, but powerful in a softer way.  This blog receives no comments, for the most part, and if you leave a comment you will not receive any form of acknowledgement.  So you visit, suck up the writing and leave.


The lack of interactive relationship certainly does make things easier for everyone, certainly makes not making a wrong turn all but guaranteed.


I once had a burgeoning relationship with a fellow blogger a couple of years ago.  We were of like mind, astrological sign, and writing ability.  We were on a roll before the wrong turn.  And I can almost see, or I think I can anyway, the point in time where I made a choice that ruined the flow. 


It was like being in an emergency situation where everything appears to go into slow motion, as if on the brain’s behalf, so that it can register the severity, can know exactly what needs to be done, and can line out and drive each of the steps the body needs to take.  It was like that in slowness, but not in right choices.  Apparently. 


It seemed the seemingly simple thing of choosing not to respond to a comment right away, to wait until the end of a business trip.  I guess three and a half days was too long, if a very final-feeling silence is any indication.


It’s almost as bad as in-person relationships and wrong turns.  Whether fast or slow turns like the one now, where a state of lack did slowly, like a death march, lead to lack of caring, which in turn is leading to the question of continuing, which, if “No” is the answer, will be easier to discontinue with less caring present.


It all seems like it could be black and white and simple, and truly it is when you’re on the outside looking in.  But from the inside looking out there’s a color clash, too many colors, too complicated.




Chill out

Whatcha yelling for?

Lay back it’s all been done before

And if you could only let it be, you would see


“Complicated” Avril Lavigne



Ice ice berg

A colleague of mine, Gita, is in a fog again.  It’s a monthly pattern of late, seems like.  She looked up at me from her office khaki chair in her office khaki cube.  “I’m clearly having clarity problems,” she said with a half smile, the public view of an iceberg.  The rest of the iceberg, if you looked well into her eyes, was unresolved pain.


Duty called, the universally understood human duty to route a congenial pathway miles around a touchy issue or a point of contention, to diffuse a potential blow-up or tearful situation that wouldn’t suit a business environment.


This duty also includes imparting the sort of acknowledgment that glances off, but doesn’t further, the difficulty of the bottom of the iceberg.  Pulling off this delicate balance insures that the afflicted one won’t feel dissed coming up out of the agreement that now is not the time.  Later maybe, but not now.


I set a look of steel support in my eyes and patted Gita’s shoulder, more toward her back.  “Do you take something for these times?” I asked.


She looked down at her hands.  “No,” she said, and looked back up at me, searchingly.


Quickly, deftly, diving down to lift us both out, I switched the patting to a warm rubbing and allowed my eyes to soften, as if they were on a dimmer switch, to a hazy level of concern.  I smiled warmly, firmly, at her and said, “Come by my office after work.  I take natural supplements that really help me focus.  I’ll tell you about them if you like.”


Gita received this morsel of hope hungrily, gratefully.  Her eyes brightened with the joy and relief the mere promise of light brings.  I felt the heavy weight of a darkened life leave her body with each word that left her mouth, “Oh, Zan, thank you so much!  I will stop by to see you on my way out tonight.”


“Good,” I said, genuinely pleased. 


“I’m terribly sorry I couldn’t finish the Denver study in time for your ten o’clock,” she offered.


I said with assurance, “Not to worry.  I know enough about that project to hold my own in the meeting.  Just be kind to yourself today, alright?  That feasibility study can wait a bit.”


I patted Gita’s shoulder again, smiled warmly at her and left for the ten o’clock.  Truth is, I didn’t know squat about the Denver project but I’m a good bullshitter.




Anything less than best is a felony

Love it or leave it, you better gain way

You better hit bull’s eye, the kid don’t play

If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it

Check out the hook while my dj revolves it


“Ice ice baby,” Vanilla Ice



Here’s what should’ve been my sign

Just a note regarding this offload blog (the supposed blog of freedom from literary standards) in the form of an observation of neurotic human behavior:


I find it very interesting that on three occasions I’ve sat down and begun writing, exhilarated, ready to post any manner of anything to this blog, Blog2, when, in mid-post I’ve received a head wire that reads, “Hey!  This is turning out so well, you might want to consider posting this on Blog1!”


If I was talking about someone else, I’d find it very interesting that, with each of the three separate wire incidents on three separate days, the level of accompanying psychological BS increased frighteningly exponentially.


On receipt of the first wire a few days ago, I’d already completed the post, so all that needed to be done was a little classing up, a little photo-finding, and it was good to go for Blog1.  But I had a hell of a time posting it—had to delete and redo a number of times too embarrassing to divulge—and that should have been my sign.


On receipt of the second and third wires, I was not so fortunate, was only one or two paragraphs into the posts when I heard the annoying, “Hey!  This is turning out so well, you might want to consider posting this on Blog1!”


Again I blushed and again I agreed, “Oh gosh, you’re so right!  This is brilliant if I don’t say so myself.”


“Well, what are you waiting for?” it whined.


“Nothing, Mr. Ego, I’m on it!  Just wait ‘til you see this.  It’ll be f-ing great,” I boasted.


Well, Mr. Ego lies, so I lied.  It was no kind of great.  I locked up after Wire2 so badly that I determined what I came up with was unusable on either blog (another sign).  By Wire3, I was onto myself, so put up a valiant fight.  I felt like a mouse escaping a cat’s claws only to be snagged and bitten and shook and set free for another two seconds, again and again and…  But bygod, I managed it, and the post went on Blog1.


Enough of that!  That was then, this is now.  And this is my tactic, my psychedelic prescription to myself for healing:  for as long as it takes, write utter, eye-rolling nonsense that no one at all would be interested in reading, and instead of calling anyone in the morning, watch this video, over and over for as long as it takes.


Coming on strong

That evil, serial-killing SOB is on the streets again, sucking the life out of his victims with drinking straws made of their own rolled-up performance reviews.  Once he drains his victims dry to the bones, he burns their remains and snorts their ashes through their rolled-up paystubs. 


Save for an unnoticeable drop of sweat or blood here, a wayward ash there, he works tidily enough to be the only evidence.  And he keeps himself well hid in a genius way, by being in front of our noses and on our lips, where we’re least likely to look.


If he had a psych profile, it’d be unlike any other.  There’d be no sordid past—no parental abuse, no record of abusing animals or other kids, no connection to pornography.  At the core of his existence, there’d be nothing desiring being stopped, being found out in the long run.  At his core there’s only evil.


And time’s on his side.  He bides it, skulks ‘round the shadows of minds ‘til they break down, become weak and careless, get crazy, slip up.  And now I feel him on my case, on the spiral staircase of my mind.  I feel him working me, but I’ve got to keep cool.  My one defense is in knowing his ways, the pattern of the evil bastard, Deadline.



No more speed, I’m almost there

Gotta keep cool now, gotta take care

Last car to pass, here I go

And the line of cars drove down real slow


And the radio played that forgotten song

Brenda Lee’s “Coming on Strong”

And the newsman sang his same song

One more radar lover’s gone


Golden Earring 


The games people play: Alpha dog

From a distance, it was a loud buzz of two female voices, first time lunch dates in the same playing field, vying for supremacy.  And everyone knows the ultimate victory in professional dominance is won most deeply lastingly lunch date by lunch date, client by client, coworker by coworker, by every one-on-one kind of relationship you can imagine, right on down to your drycleaner counter person.


Both women were impressively assertive, but of course one woman was more so–she exercised time-honored tricks of the alpha trade in talking loudly through interruptions from the other and laughing loud husky interruptions into the other’s dialogue–and within some small minutes, it was clear who the victor was.  Clear to both women, well understood.  There was a mental handshake and the pack babe backed down, bowed in honor to the alpha diva.


Hyde had vaporized, leaving Jekyll to continue the luncheon and all was well.  Loud, testosterone-laden barking had shifted into husky, low-buzzing estrogen tones.  There was a low-rolling urgency, pleasant to the ear, a competent, cutting edge tête-à-tête.


Although Pack Babe had acquiesced, never forget that she was a pro, too, and never allowed Alpha Diva to take her more than that one notch down.  She gave Alpha Diva her due respect but held true to her own vision of her internal worth, and Alpha Diva gave her that, respected her for that, let it go at that.