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Brokedown [Apr. 24th, 2016|11:00 am]
The only reason I've ever wanted to be wealthy is so that I'd never have to experience being stranded.  I've always had older cars, so I'm far too familiar with that feeling.  AAA is a godsend, so I cling to those three roadside assistance phone calls like a lifeline. Last year when Zorro used two of them to start dead batteries (!!!) I yelled at him, shaking.  To squander those calls felt like tearing safety away from me, in the future when I'd need it most.

Another memory came back to me.  I'm sorry these are all sad, by the way.  It's no coincidence, I suspect, that my brain filed them somewhere dark and out of immediate reach.

July 2001.  I'm 23, living alone in a very shabby $500-per-month apartment in LA-- it's technically a studio, but it's a huge perfect square.  It's over a dry cleaner, a discount market and a place called Chinese Food OK (yes, really-- and it was accurate).  Shenandoah and Robertson, Jewish ghetto.  I've had trouble making friends in LA, mostly because it's hard making friends as a grownup in a strange city, especially if you're a very attractive young female with emotional problems.  As a result, I still drive down to Orange County pretty often to see my longtime friends; I even drive down there to shop, preferring the familiarity and memories of Westminster Mall to any of the big, scary malls in LA.  (I hadn't discovered Fox Hills yet.) This particular Friday night, my friend Jim is having a party.  He has the best parties!  (Many years later, I drank too much at one of his parties, and I was never invited again, but this was long before I drank.)

I put on a black miniskirt and a strappy little olive-green tank top, which shows about a centimeter of my perfect 21-year-old midsection.  Black platforms, and I douse myself in a ton of pear-scented body spray.  I'm not looking for action-- I'm seeing someone newish-- but I want to look good.  I'm listening to Soul Decision's "Faded" on repeat.  Yeah, it's 2001!

My car (a metallic orange Toyota that I drove forever) starts to overheat right where the 22 hits the 405, so I pull off the freeway, onto a street that I know runs by Cal State Long Beach. where there are bound to be pay phones.  I recall that my old friend/ex-boyfriend Bryan had said to call him if I ever have trouble with this car.  He's a mechanic and I'm pretty broke, so I call him.  He tells me to bring the car by tomorrow.  Then I call my grandmother, who tells me sure, I can crash with her tonight.  (She lives nearby.)

The heroic tow truck takes my car and I to my grandmother's house, where she politely ignores my too-sexy outfit, makes me some fried potatoes, loans me some pajamas and I spend the night reading a mystery novel in a bed I slept in a thousand times as a child.  Stupidly, I don't ask to borrow a sweater or something and the next day I call another tow truck to take it to Bryan's.

I meet his wife, who is young, lovely, kind and also politely ignores my outfit, and we take a good look at the car.  I had given it coolant just a few days before.  He finds the leak, fixes it, and we talk for a while, just catching up.  I ask him how much I owe him, so I can send him a check.  He tells me I owe him a blow job.

He chuckles, but it hangs in the air.  He wasn't joking.  I stumble, tell him I need to pay with money, and he refuses to accept it.  I tell him it was good seeing him and practically run out the door on my awkward platforms.

I drive my filthy car back to LA, feeling disgusted.  I never see Bryan again.  During the two-hour drive home, I think about the nature of friendship, and how I've always had guy friends.  I thought it was because I had "guy" interests-- video games, comics, hockey, boxing-- but nearly everyone in my life has made some comment about how I don't really have friends; I just have a queue.  I wonder if it's true and hate myself for asking for a favor, and for being naive.  When I get home I scrub myself with a million pounds of soap, put on some flannel pajamas and don't go outside or answer the telephone until I have to go to work on Monday. 
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1983 [Dec. 24th, 2015|12:31 am]
I was on the living room floor, cheerfully wrapping Christmas gifts, when it hit me.

Where the Sidewalk Ends.  Shel Silverstein.  I loved that book.  We bought it for Zorro's niece, and I wrapped it in white paper with green wreaths on it, but before I did, I peeked at the first page, "Invitation".

Memories rushed out of the book, or maybe I toppled in when it opened.  Suddenly I was six years old and in my bed at the only house I've ever lived in, reading the book to myself under the covers with a flashlight.  I was kind of singing the words under my breath, trying to make them into a song.
Shel Silverstein, 1974

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

My mother comes storming up the stairs into my bedroom and starts screaming at me.  I rarely saw her this angry.  Her face was all screwed up, and she was spitting and furious and feral.  I didn't understand why she was so angry-- no, I wasn't supposed to be awake, but I was just reading.  She took the book and light away and left me in the dark to think and feel ashamed.

To this day, I am wary of invitations.

It took years to realize that I didn't have crippling insomnia-- I just need less sleep than most people.  Five or six hours is about right; eight or more and I get sluggish and sickly.  But for years, for hours, I laid awake in bed, forbidden to turn a light on so I could read, feeling abnormal and tortured because my parents had this idea that I was required to be asleep at specific times or they'd be bad parents.  Earphones that I could sneak under my hair saved me for a few years-- I would listen to the radio for half the night, daydreaming to the music.  I wouldn't go to the restroom, scared that my mother would get angry with me for being awake.

How would my life have been different if I had been allowed to have those hours, if I could study something in them?  Best not to think about it.
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1994-1995 [Dec. 24th, 2015|12:00 am]
I turned seventeen a month into my senior year of high school, and I had no idea it was going to be the most painful year of my life.  It shouldn't have been.  I was a beautiful, healthy, charming, well-read 120-pound 5'8" blonde, attending one of the best high schools in America.  But that year hurt so much that at 38, I still need to talk about it.  That okay with you, Blog?  Cool.  Thank you.  I'd hug you if you weren't made of code.

My parents had insisted that I get a job, despite my poor performance at school.  I understand why they did it.  We were of humble means, and they really couldn't afford to give me much beyond the bare necessities-- they couldn't help me buy a car or go to college.  They wanted me to have a better life and become less introverted, and they thought that me getting a job would take care of that.  It was normal for teenagers to work, even during the school year, when they were young (it wasn't in my time, and now it's unheard of).  Unfortunately, I was terrible at said job.

It was a mall gig at Natural Wonders-- the kind of place where you could buy windchimes, dreamcatchers, wolf sweatshirts, Tabra Tunoa earrings, New Age cassettes and $300 kaleidoscopes.  These are not easy sells-- nobody is in desperate need of a solar system blanket.

What's weird about being 17 and beautiful is that nearly every straight boy and man who crosses your path is interested in you.  Customers.  My adorable coworker Keith.  Boys at school.  Boys are everywhere, and they all pay attention to you.  I saw nothing wrong with letting customers flirt with me and leave me their numbers-- after all, most of the time, they would buy something.  Understandably, my manager didn't like this.  I was let go the weekend of my birthday, after working there for only a month.

A few days later, my boyfriend, James, broke up with me.  He didn't even give a real reason.  I went to my ex-stepfather's house, despondent, and played video games with him until three in the morning, shovelling cheese popcorn and Kudos into my face, and we talked about how relationships suck.  The next morning, my mother came to get me and told me my grandfather had three months to live.  I was very close to my grandparents, so the news hit me hard.

It was an unusually cold and rainy winter.  I don't remember how I scraped together money for Christmas gifts, but somehow I did, and afterward I took myself to the dollar theater to see The Swan Princess... and walked three miles home.  It was so cold I could see my breath, but I felt too proud to call my mother to pick me up.

I fell madly in love with a boy named Soren, then fell into a deep depression in the wake of my grandfather's death.  After my high school graduation, my ex-stepfather decided he didn't need to be my dad anymore (I was, after all, almost a legal adult, and he had remarried) and fell out of my life.  Summer came and I enrolled at the local community college, which made me feel like a loser-- most of my friends had gone to four-year schools.

I loved Soren, but he fell in with some vitamin-selling types, and he started to change.  He cut his hair and dressed differently and talked to me a lot about How Wealth Was Created.  I explained that I wasn't sure this was going to work out, and one night he and a stranger picked me up in a fancy car and took me to a mansion.  I kept asking what was going on, but Soren told me I would understand later.  I loved him, so I stopped asking, even though I was not allowed to ride in non-relatives' cars.  We went inside and a woman sat me down for a presentation.  She was playing a CD of arias, which it turned out she had sung.  Everything about her seemed very narcissistic and ostentatious.  About five minutes into the presentation, which hit just about every nerve I had, I just became so uncomfortable that I had to explain that I just wasn't interested in selling vitamins, at which point she started screaming at me, calling me rude, and threw me out.

I was crying hard, shaking, scared, confused and had no idea where I was.  Luckily, Soren's driver came and took me home, but the shame was unbearable.  I've never felt so ashamed in my life.  I was also angry-- they had taken the boy I loved and turned him into someone I didn't even like.  He broke up with me after that.

My first year of college was awful.  I dated a boy named Leigh, who inexplicably stopped speaking to me one day.  I dated a boy named Aaron who showered me with gifts and then disappeared.  I struggled with my classes, which I had not balanced well.  I was unbelievably poor and very lonely; sometimes I even missed high school.  I took up smoking because I couldn't figure out what to do with my hands, and I started spending more time with books than people.

For my eighteenth birthday, I received a silver ring, sort of medieval-styled, with red garnet hearts set in it, and a few volumes of the Sandman, which had just been collected.  I was wearing a floor-length purple floral-print dress with long sleeves; I had begun to dress very modestly after my bad first experiences with boys.  I decided to give the job thing another try-- this time, I was a watch technician and cashier at Target.  I was better at that.  I was still very lonely, but at least there was money coming in.

After that, things got a little easier.

I don't know why I was thinking of that year, tonight.  Maybe because it's cold?  Anyway, thanks for letting a fat middle-aged blonde talk 21 years later.  I still have the ring.
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The Valley of the Shadow of My Former Employer [Oct. 7th, 2015|06:38 pm]
Hooray and huzzah! It's time for the indie game festival again! The banners are everywhere, except I didn't hang them. I left the team almost two years ago. My feeds are full of enthusiasm about it. Even the Slack channel at work is abuzz. Pretty soon their media coverage, the likes of which I'm so incredibly desperate for, will begin. They requested permission to my old documents (ancient and useless now) and I granted it, although Zorro says I should have ignored the request. (Probably. My too-nice tendencies crept in.)

I will not darken their doorstep (tentstep?) and I am done spinning the cutesy version of what happened.

I know what you're thinking. Bitter much? And what kind of monster could hate an indie game festival? The monster is loose. You heard the shackles hit the floor.

Last year they sent me a full conference badge, knowing I wouldn't attend the panels, but didn't include a party invitation. No surprises there; after all, they tried to make me sit outside when I was still their tech director, basically working full time for free. I went to check out the main exhibit and see some friends; they gave my fiance static at the gate and made a big deal out of giving him a wristband. A $13 fucking wristband. Later, they had the nerve to ask for a free badge to my convention. (That's money straight out of my pocket.)

I worked for "honorariums" for years, thinking there would be a job for me eventually. I noticed they had people working with me when I went looking for sponsorships who tended to "forget" that we weren't a nonprofit, despite my reminding them. Then one day, while I was literally sitting in my mentor's office arguing that these people were NOT users, I found out that they were flying everyone but me to New York and paying everyone but me real money. They got big, so they kicked me to the curb-- I guess that's just what they do with their "unpresentables". I pretended to move on, because I'll do anything to avoid a confrontation and wanted this to be a positive story. (Later, I ended up on a plane next to my replacement. He is making a fine living.)

Thinking back now, I should have hightailed it way before that. There were so many red flags. Embarrassingly, I thought these people were my friends. They made me feel like one of the cool kids-- I'd never felt like a cool kid in my life. Also, I honestly believed in their mission. I believed in the indie movement, and the way we were celebrating it, and I loved the wonderful ambiance at the festival. I felt like I was helping to build something good.

My mentor was right, though. That something didn't love me back, and now it's a huge thing that everyone else loves. Who wouldn't? Who doesn't want to champion the underdog? Well, newsflash: these aren't underdogs. They're bullies and users.

Now there's just an angry, sad void that REALLY doesn't want to hear about the festival, but avoiding it would require me to quit my wonderful job and hide under a glacier with no Internet-- the grosser the glockner, the better. I finally gave away all my team shirts but one; it's blue, so I just couldn't part with it and turned it into a punk hang-off shirt. I considered leaving town that weekend, but no conventions are happening elsewhere, and a friend from up north will be in town (vending at the festival, natch), so I should hang out with her. There's no sense in spending money just to make me feel better, even if it is the week of my birthday.

It's time to face to cold, hard facts: things are not always what they seem. I have felt locked out and alienated and friendless my entire life, and a bunch of people who supposedly feel the same way locked me out and alienated me.

Well, sheeeeeeeeeeeeeyit.

feeling: lost
listening to: madonna / "sorry"
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Thoughts on 38 [Oct. 7th, 2015|04:54 pm]
Thirty-eight is not old, but the 23-year-olds I work with think so.  They probably look at me in horror-- overweight, non-homeowning, unmarried, childless, driving a gray Honda I adore, bad hair.  I feel like a cautionary tale about... well, gee.  What am I warning the dangers of, anyway?  Alcoholism?  Fear?  Semi-widowhood?  Depression?  Women Who Read Too Much?  Promiscuity?  I didn't have nearly enough fun to justify where I am in life, but hey, nobody needs to know that.

The way the generations lined up, I spent my young adulthood cowering and waiting for the grown-ups to take me seriously, just in time for grown-ups to lose cachet.  My family's opinion of me really damaged me and held me back.  I see that now.  I keep thinking back to this day when I was 21 and living with my mother (I got a late start) and she discouraged me from applying for an administrative assistant job I was more than qualified for.  Even now, she says my name like it's in quotes and can't be bothered to learn what I do for a living.  Well, hey, it's only been 13 years... I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to break free and realize that my mother and stepfather are just people.  People who are bad with money and business and relationships, except with each other.  They're so very self-righteous that they honestly believe they're right about everything, and that I'm somehow inadequate, but that doesn't mean they're correct.  I didn't even entertain these thoughts until after my 30th birthday, until Zorro.  They were my ceiling.

I've had a REALLY rough year and change, family-wise.  When they try to talk to me about What I'm Like, both Zorro and I do not recognize the person they're talking about.  It's confusing and upsetting and puts me off-balance for days.

Last time I visited my grandmother, she had prominently displayed a photo of my cousin, who has always been horrible to her and is an actual, literal murderer.  He and his wife recently had a baby and my mother keeps trying to talk to me about it, but I'm not in a good place for that right now.

My mother is in deep, weird denial about my perimenopause, so I can't ask her questions or talk to her about it.  When I explained, she asked for my doctor's name-- just another example of her constant second-guessing and lack of respect for me as an adult person.  It's a road I'll have to go alone, but I'm sure a lot of women have that problem. Hell, many have probably lost their mothers and grandmothers by the time they stand here.  I'm just lucky...?

I was so sad that I confided a little in my former mentor, with whom I generally have a strictly-business relationship.  She explained that I shouldn't take it personally because as we age, the fresh "newness" of infants becomes way more appealing.  She said it probably was a deliberate hit, and that I should call my grandmother more often and maybe give her a new picture of myself.  (I'm hesitant to take pictures when I'm this fat, but a suit would cover most of it.)  I'll think about it.  It still stings so badly, a month later.  I've honestly been afraid to call either of them.  Why would I subject myself to that?  I'm doing so well, for a change.  I want to bang my staff on the floor and yell "YOU SHALL NOT PASS".

feeling: angry
listening to: caught a ghost / "can't let go"</div>
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Und du, mein Schatz, bleibst hier? [Oct. 2nd, 2015|03:24 pm]

One year and three weeks sober. Two years crippled. 160 pounds. Feeling better, most of the time. Need to loosen the gears again. Instead of just vomiting into a bucket, I'll write whatever comes to mind in my LiveJournal. Share the vomit!

Raymond Chandler's grave has a headstone and a footstone.  The headstone was placed by his literary agent when he was buried, shortly after his passing from pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia in 1959.  The footstone was added in 2011, when his late wife’s ashes were interred above his.  Cissy Chandler's ashes sat in a storage locker for 57 years; her husband was a lifelong alcoholic and had been too drunk (or heartbroken?) to inter them.

Raymond Chandler was a successful oil company executive until the Great Depression; in 1932, at age forty-four, he lost his job and decided to become a detective fiction writer.  He was published in Black Mask, the best of the pulp magazines, a year later.

I started reading Chandler at 23, while I was working as a webmaster and production artist in Los Angeles.  A living author I admired, Mickey Spillane, recommended Farewell, My Lovely, so I started there.  Chandler is a hair too romantic for my tastes, although it was fun to read about another version of my city, sipping hot chocolate and daydreaming in a cafe window. I wanted to get married and cook nice meals for two in our little kitchen and spend my days writing a novel about someone I'd later meet in the form of Harry Bosch. (Connelly does it much better than I would have!)

Later this month, I will turn thirty-eight.  Odd, how I can just navigate to my old blog and read what I wrote that day, twelve years and a lifetime ago.  I can read comments from long-gone then-new friends. Heck, I could go back and edit it-- it's like time travel, but I can only touch it with my cursor. This world is so very strange. The information age and systems thinking are a chasm between myself and younger people, in spite of my early adoption. Having had something your entire life is not equal to learning it as an adult. Sometimes I'm grateful to be pre-Internet. People appreciate thank-you notes.

When we moved back to LA four years ago, the first books I unpacked were my hardboiled detective novels and anthologies-- I had just finished the video game L.A. Noire, so I was in that mindset. I organized them on shelf 3, second tier, at eye level. The following morning I put on some socks (I'd never had hardwood floors before, so I didn't know how noisy they could be!), made some coffee and drank it out of my beloved dark brown forties-style Kahlua mug while reading a short story from one of those books. It felt like the beginning of a cool adventure, but I blew it by making a lot of poor choices. It's a great apartment, but it was always too dark for Zorro (he needs a lot of sun to photosynthesize or whatever the Hell he does with all that light), and it's nowhere near our offices.

Lately I fantasize a lot about leaving and starting over. Not alone, but with Zorro-- I daydream that one of us gets an amazing offer up in peaceful, lovely Santa Clara, which we've visited twice this year. When I moved back to LA, I neglected to consider the fact that most of my friends had moved away, or that there wouldn't be room for me in their lives anymore. I love this city, but truthfully, there isn't much left for me here. I can stay indoors and read anywhere, and this place is bloody haunted.

A note on sobriety: your mileage may vary, but for me, everything has changed, even the sun. I care more and less about different things, and there's an ever looming "when?" in my head that I have to actively shut out, but I like people so much more than I did, although I want to spend less time with them. Zorro and I no longer argue, and I now recognize that my family does more damage than they heal.

I want to wash my hands of everything that brought me here. I want a redo. I don't care if I'm stuck in this old, limping body with terrible hair. I'll put on a cool headband that looks like somebody's underwear and make it work.

feeling: creaky
listening to: elvis presley / "wooden heart"

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