Monday, July 6, 2015

Consistent.


            At times the hardest part of being in a relationship is knowing that there are parts of you that are difficult, trying, stressful---and knowing there is no control.  My mother, throughout my childhood, often turned around to find me gone, leading a wayward steer named Jackson back into his stall by his ear--I'm sure she barely mitigated a heart attack simply by knowing that if she ran into the pasture in a frenzy, he may react.  Luckily he didn't and she didn't, and I was able to usher him back to safety.  These things often popped up---a flying squirrel that curled up on my doormat and found a home in my hoodie pocket, a very pregnant cat behind the Outback Steakhouse that would ride home as quiet as a mouse in my Mustang and have 6 kittens on our porch, a motley colored dog in our yard that would find sanctuary from the Florida heat.

          It was just---divine----the animals.  As easily as the automobiles came to me, so did the animals find me.  And the facts were facts.  The shelters killed them, this I knew inherently. And so---I know that I have subjected those in my life to the stress of extra paws and fur.  I know, and while I'm sorry that it makes life harder, I can't possibly imagine that letting them die is worth the---what?  Convenience?

        I can't even put together a comprehensive list of animals that have benefited from the patience of my mother, brother, and yes----even those horrible exes that have come and gone.  And now---the patience of my boyfriend who endures the lifesaving rescue of one very big, very sweet Pit Bull named Tyson.

     Here's what I've learned about Pit Bulls in the short time I've been involved with their rescue.  People see the breed first, and then the dog.  They see the stance, the head, and they cut a wide berth around them.  I can't help but to liken this to racism---isn't it really similar? It's judging by misconception alone, by appearance.  It's saying, "a handful of pit bulls were used for crime, therefor, we're going to lump them all in to this stereotype."  Instead of looking at his attributes:  knows basic commands, great with all other dogs, calm, hardly barks, wants to play and walk with you but desires to snuggle on the couch as his primary directive, intelligent, young, strong, clean bill of health, good with cats---people see "pit bull" and that's that.  That's one hell of a list of great attributes to simply disregard.

       That's like getting a fantastic resume for a job that fulfills everything you could want for that position---and then making a judgement call against the individual because of someone's ethnic background.  It's just...ignorant.

         So here are some things that are consistent about what I'm garnering from my current rescue situation: people consistently fail me, but never surprise me; animals tire me out, keep me exhausted but give me something to work for and something to believe in; despite the hurdles they throw into my life and my wallet and my personal life and relationships, they are the reason I'm here.  These things are never changing.

       Cheers to being consistently covered with fur, consistently the crazy pet lady, consistently tired and consistently giving comfort to the small army of previously unloved creatures that call my house their home.




Past, present, and adopted animals.  Foster kittens were thankfully all placed into amazing homes.

Past, Present, and adopted animals.  Bottom left: Circe, my angel, may she rest in Peace.  Bottom right, Dexy---the 11 year old Shepherd dumped at East Valley that lived her last year in happiness with me.  

Past, Present, and Adopted animals.  Bottom Left, sweet 22 year old Yoko, may she rest in Peace.  Top Right---tarantula rescued from rushing river in Puerto Rico.  I've been told it's not "native" and I don't argue spider geographics, but I didn't want to see her die. My sweet foster kittens and adult foster cat were placed into amazing homes. 
Tyson, with Joplin, about whom I blogged a few years ago when I pulled her from East Valley Shelter.


My fosters, Sheila and her 6 babies, Luna, Berkely, Squishy, Tyra and her 3 kittens, Tinga, Fontana, Cary Grant, Onjie and her 5 kittens, Dexy, Lily and her 6 kittens were all incredibly loved.  I didn't go looking for any of them.  Just like Tyson---running down my street, through my yard---they found me.  Consistently.

Skeptically Yours.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Salvation.

Years ago, indescribably, a 1976 Nova and a Rottweiler formed a foundation for me to rise from the ashes of depression, fear, self-harm.  They did so by giving me something to do with my hands in the form of repair and restoration with the car, learning how to revive something from the past that frankly no one else would have noticed.  The Rottweiler---well, she was my savior in the form of protector, moral North, and governing director of responsibility.  Going from invisibility to boisterous and frightened to safe and secure was empowering.

I've often made the comparison between myself and the Nova, the lessens of self to those of the car.  It perhaps sounds shallow and banal to someone who doesn't give a damn about cars or classics, but here's what I say to that: the Nova isn't a classic, and this week, she transcended the status of "car." Lessons come in so many forms.

Everyone that knows me, actually KNOWS me, knows that I drove that thing in high school, through college, out to California, and in daily traffic in LA.  They know that it was once taken from me by an ex who thought he had the right because he had put some work into the car with a shitty magazine that needed a topic.  Six months and a flat bed later, minus an engine and interior, etc, I got it back.  She had been gutted, and so had I.

I have replaced three engines in that car, put about 100,000 miles on her, and all in all, she has actually never put my feet in the dirt. That car has outlasted leased Lexus vehicles, apartments, boyfriends, fiances, jobs, the death of my best friend and protector---the Rottweiler, Circe, multiple nights out in Hollywood, and before that, Homecoming, Prom, the expedition to college, the move to Los Angeles, the day I took my first script to Emmett Furla Films.

And she has been the only constant.  She has been an unwavering force of consistency.

The last blog I wrote talked about the gas leak in the Nova and my frustrations with her, and I did, actually, put her up for sale.  I've received a few inquiries on her, and each one I've countered with "no."  The universe, it appears, has sent me a few messages regarding her purpose in my life.

This week, 2 things happened.  First, a massive pit bull appeared on my street at the same time that school lets out, and little bitty school kids and their mothers were scared silly.  Big dogs with gargantuan heads do not frighten me, so I lasso'd the culprit.  After walking him around the neighborhood for hours, it became clear that there was no owner to claim him nearby.  No one recognized this big boy.  He was pliable and amiable, so I postulated that he must have an owner, and the next day we planned to go to the shelter to scan the microchip.  After all, if any of my dogs got out, I would be frantically searching the shelters for them.  It's only fair, I convinced myself.

He spent the night at my house, my own pit bull feverishly trying to attack him through the door, him sweetly ignoring her futile efforts.  The next day, we were going to make out way to the shelter...but...he was too big, and slightly stinky, for the Jag.  So...the Nova...was the chariot of rescue.  As he climbed into the back seat I realized that my girl, Circe, was the last dog to ride in the Chevy, and that the Nova was performing a task that my new---and very expensive----Jag---couldn't.

And she did it flawlessly. 

The dog is fine, by the way.  He was chipped, and the owner was contacted.  If for any reason he isn't claimed, the Nova will fire back into action and we'll go get him and bring him home---errrrr---back to my house for rehoming.  He is, after all, too good not to love.

Next...my boyfriend's "rock solid" Jeep grenaded.  As if on cue, the Nova raised her hand as if to say "You need me.  I am here.  I have outlived all of them, and I always will."  He's never been a fan of the Nova, and in fact, is the person in my stories that said of the Nova at the show years ago, "Why is THAT thing here."  I of course defended her honor by saying, "fuck off."  However, he has never understood her.  Not really.

The Nova carried him diligently to work, no frills, no AC, no radio, no power windows---but when he returned, smiling, he said, "The Nova is kind of a hoot..." and then he wanted to drive it again, and again...it was clear.

She gets under your skin.  She is flawed, and imperfect.  She is nothing if not strange, and underestimated, and infuriating, and wonderful.  She is not beautiful exactly, but something about her makes you look at her.  She has been abused, and lived through so much---and the wisdom and experience she can share is worth the patience of waiting.  She is mine---she is my counterpart.  She has rescued me again this week and reminded me what's actually important---the lives of the helpless, helping those you love, and loyalty.  I forget time to time, and she finds a way to teach me again.

Skeptically Yours.





Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fuel.

Yesterday Bigskeptic jumped in her rickety bucket of a Nova and attempted a short drive around the block, after which, I was going to wash and wax. She looks like hell, she really does.  The time spent in pieces, stored car-knapped from me outside in the California sun, uncovered and unloved meant that the aging paint was ruined, as were the wheels.  It really looks the part of the 70's POS these days.

Instead of a quick run around the block and pleasurable wash/wax, my nose was assaulted with fuel, and I luckily coasted into my driveway as gasoline dumped from the carb onto the intake and subsequently...everywhere below it.  A smart person would have made a trip to the store, bought a "For Sale" sign, and washed her hands of the whole damned thing.

I may not be smart after all.

Sweaty, wearing Eu Du Fume perfume, I went inside and sat down with a coffee and thought about the path of the Nova, how she got here, with me, how I got here, with her.

I have taken immense shit for that car.  While there have been the occasional blubbering males commenting on sexy women with cars, it's been more judgement than anything from even those closest to me about why the hell I hang on, with claws, to that ridiculous, dilapidated car.

The closest I can muster to logic on the matter is because all this time, that stupid Chevy quite literally fueled my passion for cars---how they work, why some matter and why some don't, why some get restored and why some get left behind, the history, the physics, the design.  She is antithetical to custom cars and hot rodding as I am antithetical  to those typically involved in this industry.  I cling to her, because somehow our plights are tied together, and where everyone else would leave her behind because she doesn't matter, I cannot.  She has to be along for the ride.

Once I met someone at a car show that looked at my Chevy and said, "who brought that??" and my response was "fuck off, that's mine."

That's exactly how I still feel today about my bucket of bolts, our outsider plights intertwined, both of us taking a moment to sit and be broken  until we figure out just exactly who we should be in this iteration of our self-revision.

Skeptically Yours,
Bigskeptic
Dirty crawlin'-around-cars-legs. My shoes smell like gas. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Empty Shelves.

I've been flea marketing my whole life, so I know better than to attend with a set agenda or with the weight of a broken heart dragging down the process of sorting through someone else's castoff goods.  Today I made the mistake of attending under both circumstances, and I left with the rarity of emptihandedness. 

There were treasures to be had, I'm sure, but in my state mind, the biggest bits of baggage weren't in the beat up boxes and card tables surrounding Veteran's stadium, but with me.  I needed to replace a shelf that is leaving with a fresh ex, and everything I looked at reeked of my broken heart, and while some of them measured 36 inches wide, it wasn't, somehow, big enough to fill the gap.  I had subconsciously tasked the flea market and all of those vintage goods rich with the energy imprints of lives over and done with the task of answering some very big questions and filling some very big gaps.

Emerging single again means that 1300 square feet of house feels enormous, I feel immense loneliness, and the gigantic chaos of everyday life seems harder to navigate.  Those things are parts of breaking up, as are the division of property, the crying, the logistics.  Even those splits made for the better are filled with these tragedies, and I know that, but I still went searching through other people's pasts for answers today hoping to numb out or wise up.

I came out empty, no shelf, no answers, just...the same skeptic that got me into this mess in the first place.  Here's a tall, stiff drink and a Cheers to you, all of you, making a go of things.  It's harder than it looks. 

Skeptically Yours.  
Bigskeptic

Monday, May 26, 2014

Forgetting.

               Living with the voice of a WWII veteran constantly broadcasting his story to me has changed a lot about how I feel today, Memorial Day.  When I'm writing, the voice of my narrator feels very close, and real, like a radio station being picked up from 1951, a crackly station played only to me, through which I become a messenger.  My book, which I have finally finished after years of construction, is about a veteran of WWII who watched many, many of his brothers die in the European Theatre.
               Because of this narrator, I've tossed myself into several books about the war...The Forgotten 500 (buy it here The Forgotten 500 ), and The Monuments Men being two of my favorites thus far, as well as jumping into Part 2 of my own book...so the death toll of WWII has been fresh for me these past few months.  I've been in it, because that's where my Narrator is, still coping.
Circe Taurus Izaboo.  
               The story he tells is about what happens NEXT for him, and his guilt for those he left behind in Europe.  Enthrallment with the past and nonstop-fingers-are-beating-the-keyboard-writing did something peculiar for me this month:  I was writing so much that I remembered May 12th as nothing but Circe's birthday, and today I celebrated Memorial Day with a humble and thankful heart.
               In remembering only Circe's birthday, I forgot something that was once fucking huge...my Unwedding Day.
               Two things:  First, Circe was my hero and best friend, the Rottweiler that taught me everything I needed to know about life, love, dogs, myself, dignity and humor, forever and ever amen.  She was born on May 12th 1997 and died on January 14th, 2009, and those two days are hung on my heart.
Unwedding Dress.
               Second: May 12th was also the planned day for my wedding years ago, which I cancelled.  It's been, for 2+ years, a day that I remembered mostly for what it wasn't rather than what it was.  Certainly I have felt bitterness, remorse, anger, "what the hell was I thinking" and confusion, but this year I felt nothing.  It's the best nothing I have ever felt, and it's the best thing I have ever  forgotten.
               The year of my Unwedding, after the cancellation and the lost deposits, I put on my wedding dress (a cute little casual vintage lace mini dress) and went to see a movie in the graveyard at Cinespia, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, with my friends and family.  It was a way to "put it to rest" and move on, but it has been clearly on my mind each year until 2014, when I forgot completely that this was the day I dodged the biggest bullet in existence.
                I believe very much that if I would have gotten married on May 12th, 2012, I would be a statistic of divorce by now.  As hard as it's been to separate myself from that life, it would have been harder to negotiate a divorce.  Cancelling a wedding and breaking off an 8 year relationship was devastating, and the ensuing questions about my marriage status weren't fun and never will be, but I am thankful for the opportunity that changed my trajectory, thankful for the inspiration that I have right now to write, and thankful for a spirit that can choose to let go, and simply...forget...because it was a small moment in time that doesn't matter in the long run.
Remembering all souls that have been lost, those with 2 legs and 4.
                Memorial Day is about remembering those that perished protecting our country, and I do so with a heavy heart each year.  I also celebrate Memorial Day by forgetting the bad things that have weighed me down so that I can better appreciate the good things we have because of those people, the things that all along we tend to take for granted because we worry so much about the trivial and meaningless.   Buried in the anxious and unforgiving past is no way to live, not when so many lives have ended prematurely, brutally, and often rather anonymously.  Their legacy often lives in our ability to forget the insignificant, and focus on the chance to be alive, to do good for one another.

Here's to forgetting the things that hurt you and remembering the people that free you.

Skeptically Yours,
Bigskeptic
               
               

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Window to 1959

When I stop into a Swap Meet, I feel like I can hear a thousand voices talking at once, telling the stories of the energy imposed into the items for sale.  All of these things were left behind or unwanted by the previous owner, by death or choice or force.

Rarely does a window open so clearly into a basic piece of the past as it did for me on this past Sunday at the Long Beach Flea Market.  Drawn to a vendor selling pictures---which is almost always a bad idea---I picked for an hour through some of the most evocative pictures from the 40s and 50s I have ever seen, especially considering there were pictures of strangers.

Next, at the bottom of the last box I picked through, was an envelope addressed to one C.M. Burnett of San Diego, CA, sent from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.  Inside was Chamber of Commerce tourism information from 1959 and before I ever knew how much I would be charged, I knew I had to have it.

Once home, I carefully pulled the information out, and found:

  • Helpful Driving Tips: a brochure alerting visitors to One Way streets, parking on hills, jaywalking, and tow away zones.
  • Gray Line San Francisco Tours Advertisement: Choices for which tour.  The Burnetts have put a check mark next to Tour 1.
  • Calendar of Events for all of 1959: The Burnetts have a check mark next to July 7, 11, 18, 21, 25, 28 for the Municipal Pop Concerts
  • San Francisco Hotels and Restaurants List: The Cliff House Restaurant is checked, but nothing else
  • Your Guide to San Francisco and its Nearby Vacationlands: The Burnetts have checked off Bus Tours, Bay Cruise, Cable Car Rides, The Embarcadero,Golden Gate Park, Presidio, Seal Rocks Playland and Zoo, Nob Hill, Maritime Museum, Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill, Chinatown, and then further out Yosemite National Park and Sequoia as well as Monterey Bay Country.  
  • Avis Rental Car Ad
San Francisco Chamber of Commerce ad, plus other incredible photos I couldn't leave behind.

I love the little pen marks. 



They had a lot planned for their trip, certainly, and I don't know how much they actually saw or if they even made it, but affording a glimpse into a regular family planning a vacation in 1959 feels like I opened a private window.  I know that the little envelope from the Chamber of Commerce wasn't meant to sit around until 2014 and be purchased by a stranger, but in in the end, we are just stories, and we never know what part of our stories will live on...and which ones will be boxed and carted around swap meet to swap meet, anonymously.

Skeptically Yours,
Bigskeptic

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Glory Days.

Way back when, in Englewood, my friend's mother wisely said "You don't know how awesome it is to grow up here." She went on to say it was local to cities but far enough away to be safe, that while we had to drive (or beg for a ride, or one crazy occasion...ride the ole' ten speed) to the movie theatre or mall, it was only 40 minutes away and really, what more should kids want to do than to go to the beach anyway?

Englewood comes up a lot in my thoughts these days. I always quoted Dazed and Confused while in high school, "if I ever refer to these as the best days of my life, remind me to kill myself'" but even then, I think I knew how lucky we were. I think Randall "Pink" Floyd probably changed his tune too. I mean...he drove an El Camino and went to see Aerosmith in their coked-out prime, of COURSE his high school career was awesome.

Moving forward to my adult years, one of the things I get to be proud about is that I work for a company that gives altruistically.  Between 2011-2013, we raised over $1m for local schools, and those dollars went to programs that are underfunded or worse---dying on the vine, or already dead and gone.  I remember somewhere around 1996, when my friends and I were just (legally) tasting the freedom of vehicle ownership, when Charlotte County proposed to cut arts and theatre.  So many of us stood up, drove to the City Council Meeting, and downright threatened to drop out of school if they did.  We may have been heathens, but dammit---we stood for something.

Nowadays, some of these kids don't even have the programs to begin with, which is why the company at which I work pledged to give towards those programs.  It's hard to stand for something if you don't have a wall to lean on, so to speak, and we decided that we wanted to provide a foundation.  I hear adults ALL OF THE TIME saying that kids are so lost these days...but do we seriously wonder why?  Robotics clubs, art, theatre and music...those were what we targeted, because those were the programs being systematically destroyed (and not surprisingly---the programs that teach creativity, critical thinking, and autonomy).  People thought we were nuts, because those were schools in poorer LA 'hoods, in which we rarely, if ever, sell a Lexus vehicle.

And maybe we were nuts, but...didn't I just post yesterday about embracing the madness?

Today, we are beginning the launch towards a new direction in altruism, which partners with a local animal shelter and creates a 100% dog friendly auto dealership.  We have completely lost our minds.  

I was afforded the opportunity to be a little off and a lot creative by attending a high school that didn't have metal detectors, supported a huge theatre program, and by and large...didn't have the LA problems that I have become so used to hearing about from the kids we sponsor.  It may be sad to say those were the Glory Days, and I sure as hell wouldn't go back to them, but we had it pretty damned good.

And the weirdness of theatrical collaboration back in the day, learning to stand for something...it undoubtedly made my ascent into the madness more...fun.  Madness these days means a dog friendly dealership that gave over a Million bucks to local raggedy arts high school kids.  We're weird, and luckily, weird is right up my alley.

Skeptically Yours,
Bigskeptic


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Heroes for Ghosts.



The law of diminishing returns seem to be a plausible reason for things dwindling as we age as well, at least, it makes sense to me, because trading my heroes for ghosts happened over time; such a subtle incremental change that I hardly noticed it.  I'm not just talking about actual heroes, people---I mean, that's changed a little bit as well, but largely the idea of things that were once important drifting into the ether of time and being replaced by less substantial elements.

When I get into these modes---this existential "life is empti-ism"---my natural response is to seek something visceral and terrifying that will call back into existence the pertinent and meaningful guardians of my moral compass.  When these key directives dwindle, it's an almost innate draw to danger.

I have less clarity these days than I did when I was in my teen years, and to show how old I've grown I'll quote Don Henley in a blog intended to quote Pink Floyd:  "the more I know, the less I understand."  Part of growing older means getting answers for questions best left unanswered.  My life's path has been a lot different than most of my peers, and part of it was choice, part of it was by the universe's design and not my own.  I look back at things that I thought were my own decisions, and it's almost laughable.  As much as I hate the idea of predestination, some things do seem like they weren't up to me.

Without the typical elements that usually keep people grounded---kids, marriage---I have to create my own center.  And those "life is empty" moments are frightening without the bigger picture to create focus.  No matter how much meaning the other things have---job, friendships, passions, it all leads back to a paragraph that sent shivers down my spine when I was 16 and reading Keruoac for the first time around:  "My whole wretched life swam before my weary eyes, and I realized no matter what you do it's bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad."

So MUCH of the modern life seems like a giant goddamned waste of time.  When I think back to the most wonderful moments of my life, they were spent twisting along Beach Rd, speeding on I-10, resting with sand etched into my elbows as my best friend and hero, the long gone Rottie Circe, played at the beach.  Perhaps in the trading of my heroes for the ghosts of things that once mattered, there has been an ensuing madness.  The madness lands me here, over 30, unmarried but also never divorced, finally finished with my first book, a clear reality of "who my friends are..." and although I understand less, in general, and have to watch my demons at times...I do realize one important factor:


Some of the heroes were simply false idols, and worth the trade to ghosts, who do me no harm.


Skeptically Yours,

Bigskeptic.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Next?

       My favorite quote of the day yesterday was not exactly poetry, although it came from someone that has a gift with words.  He said, "I'm firmly against gratuitous violence...but if you get carried away with a new promotion and don't finish your novel...there is a very high probability that I will personally come and punch you right in the tits! I mean that in the most caring of ways.**"  It was born from a conversation where I mentioned how I want to move up, have more responsibility, make more money.  All of those things take sacrifice, and what suffers most in these scenarios is typically the time taken for self.

       Sacrifice has been just a part of life, as I've "back burnered" my own personal goals and desires, if you will.  It was done with open arms, without a thought about it, really, in order to make sure that shit just got handled. That's what I do...I take care of things.  While I was taking care of things, all of my friends and family got married and had kids.  I have my own accomplishments that I am proud of...and I feel like I've done pretty well for a kid that came from a poor family with no overt advantages, but there are things I feel I missed out on. I know there are other 30 somethings out there that feel the same, that feel like they're still getting their shit together.  At least...I hope there are. I hope I'm not the only one.

      The above mentioned novel is not yet finished, and I can blame a lot of things.  Not enough time, other responsibilities that take priority, the fact that my left brain gets most of the exercise and my right brain at this point is like the flabby guy at the gym rolling off of the treadmill...those are all pertinent and realistic reasons that the book isn't done. The others are sheer procrastination, and fear.

My right brain, getting destroyed by daily math.  Statistics: a shot to the balls.  



     What if my book sucks?  That's a real fear a la Marty McFly, "What if they say I'm no good? What if they say, "Get out of here kid. You've got no future"? I mean, I just don't think I can take that kind of rejection."  That is partially true.  The other weirder one is this: What if it's awesome?  What if I had the ability to write for a living, as I've always said I wanted to do, and had access to unlock my happiness?  That kind of change, although I fully realize would be 100% terrific, is scary as hell.

      While I've always embraced change,  I've never fully embraced this one.  Writing and having it published and actually sell has always been "that ridiculous dream" for me.  It would mean, in a way, I would no longer own it all to myself, in that world existing only in my head, wondering "what if?"  And that...that may be my biggest fear: to expose the story in my head to the viewing public, to attain that goal, and instead of asking "what if" I would be forced to ask "what next?" It's a ponderous thing, how "what's next" can leave me feeling skeptical of both the now and the next.

     It's an uneasy feeling, looking ahead and realizing that this is new territory.  This isn't a cyclic rehashing of old patterns and defenses...this is brand new, fresh out of the box, some assembly required, not-sure-how-I-feel-about this stuff.  This is saying, "I want this to work out" and then trembling in fear as I do something about it.  And then of course, I either sink or swim, which is a terrible metaphor because I am terrified of the water. 

       I know that if I don't finish this novel, I'm in for an unpleasant punch in the tits, and so I will probably start with just avoiding that.   A fear of success is a very real fear, and I certainly have it.  I just have to ask myself the age old question: what's worse: the pursuit of success, or a jab to the boobs?

    

 
Skeptically Yours.




**None of my friends actually abuse me, though it is commonly threatened.

    

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who we were.


      I come from a small town that revolved, for me as a kid at least, around the beach.  I was allowed to roam free, mostly, as a child, carefree on my pink and grey ten speed bicycle that I received on my 9th birthday.  Some things about that world, as I have learned in my adult life, were not as I remember them and the world was not as safe as I believed.  Perhaps my free roaming rights should have been a little more restricted, but if that were the case, I wouldn't have had those long sun-filled days burning the bottoms of my feet and picking sand spurs out of them at Englewood Beach, grabbing a hot dog and Coke lunch at Circle K; or spent my evenings at Pelican Pete's Playland earning enough tickets for a slap bracelet or some other useless plastic bit and running the go carts until I was out of the money my mom had handed me in the parking lot.

      Englewood is where I was a kid at Englewood Elementary watching the Challenger explode, where I was re-zoned into Vineland Elementary and became a Pop Warner cheerleader,  and where I suffered through middle school at L.A.Ainger where I was both bullied and the bully at one time or another and our class of hooligans was denied the benefits of the classes before and after.  Lemon Bay High School, by comparison to high schools in the city, was a tiny school where essentially everyone knew everyone, and you'd run into them eventually at the beach, because it was really the only place to go in town.

      For that reason, when we lose someone that ran the same roads in high school, that hit the beach on the same weekends, that you can trace all the way back to elementary school---it hits home in a different way than people you lose from your adult life alone.  It's happened again, and it's happened all too often.

      It's different because when I see his face, I see the 11 year old Darrell Baxter that used to run me into the wall on the slick track at Pelican Pete's, but still let me win in the end.  I see the Darrell Baxter with spiked hair giving me a Suicidal Tendencies CD for my 11th birthday, after which "All I wanted was a Pepsi" became a running joke. I see the Darrell Baxter spinning himself on a bar stool until he puked just to make my brother laugh.  I see the Darrell Baxter that made me watch bad horror movies, and then secretly held my hand when he thought no one was looking.  Even in High School, during Mr. Pearcy's History Class, I saw 11-year-old Darrell when we'd talk. He was definitely still in there.

     Who we were back then, in a small beach town with nothing to do, set us on our paths towards the places we'd go and the friends we'd keep.  It also means that when we lose one of the pack, looking back is inevitable and hurtful.  I'm looking back a lot today at the moments I had with my friend, with all my friends in the storied beach town of my childhood, sentimentalized as it may be in my head.  I'd rather look backwards with fond memories and forget the harsh realities that must have co-existed.  And I'd rather remember Darrell as that 11 year old boy, digging in the sand on Englewood Beach with 11 year old me, still mostly sure that things would turn out okay.

Skeptically Yours.


Our friend Darrell took his life on February 27th, 2013.  


    

    


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes...

I've been a Bowie fan for a long time (Labyrinth, anyone?). I'd be the type of parent that completely Zappa'd out and named her kid "Bowie."  That's probably why the universe has kept me from procreating, but that's neither here nor there...

I'm the type of music dork that gets hooked on a song for a few hours, clicking the "repeat" sign and just absorbing the song ad nauseum until, somewhere in the fourth hour, I never want to hear that damned song ever, ever again. I do that with TV shows, food, etc.  Maybe it's the part of obsessive behavior I let roam free.  In any case, today it's Bowie, and I can't stop listening to "Changes."  It's this line that nailed me to the floor: "I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream of warm impermanence, so the days float through my eyes."

The idea of impermanence has been something that seriously resonated with me for awhile. Nothing is permanent, and as the song implies, everything changes.  We change.  I use science often as a major defense mechanism against long term relationships, so the idea of change is just...biology, and thus, not scary at all.  Our hormones change.  Our bodies change. We are essentially becoming different people all of the time. 

 So, in the ongoing relentless change that my body and my mind undergo--in my thirties, everything seems different. I feel different. I react differently. I want completely different things. I was laying on the couch the other day with my dog, Joplin, who gazes up at me with deep brown eyes filled with both love and mischief. I felt completely happy and content.  Part of me, at some point in my youth, would have been itching to DO something and not "waste time."  John Lennon once said that "Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted."  I fully agree and understand that now. I also cry easier, tell people "I love you" often, and find myself wishing to be a part of my nieces' and nephew's lives. Changes---you know---oftentimes for the better.

All it takes, really.

I also stopped buying into the excuse that because we change as part of our biological destiny, that we can't maintain good relationships long-term. Obviously, there are plenty of people that have already proved this theory wrong.  I've not been one of them. Or have I?

When I talk about people I know and love, most of them I have known for a decade or so (give or take---28 years with my oldest, dearest friend). Somehow I have maintained those friendships that long (patient friends is my theory). I guess I have always believed in, and been a part of long-term relationships, just...the platonic ones.

Proven then: the acceptance and belief that impermanence is life and vice verse, and change is our only constant, is not mutually exclusive to healthy relationships. The patterns I have created for myself, now that they have been proven illogical, are likely to fade...just like "Changes."  43 times...it's enough, already.

Okay, maybe just a FEW more listens....

Skeptically Yours.




Friday, January 11, 2013

Lessons from my past self.

Change and flux, realizations and goodbyes. That's the stuff that 2012 was made of.

The staggering amount of people that left my life last year is still quite dizzying.  I've been censoring myself a little in these last few months, partially because I fear rocking the boat with the people that I know personally that read this blog, and partially because I've curtailed a lot of my skepticism by promising to see the glass as half full (seeing it half full of coffee, or beer, certainly helps my positive outlook.)  I've not committed to hitting the "publish" button on this blog because of those reasons. I've written frequently, but it's not gone to press, so to say.

Besides the people that have gone in 2012, I also started to leave behind some of my own terrible tendencies...as my friend says, my "defense mechanisms" that were once useful, but are no longer necessary.  Those defense mechanisms served their purposes but they also segregated me and hurt people I care/cared about.  They made foggy my moral compass.

So part of my own "therapy" has been to dig though the decade-long practice of journaling, and to read through my past self's experiences, emotions, failures and (perceived) triumphs.  Here are some highlights:

  1. I was a fucking idiot.  In my early 20s, I was exactly the type of girl that I now disdain.  I overused my  lifelines, I wanted things handed to me, and I didn't appreciate what I did have.
  2. I trusted my emotions way too much.  I wish I knew then how deceitful those pesky "feelings" would   turn out to be. Troublemakers!
  3. I never made peace with a lot of the things I should have.  There are a lot of areas where clearly I brushed things under the rug, and largely ignored the issues.  Bitterness seeps through barely concealed language. Early 20's me just needed to get the fuck over shit. Moving on never was my strong point.
  4. Early 20's me had opportunities I foolishly stepped over.  I didn't even see them.
  5. I spent way too much time thinking about men. Worrying about men. Dating. Fighting. Doubting. Early 20's me didn't see how pointless that was, and despite being nowhere mature enough for an actual  relationship, it occupied about 75% of my thoughts.
  6. I forgave too easily. I didn't make people earn it. I kept the douche bags around and I let the good ones go distant, minus a few positive examples.
  7. I thought getting a stupid tattoo was a brilliant idea.  And then I got three more.  I was defaulting on my student loans but sporting a Sagittarius tat.  Someone should have kicked my ass.
  8. I worked on partnerships and relationships more than I worked on myself, and I didn't even realize why those partnerships/relationships didn't work out. Duh.
  9.  The truest of friends are those that drive to your aid because you're having a hair crisis. Keep them.   Keep them forever. This one, I did right.
  10. I didn't apologize enough. I had a lot of asshole moments, and a lot of people should have heard me say,  "I'm so sorry. I'm so FUCKING sorry. I'm a dick."

So, I guess the moral of the story is that if I could tell my younger self from a decade back a few things, it would first start with a thorough ass-kicking.  Then I would pass on the wisdom to apologize often, make peace with the past, take advantage of opportunities and not people, balance your head and heart, and stop justifying why you hurt people.  I, of course, would surely not listen, because what I've also learned from my past self is that I was pretty sure I knew how to live my life.

I hope 33 year old me is smarter, more gracious, and more loyal.  For those of you that knew me way back when...I'm sorry...I'm so fucking sorry...I was a dick.  And...thanks. For not killing me.

Summation: Dumb girl, Boys...Boys...boys...Dumb girl...


Skeptically Yours.


 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Celebrations.

It's my Birthday!!

Last year at this time (almost exactly) I stood at Rockefeller Center and felt the pulse of New York City under my feet.  My mother and I were being tourists on a double purposed trip to visit John Lennon's memorial at Strawberry Fields on the 8th, and to celebrate my birthday on the 10th. It was late-day, and as the sun was reclining into the horizon, and the lights of Christmas decorations seem to glitter everywhere, I looked at Prometheus bedecked in gold by the ice, and I almost fainted.

It seemed like the weight of the entire city was dropped squarely on my shoulders and I absolutely reeled, everything a swirl of chaos and Christmas. As soon as the lightheadedness left me, I changed my entire life.

Rockefeller Center and the tortured Prometheus has appeared in my life twice, both during strangely revealing moments. Once, as the background while being proposed to, and the second, the background to breaking it off and leaving all of it behind.

It was sort of an epic birthday for a skeptic like me, to trust some sort of Universal message that led me to make gargantuan decisions and just blindly run for them.  Its one of very few moments that led me so clearly. 

This year, exactly 365 days of, as I've said to many people this year, "trying to figure my shit out," and I still have a lot of chaos swirling around me; I have a few more things figured out, but I am no where near a point where I feel like this year and this universal guidance has come to a close. 

What I know is that one year ago, I started onto the right direction. I am on some sort of path now, still kicking stones along the way, but gradually making progress.  My travels this year have allowed me to reconnect and fall in love all over again with my friends, stay up too late and be too social, go to bed too early and just sleeeeeep, burn the candle at both ends, rescue a dog, enjoy time with my mother, start restoring my Buick, put my Nova back together, take better care of myself, relax and enjoy a few incredible moments, screw up a lot, wake my passions for writing and acting, and move past bitterness that clouded my judgment.

To my friends and family that allowed this year to be all kinds of chaos and comfort, thank you. I have a weird, special thank you for Prometheus also. I often say "there's a reason for everything" is a bullshit statement said by people searching for meaning in a universe that functions mainly on energy and coincidence without any greater, guiding purpose. If I pass on the life-is-meaningless-existentialism for a minute and just look at the symbolism here, it's clear that this statue meant something, that's its somehow not a coincidence that it existed during these moments of both entering into something torturous to me, and the ensuing escape. For the unlikely task of making me think twice about the meaning of it all, thank you, Prometheus.





Skeptically Yours.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I wore pink. Part 2.

"Why the hell not" turned into a series of brief interviews, during which we talked about everything that happened during these last two years. the good folks from Harley asked mom about the experience with cancer, and right away I think they knew that we weren't going to be average.

Mom talked about the diagnosis very quickly, and the treatment even quicker. She talked about not wanting to join a support group, because in general, it was a bunch of sick people, talking about being sick.

Instead, she wanted to get through it, and fast, and be surrounded by healthy people that reminded her of the future, not the present. The Harley folks were smiling.  We talked about how far we were willing to go, even thinking about running to Mexico for coffee enemas and juice therapy. They laughed, they loved that we were laughing together.

They asked me why I started riding, and I wasn't lying when I pointed at mom and said, "because of this, because of the cancer." I know that was the answer they expected, but as I explained, I hope they knew it was genuine. I had been enamored, but highly fearful, of motorcycles. Involving myself in the car industry meant I got plenty of adrenaline, but bikes---nope. It wasn't until mom's diagnosis that I looked at my list in an old journal titled "things I want to do, but probably won't, because they're scary." So many of them had been checked off, surprising things I can't believe I was actually afraid of, but there were a few that remained. "Ride a motorcycle, " and a few odd ones here and there about love and my intense fear of commitment. I decided to tackle the motorcycles.

They asked my mom what bikes she likes, and she smirked and remembered the bikes I'd been showing her, rattling off "Fatboy, Softtail."  Wow. No wonder we were cast.

On Wednesday, we went to Leo Carillo Beach and met the crew of the print ads. They fed us an amazing breakfast, they put us through hair and make up, they put us on a Sportster and shot pictures for about an hour, fed us lunch, and called "that's a wrap." Before we left, the rep from Harley hugged my mother and I, and gave us Pink Label riding jackets.

Harley Davidson treated my mother like a superstar.

I have always admired the brand, always loved the rumble of a Harley V-Twin, always secretly wished I was a little bigger so I could ride the bigger bikes, and now...I fully respect them more than I could ever put to words appropriately. The people in their ads were real riders, not just pretty (although Holy Christ, they were pretty too!!). The causes they support aren't just on paper. Their brand ethos isn't just marketing.

As for word 'cancer' in our house---it's not a death sentence, it's not something we talk about often, and its not something we dwell on anymore. As Breast Cancer Awareness month rolls out and everyone is selling something pink, we haven't really ever participated.  It's been very under the radar.  Now though---now we're about to be on posters and online and wherever else, the faces of people affected directly by cancer, the faces of a brand all about "pink". And both of us will now make the exception to wear the color, so long as it's on our Harley Davidson jackets.

I wore pink. Part 1.

Pink---it's become the color chosen to represent a fight with or surviving from breast cancer. It's also been a color that I always found dreadful both for the girliness attached to it and simply because I hated it. As a symbol, I hated it also, because it reminded me of the very, very vicious disease that has, for decades, been picking my family off one by one. Not just breast cancer of course, I have a virtual medical degree just keeping up with the diseases from which my relatives have died. But breast cancer, surely, was among them.

It's a fact of life, partially from having a very big family.

Also, because it hit home when my mother called me on my way home from work over a year ago now, and told me, with weakness shaking a voice otherwise very strong and opinionated, that she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself.  In the months that followed, I jumped a plane countless times on the trek from LAX to CVG Cincinnati, read countless books about cancer on the journeys to and from, and spent days and nights with my mom as she was operated on, bits of her removed, stuck with needles, chemotherapied, and on and on all countlessly. Medical---very medical. Very clinical. The smell of antiseptic sends me back sometimes to swabbing her sutures, to watching bags of blackness slowly drip into a port in my mother's chest, to waiting awkwardly in a room with other cancer patients who didn't speak to each other for the fear of not seeing them again next week, and knowing why.

If I were an only child, it probably would have broken me. But I am not an only child, and my brother and I switching on and off with my mom meant we both got to spend time with her, we both got a break from the medications and hospitals and heartache. 

My mom, of course, never got a break. She lost her hair, her eyebrows, eyelashes. One never fully appreciates those things until the sweat beads from a torturous Ohio summer stream into your unprotected eyes, or until the snowy winter months leave your home encased in a snowdrift, the heater barely warming your sensitive, bald head. All of this, I observed as a spectator. My mother...well, she had to survive it.

And she did, and she's here, and we don't talk about it a lot because we all agreed to get on with life and leave the past to the immense universal shredder. And we don't wear pink.

Just this once though, I decided to go backwards for a minute and I asked my mother's permission. Harley Davidson, which has grown on me through the years as a favored brand and company and a helluva motorcycle, needed real riders and real cancer survivors to be poster girls for their Pink Line. They donate to cancer research through the proceeds of this line, and their donations may well have touched my mom's life and my life without us even knowing it at the time. In any case, I thought "why the hell not??"