Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dune Club--Thoughts about The First Session

For the first time since college, I am participating in a group discussion of a book, and today was our first session.

The club is hosted on Twitch by ComicBookGirl19 and the book we're discussing is Dune by Frank Herbert.    

I'm loving it so far.  

I'm thrilled I finally get a chance to read this book.  I've wanted to read Dune for a long time but I'm easily side-tracked and my list of books to read is long and growing.  

And I dearly love ComicBookGirl19 (CBG19).  She's incredibly intelligent, well-read, and sure she's stunningly beautiful but honestly, I don't care about that.  You guys know me and you know all I care about is what's between the ears.  And a woman smarter than myself will always have my attention.  

Plus, she's soulful and she brings that to the table when discussing Dune, which is far more soulful and spiritual than I expected.  

Sadly, I have to work when the discussion is live, but once work was done I began following it.  I'm listening to it right now.  

She broke the book into five sessions and tonight we discussed pages 1-59.  

What stood out to me instantly was how over-developed the people of that world are and inferior I felt while reading about them.  

In the Dune world, machines (computers, AI) took over the world and subjugated humanity.  Humanity was left stupid without their machines to think for them and were enslaved until they revolted and re-established their dominance.  As a result, humans forbade machines be made that can think like a human.  Humans instead developed themselves mentally beyond anything we can comprehend today.  I felt stupid reading about these people.  

The MC of the book Paul Atraides, is hyper-aware of not only himself but of everybody around him to a point that is exhausting.  His mother, a witch, taught him to pay attention to minutiae that makes a human.  I find similarities in what his mother taught him and all kinds of various beliefs and religions.  Even Satanism teaches hyper-awareness of your demeanor and in observing another's.

There were a few obvious moments thus far.  Back in the 20th century, if you wanted your bad guy to be instantly hated, you gave him a Russian name.  So, the Barron's first name is Vladimir.   Obvious.

Something else I found interesting while reading the book was how bare the descriptions were.  After having seen the movie from the 80's several times, I was really looking forward to detailed descriptions of the planet Caladan.  Plus, I had hoped to learn more about the day to day lives of those in that hyper-advanced world.  But no, Herbert keeps the story moving forward, and doesn't give us much to work with.

There is some serious wisdom in this book.  The lines about "Fear being the mind-killer" is famous but also true.  How many times have we, as humans, be ruined by fear?  Or made bad choices because of fear?

I'm really excited about this book and I'm really happy about the book club.  I can't wait for next week and tonight I'll read pretty much all of the part for Session II.  And I'm so happy my friend Brittany gave me this book to read.  I would have never been able to afford to get it for my Kindle this week but she totally hooked me up.

This is exciting for me in a lot of ways and I have to wonder just how many of these books I'll end up reading.  But I'll worry about that later.  For now, I'm just happy to have another book to dive into and just enjoy.  It's been a while since I've found a book I can dive into like this.  Dune has really absorbed me unlike any book has for some time.     


Friday, July 7, 2017

The G-Forces of a Downward Spiral

It's 6:11am.

Our Hero can't sleep.  His sinuses keep swelling shut due to the allergies he has every summer.

An evil Mind Gremlin sneaks out the window, unseen by him, but the spell put upon him certainly worked.

Our Hero has been re-living the past.  Certain, select days from the past, in a three-day block from 27 years ago.  The way events unfolded in that memory, deep scars were dug, making them not easily forgotten.

The original events were difficult.  Families, abuse, alcoholism, and anger.  Lots of anger.

What the evil Mind Gremlin did was shine a bright light on that distant memory, highlighting it, calling it forth from the shadows, and forcing Our Hero to relive it over and over again.  But this time, he began to fantasize about what he could have done differently.  What he should have done differently.

It was the emotional equivalent to dumping a ton of gasoline-soaked straw on a dying fire.

Suddenly, Our Hero found himself in a battle inside his mind.  Rage.  He was consumed by rage as he thought about how he should have handled the situation.  He should have thrown the man down on the ground and kicked the shit out of him.  He should have beat him within an inch of his life.  He should have beat down upon him the sum of all his resentments while accusing the man's mother of being responsible for all that was wrong at that moment.

Our Hero found himself in a battle with a ghost.

But this battle is pointless and stupid.  He knows this.  Or rather, he's supposed to know this.  The spell put a fog on that knowledge.  So after a few minutes of rage flowing around in his brainpan, he came up for air.  He looked around his apartment and took a deep breath.

Then he focused on the moment in front of him.  The present.  The small actions of his fingers on the keyboard, the distant thunder of a storm that went around his village, the feel of the fan blowing in his hair.

So often, the solution to a problem is right in front of us.  The present.  What we're doing at that exact moment is far more powerful than any memory or dream or hope.

Our Hero doesn't own a time machine.  He can't fix the past, re-do certain events, or fix the many mistakes he made.  He can't foresee the future and he doesn't know the winning lottery numbers.  But he can focus on the moment he is in, at that exact time, and he can do something about it.

It's 6:30am.  Our Hero is still wide the fuck awake.  His sinuses are still clogged and he can't breathe through his nose in order to sleep.  But his head is quiet.  The ghost is gone and he's left with the empty moments of his life, alone in his apartment, his fingers on the keyboard.  It's the best he's got to work with right now and the best he can do.

He wonders, when his story gets re-told around the campfires, if this lesson will be included.  Small victories in isolation in the middle of the night rarely are and it's a shame.  They're usually the biggest victories of all.    

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ear Worms and Screaming Brains

I need to tell you this story.

Before I do, don't judge me.  I get ear worms.  Badly and often.  I get songs stuck in my head and they just don't leave.  Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have good songs stuck in my head but other times, my luck is typical of my life--shit.  And that's when I get horrible ear worms.

Earworms for me are often triggered by memories.   Last night, before I finally fell asleep, after days of not sleeping more than an hour or two, I was reminded of my time working at a gas station in Freeport.  I worked the late shift until close at midnight every night.

I have a lot of stories about those days.

But there's this memory that popped into my head.  It was back when cellphones first started to have ringtones you could adjust and replace with sound bites from your favorite song.  A regular customer, a beautiful eighteen year-old girl, had her phone ring while she was in line to pay for her gas.  It was a pop song that was so distorted I couldn't understand any of it.

She started dancing.  But it wasn't just dancing, it was this elaborate set of moves while she sang.  Sure, she was beautiful, but she was squirrely.  I like squirrely.

I asked her the song and she weirdly began to sing the song title.  "Rockstar," she said.

I went home that night and got on Youtube.

Something about me I should say right now--I have OCD badly when it comes to music.  If I hear a piece of a song, I have to know what it is.  I have to know who the artist is and what song I'm hearing.

I have to.

If I don't, then I need to find it.

True story.  I worked at a pizza place owned by Sicilians.  They had an old cassette tape with Italian love songs recorded into a mix tape.  One of the songs had this woman sing in a haunting but beautiful voice in Italian.  Nobody knew who she was or what song it was.  But I remembered the melody.

I would spend time once in a while trying to find it on Youtube.

And then something happened.  Maybe my life took another spin.  Maybe more unrequited love ate away at me.  Or maybe my brain began yet another tailspin.  Whatever.

I logged onto my computer and spent thirty-six hours straight looking for that song.  Thirty-six.  I didn't sleep.  I just drank caffeine and listened to old Italian songs.  I never found it.

Sometimes, I still hear that melody and her voice.  I tell myself that now is not the time to search for it.  I promise myself that one day, when I have time, I will.  I made a note of it mentally.  Delaying it to the future helps me get through the OCD moment.

But this beautiful woman.  Blond hair, long and curly down her back, blue eyes, tall and incredibly thin, tripped the switch inside my brain that forced me to find this song.  So, in about ten minutes, I did.  I'm really good at finding things.

It was one of the shittiest pop songs a person could like.  Horrible.  Vile, trite, cliche, and all of the things I despise about pop music.  I get angry when I hear it.  When it pops into my brain, I wonder if perhaps I picked up a brain fluke from bad water someplace, and as it eats away at my frontal lobe, it produces excrement that somehow mixes into the wiring, like a wrench in a gearbox, and triggers this song.

Prima J--Rockstar.



Don't judge.  It's not my fault.  I'm sick.  I'm very, very sick.  I hate this song and everything about it.
But that's why we call them "ear worms."  They are disgusting things that get lodged and we can't stop them.

Lately it seems has if my brain is screaming at me.  I slept last night.  Collapsed, really.  I was a zombie until I finally sank into oblivion.  And that's when the dreams started.

First, I dreamed I was upstairs in some house.  The Incredible Hulk was there, running room to room.  He wasn't smashing anything or breaking anything.  He wasn't roaring or shouting.  Sure, the doorframes were broken a bit because he had to get through them, but at least he was using the doorways and not just blasting through the walls, right?

He smiled at me.  He seemed to be there protecting me.  And I hugged him.  The Incredible Hulk let me hug him.

The second dream, I was in the basement of a recently built house.  It was one of those split-level ranch homes that are so common.  The basement was a finished basement.  You know the type--wood paneling painted white, off-white carpeting, crappy second-hand furniture that doesn't match.

This basement went on forever.  It was massive.  Room after room.

It was raining outside.  It was a cold, winter rain.

I searched the basement for something to drink.  I was thirsty.  Every time I found a kitchen, the refrigerator was empty.  One kitchen had about twenty pounds of raw bacon set out on the counter but the refrigerator had the door removed.  I found about five kitchens in this basement and each time the same thing--nothing to drink.

And then my mom came downstairs.  She was sick with a cold or the flu.  She didn't talk to me.

Mom sat down at the shitty kitchen table set out in the middle of this basement room.  She was eating a bowl of cereal or oatmeal.  The table was one of those with the thick brass-colored frames and faux-wood tops.  Mom's old, ratty bathrobe hung off her shoulders, revealing tattoos covering her back.  They were Asian in theme but Western in artwork.  Her back was covered in them.  For the record, she doesn't have a single tattoo in real life.

Mom had an oversized can of 7-up that was about the size of those oil cans we used to get oil in up until the early 80's.  It was empty because she drank all of it.

I wasn't wearing a shirt and I didn't want to get too close to her because I didn't want her to see the scars on my upper arms.  I had new ones from when I melted down with a meat cleaver in January and I didn't want her to see them.  She freaked out twenty years ago when she saw them then.  New ones would not be good.  She was worried enough about me as it is.

We didn't talk.  I woke up.

There was something about this dream that has lingered with me all day.  I feel disconnected and disjointed.  Something changed.  Something ended.  I missed something.

I feel like a door closed on me and I don't know which one.  An opportunity has been lost.  I lost.  I missed out on something.  I failed someplace and failed to make something happen.  But I have no idea what.

I feel like mourning.  I've felt like mourning all day and I don't know why.

My brain screamed at me last night.  It wanted me to know something and I don't understand what.  I'm not going to demean myself by saying I'm stupid or something like that.  I'm not.  I just don't get it.  I wish I did.

I wish I knew what was needed to fix whatever is broken.  But for some reason I have the sneaking suspicion that it just might be too late to fix it.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Eleventh Hour, Fifteen Minutes



I've been working on a short story this weekend and my fingers aren't doing what I want them to do.  I know exactly what I want this story to read like and I know exactly how I want it to unfold.  The problem is, I can't seem to get the words in the order they need to be.  

So, I write a few, delete a few, and repeat.  Lately that's been my writing style.  Instead of editing, I go forward about two paragraphs, delete most of what's in there, and save a sentence.  Maybe.  

It's different from just throwing it on paper and calling it done.  Hunter S. Thompson used to make a joke that was repeated in the movie Where the Buffalo Roam. Bill Murray did a good job being Thompson.  


  • No need to panic. I'll just lash together a few raw facts, a little bit of old Negro wisdom, and this nightmare is over.



I loved Thompson's work but he bitched about money too much.  And he was obsessed with getting screwed over in his race for Sheriff back in the late 60's.  It just gets old after a while.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be like him.  It was cheap.  Cheap, and so beyond derivative, it bordered on thievery.  I was a stupid kid.  What can I say?  

Plus, Thompson never once wrote about being dopesick.  Any doper worth half a damn will know what that's like and they'll write about it. Being dopesick is something you never forget and it makes an impact on your very soul.  Just the thought of being dopesick grips an addict with a fear a person who hasn't used could never understand or fathom.  

I've been writing things that have been out of comfort zone lately. This week, I got a rejection for an anthology I'd submitted a short story to, and was put on the short-list for the final ToC (Table of Contents) much to my excitement.  This was a biggie.  A highly successful series of books with some heavy hitters that paid well.  To get as far as I did was really something.  But the fact that I was rejected really bugged me.  That story I sent them was different from most of what I've written.  

For starters, it had a sex scene.  As many of you know, I just don't write those.  There's a lot of reasons for that.  But for some reason I threw one into that story.  

I still haven't heard back from the published I sent my novella. It's been damned near four months and the fuckers haven't even told they got the shit.  I'm pissed.  

I'm also getting back to poetry.  Reading and writing it.  There's a project I'm working on.  Like everything, it's a matter of what needs to be said.  These things are always like that.  

Get the stuff said that needs to be said before I get out of here. Or at least the stuff that I need to say.  

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dousing Embers

It's a funny paradox that those who want to get under our skin are usually already there.  They're already a presence in our thoughts and hearts.  What they never fully realize is how their efforts just make it easier to walk away from them.

Maybe.

I've found that for myself, the emotional attachments I have to people never quickly drop.  You could show me a video of them putting puppies in a blender while laughing hysterically and quoting from Mao's Red Book, it wouldn't change how I feel.

It would change how I think.  It would change how I act.  But those feelings and emotions would not suddenly evaporate like hot water thrown into the air on a frigid winter night.

A couple of months ago, I had relationship, of sorts, dissolve.  She wasn't into me and I made it clear I was into her.  But we stayed friends.  In the final months, she reminded me often how badly she needed sex, just not from me.

And let me tell you, that feels shitty.  When a woman you want to be with is super-horny but doesn't want you, but yet she reminds you about how super-horney she is, it's a huge slap in the face.

But as I said, we were friends.  One day, she tells me she's sick from food poisoning.  Then, she disappears.  No online response.  I texted her.  No response.  She's called me often when I was sick.  This was not some stalker-type behavior.  We called each other a bunch of times when the other was feeling sick.

So, about six hours after texting her, I called her and got her voicemail.  The next day, around noon, she calls me and chews my ass out.  She flames me royally.

"You don't need to call me and check up on me!  I was on a date and it was really awkward and it was at a certain moment."

She was finally getting the sex she so badly craved after a couple of years without and in that critical moment, I called, and she had to explain to him who I was.  The call lasted about 30 seconds and it was the last time I heard from her.

A day or two later, she posted something on Facebook with her codes for how she was getting some really great sex.  That was the last post I've seen from her since.  I'm not sure if I'm blocked or what and frankly, I don't care.

I realize then, I just didn't care about her that much and I just didn't care about her in that way.  I had no idea until she did that to me.  And if I never speak to her again, then so be it.  It's obvious how little I meant to her anyways.

That's an emotional situation I can walk away from and not be bothered.  I'm fine with it.

I can walk away from hatred just as easily, too.  If I hate somebody and they do something to prove that hatred wrong, I can switch gears and stop hating them.  No problem.  Anger, rage--all of that is easily ignored.

But love?

Love stays.  Love lasts.  Love is one of those things I've never been able to switch off and walk away from mentally or emotionally.  Physically, sure.  No problem.  Done.

But I still think of them.

A number of years ago, I fell hard for a woman.  I mean, it was an obsession.  She was all I could think of.  I wanted to make her laugh.  I wanted to make her happy.  I wanted to be the person she came to because she knew I'd never hurt her.  You know, all the sappy horseshit that fills pop music, shitty poetry, and sonnets written by 8th Graders.

But she was bad news.  Seriously bad news.  Coke whore, gang bangs, STD's--the works.  She was a porn star and sometimes there were cameras.

I knew to walk away.  Hell, I was flat-out told by people who were close to her to walk away.  And I did.

But not emotionally.  Emotionally, she's still there.  I still think of her.  I still think of her smile, and how much I enjoyed making her laugh.  The emotions are still there.

The same is true for a woman on the other side of the planet.  I'd do anything for her.  Her life has continued on with a path all its own.  But I still think about her and compare other women to her.  In many ways, she's a benchmark.  She and I hardly speak anymore.  But the emotions are still there.  And in just a few minutes of conversing with her, I'm reminded of just how powerful those emotions are, and how badly it hurt to know there was no way I'd be in her life.

Love stays.  That's why it's so powerful.  Love stays with us and we carry it in our hearts and minds for a long, long time.  It sinks in deep, to the bone, where it spreads to all parts.

I've walked away from women before.  Not often, but it's been known to happen.  Usually when I'm losing my mind because it's clear I'm not nearly as important as I want to be.  Those times when the other person clearly isn't interested in me on a level deeper than superficial.

I cannot describe how fast the mind spins in those times.  You want to get their attention.  You crave their attention.  You want to hear them say you're important to them.  You want them to show you how important you are to them.  But they never do.  Instead, they absorb your efforts, like a tackling dummy, or the guard rail at Indianapolis at the Brickyard.

So you think harder.  You try harder.  It feels like burning.  It feels like you're consumed by flames and only they can put out the fire with just a few words or a gesture.

There is a futility in those efforts.  It's running uphill during freezing rain.  It's like cupping water with your two hands as you carry it across the room.  It drips out, it escapes, so you press harder.  You lock your fingers.  Your hands become a vice.  But try as you might, that water escapes, and by the time you get to the other side of the room all you have left are a few drops.  That's it.

If they're really cruel to you, they'll tell you how thirsty they are, and how they desperately need that thirst quenched.  Mercifully, that doesn't happen nearly as often as it could.  I've been lucky.

Not too long ago, I walked away from somebody.  It hurt like hell but I had to because I was twisted around and in flames.  I wanted so badly to be a priority to her but it was clear I wasn't.  In fact, my importance was declining, and it was so obvious I felt like a chump.  It was beginning to be humiliating.  

But this is about me, not her.  I'm the one who couldn't handle it.  I'm the one who was on fire.  I'm the one who lost his shit.  Each and every day, I would search for replies from her, maniacally refreshing my various inboxes.  I would scour the web looking for things I could do to get her attention, despite already having it, and ways to be more of a priority to her.

I failed.  There was a canyon between us and she was widening it by the week.  There was more and more going on in her life she couldn't talk to me about.  She was clearly upset.  She was clearly hurting.  But increasingly she couldn't talk to me about it.  I tried to distract her.  I tried to make her laugh.

When you try to make an upset woman laugh so she feels better you become a temporary thing for her but she will not go deeper than that superficial dynamic.  So you make her laugh more and become more superficial to her.  It's a cycle.

That was months ago.  I lost my shit and went into a tailspin.  I didn't care, either.  I didn't care about the 1,000 reasons she had not to give a shit about me.  All I cared about was how she didn't.

I avoided mutual places online.  I stopped all communications with her.  And despaired at how easily she agreed with my request she stop talking to me.  For months she was the first person I thought of in the morning and the last person I thought of at night.  And now it was done.

But that didn't stop me from thinking.  And it didn't stop me from feeling.  I tried, too.  I really did.

How do you get somebody out of your thoughts?  You can't tell somebody "don't think of X" because they'll think about X all the time, then.

Time and absence is the only solution.  So, I tried to avoid her, which didn't help.  I was obsessed.

But after a while, I became comfortable with things.  I got used to how events panned out.  The tail-spin stopped and I went through the stages one does in recovering.  I stopped burning.  Somewhat.

She was still in my mind.  And the emotions were still there.  But I knew better.  I knew all the reasons why I needed to keep doing what I was doing.

This morning, I woke up to find a message from her.  My blood pressure spiked to crazy levels instantly.  So fast, I got lightheaded.  I quickly closed the window so the words wouldn't appear.  I wasn't ready to read them.  I wasn't ready for this.  Not at all.  Not one bit.

And then the anxiety came.  It felt like dozens of shrill, screaming voices bearing down on me.  I wanted to escape but couldn't.  It took me a while to prepare to read it, but I did.

She's angry with me.

At first, I was relieved.  I was relieved she was angry at me because I would have had no defense against anything else.  Had she said anything kinder than "I fucking hate you and hope you die" I would have burst into flames all over again.  If she had said she just wanted to know how I was doing, I would have freaked out, and something inside of my brain would have short-circuited.

But no, she was angry at me.  Thank the gods, she was angry at me.

I'm glad she lashed out at me.  Not speaking to her had become more and more difficult for me.  Just recently, it was clear she was going through a difficult patch, and I very badly wanted to reach out and ask if she was alright.  Friends talked me out of it.

I don't claim to make the smartest choices and I don't claim to have my shit together.  And it's very hard for me not to act upon emotions.  It's one of the reasons I medicated them.  It silenced them enough so I could function.  Plus, the very fact I'm using the "L-word" at all says something ugly about myself.  Something is terribly wrong with me.

A friend recently told me she thinks I tend to fall for women who will hurt me.  This is probably true on some level.

But it's not like I can just flush these feelings down the toilet.

There's a school of thought that says, "fuck your feelings, it's all about your actions."  All too often, I've put myself in that group just to keep myself from sticking my head in the wasp's nest.  My head is an ugly minefield as it stands.  Acting upon emotions would just get me into more trouble.  But I'm moving away from medicating and anesthetizing the feelings so they don't bite and claw at my brain.
My chemical suit of armor is disappearing and I really don't know if I can go on without it.  It scares me.

But no, I'm happy she's angry with me.  If she really hated me, she would have said she missed me, and watched as the fun began.  And I unfolded and burned.    

Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer Night Memories

Dear reader, I want you to ask yourself a question--what memories get triggered on a gorgeous summer night?  

Do you think about that one person you were comfortable with as the two of you cuddled around a campfire?  Or do you think about that one night with your friends where everything felt so good you knew it would never happen again?  

You know that night I'm talking about, too, right?  That night where every joke, every story, ever log on the fire, felt as if it somehow matched everything else so well you never wanted it to end.  You felt, in that moment, at peace within and without, and the universe had aligned to give you a break.  

I had a summer of those nights one year when I was in high school between my Sophomore and Junior year.  

Most people never understand what the marching band experience is like if they've never done it themselves.  And not all marching bands are alike.  We weren't the pimply kids who put on a crappy uniform from the 60's and play tired old tunes out of a book.  We competed.  We put on field shows and got judged.  Our parades were judged.  

The world of competitive marching bands for a high schooler is vastly different.  You get yourself bonded to a group of people and you stay bonded.  I was closer to my bandmates than I was to the guys I played football or wrestled with.  In fact, the sports people picked on me and made fun of me.  The band people accepted me.  

I come from a musical family yet I'm tone-deaf.  I'm the only one, too.  My family used to gather around and sing.  Sure, they'd be drunk, and the songs would be old and boring, but it was tradition and had meaning for them.  I tried to join.  I wanted to join.  As a 6 or 7 year-old child, I wanted to be a part of the family.  But because I was tone-deaf, I was told to shut up.  My mom got mad at me and said I was throwing everybody off.  

So I wasn't allowed to be in that tradition.  

Instead, those songs remind me of having a headache, being tired, and wanting to go home.  Songs like "Good Morning Starshine" make me thing of drunken aunts slurring and bossing me around.  It reminds of me not being able to watch tv because it was too loud but not being able to join the group because I sucked.  

My grandfather was a musician.  He had a band called Farold and his Bluebirds and they played in the speakeasies own by Al Capone during Prohibition.  He played the french horn, I believed.  He was highly talented.  

My mom was the music director at our church for over a decade.  Then my aunt took over for about as long, if not longer.  Another aunt made a career in music and has several albums.  It's what the family does.  

But I was talentless in music.  So when the band director at my high school wanted me to join up, it seemed like the legit offer and something I should do.  And I was going to be on the drum line.  

They put me on a fucking bass drum.  I was pissed off about that.  But because the rest of our drumline had no sense of rhythm, I was the metronome for the whole band.  Our section leader, John, had no rhythm whatsoever.  He was so poor, he used to fuck up rim-shots as the band marched into position.  

But as a unit, our drumline was amazing.  Far better than anything in the area.  Our drumline coach, Romero, was awesome.  And he taught us to be serious at our craft.  Romero also took me aside, and we did a lot of one-on-one work when I did timpani solos in music competitions.  Through him, I learned rudiments and the basics.  

I wanted to do more.  I wanted a drum kit of my own and I wanted to play in a rock band.  But that was forbidden to me and when you're 14 years old, some things are just that way.  It never stopped the dreams, though.  

Our band competed in field shows and parades during the summer.  We went on tour and played all over Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.  We slept in gymnasiums and lived on McDonald's.  

The long hours under the sun wearing a heavy drum weren't nearly as bad as one might think.  The worst of it was our band director.  She was chemically imbalanced and a rage addict.  She and her father were terrors in the music education world and nobody dealt with them if they could avoid it. In fact, she would lie and break rules flagrantly but nobody would call her on it because of her behavior.  

Dealing with The Director was an exercise in studying a person's disposition and waiting for the next explosion.  You knew it was coming, but you never knew what would set her off.  But we put up with it.  Our entire band was made up of kids who would rather deal with her than go home because home was that much worse.  Home was alcoholism, abuse, neglect, and pain.  

The rages only lasted a few minutes and then she would be okay until the next one. 

Big things were okay but minor things would cause her to scream and rage without mercy. Sometimes she would grab students.  

But not me.  

Funny story:  We had a parade to do in Dixon.  We were rushed to load the vans and we were always running behind anyways, but this time was worse.  We had been doing field show practice and The Director never kept track of time very well.  She was horrible at time management.  So of course, we practiced too long, and we weren't prepared to pack and go to 20 miles down the road to Dixon for a parade.  We get there, and our bass drum carriers, the harness we wear over our shoulders to hold the drums, were missing.  They had been left back in the school's music room.  

The Director was already shouting and getting angry at everybody because it was our fault she was terrible at time management and organization.  Rage addicts normally blame others for situations they created.  So, this time, as her anger built, the inevitable rage explosion was visibly coming.  We walked on eggshells but then somebody had to tell her the harnesses for the bass drums were back in the music room.  That did it.  

The Director, in a predictable rage, went to grab a student and throttle them.  Sadly, the nearest student was me.  Big, six-foot tall, 235lbs, weightlifting, wresting team, me.  She moved towards me, her arms reaching out, only to look up at me and realize there was no fucking way she was putting her hands on me.  None.  I had already decided that if she did, I would go ahead and oblige her engagement in physical confrontation and she would lose badly and painfully.  

So no, she stopped in her tracks, backed up, moved about ten feet to her left and grabbed a much smaller David.  He had a lot of nicknames.  John the drumline leader (and her favorite) nicknamed him Paco Moreno.  And Senior Satan.  I'll tell the reason for that later on.  But no, she grabbed and throttled poor David.  

It was antics like that I couldn't stand.  Several times a day she would freak out and just explode, screaming at the top of her lungs at us.  She did it in front of other bands, spectators, anybody.  During tours, we would have a practice field to use for a scheduled time after our parade.  One hour.  
Other bands used to watch us practice just to watch her freak out.  And then they stopped after feeling sorry for us.  Other band members from different bands would come to us later on and express how bad they felt that we had to deal with such bullshit.  

One time, she was in the middle of a rage fit, and she fell down on the ground, kicking and screaming.  

But aside from all of that, there was something incredible about being on tour.  The hot summer nights, the new smells, new sights, watching the other bands, it created a magical time.  

We used to sit in drum circles and meet other band's drumlines.  We would sit and chat.  We were open and outgoing, encouraging each other, trading stories.  It was at that time in my life when I first had some girl cuddle up next to me.  It was the first time in my life some girl openly gave me a hug because she was so happy to see me.  It was the first time a girl was happy to see me, for that matter.  

In my high school, I wasn't well-liked.  Girls used to treat me like I was a gross, disgusting piece of shit.  They would make exaggerated facial expressions and stick out their tongues.  In high school, I never had a single date and I never went to a single homecoming or prom.  Nobody wanted to go to a dance with me.  

But that summer, it was different.  That summer, I felt a connection with people.  I felt acceptance. There was a belonging and camaraderie.  We were all eclectic, unique people with artistic personalities.  We were expressive and exuberant.  And we knew we could be ourselves in that culture and still be accepted.  I no longer felt like a loser or that I wasn't good enough to be in a group of people.   

It was the first time for that acceptance for me.  It was the first time for so much.  I can still hear some of the bands play their field shows.  I can still hear certain drum line bits for various songs.  I can still smell the grass and the way the night air smelled so differently from home.  

That summer taught me something important.  That summer, I learned that it's okay to be creative.  It's okay to be different.  And it's okay to be artistic.  Plus, I learned that maybe it wasn't me that was the problem at school.  Maybe, it was them.  Maybe.  

I eventually left the band.  The director was a nutjob who played headgames.  She was of poor character and no integrity.  It just became too much.  

But I stayed in contact with a few people, sending letters back and forth for a few months.  And those lessons gave me a lot of traction in life.  

The other night, I was outside, feeling the warm air.  It brought me back to those nights in Wisconsin, a girl I was close to under my arm, her head resting on my shoulder, as we just enjoyed the night together.  I went back inside, went on youtube, and pulled up videos of various drum corps and their drumlines.  That night, PBS played a documentary about the Madison Scouts, a drum and bugle corps out of Madison.  They showed practice sessions that reminded me of our long, hot music camps.  And each person had a gold tan and bleached hair.  

I used to have drum sticks and a practice pad.  It'd play on that for hours.  Over the course of my many moves, they were lost or stolen.  I decided the other day I'm going to replace them.  It's time to get my chops back for no other reason than I enjoyed it.  And most importantly--I'm going to seek out other local writers just so I can be with my own.  

This summer, I'm going to spend more time with artists.  It's been far too long since I've done that and it's badly needed.  I'm going to seek out places with artistic vibes and go there because that's a place where people like me are accepted for who we are.  It's where people like me belong.      

Friday, May 19, 2017

Get Off My Phone!

Holy shit!  Tonight was a rough night at work.

Most of you know what I do to keep rent paid and no, it doesn't involve me shoving things up my arse.  But sometimes it might as well.

It's call center work.  The wonderful world of answering phone calls from people who think they know what they're doing but really don't.  People who are cowards and bullies and have nothing better to do in their lives but shit on somebody who can't fight back.

Working at a call center is like being tied to a tree with tissue paper while somebody's shithead 10 year-old runs around you after a kool-aid sugar buzz, around and around, laughing and saying stupid shit to you.  He's breathing through his mouth because of all the snot running down his nose and you just want to rip him apart.

I've worked a number of campaigns.  Cable, satellite, newspapers, satellite radio, mortgages.  I've done a lot over the years.  I can tell you that each campaign has a series of categories everybody falls into.

Right now, I'm taking calls for a sporting goods company, and keying orders for hunting and shooting supplies.  What I can tell you about that is this--I'm selling guns and ammunition to people who shouldn't even be allowed to use the phone unsupervised.

I sold a handgun to a blind man.

I sold about $1500 in ammunition to somebody so messed up he could barely speak, never uttered a complete sentence during the entire call, and had extreme difficulty giving me his full name and address.  Yet somehow, his credit card worked, and he was able to buy 2000 rounds of 9mm hollow points, and I forget how many rounds of 5.56.

It's insane how ignorant some people sound on the phone.  I always get a mental picture of what they look like or who they are based on how they sound.  I've had shitheads call in to buy machetes I swear they'll use in a massacre of children later on.  I've had fucktards buy air rifles and you just know they'll shoot their eye out.

People aren't nearly as diverse as we like to assume.  We all fall into some category or another.  We're not snowflakes.  So when some shithead finds his or her way on to my phone, I know right away they'll fall into some category or another.

You people aren't nearly as unique as you think you are.

The spoiled mama's boy who always gets his way or he'll huff and puff and throw a tantrum.  What?  I don't get free shipping?  But I always get free shipping!

I talk to a lot of loners.  Men who aren't married and probably never were or will be.  Or men who were left by their wives because it's clear they had the class of a junkyard dog.  Men who sit in the dark, watching old westerns, and just want to go hunting.

There are men in this country who have their wives call in because they're so incompetent the simple act of having a phone in their hands while talking is just too much.  Half of those idiots tell their wives what to do the whole time, so you hear the shithead in the background while their wives struggle to just get this simple order placed.

I despise people who do that.  Nothing pisses me off quite like trying to talk to somebody while I hear a shithead in the background saying shit to me.  It's rude.  Shut the fuck up while somebody else is talking.  If you have something to say, pick up the goddamned phone, speak into the phone like an adult, be a man about it.

And it's always men who do that.  In all of my years of call center work, I can only think of once or twice a woman behaved like that.  But then again, women have their own quirks.

I have to tell you a story.  Years ago, I was selling cable, and it was an in-bound campaign.  People would call a number on a flier that was mailed out and we'd try to get them to leave Verizon or AT&T for Comcast.  Most of it was New Jersey and Maryland.

So one day, this guy from New Jersey called in.  He had Verizon.  I went through the process and about halfway through, his wife started chiming in from the background.  At first, she was okay with everything, but not really interested.  As the call progressed, we figured out that I could save these people about $180 a month on their cable, internet, and telephone bills.  But the guy's wife had gotten more and more bitchy.

By the end of the call, she was full-on screaming her head off.  She was cussing and raving.  He even offered to hand her the phone so she could talk to me but she refused.  Instead, she just got angrier and angrier, frothing at the mouth, screaming nonsense and gibberish.  I wish I had that call recorded just so I could play it for you.

At the end, the guy couldn't even talk to me, because she was screaming so much.  And so he apologized, which made her even more furious, and she screamed at him to just hang up the phone.

I want you to hear that call.  I want her name boldly plastered on this blog so her behavior could be made public.  I think everybody who behaves like that should be publically shamed and humiliated.

Today, a man called me.  I asked him a simple question:  Are you placing your order from the catalog or the website.  It's simple and kinda something we need to know because it makes a difference in pricing and makes the ordering process faster.

His response?

"I just hung up on somebody for harassing me like that and I guess you're just gonna harass me, too.  I hope this call is recorded."  And then he hung up.

He then called back in, got another agent, and about three minutes later, called me back and demanded to be transferred to customer service.

I want to have a recording of that call and I want to make his name public.  He was obviously a goofy fucker with some kind of mental problem.  Most likely, inbreeding was an issue in his family, and that's why he acted like he needed a beating with a baseball bat.  But laws being what they are, I'm not allowed to do that.  My employer would never agree to something like that and smuggling those calls would most likely get me sued.

This is the problem with customer service these days--there's really no way to get back at bad people. If there was, though; if there was a way to get even with shitty customers who act like fucking morons, the game would change and people would act differently.  They would behave better and no longer behave like mentally deficient inbreed fucktards.

One time, I had a guy call in and get really personal with me.  He wanted to know about options in changing his account.  There weren't many and it would only save him a dollar or two.  He got personal with me.  Very personal, in fact, telling me I was having an off-day and a few other things.  Then, he hung up.

I Googled him after the call only to find he was a Baptist preacher in Oregon.  The piece of shit was supposedly a man of God and yet he was one of the most insulting people to ever call me.  That guy needs to be publically shamed.  He needs his face and name plastered all over, along with a recording of the call, so everybody could hear just what kind of piece of shit he was, and how he treats people.

He was as much of a Christian as I am a bird.

But the laws don't allow it.  Those calls belong to the employer and it would be illegal for me to post them.  I'm certain that if a few of us started posting calls, though, more would gain the courage to do so as well, and we could start a trend.  The grim reality of how pathetic some people are would be plastered all over the interwebs for all to hear.

Two months ago, I took a call from a guy who acted like every single syllable I said pissed him off. Just the act of asking him his name irritated him beyond measure.  He was an asshole the whole way through.  He deserves to be famous.

Call center work develops a healthy hatred of humanity because we're not allowed to say what we really think to people who do desperately deserve it.

Like the woman in St. Louis, who called me, and demanded to speak to somebody in India because when she needed help, she spoke to an Indian who couldn't speak English but when Charter Cable wanted to sell her something, she always spoke to an American.  She was a real cunt about it, too.

I wrote her name and address down.  I want to get even.  It's been nine years and I still want to get even.

Or the asshole cop who called me, bitching about how Charter was maniacally robo-calling people several times a day, seven days a week.  I had no control over that.  None of us did.  Charter is a shitty company with shitty leadership so does shitty things to people.  If you have a problem with that, cancel their fucking services.  Or better yet, file a lawsuit.  Why in the fuck would you call a sales hotline and bitch to them about it?  And the piece of shit kept telling me how he was a cop and blah blah blah.  I fucking hate cops anyways, so why would I care?  And then he played the shitty Guilt Card by telling me he was recently at a funeral for an officer who died in the line of duty and got a call during the procession from Charter.

Why in the fuck didn't you turn your phone off or put it on mute?

But no, Officer Shithead was too busy trying to make me feel guilty.  Didn't work, either.

I could go on and on.  The insanity of a it all, the crazy people who call in, the rude pieces of shit who think they can say what they want just because you aren't allowed to be rude, it all just adds up to a portrait of how this world is a giant manure pit.  Humanity is garbage and many of us deserve to be beaten severely or shot in the dick with bean bags.

There has to be some kind of payback we can do.  There has to be some kind of way to get even with these people.

I'm going to keep working on it.  And when I do, everybody on my shitlist will get their just rewards.

I will have my revenge and it will be glorious!