Monday, October 8, 2012

Victory & Associates: Tour Life: Beginnings Are Forever

October 5, 2012


And so here I am, back on the road with Conan Neutron: Word Yeller.

Victory and Associates rolled into  Denver from SLC on Tuesday night, performing to a crowd of 10. Neutron's new ("new") band is Victory and Associates, a quartet of music nerds with an arena-ish feel, though not an arena sound. No power ballads here, just good ole smart people in a rock band melting your face off.

Denver was a lowkey affair, a Tuesday night at Lost Lake Lounge. Denver locals Hooper opened (crowd size: 14!)
So, tour is good, Denver was boring, post-show tacos were uneventful, V&A crashing at my place was uneventful.
We rolled out on time the next morning, grabbing bagels and coffee, then hit the road. Before we knew it, we were boned. No one had been paying attention to how we left Colorado - bleah bleah bleah to 80! 80 to Des Moines! And so, it was about 2 hours out on 70 before we realized that we were on the wrong highway system. We should've gotten on 76 straight out of town, but, well, too late now. Instead, we took the scenic route north though Hoxie, Kansas (population: Village of the Children of the Damned. No one about anywhere save for 10 kids along the main drag that stared as us incredulously as we lumbered by, cuising along at the town's generous 20mph speed limit.), into Nebraska, and straight on to Des Moines. The boys rushed in, set up, and banged out another furious 9 song set to a crowd of literally 10s.
Ugh. Another tour entry that sounds like crap before I've even written it. Last time I did this, out with Replicator, the journals turned into 5000 word epic tomes. Thorough, but heady and rambly. In trying to avoid that this time around, I've landed at....boring. Ugh.

It's different, this time out. Last time I was with Replicator, tour was a series of unending, unyielding stories, moments that needed to be captured and preserved in perpetuity. This time, it's more relaxed. Fewer momentous events, more prolonged interactions. I could recount them, but they'd be meaningless. They're quips and banter, stories that build upon themselves to form a mythology.
Time loses meaning on tour. Hours bleed into each other, lasting forever, passing fleetingly. It's hard to describe this, and I don't mean it in some winsome, every moment is precious sort of way. I've been out with V&A for 3 nights, and already the boys can't remember what life on the road looked like without me. Events that have happened, stories are told, they assume that I was just there for. They think back to last week, and it seems a lifetime ago. Brooklyn, the end of their line, is 5 days from now. It seems so far in the future that it's nearly incomprehensible. The fact that I'll have been replaced in the van by their other guitarist, Shane, is the furthest thing from anyone's mind.
How could there be any more than right now, than the road ahead of us and the upcoming show tonite? Do this thing. Then do the next thing. It sounds plodding, but it's the mindset necessary to get through it. 800 miles on the road. Set up. Rock out. Break down. Sleep. Coffee. 800 miles on the road. Repeat. Staying in the now isn't just function, it's survival. (And by now, I mean a James Brown parody introduction to their radio slot this afternoon. Internationally known as the sweatiest band in show business, dozen selling Latest Flame recording artists, Victory and Associates!)
The pace is necessary, exhilarating, exhausting. It's untenable, to be sure, but that doesn't matter, in the now. There's a certain freedom in it. Not thinking about home, about your "real life," you're able to accomplish and experience things that are beyond the ordinary. Every night, with new crowds, new strangers, new friends that you'll maybe never see again, is no holds barred. Every night gets all that you have to give. You only have one chance to impress Hoxie, Kansas, so you'd better make it good. In the night, with the noise and the crowd, there is, for 9 whole songs, only possibility, only yes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Online Dating: The Drinking Game

A few years ago, in the midst of a dateless streak that had lapped sad and looped itself around to sadly funny, my best friend and I had a conversation comparing our experiences with online dating. This is the result of that conversation. You built this, humanity. You built this.

Disclaimer: Works best with OkCupid, use with Plenty Of Fish may cause immediate alcohol poisoning. I am not responsible for poor decisions made as a result of playing. If there's anything you feel like we've left out, comments are open & I'm ready to edit.

The rules: Go to an online dating site. Start looking at profiles. Try not to retch. Begin drinking as instructed below.

Take a drink:
First correspondence is a single word.
Email asks question that is already obviously answered in your profile.
Email obviously ignores things you mentioned in your profile.
Message is from a user gratuitously outside your age/location preferences.
Email uses the phrase "like your pic," "you're hot," or similar.
- If that's all the email says, 2 drinks.
If it is blatantly fetishizing your appearance, 2 drinks.
- If the email is intended for an adult audience, 3 drinks

Take 2 drinks:
User claims to speak non-native languages, then doesn't understand simple greetings in them.
Use of the phrase (in email or in profile) "now you know everything you need, hit me up.”
User emails you more than twice, despite a voiced disinterest OR complete lack of response on your part.
- Every email received (unprompted) after the 2nd, take a drink
User responds to rejection with threats/insults, chug, block, report.

Language Comprehension:
Take a drink if the profile features:
Intentional spelling errors (Ex: Ur, whut, wut, gurl, etc.)
Earnest use of chatspeak (Ex: LOL, ROFL, n00b, t3h, etc)
User's misuse of grammar is so consistent as to be intentional. (Ex: An entire profile without apostrophes.)
Profile showcases overall willful ignorance re: grammar, sentence structure.
- if user claims to be in school, drink twice.

Profile Pictures:
Take a drink:
Group picture that doesn't specify which one is the user.
User is pictured with their car/motorcycle.
Picture of a place user has been with no people in it.
Picture of user’s animals instead of user.
Picture of user drinking and looking "cool” or “partying.”
Picture is a "MySpace" shot or includes "kissyface"/"duckface."

Take 2 drinks:
Picture includes a datestamp
- If datestamp is 5 years ago or more, take a shot.
Picture of user in Halloween costume
- If costume is sexy/racist, take a shot.
- If costume is sexy AND racist, chug, post to reddit.

Take 1 shot:
Picture fails to include entire face.
Picture taken in a mirror.
User refuses to post a picture because they don't want anyone they know to know that they're online dating or any other clearly cop-out/restraining order-esque reason.
Cheesecake picture of user in their military uniform, surrounded by guns.
Decapitated picture of abs.
- If an arm is holding the shirt up instead of just being shirtless, 2 shots.
- If the user is clearly on steroids, and/or an unnatural shade of orange, 2 shots, swear to wear sunscreen every day for the rest of your life.

For any of the above while wearing a fedora, double the drinking.

Profile Information:
Take a drink:
Profile describes user as "just a normal guy/girl.”
Profile describes user as "laid-back."
Use of the phrase "I like all kinds of music, except for rap/country/classical” or similar.
Profile uses quotes a well known comedy routine/movie/book etc instead of actually writing about themselves/for themselves.
- If the quote is unattributed, drink twice.
Profile states "I'm new to this, lol, I don't know what to say" or similar.
- Types gibberish to get site to accept profile/meet length requirements, drink twice
- “About me” section is 5 sentences or less, drink twice, cry.
Lists something as a "guilty pleasure, LOL!!!!!”
Uses more than 2 exclamation points in succession.
Loves to read, but doesn't really have time to.
Use of the phrase "I am awesome.”
User confuses "talents" with "basic human functions." (Ex: I am really good at: sleeping, laughing, eating.)

User has confused "Dom" with "just an asshole." 
Profile includes sexual innuendo.

- Actually, it's not innuendo at all. - 2 drinks.
- Also, it's their profile name. Chug.

Take 2 drinks:
Description of self includes "I like to hang out (with friends) and/or watch movies and/or have a good time.”
They’re 30-something and their only career goals/aspirations involve "massage therapist."
- There is a standing offer to let them practice their technique on you.  Take a shot.
Doesn't like to read/doesn't really like books.
Claims to have no baggage.
Just looking for a woman to spoil/treat like a queen (conversely, just looking for a guy who will treat them right.)
Longform rant about how people of their preferred gender identity are all liars/cheaters
Tries to use their involvement in reality television (or people they know who are in reality television) as selling points.

Take a shot:
If religious beliefs mentioned in profile are directly contradictory to activities mentioned/shown in profile.
Profile mentions that they have kids, but states that "they never see them/other parent is out of the picture" as a selling point/pro.
- If under 24, 1 drink for every kid they have.

Profile states that user has a really great sense of humor/is really funny, but fails to express any grasp whatsoever of such a concept. (Alternative: User claims to be sarcastic, warns away other users who are "easily offended.")

Take a drink:
Looking for someone "who has a lot in common with me.”
Profile only states what they're looking for and nothing about themselves.
User is over 30, "looking for" is 18-21.

Take 2 drinks:
They love to party, but are looking for a "good (religion) girl/guy.”
Has "play/anything I can get" checked while citing a lengthy list of wholesome criteria a potential mate needs to meet.
User is VERY SPECIFICALLY not looking for “cheaters/whores/drama bombs!”
User is "deeply religious" but are looking for mates of any religion.User has different criteria for their own personal health/appearance versus their mate's. (Ex: I hate exercise, you must be thin.)

Take 1 shot:
User is "in a relationship" looking for "single" mates (only applicable if it's not primarily that kind of website.)
Explicitly mentions furries.  (Pro or con, doesn't matter.) (Also, see above.)

You've exchanged a few messages, you think they're witty and charming and attractive, you'd like to take this offline... then they delete their profile without saying a word.
Drink the whole damn bottle. GOTO Correspondence.

Monday, September 10, 2012

World Suicide Prevention Day: How To Care for Your Stiricide

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (Suicide Awareness Day, if you're the internet), and as all my social media feeds flood with helpful-but-frustratingly-generic tips for how you can help someone who is depressed, I can't help but think: who is this actually helping? And how is this helping them?

Because the thing is, unless you're up close and personal with someone, it can be pretty hard to tell the difference between "kinda sad" and "sitting in a bathtub wondering what else you can use that razor blade for." It can be hard to know when you need to reach out - and even harder to know what form that reaching should take.

For me, if I'm functioning through my depression, no one else will notice it. Because for as much as I hurt, I don't want to be a burden on anyone else in my life.

The LAST thing I ever want when I'm at the bottom of my own personal pit, is for anyone to tell me "It'll be ok." "You're strong, you'll get through this." Or my favourite, eternally, from my mother, "Did you take your meds today?" I have been through this before. I don't need you to offer me platitudes or patronize me. I don't need suggestions based in cool rationality, or reassurances that are foreign to the point of impossible. (I live with depression. It will never be "ok." It will, sometimes, be somewhere between slightly and significantly less shitty. But it will never be "ok.")

When I'm sinking to the bottom, the last thing I want is platitudes, or unattainable hope, or obvious yet impossible advice. All I want is a single thing to momentarily distract me from the bottomless abyss that I'm still trying to find the end of. Not a life changing epiphany or a new raison d'ĂȘtre. Not a phone number to call that will require an enormous amount of emotional energy that I do not currently possess. All I want is a fucking lifeline*A tiny thing that I can momentarily glom on to - that will, with any luck, lead to another tiny thing, and then another tiny thing. (Eventually, all these very tiny things will gradually lead me out of the waters.) 

Do you want to actually help your maybe possibly too depressed to function friend? Take a deep, scary look at who your friend is and how they function on the regular. Prepare yourself for possible and likely inevitable rejection. Don't get offended when that happens. Try not to offer them help in a form that they wouldn't appreciate when they're at "normal" - they'll appreciate it even less when they're in the hole.

But if you want specifics, I'm not sure if I can give them to you. Every person is different, and everyone has their own lifelines. If that friend is me, though, here's a short list of what you can do:

Send me pictures of otters.

Ohhai there.
In fact, you should do this whether or not you think I'm in the hole. Spontaneous otters are code for "I'm thinking about you. I like you. I hope you're well."

But seriously, "Otter Day" is my public access code for "things are no good, ship has been abandoned." It is both a cue to send me a lifeline (pictures of otters are just one), as well as a heads up that things are, well, not ok. Saying "I am not ok, I need help" - literally, in those words (which seem to be the only words that people think have any validity when talking about these things) - never stops being terrifying and next to impossible. So I have code words.

Otter Day.

That's what that means.

- Invite me out to take a walk.

North Boulder Park shot by Ann Cantelow
Somewhere safe, nearby, and normal. Somewhere inside my comfort zone.
Not a hike, not to go dancing, not to have coffee. I can't handle extended human interaction, I'm ashamed to show my face in public. I can't handle a challenge. But I can put on some pants and walk around the block with someone I trust. Though the pants part may take some cajoling.

Show up, uninvited, bearing food that I will eat.

I may be able to shove a Wheat Thin in my mouth,
but I will not be able to make myself an actual meal.
When I'm in my hole, I lose my appetite. I'm too tired too cook, then I'm too sad to cook, then I'm too disappointed in myself to even try. If you haven't seen me in a few days and suspect that I may be sinking, feed me. Probably protein.

But what if you have a friend that isn't me? The only thing I can tell you is, be their friend. Don't assume that the things that work for you to get out a minor funk (or for me to get out of a major one) will necessarily work for them.

Don't treat them like they're an idiot, or like you know how to fix this better than they do. (I can't tell you how many times I've had people suggest that I exercise/take a bath/watch a fun movie/get laid. Just because something is the right answer for you doesn't make it a universal truth. Also, if it's that obvious, your depressed friend has probably already thought of it. 'Cause they're smart, right? Isn't that why you're friends?) Think about who they are, and how they are, and do what you can do to be good to them, in a way that they would appreciate.

Keep trying. Be the best lifeline you can be.

*Of course, if this is the first time, or if it just feels like the first time, they've been down this road, be supportive. Let them know that there are options for them. And help them find out what those options are. Odds are, they don't know what their health plan will cover, or who to call to find out, or even how to set up an appointment with a therapist. If depression comes with a side of anxiety and phone-phobia the way it does for me, they may not even be able to make those calls. If you want to come to the table with advice or options, makes sure you know as much as possible, and have taken as much of the legwork out of things as you can. YMMV, of course, but information and preparedness is always my favourite.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

5 Good Things (That Mask the Smell of Rotting Fish): Keeping Perspective While Drowning in Depression

Being depressed sucks. It's no fun to write about, and it's even less fun to live.

I've spent the last week viewing the world from, as my dad calls it, "under the waves." Everything is kind've grey and murky down here, and smells a little bit like rotted fish.

The tint and the smell (and the general feeling that everything I have, ever, or will do is a colossal disappointment, both to myself and the world) makes it hard to see the bright spots.

But there are bright spots.

So, taking a page from Gala Darling and her treatise on Radical Self Love, I'm going to try to keep perspective, and to make a list of 5 good things that happen to me on these days.

Here's yesterday's list:
1. Got stuck at a train crossing.
2. Talked to an old friend from the record company.
3. Dangled my feet in a pool.
4. Went out for frozen yogurt with friends.
5. Helped welcome a friend's new nephew to the world with inappropriate Justin Bieber pictures.
Had a formal reading of The Hunger Games Cookbook in the aisle of the supermarket. Featured such instructions as "Take 1 tree rat. Divide into pieces."

I'm not sure if these things make up for the rest of my miserable, rotting-fishy day, but it's probably good for me to try and keep perspective. Not all my days are spent under the waves. Eventually, I'll break the surf. I always do.

Thanks, Hallmark Cards, Inc.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back to Basics

It's August, which, if you're me, really only means one thing - roller derby, thank sweet merciful Xenu, is back in season.

The Rebels have been back on skates now for about 4 weeks, easing our (wonderful, splendid, huge) class of fresh meat into the world of derby.

Getting back on skates is a bit odd for me, this season - in a good way. Since May, I've been taking classes/working out at The Bar Method, a workout that "integrates the fat burning format of interval training, the muscle shaping technique of isometrics, the elongating principles of dance conditioning, and the science of physical therapy to create a revolutionary new workout that quickly and safely reshapes your entire body."

I don't know about "reshaping my body," (if anything, my jeans fit tighter now than they used to - maybe my muscles are bulky? Idk.), but I'm definitely noticing a difference in my skating.

When the winter season ended back in May, I was skating like I always had - competently, but getting super winded after any form of sprinting, and generally feeling like the time I spent off skates (see: being a schlub) was just neutralizing any effort I was putting in to actually, y'know, skating.

Then Bar Method offered a free intro class, and I figured, what the hell. I'd heard about it from friends, and thought it sounding like a relatively sane (don't get me started on the cult of crossfit), low impact way to stay in shape/get in better shape for derby.

And, y'know, I think it's working. Bar Method spends a lot of time working on building core muscle groups, especially, in my case, in my wiggly jiggly thighs and calves. So when I got back on skates in July, and suffered through our first endurance practice - well, yeah, I got winded, just like everyone else. But it took me a few laps longer than usual to hit that fatigue point.

There are other differences, too. Instead of lolling around when we're doing a Four Corners drill or some such, I'm making an active effort to keep my body engaged. Leg lifts, planks, crunches, whatever, I'm now the asshole in the corner that you all hate, doing extra work.

I'm getting lower, and I can stay low for that much longer, thanks to all the thigh-stretchy things we've been doing in Bar. And because Bar Method really focuses on posture & balance, getting low looks less like me hunching over like a troll - and skating looks less like me tottering around like a Weeble-Wobble.

Four weeks in to this season, and I'm really liking what Bar is doing for me. I'm also really liking that I've proactively stepped up my game, all by myself. (I'm terrible at self motivation, going to the gym, etc etc etc. That's all probably for another post. Point is, this thing I'm doing is huge for me.) I wish I could be skating more, but that's just not in the cards right now. For now, I'm pretty pleased with where things are.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Anxiety Nightmares (& Dreamscapes)

Anxiety isn't something that you can turn on or off. If you're like me, it persists well past the awake part of your day, and shows up, frustratingly, in your subconscious. Nothing says "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" like a night full of anxiety fueled nightmare, right? Right.

Snippets from my anxiety dreams this past weekend:

- I pull into the Einstein Bros parking lot. Some dude in a Nissan Cube is blaring Beastie Boys. Everyone in the shop is singing along. Dude looks at me, glares, and swings his car in front of mine (both of us still legally in the space) and glares at me some more, then pulls out. The rest of the shop glares at me, keep singing; I have no idea what I did wrong.

- I walk into the (same but different) shop, catching a climpse of someone who may be my bff of the last 27 years through the window. I walk in and, yep, it's her. Only she's doing (statistics?) homework with a pretty blonde girl, and won't tell me why she's in Colorado. She barely speaks to me, and seems put out that I'm speaking to her. She promises to call me later, but I don't believe her. The bagel counter has closed while I'm talking to her, so I walk out, hungry and unsettled.

- My apartment, but not my apartment. Bigger, prettier. As I settle in, I realize that small things are oddly out of place. My computer is at a strange angle, and has a bunch of those wrist/mouseguard pads strewn around it. My dresser is askew. There's an overhanging lamp where there wasn't before. I walk into my living room, and my coffee table is gone. I walk outside, and everything seems normal (except for there being 8 units in my building instead of 6), my coffeetable is out on the walk way. No one has seen anything, no one knows what's going on. Eventually, a van pulls up around the corner (a corner that doesn't exist in real life) and a tall, thin, scary looking contractor-dude comes out. He tells me that he's replacing all my furniture. I question him intensely, he is hesitant to tell me that my landlord sent him. Eventually my landlord shows up, in a truck, with his mom and sisters making christmas decorations in the back of it. They angrily insist that I help them while the men empty my stuff out of the apartment. The sister is angrier and angrier that they're not repossessing my car as well, even though my landlord has no claim to it. They try to take my computer as well. I tell my landlord I'm going to need a formal notice of eviction, and he laughs at me. Inside, 3 people my age (2 girls, I think I know, 1 I don't know, 1 friend of a friend who is in an improv troupe back home) are planning what they'll do with the property when they move in. They discuss calling my friend B to live with them as well. I'm appalled that they'd even consider him, let alone laugh about me being homeless, while I'm right there. They continue laughing at me.

- A different my apartment/not my apartment. A friend that looks like S (in bad overdramatic gothish makeup), too tall for the boyish, 1800s-esque clothes he's wearing, is yelled at by his mother. We go outside where a woman who looks like the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty is standing regal and tall. She informs him that he is her real son, and will be coming with her. I am left alone, and informed by the groundskeeper that her other son, the human son she stole (not S, the changeling/real son) from the 14th century, is buried under the house. I will be joining him/taking his place. As I walk down the stairs to the sub-level apartment, I see credits rolling for a movie that is a collection of adaptations of short stories by DH Lawrence. I am, apparently, actually in this movie.

Is there a common theme running through any of those? Besides not understand what's going on as a participant in each dream, I'm not sure. Stress about fitting in? Maybe. (Are you a dream interpreter? Let's chat.)

The good news is that with time and distance, I can shake the cobwebs of residual reality that these dreams leave me with. My best friend doesn't hate me. I'm the maid of honor at her wedding, for chrissake. I'm not getting evicted. I've been living in the same place for the last 4 years, and my landlord thinks I'm a super easy tenant. And I'm definitely not a bit player in a crummy adaptation of a D.H. Lawrence story (though S definitely might be.)

I just need to remember that as real as they can feel, anxiety dreams do not, cannot, manifest in reality. 

Unless I let them.

Which I have no intention of doing.

Because D.H. Lawrence is awful.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Update: Aurora

I had a blog post ready to go, in the midst of everything on Friday. But it didn't feel right. It felt speculative, inconclusive. Like I was missing something.

So I followed the newscycle, saw some roller derby, and kept thinking about it. I ate some kale chips, and kept thinking.

In the middle of those kale chips, I got an email from a friend. One of our friends was in that theatre in Aurora. He didn't make it out.

Now, I don't know what to think. Everything I was writing before still feels like it was on the right track, but now I have bigger things to contemplate.

I only knew the dude in passing. We played some Fireball Island, maybe shared a drink. The media vultures want to know what kind of person he was: he was the kind of person who went to Starfest and midnight movie premieres, and nerded out just as hard and as deeply as the rest of us. And then what. I have other friends who were, are, much closer. I'm more worried about them.

Mostly, I wait with the rest of Colorado, for answers that will be slow in coming, trying to make sense of this terrible thing. I hug my friends, and try to live the lives we've always lived. We're too far too be devastated, close enough to be walking around half-dazed. I cuddle the dog they're looking after, til his parents and girlfriend have the time to think about all the little details that his absence leaves.

I wait for details about funeral arrangements, avoid vigils that will make me uncomfortable. I try not to pick fights on the internet with PEOPLE that have OPINIONS who are hundreds, thousands, of miles away, a billion degrees removed. Everyone has a solution, a reason. I think about Koa, fancy-free, passed around from human to human this weekend, oblivious to everything, excited about new people, new dogs, new food and new smells. Does he know something is different? Or is he just going to keep trying to facefuck his new buddy-dog?

No answers. Just more questions.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blast From the Past: Strangers in Paradise

I wrote a super detailed post, then realized that all of the stories I was telling, weren't mine to tell.

I had an email exchange tonite with a dude that I haven't thought about in forever, about things that I hadn't thought about in just as long. I didn't think that there were loose ends surrounding any of it, but - well, I guess there were.

After spending the day with a low-level panic attack for about 12 hours, it's not what I was expecting, let alone expecting to snap me out of it. But there it was. Resolution over a situation that I hasn't even thought needed to be resolved.

It's strange, in some ways - I'm emotionally earnest with this dude in a lot of ways that I'm not with many other people. And really, we barely know each other, despite this huge thing we experienced together. Maybe that's why things worked out. I think we're both genuinely concerned about the things we're going through surrounding the way we met - and we can't really talk about them with anyone else. So if we're not honest with each other, who else is there?

As nervewracking as it was to actually write him back and to talk about all the stuff he's been going through, I'm glad I did it. I dealt with everything as carefully and respectfully as I know how to, and I'm pretty proud of me, for that. I don't think I'd've been able to do ANY of this a year ago.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Greatest Rape Joke Ever Told

No, really.

No, ok, look. I know there's been a lot of talk about rape, and rape jokes, and certain comic who (point of personal preference) has never actually been funny, this week. And all the rest of it. And then Jezebel, of all places, actually published a really great article that sums up the issues around rape, and jokes, and rape jokes, really well. If you haven't read it, go do that. I'll wait. (If you're lazy, the Cliff Notes: Yes, you can joke about rape, because most anything, in the right light, can be funny. It is extraordinarily difficult to joke about rape when you are making rape survivors the butt of the joke. Victim-blaming? In this situation, probably actually never funny. Moving on.)

Which brings us to: This past weekend, when my friend S accidentally spit out what might be the greatest rape joke I've ever heard.

Walking up the street to a bar that is hosting a rather hipster-centric dance night, S and Q and I notice a construction crew on the street we need to cross. They're resurfacing the crosswalk, laying down new crosswalk "paint" - actually strips of white asphalt-like substance that are more wear-resistant than paint. They do this by scrubbing/airblasting the old crosswalk off, then cleaning the space with a flammable cleanser, which they burn off with FLAMETHROWERS. These FLAMETHROWERS are single barreled, duel-nosed contraptions that send off an incredible burst of flame that flares out in a K-shape, with comically perfect flames, about 30 inches in whatever direction it's being pointed. Somehow, the flames always manage to extinguish just short of the operator's toes. This heats the street asphalt and gives the crosswalk asphalt something to adhere to. They lay the strips of crosswalk asphalt down, then go over them with the same flamethrower to melt the asphalts together. Another worker follows behind the flamethrower operator, spreading glass beads over the new surface. These give a tiny bit of traction to the crosswalk, as well as making it more reflective to drivers.

While this is all happening, the flames are spewing from the dueling flamethrowers (two dudes wielding a flamthrower each), a handful of hipsters, S + I included, are staring, fascinated, by SCIENCE happening. The construction crew, in neon yellow construction vests, glances up once or twice (especially at S and I, as we're standing on the same side of the street that they're working on, not 4 feet from their workspace) and glares. Clearly, giggling twenty-somethings are not the usual sort of nuisance they run in to while on these projects.

As I'm slackjawed at SCIENCE, two of the older, more bearded members of the crew look up at me staring like I've never seen a flamethrower before - and in turn, look at me like I'm some sort of fantastic buffoon, S turns to me and states, very matter of factly: "Well, if they didn't want anyone staring at them, they shouldn't be dressed like that."

And then I lose it and die laughing. Because THAT, universe, is what a funny rape joke looks like. You're not trivializing the victim. Heck, S didn't even need to say "rape." But by taking a well known trope of rape prevention/avoidance (even though, as most women know, how you dress has very little to do with whether or not you will be raped), and flipping it around at at a bunch of fully clothed burly men WIELDING FLAMETHROWERS (who are, in fact, attracting attention by wearing neon yellow clothes. Also, FLAMETHROWERS), you reach that glorious intersection of the Benign Violation Theory where humor takes place.

No one is hurt. No one is threatened. And we all got to see some really cool flamethrowers.

Comedians of the world, take note.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fear is the Mind Killer

I have no less than 20 entries queued up, but they're all crap. They're woebegotten crap. They're customer service epic fail crap. They're rambling stories that make no sense crap. I save them, shove them in the vault, and swear that I'll come back in a few hours, and edit them to something vaguely resembling coherency.

I never do. Because I'm a perfectionist, and they're crap.

All the while, the quadzillion other blogs I read keep racing past me, and 50 Shades of Fucking Grey is a bestseller.

I almost maybe totally believe that even the first draft shit I crank out is better than 50 Shades of Fucking Grey.

So. I can either:

Keep convincing myself that I'm a shit writer, and never write anything, ever. (This plan is awesome, insofar as it satisfies my Freeze instinct, which gives me that mild pleasure of base satisfaction by doing a thing that my body is naturally inclined to do when coping with difficulties, ie, nothing. It is largely a shit plan.)

Keep writing, sporadically, and burying everything I write in a poorly tagged, poorly organized slushpile where it will never see the light of day, but, hey, I WROTE things! (This plan is awesome, insofar as it satisfies my Flight instinct, where I see something wrong then scamper away in the other direction, because dealing with things is haaaaaaaard. It is also largely a shit plan.)

Publish ("publish," lol) things anyway, even if they're not perfect, because some content is better than no content? I don't know. I can't bring myself to subscribe to that one, because putting imperfect, poorly constructed entries (like this one! Oh, the irony!) out towards a bunch of internet strangers (web crawling bots) makes me feel like I'm failing. Letting someone (mostly myself) down.

I try to cram this in to last year's mantra of Do One Thing, and my brain overloads. How can I Do One Thing, when that one thing isn't good enough, isn't coherent enough? Of course, if I listened to that part of my brain while I was skating, I'd never do anything, ever.

So I'm publishing this, even though it's self indulgent and whiny, and I'm hoping that something about that action will break the gates, and allow me to start actually pushing out some of the writing that I've been doing.

It can't be worse than 50 Shades of Grey.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

For Later WREFerence...

I'm working a science conference down in Denver this week. Mostly I curate the presentations, and the scientists yell at me, since none of them can be bothered to read directions.

Some of them surprise me, though.

One man came all the way over here from Guangdong, China, to present his findings on Something Something Technical Something Solar Something Brewery. I don't speak Science, and he barely speaks English, and so conversations have been difficult.

On the first day of the con, he had tremendous difficulty figuring out the process for registration. We all tried to be helpful, but it was mostly a lot of hand waving and that thing that Americans do when, when someone can't understand us, we just talk slower and louder.

The next day, he chased a coworker and I down in the speaker's hallway, because he couldn't figure out where he was speaking. My coworker and I managed to deduce that he was presenting his paper in the Ignite format (20 slides, 15 seconds a slide) and immediately started to worry about him. We managed to convey his room number and date to him only through the gratuitous use of drawing alphanumerics in the air, and a lot of pointing at the schedule. Somehow, it all worked out. He was so thankful, he opened the box breakfast he'd picked up from somewhere, and began offering my coworker and I food by the handful. No matter how many times my coworker tried to be gracious and accept his gifts, there was always something else to be had. My coworker ended up with a fistful of bacon and another fistful of fruit. (I helped him eat it.)

We were just blown by the kindness and appreciation of this man, who had flown halfway around the world, knowing nobody, barely able to communicate with a whole other culture, to speak for 5 minutes at a tiny conference out in the mountains. His eagerness to meet people (we've since seen him palling around with many of the other conference attendees), his graciousness, and desire to learn (he is ALWAYS either in session or running to see something else) is incredible.

The next day, I walked into the staff room to find a bag of green tea sitting on my backpack. Confused, I turned to my coworker, looking at him quizzically. I'd been moaning about the lack of real tea near the conference center all week, so where had this miraculous gift come from? My coworker had run into our buddy that morning, who thrust this bag of tea at him, that he'd brought with him from his home provence and traveled around the world with, just to give it to a person who hadn't even gone out of their way for him , had simply been doing their job. My coworker, in turn, gave it to me. And when I heard the whole story from him, I started leaking happy tears, right then. I don't think our friend meant to be so pointedly thoughtful, but the serendipity of the gesture was just completely overwhelming to me.

I've found inspiration and strength in the strangest places this week - my new Chinese friend being one of them. In presenters eager for the challenge of an Ignite presentation, in my coworkers ability to function and be productive on less than no sleep, in their eagerness to work together and to get to know me and support me however they can, and even in the scientists, who are talking so far over my head I can barely keep up - but what I've learned has been incredibly insightful and even, dareisay, motivational.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Be Like Mike

I've been stuck in this rut lately, where I believed that life was a thing that just happened to me, not a thing that I  could get out and take control of, not a place where I could make things happen. I would lie back and think of England, only England was my entire existence, the whole universe.

It hasn't been a fun year, to say the least.

But I'm snapping out of it. Slowly but (hopefully) surely, I'm pushing myself, going out, doing things that make me happy, making things happen that make me a more complete, better person.

To be a painter, you must paint. To be a writer, you must write. To be a derby girl, you must strap stinky pads on, face down the world's dirtiest track, and skate and black and jam and turn left and fall down, and do it over and over and over again. Fill the track up with your booty blocks, your rage, your passion, your unquenchable desire to be Suzy Hotrod and Amanda Jamitinya and Carmen Getsome, all at once, even if it's only for a nanosecond.

And if I can do those things, face down my fears of getting hit and not hitting hard enough, of getting hurt and not getting back up, of not making it through the pack or not chasing down the jammer, then maybe, just maybe, I can face the world, too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gauging interest

So, here's this thing I've been mulling over lately:

What's the deal with coupon blogs? God, I sound like a bad Seinfeld skit. I love couponing as much, if not moreso, than your average broke-ish twenty-something... though, I suspect that that in itself might be the problem. Most coupon blogs are maintained by moms, or those with mom-like responsibilities. Not that there's a damn thing wrong with any of that, and I have nothing but respect for the bloggers who can somehow keep on top of every circular and coupon released every week. I frequent more than a handful of them on a regular basis. 

But I always feel like there's something, or someone, missing. Mainly, the voice of the broke-ish single twenty-something. I don't talk about my kids (what kids) or even my pets (what pets). I'm not going to go buy diapers, no matter how free they are, and making out like a bandit with all those stackable 10/$10 deals? Not gonna happen. Come on. I live in a 450 square foot apartment. I barely have a closet, let alone room (or need) for a stockpile. So I feel like there's room in that sphere for the voice of someone like me, someone who would be elated to be able to save mad cash at the liquor store, or needs to know where the best happy hours in town are, or how to snag free stuff from the coconut water company, not the baby formula company. I dunno. Someone who can make couponing and saving money cool-ish to us broke single folk. Because honestly, I'm the only 29 year old I know who lives alone and buys 3 Sunday papers every week, just so I can save 40%+ on my grocery bills. And it kinda boggles my mind that none of my other friends do this - not only because we're all varying levels of broke-ish, but because come on. Saving money is awesome. (There is absolutely another blog post hidden away here about how much I love the sound of scissors snipping up coupon paper, and how my Grandma taught me how to clip coupons from her deck overlooking the ocean in Atlantic City, but, y'know, another time.)

Anyway, I'm just trying to gauge interest from my meager reader base about this. Would anyone read it, or even care, if I wrote about this stuff? Good idea? Bad idea? Already been done idea? Don't worry, I'll be back to talking about roller derby in no time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

If A, Then Fall Down.

Cleaning my skates isn't hard, or scary, it's just an exercise in patience coupled with my OCD-tendencies and utter terror of botching something up. I'll spare you the how-to of bearing maintenance (though it appeared on my facebook page last night at a friend's request), as my fears lie in the details.

What if I bend a bearing cover. What if there's still dirt in there and the bearing locks up and I die. What if there isn't enough lube and the bearing locks up and I die. What if there's water in the bearing and it rusts then locks up and I die. What if I snap something on the cage (the thing that holds the individual balls in place) and the bearings fall out and my wheel falls off and I die. And so on.

Granted, all this is relatively pointless, since the ACTUAL consequence of any of these worst case scenarios is pretty easy: If A (where A is the catastrophic ruination of any part of my skate while skating), I fall down (I am the best faller on the team, I have NO fear of falling), do situps for the rest of practice, and buy new parts.

All that said, it took me four hours to fully clean my skates last night, since my bearings had to go through four acetone washes before I was convinced that they were all clean enough to be reassembled.

Shiny and clean!

The interesting thing happened when I went to clean my wheels. (Lucky, there is nothing scary about cleaning wheels. Rinse 'em off and you're done.)

The first time I took my wheels off my skates was also the first time I had them regrooved. After about a year of skating, they'd all been worn bald, and I was sliding all over the track. Theoretically, people told me, you can tell how you're skating based on how worn down your wheels are, and where. Inside wheels wear faster than outside wheels, since that's where you should be putting the most pressure. They also wear at a slight angle, because of crossover. Because of this, you should rotate your wheels regularly.

But my wheels were all uniform. I took this to mean that basically, I sucked.

This time, though, as I was swishing my skinny new Stalkers around in soapy water, I realized that they actually felt different. As I took them out and looked at them - yup. Sure enough, some of the grooves are more worn down than the others. And it's pretty evenly divided, 4 and 4. So, inside wheels and outside wheels. Which means that since starting roller derby (and changing to new wheels that don't suck and actually allow me to T-stop and are ohmygod amazing), I've legitimately become a better, stronger skater. Whaaaaaaat??

I shudder to think that I might actually be, y'know, learning anything in roller derby besides how to skate fast and get low, but there it is. If I keep doing a thing, eventually I will get better at that thing. And eventually that thing will have noticeable results. It's terrifying. And inspiring. And I just said inspiring.

All cleaned up and ready to roll.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

And I Would've Gotten Away With It, If It Weren't For Those Meddling Kids.

I took a rain check on yesterday. Part of being an HSP is knowing my body, and my limits. I took a bunch of Sudafed on Tuesday, forgetting that Sudafed is pseudophedrine, is a basically an amphetamine, and tends to react like speed would in many people. Especially me. (I've tried Adderall, which is similar, and it was one of the scariest afternoons of my life. I ended up in the nurses office, unable to stop vibrating. Literally.) So I woke up on Wednesday in the throes of some sort of manic episode/anxiety attack type thing, with my thoughts racing and my body feeling like there was a high-speed rail line racing alone under my skin. Nothing was possible, and every sensation, every thought, every stimulus, was too much. I probably should have realized something was awry when I woke up in the middle of the night, because the hidden snaps on my duvet cover were registering as "too pointy" on my skin.

I hate being in that situation, knowing that something is wrong, actually wrong, but unable to figure out what it is, or how to circumvent it. Then feeling powerless. Like I'm not in control, like my body is winning, like I'm just a passenger along for the ride in my life.

Luckily, somewhere in between the "I hate myself"s and the "Everything is terrifying"s, I remembered the Sudafed thing, and was apply to delay sensation overload long enough to ask my phone what side effects of the drug were. Oh, look. All the things I was experiencing. It was such a relief to know that this wasn't just my body chemistry having it out for me, but something outside, something that could be dealt with. Granted, I still couldn't actually get out of bed. But I was able to recognize that if I just waited long enough, the drugs would pass out of my system, and I'd be ok. So I slept. All day. I've never really forced myself to sleep before, but I didn't really know what other choice I had. At least in sleep, my conscious mind can't hurt me. (And my subconscious has been behaving itself rather well these days.)

Around 10.30pm, I woke up, and felt ok. Thank god. And then I vowed to not let today end up like yesterday. I ended up emailing my mom, telling her everything that had happened that day, and promising her the things I was going to do today. Because I need to hold myself accountable to other people. It's too easy to let myself down. I do it all the time. My brain is programmed for self-sabotage and disappointment. Letting other people down, though? It's much harder. More to the point, lying to other people is much harder. And I know that if I tell mom a thing, she will later ask me about a thing. And then I either have to tell her all about it, or I have to lie. And I hate lying. (I'm also terrible at it.)

So today, I pulled on my big-girl pants, changed the wheels on my skates (oh my god, my bearings are filthy), and went to the park. To skate. Alone. By myself. For the very first time.

And it was scary. What if there were other people there? What if all the hockey rinks were occupied? What if people stared? What if people laughed? What if I got there and didn't know what to do? What if I fell down a lot?

I've never actually exercised by myself before. I can count on one hand the number of times I've gone running, or popped in a workout video, or anything. Usually getting me to work out is an exhausting exercise in coercion and bribery and teamwork. By which I mean, exhausting for the other person.

So this? Kinda huge.

I got to the park, and both rinks were empty. So I walked up, picked one, strapped my skates on, set my clock timer, and just... did things. Regular laps. Sprinting. 8 on the floor, both ways. Shuffling reps. Grapevines. Jumping. Heel-toe runs. 10 laps/10 reps each, making myself to pushups/crunches/leg lifts/planks when I stopped for water. Was it effective? I have no idea. I was sort've winging it. And about halfway through, there were all these small children on skateboards weaving around me. And their moms, watching me. And yeah, that part was kind've embarrassing, because I kept getting winded, and they kept being wired.

But hey, I did things. And it wasn't so scary. Though next time (whoa. There's gonna be a next time? I guess so.), I'd like to bring a friend. Because one of the things I did learn today is that derby is way more fun with my teammates than it is by myself. Though, on the other hand, an hour on skates without getting hit was kind've nice, too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Don't Call Me Surely.

Progress is weird. You creep along, little by little, and then, all of a sudden, you're doing the things that you thought you'd never be able to do.

I had a couple of those moments at practice tonite. DeRanged and Psychobabble, two of the best skaters in roller derby, came out to run a training session with us. As always, I was terrified. I mean, these ladies are legit roller derby superstars. I feel like I'm never going hard enough, or doing well enough, to impress them. And trust me, we ALL want to impress them.

We worked on a bunch of offensive hitting drills (things I am not good at: Offense. Hitting. Drills.) and, even with my laryngitis and allergies/head cold, I managed to surprise myself.

Tonite, I went to practice. (I am a giant baby when I'm sick. Usually the sniffles are more than enough to give me a reason not to go out. Let alone to go exercise.)

Tonite, I did 40 pushups. (Number of pushups I could do at a time when I started playing roller derby: 1. Maybe. Sort of. Not really.)

Tonite, I pushed the largest girl on my team out of bounds.

Tonite, I chased down the jammer as she busted out of the pack, and I caught her.

Tonite, I gave Psychobabble a hip bruise. (And then she gave me pointers on how to be more effective when I use my bony, bony hips, and I squealed a lot on the inside and HOLY SHIT I GAVE PSYCHO A BRUISE WHAT IS THIS I DON'T EVEN.)

Little things, building on top of each other, manifesting into noticeable progress. Just keep doing one thing every day that scares me.