I have a friend who lives in the Pacific Northwest. I followed him on Facebook for a number of years; he’s a very good writer and he sorta sucked me in with his gift of painting vivid pictures with his words. After a couple of years of this following, I decided, “You know what? Fuck it. I want to be this dude’s friend.” I had no reason to think he would accept me, a stranger who was essentially stalking his words – and thank you, Facebook, for making stalking legitimate with your “Follow” feature – but I was delighted when he did. I think I said something dumb, like, “I just really love your writing” but for whatever reason, he decided I was worth taking a risk on.
Over the past few years, we’ve become authentic friends, even though we’ve yet to meet. When we began our friendship, he still lived in the same time zone as me, but life has a way of doing some twists and turns and he soon found himself the owner of an RV. After that, it seemed only natural that he would take the RV on a most excellent, mystical journey throughout the country. His co-pilot was also most excellent, she of the chocolate-colored hair and soulful, medium roast eyes and a warm nose.
He’s had so many adventures along the way, including picking up two more co-pilots, Radar and Sophie,
badly breaking his leg, convening with nature as a summer park attendant at a breathtaking spot in Oregon, and embarking (see what I did there, wink-wink) on a lucrative career as a dog-walker/sitter in a bigger Pac NW city. He’s met tons of his social media friends and someday, we’ll be in the same hemisphere again and I’ll be able to give him a hug – when social distancing is no longer a “thing.”
Along the way, great things happened and everyday things happened, and we benefited from his observations and the antics of daily life as a troubadour of canines (and a few cats, too) by getting to read really wonderful, descriptive, essays about “a day in the life.” We, his many friends, cheer him on and encourage him to publish these essays in the form of a book someday. He is so good and honestly, those words should be shared. He takes the good with the bad, and there have been bad times – his beloved Izzy passed away, for one – and sometimes, he has to take a break. This is where I feel him the most, because no one fades to black with as much skill as I do. Through our private conversations, I know him well, and I can almost always predict when he’s going to need to go dark for a bit. With the current reality resembling a Stephen King Novel-Meets Idiocracy right now, diving into the depths is not only expected of those of us with that dark passenger, D, but it is also feared.
So, this friend started dating a new lady before Shit got real. He had been hurt in the past. Really hurt. We (his collective of friends) had worried about him a lot, but then celebrated his new relationship because this one seemed smart, sassy, and very well-balanced. They were very happy.
New lady friended me – not sure why, except that my congratulations came with a thinly-veiled threat (If you hurt this guy, I will find you and I have a particular set of skills….) and maybe I scared the fuck out of her. I dunno, but fine, it’s fine, you want to be friends with some of his friends (I don’t actually know how many others she friended) then cool! She was fun, she could spell and make coherent sentences with her goodly words, and she clearly adored said friend – who I clearly cherish.
Pandemic hits. Relationship may be tested – she had a lot of dramatic, personal posts, interspersed with really informative, caring ones – but they do fine. She’s got kids, she’s traversing a situation in close quarters, and they are nowhere near a “moving in together” aspect of a relationship, so he sees less of her than before the Covidpocalypse. I asked him how things are; things are all good. They’re making it work. They’re happy.
Until they aren’t.
I’d noticed less from them both on the social media fronts. He and I have always shared extremely funny (to us) and sometimes not appropriate (to many others) memes with each other. Whole days would pass by where our only communication was sending each other memes
and laughing. This is the best kind of friend to have.
I felt him go dark before he announced it. I waited. No one likes to be inundated with “What’s wrong?” messages when one is in Low-Down Funky Town. You’re sad, you’ve got reasons, you love that they care, but it’s exhausting. The last thing I wanted to do to him was that which I also don’t like. And the definite last thing I wanted to do to him was question The Relationship. After all, not every, single bout of depression is triggered by relationship problems, and we all have much more prescient reasons, right now, to be depressed, anxious, and stressed.
When he announced the breakup, I was sad for him, but I also knew, by his tone, that this wasn’t like another time, when that bitch ripped his heart out of his chest, stuck it on a sharpened stick, and whipped it through the air, where it landed, with a wet thwack. This wasn’t as dire. They both seemed okay. And yes, I reserved judgment about her because hell, relationships sometimes just don’t work out even when the two people are nice and a new relationship begun just before The Time of COVID-19 could definitely be put to the test.
Things were quietly normal for a day. Then, my friend count dropped by one, and my momentary thought was “Yay! A Trump Humper bites the dust FINALLY” to “Oh no she di’int!”
Oh yes, she did.
I’ve got to say, I am a little bit offended. I mean, damn, bitch: was I not an engaging-enough friend? We shared a lot of common interests. She was funny. Had they simply just not been able to make it work, I’d have been sad for the both of them, but I’m over here in Pennsyltucky and they’re in the Pac NW so we weren’t going to have any embarrassing run-ins while out for coffee or anything like that.
Her unceremonious unfriending of me made it clear that she was either
just collecting mutual friends of his
scared of my protectiveness
thinking I was interested in him.
Not a single one of these reasons shed a positive light on her. In pretty much every scenario, it seems like it was a “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” kind of thing. In any event, this isn’t junior high, I don’t want yo man, but I will beat the crap outta you if I see you in the restroom between classes because no one likes a two-face thot. Btw, I have a pretty fine husband of my own already, who totally gets my friendship with this other guy and, in fact, salutes it – because he reaps the rewards in scads of inappropriate memes.
When I informed my friend that I was down a friend, he wasn’t even slightly surprised and confessed that he wasn’t really all that upset. Apparently, she brought too much drama with her.
Laugh all you want at the inexplicable prospect of finding a roll of tp to purchase in your town. I know I did, last Friday, when I saw nearly bare shelves. “Do all of these people think the virus comes out of their asses?” I mused. People cling to those comforting things that they buy when there’s a snowstorm coming, or hurricane. They buy the things that have been drummed into their heads: milk, bread, toilet paper. The herd mentality is always present in times of natural disasters looming on the horizon. Is this a natural disaster, though? None of us has ever lived through an actual pandemic in this country. The last worldwide killer that affected the US in large numbers was in 1918; my long-deceased Gram was 6.
The shuttering of nonessential businesses in my state does not really affect my day-to-day life. I don’t frequent bars or go out to eat a whole lot. We do take-out or delivery, if anything. When I joke that I’m a hermit in a hobbit hole, you laugh. Don’t, because I’m actually telling the truth.
The closure of nonessential, community-based centers DOES affect me in that now, The Male Sibling Unit has nowhere to go to 1) express himself socially, and 2) get out of my hair during the week.
He cannot close himself up in his man cave like his hermitish Elder Female Sibling Unit; as much as I might crave solitude, I also recognize his need to be around someone. That someone’s going to be me.
He also does not understand the words “social distance,” “quarantine,” or “flattening the curve.” In his world, these things do not exist. You get a cold? You (very reluctantly) take some medication and sniff, sneeze, and cough your way through the day. The Male Sibling Unit has an extremely high tolerance for pain and discomfort; I have mentioned this before. He has had
a fractured ankle
a fractured wrist
Shingles all over his torso
Two testicular surgeries
along with a host of childhood viruses and disease; when he got chickenpox, he was so covered in pox, my mother bound his hands with mittens and tape. He was a walking model for full-body Calamine lotion – a pink nightmare.
Every time, he has taken, at best, Tylenol. Throughout all of these maladies, the only time I have ever known he was definitely sick, it has always been 5 seconds before he’s vomited all over the toilet. My cue to shout, “GET TO THE BATHROOM!!!” is when he stands, motionless, in the hallway, whimpering forlornly/urgently.
At this utterance, I feel my blood going cold in my veins.
The Male Sibling Unit finds it inexplicable that I am insisting that he tell me if he isn’t feeling well; even just a bit warm, and tired, or a runnier nose than normal, given his seasonal allergy situation. He finds it laughable that I am urging caution, and that something “like a cold” could be dangerous. I have to describe COVID-19 this way because he cannot comprehend the intricacies of the virus. He was young when he had pneumonia; he doesn’t remember what that felt like. He fails to understand contagion, and that this new coronavirus is much more contagious than the flu.
All he understands is that he doesn’t get to see his friends. He can’t go to work. We can’t lolligag at stores, looking at things. Going out to dinner anytime soon isn’t going to happen. That it could get exponentially worse is not even something his brain can make room for. The whole world may be grinding gears and halting, and we all might be experiencing varying levels of unease, fear, uncertainty, and stress, but for him, this means fuck-all. His WORLD has changed drastically. And he is not going peacefully.
I’ve spent the evening, once again – for what seems like the thousandth time – trying to explain things to him. The call from his rehabilitation center, where he works, was expected after the Governor announced stricter measures to flatten the curve. It didn’t lessen the blow; when I told him, his face just fell. He asked, in a little boy voice, “Why?”
He has asked at least a dozen times since. He has raged, talking to himself and saying, “FUCK the virus.” He’s made pointedly miffed Facebook posts, his displeasure on full display. He waited until the husband left for work to begin needling me; he knows that if he blows my cool and I erupt, his brother-in-law will be all up in his bidness.
“When will I go back?”
“Why did that Governor do this?”
‘When will I see my friends?”
“Why can’t I go out?”
“What do you mean, no Mexicannextweek?”
“But I’m not sick.”
“I’m pissed off.”
“When will I go back?”
If this continues as long as experts are warning, I may not make it. I won’t be a COVID-19 victim; I will have a stroke.
I wonder when I should sit him down and explain exactly what it was like to watch our mother die, swiftly (for us) but agonizingly slowly (for her) of pneumonia. I wonder if I could then apply that scenario to his girlfriend, who is 63 and has advancing COPD. Would that be too traumatic?
Sometimes, shock and awe is all that works. It may be all that stands between my sanity and simply acquiescing to his maddening questions and incessant prodding.
By the way, watching someone die of pneumonia sucks. Being told their brain has died, along with their kidneys, their digestive system, and their respiratory system, is horrifying. Knowing that their heart is choking, gasping, and wheezing as it attempts to pump blood to organs that lay, deceased, on the open plain of their body’s hemispheres is actually heartbreaking to ponder. Having to make the decision to shut off the respirator and other machines is surreal.
Now, imagine having to do that all because someone decided this social distancing was hyped, people are overreacting, it’s “not as bad as it sounds”, it’s “just a cold,” or the worst: “a hoax.” They thought one, some, or all of these things and then in turn infected your loved one, who is elderly or immunodeficient. They did this because COVID-19 inconvenienced them.
I get that the future seems uncertain. I know that people are frightened. Will we be able to work? To pay our bills? Will someone we know get sick? Will we get sick? I know that we all cling to the things we know: familiarity and routine; routine being probably the most important thing. Right now, a virus has forced us to reconsider those routines, and nothing looks familiar. We’re watching our own lives unfold like an apolcalyptic thriller. This month was written by Stephen King.
If you’re refusing to see the danger of a virus that is, at the moment, defying assumptions, I think maybe I should sit down with you and describe what my mother’s death looked like, and how it broke me in small increments until I was in pieces. I’m still gluing them back together.
In the meantime, wash your fucking hands, order a pizza from a small business, and cue up Netflix. It’s going to be a looooong, hot summer.
Oh, and….Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Drink a pint or twelve. It won’t stop the virus from marching on, but at least you’ll be shitfaced for a day. My people have elevated suffering to an artform. ☘
When I was a little girl, I wasn’t raised with the idea that I could be anything I wanted to be. One might be shocked at that, really; my family was stocked with really strong, opinionated women who were quite comfortable telling men to fuck right the fuck off. My great-grandmother ruled with a benevolent, iron fist that would pull you into her arms for a loving embrace even as she was ordering you to go outside and cut yourself a switch. She was truly the head of the family, and her children – 4 sons and 6 daughters – idolized and followed her every word and deed.
My grandmother was a much freer-minded spirit than her mother, but she proved, again and again, that men were a luxury to her – not a necessity. When my grandfather established the pattern of an Irish drunk who had numerous talents, but who could not hold a job long enough to provide a stable life for his wife and children, she took matters into her own hands. I mean this literally. She knocked the crap out of him, beating him about the head and shoulders with a stilleto heel while he lay, passed out. He awoke the next morning, hung over and bruised, thinking he’d had a fall.
She took jobs housekeeping, and when the final straw came – he went to the bars on a Friday after work and spent an entire paycheck on booze, staggering up the hill on Sunday afternoon with naught but lint in his pockets – she sent him away, chasing him down Hillside Avenue, a butcher knife in her hand. Had she caught him, who knows if I’d even be here today. She then moved in temporarily with that mother who gave her that strong countenance, and took a fulltime job. She divorced my grandfather. This led to a much higher-paying job, and when she took a chance and married another man who proved to not be up to the task of providing, and who committed the cardinal sin of disrespecting her children, all bets were off. She lived, happily single, for the rest of her life. Oh, she dated, a lot, and a couple of guys were fortunate enough to meet her exacting standards and were permitted to stick around for long periods of time. One, I even knew as “Grandpa Mick.” The point was, she never needed a man to fulfill her; they were simply an option.
My mother – her daughter – was as tough as her, but I think she craved a different kind of happy ending in the beginning. She had a father she adored, and visited, and I think she thought that having the husband, the kids, the house, and the picket fence was the ultimate win. She saw her friends doing it and dreamed of such a life, too. She also dreamed of travel, and independence. She wanted to be an airline stewardess, but lacked the willpower to lose weight. She was never quite able to disentangle herself from my grandmother’s apron strings, though, and so they were kind of a package deal.
My uncle noped it the fuck out of town as soon as he was 18, joining the military and going to college, but my mom never seemed to be able to envision a life without her mom in the picture. She also possessed a nasty temper, as fiery as Grandma’s, and a vicious, rapier-tongued attitude. She lost a lot of jobs because, when some man would tell her what to do, she’d be just as likely to tell him to shove it up his ass as she would be to follow directions. She liked to drink, too, and this led to bars, and an eventual meeting with a smooth-tongued asshole who she thought she could tame. That he was already married wasn’t important. She wanted what she wanted, and when she got the kids, but no husband, house, or picket fence, she was sufficiently put off men as necessities – for good.
No, I was not taught that I could be whatever the hell I wanted. I was taught that I didn’t need noman. Men were, at best, luxuries. At worst, they were a nuisance. A man would try to control you. A man would hold you back from the things you loved. A man would lie. A man thought only of himself. Men were optional in one’s life, and the minute they overstayed their welcome, there’d be the trouble of getting them to go, and who the hell needed that headache? It was better to just forget they existed.
I weighed this advice carefully, but with suspicion. My aunts – my mother’s closest friends who were not related by blood but who I referred to as aunts – had husbands. Their husbands, my uncles, were nice guys who provided well for their families. They were great daddies, as far as I knew. They were funny and kind and honorable. My great-uncles were, too, even if they were old guys. They had all made really wonderful, successful lives. All of my great-aunts had careers, too – in independent, small business; in farming; in office administration. These couples seemed to complement each other inasmuch as being partners in marriage.
While I never said it out loud, privately, I held onto the thought that my grandmother and my mother tried to instill the belief that all men were shit into my psyche because they hadn’t met the right men. I wasn’t going to be like that. I’d be smarter, meet a good guy, like my uncles, and he would respect me.
Okay, it took a while, and my first choice was made hastily, out of a desire to escape being stuck, like my mother had been. It was made because no one had ever said they loved me with the fervent conviction that he did, and I needed that. (Girls, if he says he loves you 5 days in, please take it with a grain of salt until a lot of time has passed and you’ve fully vetted him. I sure as hell wouldn’t have believed him today.) That choice was certainly a Big Fucking Mistake, but I scored five huge prizes, so it wasn’t for nothing. I’ve made massive corrections in that thinking, and chose more wisely the second time. No, I don’t need no man, but the one I have, I truly want.
That was as far as my female predecessors got in teaching me women’s rights. I grew up knowing I wanted to “do” something; something that included writing. I did not believe that I wanted to shatter glass ceilings and charge at the head of a pack and to lead. I’ve learned, along the way, that I am a natural-born leader who prefers to go it alone if given the choice. I’ve broken a couple of plexiglass panels, I suppose; but I definitely have no desire to aim for the sky above.
I did not -for instance – dream of being President of the United States. I admire those who did, and who do. That kind of single-minded ascension does not appeal to me. I am good – great, actually- in a crisis. You want me there if you need triage or a quick assessment. I’m as apt to do as I am to issue quick orders, because I’m impatient and convinced that, while I think you could do a good job, I can do the thing the way it needs to be done. Nope, I would not be a good President, because politics is filled to the brim with acts of diplomacy and the delegating of tasks. I’m too much of a lone wolf, and I know that would be a recipe for disaster.
We are living in a reality TV shitshow. The entire planet is suffering an existential crisis of common sense, kindness, and community. Calmer heads are not prevailing, and the only credentials one seems to need in order to run a country is that they’re louder than the loudest person in the room. (And more orange, but I digress.) There’s a novel virus tearing ass through all of the countries, and glaciers are melting; kids are eating laundry soap pods and yeeting themselves out into traffic. We are arguing about how we all deserve a piece of the pie but that we don’t want to pay the wages to get it. People in this country are dying because yes, they have insurance and yes, they do work fulltime, but they’ve been diagnosed with MS and the copay for a series of shots as treament is over $100,000. Yes, you read that right – I have facts to back that up. Insulin is unaffordable. Life-sustaining drugs and healthcare are unaffordable in this country for most.
Going to college means taking on debt in your first semester and not being able to pay it off until it’s time for your kids to start college. You have to be situationally aware everywhere you go, because somewhere, there’s a mentally unstable person, off his meds and growing increasingly paranoid, who may decide that the day you chose to go get groceries was the day he was going to shoot up the store; that is, after he posted his manifesto on 4chan.
Your kids are being taught by teachers who qualify for food stamps, have to work second and third jobs, and who buy a lot of the school supplies your kids use themselves because the school district’s budget doesn’t include funding for pencils, erasers, and yes, even paper. And let’s not even get started on kids in cages and robbing Peter (The Pentagon) to pay Paul (The Wall).
Meanwhile, your President plays his 238,004th round of golf on your dime, tweets reflexively and compulsively, and undermines the authority of every organization on the planet. He’s a fucking imbecile, but he does this with aplomb.
These are just some of the problems our country faces, deals with, and wades into. We, the people, face these realities every day. “It all needs fixed,” we say, “but what do we do?”
Elizabeth Warren had a plan for it all.
Elizabeth thought through all of these problems and wrote down her thoughts. She methodically consulted with experts and asked constituents what they thought. She weighed pros and cons and ins and outs and ups and downs. Then, she came up with plans. No, they weren’t perfect, but they were smart, and allowed for a fostering of ideas and a coming together of like minds. It would be hard, and dirty, and decidedly not pretty, but she rolled up her sleeves and beckoned to us, “Let’s go DO THIS.”
We let her down. In refusing to get behind her and to make her our candidate to defeat the Orange McMenace, we essentially said, a-fucking-gain, “A woman cannot lead.” We let so many down, from the first woman who said, “No, you may not disrespect me simply because I’m a woman” to the Suffragettes, to every woman who burned her bra or walked into a roomful of men and explained her ideas. We let down the female warriors of the past and present: Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Clara Barton, Abigail Adams, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Gloria Steinam, Louisa May Alcott, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride, Sacajawea, and Oprah. We let down Oprah, y’all.
We let down RBG; RBG, who famously said “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
Mostly, in continuing to allow old, white men to advance in a world that is so 🅒🅞🅛🅞🅢🅢🅐🅛🅛🅨 🅕🅤🅑🅐🅡🅔🅓 that it doesn’t even resemble itself anymore, we let down ourselves.
This cocked-up mess desperately needs a woman to fix it. It needs her to inject new life into old attitudes and mores that have become stagnant. It needs her to find all the misplaced things the men can’t find – values, decency, empathy, patriotism, truth, and fundamental good – that are hiding in plain sight, like the car keys/his glasses/his phone. We’ve been doing that for millenia. We’re doing it now. We’re the “fixers”; the doers, the nurturers, and the no-nonsence pragmatists. We need COMPETENCE. And Elizabeth Warren is the epitomy of that. She is nothing if not credentialed to the max; she is unapologetically exemplary.
Yes, Elizabeth had a plan for it all, and yet here we are, facing a choice between Statler and Waldorf to overcome the old, demented, but eminently dangerous self-tanning nightmare currently inhabiting the Oval Office.
That title is true, by the way. Look it up. I’ve got one more story about Childhood: The Teen Years to tell.
I promise you, my life hasn’t been one sad situation after another. I haven’t been victimized from start to finish. There have been beautiful times of love and happiness and camaraderie and acceptance. There are, as a matter of fact. Every, single blessing that has come my way has been set upon my altar of gratitude and acknowledged. Some, I didn’t realize until they were long past, but the point is that I did celebrate and give thanks, after moving obstructions out of the way that made it impossible to see. I am fortunate to have what I have, to know what I know, and to be loved. Luck hasn’t anything to do with it.
So, onto this last story, which has been something I’ve wanted to write about, but has proven difficult. However, with the recent, worldwide furor and concern shown a young Australian boy, Quaden Bayles, who has been relentlessly bullied because he has a form of dwarfism – you can read his story HERE if for some reason you haven’t run across it – I want to share my bullying story in more graphic detail. Do I think it will help stop bullying? Not for a single minute. Am I going to trot out the hope that “if this story moves one person, one parent, to begin teaching their kids that kindness and acceptance is the right way to be, I will have done my job”?
No. Fuck no. I don’t want one person to get the memo. I want thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Everyone.
I wrote about my suicide attempt in the 7th grade in This Blog Post and gave the vaguest of details about the situation that drove me to it. Now, I’m going to elaborate, and change some names not to protect them, but to protect me in the extremely rare instance that those who know who they are and what they did want to call me a liar. It’s doubtful, but in this age of lawsuits and people crying “fake news,” it’s necessary. Okay.
7th grade was a nightmare, from beginning to end. Not only was I in a new school, with new structure, and being instructed that “this is how you learn to be responsible,” but my home life was a shitshow of magnificent proportions. My grandmother’s dementia was progressing, and coupling that with her rapier-sharp tongue, it was really ugly when she got going.
My mother was deep inside herself at this point, being dragged down by the daily skirmishes with Gram, as well as coming to terms with the fact that she now had a severely handicapped child, in the form of The Male Sibling Unit, who she must advocate for.
The late 70s were still unchartered waters where advocacy was concerned; children with mental and physical disabilities were relegated to group homes and institutions and sequestered in classrooms away from “normal” children. Mainstreaming was not yet a thing. Not only did she have to come to terms with the finality of this thing, but she was also mourning the breakup of her covert relationship with our father. She couldn’t blame The Male Sibling Unit for our father’s removal of his affection, so she picked me. At the age of 9, I was informed that I had ruined her life. It was a heavy burden to carry after assuming, until The Male Sibling Unit’s diagnosis, that I was loved and cherished. In any event, she needed a target for her anger, hurt, and fear, and I was the closest one available. I made it easy for her with my dogged attempts to change her mind. I remembered a mother who had once loved me. Maybe, if I tried hard enough to make her smile, she would be that mother again. It never worked. But I still had to try.
So, things were really ramping up at home, and our financial situation was, as always, perilous. We lived on Gram’s tiny pension, her Social Security, and public assistance programs: cash and food stamps. The Male Sibling Unit was not receiving SSI just yet; that would come soon. The summer before 7th grade, there was some sort of government crisis or strike, and no one in Pennsylvania was receiving their public assistance. When the checks were held up in August of that year, my mother told me there would be no new school clothes. She simply didn’t have the money for us both. The Male Sibling Unit was beginning a preschool program, so he came first. She did acquiesce one afternoon at a local retail store, and bought me a gauzy peasant blouse and a kelly green vest because they were on clearance and the total for both was only $4.50. I would at least have them for my first day. My jeans from 6th grade were still wearable, but they were unwashed Wranglers with slightly flared legs. The straight leg, designer jeans fashion movement was in full swing at this point; you wore them tight, and you rolled them up (pegged them) right at the ankles. My old jeans could not be rolled up and even if they could, I had grown taller that year. They were decidely high-waters now. There were no new shoes, either. I had a pair of clogs my Gram had bought me the year before at a discount store for $7.99 that still fit.
What a sight I was that first day, in my mauvy blouse and green vest, my high-waters, and my white socks in those cheap clogs. I don’t need to talk too much about how important it is to try and fit in when you begin at “the high school” – this was quasi-high, since we still had “junior high” and not the middle schools of today. This was the big audition for how it was going to go at the big school, when you became a sophomore. You’re with your little class from elementary school, the same 20-30 kids you’ve known since kindergarten, but now, you’re mixed in with a half-dozen other classes of kids your age who don’t know you. You’re not in one classroom, but a whole series of them, moving from room to room. You don’t get much one-on-one from teachers, who simply have too many kids to keep track of.
You’re on your own, and friendships are important. You need others to cling to in those first days and weeks, while you navigate semi-independence. A class system begins immediately, too, and you might find that you were a sort of big fish at your elementary school, but you’re plankton now. You’ll sink or swim, depending on a whole list of variables: how you look, sound, smell, act. Sight is the first thing 12 year-olds used to judge back then. Were there other kids in the same boat as me, or worse? I am certain there were. I can only relate my experience. And it was not great.
I made a few new friends in homeroom. There were some very nice kids who chose to look past my sorry state and to get to know the person I could let them know. My homeroom teacher was, at first sight, a beautiful lady who dressed elegantly, and emoted with a restrained grace. She was a cool cucumber. Her husband had been my art teacher the year before, and he was a lovely man, so funny and kind and talented. He let us listen to music on Fridays and even swore sometimes. I was eager to impart, to my homeroom teacher, that I had loved taking her husband’s art classes. She shut that down immediately with her initial appraisal of me. You know that way some people have of looking you up and down and finding you wanting? This is precisely what she did to me, and continued to do, the entire 3 years of junior high. I mean, I was no prize: dumpy, bad hair, awful skin, bad clothes, and likely reeking of my mom’s stale cigarette smoke and fried food from home. She would only speak to me when she wished to put me down. Other kids loved her, and she favored the kids of privilege. I was relieved to never actually have her for English, which is what she taught.
As an aside? When my daughter was in high school, she had this teacher for a class. She adored her. This teacher adored my daughter. They had dozens of positive interactions on Facebook and after my daughter graduated. My hope is that maybe she evolved and became a nicer person. I know she was young when I had her, and she went on to have her own kids and then go through a divorce from that cool art teacher. Maybe she learned some empathy. That didn’t stop me from wanting to post hateful, childish shit whenever she was praising my beautiful daughter, and showering her with compliments. “Remember me? You couldn’t stand me from 1979 to 1982. You treated me like garbage. You belittled and dismissed me and I almost died because of it. You were a contributing factor. As an educator, you failed me. Cunt.“
I never spoke up, and now she’s retired, and only occasionally shows up in some local social media. I still dislike her. And so, I dismiss her from having any importance, the same way she did me. When a person shows you who they are the first time, believe them.
The details of the events leading to my suicide attempt in early May of 1980 are chronicled in the blog I directed you to. The relentless bullying, over months, not days, had taken their toll.
One classmate was especially cruel. I became his target early in the school year. He was a little guy who looked like a cherub until he opened his mouth, and then it was all loud joking and sarcasm and outrageous behavior. He had a compadre who was as diminutive and blonde as he was, and who had the same first name. They usually got into trouble together and we referred to them as “the two Toms” (name has been changed) and they did everything together – including harass me.
“EWWWW, you are so fucking ugly. Why are you so ugly?” Tom would say to me on occasions, like lunchtime, when I couldn’t escape and we ended up at the same assigned table. He would then detail and amplify the ways in which I was so physically abhorrent for the whole group. His wit was sharp and his words were vicious. The other Tom would agree and snicker. Sometimes, other girls would defend me and tell him to stop, but usually, they just giggled while I sat there, red-faced and ashamed. “Why is your face like that? If you were my kid, I’d have put you out of your misery.”
Shortly before things completely imploded and I went off the deep end, he leveled me. “I don’t know why you don’t just kill yourself. Please, just do it and make the world a better place.”
After committing the capital offense of making a joke at the expense of the most popular girl in 7th grade, life became an exercise in futility. Every day that I went to school that late Winter and early Spring, I was either ignored or taunted. If I asked a question, my classmates would say things like “Don’t fucking talk to me, you ugly loser” or tell me to go away. The couple of so-called friends I did have were embarassed to be seen with me because then they’d be taunted, too, and it was just so important to fit in and be accepted. When a ship is going down, you get as far away from it as you can. The teachers didn’t intervene; were they even aware that my life was being torn limb from limb? I doubt it. I never confided in any adult, not even the one teacher who was kind to me, Mrs. D. The adults at home, who were supposed to love and protect me, did not. Why would I think that strangers would extend that kindness? I was alone. And being alone was unbearably painful. I have never felt that exact pain with quite the same intensity since, although I have struggled with suicidal thoughts all my life.
I got through it, after that one, mammoth act that robbed me of so much. I wanted the hate to cease. I felt that I could not exist in a world where there was not a single person who saw any worth in me. All of the adults in my life utterly failed me; the first adult who saw me was that ER doctor who looked at my lab results and asked me, quietly but with a kind urgency, “Sweetheart, what did you take?” and who afterward told my mother that her little girl needed help, for whatever reason.
After I had recuperated physically, I began seeing a therapist who drew out all those broken pieces inside me and fit them all together, making a scarred, but whole person out of me again. This therapist taught me how to cope, and what to do, and how to avoid letting those kids get to me. She then met with my mother, and then my grandmother, along with an evaluating psychiatrist, who spoke some very harsh, difficult truths after he evaluated us all. I was released from any responsibility for the way things were, because I was an innocent. He told my mother to pull her personal shit together and to quit taking out the choices she had made, on her own, on everyone else: especially me. And he advised her to “get that crazy woman out of your house, for the good of everyone”- my grandmother. It took her a year, but she did.
A part of me did die that day. The part that cared about what those kids thought was laid to rest. The part of me that survived was filled with hatred for them all, and so that part of me was placed into a medically-induced coma for a time. It was the part of me that could believe that people were capable of being kind and good. I worked hard, quietly and diligently, to fit in, but under my own terms. Every penny I earned babysitting and through gifts was used for my appearance; clothes, shoes, toiletries and makeup, hair. My mother never bought me another article of clothing for school even when she could have. I “looked” the part at last, but inside, I was seething. The ones who hurt me the most? I built brick walls around them and they ceased to exist. That talent I have has served me well throughout life.
A couple of years ago, I ran into “Tom” at a restaurant. He had moved away after graduation and along the way, changed his name. He lived a tumultuous life in California, was an alcoholic and an addict, and had also come out as a gay man. Through a school acquaintance, I had learned that he had lived a nomadic lifestyle, burning bridges as he went along. I had rarely thought of him and, when I did, felt nothing. I was therefore not prepared to see him when he introduced himself to the husband and I as our server. His burned bridges had brought him back home. He recognized me immediately and began effusively gushing and fawning over me. I was polite and I think, kind, but the husband could feel an undercurrent of something as he left our table. I told him, tersely and calmy, feeling a bit numb. We ate, left him our customary 20% tip, and departed. Only then did I allow myself some anger.
One day, my son mentioned him, because he rode the same bus to work as my son did to campus. They struck up a conversation, because this guy is a chatterbox and as ebullient as anything. He had mentioned to my son that we had gone to school together. I told my son how that had gone. My son went from thinking it was a cool happenstance to wanting to pummel him into the pavement the next time he saw him. I told him it didn’t matter. I could see this guy was as much a trainwreck as I had been told he was before he came back home, and I knew he’d be burning his Bradford bridges eventually. It took him a couple of years, but he managed to alienate everyone who was kind to him and now he’s somewhere down South, stacking the blocks again so he can knock them down. I wish him, well……nothing. I wish him karma, and that he has the kind of life he deserves.
Bullying is just the worst, don’t you agree? Haven’t we all been bullied by someone in our lives? That my experience included many someones doesn’t make my story any more or less poignant than someone else’s. How do we stop this kind of unacceptable behavior that causes little boys, like Quaden Bayles, to want a knife to stab himself? That causes 13 year-old girls, like I was, to ingest a massive cocktail of pills? The answer is that I don’t know. What I do know is that we can’t stop trying to find that answer. And kindness, people. For fucking fuck’s sake……kindness.
For more information about bullying and what you can do, you can visit this website .
This was my bullying story. It feels good to see it in print. Now, it can fuck off. I give it wings to fly away. Bye bitch.
Since I promised that I’d be more upbeat the next time I blogged, I figured I’d show you what I was up to during my little hiatus from this place.
I have a very large family, and Christmas can be a disaster, both logistically and financially. We are inundated with the most ridiculous amounts of commercialism and insistent prodding from before Halloween to charge ourselves into tremendous debt or put a second mortgage on our homes to afford the gifts of iPhones, iPads, gaming systems, and cars (who the fuck can actually afford to buy a new car for their loved one for fucking Christmas?!? The alleged-Lord traveled by donkey, muh’effers.)
I wasn’t having it.
Well, I couldn’t do it, so that’s why I wasn’t having it. I have been experiencing a sort of renaissance of artistic endeavors for the last year, and so I decided to put that creativity to work. I’m still from that school of thought who truly believes a handmade gift is much more dear than any store-bought item. Yes, I buy gifts, but I would rather receive heartfelt, from one’s own hands gifts than some impersonal gift we’ve become conditioned to buy – because stores package them in festive but cheap holiday wrapping – and we have so little time and money with which to work with.
I had none of the money, but loads of the time. I warned everyone ahead of time, too. “Homespun Christmas, y’all,” I said, and hoped they would understand.
We had recently cut down some small trees on our property line. I could see the raw material for my art taking shape, and so the husband got out the table saw and cut me hundreds upon hundreds of soft maple, wooden discs. I had so many ideas!
And I got to work. Here are some of my creations: handpainted ornaments, crocheted gift sets, and cookies. Also, my new interest, amigurimi, will prove to be a great idea for next year. I hope you enjoy.
As you can see, I was busy. Now, check out these Amigurumi I have been making! I’m not a crochet expert, but I have discovered that I can learn much easier with a calmer life and heart. Every, single one is without a pattern; I thank Satan for Pinterest, which gives me visual ideas. I then modify what catches my interest and make it uniquely my own creation. I am eternally grateful for my artist’s “eye”, because if my brain can conjure it, and I can see it, I can do it. With each one I make, I get better, and with each creation, I fall more in love with the art.
I also made a Baby Yoda set for my new grandson, who’s basically due any day now. His mama wants to do a photo shoot:
Finally, there’s Goose, my soul kitty. I have many kitties, each deserving of their own blog, but Goose is special. We’ve been in love with each other since he was about 3 weeks old and we locked eyes when I picked him up out of the nursery where his mama, Quinnie, was caring for him and his sister one day. We’ve been inseparable since. I think we function as service creatures to each other; I am his human, and he is my furbaby. He’s very small for his age, and has always been petite. His mother was the same, not reaching her full, average size until she was 2, and never coming into heat until she was 5 (hence Goose and Azriel).
He used to follow me around constantly, bawling his head off. I would hold him and he’d be fine, and sometimes, his anxiety would be so extreme that I would swaddle him just like a human baby. It calmed him, but I simply couldn’t walk around, holding him all day. One afternoon, the husband was observing me try to placate Goose, crooning and cuddling him, and suggested, “Maybe we need to buy him a sweater.” Hmmmm? I thought about how thundershirts calm skittish dogs when there are storms or fireworks. It was still very warm – balmy, actually – and the A/C was still on! Still, a lightbulb went off over my head. “Maybe,” I allowed, “he’s cold.”
The next time we went to Walmart, I looked at the dog sweaters. The smallest size – XXS – seemed about right. There were only 2 in this size. I picked out a maroon, argyle print, choosing it over one with a teddy bear on it – because Goosie might have been tiny, but he was all man – and we put it on him when we got home. He looked so funny, walking around in a sweater when it was still 85° outside, but it worked. He didn’t fight or try to take them off; he would very dociley lift his paws for me to guide into the leg holes. He’s turned into a more independent young man, and he knows they go on at dinnertime and come off at breakfast when it’s very cold. Winter has been uncharacteristically mild this year, so often, he sleeps in front of the wall heater, but on those single-digit nights, a sweater goes on. He’s still my constant companion, but a much happier one. He’s become very popular on social media, and has his own Instagram. You can find him at @goosejoseph!
Anyway, buying sweaters was fun, but costly. I began making him some. He now has 10 sweaters and even “modeled” the parts of Baby Yoda becausefriends begged me to do it. Here’s my guy, being fabulous:
I adore his face. He has more followers than me!
I promise that I am working on this terribly bad attitude I’ve had lately. Until then, I’ll crochet, and hold my Goose, and let my mind wander into avenues of artistic ideas. It’s my therapy, and it works. We all have it within us to fight the demons. And if you’re feeling weak, reach out. I’m here.
I’ve been Xanax-free for nearly a year now. That little pill saved me from the reality of my severe anxiety disorder. “Disorder” is exactly what it is, because it throws your mind, and in turn, your life into a chaos that tumbles as you stumble, trying to find walls to steady you while the ground turns to uneven, jagged gravel that makes the walking as perilous as the lack of balance. There is no reasoning with it; it shows up at the times you’d expect, and then sets upon you when you’re just plodding along, thinking you’re okay.
In the past, I had that small, inconspicuous pill that I could simply swallow dry. I would then wait for the calm to slow my heartbeat as it galloped along those corridors of my entire being, its cries of “CODE RED! CODE RED!” clanging loudly in my brain as its echoes bounced dully against the inside of my skull; a metal pinball ricocheting from surface to surface. My limbs would feel it first: that chemical numbness adding itself, slowly mixing through the streams and creeks and small tributaries of my body’s venous map, stilling the tremors and winding down the elastic whir-hum of electricity coursing throughout me. Then, I would listen to the crowd in my head slowly recede as Anger, Excitement, Fright, Urgency, Bombast, and Peril ceased their cries, slowly backing into their abodes, shutting their doors. My heart would clip-clop back to its point of origin, putting away the megaphone and returning to safe mode. I would feel lesslike I was free-falling from a high mountain top into an abyss. The fatal crash onto and, indeed, into the ground below never came. It was like in cartoons: you’re falling, falling, waiting for everything to go black as your body liquefies at the point of impact, but some force stops you a foot from the ground. Silly image, but as truthful a description as anything I can come up with. That feeling of freefall was with me so much, it was a mood.
If this scenario happened only in times of severe stress or worry, it might have been, well – normal is the word that comes to mind. We all experience it. For me, however, it had become such a part of my life that I assumed its constant interference was normal. It was when my doctor formally diagnosed my depression that I became aware that the sludge of my sadness was constantly being cut through by these surges of fight-or-flight. I used to be able to do one or both, but now, the sludge of depression actively held me down and forced me to endure. I would be frozen, cowering in fear, wondering which was going to kill me first.
It is an inexplicable state of being, when you’re so frightened but you also don’t care because at least everything will cease and the silence would be so fucking welcome.
My doctor recognized the electric current of panic humming underneath my surface at an appointment (I think she could hear it) and asked me a series of questions. I was afraid even as I answered them and then realized when am I NOTafraid? I accepted the prescription for the little pill; it was a tiny dose and I figured it probably wouldn’t help, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.
That it actually helped was a revelation. At first, I accepted its effective blanket of calm like person who has been lost in the wilderness for weeks accepts safety: quietly, graciously, emotionally. It was so comforting to know that help was on its way once I swallowed that pill, welcoming the slight bitterness on my tongue because it signaled relief. Now, with the combination of the daily pill and these “one every 8 hours as needed” pills, I felt strong enough to manage. It provided clarity, too. Problems were just obstacles to remove from my path, however difficult or heavy or burdensome. Before, I simply deployed countermeasures in the form of irrational and mostly wrong choices, and things that might temporarily suspend the problems, but never fix them; this would also invariably create new problems. You know that saying about the hole in your path and falling in, every time? You haven’t? Here:
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But, it isn’t my fault. It still takes me a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
This was me, constantly. Until Xanax. And then it wasn’t.
For a long, long time, I stuck to the directions on the pill bottle. I was mindful of addiction and how it is woven into my DNA. I can’t make any excuses, and I am done with lying about what a problem it has been. I simply love substances that make me feel floaty, satiated, good. I love them in plentitude, and I have no “Off” button. I love substances that remove inhibitions, uncertainty, my absolute belief that I am shit, and of course, pain that has plagued me all my life, in different forms. The booze, the painkillers.
And then, Xanax.
Eventually, that little pill became less effective, and I was afraid to ask my doctor for a higher dose. A higher dose meant that I wasn’t managing my life. I wasn’t in control. While I have never been one to refuse to admit when I am wrong, I am also not one to say that I am weak. Or that I need help. It began innocently enough; I’d take a pill-and-a-half. Then, it was 2. Then, it was 2, twice a day. Soon enough, it was 2, then 2, then 1. Sometimes 2 more, on bad nights when I was alone with only self-doubt and I am shit as companions. When I began running out before the month was over, I began to ration it. I’d manage whole days with only one, because the reward was a day of 5 and the sweet bliss of IDGAF. I told myself this was only temporary, because in all aspects of my life, I was attempting to Be Happy and someday, I would be, and when that day came, I could throw those pills away. Then I am shit would tap my shoulder, and I’d simply acquiesce and continue.
When my words left, and whole blocks of memory went with them, I was momentarily confused. What was happening? Was this just the effects of age? When I began to need to consult Google for “that word that means…” whatever, I began to be scared. I have this incredibly large bank of useless knowledge at my disposal, and always have. The perks of being an outcast – a wallflowerish oddball who is also pretty intelligent – are that you spend all that alone time reading a lot, and watching television a lot. You digest things. And as a creative, I get bored easily, and therefore, my interests are wide-ranging and varied. I like to know everything about something that fascinates me, and then I bank that knowledge when I move onto the next interest. (Currently, it’s the art of Amigurimi.) That I am a master of nothing except knowing that I am shit is not distressing to me.
So, not being able to use that large bank of useless crap was baffling. Not recalling large chunks of the past was terrifying. I began to research things, quietly, without voicing those fears to anyone, because fear is still a weakness and I still operate under the assumption that if I show weakness, everyone I love will retreat. It isn’t that I don’t trust them; it’s that I think they might be kidding themselves if they think that I am in any way adequate and deserving. Old habits die hard. And sometimes they don’t die at all.
There are always possible side effects that accompany taking medications. Sometimes, the side effects are worse than the ailment.
With Xanax, it’s memories, and words. Not whole speech, just words. Names. Stay on Xanax too long – or any benzodiazepine – and you risk losing those abilities forever. Sometimes, even relatively short-term use can permanently remove those abilities.
Permanent. That word was incredibly terrifying, horrifying, traumatic – in short, all the words for “OH MY FUCKING GOD, THIS IS SCARY.” I just didn’t have them right then. I am a wordsmith, a writer. I weave them in such a way as to enchant and delight, to shock and dismay, to describe and to move, and to elicit a response from those who read my work. To not have the tools with which to do the one thing I know that I am not shit at was enough for me to come to a sudden fork in my journey. I could choose to follow the fuzzy comfort of Xanax and the eventuality of permanent brain fog, with brief stops at Addiction and Abuse; or I could rip the bandaid off, expose my wound to the sun, and hope that Vitamin D would heal me, with the help of music and therapeutic art. If I chose that road, I might end up at the destination of having lost some of my words permanently – or not. That road was mysterious and fraught with inevitable worry. Since I am an Atheist, I could not “let go and let God,” so it would require believing in myself. I’m really not good at that.
Alas, I persisted. I titrated off the Xanax and eventually, there were no more.
I got my words back. I think. I am able to pull up a word when required without Google. That vague fog is gone. Some memories are what I lost. I call it “mid-term memory” because short-term is fine and I can still remember being a toddler. I’ve lost whole spans of time and if I were able to weep, I would.
The nightmares are back. The panic attacks at odd times are returned, but until lately, I was able to fight them. I spend incredibly long periods of time in solitude, both due to not wishing to be around or to inflict myself on people, and my eye issue/poor sight, which requires care. The less I interact with people in person, the harder it gets to tolerate them. I’m too much, usually, awkward and either too loud or too soft. I am the eternal dorknerd I always have been, but with a catch: I’m getting cranky with maturity. My fear is that someday, it will be just me, with a mess of white hair, no teeth, voluminous, baggy clothes, cradling my cats, and shouting “GET THE FUCK AWAY” at passersby. Everyone I love will be gone, driven away by my insufferable me-ness. Because remember: I am shit. Only then, I will be old shit, and no one has to tell me how quickly society discards the elderly. I’ve seen it.
I feel like I must somehow fix this, but my courage in pill form is gone, now. I recognize that this blog entry is morose as fuck and definitely not the first blog of 2020 that I wished to vault out into the webiverse, but there it is. In choosing to put it out there, I’m hoping that some real courage in the form of solutions will appear to me in a burst of clarity. You all know that I’m a walking shitshow, so in a few days, when I revisit this, maybe I’ll read it and declare “Fuck this shit” and plod a plan of attack.
Right now, though, I’m feeling like an impostor again. Because no, I do not have Zen, or clarity, or a sense of well-being. I’m one to insist, “Everything’s going to be ok.”
The Mad King had come into power in quite a farcical manner.
He was not royalty; not a royal subject, nor relation. He was not of a lineage to rule over the land. The only claim to heir that he could make was to be that of Dr. Crookenspiel’s Traveling Medicine Show; his father before him had amassed a fortune in promising poor “marks” miraculous cures for what ailed them. This financed what he truly desired to be: a land baron. After making his money off the backs of these people, he began to build “affordable cottages” on land he bought for a song. He would rent these cottages to those unwitting victims of his fake elixirs, promising them in his smooth, conversational way, “warm, cozy nights” and a small tract of land with each for them to plant a “fruitful” garden in. What he did not tell them was that he had used the cheapest materials imaginable to build these cottages, and that they were drafty, the roofs leaked, and vermin could easily invade. The soil for the gardens was made up of clay and rock, and little could grow. He charged them extra for passage across his land to the stream that flowed nearby, so that fresh water had to be collected in rain barrels – which he also collected an extra charge for, since he alone provided the barrels.
Every year, the rent seemed to rise, but when you’re poor, with no claim to your own land, something is better than nothing, even if your children have runny noses and chilblains and your front is warmed by the fire even as your backside has goosebumps from the draft.
When Fred Crookenspiel had children of his own, he instilled in them a sense of overblown entitlement, even though he himself had grown up in a dirt floor shack, the son of immigrants who had fled religious persecution in their own land. He whitewashed over the petty details, and his children grew up spoiled, and loud, and filled with bullish tendencies. His second oldest son – The Mad King – was the worst of the lot. In those days, narcissistic personality disorder only existed in examples, and The Mad King was afflicted with this in spades.
While his brothers and one sister were, in fact, awful humans, they never rose to the level of despicable rogue that he did. He was a bully from day one who cared not for school, or hard work, or anyone but himself. He was only kind when he could be rewarded, or when he could wrestle the reward away. He cried the loudest, shouted the most profane blasphemies, and could not tell the truth about anything to save his life. It was often ruefully said, amongst his peers, “If Aul’ Fred’s kid says the sky is blue, I’ll go have a look for m’self.”
He did, however, understand his father’s business model, and swore to build a bigger, and better empire. He declared himself, and his family, to be tycoons of the highest repute, and could often be found in the most popular taverns and homes, holding court, so to speak. He would travel to other kingdoms under the guise of “making deals” but often left before his debts could be paid. “Holding court” with the wealthy wasn’t the kind of court he felt he aspired to, and his criticisms were often directed at the current king or about rulers in other lands. He had an opinion about everything, whether asked for it or not.
Throughout the years, he gambled heavily and bought into risky business ventures. He often lost the riches he invested, because despite understanding his father’s ways, he himself was not a very good businessman at all. His need for bigger and better consumed him, and and although he would praise his father for his “modest” successes, in private he raged with all the greediness of his 6 year-old self. He wanted all the cookies, Mummy – not just one or two.
When he began to muse, “I should be king,” people laughed into their pints. Sure, he seemed to be rich, if all that gold decor he surrounded himself with
and all those furs his wives and daughters wore was any indication; but surely he wasn’t smart enough to become king?
“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things… I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are. But I speak to a lot of people. My primary consultant is myself, and I have, you know, I have a good instinct for this stuff,”he would assure those who doubted his ability to become ruler of the kingdom. “Plus, I’m like really smart.”
Over the years, the kingdom went through many transformations: there was a king who led the country into war and quadrupled the country’s debt. A great many soldiers lost their lives, throwing families into chaos and poverty. The people began to complain amongst themselves, wanting change. They were tired of being poor, and being oppressed because they were poor, or had sought freedom from oppression in other countries, only to be dragged down by the crushing weight of racism and prejudice that prevailed throughout the warmonger king’s rule. “We need HOPE,” they cried. And so the country was thrown into a revolution, and for 8 years, a benevolent king had ruled.
However, it was hard for the benevolent king, because while his supporters were many, his enemies had money, and power. The rich in the land saw him as a threat, because he was asking them to pay their fair share and to help their fellow man. One of his enemies was Aul’ Fred’s son, who raged that this usurper must be stopped. “Why, he isn’t even one of us,” he would claim, to anyone listening. “He was born in Africa!” At this point, Fred’s son was knee-deep in murky, financial waters, having needed to travel to mysterious, far-away lands to beg and barter in order to save face. As has been stressed before, he was not very smart, and didn’t care that, in asking oligarchs in far-away lands to bankroll his lifestyle, he was actually giving them the power to control his own country. As long as he looked good, and could still claim to be the biggest and the best mostest, they could do whatever they wanted.
His realm was in chaos ever since the villagers had discovered that, instead of using the goods he regularly required them to donate – the chickens and livestock, part of their harvests, assorted leather and iron goods crafted by artisans, and the fine, strong broadcloth the women weaved over the winter months with the wool he allowed them to retain – he was using it for himself, the Queen, his five homely, gluttonous children,
and his assorted mistresses in court. He did not support his mistresses, but instead, paid them handsomely for their silence.
Instead of making good trades with other kingdoms, he would promise them payment in return for the things he desired from them, be it support on the battlefield, goods, information about his enemies, and safe passage through their lands in search of the elusive covfefe bush. He would make these “deals” but then renege on most of them.
Now, the hungry villagers were realizing that while their children starved and their faithful menfolk went off to do battle for a King who cared not about the danger he was putting them in, the Mad King and his lazy family were becoming richer and fatter by the day.
How had the villagers discovered his duplicitousness? He raged within the castle walls, his fury unhinged, his demands to know “who blew the whistle” met with silence. His advisers sought to calm him, placing great platters of hamberders in front of him, and sweet drinks, and desserts, and whispering in his ear;
“Your very stable genius is unmatched, Sire.”
“You have the biggest brain, my liege.”
“You possess the best words, your Majesty.”
This would calm him for a moment, but then he would spy someone in court looking slyly his way and then whispering something furtively to another subject, and he would erupt with anger, spittle spraying from his lips as he decried, “YOU SPREAD FAKE NEWS! YOU ARE HUMAN SCUM!”
At least 5 times a day, official proclamations would be dispatched to be announced by the town crier in the village square and missives would be sent by messengers on horses to the more remote areas of his realm. Sometimes, there were more, but his advisers would group these proclamations together so that the messengers wouldn’t have to make a dozen or more trips. As a result, one proclamation often contradicted the one right before it. It was not uncommon for the villagers to be told “I solemnly swear, as your king, that I will not send our soldiers to war” and then, in the next official announcement, hear that “We may need to go to war in order to stop the war.” At times, he was cryptic, proclaiming only “Wait for my words!” with ellipses…only the villagers did not know what ellipses were. Despite his claims of “the best education gold and silver could buy”, neither did he.
This morning, he instructed his Royal dresser to powder his face with extra color, so as to convey strength, health, and vigor, and donned his best, most golden wig, crafted by the virgin hair of a 13 year-old lass – this was the type he liked best. He was draped in voluminous robes to attempt to disguise his ever-widening backside and his rotund stomach, his sash hanging most unfashionably below his portly knees. Surveying himself in his looking glass, he murmured, “Who is the smartest guy? Who has said a lot of things? Me. I am the most bigly, huge leader!” Satisfied with his morning pep talk, he convened his most salacious, bottom-dwelling, foxy advisors to his drawing room.
“Tell me the news!” he demanded.
“We have sent spies to the other, far-off lands, Sire. They are to collect the information about those who wish to see you fail. We await their return,” said one.
“The witch hunt will not see you falter, my illustrious King! It is all false information, spread by those who are jealous of your great, powerful brain. They are unable to handle your genius!” gushed another.
“Perhaps,” said the quietest one, “it is time for a distraction from this terrible travesty, this attempt to destroy all of the wondrous things you have accomplished. Why, haven’t you built a strong wall around our kingdom to keep the dirty, maggot-encrusted beggars out? Have you not made the rich richer and taught the poor the most valuable lesson: to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and to never expect a handout? All wise, most useful points of knowledge, Sire! My fear, however, is that the evil, crafty opposition will take advantage of the weak and sow more lies about you.”
The Mad King leaned forward, his eyes shining like the scales of a fish in the sun. “What do you suggest?” he asked his adviser. The adviser’s bald pate reflected the torch light as he looked up from his templed fingers.
“Sire, as you well know, there are bandits outside the kingdom walls who take part in this great witch hunt, as well as having their own delusions of grandeur about toppling your monarchy and taking your riches for themselves. I have knowledge that one of the most ardent thieves – one who has set fire to cottages, stolen artifacts from the churches to boil down into gold bars, and who has attacked our forces while on the road – may be holed up in a cave to the east. I think we should send our best knights to kill him, and then display his head in the town square. The word will spread throughout the kingdom that you have toppled the enemy, making them safer, and they will be so filled with gratitude that they will forget this inconvenient, distasteful business about your family growing wealthier due to their donation of wares to the cause of the monarchy. Why, Sire, they will be happy to give you everything they own!”
The Mad King’s brow furrowed as he contemplated this idea. Finally, he spoke.
“Will I receive the credit? You know, I never do, but that’s okay. As long as the kingdom knows that I was the mastermind, I guess I can live with that.” he mused.
The ferret-faced adviser bowed to the Mad King. “Of course, Your Majesty. You will receive all of the credit. The villagers are idiots, if I may be so bold. None of them possesses your magnificent intellectual gifts! They believe anything we tell them.”
The Mad King mugged for his advisers, making a face and pantomiming, ‘I’m a dumb villager! I’m so stupid!”
His advisers laughed loudly and politely. Then, he held his hand up for silence and spoke. “I’m not changing. I went to the best schools, I’m, like, a very smart person. I’m going to represent our kingdom with dignity and very well. I don’t want to change my personality – it got me here,” he addressed them. “Have my knights get the fella. He’ll die like a dog, crying and whimpering. Have them whisper in his ear, ‘This is from the King’ before they cut off his head.”
Dismissing his advisers, the Mad King suddenly felt more ravenously hungry than he had in weeks. “Didn’t we receive more chickens from the villagers for our deal in Nipple and Nambia? Prepare me some straight away. I could eat a bucket of the stuff.”
I have always maintained that, if I ever won the lottery, I would first sign the ticket and secret it in a safety deposit box, lawyer up, then collect my winnings in anonymity, swearing the state to secrecy.
I would commence to disperse with the amounts that I would have earmarked for family and friends, cut the checks and execute the trusts, and deliver them to each recipient via special concierge service, with a brief explanation and a “This is my gift to you” sort of statement. The post-script would simply say, “Have a wonderful life; I’ll be in touch.” Then I’ll get a new phone number.
“In touch” might mean next week, or it could mean 2024.
Then, I would collect the husband, The Male Sibling Unit, the Army of Meowness, and we would escape to our dream haven at a yet-to-be-determined location.
This could be Virginia Beach or the Norfolk area – despite the husband’s quiet ruminations about “courting hurricanes”, to which I replied, ‘You mean playing chicken? I’m willing to put my mobility to the test.” First, I’d need to get some more shots in my C-spine, but I’m game, and we’ll be able to afford it.
It could be Colorado, close to the beloved Rockies, because my soul truly felt like it might soar out of my body the first time I glimpsed a view of those white-capped mountains majesty. This was despite the husband’s dubious look when I assured him we would actually incur less winter than we do here, according to my daughter, who is anxiously awaiting my permanent migration to her out west.
“Less winter in the Rockies?” he questioned mildly, certainly mindful of the things he has seen on tv and in movies where people get stranded in cars on blocked mountain passes and have to resort to eating their shoe inserts and snow to stay alive, and bears chasing them when they need to pee; besides, a blizzard could render you snowed-in at any time. Oh, and the possibility that you might have to stay at a hotel where blood flows like a river down the hall, the bartender is a ghost, two twin girls in matching dresses keep appearing to stare at you, and you find yourself barricaded inside a bathroom while your mad-as-all-fuck spouse takes a hatchet to the door. You know – fun times.
By the way, I’ve actually been to the grounds of that hotel – the inspiration for The Overlook Hotel in The Shining was The Stanley in Estes Park, Colorado. My kids knew that they might need to make me wear a Depends when they took me to see it last year, but it is a Holy Grail destination for a Stephen King fanatic. I took lots of cool photos, but this is my favorite:
I happen to think my photo puts this stock photo to shame, except for the stunning mountains captured:
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be holed up in such a beautiful place during a Snowpocalypse? The ghosts are just an added bonus.
One thing is certain; we won’t be moving into my personal dream home, because it is in Alaska. At the foot of a glacier. If you’re curious about that home, you can see it here. “I’ll come visit,” the husband stated firmly, “but I am notmoving to Alaska.”The fact that I did not reply, “Okay, great! I’ll see you in the Spring!” should give you an idea about how much I love him and where my priorities are, because I felt that house in my soul. I’ll just keep trying to recreate it, and build the damn thing if I have to.
You might be scratching your head, wondering where all this lottery talk is coming from. After all of this explanation about how I prefer anonymity and then to bug-out once my loved, cherished ones are looked after, I find myself unable to keep a secret.
Yesterday, I impulse-bought two Pennsylvania Lottery Instant games from one of those lottery ATMs.
I never do this. This was absolutely the first time. I don’t even buy Powerball tickets; I leave that task to the husband to do. I’m not a gambler in any way, having entered a casino exactly three times in my life:
Once, to indulge the husband’s love of gambling on his birthday, where he spent $100 and miraculously departed with something like $375; we were clueless about one game he was playing so we were just giggling and saying, ‘Ahhh, what the fuck,” and pushing buttons randomly until he had a premonition that he should cash out and he was right.
The second time was to take my newly-pregnant with her second child daughter to the buffet for her birthday, because that was where she wanted to go. She spent the dinner in a foul mood because she was having morning sickness, but I crushed it at the chocolate fountain.
The last time, the same daughter and I accompanied my youngest daughter to a bridal convention, where we oohed and ahhed at dresses, place settings, and tried samples of canapes and other reception fare. We left with business cards, pamphlets, and unsettling trepidation about just how expensive dream weddings could be (or maybe that was just the crab puffs). Her wedding was breathtaking and perfect without all those fancy-shmancy ideas and wedding planners.
It could be argued that I will do anything but gambleat a casino, although critics of buffets at casinos would argue that you are, indeed, gambling with your digestive health if you choose to partake of that sort of gastronomical wheel of fortune.
For me to part with $2 at a Lottery ATM is such a rare occurence, you have a better chance at seeing a Yeti. And yet, I did.
To my shock and utter, euphoric delight, once I figure out how to actually play the tickets I’d chosen (one Halloween-themed and the other, well duhhhhhhh, Grumpy Cat-themed) I discovered that I was a winner! My first time gambling, and I had won! What a story for the grandkids to tell their grandkids, right?!? But yes, it’s true: I won!
I would ask that you please respect my privacy, and that of my family’s, while we digest this spectacular change in fortune and learn to cope with this tremendous wave of good luck. Please, no requests for loans; I know who all my cousins are now due to my Ancestry DNA test, so don’t come at me with that angle, either.
Excuse me now, as I try to figure out how to contact David Bromstad, of My Lottery Dream Home. I really hope he can find me a dream home in either Virginia or Colorado with my winnings. I’m going to thrill him when I tell him my budget: