Monday, July 28, 2008

My Future Plans

As I said at the beginning of my last blog post, I am currently approaching my Junior Year of college, meaning that I am halfway through university and will graduate in two years.

This is a thought that I find scary and exhilirating at the same time, scary because of the pressures to find a job in a bad economy, and exhilirating because it means the beginning of my actual life, the beginning of building a career and an existence of my own.

Even that notion is frightening, though; I've been a kid for so long (all twenty years of my life) that being anything else is very hard to imagine. And yet, it is coming. In 2010 I will receive my degree and leave Major University, out into the real world and whatever it may bring.

The natural fears that any person in my situation would have were exacerbated this summer by the fact that I was unsure of what I wanted to do with myself after I got out of school. I felt that if I had some kind of path, something to work towards, things would be so much better, but as it was I was simply hammering away at a bachelor's with no conception as to what use I might put it.

When I was in Movie State, though, someone told me something what I needed to hear.

He was a man in his forties or so, vacationing there with his retired father. I'd struck up a conversation with the elder of the two in front of the fireplace at our Gay City Hotel. Nighttime temperatures had dropped into the fifties or even the forties, and that warmth was needed.

The gray-haired retiree, once he'd learned that I was in college, asked me what I was going to pursue after I'd finished with my studies.

"I don't know," I laughed. "I have no idea."

"Well, let me tell you something," his son interjected. "Pick a career. Pick something, and, even if you're not sure you want to do it for the rest of your life, give your all to it. Unless you choose once thing and give it one hundred percent, you'll wind up his age--" here he gestured to his father "--and won't have accomplished anything with your life."

The old man chuckled, but I could see that the middle-aged one had been right.

A person can accomplish so much more by devoting their full energies to one enterprise than they can by spreading out their talents and trying to "play the field."

That's alright while in school, but once out, you have to decide.

So, after returning from Movie State, I did some serious thinking about where I wanted to go in the next few years with my life.

I thought about what I'm good at, what I like, and what I could make money with. The answer came to me, so obvious that it had of course crossed my mind before: writing.

I have long considered the option of being a reporter, seeing as I do have a talent with words and what one of my superiors at Student Newspaper called "good journalistic instincts;" I am able to tell fairly easily which questions should be asked, what is newsworthy, what is trivial, what people need to know, and what interests them.

This had consistently been my back-up plan, something I knew I could always do but hadn't given that much consideration to. Now, I have made it my career goal.

I will be a news reporter after I leave Major University. Of course, this could entail changing my major from Political Science to Communications, but if it helps me to get the job that I'm well-suited for rather than no job at all (for I truly don't know what else I would do), then it will be worth it.

Soon, I will be contacting Western City Newspaper to inquire about a winter internship possibility, wherein I could spend a large part of my Christmas vacation effectively working there, learning the formal ropes (i.e., AP, my looseness with which is my one journalistic shortcoming) of a news organization. Next summer, I hope to begin part-time employment with them.

Before I get into where I'd like to apply for jobs following school, I should talk about what I will do before that time comes. For you see, I have no intention of entering my chosen field immediately after graduation.

My ambitions will take me elsewhere first.

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, and New Orleans in particular, I found myself at regular intervals stricken with pity for the victims in Louisiana and with appallment by the callous inaction of our government. As the years went on, my conviction that the people of the region had been tremendously wronged only increased.

Today, the population of New Orleans is but half what it was before Katrina struck, with entire neighborhoods today, left largely as they were that awful day nearly three Augusts ago.

Beginning my Freshman Year of college, I began to entertain ideas (or at least desires) of visiting New Orleans and somehow helping out with the situation there. The problem was that I didn't know what to do.

There are plenty of organizations that go down to the Gulf, but many of them, such as Habitat for Humanity, are involved in construction projects, an area in which I would be of no help and would probably in fact be a hindrance.

I wanted, as I'd expressed to my brother and parents, to help out in the local schools, working with teenagers at the high school level by offering tutoring or other assistance. However, no program that could facilitate that, so far as I knew, existed.

This April, I had the good luck to interview a young woman who'd been chosen as the commencement speaker for Major University's Class of 2008. While the subject of the article I was writing had originally been her speech, the focus soon shifted to include her post-graduation plans.

She spoke to me extensively of a group called Teach for America, a prestigious and competitive institution that sends some of America's brightest young scholars, all of them college graduates, to the country's most impoverished regions. After rigorous training extending through most of the summer (which she's likely still undergoing right now), participants are certified as public school teachers and placed for a two-year commitment in a school system while making a teacher's salary.

The young woman I interviewed was headed to Baton Rouge, and, in the story that had landed so serendipitously in my lap, I'd found what I was looking for.

I will, during my Senior Year, apply to Teach for America and, if accepted, request placement in New Orleans or the surrounding area.

The positions are extremely coveted, though, so over the next two school years I will have to build my GPA and secure leadership positions both on and off campus. 2008's commencement speaker had a grade point average close to my own, far from spectacular, a fact that gives me heart.

After two years in Louisiana (or, should I fail to satisfy that particular ambition, after I graduate), I will begin to search for employment.

I'd like a job that will allow me to move around a lot. I became accustomed to packing up and going every one to two years during late middle school and all throughout high school, and, while this had some very serious disadvantages, I was able to meet a huge diversity of people and experience lifestyles in very different environments.

I hope that will continue.

I do have in mind several places I wish to go.

I have an interest in Texas and would love to live there for a time. I wouldn't say no to temporarily residing in California, which I find an intriguing state simply because it's so different from where I grew up and where I live currently. I am enamored with thoughts of Upstate New York, though I've never actually been there.

I have a fascination with the state of Ohio that I can't quite explain.

I am also somewhat in love with Florida.

The South is dynamic and rapidly growing into the dominant part of the country, an economic, societal, and, very importantly for our political climate, electoral powerhouse that will eclipse the North with the next census in 2010.

Florida and Texas have become the titans that Pennsylvania and New York once were, and yet while the two latter states continue to bleed industry and people, the two former have some of the fastest-growing economies and populations in the country.

Florida is already the nation's most pivotal swing state, and, with the massive influx of immigrants to its borders, demographics in the state of Texas will have changed dramatically enough within the next thirty years to make the electoral mammoth of the Deep South a highly-competitive bloc in presidential elections.

In 2032, Florida will have 36 electoral votes and Texas 42 to Pennsylvania's 17 and New York's 25. In other words, the South is where things are happening. It's the nexus of everything, the mutating center of the gargantuan American empire.

Not living there at all at such an important time in the nation and region's history, during the transfer of power from Yankee to Dixie, seems silly. It is something to be seen and remembered. It is something to be savored and marveled at.

Of course, I can't imagine actually staying there, staying here. When I do permanently settle, it will be somewhere in the North. The heavily-forested hills, the fields awash in wildflowers, the surging mountains, the torrid snowfalls of my native region call to my heart. I can never fully leave them, nor could I conceive of rearing a family in the Southern states. It just seems too unnatural.

The North, even drained of its influence and a good deal of its residents, is my home. At least then it'll be quieter.

I doubt I'll go back to Native State, which can technically be considered part of the South anyway. It's not what it used to be to me.

You never know, though; anything could happen.

As Thomas said to me one night in 2005, when he was ten years old, "Nowhere feels like home anymore."

That is one of the more regrettable consequences of moving around constantly.

I suppose you just keep going until you find somewhere that feels right. I really hope I do.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Out With My Brother

Soaring Light

Today's post was going to be about my future career plans, an issue that I think, given I am entering my Junior Year of college, is quite pertinent.

Something, however, intervened: my thirteen-year-old brother, Thomas.

He and I were never close at all when he was younger. In fact, we fought terribly from the time of his late toddlerhood until about several years ago, when we simply became distant occupants of the same house. Of late, though, Powell has been out more and more often, scarcely ever staying the night at home, and in his absence Thomas and I have drifted closer together than I would have ever thought possible even two years ago.

I wouldn't quite say that he looks up to me, but rather would call the attitude he has toward his eldest brother one of affectionate deprecation. He makes goodhearted jokes at my expense (my physical appearance is an endless source of these), and, due to a tradition of ours that outsiders find mystifying, refers to me as "Sally" while I call him "Lucy."

Powell was born in 1989, only a year and a half after I was, and for a long time he and I probably knew each other better than did anyone else in the entire world. That's not true, not anymore.

Powell is selfish, petty, immature, and insensitive. He spares nothing in speaking to me, a habit that has resulted in our conversing less and less.

After an explosive argument we had several days ago (which had started because he called me a "fucking idiot" when I suggested he try carpooling to community college next year instead of buying his own car), I finally spat out at him, "You barely even count anymore."

"As what?" he asked.

"As a brother," I responded. "You barely even count."

"What are you talking about?" he replied.

"We never talk anymore, Powell. I used to know more about you than anyone, but now I don't know anything."

"Yeah, that's 'cause you snithced," he said. "So I don't tell you anything anymore."

The incident he referred to happened last December, when, during the week of his semester finals for high school, he got drunk every night. I didn't let slip a word to anyone, despite my growing concerns, until finally he blacked out and threw up all over my bathroom at three in the morning.

The purple-black vomit was so laden with alcohol that the rum on it gave off an odor almost as powerful as the sick itself.

That was what pushed me over the edge and motivated me to confide in our father, a former alcoholic, what Powell was doing.

He never forgave me.

He insisted that he didn't have a problem, even as the drinking progressed, and, six months later, he was arrested for hosting a drunken party in our house while our parents were in Country Music State.

He was so inebriated that upon the police officers' arrival he physically struck out at them, spitting on their car at one point.

Still, he had it all under control.

Now, believe it or not, I do not think that Powell is an alcoholic. He doesn't need a beer to get up in the morning and a beer to go to bed at night, but he has two alcoholic parents, demonstrates alcoholic tendencies, and has been known to drink far too much on occasion.

For me, that's enough of an indication that he should slow down. But whenever I bring this up, he tells me that I'm being a "fucking idiot" or a "fucking retard" and that I don't "know what the fuck I'm talking about."

This is his way of throwing in my face that he has more friends and has, in certain ways, had more life experience than me despite being nearly two years younger. He never seems to tire of it.

So, yes, he really does "barely count" anymore. I reached the point a short while ago where I could no longer deal with him. Today, he is family in the obligatory sense that those to whom we are biologically related receive our dutiful love. There is no real connection anymore, yet we must smile and hug when we meet and think vaguely fond thoughts of each other.

This is what it's come to with the person who used to be my best friend, and it makes me so sad. He did it, though. He's just not worth the effort.

So, as I said before, Thomas and I have supplanted one another for the middle brother in Powell's absence.

It's actually a pretty good arrangement, and in the process we've found that we really do enjoy each other's company.

Today was another example of that.

Thomas had been on me for some time to come with him and see a mulch pile that he and his friends play on, something he assured me was incredible to behold and that he petitioned me all day to visit.

I consented at last this afternoon, and around three o'clock we left the house.

We considered taking bicycles, but then he remembered that his was broken and that there wasn't really any safe place to deposit the vehicles once we'd gotten to our destination, so we decided to just go on foot.

I'm glad we took this approach, as I enjoy the exercise and prefer anyway walking to riding. Bicycling is fun every now and again, but you see much more making your way through trails and along roads at a walker's pace. You run into people, run into trees, catch butterflies and bugs out of the corner of your eye.

There's just a great deal to be experienced walking that you don't get on a bike.

We left our house, trodded to the end of Flowering Street, and then made a left onto the road that leads out of our development. We made a right to exit our neighborhood, leaving behind the expensive new homes that Mountain Town's more affluent residents have acquired, and entered Mountain Town proper, the part that's been here for more than five years.

To our left as we strode down the road was a railroad track and an old factory that looked like it might cave in any minute, to our right the modest homes of Mountain Town's working class. It was to one of these, constructed of red bricks, that we walked. It was the type of home built perhaps forty to sixty years ago, one where the mortar has gone from white to gray and little pieces of cinder break off if you rub your hand across the outside wall.

Thomas's friend Pink-Skinned Boy lives here. Pink-Skinned Boy is one of the few people who know the location of the Mulch Pile. According to Thomas, only Bisexual Boy, Untrustworthy Boy, Pink-Skinned Boy, two female friends of the group, and, of course, Thomas himself, are aware of how to reach the coveted spot.

Bisexual Boy has just recently turned sixteen, making me the oldest person to have ever been taken into the confidences of this band of children.

I actually felt quite flattered.

Thomas Entering the Entrance

We treaded through the small stretch of grass in between Pink-Skinned Boy's house and the neighbor's, then cut through the neighbor's backyard. Before long, we'd reached a sheltered clearing on land behind both houses that was shielded from outside view by dense overhanging branches and leaves. In the early afternoon day, the golden sunlight shone and glittered through the emerald vegetation, lighting mine and my brother's blonde hair at different points where sunlight entered through a gap in the canopy above.

Entrance to the Entrance

I'd barely seen anything, and already I loved it.

"Thomas, this is so cool," I said, looking down at the muddy dirt and soiled grass beneath our feet. It seemed like something out of a fairytale, like the entrance to a mythical realm.

Places like that are what both summer and childhood are made of, and I felt honored that Thomas was sharing something so precious and intimate with me. Even if he didn't realize it, his decision to expose this realm of children to someone who wasn't a child was a significant one. It warmed my heart to see the thicket, and made me feel as if I were traveling back in time.

Several years ago, I would have found the place enchanting--today, I found it so as well.

The space was bounded to the left with trees, to the right with trees and a sturdy old metal shed of some sort, and on the right and back by a rusty metal fence that time had worn badly from disuse.

The only unenclosed side was the one from which we had entered.

Thomas took me back to the corner made by the fence, where the plants grew even more thickly, obstructing the barrier over which we'd have to climb to reach the Mulch Pile.

First I, then my brother, hauled ourselves up by a tree to the top of the fence and jumped with trepidation to the small gap on the other side, a strip of land perhaps two feet wide that was the only thing separating us from the hard alloy of the shed.

Once this had been accomplished, we had a second fence to get past. There would be no scaling involved in this one, though, since the more modern chainlink featured a small space between it and the shed, a one-foot passage that allowed us entry to the Mulch Pit.

It was a tight squeeze, one that the vast majority of fully-grown adults could not have managed. Perhaps that was why this was a children's haunt. It was perfectly designed for that purpose (though of course the builders could hardly have intended the result of their construction).

Even Powell, I mused, would likely be incapable of making it through, and here there was no option of simply going over; barbed wire lined the whole enclosure, a measure designed no doubt to keep out hoodlums that had merely assured their larger pursuers would be unable to capture them.

There's a kind of ironic genius to that that I love.

View From the Mulch Pile

The field was a great open place of marshy grass, much of it impassable, and several large mulch piles. The Pile to which Thomas had referred was obvious, however, towering above all the others. From its peak, the field, several of the smaller homes, and a portion of our own neighborhood were visible.

Thomas Atop the Mulch Pile

Thomas told me of how he and his friends liked to jump from that high point and into the mulch below, sometimes attempting to reach smaller hills in the same Pile.

Thomas Jumping

The next thing we explored was a vast and empty warehouse whose floorboards creaked ominously as we hoisted ourselves into the building. Wooden support beams, some of them noticeably bending, held up the vaulted roof.

"This is so ridiculously dangerous," I commented, as much to myself as to Thomas. I was torn between two halves of my personality, one that wished to admonish my younger brother for being so irresponsible and the other that thought the whole thing was mind-blowingly cool.

The latter won out, and soon I was as awestruck and fascinated as any twelve-year-old who'd been introduced to the hideout for the first time by more seasoned friends.

Green-tinged sunlight entered the chamber through the covered windows that graced each side near the ceiling.

Thomas and I ambled around within the great beast, my brother occasionally warning me not to step on a certain plank lest it should cave in and take my foot through the floor.

"Thomas, this is amazing!" I said, ecstatic. "Have you showed this to Powell?"

"No," he said firmly. "And I'm not going to. He'd wreck everything. He'd tell everyone he knows, and then it wouldn't be ours anymore."

"Okay," I said in agreement. I fully understood. It's very important for people to have their own place, and places like the one that Thomas and his friends enjoy are a rare treasure.

"I knew I could trust you," he said. "You're like a kid anyway."

I laughed at what I figured he'd intended as a compliment.

"Thomas, I'm not sure whether to take that as a good thing or not," I said.

The truth is, the same things that made me happy as a thirteen-year-old boy are the things that make me happiest now. Charting through the unknown terrain of a local forest, exploring an old building, being generally out-of-bounds, still deeply excites and sustains me. I would still like to believe in magic in the world, am still at my most content wandering carefree through an unknown valley or field with my long hair hanging about my shoulders and my eyes alight in wonder.

At times, this greatly disturbs me.

What makes you happy is what makes you happy, though, and it's days like today, simple yet so rich, that force me to realize how deeply unhappy I've been for a very long time.

How sad is that? A seventh-grader, wholly inadvertently, opened up my eyes to the longings of my own soul. I'm a kid at heart.

I'm a bit ashamed of that, particularly when I see people my own age who are so very content with car insurance, keggers, and student loans.

When did the price of gas become the most important thing in the world? When did the most thrilling prospect of our week become the day off to do errands and meet up with friends to hit a restaurant? When did we stop going outside? When did we do that?

It's all just so foreign to me.

I do know, though, that I enjoyed myself today more than I have in a very long time. My desires have stayed fairly basic throughout the years, no matter what happened.

I occasionally wonder what's wrong with me.

On our way home, we made to cut through a churchyard. We hadn't gotten even halfway across the lawn when an elderly woman leapt from the meeting hall, flew at least a foot off the ground, and cried out, "Hey!"

At first we thought we'd had it, but then she called out enthusiastically, "Long Hair Boy!"

She had advanced a bit closer when she covered her hands over her mouth in embarrassment.

"Oh, my God, I thought you were Long Hair Boy!"

She rushed now at Thomas and I, apologizing profusely. "I must have scared you to death! I'm sorry, you like just like Long Hair Boy!"

"Him?" I asked, gesturing at Thomas.

"No," she said. "You! There's a boy who lives down the street who looks just like you. But, of course, he's in college."

"He's taller, too," compounded her husband, who'd walked out behind her. "He's about 6'2", 6'3"."

"He's going to be a Junior at Well-Known Southern State University," the wife continued.

"Right," I said patiently, fighting the tick of indignation that was threatening to rise. "I'm a Junior, too."

"Right," she said. "But he's a Junior in college."

Thomas crowed triumphantly in the background; my youthful appearance is something he constantly taunts me with.

"No, that's what I mean," I said. "I'm a Junior in college, too."

"Oh," she said in a high voice, allowing only a mild look of surprise to creep onto her face. "And where do you go?"

"I go to Major University," I said.

"Oh, okay," she replied.

I looked up at their house of worship, painted white.

"What kind of church is this?" I asked.

"Episcopal," her husband answered. "We're the pastors."

They took us inside, where they showed us a stained glass window that featured likenesses of their two dogs among many other animals.

They also introduced themselves as Church Man and Eccentric Church Woman and talked a bit about the young man who apparently resembled me so much.

"We thought you were him," Church Man said. "He always has his hair in a ponytail or in a big frizzy ball."

Church Man laughed before continuing.

"He grew it out to donate it to Locks of Love, but then he loved having long hair so much that he didn't cut it."

I was laughing, too, once I heard the story.

"That's the worst thing I've ever heard!" I exclaimed.

When we left five minutes later with smiles and waves, I vowed to the couple that I would meet my twin. Hopefully it will happen.

I think I might like to go back there.

For the record, I'm sorry for the lack of pictures, but my camera's battery died before I could take any photographs of the Mulch Pile.

Thomas and I plan to go back early tomorrow morning before I work, and hopefully I'll be able to add in images tomorrow night.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Year Ago

For everything you’ve done to me, I hate you to my core
For all the lies you told to me, your image I abhor
For every single taunting peck, for every single jab
For every hellish hour spent, your beating heart I’d grab

I hate the way you made me feel, I hate the tears I cried
I hate the cuts I tried to heal, alone and so deprived
I hate each moment, sad and cold, I hate each scream you plied
From my trembling, shaking lips, the way inside I died

I hate how when I begged for help, they turned their heads away
I hate the death I always felt, when night cloaked over day
I hate the darkness all around, I hate their blinded eyes
I hate them, for they had to know, indifference I despise

I hate them all for hating me, I hate the things they did
I hate that in my purity, my blameless throat they slit
I hate that it was not enough, to leave me all alone
I hate those monstrous, evil beasts, who tore flesh from my bones

So hurt that I can barely see, save tears and all the red
So wounded now that when I scream, my throat is bloody shreds
I smolder at the wrongs you made, that day you held me down
Prostrate and afraid I laid, and in your fists I drowned

I’ll hate you all the years I walk, alone upon this Earth
Eternally I’ll curse your name, flames scorching from my hearth
My soul black as the ocean weeps, a thousand angry tears
The pain inside me always sleeps, my suffering it jeers

It wasn’t meant to be this way, I marvel that it came
Waking to each gutted day, I find myself amazed
It’s all your fault, you shameless fiend, you struck your blows so well
But I’m awake and burning deep, and you can burn in Hell


I'm sorry that I haven't posted in nearly a week, but I've been working a lot lately (four days of ten-hour shifts or greater). I had off yesterday and couldn't bring myself to get on here, but my load for the next few days is considerably lighter than it has been thus far.

Expect a full-length post tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Unexpected Visitors

Powell and Idiot Cousin in a Jeep

I have written lately about the effect of the recession upon my personal life and in my home in general. That effect is about to become much more pronounced.

There are two developments, both very recent, that promise to significantly alter our lives if (in the case of the first) and once (in the case of the second) they take force.

My mother, who has been employed since 1999 by Major Pharmaceutical Company, learned this week that as a result of that corporation's continued efforts to cut costs, her job may be eliminated in September.

She's already taken a pay cut from $100,000.00 to $80,000.00 a year, but even at that reduced income brings home the vast majority of our family's annual revenue. My father had held that distinction, with his own salary topping $150,000.00 at its peak.

Once Solar Explosion Company fell apart, though, his contribution to the family coffers dropped to zero, with the result that between 2006 and 2007, our total income fell from $250,000.00 to under $100,000.00.

Should my mother be terminated, our situation would go from difficult to dire. We would almost certainly have to leave our home in favor of something smaller and less expensive, a move that, if it happens, will be our sixth relocation in seven years.

In 2001, my mother was promoted within Major Pharmaceutical Company, an improvement in position that allowed us at last to leave Dirty Town, where we'd lived since 1993. We departed Dirty Town before our house in Beautiful Town was done being built, though, so for the intervening three months we lived with My Mother's Old Best Friend and her family. In December we finally took up residence in Beautiful Town.

In May of 2004 my mother was promoted again, which took us from Beautiful Town and Native State to Deep South State. The three hurricanes that struck our luxurious home there, coupled with the deaths of three separate family members, sent us in March of 2005 to Wealthy Town in Southern State, where, for the first time since the early '90's, we rented a house.

In December of '05, we purchased our own home in more affordable Mountain Town. Now, economic troubles have surfaced, and we could be obliged to leave and resettle once again.

Before you start rushing to give me your condolences, I should tell you that I think it highly unlikely my mother will actually be let go; she is excellent at what she does, has consistently exceeded sales goals, is a physician favorite, and at the beginning of her career with Major Pharmaceutical Company was declared Rookie of the Year.

Just before we left Deep South State, Major Pharmaceutical Company was acquired by Major Foreign Pharmaceutical Company, and she faced the same prospect. We pulled through then, and I think we will now.

That being said, the economic atmosphere in mid-2008 is far different than it was in late 2004 and early 2005, so we must, as I told her, be prepared for the worst.

If she is downsized, she will look for another job in the field, which she will probably find. It's all very frightening, though.

Another event, one whose chances of happening are far greater, could also soon be upon us.

My Aunt Ostentatious and her family, including Uncle Fake, Idiot Cousin, and Bratty Cousin, moved from Native State (where they had resided in Dirty Town for well over a decade) to Humid State in 2006. They bought a beautiful home, added every special feature they could, and prepared to live the good life. Unfortunately, they also left Native State without first finding new employers.

So, when Idiot Cousin and Aunt Ostentatious fell down the stairs in separate incidents and severely injured one ankle each, the family was without health insurance. The necessary surgeries that followed quickly put them in $80,000.00 of medical debt.

They soon figured out what my own family had learned the hard way two years earlier, that moving to the Deep South without a job already secured is very unwise. Before long they couldn't pay their bills, which prompted my Uncle Fake to return to Native State seeking work so he could send money down south.

This has left my aunt alone with her two daughters and no friends in a strange region of the country. Aunt Ostentatious has grown despondent in this environment, and so welcomed with relish a visit that my parents made to Humid State several weeks ago.

A thank-you card came from her in the mail a few days back. It read:

"Marie and David: Thank you both for all you did while you were here. It was great to see all of you. I wish it could have been longer. Seems like it went by so fast. Marie, thanks for all the cleaning-up and cooking, also thanks for the lunch money; you didn't have to do that. Well, I miss you all so very much already. Hope to see you soon! Love Always, Ostentatious."

When I finished reading this aloud to Powell, his strong football player's face softened into an expression that made him look like a giant teddy bear.

"Oh, now we have to let them stay," he said, his heart just as melted as mine had been.

"I know," I concurred.

Aunt Ostentatious's Letter

That's right: Aunt Ostentatious is coming to live with us. Idiot Cousin, who is fond of drinking, smoking, and heading up to Native State to party (she is only seventeen) will not be coming, and neither will my Uncle Fake. Ostentatious and her youngest daughter Bratty will move in fairly soon, taking, of all places, my bedroom.

I'm moving two floors up to Thomas's quarters, and he'll have to bunk with Pie until all of this rolls over.

It isn't that I'm not aggravated about having to leave my spacious basement apartments, of which I'm rather fond. It's just that, however much Aunt Ostentatious's family has riled me in the past, they are family, and we must help them in their time of need as I hope that would have helped us.

Had Idiot Cousin been included in this deal, I would have bitten down and beared her presence here, but she almost assuredly will not be coming; my mother had imposed conditions on her dwelling her, those being that she stop drinking and smoking and that she enroll full-time in the local high school.

The odds of her abiding by those rules are about as likely as an asteroid striking me as I write this, so she probably will not be accompanying her mother and sister. Uncle Fake continues to work in Native State.

I will say this, though: we have been far more gracious as the dominant family in the 2000's than they ever were in the 1990's. For the greater part of that decade, before our meteoric rise and their dramatic fall, they constituted by far the greatest income earners in the extended family.

I will have to explain later a theory of mine, entitled Family System Economics, that analyzes the balance of power between individual families in an extended unit in much the same way that international studies analyzes the balance of power between nations.

In any case, we always knew during their time at the top that they occupied the upper rung and that we were far and away on the bottom. They never let us forget. My mother's relatives all thought that she, at nineteen, was insane for marrying a twenty-nine-year-old man with two small children at home.

They predicted that, if our parents' fragile union did not immediately dissolve, we would surely fall flat on our faces. That failing, any economic achievements would be the result of my mother's labors.

Mom and Dad have since outlasted the many broken marriages of every couple who preached their imminent demise, have had two additional children, and have both attained six-figure incomes.

I am sometimes rather proud of them.

Those rivalries and whatnot are long in the past, if for no other reason than the fact that we have pulled so ridiculously far ahead as to have an insurmountable lead on the others.

That lead has not been whittled at all by the economic fiasco now unfolding, seeing as it's hit everyone proportionally. We're now middle income, and everyone else has nothing. That's about the size of it.

I'm actually looking forward to having Aunt Ostentatious here, in a way. She was never the worst of my father's decriers, nor was she as bad to Powell and me as some of the other members of my mother's family.

Idiot Cousin grew up a street down from us and was like a sister to Powell, Thomas, and I before Pie was born. That has ended now. Time took us apart.

I'll let you know as things progress.

Thank You

Friday, July 11, 2008

All Alone

No one held the scythe that struck
My head from off my neck
Nor bade the clouds that gathered fast
And made a rusty wreck

No one told the sun to set
Upon that wretched sight
No one cast it from the sky
And gunned down all the light

No god saw as Heaven rained
Ten million wicked knives
No one screamed as down they poured
And took down countless lives

No one saw my fields aflame
My green self turned to gold
The roses would incinerate
With no one being told

No one saw the beauty lost
But I did, I was there
I watched the flowers burn and rot
I watched the awful flare

Now the land is scorched and done
The sky an empty black
Disaster's come, catastrophe
And there's no going back

It's all deceased and no one cares
And no one even knows
I watch the ruin fall on me
I watch it all alone

Somebody help me. Please.

A Note to Readers

The Journals Section for November, 2002 is now posted, and December, 2002's is in progress. Just think, soon we'll be entering 2003 (in the past)!

You'll have to scroll down a bit to find November's post, but it's there. As always, it's a bit long, and, as has become customary, I am going to recommend one date in particular to my readers: the entry for November 28, 2002, is very heartwarming, or at least it is for me to look back on. It was Thanksgiving and I had a lot to be thankful for.

Dad comes home tonight from Decaying State and I'm looking forward to seeing him.

I work tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday, but then have off Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday I get my paycheck!

On the 15th I am tentatively scheduled to meet with Fantasy Author.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Secret Love of the Recession

Bank Owned

I have a confession to make.

It's one I make here, because to voice aloud to my friends and family such an incredibly unpopular opinion would surely leave me in the social doghouse for several days at the very least.

I love the recession. I absolutely love everything about it, and for so many reasons.

Before the economy turned arounmd, before gas was $4.00 a gallon and people had to legitimately worry about whether or not they'd be able to afford the commute to work, we as a people spent wantonly with no thought to the fact that we didn't have the money. We drove massive, petrol-hogging SUVs that left local environments in a shambles, and we were all too willing to look the other way as the Bush Administration waged a war of aggression and occupation to fund our bloated lifestyle.

In my personal life, I found that I lacked any direction whatsoever in the two years or so before the stock market peaked and then began its very dramatic decline at the beginning of 2008.

My parents' income had been consistently rising since my early childhood, and beginning in 2004 or so this increase became exponential. By 2006, at the height of their earning power, my mother and father were bringing home a combined revenue of $250,000.00 a year, enough money to live in a $500,000.00 house, pay my college tuition, furnish my brother and I with a car, and essentially get us as a family anything we wanted.

From straddling the poverty line in the early 1990's in Native City and then in Dirty Town, we had entered the top percentile for household income in the United States.

Powell, Thomas, Pie, and I, had become rich kids.

Don't get me wrong, having nearly limitless money (so far as we were concerned, because we never really needed much) was great. Last Christmas, en lieu of actual presents, my parents simply presented Powell and I each with $200.00-gift cards.

We had a hot tub installed; bought a trampoline; built a deck, shed, and fence; and, at our family's monetary height, were looking into the purchase of a $30,000.00 inground pool.

Those things were very nice.

But even then, with no indication that the empire they'd built would soon seriously stumble, my mother was often wistful for our more modest past.

"I feel like we did more as a family in Dirty Town, when we didn't have a lot of money, than we do now," she would often say. "And I was happier then."

As for me, a combination of severe personal problems and the knowledge that my financial support was assured no matter what I did produced an acute lack of direction.

Last school year, all things told, I failed three separate classes. I waited to register for the Spring Semester of 2008 until the night before students returned from Christmas Break, and my consistent failure to meet article deadlines very nearly got me fired from the school newspaper where I worked.

I would wait until the last minute to even begin school assignments, berating myself the whole time for doing it and as a result creating a state of constant anxiety over late papers, missed homeworks, and passed due dates that I easily could have met had I simply resolved to do my work.

I'm not an unintelligent person. If I truly put my mind to it, there's no reason that I couldn't get straight As.

The only thing that kept me from completely destroying my GPA this semester was the fact that I dropped one class and took and incomplete in another, for I would have failed both had I remained enrolled.

My attitude changed, though, this January.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost four hundred points in a single day, and then the economists began talking about the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Some went a step further, predicting an actual depression by 2009. Much of that speculation is still going around in certain quarters, and I'm inclined to believe it's possible.

My grandmother Weird Family will turn eighty-one this October, and she remembers the first Great Depression very vividly, which, given that it threw her family headlong into wretched poverty, is to be expected.

"It was like this before," she told me cryptically one day as we spoke on the phone. "This is what happened the last time."

She was referring to the unsustainable amount of spending, the ostentatious lifestyles, the grossly irresponsible reliance on credit, and then, once the market turned, the widespread foreclosures and bankruptcies as a result of that credit not being repaid.

I became very aware this winter that my position in the world had suddenly gotten much more tenuous, a realization heightened by the collapse of Solar Explosion Construction Company in May, which ended my father's job and more than halved our household income.


He's in Decaying State, by the way, training for a new position as a salesman with a bath-fitting company. This is about the third job he's had since Solar Explosion caved in.

My mother has taken to selling Avon on the side and teaching a spin class at our local gym. We need the extra money more than ever; she learned this week that she may be laid off in September as Pharmaceutical Company eliminates jobs to cut costs.

Another thing that we've done is planted our own garden, which I've taken to calling the Victory Garden.

Mom and Pie Again

To lighten the load of our grocery bill, we're now growing our own tomatoes, squash, corn, peppers, green beans, and other vegetables.

Me Holding Green Beans

We went yesterday to pick our some beans and squash for an evening meal. My mother made steamed squash seasoned with different spices. Before, I wouldn't have touched it, but now it tastes delectable.

A Squash Taken Home


Green Beans From the Garden

It's funny how your standards adjust when you have no choice in the matter, when everything is scarce. It was so good, though, and the type of thing I never would have experienced a few years ago because I just would've eaten something else.

Tomatoes in the Victory Garden

Now, for the first time in years, we have to budget. The entire world is not at our fingertips, we cannot have whatever we want, and we cannot indulge our every whim.

Yet I feel better than I've felt in a long time. I feel more productive, more powerful, and more in control of my own life than ever before. I have a reason now, a reason to live, and something to build towards, that I didn't have before.

I work nearly forty hours a week at a movie theater making $5.85 an hour, almost all of which goes straight into a checking account that I withdraw money from exclusively to pay for gas and food (my Flickr account deposit notwithstanding).

Dressed for Work

Yesterday while in the mall, I saw a Harry Potter-themed hoodie in Hot Topic that I really wanted to buy. It was marked down from over $40.00 to $10.98, and it was the last one in the store.

I could feel the debit card in my wallet, its plastic sheen willing to dispense with the paltry funds I needed and get me the desired, the wonderful object.

I was picturing myself later this Fall or winter wearing the coat. I could see in my mind how the black would look contrasted with my bright golden hair, which is long enough to reach my shoulders and so would actually touch the fabric. I imagined how the red Gryffindor logo on the left breast would warm my pale white skin and bring attention to my glowing green eyes, and in that instant I wanted the piece of clothing so badly that I really was tempted to whip out the card and spend the money.

Then, though, my imagination took another turn.

I thought of how I'd feel following the purchase, the guilt that would take hold of me after the truly unnecessary expenditure of $11.00, the way that the garment my eyes had so greedily coveted would have to sit for months in my closet before I could wear it.

"No," I told myself. "I don't need it now."

It was the last one in the store. And I walked out.

After I get my next paycheck (which should be for something in the area of $300.00), I may go back and look for something, but not until then.

I need to save, particularly now after making a major decision: I will be commuting to Major University next year.

The campus is about an hour and a half away from my house, but by making the drive I will cut my education costs approximately in half, bringing the amount I have to spend from roughly $7,000.00 or $8,000.00 per semester to roughly $4,000.00.

Between Grand Ma Normal Family's help (for my parents cannot afford to give me anything) and some strategic savings accounts, I should be able to continue attending school without going into debt.

The money that I make this summer is being funneled into a checking account that will serve as my gas fund for the 2008-2009 year.

So far, it's at just over $670.00 and climbing.

Next school year I will be taking eighteen credit hours, the maximum that my school allows. I've realized that my parents will not be able to help me forever, and furthermore am well aware that the financial world I am entering is much more volatile than the one that existed just a year ago.

I will need all the money I can get.

During my recent trip to Movie State, someone gave me one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received.

He was a man in about his thirties or forties on vacation with his retired father, who upon learning that I was in college asked me what I wanted to do after I graduated.

"I don't know," I answered honestly. "I really have no idea."

"Well," the son interjected. "Let me tell you something: when you get out, pick a career and stick with it, even if you're not sure it's what you want to do for the rest of your life. Just find something and give it your all. If you don't, you'll be his age--" he gestured to his father "--and won't have accomplished anything. You never know where a job will take you."

His words helped to strengthen my conviction that I ought to probably seek work as a reporter following the conclusion of my university studies, and from here on out I will direct my energies in that direction. When I return to Major University in the Fall I will see first thing to a meeting with a career adviser to help me dtermine how best to enter this field.

I know I can do it if only I focus and concentrate all of my resolve toward that goal. I must'nt waver, though, not in the least. That was my problem before: I could think of no field to settle on and was well on my way to nowehere.

Having an aspiration again, having something to aim for, has envigorated me.

I don't expect to be a reporter forever, and would like eventually to go to law school. But for right now, I have to do what I have to do. And having to do something is wonderful.

My saving mania (it is common knowledge in our family that I am even more tight-fisted than my parents) was given a boost yesterday when I discovered a savings account I'd completely forgotten I had with $315.51 in it.

I'd established it as a minor in 2004 and neglected to pay it any mind in several years, so when the statement came Wednesday it got my attention and moved me to call the bank.

Today I drove out to Western City, passed right by where I work, closed the account, and deposited all of the money into my checking with a separate bank, nearly doubling that fund's contents.

As a country, this crisis has given us perspective and sanity once more. People's innate sense of responsibility is being restored, because the credit they once relied on has vanished and in any case is now seen as so poisonous that's it not to be touched.

I believe that as the current bear market deepends, and as it possibly sinks into a depression within the coming year, Americans will have regained some of what once made us the greatest people on the planet.

Baby Watermellon

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Lazy Summer's Day

A Summer's Day in the Neighborhood

That's what yesterday was. Here are some pictures:

Peruvian Girl

My friend, Peruvian Girl.


Some flowers.



Four Feet

Our feet.

Two Feet

A close-up of the feet.


Peruvian Girl's dog, Kiki.

Peruvian Girl and Kiki

Peruvian Girl with Kiki.

Blackened Boy and Peruvian Girl

Peruvian Girl and me.

Blackened Boy and Peruvian Girl

Us kidding around in the mirror.

Ice Cream

We ate ice cream.

My Leg

Just lounging about.

Just After Eating Ice Cream

My lips were a little moist after eating that ice cream.


We saw a beautiful cloud while we sat out on her porch.

My Shadow

That's my shadow.

Journals Section: November, 2002


November 1, 2002

This journal is a bit different from the others I’ve had, but that figures because of where it came from. It came from my Grandmother Weird Family, who is always very different. She is really the most odd person, and to be quite honest, some of her implications frighten me sometimes. More than once I’ve wondered if she’s not quite there mentally. But then my fears are dismissed because she’s just too intelligent and some of her decisions too logical for her to be really crazy. We’ve been writing letters back and forth to each other, and I really enjoy writing to her. We’ve been discussing, of late, Slavic culture, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, a bit of the present-day Russian Federation, and, let’s see, the Electoral College, and a bizarre incident that happened concerning my grandmother and which has mystified my family for roughly twenty years. I’ll go into detail about that tomorrow. Oh, also, tomorrow is my audition in Boulder Town! Supposedly, a very important person from Columbia Tristar Pictures will be there, so I’ll really have to be at my best. I’m terribly excited. I don’t know if I’ll have any time to actually speak with this person from Columbia Tristar, but I should really hope so. That would probably make things look a lot better for me. What can I say, my personality’s overwhelmingly sweet and good-natured. I’m just kidding about that. It may or may not be true, but I’m not that conceited. I have a friend named Pretty Girl who does that beautifully, and it’s absolutely hilarious. She was telling us in class today that someone kept flashing lights into her house last night, and her mother became annoyed or frightened or something due to the lights. Anyway, Pretty Girl was telling us that she said to her mother, “Hey, I’m an attractive girl, what can I say?” Or at least something like that. I’m so excited about tomorrow. I hope that I do very, very well and that I impress them all a lot.

November 2, 2002
Today were the auditions! I was so excited! I got up quite early for a Sunday morning: before nine o’clock. I didn’t really eat much of anything, as I wasn’t very hungry. At about 9:30 I went and got into the shower. After I did that, I went into my bedroom and locked the door, then I proceeded to try to find something that would be right to wear. I don’t know much about clothes, but I think that I can look nice when I want to. I selected a red Polo Sport Ralph Lauren tee-shirt with a small American flag on it (I love American-geared clothing) and some long pants (blue jeans). I also wore short ankle socks and my bright white tennis shoes. My hair was still a bit wet, and I quickly combed it back and put some fastened behind my ears. As we needed some type of photograph, my father hastily took a Polaroid of me. I made sure that I wasn’t looking directly sideways, as I hate my profile. I think that my profile makes my head and my nose look too large. Anyway, I looked off to an angle and when the picture turned out I looked surprisingly and calmly serious. I thought that I looked a bit wise. We got there with about twenty minutes to spare. It was a magnificent tall (well, tall for the area) building with a wondrously clever design both inside and out. The outside was charming, but the inside was truly beautiful (or so I thought). There was a woman holding the door for everyone, and at first I thought that she was just holding the door. I said, “You don’t have to do that.” Well, then I realized that she was employed to do that—to hold a door all day. Poor thing, right? She seemed genuinely happy about it, though. She was very kind and helpful. And the hallway leading to our room was breathtaking. Everything was marble. Everything was different colored marble. We walked through this magnificence to a darker room, a small room, furnished mostly in brown, where we were handed a booklet and application form. We then went through a narrow hallway, branching off of which were several offices. We went into a large room of gray and white. We took our seats at the back of the small auditorium-like room. A few important people spoke to us for about an hour, and my father and I became genuinely bored. Then the interviews started. We spoke briefly and privately with a woman in an office and we gave her the application and the photograph. She gave me a script, which I memorized, and I had to go in front of a camera and say it: “What makes you cool is your attitude…your inner self. It’s not how your hair’s cut. It’s not the clothes you wear. It’s not what you drink. Or is it? Pepsi, the choice for a new generation.” I was so nervous. Afterwards we went to Checkers. We had to get out of the truck and walk a little bit, and I caught myself in the reflecting glass of the pick-up booth (which oddly enough, was outside. The entire place is merely a kitchen! You can’t eat inside) and I thought that now I looked like I should be on the cover of Teen Magazine, but in there I’d probably been different somehow. There is the thought on my mind that this could be a scam, but I certainly hope not, and call-backs are tomorrow. We’ll know as of about 12:30 tomorrow whether or not I’ve made it. Then we have to go back between two and eight p.m. I hope that we get to go. I hope that I’m selected, and I hope that I’ll finally be able to do what I’ve wanted and dreamt of for so many years.

November 10, 2002
Well, I did make the call-backs. My father called the place the next day and made an appointment for six o’clock that evening. The woman on the telephone told him that if I made it, three thousand dollars would be needed. He said, “And that would be due today?” The woman must’ve said yes, because my father then said, “Okay, then I’m gonna have to cancel that appointment.” When he hung up he hugged me and told me not to take it personally, although I’ll admit that I really was disappointed. Money had limited us once again. It always angers me when I have to pass up an opportunity due to lack of money, which is why when I get older I shall always have a lot of money. I am a bit disappointed about something else as well. My Grade Point Average has fallen from a 4.0 to a 3.2. I cannot tolerate this. This Grade Point Average will raise back to 4.0, at least. Two days ago, Friday, my grandmother Normal Family picked Powell, Thomas, and I up to take us to her house. Grand Pa was driving, and Grand Ma insisted that I should sit in the front seat, although I tried to dissuade her. I turned on the radio. I was very well aware that I was with my grandparents, and that I would have to use more discretion than usual in what I listened to. A new Mary J. Blige song came on, but my grandfather insisted that it was rap music (even though it clearly wasn’t) so I switched to classical music. I changed back and Christina Aguilera was on. It was her song “Dirrty.” I thought, “Oh, this will be okay.” Keep in mind I’m not incredibly familiar with the lyrics of this song, so I didn’t quite remember what came next. “I need that, uh!, to get me off, sweatin’ ‘till my—” my hand flew to the radio and it was classical music again. We went to bed shortly after arrival, but first I got a shower. I love the shower here. There is no bath, it’s just a stand-up shower. I closed the curtain, sealing in the heat, and aimed the shower head into one corner of the shower. I turned it up rather hot, then sat back with my head resting in that corner and my body resting against the wall. It is the most luxurious and cozy shower experience I’ve ever had, and it happens every time I come over here. As the water penetrated through my hair, I felt such extreme comfort. Weighed down with water, my hair hung down, and I let it flow onto my knees and I felt magnanimously at ease, like in a paradise. It’s just one of the many good things about this house. And the occupants of the house, my grandparents, couldn’t be more deserving people. Yesterday was a good day. We just spoke and laughed all day, occasionally going outside and talking with friends. Tall Cousin and Rowdy Cousin came over. Other things happened as well; I’ll write more later. Okay, back again. Yesterday morning Tall Cousin did the funniest thing! He called here and I happened to pick up the telephone. I said, “Hello?” and he said, “Hello, who’s this?” I said, “This is BB. Who’s this? Is this Tall Cousin?” “Yeah,” Tall Cousin answered. Then he spoke arbitrarily for a little bit and prepared to hang up, but first he said, “Oh, by the way, we were trying to call Grand Ma Normal Family’s number; do you know what it is?” I said that he had called the right place and I handed the telephone over to Grand Ma. Yesterday was delightful. Tall Cousin asked me why my hair was so long and Rowdy Cousin insisted that I had retained my horns from Halloween. I finally had to explain to him that it was just my bangs, which I can now barely get into my mouth. He said, “Jeez, I didn’t even know that you can grow that much hair!” It’s true that my hair is getting rather long. By my next haircut in February (well, it will be in February if my father keeps his promise) my hair will be seven or eight inches long. I have to get a job before it gets that long. My friend Blonde Girl gave me the number of the place that she works. I’ll have to check that out. My father says that he believes that he knows where the Beautiful Town Pike is (the Beautiful Town Pike being the road that the place is on) and so I’ll have to go and get a job application. I’ve wanted and dreaded work at the same time for quite a while, wanted it because I want money, dreaded it as the final and definite end to my childhood. Oh, well, I’d rather have the money.

November 12, 2002
The years was 1929 when the Dynasty collapsed. My grandmother (Weird Family) told me the saddest story last night. Our family dates back to the 900’s AD, and unquestionably extends further back, but is documented to the 900’s. In 1066 we came into possession of Ireland, which was renamed after our family, “Eyre.” We would rule for roughly seven centuries through British authority until quite suddenly the line pops up in the American Colonies. A peasant revolt most likely. We had a hand in the Revolution. Our family came at various times to America from Denmark, Sweden, Spain, France, Germany, and Great Britain as well as Ireland (or Eyre). My great-great-great grandmother was French. My grandmother says that she can’t count the number of houses that her family had. They ranged from massive estates to tiny little homes. Their favorite, my grandmother said, was an estate in Decaying State, the name of which escapes me now, although she did tell me. Anyway, up until they lost this estate things went very slowly and the crash hadn’t really gotten to them yet. However, my grandmother says that afterward things began to deteriorate quite rapidly. She remembers going in practically a flight to their Southern State estate (or one of them) and of sitting in front of a fireplace with her father and mother. Her mother had apparently asked her father to put the Decaying State estate in her name, and he hadn’t; it had been seized and now they were dismissing their servants. My great-grandmother, seated with a silver tray and porcelain tea cups, looked at my great-grandfather in a frighteningly-angry way, and, in a passion of magnanimous fury, she said, “You know, Idiot Great-Grandfather (or I believe that that may have been his name), this is all your fault.” She then picked up the tray and threw it, tea and all, at my great-grandfather. Grand Ma describes other stories. The last of their diamonds being stolen during a visit to Cold City, Lake State; their selling of their Pearcearrow for (ugh) a Chevrolet (ugh). I thought that the entire thing was terribly sad. Grand Ma said that she’s glad that the money went. She said that she never would’ve met some of the interesting people that she’s met and that she would’ve gone to an all-girls’ school and grown up to be stupid, although very well-educated in snobbery. All of that money? The trips to Largest City, Independence City, Revolutionary City, not to mention other cities? She must be insane. I know that the Dynasty teetered on the brink of destruction or salvation that Christmas. Unfortunately for our family, the Dynasty collapsed (with my own future I hope to prove that that collapse was temporary), and it had immense physical, emotional, and psychological effects on all of them. To go from absolute wealth to poverty can’t be easy for anyone.

November 20, 2002
I’m sorry that I haven’t written in this diary for so long. It’s a shame I didn’t as I had a delightful time at the theatre (notice I spell “theatre” different than “movie theater”) on Friday night, which was the fifteenth of November. I went and saw the play “Lend Me a Tenor.” I auditioned for this part and wasn’t selected, and although on a professional level I accept the director’s choices without inquisition, I still personally believe (and I am agreed with on this point) that there was some age discrimination involved. Only Upperclassmen (in other words, Juniors or Seniors) were selected for any of the parts. Quarter Canadian Boy's sister actually played a part, that of a woman named Julia. Besides Singing Theatre Girl, she was quite possibly the best actress (well, actor as well, as she certainly measured up with the talents of the guys) on stage. Although, there was one boy on the stage who convinced me (and most of the rest of the theatre) that he was a homosexual. He reminded me of a character named Jack (I think his name is Jack) on a television show that my mother watches called “Will and Grace.” The women all love the show, but my grandfather (Normal Family) and Great-Uncle Responsible (also Normal Family) do not like the excessive homosexual humor. Even my father finds the show hilarious, though, and he actually watched it once when my mother was still at work (it comes on every Thursday night) and he laughed until he turned red. (Oh, by the way, Theatre Guy really is gay. Someone in the crowd told me. Who knew, right? Well, actually, now that I think about it it’s kind of obvious) For one reason or another, or possibly and quite more likely for many reasons, today was a spectacular day, as many days have been of late (of late meaning this week). Earlier this week I found out that I have a 97% in Algebra I, which for me is amazing as Algebra is my worst subject. It’s funny that Government is naturally easier to me and math naturally more difficult, and yet my Algebra I grade is now quite possibly higher than my Government grade (which I believe to be roughly 94%). Oddly enough, I took a test today in Government which I got a 94% on (oddly because I’ve now used that number three times), although our essay portions have yet to be graded, so the grade could go up. I was very disappointed with an answer that I had missed (it was so easy, too! Supreme Court jurisdiction: multiple states, states v. federal government, and federal employee v. foreign nation) that should have been a simple question (it was, I just sort of forgot the answer), and so I asked how far up the essay portions could bring our grade. My teacher then made an obvious observation by saying, “You’ll still have an A.” That did make my question a little silly, however I’d rather have a high A than only a 94% or 95% (well, perhaps 95%, but of course I want to go as high as I can) so I still think that it was a legitimate question. Today was just generally hilarious (although not first mod). In first mod we partially toured the school. Second mod Algebra (right now like my best academic class at 97% I believe—whoa) was very funny. My friend Wild Squirrel has started referring to herself as Wild Squirrel. I always give Wild Squirrel and Redheaded Soprano (whom my friend Stalker Boy periodically stalks) nouns and verbs and onomatopoeia (I love spelling that word, and by the way “Moo!”) for gifts. I wrote her a card with an onomatopoeia in it, and she said she’ll cherish it forever. Wild Squirrel and Redheaded Soprano both tried out for cheerleading and are both very nervous. I told Redheaded Soprano that if she doesn’t make it that all the other cheerleaders are constipated and ugly (although I was just kidding, as my friend, Part-Russian Girl, is a cheerleader and is very pretty, and, as far as I know, not constipated). Redheaded Soprano laughed and we joked around for most of the class (while still doing our work, of course) and I told Wild Squirrel that I’d look up “Wild Squirrel” in Russian. Wild Squirrel laughed and said, “Yeah, and then I could go, ‘My name is—’” and then she proceeded to do a very funny impersonation of Russian Slavic language. I drew a portrait ofthe Wild Squirrel on a white board (these little boards that our Algebra teacher allows us to use to work out equations) and showed it to Wild Squirrel and Redheaded Soprano. They both found it humorous. Class was over before we knew it. It was third mod that was truly hysterically funny. Not, oh, well yes, the first half as well. We watched some of the modern version of “Romeo and Juliet” (with Leonardo DiCaprio, which obviously got some recognition from the girls). That was very funny. It is set in a modern city (named Verona but meant to be modern) where the Montagues and Capulets use guns rather than swords. The first part, during which they get into a gun fight at a gas station, is just stupid, and the lines are screamed at an incredibly fake and untalented level. The party scenes are incredible, though, in that we were all practically paralyzed with laughter. Juliet’s mother looks like a Las Vegas showgirl (she dresses up as Cleopatra for the costume party, an act that does an incredible disrespect to the magnanimous and magnificent Egyptian Queen Cleopatra Philopator VII) and Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend, had dressed up like a drag queen. Some music started playing and Mercutio began dancing on the stairs and waving his dress about. The class became hysterical.

November 25, 2002
So far, our Thanksgiving vacation has been pleasant but a little boring. On Saturday (which, by the way, was First and Second Twin's thirteenth birthday party), First Twin, Second Twin, Powell, several other people, and I all got into a cattail fight. Here’s how it all started: Powell and I had been inside all day because of the cold. Dad got home and we had to help him carry in sheetrock because he’s trying to finish our basement. Anyway, we saw all of them playing from our backyard and I wanted to go over but Powell said we couldn’t interrupt their birthday. Anyway, I asked First Twin quickly if he knew where Lacrosse Boy was. Second Twin yelled over, “BB, go away, leave us alone, don’t bother us!” So First Twin turned around and yelled, “Second Twin, shut the fuck up!” Well, I really didn’t want to interrupt their birthday either (after all, we hadn’t been invited to the sleepover the previous night) so I went inside shortly after First Twin told me that Lacrosse Boy was in Southern State. Later, I happened to gaze out of my bedroom window and saw that First Twin and only one other boy were out there, so I figured that all of the commotion was over and so I went downstairs and walked over. It was First Twin and a boy with very long hair, Powell’s friend Long Brown Hair Boy (well, not long with the bangs but pretty much everywhere else). I asked why Second Twin had yelled, and Long Brown Hair Boy said, “Because he’s gay.” I noticed that all of the others weren’t gone, they had just gone into a valley, onto a hill, which, in Imperial days, we called “Soldier’s March Island.” It is in the former Atricia, in between New York and San Francisco. Anyway, they were all playing with the cattails in the valley. If you open them up, all of this fluffy stuff, like pillow feathers, comes out and if you throw it after you’ve opened it, it’ll explode when it hits something, and the fluffy stuff will go everywhere. Why, before I went outside it was flying through the air, and Powell actually thought it was snow. He showed me it falling outside of the window and said, “BB, look, it’s snowing.” I looked and said, “No, it’s not.” He said, “What else could it be, then?” I told him that I didn’t know. Then we went outside and we all decided to have a cattail fight, and we all had a wonderful time. Yesterday was boring, as we stayed inside for most of the day. Also, last night, the CSF (Child Soviet Federation) collapsed. Powell really didn’t want to admit it, because he’s the President, well, he was the President. For the first time in nearly a year, this neighborhood is recognized by all of us to be just another part of the United States. It’s weird. Anyway, at the height of the Imperial/Arian Empire, we claimed 900,000 square miles of land, held 48,800 square miles, and inhabited fifty square miles (roughly). It may take a little getting used to. I think that Annoyingly Perfect Cousin and Innocent Cousin have accepted it. Innocent even told me that their sovereignty didn’t really matter. They just had no support. Anyway, I’m expecting a letter from Grand Ma Weird Family today. As far as I know, it’s nearly four o’clock and the mail still hasn’t come. It’s really very frustrating. Especially because we leave tomorrow for Hick State and then I’ll have to wait a whole other day to get the letter. Why can’t the stupid postman just arrive on time? It’s really been freakishly warm today, so I think I’ll go outside and play, although I’ve had a hard time finding anyone. They’re probably all back by now. They went to the Middle Class Neighborhood. I’ll have to go see if they’re here.

November 26, 2002
We’ve crossed back into Southern State. I find Three-State-Point absolutely fascinating, because you first cross the border into Southern State, and then moments later you cross the border into Hicking State. We’ve done that and now we’ve crossed back into Southern State. Soon we’ll cross back into Hick State and then that’ll be it for state border crossings for the trip going there. We’ll have crossed state borders eight times when we get home tomorrow. It’s snowing now. Mom says that we’ll have to get permission from Grand Pa to ride the green four-wheeler. This is because Mom sold the green four-wheeler to Grand Pa. Why? Because Hick State Cousin, without our permission, allowed one of her friends to drive the four-wheeler. Anyway, the child wrecked it, and rather than make their family pay for it, my mother said that they were too poor (not Hick State Cousin, but her friend’s family) to pay for it so rather than mess around fixing it we sold it to Grand Pa. Mom told me not to mention it. It might be embarrassing to Hick State Cousin and it would be incredibly rude. Well, we’re here.

November 28, 2002
Well, our stay in Hick State was as rustic and filled with conflict as most of our other visits are. We arrived and Mom didn’t want us to be outside in the snow, so we quarreled about that. Then we went outside anyway (or rather, Powell and Thomas went outside anyway while I sat in the pavilion) and Mom was furious. She yelled at them, demanding that they either go inside or go to the pavilion. They came into the pavilion for a little bit but then they went back outside. I went with them. Mom decided to let us stay outside. Powell, Idiot Cousin, Bratty Cousin, and Younger Hick State Cousin (to some extent, oh, no, no she didn’t) and I had a snowball fight. We went back into the woods where the tee-pee that Grand Pa constructed for us once stood. I’m still not sure exactly what happened to it, but I think that I might recall Grand Pa saying something about a fierce storm. Anyway, there is now a small tree fort back there, which Idiot Cousin and Powell decided to use for their base. I used the forest directly next to it as my base, and we used a road that was already there for part of the border. I drew the rest in the ground by kicking aside leaves. Anyway, later we all went in and played cards, and then we ate and then Mom made Powell, Thomas and I all go with her to the trailer (we used Grand Pa’s this time, because it has a television) around nine o’clock. Idiot Cousin tried to come in and watch a movie with us, but Mom made her leave. I’m glad, too, because we all really enjoyed the movie, called “Fifteen Minutes.” It was an excellent movie. One drawback of that night was that I had to sleep in a very uncomfortable top bunk which was very close to the ceiling. I could barely roll over. As a matter of fact, it was so uncomfortable that I was shifting around constantly, and I really had to concentrate on it to be sure that I didn’t fall from the bed and injure myself. I just checked in one of my old diaries (I use the word “diary” rather than “journal” because in the old days all records, all chronological records of that type, were referred to as “diaries,” a word that has been feminized only through modern-day American culture) and found the entry for November 28, 2001. A year ago today it wasn’t Thanksgiving, and so I was attending school, going to Dirty Town Middle School. I actually remember that day, because on our way to school Mom had to turn around because she left some Native City Football Team tickets at Mom's Old Best Friend’s house, where we were living at the time. How I hate those days. And not just because we were living with Mom's Old Best Friend (although that was a very serious contribution) but also because I was socially outcast in school and my parents had reached the height of their monstrous Stalinist oppression. It finally got to the point where I once took a fifteen-minute shower and was grounded for an entire night. When once their family had a party, we weren’t permitted to leave our room. Things have improved considerably since then. Oddly enough, today, Thanksgiving, is the one-year anniversary of the date that I drafted the very first version of the Constitution of Rights, which has brought together many regulations and gained us many rights. For example, incredibly ludicrous punishments have, for the most part, been eliminated from our family; just the other day I took a thirty-minute shower and received nothing more than a reminder that I am only supposed to take five-minute showers (this number has since been raised to seven minutes). My hair, which before wasn’t ever allowed to grow seriously long, hasn’t been cut short since last May. My social standing, well, that has definitely improved, and more than considerably. More than I could have ever dreamed. Before I made the move to WBeautiful Town, I was terrified of becoming a dork here, because I knew that if I did that I would’ve blown my last chance. When I first arrived here, I was made fun of, and I was horrified. I actually went through a short period of depression that hadn’t hit me since elementary school. I am reminded now of a time in the seventh grade when a boy named Cruel Boy made fun of me so terribly that I became depressed outside of school. I became so depressed that my father mistook me for being physically ill and allowed me to stay home. I gladly accepted any opportunity to miss school and to miss an encounter with Cruel Boy. My weekends and days off were spent thinking about what he would do and say to me when I returned. I doubt that he ever realized the emotional devastation that he caused. He was a favorite of Mrs. C, who, even two years later, is still my favorite teacher. I once casually mentioned that Cruel Boy wasn’t nice to me. Mrs. C asked, “He doesn’t make fun of you, does he?” I carefully thought about what I would say, and, not wanting to reveal the truth, because I felt that it would somehow make things inevitably worse, I said, “No, nothing serious.” I got lucky, though, and the boy moved away, ending for me a lot of suffering. I was delighted when he left, and my then-friends thought that I was being stupid. “BB, no one’s happy about this,” a boy named Ghetto Boy had once said to me. Well, they may not have been happy, but I was overjoyed. Anyway, back to Beautiful Town Middle School. By June, 2002, I was no longer a social outcast. I placed number one in the Student Choice Awards. I still have the card that I received for it, and my last journal before this was one of the gifts I received for the award. Oh, I mean diary. From now on I’ll use either “journal” or “diary,” whichever one happens to come to me. I won that award for a story I wrote about September 11th, entitled “Natasha and Marie.” Now, at Beautiful Town High School, I’ve achieved what I consider to be a relatively stable social status. Popularity is something that you appreciate much more after years of degradation. Now I have a 4.25 GPA and I might go to Russia next year. Life is sweet.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happenings About Mountain Town

Shop Lease

First of all, let me apologize to all of my readers for once again missing a scheduled Journals post; November, 2002's entry was supposed to be put up on Monday, and truth be told I just forgot. Most of the month has already been written up on my home computer, so it's not that I haven't actually been keeping up with it.

I'll post November next Monday, and possibly December as well.

Of course, I do have the sneaking suspicion that nobody is actually reading these, but it's no matter. The weekly deadline has given me the motivation I need to transcribe these chronicles of my life, a project I'd meant to get started on long ago and that I've now made significant progress with.

I have not had much time for writing lately, be it here or in my private diary, which, when I looked at it last night, I realized with a shock hadn't been updated since my sister's birthday on June 18th (bear in mind that yesterday was July 1st).

During the black period to which I have alluded, the one from which I take my pseudonym, my journaling dropped off dramatically, finally reaching a low ebb where I wrote about once a month if at all.

This summer, for the first time since I was in high school, I've started regularly confiding in my journal again, something that gives me great joy.

I've begun to realize that the truest sign of recovery is when you don't have to think about recovering anymore, when you don't have to remember day in and day out all that happened to you.

Certainly, the memories never fade, and they serve as a cautionary reminder for the future, but eventually they are that and nothing more. Now I can look back without analyzing, look back without wondering if things will ever be better, look back and be thankful for how far I've come and how things have changed.

I feel, for the first time in years (and given the short amount of time I've been around thus far, years are not doled out lightly), that the sun is shining on my life once more.

Two years is one tenth of my life. That's what this has taken, but I've come through it. I still have work to do for the future, but I'm beyond the horrors of before.

And, because this entry seems to be one that celebrates things that are happening once again "for the first time" in ages, I should share something else: for the first time since I was seventeen, I'm making minimum wage!

Western City Movie Theater

That's right, I've found another job.

For about a week or so now I've been working at Western City Movie Theater, where I make $5.85 an hour and spend about thirty hours a week.

The money is literally terrible, the work not all too fun, and the uniforms reminiscent of what hotel bellhops might wear while ushering guests into an elevator.

And yet, a job is a job. Also, this occupation, which could very easily be demeaning and intolerable under the right circumstances, is made endurable and occasionally enjoyable by the cheerful people I work with and the courteous customers who come through our doors every day.

Most of my co-workers are quite younger than me, though naturally this has required some explaining.

"What?" one girl asked me when I told her my age. "What's up with all these old people working here?"

I started laughing and said, "Thanks."

"Well," she answered. "You don't look twenty."

Another co-worker, a young man of seventeen or eighteen, also learned of the old codger in his midst quite accidentally while cleaning a theater with me.

"I go to Major University," I told him as we swept up the popcorn off of the floor. "I'm gonna be a Junior next year."

"Oh," he said. "I would've thought like a Junior in, you know, high school."

It is what it is.

There are two people there who I don't like, merely for the reason that they don't seem to like me. That was justification enough for me. They are a girl and a boy, the girl quite noticeably overweight and with a major attitude problem (the type of person who's cynical and too cool for everyone), the boy young and leering.

Other than that, everyone's been quite nice, including the twenty-three-year-old manager of the theater, who makes routine trips to McDonald's with her subordinates on their breaks.

I work five hours there tonight but nine tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have off a few days in a row this coming week, as I did this week.

My parents will be in Vacation State, where Aunt Ostentatious lives, from tonight to Sunday. My mother left with Thomas, Pie, and Grand Pa Hick Family yesterday morning at five o'clock, and my father will fly down tonight.

Powell is already planning to have friends over to drink, something that I know I should object to given the amount of trouble he landed himself in after being caught having a massive party during a similar parental absence last year, but I'm not going to.

Powell and Black Ponytail Boy

The only way to stop him would be to literally threaten to call our parents if he brought anyone here, and if I did that he probably wouldn't speak to me for weeks.

Add to that, I'm really looking forward to having a little bit of fun myself. We're only hosting two or so people at a time, so as long as we're careful it shouldn't be a problem.

Blackened Boy and Black Ponytail Boy

A great part of this week has been taken up with the Odyssey of the Missing Aunt, which I'll have to devote a separate entry to.

Let me tell you now, though, about some very promising developments with Fantasy Author. Fantasy Author is the aunt of Blonde Boy, Powell's best friend. She is a puiblished author, whose books, while not nationally famous, have done reasonably well.


Blonde Boy mentioned to her quite a while ago that I was working on a book myself, and she asked me to send her the novel in an e-mail attachment. I forwarded the forty pages I'd written to that point, thirty-five of which I'd penned at the age of fifteen, and when I didn't hear back from her for months I essentially forgot about the matter.

Last night, my father told me that she'd called on Sunday, and within hours we were talking on the phone.

The final verdict: "You have a good story," she said. "This needs a lot of work, but I want you to know that it is a good story."

Her primary issues were what she called a "weak" first few paragraphs, and my tendency to pile adverbs onto adjectives, something she says is a creative fiction "no."

She praised my setting and character development, and dialogue, going so far as to read out loud to me several passages that had particularly struck her.

"And one thing I noticed," she said of my four main characters, cousins aged thirteen to fifteen. "Is that they all talk like teenagers actually talk. I said to my husband today, 'The kids are real kids.'"

I slapped the couch in my enthusiasm, so happy was I that somebody else had noticed this very intentional device and praised it.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," I said. "That was exactly what I was going for. The four of them are in such an extraordinary situation, and the characters around them are all so amazing and fantastic, and I really wanted them to react the way that normal teenagers dropped into the same scenario would react."

"Well, you are right on the nail with your dialogue," she said.

When I told her that most of what she had had been authored by a fifteen-year-old boy, she said, "Well, you don't sound much older than fifteen now."

"Yeah," I answered tersely. "I know. But I'm twenty."

"Oh," she laughed.

Now she wants to meet in person to hammer some things out and help me with the writing of this novel. Either today or tonight I'm sending her what I've done since she received my last e-mail. In that time the book has grown from thirty-nine to seventy-one pages.

In a positive omen, a great deal of what she complimented me on was new additions that I'd made in the editing process.

She asked me what route I wanted to go, and I told her definitively that I wanted to go with a traditional publisher.

"Okay," she said. "Well, I don't want to get your hopes up, but I don't want to discourage you, either."

"It will be published," I replied. "If it's not 'till I'm ninety, it's going to be published. I'm willing to work at it, I'm willing to change what I need to, but it will be published. I know it's not going to happen over night; I have no illusions about that."

"Well," she said. "You certainly have the right attitude."

Cool beans.