Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day of School

Major University's Heir to the Throne Campus

Today is a big day for many people in my family. Today, August 25, 2008, is the first day of school. For all four of the Our Family children, this is a fairly important occasion, a transition point where one thing ends and another begins.

As I'm writing this, Pie is almost certainly on her way or already arrived at Mountain Town Elementary, where this morning she will begin her first day of kindergarten. I've tried to impress on her the importance of this event, what a milestone it is, but I think that at five years old the significance of it is lost on her. There are some things that you can only appreciate in retrospect, some markers that you are wholly oblivious to when you're actually making them despite the fact that they will come to have enormous impact on your life.

I think of my sister, my Pie, and I think of all that lies ahead of her. I think I have been more excited about this than she has, but, then again, she's five.

"Pie," I said to her yesterday evening. "Tomorrow is a very important day. You're going to be in kindergarten."

"Yeah," she sighed, playing with the hair of a High School Musical doll that she held in one hand. "I know."

She seemed a bit disappointed at having to go to school, but I assured her that it would be wonderful.

"Oh, Pie," I said. "You're going to love it! You're going to have so much fun, and you'll make so many friends."

"Yeah," she said, brightening at the idea. "And a lot of my friends from Pre-K are going to Mountain Town Elementary."

"That's right," I encouraged. "And you'll make new friends, too. Plus, think of all you'll learn how to do! You're going to learn to read, and write, and do math, and all kinds of things."

"Yeah," she said for the third time. "But do I have to do algebra!?!"

The adorable look of utter terror on her face as she raised this possibility was priceless, and I couldn't help laughing when I told her, "Well, Pie, you're too little to do algebra now, but one day you will have to."

"Well," she said. "In algebra, you have to do homework."

The last word came out as a sneer, as if homework were the most contemptible thing that could be imagined.

"Science is fun, though," she added.

"Pie," I said. "You'll have homework in science, too. Everything has homework!"

At this she turned to her doll house and continued playing.

"Pie," I asked. "Do you know how old you'll be when you get out of school?"

"Six?" she tried.

"No," I said, once again attempting not to laugh. "You'll be eighteen."

She looked at me with big, expressionless eyes. These words obviously meant nothing, or, inasmuch as they did, were too distant and abstract to really matter. She knows vaguely that Powell is eighteen and that Big Nose Girl (an acquaintance of Powell's who works at Pie's daycare and who my sister describes as her "friend") is eighteen as well.

The notion of Pie being eighteen was not something she gave much thought to, but I did. I realized, in thinking about it, that, from today on, my sister will be in the public school system until she is a legal adult. She is embarking now on the beginning of a journey that will help to define who she is, that will shape her views and personality and her whole philosophy of the world.

The next few years, until about third grade or so, will for her be the time of forming initial friendships, friendships without condition that will continue simply through sleepovers and games of tag for a long time.

Fifth grade will come, and then she will graduate and move on to middle school, buoyed by the many comrades she's made over the years. In sixth grade, things will begin to become more complicated. She and her friends will start to go through puberty, will likely start making very preliminary attempts at dating one another, and will find that social politics enters into their lives where before it wasn't present.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades will pass by, and then she'll find herself in high school. By this point, her history with all those around her will have become so deeply enmeshed that she will feel as if she is a living extension of the community, as if the school house is but an arm of her home life. She will know and be known by all around her, will effortlessly be able to approach and associate with most of her peers because of the common flow that their life stories have shared.

Then, when she does meet new people, the support network she's developed will give her the confidence to strike up conversations, initiate introductions, and, before long, begin nascent friendships. All of this builds off of itself.

If I seem to describe what to many of you is a mundane and ordinary thing with a sense of awe, it is because it seems to me extraordinary. It is something I never had.

I began second grade at Dirty Town Elementary in 1995, having gone to a different primary school for the previous three years. I graduated from there in 1999, whereupon my parents, fearful of the drug-infested area middle school, lied about our address so I could attend Ghetto Middle. Ghetto Middle actually turned out to be worse, so in 2000 I transferred to Dirty Town Middle. The next school year, in 2001, we moved to Beautiful Town, at which point I began attending Beautiful Town Middle. I graduated from that school in 2002, entered Beautiful Town High the same year, and then moved to Deep South State in 2004.

I went to Central City High School for less than a full school year before we moved to Southern State and I transferred to Privileged High School in 2005. I graduated in 2006.

What many of my readers, what in fact most Americans have known and widely consider to be a normal lifestyle, is simply unfathomable to me. It is unfathomable. I can't imagine being so connected to everyone around me, to knowing so much about them and being so intimate. It must be like being with family all the time.

I think that would be very nice.

For that reason, I am glad we live in Mountain Town. Whatever its drawbacks (and there are many), my parents, younger brother, and sister have found there a true home. It a backwards community, isolated, rural, at times intolerable. Yet is one that will nurture Pie from kindergarten to childhood to adolescence and eventually to adulthood.

She will graduate from high school in 2021, a reality I can't quite grasp (to give you some perspective, I'll be thirty-three then). I hope she does so from where we now live.

Of course, my desire for stability in her life is tempered by my fear that she'll somehow become "one of them." "They" are the farm-bred natives who have never known anything outside the very narrow confines of their town, who are simple and modest and oftentimes very ignorant.

That may not happen, though; many of Pie's current friends already are outsiders, people who moved to Mountain Town from somewhere else, and the outsiders will only continue to come. The very nature of the county could be changed by these migrants, though that process will be a very gradual one.

Mountain Town is like something out of a movie, a place where shadowy networks of undue influence not only exist but are thriving, where the "good old boys" still rule everything, even as their people become more diverse, modern, and frustrated with the stagnant policies this community's leaders refuse to change.

There are two families in Mountain Town who comprise essentially the city's aristocracy: they are the First Family, and the Second Family. The First Family is probably the more powerful of the two, but they basically have Mountain Town divided between them. Both clans settled in the area at the town's founding, some two hundred years ago in the late 1700's. Both own impressive estates, have loads of money, and, among the younger crowd, are the elite popular children.

"I know a First Family kid," Powell told me. "His parents got him a $25,000.00 car for graduation."

The young man in question has been to my house. Something about his manner disagreed with me. It was nothing overt, mind you, just something.

What probably caused aroused my dislike was the quiet arrogance with which these people undertake all that they do; they know that they rule their own world, that they can and will do anything they like, and that the authorities, tucked firmly in their pocket, will always look the other way.

This extends even into the high school, where my siblings have reported to me that the First and Second Families' children are given preferential treatment by teachers.

At the same time, their palace is their prison; their kingdom encompasses Mountain Town and nothing else. Were they ever to move (something inconceivable to them) even one town over, the history they've spent two centuries building would be meaningless and their reign would end. They would be nobody. They would have money, mind you, but they would still be nobody.

So they're trapped. They can stay, in this small town, and keep their crowns, or go anywhere else and lose them. They all, invariably, choose to stay.

All the same, I'm glad that Pie is growing up here. She is happy, and that is really the most important thing.

Thomas starts eighth grade today, making him the one exception to the transition rule; while Pie begins kindergarten, Powell begins college, and I begin commuting, Thomas simply enters another grade in middle school.

It is, I think, though, a stepping stone of sorts. Eighth grade really is different from sixth and seventh. It is the last year before high school, the year when adolescence really hits its stride. Thomas turned thirteen in May, and by the end of this school year will be fourteen.

His thoughts will turn to the future as high school approaches.

Just last night, he said to me, "I hate growing up. It means I have to do things on my own, like go to college and stuff."

"Thomas," I said. "You're thirteen. That is so far away for you. You're not even going to be a Senior in high school for five years."

"Four and a half," he corrected me.

"Same thing," I said. "Look, enjoy being thirteen."

"I know," he said. "'Cause when I get older I'll have to deal with a lot."

"But enjoy being fourteen, too."

"Yeah," he agreed adamantly, not quite understanding what I was saying. "I know."

"And fifteen. And sixteen. And seventeen. And eighteen. And on and on and on. Thomas, there's good and bad things about every age. Right now, you're thirteen, and the good thing about that is--"

"I don't have to worry about anything," he said.

"Right," I allowed. "And you won't have to when you're fourteen, or fifteen either."

I was about to tell him that the benefit to growing older and assuming more responsibility was increased independence, autonomy, and the freedom to do whatever you wish. We were interrupted before I could get to that part, though, and so he walked off without hearing the second half of what I'd meant to say.

I really hope that the message he took from that wasn't, "Enjoy life now, because it all sucks after you get your driver's license."

We'll have to talk later. Hopefully, of course, he'll figure it out on his own.

Powell begins his first day at Western County Community College today, and, as with Pie, I think I'm more thrilled about a sibling's experience than the sibling themselves actually is. I will probably call Powell sometime this morning to see how his day is going, but he doesn't have class until two o' clock and probably isn't up yet.

I really am so excited for him, though. College can be an academically-enriching thing, and I think that this provides him with an opportunity to enjoy his studies and realize his own work potential.

I've told him for years that his lackluster grades are the result not of low intelligence but of laziness, and that if he applied himself he could do spectacularly well. I still believe this and so does he, and I want him to see and savor the fruits of genuine scholarly labor.

Given that he's a first-year student at a community college, it really shouldn't be that hard.

Only he can make that leap, though. We can push, prod, and encourage him all we like, but until he decides that his education is important and that he will apply himself, nothing can happen.

I hope he'll do his best. I think that that best is very good.

Then, of course, there's me. Right now, I'm sitting ina computer lab at Major University's Heir to the Throne Campus, preparing for my first class of the semester, which begins in half an hour.

The course is Sociology 101, and, while I'm looking forward to it, I'm also acutely aware that I'm a Junior who still hasn't satisfied all of his general education requirements. Given, I am taking 300 level government courses, but that is because I pushed ahead in that field and paid no mind to the things I had to accomplish that were unrelated to my major.

The fact that I will almost certainly be switching from Political Science to Journalism this semester will no doubt only complicate this. All in all, though, I'm optimistic and excited. I'm proud of myself for getting up at 5:45a.m. this morning, getting ready, and embarking on a commute that will take me across five different highways, one of them a major interstate.

I got off of that interstate at the Heir to the Throne site several hours ago, having discovered last night that one of the classes I registered for in April is in fact on a satellite campus of Major University. It's fine, though; it's on the way.

My father was kind enough yesterday afternoon, when we'd finished practicing the drive the Major University, to fill up my gas tank for me. I am currently searching (desperately) for another job, as my time at the theater is now up but the costs of living continue. I'm hoping to work one day a week (with my courseload I really can't do anymore) and save as much possible.

I know, flat out, that I will not be able to make enough money to cancel out petrol prices. I just won't. My goal is only to bring home enough cash to offset some of that financial burden and lessen the blow to my savings account. I have calculated that I'll probably spend between $1,000.00-$1,200.00 on gas this semester, which is still cheaper than the $3,000.00 I would be paying long-term to live on campus.

I am very lucky in that I have recently come into a small amount of money ($10,000.00) from my grandmother, who had it in an account for me.

I will update you more on everything at some point this week (and I'll also post some more pictures).

Everybody should be very prepared, though, for my entries to become less frequent as the school year begins. Eighteen credit hours will do that to you.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Journals Section: December, 2002

Brothers on Christmas

December 4, 2002, I mean
December 5, 2002
It is just after midnight. It is safe to say that I don’t often stay up this late on school nights, and if Beautiful County schools are open tomorrow I will be exhausted indeed. We’re supposed to be getting four to possibly eight inches of snow starting pretty soon now, and the whole of Beautiful County is under a Winter Weather Warning. I just hope that we have off of school tomorrow. Today was a good day, though, even though we were in school. We had homeroom first (which, oddly enough, is an oddity) because of testing that was going on. I set up an e-mail account with Hot Mail that I’ll probably never use. emailaddressiwontlist@hotmail.com.

In first period we had to look through all of these stupid papers, although I didn’t mind too much, as it made for an easy class period. During second mod, which for me right now is Algebra I, we finished our pop-up reports. They’re designed to look like a four-room house. They’re really very clever. I found out about the possible snow, a--

Now it’s about ten o’clock at night on the fifth, as opposed to when I last wrote, just after midnight early this morning.

Last night, well, actually this morning, I was sitting in my closet with the light on and the door closed, and I did this because I was supposed to be in bed. Anyway, I heard my father’s footsteps on the stairs, and I knew that if he chanced to look into my room and see that I was not in my bed, he would surely investigate. If he had found me hiding out in my closet he would have been, to say the least, rather upset. Anyway, that’s why my earlier entry for today stops in mid-sentence. What I was saying was that the snow was a prospect that made me very happy. We were said to be receiving a lot, so I stayed up late until my father became angry with me and sent me to my room to go to bed.

I had more homework last night than I’ve had any other single night since starting high school. I’m noticing right now that our language isn’t very phonetic. (I’m not sure if I spelled that right) Starting just as soon as I finish writing this sentence, I will underline every word that isn’t completely phonetic on this page and perhaps some more on the next page. Anyway, the entire school day was just very nice and altogether a good day.

When I got home, I had to help my father carry a dresser to our neighbors’ house. After that, before I got started on my homework, First Twin came over to hang out and talk. He said, “When we all saw you carrying that thing, I thought, ‘Man, BB’s hair has gotten really, really long.’” He let me try on his beanie, which didn’t really fit that well. He said that I should get my hair braided, like many guys are doing right now. I asked him to ask Pot Smoker (his older brother, who is a Junior at my high school) if he could do it for free. Pot Smoker had it done.

First Twin said he’d been letting his hair grow all summer for the braids, and then he just cut them off. I think I mentioned this earlier. I hate to be cruel or criticize, but he really looked awful, and First Twin said that now he’s not going to cut his hair throughout the entire school year. I’ve made an agreement with my father, and I don’t have to get mine cut until February, if he even makes me, and it’s only like a quarter of an inch that I would have to have trimmed.

Much happened today. I woke up at six o’clock for the second straight day without falling back asleep. Without Mom here I’ve been getting my showers in the mornings. It gives me motivation to get up every morning. I just find showers relaxing, and I really enjoy them.

Anyway, before I got in this morning, I went to see the snow. I was surprised and delighted. There was more snow than I had anticipated, and after some roughly twenty minutes of going through different news stations, I found the information I was looking for: BEAUTIFUL COUNTY SCHOOLS CLOSED. I was so happy. I ran up and got a shower, and I must’ve been in there for twenty minutes to half an hour. Before I did that, though, I woke Powell up and told him to get ready for school. He believed me. Then I told him after he looked out of the window. Everything outside was covered with pure white snow, and it was so quiet and serene.

One thing did disturb the overall good nature of the day, though: Lacrosse Boy, one of my best friends, broke his wrist in two places while doing something or other involving a ramp. I feel very sorry for him, and I’ll probably visit his house tomorrow to see how he is. I hope that he’s not in too much pain. Oh, by the way, Beautiful County Public Schools are closed again tomorrow, and tomorrow we may or may not have to go to New England State. I hope that we do. That’s where my mother is on her business trip. We would be able to pass through Largest City. How cool would that be?

December 6, 2002
Well, we’re here in New England State. We left home around two-thirty this afternoon, but as we all slept in until about eleven o’clock this morning (I forgot to set my alarm clock) it felt very early. We crossed the Decaying State River (I’m almost certain that I spelled that wrong) into Corner County, I believe. We then shortly thereafter crossed the border into Small State. We went through northern Small State, and then we went driving on a magnificent bridge called the Small State Memorial Bridge. It was absolutely huge. We soon crossed the border into Ugly State.

Southern Ugly State really isn’t anything special. It began to get much colder as we drove farther up. Then, though, as we entered northern Ugly State, we began to see city lights. We neared Largest City and we could see the Famous Spired Building. I was completely taken aback by the sight of the skyline.

It was really amazing. We saw one large cluster of buildings and Dad told us that the World Trade Center had been in the center of the cluster. I would later discover that this wasn’t true; the Twin Towers had actually been in Lower Manhattan, quite near to the water. We entered the Bronx and we actually were stuck there for about an hour in traffic. I told Dad that I had to use the bathroom, and he told me, “Well, we’re not stopping in the Bronx. There’s something I never thought I’d say.” I actually had to urinate into a cup, something which I found absolutely disgusting. Dad tossed the urine out of the door.

Powell and Thomas wouldn’t do it. We crossed the border into New England State and stopped at the New England State Welcome Center. Soon we entered Preppy Town, and after driving around for a little while we found where Mom was staying, the Nice Hotel. We parked in the parking garage and took an elevator to the Lobby. It became instantly clear that the hotel was of station. The Lobby was covered, paneled with mahogany, and was fashionably designed with large, comfortable furniture. I sat down as Dad checked in with the front desk. Then we took an elevator to the tenth floor.

We turned a corner to see Mom and Mom's Best Friend standing in Mom’s doorway. We hugged and greeted and we said hello to Mom's Best Friend. We entered the room and Mom and Dad decided that we should go to Sub Shop because we (we being Powell, Thomas, Dad, and I) hadn’t had very much to eat since about three o’clock that afternoon. I quickly put on an Old Navy blue and gray pullover. On the way to Sub Shop (which we can see from Mom’s hotel window), Mom and Dad made several comments about my hair. I think that the high collar of the pullover drew attention to my long hair.

When we got to Sub Shop, my parents both said that I would soon get a haircut. I told my father that he had promised that I wouldn’t have to get a haircut until February. My father said, “Well, I’m going back on my word.” I became very nervous.

I’ve been growing my hair for nearly a year. My mind kept flashing back to First Twin’s words: “I thought, ‘Man, BB’s hair got really, really long.’”

I was really scared that they were going to force me to have short hair. My mother made me cut all of it off in May of 2002, and I don't want to do that again.

Anyway, we came back to the hotel room and tried to go to bed. Powell and Thomas kept playing, so Mom and Dad had to separate them, and we all slept terribly. Dad swore that he would never take us to Largest City the next day, but then we got up this morning and dressed and went to the Preppy Town Train Station. We boarded with Mom's Best Friend (who had been driving), although we missed the first train. We got some things from Misspelled Doughnut Store and got on the train. The heat was terrible and the stops seemingly endless. We finally got to Largest City, though, arriving at Huge Station. I’ll write more about the trip tomorrow. Although I will say now, that Largest City is magnificent.

December 12, 2002

Ground Zero, 2002

I’m sorry that I’ve been so lax. Anyway, much has happened, so I’ll be brief about the Largest City trip. Well, we left Huge Station and went to Capitalism Square. I was stunned. Seeing the capitalist center of the world was overwhelming. There were large televisions everywhere and we saw the place that MTV’s TRL is filmed at. We also went to Ground Zero. Now that was overwhelming. Nowhere else, at no other place in the world, can the emotion be so massive. There was a wall enclosing Ground Zero, and on the wall were crosses and icons and rosaries.



December 13, 2002
December 14, 2002
If you went a few blocks up, you could get closer still to the site of the World Trade Center, although you couldn’t go directly

December 15, 2002
into it. It was very sad. Now, I won’t go into details, because much has happened this weekend and I must write about it. On Friday we went out to dinner with Grand Ma and Grand Pa Normal Family, and our Great Aunt Crazy and Great Uncle Responsible.

December 16, 2002
We went out to a Japanese place, the name of which escapes me now, but they cook the food right in front of you, which I find pretty cool. The chefs there are very nice, although when we went there on Friday night they didn’t do what they have usually done for pretty much every single time we’ve been there; there was no “Chinese basketball!” (I know that the place was Japanese, but for some odd reason they called that activity Chinese basketball. They would always take shrimp on their spatulas and then flip the shrimp through the air and into our open mouths.)

After dinner, I got into a van with Grand Ma and Grand Pa and we drove to their house about ten miles away. Uncle Responsible and Aunt Crazy followed in their separate vehicle. We all went in and just sort of relaxed, and then Grand Ma, Aunt Crazy, and I had a conversation about how my mother and my father treat me. My mother and father say bad things to me often during the day, and more than is good. Of course, it’s never good to say bad things, but I think you know what I mean to say. Naturally, after this conversation I was very impassioned. Then, I went and got my shower, which, in Russian, I believe is dush, although it may be spelled dyush. Ah, yes, Russian: another language which I’m not so hot in (actually, my Spanish is pretty good, and, if I may say, my English is excellent.) Soon after my shower, I went to bed.

The next morning we got up early, gathered some things, and drove to a parking lot, where we stood in the cold waiting for the bus, which was late. We boarded when it came to the parking lot. Present were Grand Ma (who I love), Aunt Crazy (who I love and who is hilariously funny), Ms. Crude Woman (a younger—by the standards of the rest of the group besides myself—woman who was only in her thirties or so). This Crude Woman woman, you know, she can almost be pitied. She seems very uneducated, she is crude, she has no manner and a simple and unappealing sense of humor. She is unfathomably annoying, and her mother, when she did say anything, wasn’t much better. Her mother’s name is also [grandmother's name and younger woman's name], which made three [of them] in the group, which, oddly enough, didn’t prove to be very confusing. We wandered around Largest City, going to Business Tycoon Center and NBC Studios. We didn’t get to go to Largest City Park, but we did visit Ground Zero, pass briefly through Chinatown, and spend a lot of time in Capitalism Square.


December 21, 2002
We had dinner at Cheap Restauran (I think that I got that right) and we saw a wonderful play on Theater Avenue. Then we got back on the bus and went home. I was incredibly tired, as were many of the others, most of whom fell asleep during the ride home. When we finally got back to Grand Ma’s house (we had to drop that woman Crude Woman off as well), Aunt Crazy, Grand Ma, and I all had terrible gas. Aunt Crazy and I were farting mercilessly, and just as she was scolding us Grand Ma let out a huge one. I was absolutely hysterical, and Grand Ma told me to stop laughing so of course I couldn’t and I laughed harder and that caused me to fart more, and that caused me to laugh more and it continued in this way in a sort of viciously-funny cycle for a few minutes.

As a matter of fact, as Aunt Crazy and I were walking down the hallway on our way to our separate bedrooms I let out a stinker fit to wake the dead. The really hilarious part was that Aunt Crazy turned around and said, “Shh!”, which, quite naturally, I thought was perfectly funny. I happily went to bed that night, well, that early morning. Grand Ma woke me early, around eight o’clock, to tell me the terrible news: Uncle Mustache, my Sweet Aunt’s husband (Sweet Aunt is my father’s sister) had gone missing, and had been missing since Friday. Sweet Aunt was shown on the news, begging through her tears and sobbing for my uncle’s safe return.

For a few days things were looking very bad, and then, imagine Sweet Aunt’s relief when Uncle Mustache returned home. Now, how he was returned home, whether the police found him or a citizen did I couldn’t say, because we haven’t been told anything. We were told that it was too early, and that Sweet Aunt would tell the family when she was ready.

I assumed that Uncle Mustache was deeply psychologically (and possibly physically) harmed by this experience, and my father said, “Well, what do you think; he went missing for a week.” All of my assumptions were shattered tonight, and some of my faintest notions confirmed.

First, we went to the home of a friend of my mother, Ms. Overweight. I find this woman to be sad; a bit tragic, really. She’s about thirty years old and still lives with her parents. But it’s not like a bum thing. My mother says that because Ms. Overweight's overweight (my mom uses the term “heavy-set”) that she thinks that she won’t find anyone in life, and she gets along with her parents so well that she’d rather not venture out into the harsh world. I think that that’s a terribly sad way to live your life, and I also think that Ms. Overweight could find someone.

Why, Mom's Old Best Friend’s overweight (although very beautiful) and Military Man loves her dearly. Their daughter Mother's Old Best Friend's Daughter is by far one of the cutest, most beautiful little babies that I’ve ever seen. I hope that my mother’s next child (and we’re all hoping that she’ll have a daughter) is like Mom's Old Best Friend's Daughter. Really, she’s absolutely adorable with all of her little coos and noises. She turned around and let loose a small little roar at Mom's Old Best Friend, who then proceeded to feed her daughter.

We received “Austin Powers in Goldmember” for Christmas from Mom's Old Best Friend and Military Man on DVD. There’s a hint. As a matter of fact, I think that Mom and Mom's Old Best Friend are little comrades; Powell and Thomas informed me that Mom has bought Dad a DVD player as a surprise Christmas present. Then we went to Idiot Cousin’s house.

We were only there briefly (although in that time I managed to twice run over the, well, trip over one of the cords supporting their inflated snowmen and knock the snowmen down). We went into Idiot Cousin’s room and spoke quietly about Austin Powers (by the way, my father thinks that a fourth Austin Powers movie will be made) and then we went out into their living room, for it was almost time to go.

Our Uncle Fake (whom my father has been on terrible terms with in the past) came and greeted us, and said to my father laughingly, “So, they found your brother?”

“Brother-in-law,” my parents said in unison. I looked up disapprovingly at my uncle.

I couldn’t contemplate why he would be laughing, unless my very distant ideas that my uncle might possibly be responsible for his own disappearance were true. Two words brought forth oceans of emotion and thought: “Vegas, huh?”

My parents quite obviously hadn’t wanted us to know, although because my cousin had seen it all over the news, the truth unfolded quite rapidly right there. My Uncle Mustache had secretly gone to Las Vegas, stayed there for a week, then flown back to the East Coast and called Sweet Aunt from Native and Marble International Airport. I cannot possibly imagine how my aunt dealt with it, but when she told Rowdy Cousin at our house she seemed relieved and a bit sad, more so than furiously angry.

Our cousin also told us that he is going to some type of place to deal with his gambling problem. The fact that he even had a gambling problem went unbeknownst to Powell, Thomas, and myself for as long as he’s had it, and, presumably, to Sweet Aunt as well. How unfortunate this situation is. Sweet Aunt is understandably humiliated, and Powell and I are completely shocked, as Uncle Mustache isn’t at all the type to be so blatantly irresponsible.

Wow. Uncle Mustache was in Las Vegas. There’s one I didn’t see coming. We go to Grand Ma Normal Family’s Christmas party tomorrow.

December 22, 2002
Today was good. As I mentioned yesterday, today was the day of Grand Ma’s Christmas party. It was a very nice day, too. Mom woke us early (for a weekend, that is) to prepare for the day’s events. She first ordered Powell into the shower, and then said to me after he got out, “While he’s getting dressed, you can do the trash cans and the cat box. Anyway, I groaned and thought in my head (and in my semi-conscious state) that it was absolutely ridiculous that she was having me do that as soon as I woke up. I did it, though (albeit rather slowly), and then I got into the shower. I absolutely adore my time in the shower. The shower has become a sort of sanctuary for me. Although I am not dealing with extreme stress, I do have the same qualms and concerns as most teens. Most recently the fact that I’ve been getting along less well with two friends of mine, Wild Squirrel Girl and Whigger Boy (although other friends of mine have informed me that Whigger Boy, much like Dork Jock Boy, though he may seem initially cool, really isn’t). Okay, so, to continue, I take great enjoyment in my showers. It’s about relaxation. I like to sing, I like to feel the hot water flowing gently and warmly over my body, causing a silken, comforting, nurturing cloud of steam to envelop the room and myself, to retain huge quantities of heat, comfort, and luxury through a flimsy, thin, delicate shower curtain. I wash my hair every two days. Whereas only washing my hair every other day may seem unsanitary, Grand Ma Weird Family says that it’s good for the natural oils in your head and all over your body, the ones that your body produces. Wow, I just wrote all of that about the shower! So, I got out of the shower and I was feeling a bit sick. I suppose that I still haven’t fully recovered from Friday; I was monstrously sick, having been nauseated, congested, and generally uncomfortable all day. I vomited in the morning, around seven o’clock, and I thought that perhaps I might have been better. I missed school altogether; my father’s decision, and one which I staunchly objected to. Anyway, I had to lie down this morning, and my hair (which is still very long, despite the stylish new cut, which I haven’t mentioned; my parents forced me to get my hair cut, and I fiercely objected, however, after a screaming argument with my father—-which was really about control issues and not much about the hair—-my parents won and I went to Barber Shop but I was so happy with the way that it turned out that I almost forgot our argument) dried messy because I didn’t blow-dry it. I just did a bit of combing and my hair was fine. Mom left with Thomas and said that if we needed extra time to get ready that Dad was driving down separately and that we could go with him. That’s what I did; I gargled with some Listerine and brushed my teeth, applied deodorant and did some various other things. I grabbed the first half of my book, The Nation that Never Wanted to Be, a Russian-English/English-Russian dictionary, and two CD Rams for Grand Ma’s computer and then we were off. Powell was with us, and he did a hilarious rendition of the country music song “The Impossible.” He sang, “I learned to never masturbaaate, in a bathroom stall.” Even Dad thought it was a bit funny and I was going into hysterics. We then went to a car wash (which I had to loan Dad five dollars to go through, raising the amount of money that he owes me to twenty-five dollars. Although, I might not charge him this money; with all that he’s bought me for Christmas, it just seems hypocritical, like it wouldn’t be right), which I enjoyed. After the car wash was finished, Dad asked me to adjust his mirror. This became difficult as I continually misinterpreted his directions. He finally gave up in “disgust.” I have quotation marks around “disgust” because my father often reacts that way, shaking his head and going, “Mmm, mmm, mmm” as if he’d seen something atrocious. He does it every night that he and Mom play cards, and, for the first time that I can remember, I heard Mom mocking him for it tonight. He did it once before when Powell drank some soda without permission. This morning, Powell, Thomas, and I fought briefly, and Dad woke to say something to them and myself. “Thanks for making me miserable.” I literally thought to myself, “Same speech, different day,” which is ironic, and I’ll tell you why tomorrow, but now I’m so tired that I must pray or I won’t get it done and if I continue to write in this state where I’m about to fall into unconsciousness, my writing for this evening will stop making sense (plus my arm hurts). I will write more tomorrow.

December 26, 2002

Snickers Under the Christmas Tree

It’s barely the day after Christmas, and our Christmas was very merry, although there was one aspect of it which did not agree with me. Well, to clarify about my last entry, I said that I thought, “Same speech, different day,” because I am told very much how terrible we all are. Yeah, right. Anyway, I went to bed on Christmas Eve after ten-thirty but before eleven o’clock. I told Thomas to get sleep and that Santa would be coming. I woke around 3:45a.m. (quite naturally), went downstairs, and put some coal into my brother Powell's stocking. Then I quickly made my way back upstairs. I went to bed. Thomas and Powell of course (even though Powell doesn’t believe in Santa anymore) were up around seven o’clock on Christmas morning, and there was snow everywhere outside. This gave me great satisfaction, as one of the newscasters on television had said, “Sorry kids, but if you’re hoping to wake up tomorrow and see snow, it’s just not gonna (improper grammar, I know) happen.” He was actually visibly annoying the other reporters because he continually repeated this, and rather nastily, too. This was given away by the reporters’ not-so-subtle hints that he should shut up, such as the constant repetition of the sentence, “Okay, Neil.” It gave me just one more reason to celebrate the snow. You know, I can’t ever remember a White Christmas before this. We received many gifts from our parents and from “Santa,”(in other words, we received many gifts from our parents) and also from numerous relatives, particularly from our grandparents Normal Family. They really overdid it, bringing us about five gifts each, and then Grand Ma handed me a card with thirty dollars in it. There was probably $500.00 in that room in presents from my grandparents alone. My own parents bought me two CDs: these two CDs were Christina Aguiler and Now 11. Christina Aguilera's voice has an incredible range and her singing is passionate and moving. Passion is certainly the word. I find something unfathomably beautiful about someone having such enormous strength and power in their voice. It is one of the thoughts that goes through my head when I am singing: the thought of the beauty that I am creating. One year ago we were at Mom's Old Best Friend's parents’ house. We hated (or at least Powell and I, oh, and Powell says Thomas, too, and although I couldn’t really say for a certainty, I believe that Mom and Dad hated it, too) going back to Mom's Old Best Friend’s after having been at my grandparents’ house (grandparents Normal Family, of course) for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but we did it. And then, two days later, a year ago tomorrow, we moved here. December 27, 2001. And then came New Year, and then school. The first few months of 2002 were a bit rough for me. Socially. Emotionally. And now, coincidentally enough, I’m not getting along with several of my friends. I’ve tried to put it aside, to get it out of my thoughts, but now I must confess: it’s nagged at me throughout the entire holiday. I attribute this to the inner turmoil that I don’t try to trick myself into thinking is gone; I put on an outward fa├žade of never-ending happiness, humor, and brightness, but I’m monstrously insecure. I easily become suspicious and think that people are saying bad things about me, and I often can’t differentiate between when people are just joking with me and when they’re actually trying to make fun of me. I’m terrified. I’m so terrified of going back to the horror, the emotional and social starvation and torture, to the living nightmare of my sixth, seventh, and eighth grade years. I’m so scared that if I sense any dislike or annoyance that I become nervous and try to converse typically and pleasantly, and because I am so nervous I often make things worse. So anyway, I just had to get that out. I can fool everyone else, just not myself. I know my agendas, as tedious and pathetic as they are. Not all, though. In my mind I was in the ideal social situation: I was popular enough to have a pleasant day in school and have fun, but not such an incredible social figure that my interaction with people outside of school doesn’t vary from a few select friends. It’s still too soon to tell if the events of Thursday, December 19, 2002 will have any lasting or large significance to my position on the social scale. Yesterday was wondrous. After we opened our presents we began putting them all up and we all showered (an activity which, as you should be able to derive from previous entries, I love). We prepared for company, and we hosted Aunt Ostentatious, Idiot Cousin, Bratty Cousin, Grand Ma and Grand Pa Normal Family, and, until later, that was it. Aunt Ostentatious decided to stay the night here because of the weather. Powell, Idiot Cousin, Bratty Cousin, Thomas my parents, and I all loaded up into my aunt’s car and drove off to a large hill in front of Ugly Name (formerly and more popularly referred to as Western Native State) College. We all grabbed our things and climbed quite high. From a distance, well, from anywhere, really, you can see that from the top, the hill slopes downward for perhaps one hundred feet, then slopes slightly upward again in an irregular mound extending outward and upward from the hill. It is quite small, but if you were going at extreme speeds it could cause you to go flying through the air, acting like a natural ramp. Quite naturally, we were all very cautious at first. I went perhaps ¾ of the way up the hill and attempted sledding all the way to the bottom. I stopped on the “ramp.” I was conscientious of both the fact that my feet were hitting the ground as I went and that I wasn’t getting enough speed, so that I should probably be going higher. I went to the top and went down, making carefully sure that my feet didn’t touch the ground; I couldn’t touch the ground. The next time that I went alone I pushed more of my weight forward. I got very very close to the bottom; actually, I did get there. I stopped just a few feet from a ditch that was about a foot deep and a foot wide. On the other side of that ditch was the road, and, parked on the side of the road, my aunt’s car. I tried snowboarding. Powell has never done it before last night and he is excellent. Meanwhile, my case was different. My snowboarding abilities are limited. I would make it about three feet before falling over. All of the others were waiting in the car for me so that we could go home, and so I just eventually picked up the snowboard and walked to the car. We walked home, I mean, drove home, and I straightened up my room a little bit so that Aunt Ostentatious and Bratty Cousin could use it. A year ago we had a good Christmas, too. We were over at my grandmother Normal Family’s house, and I was writing in my journal (#4, 12/23/01- 4/10/02) there, and at the time I was commenting on the fact that an airplane from France (flying out of Paris I believe)

December 28, 2002
flying to Miami (Florida) had been diverted to Boston (Massachusetts) after a man on board was caught trying to detonate something from within his shoe. A flight attendant saw him and he was tackled, his evil plot foiled. Other things on my mind included a report from my cousin Annoyingly Perfect, who lives outside of Country Music City, Country Music State, saying that there had been a revolt in Renaldi. For our child nation, the Imperial Empire, this meant the outbreak of [our] World War I. I was absolutely horrified, as at the time, we all thought that Renaldi was the most important part of the Imperial Empire. Well, actually, the revolt hadn’t started yet; I was only being cautioned that it might. Oh, wait, yes it had! I was told that a girl named Rachel had crowned herself queen of a Rebel Empire. As it turned out later, the whole report was entirely fictitious, an overly-dramatic story intended to stir up patriotism, and, for a while, it did succeed. Until August of 2002, when everything came crashing down. Anyway, the reason that my last entry was interrupted was because I was told to go to bed and that we would be leaving at around six o’clock, I mean, getting up at six o’clock and leaving around eight o’clock for Hick State. Things changed, though. My father was going to go with us and we were going to drive home the same day so that we would still be able to visit Uncle Nose Hair and Mexican Aunt. This was also because we thought my father would have to go work on a new job doing high-rise buildings. But he didn’t have to go to work and decided to go to, I mean, not to go to Hick State anyway. My father hasn’t had work in three months. Not many people know this and fortunately my mother’s salary is enough so that it doesn’t show; her salary alone can support the whole family, although our miscellaneous funds have been somewhat reduced. My father apparently still doesn’t know what he wants to be, although he’s really in no position to be picky; he has no higher education to speak of. My mother told him quite bluntly that he is too old not to know what he wants to be and that it’s not always what you want to do that you can do but what you have to do to make money. Really, I don’t buy that my father isn’t psychologically ready or whatever; I just think that he’s become too used to not having to work. I must say, that I too enjoy being financially supported, but I’m fourteen and have an excuse. Anyway, Dad took us to Uncle Nose Hair’s yesterday and here we are. Last night he stayed for dinner, and then after he went home. I sang for Uncle Nose Hair. Although he won’t openly admit to it, I think that he thought I was bad. He said that I have a strong voice and that I should learn about voice control by joining my school’s chorus or something. I am planning to do this. Aunt Smugly Superior is supposed to call here tonight, although I’m not sure if she will or not. While very financially stable and very normal, she is not always reliable with things like telephone calls. Powell and I have discovered that Mexican Aunt is very cool. Last night she did impersonations for us, of the various retarded people at my grandmother’s (Weird Family) house. She is very funny. Mexican Aunt is very funny, and I like her and my younger brother likes her as well. She is very intelligent and interesting and she wants to be friends with my mother Marie.

December 29, 2002
So anyway, the point is that our first night here was good. They had company over and the people were very nice, and of some station. He owns, I mean, the man who was here, he owns roughly six H&R Block offices and he’s also a lawyer. The woman with him, Heavyset Woman, was very nice. Whether they are related or not I have yet to determine. The next day I went with Uncle Nose Hair to help move things from one H&R Block office to another. It was very fun, and I met Random Girl, the beautiful daughter of one of the men there. She was very nice, although she could only carry things that were light. As a matter of fact, she even went and got her nails done. If I had been born a female, I think that one luxury is that females aren’t required or expected to do physical labor, however, the negative of that is childbirth. I’m happy to be a boy. Plus, no matter what sex you are, you won’t have to do labor if you are educated, because then you can become wealthy. Men have additional advantages: for example, the fact that they are considered cool to have more than one woman (however, this is an advantage that I would never use). Then again, women aren’t expected to fight as much as men. We both have advantages and disadvantages, imposed by our society’s incredibly, ridiculously high physical and emotional standards. To continue, today was also a magnificent day. We woke, showered dressed, and went over to Grand Ma’s house. All except for Mexican Aunt. Why? Because my Mexican Aunt doesn’t like the crazy things that happen at my grandmother’s house. She, well, my Mexican Aunt, thinks sometimes that my grandmother is a little bit crazy. And my Mexican Aunt doesn’t like my Aunt Heroin. She thinks that my Aunt Heroin is a shithead. And my Aunt Heroin, she doesn’t like my Mexican Aunt. My Mexican Aunt is from Mexico, and she’s very funny. So, we went to Grand Ma’s house, and I read Grand Ma’s rather touching story of her first-grade life during the Great Depression. It was published in the journal Old Mountains Heritage. She wrote of a teacher of hers named Miss Maude. She wrote of being poor and of living in Hick State. Although, she doesn’t seem to regret the immense collapse of her family’s centuries-old wealth. She speaks of Hick State with a passion, much like I’ve heard of Russians referring to “the Motherland.” She says that she wants to meet my grandfather Hick Family, and see his home, and she says that she thinks that they would get along well. When I asked her why she thought this, she said, “We Hick State lovers are all alike.” Really, with my grandmother Hick Family so sick, possibly ready to die, I think that my grandfather might fall in love with her or something. She said something that absolutely delighted me, too. There is a highly likely possibility that we are Russian. The reason is that our ancient ancestors in Scandinavia were Vikings. According to recent historical discoveries, Vikings would quite often go through Finland to Russia and abduct Russian women for their wives. Our ancestors conquered most of Europe at one time and the odds that their excursions did not extend into Russia have been historically proven impossible. The odds against their not having married and having had children by Russian women are astronomical. So, my grandmother said that she would bet money that we are Russian. She said that as a child Aunt Smugly Superior had an illogical fascination with Russia as well. Aunt Smugly Superior later told me that it generated from a television show. Anyway, my grandmother says that Aunt Smugly Superior and I both have dreams of going to Russia, and her theory is that this could be the equivalent of our longing to return to the “Motherland” of our ancestors.

December 30, 2002
After going to Grand Ma’s house we came back to Uncle Nose Hair’s house, and then in the evening we went to Cuban Uncle’s house. He is Cuban Uncle, the father of our cousin, Pothead, commonly referred to as “Pothead,” who is now in jail. Cuban Uncle and his wife and children (two adopted) are good people, and we spoke Spanish and the food was good and they were very nice. Then we came home. Today, Grand Ma is supposed to come over with Aunt Heroin for lunch or something.

Later
Well, Grand Ma came. She’s currently reading the first half of my novel, The Nation That Never Wanted to Be. We (Powell and I) might get to stay here for New Year’s Eve. We’re excited. Uncle Mafia has consented to take us home on January 1, 2003. Now all that we have to do is get my father to agree. Somehow I worry that my parents will come up with some stupid reason to force us to go home.

Later: We’ve been able to stay! More in Journal 7.

BlackenedBoy

December 31, 2002
Yesterday and today have been quite pleasant. Yesterday, I thought that Powell and I were going to have to go home today. The reason was that we were originally scheduled to go home today. “Home” is Beautiful Town, Native State (unfortunately). Where we are now is Anne's Town, Decaying State at our Uncle Nose Hair's small manor. It was a pleasant surprise for the holidays; we weren’t expecting it at all. Uncle Nose Hair is the brother of my biological mother Anne, whom my father is divorced from and who is often in trouble with the police or the government or using drugs. Seeing any of our relatives from my mother’s side of the family is always a special treat. My favorites are my Aunt Smugly Superior and Uncle Nose Hair and their spouses: Nose Hair's wife Mexican Aunt and Smugly Superior’s husband Southern Accent Man. Their children are also close with us. Nose Hair’s are Whining Girl, Full Moon, and Large Boy. Smugly Superior’s are Annoyingly Perfect and Innocent. Powell and I are particularly close with Annoyingly Perfect and Innocent because their ages are closer in proximity to ours. We’ve been at Uncle Nose Hair’s since December 27, 2002, which was Friday, today being Tuesday. My Mexican Aunt has a back problem and has to use a cane whenever she leaves the house, but she is still funny. She’s certainly very spirited. She does hilarious impersonations of the mental retards that my grandmother cares for. It’s politically incorrect, yes (and horrendously so), but it’s still so funny. My Uncle Nose Hair works construction, which is surprising given how he lives. His home is very luxurious. You enter the front door into a long living room furnished with dark furniture. At the end of the living room is a sliding glass door. Then on the other side of the living room is the open doorway which leads into the kitchen. The kitchen is spacious, although a bit smaller than ours. From the kitchen there is a door leading into an open hallway. From the hallway you can see the stairs and some other rooms. If you go left into the hallway you will come to the base of the stairs, and you will also enter the Sitting Room. This is one of the largest and [most] magnificent rooms throughout the entire manor. Its centerpiece is a large fireplace. From the fireplace rise up two stone columns, which support a marble slab; this marble is adorned with pictures, vases, ornaments, an old clock, and even some foreign incense. The stone rises up more narrowly to the roof, which is upheld by rafters. On the right side of the fireplace are two rocking chairs, one of which is quite old, possibly from the 19th Century. Also on the right side of the fireplace are two couches, and like the rocking chairs, one of them is quite old, possibly from the 19th Century. Beside each couch is a table, each table having a lamp and various pictures. The old couch is red with brown wood that is beautifully carved into clever shapes. There is a red velvet pillow in the center of the couch, and at each end there is a pillow adorned with rose patterns. The old rocking chair is also intricately carved. The new couch is green, with blankets and pillows strewn across it. The new rocking chair is heavily cushioned. Behind each couch is a window, and on the spacious window-sills of these nearly ceiling-high windows are placed different plants. Hanging from the ceiling on the immediate right of the fireplace is a large plant consisting of beautiful flowers. Before each couch is a rug, and there is also one in front of the two rocking chairs and one on the immediate right of the fireplace. Actually, not on the immediate right. You see, where the stone pillars meet the floor, a large marble base extends forward. On this marble is a picture of a horse, and it is on the immediate right of this that the fourth rug is. In the center of these four rugs is a coffee table with candles, a plant, and miniature statues. In front of the marble base is s fifth rug, which is there quite pointlessly. On the left side of the fireplace is an outlet of the Sitting Room, hidden from the hallway by the stairway. Due to the general structural shape of the large room, one may or may not consider this extension to be a separate room. I consider it to be a part of the Sitting Room and a different room, depending on the occasion. I suppose that on such an occasion when it would be considered a separate room you would call it the Little Sitting Room or the Piano Room. The centerpiece of this “room” is an old piano (no longer working), complete with stool, base, and a four-level glass and wood enclosed group of shelves, lined with pictures, porcelain, miniature cars, books, and other things. On top of the highest level, where nothing is meant to be, have accumulated various objects. On the left side of the piano is a Madonna, a statue of the Virgin Mary, crowned and majestically robed, holding the Baby Jesus, who also wears a crown.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Unforeseen Crisis, Unexpected Feast

Last night, a major problem emerged here at the Our Family household.

I was on the phone with birth-mother Anne, whom I am planning to visit this weekend, hammering out the details of our stay together, when my mother's urgent voice came from the garage.

"BB!" she said. "Get off the phone, I need your help."

Sensing the seriousness, the near panic in her tone, and thinking at first that she'd been hurt, I hastily told Anne that I'd call her back and raced through the door to where my mother stood before our second refrigerator.

"Mom, what's wrong?" I asked.

"The freezer went out," was her response. "We've got to get all of this inside."

She gestured at the fully-stocked shelves laden with meats, microwaveable chicken nuggets, frozen vegetables, and diet dinners. I knew that we'd have to hurry, so I simply extended my arms outward and allowed her to pile the items of food in them, wondering all the while where we could possibly put so much.

She cursed lightly and muttered, "This meat is thawed."

"Will we have to throw it all away?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said, prodding some chicken breasts with her fingers to feel their texture.

I ran inside and placed the perishables on the countertop as I'd been instructed, then hurried back out to grab more.

My mother had her hand on her chin and was staring contemplatively at what remained in the unfunctioning freezer.

"We're going to have to cook it," she announced as I walked in.

I stared at her.

"All of it?" I asked incredulously.

"Yeah," she said. "Otherwise we'll have to throw it away."

Before us were multiple steaks, sausages, a moderate amount of ground beef, six chicken breasts, and, on top of that, a full bird, all of which had to be prepared immediately.

Steaks Being Prepared

She raced about frantically trying to get everything ready and told me to call my father and inform him of the situation. Thankfully, he was only fifteen minutes away when I reached him, and said he'd be home as soon as possible.

When he arrived shortly thereafter, my mother had the oven and stove on and was looking for Powell so he could go start the grill out back. Naturally, my father took two minutes to fix the refrigerator that had left us so flummoxed, but by that point all of the food was out and unsafe to put back anyway.

Mom Preparing Vegetables

We had to eat, or at least make, all of it.

"I put the chicken in the oven, I have the ground beef on the stove, Powell's making the steak, and I'm gonna put a pot of soup on," my mother briefed my father.

At her last statement I stared.

My mother's chicken noodle soup is a favorite throughout our family, an entirely homemade recipe she inherited from her mother and that has kept our kitchen warm on countless winter nights. It's delicious and adored, the one thing, we tell her, that she can make better than our grandmother Normal Family (my father's mother; our mother's mother passed away four years ago). However, it's also very seasonal; the first batch of it usually doesn't show up until a particularly cold day in September or October.

During our childhood, this followed the rhythm of other weather-related patterns: in September or so my father would stock up on enough firewood to last us through the winter; in October it really became cold; in November, which is typically around when first snow came, we'd start using the fireplace on a limited basis.

These things were all back in Dirty Town, and comprise some of my few fond memories of that place.

The Soup has always been Fall and winter fare. Eating it during the warm months has never seemed right, and in fact I can't remember one time during the entire ten months we lived in Deep South State when my mother made her well-acclaimed dish.

So, when she proposed, in the middle of August, to whip up a pot, I was a bit surprised. Fall is coming, though (I hope; in the South you never quite know), and the first pot would have come within the next month or so anyway.

"A bit early," I would remark to my father several hours later as I sipped some broth out of a spoon. "But I don't mind."

Before long six chicken breasts were in the pot, topped by stewed tomatoes (from a can, yes, but the only ingredient to be so obtained) and sliced celery.

Chicken and Vegetables Awaiting Broth

We realized at this point that we lacked both noodles and enough stewed tomatoes, so I hastily ran out to the store to buy both while my parents and brother kept the fire burning at home. Once I'd gotten back with the crucial items, the soup was simmering in delicious broth, to which my father hastily added what I'd procured from the grocery.

Mom's Soup Cooking

I actually convinced my father to take a picture of me and then pose himself for some noodle-related photography.

Me Helping to Cook

Dad

My family no longer questions why I ask them to turn away and cover their faces whenever I take my camera out. Powell is by this point aware that I have a blog, though he hasn't read it, and to the others I've offered the vague excuse of, "You never know who's looking at your pictures on the Internet."

Of course, coming clean would likely clear up some confusion, like shedding light on why I take pictures of food seemingly at random.

"BB," my exasperated mother asked me the other day. "Why are you taking pictures of your dinner plate?"

"I'm documenting this," I answered.

Yesterday when I stood over her shoulder, sneaking photographs of the soup in its pot, she remarked without a trace of laughter, "You're a dork," as if simply to inform me of it and lament her eldest son's fate.

She believes that a picture of her soup cooking is completely superfluous, yet, oddly enough, one day after posting the photo I received a request that it be added to the Ultimate Soup Group on Flickr.

If you're a big soup fan, check it out.

After the steaks had finished, Powell left the grill to cool off while Pie played basketball just near it.

Pie Playing as Steaks Cook

My father, ever resourceful, had turned our surplus of ground beef into Hamburger Helper, upon which I ravenously dined. The feast had begun. Powell devoured his steaks, I dove into my father's confection, and we all awaited eagerly the soup's completion.

Powell Eating Steak

Hamburger Helper

When that happy moment came several hours later, I ladled myself a good helping of it.

Inaugural Bowl

"I really shouldn't be eating this," I told my father through gulping bites, noting that my diet and exercise plan had been shamefully compromised for the day. "But it's the first soup of the season. I couldn't miss an Inaugural Bowl."

My parents are good at what they do, though, and the temptation had been too much for me to resist. As I'd told my father earlier while chowing down on his Hambuger Helper: "You two can cook. I'll give you that. You can cook."

The First Soup of the Season

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Decision

Tree of Life

The following was my journal entry from August 7, 2008, in the journal that I've written in since July 25, 2006:

I’ve reached a very important decision. As you know, I’ve been in an emotional funk, one sometimes intense, and recently anemic and draining, for two years now. In late August of 2006, my life was turned upside down, every ounce of happiness in it destroyed in an onrush of tears and loneliness that these pages sadly chronicled. The events that marked this terrible passage—my harsh rejection by my first roommates, the shock and respondent desperation to finding myself essentially friendless, the terrible isolation of Freshman Year—have all long passed, but their spell on me has extended for far greater a duration of time than that in which they transpired.

I was suicidal one year ago, as the diary entries for late July of 2007 attest. Yet in the twelve months since, I’ve allow myself to wallow in melancholy, permitted an examination of the world on entirely negative terms, and given my tormentors victory by letting their black meanness poison every aspect of my personality.

On the night of August 5th, I began thinking.

I have been squandering the gifts that I have been given and have allowed my life to become something meaningless and ugly.

No more.

I reflected on this on the 5th before bed, and then on the morning of the 6th I did so again. I made a pledge. I promised to stop sabotaging my own life. I saw that there is more in the world to be thankful for, so much more, at least in my case, than there is to mourn, and in indulging in an endless pity party I’d become my own victimizer.

I vowed that from now on I would see the positive and act to move forward. Here is a list of things I am thankful for:

*The love, forgiveness, and guidance of God
*My sister
*My parents and my drastically-improved relationship with them
*My family as a whole
*My grandmother Normal Family and her love
*Anne, a close companion as well as a mother
*The friends I do have, particularly my companions at work who enable me to actually laugh without faking
*The fact that I enjoy my job enough to turn down a higher-paying position elsewhere
*The Fall, and with it the upcoming college semester
*My renewed sense of purpose and direction
*My intellectual gifts, including my ability to write
*Singing
*Music
*The seasons
*The sun
*Flowers
*Books
*My blogging friends
*The fact that I am young, with much time ahead of me and much to experience
*My health
*My family members’ health (particularly Pie, who had a recent scare with what we thought might have been asthma but what turned out not to be)
*My body
*The fact that I can and do feel attractive
*The candidacy of Barack Obama and the potential for this country
*My own potential on different fronts
*The vast expanses in which I can travel, live, and see things
*Food in general
*My mother’s crab dip (which is so delicious)

Tomatoes

Mom's Crab Dip

I could go on (really, I could), but I think you get the idea. This will be my last entry in this journal. It’s seen enough, held enough, and its time has passed. I feel such peace to finally lay it down. Goodbye.

Flowers

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An Admission

One of the hardest things in the world to do is to pretend to be optimistic and hopeful when you are in fact very sad inside.

There really is no other option, of course, no way out of the situation. You can't simply go around in abject (or at least openly abject) misery, giving in to the despair. Doing that leads you to where I was a year ago: your life in shambles, your grades in the gutter because you've stopped caring about anything, your parents suspicious and oblivious at the same time, your friends non-existent, and your thoughts ever lingering on the sweet dream of ending it all.

That is where bowing down to the grief takes a person.

With that understood, pretenses must be kept.

I have to go to work every day, have to smile, have to laugh at other people's jokes, and, of course, have to make jokes of my own. That's what's expected of me; I'm the zany one, the funny one, the eccentric kid who's always good for a rib. The truth is, though, that I don't feel much like kidding around.

The chuckles are hollow, and eventually meaningless. At the end of the day I leave the movie theater, go home, and am alone.

I have no friends.

I don't know why I'm making that confession, that embarrassing confidence, here on the Internet. There is something about speaking with strangers that enables you to pour your heart out in a way you wouldn't be capable of with those you know.

So I have no one. I have my family, those bound to me by blood. Beyond that I am left pining, yearning for a companionship that doesn't come. Certainly, there are those at work with whom I fraternize, friendly acquaintances who I feel familiar enough with to even hug.

It ends following the conclusion of my shift, though. Black Dress Girl has said that we should hang out some time. I don't know if it will actually happen. It very well could, and if it did a real friendship would probably blossom given our compatiblity.

The majority of my co-workers live in Western City, though, and I live in Mountain Town. I will go to the next employee premiere we have. It would be something to get me out of the house.

After all, as my brother Powell says, it's not that I'm not liked. Too often, circumstances have simply conspired to deprive me of the company I long to have.

What kills me the most is that things weren't always like this. I was once a very happy person, with many friends and an excellent support system. There was a time, as recently as four years ago, when I described my own life as "perfect."

Maybe that's why four years seems so long ago. It's really not that great a span, but it was so different as to belong to a separate world entirely. When I try, on occasion, to recall the last time I was content and enjoyed living, the last time I was really happy beyond a momentary distraction, my mind inevitably takes me back to four years in the past.

I don't live there, mind you, don't pretend that those times haven't ended. Still, I don't kid myself into believing that things aren't much worse now than they were at an earlier point. My past gladness, rather than giving me a refuge into which I can retreat, provides ample memories with which I am tortured as I dream.

We moved here halfway through my Senior Year of high school, something I regret now more than I did at the time it happened. Of course, it seemed okay then. I won a hard-fought victory against the school board allowing me to continue going to Rich County High School that I today recognize as having been a serious error.

I finished out my last year of high school at Rich County, was invited to several graduation parties, attended, and had a great time surrounded by my classmates. Then, however, came the double vise: within a week of semester's end, I found myself in a different town than the rest of my graduating class, where, to boot, I had never attended high school and so knew no one my own age.

In college I was...if not loathed, certainly openly disliked. My Freshman Year was an unmitigated disaster. In October of 2006 I actually came home from school one weekend and shaved my head, a stunt that a certain pop star would repeat several months later.

There must be something archetypical in that act.

One of the most difficult things about where I am right now is that the height of my anguish has long passed. I am not entrenched in suffering, haven't sunken into it the way I did in 2006 and 2007. Suicide is no longer one of the most comforting ideas to enter my head.

The worst had passed by the middle of last school year, but once it was gone things didn't return to the way I thought they should be. The absence of total abandonment, and my return from emotional collapse, did not equate happiness.

All it led to was a void, where full joy could not blossom but full sadness only occasionally raised its head. The bad bouts come and go. Sometimes I feel horrible, other times I merely have a dull ache. That ache never completely leaves me. There are days when I wish the horrendous despair on myself again, if only to sweep away featurless melancholy.

Last night that desire came to me.

It was around one in the morning, and I was preparing for bed. I'd come upstairs to clean up the kitchen quickly before going to sleep, and standing in the empty room I was seized with a sense of such awful loneliness that it made me want to weep. I turned out the lights over the countertop, rounded the corner, and headed for the stairs.

As I passed I caught view of our dog, Millie, sleeping on the couch. She's a wiener dog, small and very sweet, a loving thing, and in that instant I had a profound desire to pet her.

I tore the iPod headphones from my ears, walked swiftly over the couch (swiftly enough that I think I may have startled her), sat down, and began stroking her head. I just wanted badly, so badly, to feel the warmth of another living thing next to me, to feel loyalty and affection without any type of strings.

Sitting there, moving my hand over her short fur, I began to cry. I did not weep in any serious measure, mind you; I don't do that anymore. I think I cried myself out two years ago, a time in my life when I would wake up crying, go to bed crying, and spend half the day in between crying.

The shower in particular was a repository for my tears. It was perfect: warm, steamy, already wet, and with a lot of backgroud noise to conceal what I was actually doing. Some days I probably spouted more water than the faucet.

Ever since then, I've found it nearly impossible to get my tear ducts pumping. The critical release that that activity provides has been denied me since 2007, and often I find it maddening. I was thankful for the brief respite last night, but it was gone in a matter of seconds.

Then I just lay down, Millie at my side, and closed my eyes for a bit. Several minutes later I got up, wiped the moisture away, and went downstairs.

Before going to bed I performed my fifty crunches, a ritual I insist on adhering to regardless of how tired I may be. In times of flux (or what I pray to God is flux), I find myself clinging to my routine, the only thing I really have left to keep me stable. I must push ahead no matter what. If I didn't I'd probably go insane.

Literally.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My First Negative Experience

Blogging has been something very positive for me, overwhelmingly so, I would say.

I began to blog in the first place because a new friend, whose posts had touched me, urged me to create a chronicle of my own and document my thoughts, experiences, and day-to-day life.

I've always been a journaling type of person, but before, no one spoke back. There is a great satisfaction to sitting down and penning out your innermost thoughts in the pages of a book, but the book at the end of the day is just binding, paste, plastic, and paper. It can't respond to you.

It can bring the past alive in wondrous color years later, it can hold some of your darkest secrets, but it can't reach out to you when you're crying or congratulate you when you're happy.

Blogging allows for community. I've gotten advice, words of salutation, comfort, and a wonderful sense of inclusion from the many kind people I've met here.

Tonight, that experience was altered somewhat.

Several days ago, I was reading a blog post that touched on a certain social issue. I will not reveal the name of the blogger or precisely what was being discussed, because I don't believe in that sort of thing. There is no point to publicly flogging someone online.

I disagreed with this person's stance and told him so in a polite way, commenting that I thought his attitude on the subject was immature and disappointing. I expected, obviously, a response, but something more in the line of political debate than what I actually got.

On his own blog, he told me essentially to shut my mouth about things I didn't understand (not in those words, but that was the gist of it), and outlined why he thought my opinion was wrong.

This was his right and I took no issue with it.

The scathing and vulgar personal letter that he soon sent my e-mail account, though, was a shock that upset me enough to literally make me shake.

Here are some excerpts of that letter:

"Perhaps if you didn't live in Backward United States (the SOUTH), then you would learn a lot more about the world.

And if you choose to blog about this or talk about me negatively, then I will have no choice but to talk to Blogger about blcoking you from my blog and, perhaps, having your post removed if any such thing occurs."

So, he's basically banned me from discussing what he's done. I hadn't initially planned to post on this very distasteful topic, but once I got to that part of the letter my mind had been made up for me.

"And you thought I was immature."

This he followed with an injunction that I should perform oral sex on him.

"Well, I guess I am immature. But at the end of the day: I can afford -------, live a satisfying life, have parents who have jobs and their home, live in ----------, have socially progressive ideas, love life, and am not afraid to show my face on the Internet. And at the end of the day, you are just a psychologically disturbed boy who hates life and thinks he is too intellectual to be associated with your brother or most of society.

"I pity you."

This didn't exactly make my night.

Friday, August 1, 2008

BB's Diet and Exercise Regimen

I am a thin person. I always have been.

When I was born way back in the ancient days of 1988, I weighed in at exactly five pounds and was confined to an incubator for several days after birth for being underweight and having low blood sugar.

The blood sugar problem has stayed with me over the years, and I can usually count on becoming shaky and impaired at least two to three times each week, a condition usually remedied by a hastily-consumed brownie.

My small frame has also stayed with me. Anne, my birth-mother, is the exact same way. Throughout my childhood (or at least during the parts of it when I saw her), she was always rail thin, and she has only now at the age of forty-three begun to develop a tummy of sorts.

Even then, though, she's not fat by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly isn't in nearly the same shape as most other women whose years equal her own. It's just not in her.

Pictures of me from my childhood show a boy alarmingly skinny, one who consumed candy after candy and still seemed unhealthily small no matter what he did. My friends commented at the time that I looked anorexic, but I told them it was just the way my body worked.

In middle school, my classmates, ever resourceful with their taunts if not with their school work, began circulating a pun that likened me to the citizens of an African country whose name bore a resemblance to my own.

"Out of the way, African Nation Boy," they'd say as they brushed past me in the hallways and in classrooms.

This never bothered me, though. I was always comfortable with my body, and figured that as I got older things would change.

Sometime in early adolescence, I realized that I would never become a large or even normal-sized person. In eighth grade, at the age of fourteen, I stood a towering 5'8" tall, head and shoulders above most people in my age group. After that, though, my growth slowed.

I entered high school at the same height, weighing 118lbs. I began to notice before long that other people were growing taller and heavier while I was not.

In tenth grade, I added on an inch to reach 5'9", and started my Sophomore Year of high school at 125lbs. I could still eat anything my heart desired and have nothing but delicate arms and a smooth board of a torso to show for it, so I just kept ploughing ahead.

The next year, at the start of eleventh grade, I grew one inch taller (now at 5'10") and added ten pounds, bringing my weight to 135lbs. I didn't know it at the time, but my body had decided it was done.

In the four years that have passed since that time, I've gained half an inch in height and nothing at all in weight. There was a brief period during my Senior Year of high school when I rose to 146lbs, by far the heaviest I've ever been, but then I inexplicably dropped back down to 135lbs, my temporary brush with semi-normalcy gone a week after it began.

Obviously, weighing too much has never been a problem. What has been a problem, though, is the bad eating habits I've been indulging since childhood.

When I reached the age of seventeen, my body began a readjustment. My boundless capacity for eating food and not showing it ended abruptly that year, when I noticed that, while I wasn't actually getting heavier, all of the chips and cookies were going directly to one place: my stomach.

While the rest of my body remained lithe and sinewy, my midsection began to bulge outward. Occasionally my weight would rise to 137 or so, or peak at 139 (I haven't been above 140 since high school), before dipping back down again.

What Happens When You Eat Way Too Much

I could see that I was being unhealthy, that, however good the temporary gain might seem, it was being driven by pure fat and gluttony.

Last week, after staring for mornings in a row at the protruding belly in the mirror, I decided I'd had enough. I was artificially inflating myself with midnight snacking, overeating, and a sedentary lifestyle. It was affecting my body image and my overall health, so I concluded that something had to be done.

Sometime around last Saturday, I began a strict diet and exercise regimen that I have followed nearly to the letter ever since.

Here is the daily routine I've adhered to when I have off of work:

Breakfast: One serving size of cereal (3/4) a cup, followed by a bicycle ride around the neighborhood.

Lunch: One turkey sandwich with a light spread of mayonnaise and a single serving of potato chips (eleven slices), followed by a brisk walk around the neighborhood.

Dinner: One serving size of whatever I choose for dinner, possibly with a serving size of a side dish, followed by a more extended walk around the neighborhood.

Bedtime: Fifty crunches before bed.

I allow myself to cheat on Saturdays, which essentially means that I have one fattening snack along with a healthily-portioned meal.

Stomach

In the six days since starting this program, my stomach has shrunk to the point that it's not even a bump anymore. I feel better about my body than I have in years, and I have the self-confidence to walk outside in a tight-fitting tee-shirt and not have to hold in my midsection.

I am developing good health habits, showing considerable willpower even when I desperately want to snatch a greasy sausage from the stove or butter-lathered popcorn from concessions at the theater where I work, and just generally being more proactive in my life.

Almost as much as the pleasure of seeing a body that I actually enjoy looking at is the satisfaction that I take in knowing I developed a plan and stuck to it.

Lack of motivation and academic laxity was a major problem for me last school year. I'd begin a homework assignment, get sidetracked by youtube or The Onion, and spend an entire night in the computer lab without even starting on my work.

If I can deny myself the burgers and fries in which I relish, then I can force myself to do what needs to be done on the school front. I have a reason now, a goal, something to build towards, and the horrible aimlessness of the last two years seems finally to be dissipating.

On the Scale

Now, I should add that a consequence of my newfound health consciousness is that I have lost weight. Over the last six days, I've dropped a total of four pounds, and today weighed 133.5 on the scale.

I'm not particularly worried about this, though; I was carrying most of my weight in my stomach, which wouldn't have been unnaturally large if I hadn't been filling it with trash. I'm not sure quite what my inborne weight is, but I'd imagine it to fall somewhere between 125-130lbs.

If anyone else out there is looking to get fit, I hope that maybe you can benefit from this post.