Monday, June 25, 2012

A Little Bit Epic

My longest blogging absence in the four years I've been here doesn't really have any excuse to warrant it. I just didn't feel like writing. And I was kind of busy, too.

Friday, June 15, provided me with a particular treat: a photo shoot.

"How much is that costing you?" my father asked derisively.

Thanks for that vote of confidence.

"Nothing," I answered. "The photographer needed a model and asked me if I'd do it. I'm helping him out."

"Good," my father answered. "Because you have $400 in rent on July 1."

Whether you have it or not was the unspoken accompaniment to that statement. Maybe the dumb bitch will choke it out of me.

Friday, in any case, was a lot of fun. It also was not my first photo shoot.

That came in January 2011, shortly after I recorded a demo song and a local photographer gave me complimentary professional-grade photos to send out with my music. I posted the pictures to Facebook, where a friend who saw them urged me to place them on a modeling website. I took her advice and started getting requests to do shoots almost right away. Oddly enough, I can see it.

"I'm not really attractive," I bantered with the photographer on Friday morning. "But I'm weird-looking."

To his surprised laugh I raised my hands.

"I'm not knocking myself, but you know what I mean," I said.

"Yeah," he acknowledged. "We would call it 'interesting' rather than 'weird,' but yeah. I think you'd be really good for commercial work. You ought to charge people."

I chortled and waved the suggestion away, but after seeing some of the final pieces I found myself almost agreeing. The real talent in this area, you see, lies far less with the models and far more with the photographers, whose vision is the sculptor's hands to the subjects' crude clay. Many people can be models, but few can bring the honesty and beauty of models to the fore. I, for example, walk around fucked up all the time and have been given a modicum of prettiness as well. No one had ever really captured that combination before, though.

"Wow," I said, gazing through the portfolio.

In some of the pictures I saw a smooth-skinned blonde, strangely childlike, his face alight at the joy of a flower in the woods. In others a haunted and depraved young man stared into the lens with eyes like endless pools of sadness. It was like I was looking at someone else.

There's art in that, and I had no doubt which of us was the artist.

I also had no doubt that I wouldn't be able to show the photos on my blog, though I have never been so tempted to break my faceless rule as I was last Friday afternoon. Maybe some will prove usable.

After that epic event it was time for something even more momentous: unannounced trips to both Starbucks and Chipotle.

"Surprise Number One, commence!" I yelled dramatically as I picked Thomas up from his driver's education course.

"A surprise?" he asked, looking in the backseat.

"It's not there," I answered.

His eyes narrowed.

"Where are you taking me, wizard?"

He was quite thrilled to receive a Starbucks frappuccino but a bit lost when I suddenly shouted "Surprise Number Two, initiate!" turned my car onto a highway moving away from Mountain Town.

"What's going on?" he asked. "Is this food?"

"Yes," I conceded.

His whole face lit up.

"Where are we eating?"


"No, where?"

I smiled serenely.


"Not when, you idiot, where?"

"Southern State."

"You bastard."

He received Chipotle, which he'd never had before, quite well, and Powell later commended me on my actions.

"Dude, that's so cool that you did that for Thomas," my 22-year-old brother said.

"You're damn right it's cool," I answered. "Chipotle kicks ass."

I've seen rather a bit of Powell lately, as he lives with my grandmother in Native State and I've been visiting the two of them since Saturday, June 16. I don't usually stay so long but as my parents, Thomas, and Pie are off on vacation in Deep South State and I didn't see the point in returning to an empty house I decided to extend my time here.

It's been a week of crab balls and cheese cake, and yesterday we had one of the large gatherings for which the Normal Family is so celebrated.

Along with the usual antics (which included Aunt Crazy and Uncle Responsible affecting ghetto mannerisms and Cool Cousin diagnosing both of her parents with dementia) we had the privilege to meet Precocious Cousin, the twelve-year-old son of Liberal Cousin and her husband Tall Man, for the first time in years. This boy, the same age now as I was when he was born, is a clear-eyed, cheerful, bright, and well-adjusted young man. His combination of self-assurance and overall agreeableness is reminiscent of Rowdy Cousin (an eighteen-year-old boy who was also in attendance Sunday) and stands as yet another reminder of how superior the Normal Family system is to the perverse one adopted by Our Family.

Every time I see these people I'm happy to be related to them.

Meanwhile, I took my professional pursuits with me to Native State, and it was here that I completed my application for a year-long, paid internship with a prestigious political publication as my grandmother looked on and send up a prayer.

"You've been working hard," she assured me. "And you deserve this. You need a break."

Perhaps in part that I might continue my search for a career (as opposed to, say, flipping burgers) she told me last night that she was granting me access to one of my trust funds. There is not a terribly large amount of money in this account, but enough that finances won't be a serious concern for the immediate future. It's nice to have that breathing room. And if I can't find work by the time the fund would run out then maybe I'm just not meant to have a job.

Until then I'll keep hammering away. There's got to be something somewhere. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Selected Entries: September 2004

In September 2004 I was sixteen years old and plunged, immediately after moving to a new city nine hundred miles away from Native State, into a period of such trauma and upheaval that I later termed it the Time of Tumult. 

By the close of August my family had already experienced the death of my paternal grandfather and the arrival of Hurricane Charley, and as September began a second tropical storm loomed on the horizon. Before 2004 ended our home would be battered by a seemingly endless procession of hurricanes and we would see two more family members pass away.

A silver lining came in early September, when Cool Cousin, through her fun nature and generosity, turned an evacuation into a vacation for the Our Family children.

September 1, 2004

Dad, in Native City because of Grand Pa’s death, has flown home because of Hurricane Frances. The storm is supposed to get here on Saturday, yet he wants to leave here tonight, a Wednesday. Given that the storm could still shift north, this seems a rather foolish thing to do. I want to stay.

September 9, 2004

Well, it’s been quite a week. On September 2, a Thursday, I rose at 5:30a.m. and went to school. During fourth period (AP European History) I was summoned to the attendance office, where my father picked me up at eleven o’clock with the dramatic explanation that we were evacuating. Either because all plane tickets were booked or because my parents wanted to save money (you can never really be too sure with them) we decided to drive to Native State, a brilliant idea that we would later regret. 

It took us seven hours merely to get out of Deep South State, compared with the normal time of three hours. By then, my father sagely pointed out, we would have already landed at Native City International Airport. We made it that night through Sprawling State, Humid State, and half of Growing State, finally stopping around midnight to get six hours’ sleep in a hotel. At six o’clock on the morning of Friday, September 3, we woke and went straight to the car, where we continued on our prolific drive. 

We got through the rest of Growing State, all of Southern State, and finally into Native State, arriving at Grand Ma’s house around midday. That afternoon Aunt Crazy and Uncle Responsible (Grand Pa’s fraternal twin) drove us to their daughter Cool Cousin’s house in the countryside about thirty miles from Washington, D.C.

Cool Cousin’s neighbors are a delightful elderly couple raising their grandson, and they allow Cool Cousin full access to their trampoline and basketball court, luxuries that we took full advantage of. 

First we had a hardy romp on the trampoline, and then we went grocery shopping with Cool Cousin, who got us everything we wanted! I can scarcely squeeze sixty-nine cents for a pack of Tic Tacs out of my father, but Cool Cousin just throws the money at you! It was like she couldn’t stop! After grocery shopping, we went to Blockbuster and rented a small collection of horror films.  

The next morning, Saturday, September 4, we were out of the house by ten, headed for our nation’s capital,. We stopped at the Capitol, which was, for me, a very emotional experience. My ancestors have served the United States from the very beginning in 1776, both in and out of that building, and it is a symbol of our triumph, indeed, of our country’s triumph in securing democracy and becoming a great world power. 

After that we went to the Spy Museum, and, after tiring of the wait to get in, simply strolled to the front desk while Cool Cousin schmoozed with the museum representative, signing up for a membership. A guard immediately led us to the front of a line with about a hundred people waiting. When the elevator carrying passengers to the main part of the museum opened, a second guard stepped in front of the crowd, escorted us onto the lift, and then let others board. As she stepped on one woman remarked caustically, “Oh, it must be nice to be VIP.” Cool Cousin and I shared a look and just laughed, all smiles when we reached the second floor.

There were a lot of exhibits and even some interactive activities, one of which involved climbing into the “air vents.” 

Cool Cousin bought me a pad and stamp reading “Top Secret." After seeing the museum, we went out to lunch, where, in the bathroom, I labeled my brother Powell's shining white butt cheeks “Top Secret” amidst fits of our own giggling. 

We went back to Cool Cousin's house, met up with her friend Liza, and then set out to Sailboat City for a sushi dinner. The sushi was, in addition to being plentiful, very satisfying, some of the best I’ve ever been privileged to dine on. I can understand why Cool Cousin frequents this restaurant so often. Liza spent the night after dinner, while Powell, Thomas, and I watched It

The next morning Liza left and we went to the movies. After the movie we went bowling, buying two games, both of which Powell won, but not without Cool Cousin and me close on his tail each time. We left the alley and went to a seafood restaurant outside of Seafood City, right on Native Bay, where we had crabs and scallops, while I enjoyed the private luxury six oysters to accompany the rest of my food. The next day, September 6, Cool Cousin took us back to our grandmother’s home. We essentially did nothing on Tuesday, September 7; but Wednesday, September 8 was Grand Pa’s funeral, a profoundly sad occasion. More tomorrow. I’m going to pray.

September 14, 2004

Our minivan finally arrived home on Thursday, September 9. We returned to school the next day, a feat that, because I still hadn’t quite recovered from being sick, proved herculean for me. Saturday was full of chores, and then on Sunday we went to the beach. I stayed up late Sunday night with required reading, of which I surely have enough to fill the National Archives. 

September 15, 2004

Hurricane Ivan is about to hit us. Hurricane Jeanne follows close behind. Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne.

September 18, 2004

Yesterday was a great Friday and today was an eventful Saturday. Today I went to a rally of the Kerry/Edwards campaign volunteers with my school’s Young Democrats club. It was a very nice event held in downtown Central City, and it offered many volunteer activities, some of which I hope to participate in. 

September 19, 2004

Today was a busy one for me, as I did lots of homework. I’m going to bed very soon. Hurricane Karl approaches from the Atlantic.

September 23, 2004

In a freak chain of events, Hurricane Ivan, which left Alabama and then dispersed over the continental United States, has come back to menace the Gulf once again. Apparently the hurricane’s largest remnants (just some scattered thunder storms) wandered off into the North Atlantic Ocean from the New York coast, picked up steam from some warm winds, and reunited to form a tropical storm. Ivan is expected to hit Texas this weekend, by which time it may be a hurricane…again. 

As if this wasn’t enough, Hurricane Jeanne is predicted to hit Central City by Sunday, possibly followed by Lisa and Karl. How in the world is this happening? I mean, what are the odds? First Charley, then Frances, then Ivan, then Jeanne, then Ivan again, and now two more? 

These storms are such that one receives the impression they’ve been sent to, in a single summer, make up for the many disaster-free years our family has enjoyed.

Aside from the typhoons that now ravage our state on a daily basis, a far more pressing dilemma has presented itself: my research rough draft for AP European History is due on October 5. Consequently, I shall be very busy for the next two weeks, and I can only hope that Jeanne will buy me time.

September 25, 2004

It is about ten o’clock at night, and the winds of Hurricane Jeanne whistle and roar between our houses and through our streets. Within these walls we are safe, but the world outside is taking a terrific beating and there is a dull growl as Jeanne’s gales meet the solid barrier of resistance formed by our home. Random objects slam into the house, creating a practical orchestra of sounds by which I will certainly fall asleep. We played out in the storm until Mom called us in. 

September 26, 2004

Schools are closed tomorrow. Hurricane Jeanne screeched its way slowly through Deep South State this morning and into the night, subjecting Central City to a day-long beating. My AP European History report and Anatomy project are both due on October 5, so I hope that we have off of school for a long while that I might labor further on these assignments. I shall need true perseverance to shoulder these burdens. I’m going to read the Bible and pray. 

September 27, 2004

It’s always a beautiful Monday when there’s no school, regardless of whatever natural disaster brought on class’s cancellation. No school tomorrow either.

September 30, 2004

The first presidential debate was this evening, and I must say that John Kerry was visibly more composed, dignified, concise, and intelligent than Bush, shattering the Republican campaign’s assertion that he wavered. I believe that Kerry utterly triumphed. I am quite happy. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Back and Forth

I hope you will forgive me for dedicated a second post in a row to mental health issues, and in particular for psychoanalyzing myself. This is not going to become a recurring theme. As I have said in the past, however, a blog is great not only as a sounding board but also as a vehicle for self-reflection, and I intend for this update to be a little bit of both.

My whole life has seemed in many ways a constant struggle for happiness, one I sometimes win only to be brought back down again by a crisis, a random event, or reflection on things I've struggled with. Before, I always thought of this in terms of hope versus pessimism, but increasingly I'm wondering if that dichotomy might in fact be a manifestation of clinical mood swings.

My last post got me thinking.

How often do I alternate between low and high? In my depressed moments I'm quick to regard suicide as a solution; but how typically do those depressed moments surface? Is there a usual interval of time between my happy and sad episodes?

This is something I'm going to try and pay attention to for a while, hopefully without unintentionally influencing any cycle that might exist. In the meantime, my journal is proving a pretty valuable resource. Take a look at the difference between June 2 and June 4.

June 2, 2012

Thomas and I made not one but two coffee runs today. I think I need to cut back; I'm starting to get hooked on the stuff.

Other things are happening as well.

My judgement and discipline are slipping. I find myself thinking about my responsibilities less and wanting to drink more. I have the ability, of course, to refrain from doing things I know I shouldn't, but of late I increasingly just don't care. Maybe if hard work were rewarded I would feel differently. It's not, though.

Being dedicated, competent, and conscientious got me nowhere and shows no sign of getting me anywhere in the near future. No matter what I do I can't get a job, as if the entire world were conspiring to deny me any semblance of a real life. Why should I have that? Apparently it's an offense that I ever entertained the idea.

And meanwhile I'm left in this house, in this great yellow mausoleum to rot and go crazy. Like Anne. My birth-mother is borderline and bipolar. Is it that much of a stretch?

I hope to head back to therapy sometime next week. My adoptive mother Marie believes I am manufacturing these issues essentially by overanalyzing, but the story's been the same much of my life: in good times the problems subside, at least partially, only to reemerge with a vengeance when any little thing goes wrong. I can't tell you how many times I decided I "didn't need" therapy because I was having a smooth day. Then I'm back in the gutter and realize I should seek help.

A part of me really just wants to implode and go out after a few epic weeks. Trying to be a responsible adult is so much work and thus far the return has fallen well short of the labor put in.

June 4, 2012

I'm better again, inexplicably and out of nowhere, back in the frame of mind wherein I both conceptualize myself as a responsible adult and enjoy a considerable degree of optimism. It's only now that I'm questioning this mode of thinking and wondering if it's part of a larger pattern of mood swings. For when I woke up this morning it was not in happiness--it was in tears.

My cousin Perfect's recent wedding to her college sweetheart, a celebratory occasion to be sure, had been nagging at me for several days and in my first conscious moments this morning I understood why: Perfect, my one-time friend and childhood playmate, had marked a joyous rite of passage that I was very unlikely to ever experience.

The realization of that soul-crushing absence, of that deficit in so crucial a part of life, made my eyes mist with the day's first light. I thought then that maybe I should just end it, die rather than live a half-life. This followed a depression of several days that I imagined would continue today, but an hour or so later the cloud unexpectedly lifted and I found myself buoyed by hope and self-confidence.

Right now a part of me believes I could have a real job, a husband one day, a real life, all this despite the obstacles. Will I believe that a week from now? I don't know.

Today was a good day, true. I had coffee with Norwegian (visiting from Growing State) at lunchtime and learned in the afternoon that I have a job interview with the Western City Library on Thursday morning. The shift in mood preceded those developments, though.

I wonder if I'm imagining this or if it's a genuine mood swing? I always seem to be on a rollercoaster, in the struggle, fighting, and this would explain a lot. I need to talk about it with the doctor--whom I'm not particularly motivated to see at the moment.