Sunday, January 4, 2015

#IWSG (and ROW80) 1ST QUARTER 2015 - POST 2 – HACK JOB

Now that the Christmas trees have been dragged to the curb (or kerb for proper English spellers) and all the fireworks – well, mostly here on Nebraska Avenue, 33605 – are well and truly lit and exploded, although we shall be celebrating the beginning of 2015, well into March, unless that's the sound of AK-47s I hear in the distance, it's time to go back review some of the major craziness that once again, passes for just another day here in da 'hood.

I'm proud to say that THIS year, I didn't contribute to it for a change; at least, not in a way that caused anyone to bleed, or run screaming from the grocery store, although that one would-be mugger doesn't count and he had it coming to him, anyway. Alex still doesn't know what I did to him, and I'll never tell. It had to do with some of my more serious crazy ju-ju that I am able to summon at a whim, in a manner befitting Johnny Storm of Marvel's “Fantastic Four”; a sort of Flash-on, Flash-off thing that dowses itself when I'm no longer in harm's way, or like "woge-ing" if you're a Wesen in NBC's "Grimm". By that time, said wanna-be mugger was two blocks down the road.

courtesy: Grimm Wiki                                               

A fully-woged "Klaustreich", scars and all.

No, this past year just saw everything from the Sharpie Lady to my Fairy Opera Singer Neighbor, who truly cannot help herself. Sharpie Lady has a particular derangement, which lurks just below the surface of a cheerful countenance and it's difficult for me to really tell if she's delusional or just plain cheap. This is partly due to the fact that her English is worse than my Spanish, and she sells things out of her house, that are mostly junk with the most outrageous prices attached to them. Once, she showed me a bag full of children's beads, the kind that have both a male and female end, in different colors. You push them together and make bracelets and necklaces for kids out of these things. I played with them for about 5 minutes once. I was a crappy girl-child and was much more interested in blowing things up with my boy cousins.

These are about the most boring toys on earth, I think.

Anyway, she had these beads mixed in with a lot of junk and costume jewelry that wouldn't have looked good on a 2-dollar whore, which we have plenty of around here, and were probably the source of her collection. The Tampa Police Department have a habit of chasing the prostitutes north on Nebraska Avenue, past, say Hillsborough Avenue, or Fowler, and they'll stay up there for a while, until the local businesses complain, and then, the TPD, will run them south down past MLK, Junior. Boulevard. They'll migrate back down here, for 4 or 6 months. When I lived in the homeless shelter, there were three of us, who used to sit out back in the driveway in lawn chairs and watch the police run stings and take bets on which john would get popped. It was better than tee vee. The only thing better, were the Friday Night Fights in the mens' house. We bet on who would bleed and cry first; I could've taken them down. Good times, good times!

But, I digress. Sharpie Lady wanted like seventy-five dollars for this entire bag of junk and I thought, “No way. No one knows where it's been, and most of it's in a tangled ball of cheap metal, tears and regret. No thanks.” I didn't think all that poetic stuff; I just made that up. I'm trying with middling success here to be a writer and failing, because now, I'm just being self-aware. Gah!

I love Sharpie pens, I just don't think they're for drawing on your face, when sober.

So, on to my neighbor, who is really, well, different. She is beyond sweet and wouldn't hurt anyone, or take advantage of a soul. She herself on the other hand, has been damaged and taken badly advantage of in her much younger life and it harmed her brain and her body. She was brutally gang-raped and beaten horribly, and left for dead. She somehow managed to survive, crawl to a house, where she was given help. She really remembers nothing of her past life and pretty much lives in the here-and-now. She's about 64, and has been taken in and been cared for by Bernardo, our handy-man. He has watched over her for years. When he's off working, she somehow gravitated to me, originally, and she'll just come in the house, unannounced, now and then. She's always welcome.

She fancies herself an Opera singer, but has had no formal training, but she knows I am a professional musician; she hears me practice and she likes that. I make a HUGE fuss over her when she sings: “BRAVA! ENCORE!” and ask for another aria, even if I don't understand it. She's getting her sing out, and expressing herself and that's good. She's one of the several good, harmed souls that lives in this area. But, we all have a certain feyness, or oddity. I think because of my vision and my essential tremor, and now, lack of sensory perception, I “feel” things that may not be there - although, my mother always abjured me to try and keep at least one foot in this world. I've “seen” things in this old house for years, and not out of the corners of my eyes. I've completely lost my sense of smell, which was great this summer, when something or heaven forbid, someone died under the house. The police couldn't find anything, but I am told the smell was horrific. Thank God, I only had to hear about it.

Anyway, I digress once again; my Fairy Opera Princess showed up one day in my “computer lab” here in my house, recently to ask about ghosts. I was trying to type a string of code, that was being particularly stubborn, and then I looked at her, and. . . bear in mind, she's a tiny gnome of a woman; I myself am only 5' 4” tall, and she is probably 4' 7”. She has long, brown hair, streaked with some gray, as she is 64 years old. She was wearing some white dress, with a filmy, transparent, gauzy sheath over it, that was trimmed, like a feather boa. She had on a flamboyant hat with many colorful flowers, interwoven into the brim – she has many, many hats that she spiffs up this way and adds flowers and spangles and tinsel to, to brighten them up – and she was, of course, holding a fairy wand that she had made, a shiny metal, sparkly wand, that she had glued a pink, puffy ball to the end of it. Because, naturally, all Fairy Princesses should have Fairy Wands. I have one, too, but it's a different kind of Fairy Wand. It keeps me from falling into the street and on uneven sidewalk.


I don't remember if my Fairy Princess had wings; I don't believe she did. But, she did have a beautiful hat. She always, always has hats!

I looked at her for a moment very seriously and I totally Scoobied this and asked, “Are they the shouting kind, or the whispering kind?” She kind of chewed the inside of one cheek for a minute, thought and said, “The whispering kind, but there has been shouting. . . and that was the neighbor upstairs.” We both rolled our eyes, because we both knew who she meant. She does have some grasp on reality. I said, “Well, for the whispering kind, they tend to hang out more near the windows. What I would suggest is putting a dish with some table salt, if you don't have Sea or Kosher, down on the floor, by each window. Not a lot, just a little. That should do it. If that DOESN'T work, try putting dishes of water down by the windows. But, give the salt a try, and try it for a few days, okay?”

I was looking directly at her and she at me, as I said this. I took it as seriously as she asked it. She nodded her head, and said she would try it, and off she went. Sometimes, what people really want is just validation, that their existence has some kind of meaning to someone outside of themselves. She knows she has problems, she knows her man sometimes loses patience with her, but by and large, Bernardo is kind, kind, kind to her and she will come over sometime, just for a hug. Really, it's that simple. Anyway, her whispering ghosts have left for the nonce. They may return and bring friends, around here, who knows?

I have been carted out of here a few times in an ambulance (twice, I don't even remember; this was during my psychotic break of the famous “Let's Celebrate Mental Illness Month of March 2012”, of which there will be NO encores!) and twice for essential tremor-related heart things (prior to diagnosis and treatment) and she has come out and “sung me off” every time. Embarrassing, until you remember, that the EMT, Police and the Fire Department are all cheering her on. So, you have to love it, and her. Thankfully, since I began treatment in June of 2013, I am healthier and stronger every day. It just took 10 years of self-medicating, then searching, discarding, running up blind alleys, dealing with complete shits and morons before finally finding the very right doctors who completely understand what I'm about and it turns out, I'm not all that unique.

Anyway, there is a kind of mania that exists around here; witness the dude who thought his Hogwart's Cloak of Invisibility would keep the SWAT team from finding him two blocks south of me, a few months back. That wasn't a really special day around here. No more so than the drunk that James at Family Dollar and I played some kind of nightmare Tag (I'm it! Run!) with in the Parking Lot as the drunken fool first lunged for James than myself, as we attempted to keep him busy until the TPD arrived. It takes a special kinda drunk and stupid to run after a partially-sighted woman, with a cane and miss her every time he lunges at her. James and I had a good laugh over that. Another dumbass. Or maybe, he was the same dumbass who got tagged by the SWAT team a few days later, who knows. It's hard to keep up with the stupid around here, sometimes.

But, I myself am either STILL prone to the madness that prevails at the corner of Dumbass Boulevard and Batshit Insane Avenue, or my own brand of insanity has HARMONIZED with it. I hate split ends; hate 'em with a passion. I used to have a really good hairdresser that I could walk to, but she left over a year ago, and I have just kind of put up with the mess on my head, courtesy of lots of mousse, #8 super strength hair spray and clips. My hair grows pretty fast, and after the last round of medications and when I had my marathon stay in the hospital in 2010, I had completely whacked it off, so that it was very short. It had grown out again, and then I found this hair-stylist, who was very good. I could take 3 buses to “Fantastic Sam's” but that's such a pain in the ass for just a haircut. I tried the haircutter's across the street from my psychiatrist's office, but the Hondurans there, practically pulled every hair in my head out and I didn't like the way they cut my hair. It fell in steps and I thought it was horrible. 


Okay, so it didn't look THIS bad, but is was pretty awful; at least to me. Then, there were those darned split ends to consider. . . 

So, I took the desperate measure of consulting the innerwebz; a life-hack or a DIY. Being the careful sort that I am, when it comes to my hair, I grabbed the first thing that came up, when I Googled “cutting your own hair, DIY” and hastily skimmed the contents. I didn't have an “elastic band”, whatever that is, so I took some twine and doubled it over a few times, and made a knot in it, so I had a loop. I “dampened” my hair, per instructions, under my bathroom sink, but my head didn't really fit, so I kinda combed and brushed all the water through my hair, and then put the twine on it, and looked in the mirror. I looked like some kind of hellish gnome, gone wrong; red hat, rather than green, or a conehead, only minus the flesh.

Another quick skim of the DIY page: “sharp, barber shears, or scissors”. Rummage in junk drawer and find “scissors” part of that description, only “blunt-ended”, like for kids' paper scissors and Dollar-Store. Okay! Good to go.

There was something something about cutting “into” the mass, or lump of hair you had on the other side of the twine, but this was clearly not working. I think the correct term would be “sawing” and after 30 minutes of this, with the twin slipping and becoming uneven and sore wrists, I had one of the shittiest mullets that was ever seen in 1986. Unfortunately, this is 2014. The short part kind of ended somewhere around where my skull ended and where my vertebrae began and I was thinking of rummaging around in that junk drawer to see if maybe there was an ax in there somewhere , so that I could separate the two, but I decided to wait a few days. Three days later, I hacked off the longer 4 inches so that it doesn't look quite so mullet-y, and it will grow out, but I fear there is a gouge somewhere back there amongst all the curls. That's fine, because I do have curly hair and it hides a lot of sins; usually the venal kind. I'm afraid this is a mortal sin, but I still have my go-to mousse, #8 Suave Industrial Strength Hair Spray and Hair Clips in Black for those concerts that are coming up. Thank God my hair grows fast. Around here? I fit in; I look just like everyone else and that is fine with me! Happy New Year's!

My Goals this quarter and for this year are to stay sane and try to write more, just to get my writing "chops" back in shape. I fear I am in for a tough year, not for me physically, but emotionally, and I must stay creative and stay engaged to stay strong. Now, I sound like Lance Armstrong; ick. But you know what I mean. I am also coming up on 100k views of this here blog, which will be a milestone. I turn 60 at the end of 2015, which is another milestone, and I am going to begin planning my traveling itinerary for the next two years. It's time for me to put some mileage on these feet. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015


2014 was a busy year and for once, I met up to certain expectations well, but in other areas, I know I slacked off a bit. Okay, I slacked off a lot. Whether it can be summed up to just the overall fatigue that comes with close to fifty years of battling with depression, in one form or another, or realizing that I've made some stunningly bad life choices in the past, it all added up to an "A" for getting my passion back and a "B-" in just about everything else.

Oh yeah, I started a Python Class, that I ditched about half-way through. Thank God it was free. The repeat starts in February. Finishing would be a win.

Rather than getting myself into messes and then finding out that #whatamess and Holy Mother of God, I have to get myself out of this screwed-up fiasco, before I have a heart attack, die and he wins – yeah, I'm talkin' to you, Lithia, aka Bill Nunnally of Heartland for Children, helmed by one Ms. Teri Saunders, who right about now, must be enjoying dealing with the fact that an esteemed colleague, a CEO no less, over at Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, was put to death by her own life partner-abuser, because women are open-season and it exists everywhere and is accepted everywhere, you fucking bunch of hypocrites, EXCEPT by me, and, oh, how is Andrea, you sly-boots, all getting' a girl-friend, while I lay up in a hospital bed battling congestive heart failure, at Brandon Regional Medical Center (I've got the medical records, you lying prick), you Master of Head-Fucks – or trying to buy a house in the midst of what seemed to be a rather secure situation at the beginning of the year 2008, or the end of 2007, I forget which, because I was still trying to recover from a severe case of PTSD, it seems.

I still am, but a funny thing happened on the way from now to here. First off, I got really, really honest with myself, for the first time in my life. That's a well-nigh impossible thing to do, when you live in a family that is a solid-gold definition for “dysfunction”. My parents honestly did the best that they could, and I have nothing but love and respect for either of them, but mostly I honor my mother. You see, she's the one who continually harped on me about getting past all the bullshit that had been flying around the house for years. Unfortunately, she had only one tool to deal with it and that was rage, which would be directed at anyone within reach. Boiling, festering, unmitigated rage that would unleash at the drop of. . . nothing; at least from my perspective.

Kids understand a lot, you have to give them that, but they do not understand nuances, or the subtle battles that their parents may be going through. My father chose to deal, by not engaging with her at all, and by drinking. . . a lot, and this left her with nothing but pent-up rage. I've written of this before, and the only way the poor woman could retain her own sanity was by divorcing him. I honestly believe though, that my father hung around as long as he did, because he feared for my own safety; she would fall into these blind rages at times. Once, she tried to burn down the house. There had been an earlier attempt at suicide, so my father's fear was very real. But, they both loved me and they were both trying to do right by me; my dad always had a job, and although a “maintenance drunk” he was never unkind or cruel. My mom pushed me to do better, but not in a rah-rah way. It was more of a “I'm gonna beat your ass” kind of way; not always the greatest incentive for truth, in my opinion. I was terrified of her. It wasn't until I was older and became a bit wiser that I understood what she was trying to impart to me. I was a bit dim-mish at the time. Fear does not make for a good learning environment.

Fear does make for a hell of an incentive to lose yourself in something you love doing; realizing that there are more things bigger than yourself and your stupid fears work. . . for a while, but to pardon the pun, the music must eventually be faced.

So, having waded through all of this, I left home at the earliest opportunity and didn't really look back. My parents were ending their marriage; in rancor and misunderstanding and I was busy with music, but in my heart, there was always an emptiness, an understanding that something had not gone right, and I didn't know how to fix it. I fell back on patterns easily learned; go along to get along, and the hell with what I REALLY wanted. I did have a succession of marriages, each worse than the last, and the last nearly killed me; I ended up hating it and him. I didn't want to get married again, and had told him that, but said “yes” when he asked. Even after that, I fell into another abusive relationship, but I could deal with that, because that was physical, and I gave as good as I got. I've always been a brawler and can easily take down a 250-pound man and have. I came out of that relationship with surprisingly little ill-will and still wish the ex and his family Happy Birthdays and all of that. Physical can be gotten over; it's kinda like boxing.

Lest anyone forget by my cultured tones, I live in da 'hood, and I do train, as do a surprising (well, maybe to you) number of people in the Symphony. A swift left upper-cut, followed by a quick, right jab surprises the HELL out of would-be muggers, and what not, 'cause, pronation + batshit insanity that I can unleash at a moment's notice. I do not play.

This may look like easy pickin's on Nebraska Avenue and it's environs, but it's not. Most people know that by now and steer clear. I sometimes miss the old days; I'd be lying and definitely not a Wallace if I said I didn't enjoy fisticuffs now and again.

Emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse is much, much harder to fix, especially when you're damaged goods to begin with. For years after that divorce, I had panic attacks, at the mere thought of being back in that situation and it's been a solid ten years now, since I left Bill Nunnally, on January 5th, 2005. My heart would not let me stay there. It skittered and jumped around like a wounded animal in my chest whenever I even thought about driving back to the ol' homestead, so this was clearly not a good sign of things to come. Frail of mind and body, I left and lived on a friend's couch for a few months. Thank god that's all behind me.

But, in looking back and now moving forward, I know I've healed. I can now think of the ridiculousness of that situation: Bill, yelling at a blind woman (me; the blindness being courtesy of the Congestive Heart Failure I didn't yet know I had), “Why don't you get a goddamned job! All you do is look at that goddamned book!”, as I looked at a Time Magazine, trying to see the pictures. Me thinking, “Mmmmm, I'm blind, can't drive. Yup, that's a sure-fire resumé builder”. But, by far my favorite put-down was the huff over the 3 Little Pigs or Porkies. There was a local commercial on-air, which featured some badly-drawn pigs, of the “Porky the Pig” style, with the exception that these were wearing pants; this is Florida, after all, we wouldn't want to scare the Q-Tips with butt-naked pigs. I made some random comment, like “Gee, these are like Porky the Pig, exce–“ and wasn't given the chance to finish, before the beat-down commenced. “Those are NOT Porkies, because Porkies do NOT wear pants! These are the 3 Little Pigs!” or something equally asinine, came from the couch Bill would sprawl out on the minute he got home from work, in his sweat pants, and pasty chest, with no shirt. To emphasize, he repeated, “NOT Porkies!”

I had completely forgotten this inanity until the other day, when Alex, JC, Jason and I were kind of looking at something on the television (which I rarely look at; even giant-ass as it is, I really cannot see it all that well) and some stupid local advert came on with some poorly-drawn cartoon characters. I began to laugh and the more I thought about it, the more I laughed. I then had to share this whole #whatamess with JC, Alex and Jason, so they didn't think I was a complete loon and they know my history. So, after we all had a good laugh at that, we continued watching the game, or one of the ancient westerns that JC is so fond of. I am glad that I am in this place; it is right for me to be here, because, JC is dying. There, I've said it and there's no getting around it.

JC, in much more robust days; laughing at some inanity from one of his many friends. I miss the old JC, but help him and honor him as he lives out his days.

At some level he knows this, and I think he's accepted it. There are times when I'm driven to distraction, because he is weak and I am not; it is not in his nature to fight. I'm a strategic fighter; a good general. I know when to cut and run and when to stand and fight and this one time, I cannot do it for him. He is not a strong person and I know he's afraid, deep down. I feel so Goddamned helpless, because just this once, I can't fix it and I love him. I remember asking my father once, “When do we begin to die?” He answered, in his wisdom, “The moment we are born.” I was maybe four years old when he said that to me, but he had already taken the measure of me and knew me well. So, maybe we die a bit every day, but we also have been given this grace; the grace of just this moment. To treasure it and to make sure that everything we do, everything we say is a commitment to our own truth. My truth is to try and ease a dying and frightened man from this world and let him know that he did not fail in his commitment to me. He cared for me when I was desperately ill; he made choices that he thought I would hate him for, when he Baker-Acted me, but he saved my life. I can do no less for him. I fight like a lion with TGH, insurance companies, idiots on the other ends of phones, which I won't do for myself, because it exacerbates my e. t., yet I'll continue to do so, because he matters. He's a human being and a life and he matters and I love him.

I had a dream last night that prompted this post. In the manner of dreams, it was just a mish-mash of stuff that made absolutely no sense. The “Nic Cage as a popcorn box” dream made more sense, but there was one part of it, that made me cry in my dream. There were a bunch of animals; cats, dogs, ferrets, hedgehogs, or something that just were running around in a jumble, along the side of this road. I was riding in a ridiculously tall bus, and as we drove by, a woman called out, “There's my Matilda! Stop, Mr. Bus Driver! My cat Matilda is by the side of the road!” But the bus went on; the driver heedless to the woman's pleas. In the manner of dreams, somehow I could see this little cat left by the side of the road, all alone, bereft. The other animals were gone; my dream “logic” imparted that they had gone with their people, except for this little cat. I started to cry in my dream. I hate loss; just hate it with a passion, but we must accept it and go on.

Matilda looked very much like this kitten when she disappeared. The worst part was hearing the loss in my mom's voice when she phoned and said "I've called and called her home for her supper, but she never comes." This was about a month before my mom died.

I woke up with this burning pain in my chest and shoulders and back; throat working, trying to cry, but my goddamned messed-up mind and my body will conspire against that and quite frequently does. Old habits die hard and I really wasn't allowed to cry at home as a kid. But, I also believe that crying acts as a circuit-breaker and when we cry it alleviates the stress, the pain, whatever the subconscious is trying to tell us. As I lay there, I thought back, and all the while this pain is building in my chest. Just for my own sake and to be strong, I know I have to let this go somehow. I thought back to my mom. I remembered just before her death, she had adopted a little kitten, and named her “Matilda” which I thought was a charming name, but Matilda disappeared and in the wake of my mother's death, she became forgotten. . . until last night. That connection was like flipping that switch; that connection on that circuit breaker and finally, I was able to Let The Cry Out.

We all must do that at some point; without it, we become mindless gray things and just exist in a numb sort of day-to-day shuffle. Life isn't about a series of rote routines, or running around, trying to make money for a nest egg. I no longer have one; I don't care. I have a life; a rich and full one and I spend time with JC and our friends, play my viola with passion and heart and excellence, work on computers, and game and am a proud co-Leader with probably one of the oldest clans in the world. I write sporadically, but write well enough and passion enough, that sometimes people think my shit is worth stealing. That's enough for me. But, when I need to Let The Cry Out, I'll find a way. It keeps me relatively sane and healthy for what lies ahead.