Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of (un)Happiness|
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|Wednesday, March 11th, 2009|
|RIP, Nancy Carolyn Diggs Puckett
My Mom, born October 31, 1933, passed away Monday, January 12, at 1:48 PM. She was in the middle of dialysis, and went into renal failure. All attempts to resuscitate her failed. She was 75.
She was a complicated woman, highly intelligent yet troubled in her mind. She did the most amazing and often terrifying things when my brothers, my sister and I were small. She saw things and heard things that weren’t there; she believed things that were based in no known reality; she would be passionate one minute and coldly, frighteningly passionless the next; she could become extremely violent in a split second.
Our lives as children were a living hell. We were forever warped by the chaos she wrapped around herself like a shawl. It took some of us years to understand that it wasn’t her fault; some of us continue to struggle to understand it even now.
We all loved her and feared her, suffered at her hands and suffered for her. We learned, all of us, to love at a distance; it was safer that way. We became adept at jumping through windows, running full-blast from a dead stop, dodging thrown blunt and sharp objects, escaping suddenly grasping claws.
This woman who birthed me, who raised me in such a strange, terrible and perspective-altering way, is finally at peace. Her soul has escaped from its damaged container and gone on. I bear her no ill will; in fact, I wish her only the best. Please be at peace, Mama. We love you.
|Wednesday, December 31st, 2008|
|2008 Is Done
It seemed like this year would never be over, but now that it’s done, it seemed so brief.
So many things hit me at once this year: my terrible struggle to find a job after graduating (four months!); the enormity of the job I finally found (a temp job at EKU, which ended today); the massive hole in my life that was left when I graduated; my frustration at no longer being able to sculpt (no room here to do so); loss of friendship and friends; family drama, friend drama and just drama; health issues; love and loss issues; my growing depression, isolation and alienation; my mom’s sickness; and now, having to go into the New Year jobless and with little prospect of finding a job anytime soon in this uncertain economy of ours.
Hopefully 2009 will be better; hopefully everything will work out, and I’ll be gainfully employed, sculpting again, and approaching happiness.
And maybe flying monkeys will come out of my ass. Oops, there goes one now… Current Mood: tired
|Monday, December 29th, 2008|
My mom has had a stroke. She is 75, in a nursing home in Georgia, and has suffered for years with severe schizophrenia, and lately with Alzheimer’s, as well as complications from diabetes. For years I was her sole caretaker, until the dementia became too bad and I was unable to do it anymore. She may die, or she may recover; her own mother died of a stroke, but it was more than 15 years after the first one. Considering the hell she put us through when we were children, and the fact that she’s so far gone she doesn’t even recognize me anymore, I’m not sure why I care, but I do.
I know it wasn’t her fault, but she did put us through the most unimaginable hell you ever heard of. She left lasting scars, both physical and mental, on all us kids. Schizophrenia is an unfortunate disease that, if left untreated, can in some cases turn the most loving person into the most awful monster. My mother went untreated for a long, long time, and was one of those cases.
If any of you have mothers (or fathers) with developing Alzheimer’s or other mind/memory problems, please, talk to them while you can still resolve any issues. I waited too long, and now can never resolve anything between my mom and me. It’s hell. Current Mood: distressed
|Sunday, December 28th, 2008|
|What Happened to Christmas?
A friend of mine was remarking the other day that people are increasingly irritable during Christmas, and that it doesn’t seem that all the “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Holidays!” remarks in the world makes them any happier. My own theory on why this has come to be is that Christmas has become a symbol of greed rather than the symbol of hope it was originally intended to be. It’s no longer Christmas, but “Commercialmas.”
Christmas has gotten too commercial, and as a result has lost its spiritual aspect for most people. It’s become so blatant, with articles in the newspapers talking of how retailers are hoping to make up for poor sales during the earlier part of the year by making massive profits during the “Christmas selling season” that we’ve become numbed to the crass, cheap obviousness of it all. People are irritable at Christmas because they're spending money they don't have on things the people they're buying for don't need. Everyone forgets that this is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Christ (even though it's not His actual birthday, but an early Christian appropriation of the pagan Yuletide celebration). Given the rampant materialism that sweeps this country every year at this time, it's no wonder the spiritualism has gone out of it.
Christmas gifts, if they have to be bought, should be limited to children. But do we really want to perpetuate an activity so obviously NOT in accordance with the happening it’s supposed to represent? Greed and materialism are in diametric opposition to the tenets of Christianity, common sense and morality in general. When I was a child, we were lucky to get 5 or 6 gifts, none of them dreadfully expensive (I mean really lucky—there were times when we didn’t get anything more than clothes). I remember when I was 11, overhearing my father complaining that Christmas had cost him almost $200 that year. Almost $200! That included four bikes, a ton of clothes (most of them from K-Mart or Sears, it’s true—God! I hated those Sears Toughskins jeans!), and toys and games for five children. People nowadays have been known to spend 5-or-6 hundred dollars or more on EACH CHILD. Now, it’s true, inflation has something to do with it, but not all. A “Walmart Special” bike (a “K-Mart Special” back then) that cost $30 or $40 when I was a child costs $100 today. Still, inflation can’t account for everything. It’s just gotten ridiculous. We’ve become a culture that has more money than common sense, and a seriously skewed sense of what’s appropriate.
We never just got money—that simply wasn’t done back then. You didn’t give children money. It was assumed that money was for adults, with adult uses. A kid might or might not get an “allowance”—an outmoded concept nowadays—but he or she NEVER got money. Do you really want your children—sub-adults with an undefined sense of appropriateness and an at-best-foggy sense of boundaries—running around unsupervised with a load of cash in their pockets, in a world where elementary-school students regularly experiment with drugs? Where knives and guns (stolen by other kids with boundary issues) are sold in schools for a tenth the value someone’s father paid for them?
What do you teach a child when you give him a bunch of fancy junk for no reason? You teach him to be greedy; to expect something for nothing; and to expect more of it next year. A child doesn’t really understand limits and boundaries; that’s what the adults are supposed to teach them.
Children are spoiled, self-indulgent, and forced into making adult decisions far sooner than they have the capabilities for. They know no boundaries nowadays; the courts tell the parents that they can’t punish the children; they throw the parents in jail for disciplining the child, then make the parents responsible for the offenses the wild, undisciplined (by court decree) minor child commits. This leaves the parents in a horrible situation: forced to “give up” in self-defense on an unruly child by throwing him or her on the tender mercies of the juvenile offender system, which leads all too often to worse treatment than the child ever received from the parents, except in the worst cases of genuine abuse.
“Commercialmas” is just a symptom, evidence of a deeper rot in this country. If we don’t start exercising some control on the natural, built-in human greed that is a part of us all, I fear we’ll have some hard questions to answer one day. Better to start addressing them now, while we still have a hope, however vague, of doing something about them. Current Mood: scared
|Saturday, July 26th, 2008|
|Death and Dying; Laughing and Crying
The recent death of my roommate Anthony's mom, Barbara, has got me thinking of my own impending, though hopefully distant, death. I've learned two things from this and other funerals I've attended:
1) Funerals suck.
2) Grieving sucks.
When I die, please, no tears. If the Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans and other religionists have it right, I'll either be with my God, a god, a reasonable facsimile thereof, or be condemed for my "sins" (whatever that means) by the same; OR, if the atheists are right, I'll simply be snuffed out like a candle, and all my hopes, dreams and accomplishments will disappear. Either way, I'll be someplace where your grief won't do me the slightest good. So no tears! Let my funeral be a celebration of life, not death. Remember the good times, the happy times; the memories that make you smile, the kindnesses I showed you, the love I felt for you all.
Let there be food and drink in copious amounts; family and friends and warm laughter; music (Southern Rock, Classic Rock, the more recent Alternative Rock), dancing and merriment all day and into the night. Let there be grilling and swilling, cheering and beering, cruising and boozing (but not in cars! I won't be that anxious for company!), joking and smoking, and general riotousness; but no tears, or so help me god I'll come back long enough to slap the taste out of the mouths of each and every one of you!
I'd like to be cremated in the way of the Vikings, only without the sacrifices of dogs, horses, slaves and concubines, please. Light my pyre and send my ship off to sail with my body, anointed with fragrant oils and wrapped in linen, dressed in my best armor and with sword and axe by my side, into the sunset alone. Make sure that the pyre is constructed in such a way that the fire burns me away completely before the ship sinks. I'm a big guy; it may take some time, so set it up to make sure of it. I won't mind if it takes a little longer.
Prayers may be made, calmly and without sorrow, to the god of your choice; libations, consisting of Irish Car Bombs (1/2 pint of Guinness with 1/2 oz Bailey's and 1/2 oz Jameson's dropped into it via shot glass), may be lifted in toast or poured out onto the ground in my memory. Let my memory be celebrated, or let me be forgotten; only do not let me be grieved over. Current Mood: pensive
|Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008|
|RIP Barbara Clemmons
My roommate Anthony's mom, Barbara, died at approximately 10:40 PM, Monday, July 21, 2008. She was a wonderful lady, kind to those who showed her kindness, feisty as a firecracker to those who needed it; a good mother, a loyal wife, a fast friend and a fierce foe. God rest her soul, and please pray for her family, if that's your thing. If not, hold them in your thoughts.
She, taken too soon,
Leaving the grieving behind
To remember her. Current Mood: sympathetic
|Sunday, April 6th, 2008|
|Check it out!
I'm in the April edition of Nougat Magazine! You can find me on page 2 at:
Just click on the magazine image on the right side of the screen to download/view the PDF electronic version. Current Mood: sick
|Saturday, March 29th, 2008|
|Ruminations upon working at the LRC...
I graduated EKU in the fall of 2007. I started college in the fall of 2002, at the age of 38, at the request of my dying father. When I first came to EKU, I was unsure of myself in this new environment. Self-doubts constantly assailed me: I was too old; I'd been out of school for too long; my brain wasn't as flexible as these younger students'; I had nothing in common with the younger generation, and wouldn't have any friends; I wouldn't fit in, and so would be miserable.
My first semester I made friends who I still talk to to this very day. Although it was a struggle my first semester, I found myself fitting in with college life in a way that not only amazed me, but showed me that this was what I was supposed to have been doing all along. And then, in the fall of 2003, I started working at the Learning Resources Center at the library on campus.
These wonderful women, these fantastic females, these lovely ladies, accepted me with a generosity and a warmth which continues to astonish me even though I'm gone from there now. When things got tough, when the bankruptcy and the family issues and the difficulty of balancing all that against school requirements seemed to be too much for me, the LRC and the people who ran it became my surrogate family and my haven.
The patrons who most used that section of the library became such familiar faces to me; many of them became close friends, and many became confidantes. I didn't realize how familiar my own face had become until yesterday, when I was working at my new job on campus; as I passed by a classroom in the Memorial Science Building, a professor who was giving a lecture rushed out of his class, caught me by the arm, dragged me back into class and introduced me to his students as "the guy to go to when you students have questions about the library." The professor told the class about my winning the 2006-2007 Student Employee of the Year award. He suggested that when elementary and secondary science materials were required, they should come to see me.
I was stunned, to say the least. I had to explain to the class that I had graduated and was no longer working in the LRC, but was employed in the IT department. The professor seemed dismayed, but quickly perked up when I told the class about the quality of the student employees currently working in the LRC, as well as the mettle of the ladies who ran it: Trenia N., Melissa S., Cindy J., Amy T., Linda B., Carol L., Betina G.. I also made many friends among my fellow student workers who I'll miss greatly: Heather A., Zana D., Jen J., Jen C., Lindsy B., Julie N. and Christina D., to name a few, as well as Tacey C., RIP, who I never got to know well but who touched me deeply through her death.
Soon I'll be heading out of state, down south for my grad school and my eventual MFA and professorship. I may never see you ladies again when I go (unless I can entice you all down for a visit--I'm going to be less than a quarter-mile from the beach!). I just wanted you all to know how much you meant to me.
Ladies, professional and student, of the LRC, a large part of what I became here at EKU is because of you. Without the comfort of my place there at the LRC, and your friendship, encouragement and support, I couldn't have made it. Thank you for teaching me that an old dog can, indeed, learn new tricks. I love you all.
By the way, as a totally random thing, here's a story I wrote in the fall 2007 semester that was chosen to be published in the student magazine:http://studentweb.eku.edu/aurora/fichorror.html
|Movin’ On Up...
"When it rains, it pours!" That was a phrase my grandfather used to describe the phenomenon of being without something for so long, then suddenly having an excess of it. I’ve had more job offers this past week than I had in the three months prior! All those applications I put in are finally being worked down to...I’ve left the horrible-yet-necessary, filthy, nasty, stinky factory job in favor of a much better-paying, much cleaner and WAY more fun job at the college! It’s still only a temp position with no benefits, but it suits my grad school plans just fine. Now if I can just get these bills caught up and sorted out, I’ll be "sh*tting in high cotton" (another phrase my grandpa used, one I’m not quite sure as to the meaning of...).
Now if only I could apply that "when it rains, it pours" phrase to my love life... Current Mood: contemplative
|Tuesday, March 25th, 2008|
My roommate for the past 3 and a half years, my friend Cat, is gone, moved away to Connecticut. We’ve been friends for nearly six years, and her absence leaves a huge gap in my life, as well as the absence of her three cats, Peanut, Shady and Lilly, who had become like my foster kids. I know she’ll be all right, and it’s not like I’ll be around here for much longer anyway; still, Richmond has been my home for the past 8 years, and this crappy old apartment that Cat and I shared holds many memories.
It was a difficult transition, and I managed to break my toes in the process of seeing her off, but she’s gone. The toe story will have to wait; I’m too sad. Current Mood: sad
|Tuesday, March 18th, 2008|
|Saint Patrick's Day
My friends Cole and Crystal came by last night and picked me up for a St. Paddy’s day celebration. We went to T-Bomb’s, a local bar here in Richmond, to have a pitcher of green beer. It was packed, so I held the girls’ hands and forced my way through the crowd. We saw our buddy Jonathan and while I stood there talking to him and guarding our spot, the girls went to get the beer.
As I lounged in the doorway, people were brushing by on their way to and from the bar. Normally people are leery of getting too close to me and I usually have a clear zone around me; however, in this case it was so crowded and people were so drunk that I was getting bumped and brushed almost continually.
Imagine my shock, as I was standing there, to feel a hand cup my privates and give a gentle squeeze! Several people were edging by me at that point, including a guy and girl who were obviously together. By the time I felt the contact, it was over, so I don’t know who did it, or even their gender! I felt it was either the girl or the guy who had been closest in the crush; but what to do? I didn’t feel that I could just walk over to them and say, "Excuse me; which one of you was it that just groped me?" If it was the girl, I would have gotten her in trouble with her date. If it was the guy, I would have gotten him in trouble with his date. Not to mention that, while I’m not homophobic, I am totally straight. In the end I decided it was best not to know, since it was probably alcohol-induced anyway. I preferred to assume it was the girl, and let it go at that. It was the most contact I’ve had in a while, anyway!
A few minutes later, while I was mulling the whole "squeeze play" over in my mind, the girls came back with a couple of pitchers and a couple of drinks. We drank and talked and listened to some very bad drunken karaoke. There was a guy wandering around, obviously very drunk; I had noticed that his balance was a little off. I had also noticed him eying the girls I was with. Not just them; he was eying every girl who crossed his line of sight. Of course, I WAS with two of the cutest girls in the place. I caught his eye and warned him off a couple of times, but he was so drunk he couldn’t take the hint. I’m VERY protective of my friends.
The girls went off to socialize, and this guy, staggering around, bumps into me, causing me to spill a little beer. This, as we all know, is alcohol abuse. I turned to the guy and suggested he find somewhere else to stagger. He stared owlishly, and wandered off. A couple minutes later, and he stumbles into my table, nearly causing a whole pitcher of beer to fall to the floor. A whole pitcher! Even now, my hands shake at the thought.
I suggested a little louder that maybe he should find some other part of the bar to hang out in. He mumbled an apology and drifted away. As I raised the cup to my lips, someone crashed into my shoulders with such force that half the beer in my cup was flung onto the floor. Arising in a righteous rage, I spun to find--yep, you guessed it--this same guy standing there with a sheepish expression on his face.
I was only slightly taller than him, but more heavily built--he couldn’t have weighed much over 160. Apparently the alcohol had him convinced that he’d grown, though, because he jabbed at my chest and told me to sit back down in a loud, slurred and drunken voice. I grabbed his thumb, gave it a sharp twist, held it there and told him that if he came anywhere near me again, I was going to break it off and lodge it in an improbable place for him. At that point he left, and I didn’t see him again. For about 10 or 15 minutes after that, girls (and very drunk girls they were, too, most of them) were coming up to me, hugging me and thanking me for getting rid of him. I felt like such a hero!
Afterward, Crystal went home and Cole and I went to her apartment and sat around talking to her roommate Charles and his girlfriend Andrea. Our friend James was there too. I finally came home around 5 AM. Happy St. Patrick’s day! Current Mood: amused
|Thursday, March 6th, 2008|
|...and the search continues.
Still trying to find a job. It's getting ridiculous. I've put in nearly 70 applications, gone on 12 interviews, and nothing. Either I'm told I'm "overqualified" (dammit, I need a job!) or I'm told I'll be called and let known one way or the other (and then never called) or I just never hear from anyone after I put the application in. I'm going a little crazy here!
Is it my age? Maybe people just don't want to hire a 44-year-old. Is it my large, fierce and hideous appearance? It wouldn't be the first time a book has been judged by its cover. I don't understand it: I bathe regularly, brush my teeth, make sure I'm shaved and decently-dressed before every interview. I'm bright, articulate, and charming in an ugly sort of way. I've spent 5 years pursuing a degree, and I graduated with honors. And yet, I'm jobless and on the verge of applying to welfare, for god's sake. Somebody help!
On a positive note: I was nominated by my creative writing professor (from last semester) to enter some of my poetry in the EKU English Dep't Creative Writing Awards. Also, I was notified by Nougat Magazine (a local arts mag here in Lexington) that they wanted to do a feature on myself and two other EKU students about our artwork. It's just going to be a small thing, with a picture of one of my sculptures and a short bio, but the recognition is awesome! Nougat's Myspace URL is: http://www.myspace.com/nougatmagazine
or at http://www.nougatmagazine.com
. I'm not sure when my stuff is going to be in there yet (somewhere around the first of April), but I'm all excited about it! Current Mood: cranky
|Monday, February 18th, 2008|
There's an ugly strain of the flu going around Kentucky, and I managed to catch it.
I first noticed its effects Saturday. I had gone to the President's Ball on EKU's campus, and there was enough hacking, coughing, sneezing and wheezing to make it sound like a hospital, or your average kindergarten class. "I'll be fine; I'm tough, " I thought to myself. Many hugs, several face-to-face conversations and a couple of kisses later, I headed home around 1:00 AM.
When I woke up Saturday, I had a headache. Thinking nothing of it, I took a couple of ibuprofen and went about my business. As the day went on, the pain got worse, spreading to my back and my joints. By the end of the day, my skin and muscles hurt and my body felt like someone had beaten me with a two-by-four. I began to sniffle, and I felt weak. I wasn't really hungry but forced myself to eat coffee and dry toast.
Sunday about 1:30 AM I woke to find my throat sore and my voice low, growly and whispery. I was extremely weak, lightheaded, dizzy, burning up with fever and shivering so badly I thought I was having a seizure. "Ah God," I thought, "it's the flu."
I don't remember much of Sunday. I do remember getting my large 56-oz. insulated mug, filling it full of cold water and bringing it to my room. I slept a lot, dreamed a lot, and hallucinated a little. Apparently there's a little gnome-like dude living under my bed who resents the fact that I snore. Also, there's a talking alligator and a raven who like to argue. Sunday afternoon my thermometer said 102.6. I ate nothing that day, I don't think.
I felt a little better Monday--like I had died and been buried, then dug up and jumpstarted using a cheap battery and with icewater replacing the blood in my veins. The chills were so constant and so violent that I was exhausting myself just lying there in bed shaking. I made coffee and drank a half cup. I urinated frequently and copiously, mostly in the toilet. My sister brought orange juice, over-the-counter medicines and soup. And a box of tissues; by this time my nose was leaking like the radiator hose on an old truck. More hallucinations occurred. I became quite good friends with a large white bunny rabbit with a nervous twitch. We spoke of many things. Billie Jo's chinchilla, Andi, came down from Valhalla for a visit. He told me that he was a great warrior there. The temp reading on my thermometer read 104.4.
Tuesday morning about 5:00 AM my temperature finally broke. I woke up with the most blissful feeling of being cool without feeling like I was freezing. All my newfound friends were gone: the gnome, the alligator, the raven, the rabbit and Andi. Although sad to see them go, I had to admit to a feeling of relief. It was getting crowded in my little bedroom. I was particularly sad about Andi: he'd promised to introduce me to this Valkyrie he knew, who was just dying (he said) to meet me.
Although no longer burning up with fever, or spasming with chills, I was very weak. I slept most of Tuesday and Wednesday, getting up only to replenish my supply of water and orange juice and to make my aching bladder gladder. I did manage to eat most of a bowl of soup Tuesday, and all of a bowl of soup Wednesday. I even managed to drink some coffee, that fuel of the gods and middle-aged men. I was terribly afraid of a relapse for some reason, and found myself making comparisons to a hurricane: "This is the eye of the storm. The calm before the other half hits." As it turned out, that was and was not true.
By this time I was coughing, sneezing, wheezing and snotting quite badly, and my voice sounded like a bullfrog in a deep well. I coughed so hard and so long, my ribcage and stomach hurt, and I was hacking up blood. I assume the blood was from my raw throat. Every move I made was likely to set off a coughing fit. I ate so many Hall's cough drops (ginger-ale flavored--gah!) that they made me sick, and I ralphed a dozen or so of them up during one coughing fit. My stomach was so empty I yakked up coughdrop juice and bile, which was vile indeed.
By Thursday my running nose had cleared up somewhat, although I was still prone to coughing fits. Apparently my nose had cleared up into my lungs. I was still hacking up blood, and coughing so hard and so long that I saw little black sparkles before my eyes. My head, body and skin weren't hurting anymore, but I was as weak as a kitten. It was all I could do to make it from my bedroom to the couch in the livingroom. When I had to go to the bathroom, I found myself resting on the couch as a halfway point. I wheezed and crept around like a little old man. I had to walk with a cane for support! I was still sleeping a lot.
By Thursday evening I had decided that perhaps I might live. Although still weak, I was feeling my strength slowly creep back. I actually ate two meals for the day: oatmeal and coffee for breakfast and ramen and Kool-Aid for dinner. I was still sleeping more than 12 hours a day, and was still weak, but not coughing as much, although still pretty hard and still coughing up a trace of blood.
Friday I felt pretty good, relatively speaking, although my voice was still scratchy, hoarse and weak and I had trembling fits and sudden sweats if I tried to move faster than a slug. I know this because there was a slug in the kitchen who managed to escape me. I was trying to catch him to put him outside and he was determined to hide from me. He won. I was washing dishes, and wore myself out. I read and slept most of the rest of the day. I ate oatmeal for breakfast and fish and a can of corn for dinner.
I slept most of the day Saturday. My violent cough was nearly gone by Saturday afternoon, although at that point I began to hack up crud from my lungs. My nose continued to run, but at a slower pace. My throat had upgraded its condition to the "raw hamburger" stage. I was able, for the first time in nearly a week, to draw a full breath without trying to expell lung tissue. Still weak, I continued to rest. I had more oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, and some pizza for dinner.
I felt almost human Sunday. I continued to rest, although I briefly considered walking around outside. It was a nice moderate day for February. Although feeling better, I was still weak, and decided to wait.
Today is Monday, 10 days since I first felt the tickle in my head and throat. I decided to get out today before I went stir-crazy. Walking around this morning, I felt a little weak but good. The physical activity stirred the crud in my lungs up, and I've been expelling it, always a good thing. My nose has nearly dried up, and other than a little wheezing, I'm breathing good. Perhaps I'll live, after all. Current Mood: Better
|Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008|
I used to sneer, in my youthful arrogance, at those men I considered to be having a "midlife crisis." You know the kind of guys I'm talking about: middle-aged men who suddenly realize that time is running out for them, for the enjoyment of "toys:" motorcycles, fast cars, young(er) women. Hair.
Suddenly, I find myself in my own middle age, lamenting the fact that I'm starting over from scratch (again); that I'm alone, and unwanted; that time is running out for everything I don't have and haven't done. 44 is not that old, I know, but let's face it: my knees are going, my eyes are going, I hurt easier and heal slower, I'm getting less energetic by the day. Am I having a midlife crisis? I don't know. I do know I'm having a hard time: freshly graduated, no job, no money, and with the local economy being the way it is, no prospects of getting a job before losing everything I own (not to mention getting tossed out on the streets!). As it stands, I can't even afford to move to Miami for grad school. Of course, I start in the fall, so I suppose I have time to gather my money before then, if I can just manage to find a job.
I might be a tad depressed. In fact, I know I am, as do those of my friends who've noticed my unusual behavior lately. I find myself doing things and thinking things that are not like my usual optimistic outlook at all.
Everything will be OK, I hope. I have to keep telling myself that to keep from flipping out. Everything will be OK. Current Mood: discontent
|Monday, December 10th, 2007|
I'm graduating this Saturday! Five years of sometimes hard, oftentimes overwhelming work will be culminating in a BFA degree. Sculpture, with a minor in Art History! I've never been happier than here, learning what I've supposed to have been doing all my life instead of what everyone has told me I should be doing.
I've learned that I have some talent and ability, and at least the potential to be an artist. I've learned that an artist is what you have to be, not what you choose to be; either you have the capacity, or you do not. I've learned that I have a talent and the patience for teaching, and that I love that too.
I've learned that a person is never too old to learn. I've learned that, while my body may be that of a 40-something, my mind is as young as ever. I've learned that I am indeed a pretty smart boy; I'll be graduating with a 3.8 GPA.
I've learned that it is possible to fall in love with someone, but to respect them enough not to interfere in a pre-existing relationship for my own selfish reasons. I've learned that the people you love will never be gone from your life, even if they graduate, move away, and get involved in lives of their own. I've learned to love people again, in all their fucked-up glory, which was something I'd lost for a while.
I've learned, through founding a chapter of Alpha Phi Omega here on campus, that I am a leader, a follower, a friend and a part of something that genuinely cares for other people. I've learned principles--leadership, friendship, service--from APhiO which, while I knew of them before, now truly have deep meaning for me.
To all of you, the family, friends, and teachers who helped me, supported me, gave me the strength and the encouragement I needed, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all. Current Mood: happy
|Tuesday, August 14th, 2007|
Everyone who spends any time at all in Richmond knows Big World. A harmless, mostly happy guy, he spends his time and makes his living riding his bike or his little gas-powered tractor around town, advertising for local businesses. He has never hurt anyone, and certain rumors that he likes the occasional practical joke aside, no one should have any beef about what he chooses to do with his life, and how he chooses to go about it.
Yet, just the other day, a friend of mine was talking to this Richmond fixture, and what he told her shocked me to the core, when she shared it with me. Just recently, Big World won a lawsuit brought against two young men for assault on his person. It seems these two young men, rumored to be students at EKU, thought it would be funny to throw beer bottles at a harmless, sweet-natured guy just going about his daily life. What’s more, Big World told my friend despondently that this wasn’t the first or only incident of this nature in recent times. Having once experienced something similar as I walked home from the campus library late one night, I felt an instant sympathy for Big World. They always seem to be a type: young (college-age), stupid and drunk (or at least alcohol is involved). Listen up, guys: if your IQ is already below a certain level, maybe you should leave the drinking to the professionals. If you want to make an ass of yourself, go pick a fight with the guy who's doing your girlfriend while you're out with your equally moronic friends throwing beer bottles at some nice, offbeat fellow whose only crime is that he's different from you. Current Mood: angry
|Saturday, July 28th, 2007|
I had emergency surgery Friday. Here's the story...
I've been having these monstrously fierce headaches lately, centered behind my left eye. They've been near migraine level; almost debilitating, and coming out of nowhere, with no warning whatsoever. I've been really worried about them, but being a man, have avoided going to the doctor to see what was wrong.
All that changed Friday morning. I'd gone to bed about midnight, with a relatively low-level headache. About 3 AM I woke up with one of those pounding, migraine-like headaches that have come to dominate my life, centered behind my left eye. I staggered up out of bed and into the bathroom, where I borrowed (I mean stole) two of my roommates T3/codeine painkillers, washing them down with a half water-glass of whiskey (I know, I know, not the brightest thing, but those who know me know my freak metabolism concerning painkillers and alcohol). I sat on the side of my bed for about 20 minutes, until the alcohol-boosted meds kicked in enough to allow me to go back to sleep.
About 7 that morning, I awoke to the sensation of a leprechaun plunging a power drill repeatedly into my left eyesocket. I fumbled for a gun to end the little bastard's life (or my own pain, take your pick). It was the worst agony I've ever felt in my life. Abandoning my search for a firearm, I clapped my hand over my left eye, a posture that has become a familiar one to me these last three weeks. My eye seemed strangely out of place, as did, upon further investigation, the entire left side of my face. Everything was distorted and swollen, and my neck was like an innertube. Anyone who’s read Stephen King’s The Stand knows what I was thinking! “Oh my God! It’s the Superflu!”
Once again, I staggered into the bathroom, looking into the mirror in horror at the distorted image glaring back at me. It was as if the left side of my face had been inflated, left eye swollen almost shut; the bit of eyeball I could still see through the slitted lids seemed strangely bulged. My skin on the entire surface of my face was a bright and angry red, but on the left side it was darker, and I could see veins pulsing just underneath the surface. My already thick neck was swollen to monstrous proportions, and I had a severe double chin. It was like staring into the face of a Doppelganger: familiar but weirdly distorted. I stared at this horror for a couple of minutes; my brain seemed sluggish and dim, my thinking fuzzy. “That just ain’t right,” I tried to say, only it came out something like, “Thajussainri…”
I reeled back into the living room; my roommate was asleep on the futon. I realized in a dim way that I should wake her up, but it seemed such a shame to wake her. I knew she hadn’t been sleeping long, and I try to be considerate. I know she wouldn’t have minded, given the situation, but I wasn’t thinking clearly at that time. “I’ve got to get to the hospital,” I remember thinking; “something’s really wrong with me.”
As I went into my room, I thought I’d better call my boss at the library to let her know I wouldn’t be in today. She could tell that something was wrong as soon as I started
talking. “You sound awful,” she said. I was slurring my words so badly that she probably thought I was drunk. “Hospital,” I thought. For some reason, I thought it would be good if I showered before I left. I showered and carefully brushed my teeth, prying open my stiff, swollen jaw so that I could reach those back teeth.
The next thing I knew, I was walking down the road with no memory of having left the apartment (or even of getting dressed, which apparently I did, thank goodness!). I sort of dimly realized that I probably shouldn’t be walking, and it crossed my mind to turn around and wake my roommate up, but somehow it seemed less effortful to just keep walking. I noticed there were a couple of spots of blood on the front of my shirt, and I wondered where it was coming from. This didn’t seem nearly as important as it should have, for some reason. Fade to gray…
Then I was standing in front of a nurse, and I realized I was in the waiting room of the hospital ER. The nurse was asking me if I’d been hit by a car; I learned later that they assumed that was what happened because of my swollen face and the blood, not only on my shirt, but because it was dribbling out of my left ear, my nostrils, and seeping out from behind my left eye. I tried to tell her that, no, I’d woken up this way, but I was not communicating too well. I was babbling from pain and, as I learned later, a 104-degree fever. They laid me on a gurney and took me to X-ray.
After my x-rays were studied, a doctor (I don’t remember much about him) came and told me, in a voice that seemed to echo as though he were down in a well, that I had impacted wisdom teeth and massive infections in my upper jaw, behind my left eye, and my lower jaw. That, he said, was where the blood was coming from. “Blood? What blood?” I thought. “But Doctor,” I tried to say, “that can’t be right. My teeth don’t hurt, only my head. And besides, I’m not bleeding,” but then I remembered the blood on my shirt... He patted my shoulder as if he understood what I was trying to say, and told me they had put in a call for an emergency dental surgeon, who should be in shortly; I would be going in for emergency surgery shortly. Fine, I thought, whatever; whatever would make me quit hurting.
I’ll spare you the gory details of my surgery; the episode of freakout I had over the needles; the multiple hands inside my mouth; the spurting blood and infected materials gushing out as they drew the teeth out like a cork from a champagne bottle and the sense of relief I had as the pressure in my head immediately eased. Also the trauma experienced by not only me, but the entire surgical team as the left hinge of my jaw, already weakened by the two sets of wisdom teeth, one growing underneath the other, was broken by the “brutal” (dental surgeon’s word) process of extracting the ingrown set of teeth. Two titanium staples, 12 shots, 16 stitches and four hours later, I was in the recovery room. I was already feeling more clearheaded; my fever was down, the swelling was down; most of the pain was gone. The pain from the surgery was manageable compared to the headaches I had been experiencing; it was perhaps 1/10 the level it had been going in.
The dental surgeon said he’d never seen anything quite like what I’d presented. The existing wisdom teeth were perfectly healthy; no cavities or other problems. The second set of wisdom teeth had actually started growing beneath the existing ones, and had grown up into their roots. A tangled mess! It went from irritation to infection; it became such a massive pocket of internal infection that it gave me headaches which became worse and worse. The infected material started leaking into my sinus cavities, the Eustachian tubes of my ears and the socket of my left eye, finally getting into my bloodstream and making me sick. My lower jaw had stress cracks from the bulge caused by the doubled teeth; these stress cracks are what caused my jaw to break during the extraction process, which was so difficult that the doctor ended up cracking and cutting the teeth into pieces to get everything out! I guess the tooth fairy won’t be giving me much for those teeth! The good news is, the x-rays showed no sign of infection in the bone itself, which means no surgery to remove damaged, dead bone, and no bone grafts, thank God! One of the nurses drove me home, since I’d walked and I had told them that my friend were all at work or not home (my roommate, all unaware, had gone in to work, assuming I had done the same).
On a side note, the surgeon didn’t believe me when I told him I’d walked the 3 miles-plus to the hospital; he said “there’s no way anyone in that condition could be ambulatory.” He said the pain would have incapacitated me; that I’d have been either curled up in a ball on the floor screaming, or passed out. Shows what he knows! There’s no accounting for the lengths to which most men will avoid going to a doctor until the last possible second. Current Mood: high
|Sunday, April 22nd, 2007|
|Growing Up (Pt. III)
I said earlier that one of my earliest memories was the sound of my parents screaming at each other—my dad pleading with my mom, my mom accusing my dad of the most bizarre things, like seeing through walls to watch the pretty neighbor across the street; passing messages to people through his mind, telling them how awful my mother was—totally crazy stuff like that.
Being kids, we would make a game out of sneaking past them without being noticed as they screamed at each other. We would creep along the walls, behind the furniture, freezing if they turned our way. Being spotted didn’t just mean you lost—it also often meant a slap from one or the other, or even a beating from our terminally frustrated dad. We were just being children, but it seems slightly horrifying to think about it now; making a game out of such emotion and despair.
My mom taught all of us to sing at an early age; we would all pile into bed with her and sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” or “This Little Light of Mine” or any other song she felt like singing at the time. Being so young, about four, it took me a while to notice a peculiar thing: first, a musty, almost yeasty smell would arise; then, as we sang, she would hug us close, and one hand would creep under the sheet or blanket she would be lying under, and strange slurping noises would be heard, while her singing got more and more breathless. It was years later that I finally realized that she was masturbating while lying in bed with her children.
When I was six years old, we went to see the Ice-Capades, an ice skating show featuring Peggy Fleming. It made an enormous impression on my young mind—the skaters seemed so graceful, gliding through the show without apparent effort. I fell in love with Peggy Fleming then and there, and I brought home all the brochures, flyers and programs I could get my hands on. I would lie there on the living room floor, looking at the photos of Ms. Fleming; I would fantasize kissing her and running my hands over her massive muscular skater’s thighs (that was as far as imagination would take me; I was, after all, only six!), and I would get the most painfully embarrassing erection. I apologize, Ms. Fleming, but it’s true: you were the epitome of womanhood for me at that young age, even though I had no concept of what it all meant.
My mom somehow divined the depth of my feelings for Ms. Fleming (probably because I was constantly sighing over the pictures of her), and never failed to ridicule her by calling her demeaning names whenever she found me perusing my brochures. When she found out I was actually getting a hard-on when I looked at them, she snatched me up and slapped my little erection rather hard, screaming at me not to be a “dirty little bastard.” She found out where I hid my “stash,” and when I came home from school, there was my glorious Peggy, all cut up into bits on the kitchen floor. I tried to gather the pieces, but my mom refused to allow me to salvage the wreckage with scotch tape. She gathered up the pieces and flushed them while I watched. My love was “buried at sea.”
Shortly after that, I became very ill, with a high temperature that eventually reached 106 degrees. My dad took me to the hospital; the nurse took my temperature and immediately rushed out to order a tub full of ice to be brought, into which they packed me—not without some struggle! The ice served the purpose of bringing my temperature down, but unfortunately I then developed double pneumonia. I was sick for more than a month, and was sickly and puny for years after that. Every time I tried to break out into something more vigorous than a fast walk, I wheezed; if I persisted, I puked. The whole sickness episode apparently affected me in many different ways; where I used to have a steady writing and drawing hand, I found I could no longer write neatly or draw an almost perfect circle; my eyes were suddenly and catastrophically bad; I couldn’t see. It would be years before I could see even halfway decently again. I got by in school by sitting in the front row, nearest the chalkboard. My eyes focused about an inch past my nose; anything past that was a soft blur that got softer and more blurry as time passed. I hid my increasing blindness from my parents and teachers for years; I don’t know why I hid it, but I did. It would be a teacher in fifth grade who finally ferreted out my secret and exposed me (thank God!).
My mom was probably the most intelligent human being I’ve ever known, albeit the most bizarre. She wrote constantly—what my dad referred to as “scribbling”—and sometimes it was nonsense, like my dad’s name written over and over a hundred times, or one of the kids’ names, or her own, or nasty words, or rambling, pointless sentences, or fragments of sentences, or words which bore no relation to any known language. Sometimes, though, she would write these incredibly beautiful stories about her life when she was The Virgin Mary; incredibly detailed accounts of her life. She would fill page after page, notebook after notebook with these very realistic stories. If she was in a good mood, she would let me read them; often she was very secretive about them, and would tell me not to discuss their contents because they contained secrets that ordinary people weren’t meant to know. Often these accounts would stop in mid-sentence, or be interrupted by foul or pointless “scribblings.”
Thus passed the first eight years of my life; my mom becoming increasingly strange, violent, unpredictable and slovenly (she eventually weighed well over 300 lbs and dressed in my dad’s old t-shirts with holes all through them, and polyester stretch pants in black, dark blue and for some reason, red). She had always murmured to herself as far back as I can recall; now she began to have screaming matches with herself, whole conversations in which the vilest curses you could imagine were hissed out through her clenched teeth angrily. Current Mood: contemplative