Sunday, May 20, 2018

Laurel and Yanny Go to Texas

There’s a scene in the 1919 French film J’accuse! where soldiers who have been killed in battle rise from the dead and begin marching on the living.

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about that film now.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we had yet another school shooting in America, this time in Texas, with the tragically familiar TV footage of parents, teachers, and children sobbing and hugging each other while SWAT teams storm the building.

Maybe it was something to do with a sobering Washington Post story that said more people have been killed in schools this year than have died serving in the military. Or at least it should be sobering to anyone who isn’t dry-humping a firearm.

Or maybe it has something to do with an interview of one of these weeping children in Texas, who when asked the idiotic question “was there a part of you that was like ‘this isn’t real, this would not happen in my school?’” bluntly replied, “No, there wasn’t.”

“It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I always kind of felt like it would happen here eventually, too.”

Naturally she and fellow students were promptly accused of being “crisis actors” by the Trump loving media because, hey, that’s what real patriots do, right?

This time the victims included a Pakistani exchange student who was scheduled to go home next month. Her heartbroken father told the Associated Press that he thought she would be safe in America, though God knows why anyone would think that after all these massacres.

Fire Fight

I think it was Tuesday morning when I was out for my morning walk and I thought, honest to God, “we haven’t had a mass-shooting in a while, have we?” And, lo and behold…

I feel like we’ve crossed a line with this latest shooting, that we’ve come to accept these man-made nightmares the way we tolerate heat waves, air quality alerts, and snowstorms.

It’s just something that happens.

I’m feeling a kind of battle fatigue as I see the latest photos of the smiling victims, listen to their grieving loved ones, and hear about the dreams that will never come true.

But then why worry about mass shootings when we have much more important matters to deal with like the great Yanny vs Laurel debate?


And there was the royal wedding, which is being billed as a fairy tale romance, though the real fairy tale is this pathetic belief that politicians actually give shit about our children, or that they’ll do anything to change the gun laws.

I’ve taken some hope from the students from Parkland, Florida, who rallied after their classmates were senselessly slaughter to challenge gutless politicians and gun-loving lunatics.

And a number of companies have severed ties with the NRA and investors are dumping gun manufacturer stocks. But I still feel the gun crowd is winning.

So, by all means, watch the royal wedding, argue over the dress, and debate if the cat is walking up or walking down the stairs. Maybe the only way things will change is if the shooting victims rise from their graves and march on Washington.

And here’s a newsflash for you: the voice isn’t saying Yanny or Laurel.

It’s saying “you’re fucked.”


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Please Be Seated

I came flying through the doors of P.S. 170 at the end of the day and ran straight toward my mother.

I had just created an incredible rendering of an apple tree in my kindergarten class and I couldn’t wait to show it to her.

I had drawn plenty of pictures, of course, but this time I had really outdone myself.

However, things didn’t go according to plan. As I was handing my work of art to my mother, an evil gust of wind blew the drawing out of my hands and right under a parked car.

Naturally I started crying and I’ll never forget how my mother bent down and tried to retrieve my drawing from underneath that damn car

We never did get that drawing back, but my mother was grateful beyond measure notwithstanding and did everything she could to console me.

I thought about that incident this morning, on Mother’s Day, and naturally I started crying all over again. She’s been gone nearly 16 years now, but that image of her desperately trying to find my drawing cut right through me.

I’ve been going some tough times recently, many of which are self-inflicted, and with them has come this crippling guilt as I tell myself what a lousy son I was.

Fred the Shrink has been advising me to talk to my mother—really talk to her as if she is actually here. I’ve been promising to do this for quite a while and I thought this would a good day to give it a try.

So, I sat at my kitchen table, looked at the empty chair across from me, and started talking. I told my mother how much I missed her, I told her how sorry I was for all the times I let her down, lost my temper, or broke her heart.

I mouthed off to her in ways I wouldn’t dare do with my father because I knew he’d put me through the nearest wall. And I apologized for my cowardice.

Give 'Em the Chair

Then I really started crying. My shoulders were heaving as I wailed and tore through a mound of tissues. I started thinking I had made a terrible mistake, that conjuring up my mother wasn’t allaying my pain; it was exacerbating it.

This is therapy? I thought. The next time I see Fred the Shrink I’m going to sock him so hard he won’t know Sigmund Freud from Ziggy Stardust.

Eventually I calmed down and I felt physically lighter from all that crying. There’s no such thing as a miracle cure, but, as painful as it was, I do feel I got something positive from this experience.


I often call up memories of my mother just to make myself sad.

There’s this dark side of my mind that feeds off negative emotions—anger, worry, resentment, fear, and grief.

Normally I hate it when people presume to speak on behalf of the dead, but I know my mother really wouldn’t want me spending my days feeling guilty and ashamed.

This evening I was washing the dishes, stealth-dreading the start of a new work week, and I started on the downward spiral about how I had made so many bad decisions, how I should’ve taken more risks, and somehow reached the demented conclusion that I was a terrible son.

This time, though, I refused to accept that hateful thought. It wasn’t even remotely true, and its only purpose was to pull me down even deeper. Not this time, buddy.

I’m not sure if I’ll do this chair experiment again, especially seeing as how it hurt so damn much. But I’m glad I tried it because reaching out to my mother helped look inside myself.

I may have lost that apple tree drawing, but I feel like I’m painting my masterpiece.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Lockdown

Okay, so I’ve got the keys, I just have to figure out how to use them.

Last week I described a dream I had where I was trapped in a runaway car with my late parents that ended with me pulling the key out of the ignition and avoiding disaster.

I interpreted this dream as a message from my subconscious mind that I can take control of my life.

Well, apparently, I didn’t get my own message because while keys figured prominently in my life this week as well, it was no dream and I was definitely not in control.

It had been a rather stressful few days, and when I say “stressful” I mean I completely overreacted to any problem that cropped up and made them much worse than they really were.

Things got so bad that one night I came home from the store and found I had locked myself out of my apartment.

Please note that I didn’t forget my keys. I had them right in my hand and I went through every single key on the ring. But none of them worked.

This was impossible, unless, of course, malevolent elves had snuck into my apartment during the night and swapped my regular keys for an ersatz set. This seemed highly unlikely as I don’t tend to interact with elves, malevolent or otherwise, during my normal course of business.

I’ve lived in this apartment for five years now and if I had a dollar for every time I’ve locked and unlocked this door I could use the Hearst Mansion for a toolshed.

And yet I couldn’t get in. I tried each key again, slower this time, while my breath grew short and my head started to expand. Still nothing.

I could feel the panic rising up through me. I had to get in there. I had work to do, I had to catch up my DVR recordings, do some reading, and, oh, yeah, have my dinner and go to bed.

Key Lame

I had Chinese food the other night and one of my fortunes read “constant grinding can turn a steel bar into a needle.” At the rate I was going I could’ve turned the Golden Gate Bridge into a toothpick.

Still, I had enough sanity left to know that I couldn’t force the key to work. Years ago, I was having trouble getting into the garage at my family’s house.

I had to get my car, I was running late for work and I got so angry and impatient that I twisted the key as hard as I could—and promptly snapped the key in the lock.

I eventually had to call a locksmith who charged me almost 90 bucks for a five-minute job. And I was really late for work.

Standing on the landing of my apartment, I was determined not to repeat that fiasco.


I finally walked down one flight to my landlady’s apartment and asked to borrow her spare key.

Naturally it worked on the first try and now, with the pressure off, I found the right key on my ring and it worked perfectly.

So, what happened here? I flipped out so seriously that I rendered myself incapable of performing a routine action.

It’s particularly disheartening since I really believe I’ve been making some progress in managing stress.

My darker nature also worries that this could a warning sign of more serious problems as I feel like I’ve been more forgetful lately. A talk with a specialist wouldn’t hurt.

In analyzing this fiasco, I can see how I often conflate all of my problems into one hideous monster.

I had a number of setbacks during the day, but instead of reacting to them individually I created my own private Godzilla.

So, I’ll be more attentive to the warning signs. I’ll apply the various stress-relief techniques that I keep in my emotional toolbox. And I’ll label my goddam keys so I don’t have to run through each one of them until I find the winner.

Okay, we’ve got that settled. Now give me another cookie.