Scott (Part One)
November 26, 2008, 4:02 PM
Filed under: Chatty Kathys, Prehistoric Homosexuals, Roommates

During my one-month stint at Chateau Rancid Meat (Courtyard Condominiums), I began to compile a list in my head of all the things I wanted in my next roommate.  Once again, I wasn’t very particular, and in all honesty, the list was almost entirely a reaction to Jack’s style of living.  It was as follows:

1. Be coherent when speaking.

2. Clean up own messes

**Bonus would be cleaning up mine as well.

3. A lover, not a fighter.

That’s about as far as I got before I started on my newly-bought block of Swiss from the Metro Market.  Bearing all of this in mind, I set off to find a roommate who could satisfy all three of my basic needs.  The search, like all roommate-related searches, began on Craigslist.  Most of the selections were too pricey, or the description sounded off.  Some might have terrible grammar, which made me wonder if they spoke in fragments too, making those options unthinkable, really.  Then there were the ones that said, “We’re freakishly, almost PAINFULLY clean!  U B 2!!!”  This person was doubly offensive, because they implied that I would not only have to scrub floors until my fingernails peeled off, but also I would have to endure morning notes consisted of broken English: “Could u not eat ne more pckld herring?  Thnx!!!!!!” 

Probably my favorite one was a relatively cheap condominium on Brady, and by cheap, I mean cheap for Brady street.  The pictures were stunning, and as I read over the basic information, it was starting to sound better and better.  I reached the point in the ad where the person talks about what they are looking for in a roommate.  This man, or woman I suppose, but I doubt it, actually said:

“Looking for someone clean, responsible, can pay bills on time, and HETEROSEXUAL.”

I wasn’t offended that he was specifically looking for a roommate that he could talk about vaginas with over a cold one, but I was more offended that he lumped heterosexual in with a list that would, in the social norm, consider someone a good roommate.  To me, it’s like saying good is “vacuums, never late on rent, and sleeps with women”, and bad is “messy, waiting to get evicted, and sleeps with men.”  Granted, I’ve been accused and convicted of all above crimes, but that doesn’t mean you get to stereotype the rest of us.  Why not just stick to the nice stereotypes?  What happened to “gay men make great stylists!” or “I bet you twenty bucks I can find a queen carrying a schnauzer around in a handbag.”  Both harmless and politically incorrect, these are stereotypes that are fun for the whole family.

I did retaliate in a simple but powerful manner.  Responding to the email, all I did was post a link to an online housing information website, that included a housing discrimination clause.  It worked; I checked back a day later and the word HETEROSEXUAL was lower-cased.

I was getting ready to call it quits when I clicked on an ad that actually interested me.  While he missed a few capitalization of words, I figured that could easily be ignored in face-to-face conversation.  The strangest thing about this ad was that every declaration was followed by the words, “Okay?”  I had mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, it made me feel not just safe, but like I was part of the decision making process too, and I wasn’t even living there yet: “Yeah…yeah…okay!”  On the contrary, I felt like this was patronizing as well, like he was saying: “This is how it is, okay?”  For the right place at the right price, I could be, quite happily, stepped upon, so this didn’t really phase me.  I sent him an email and asked if I could see the place.  Saturday worked for the both of us, so we set the appointment to meet.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t do what some people call “apartment shopping” or “apartment hunting.”  No, I look at one place, ONE place, and usually only once.  If I don’t like it, I convince myself to so that I don’t have to waste more time looking for something else.  In fact, I would take apartments that most of my friends would definitely turn away.  “Sorry C.J., but the rat traps in the kitchen, the sulfuric acid pond in the backyard…and the blowup doll named Margaret dressed in a boa sitting on the couch watching Ace Ventura?  I don’t know about that…”  What they didn’t know was that Margaret, allegedly, payed rent there, and also made a rather good decoy if someone were to break in, but I doubt telling them this would have mattered.  My friends were overly-choosy in my eyes.  Why DID a roommate have to be a human?  Why couldn’t it be a sexual, inanimate object that’s been freakishly humanized by being baptized on the date of her purchase?  I suppose I’m just too forward thinking for some.

I subconsciously knew that I would move in there before I got there, no matter how small the room was or scary the roommate was.  On my way there, I began to think of my list, and then quickly added another one to it, just as the bus was passing Whole Foods.

4. Let me eat their cheese.

Armed with this new rule, I figured that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be dragged into another place I’d be unhappy with.  And even if I was, at least there would be brie.

The apartment complex was a stony gray color in a typical East side neighborhood.  The black rusted gating around some of the windows gave it both an antique and a prison-like feel.  The shape resembled a large loaf of marble rye, freshly baked, just sitting on the corner of Webster street.

The man named Scott let me inside.  To describe Scott’s looks is almost like describing Scott’s personality.  Almost.  He had salt-and-pepper hair due to his age, but it was soft and oddly childish, the haircut resembling a Evangelical choir boy’s.  His glasses gave him the silhouette of a stylish dung beetle and magnified his eyeballs to the size of Sno-Cones served by carnies souped up on speed.  He dressed his age and then some: a pea-green plaid button-up (buttoned to the top), freshly pressed slacks raised conspicuouslyabove the waist (with a little sock showing), a skinny brown belt, and brown oxfords.  Looking at all of this and taking it all in, I was starting to think that he would be a refined intellectual with grace and wonderful insight.  As soon as he opened his mouth and began his emphatic, incredibly homosexual gestures, I began to imagine Fred Rogers as opposed to Fred Astaire.

The first thing I noticed about Scott was how much hot air he could blow up your ass.  To Scott, talking was like street luging: you don’t stop until you run out of pavement, and to him, there wasn’t a grassy knoll in sight.  The most uncomfortable part of this was that his conversational skills rivaled a Rhesus monkey’s, so transitions were either incredibly awkward or just non-existent.  I would begin to discuss the electric bill or security deposit, and he’d start talking about his family.  

“My niece, god bless the poor little soul, do you have ANY idea what she did the other day?!”

I hadn’t a clue.

“Well, here’s the thing…she’s always been bad with money, which is why I always say to her ‘Darlin, why don’t you let Uncle Scott take care of your money?’  Because I mean, before she started living on her own, she was well-to-do, we were all well-to-do really, even me…well, NOW I live in this apartment because my parents don’t really speak to me any more.  You see we’re very religious, so when I came out, you know what they did with my inheritance?  Just took right out from under me!  Can you believe it!?  I mean, that money WAS rightfully mine!  But you know, it taught me a valuable lesson.  It taught me how to be frugal, you know?  And not like…not STINGY, no, no, no, no, NO….NEVER stingy!  I’m just smart about what I buy!  You have to be these days, of course.  I mean, with the job market the way it is and the economy and everything…I say why not buy Deerfieldbrand food?  It tastes the same to me, even if it’s got all of those other preservatives in it.  It saves me money, which like I said, is REALLY key in this day and age.  I don’t know about what the next president plans to do about it…I can only imagine.  Oh, I don’t vote myself, of course…against my religion.  I don’t even really watch anything about politics!  But you know, I can’t help but wonder which of the two will end up winning.  It seems like politics are suddenly all the rage…just like in the 60’s, when I was your age!  You know, you’re actually close in age to my niece…she’s really stupid with money.  Did I mention that?  Well, anyway, she actually got ANOTHER credit card the other day!  I just wanted shout at her so badly!  I wanted to say ‘What were you THINKING!?’  You know, because I’m really good with money…I save a lot, scrimp, I guess you could call it.  But I am certainly not stingy.  You have to be smart these days…with the stock market and everything…”

I had nodded so much during this speech that I thought my neck was going to snap off.  For an hour this continued.  His stories ranged from mild, (“There’s nothing better than a freshly baked ginger snap!”) to wild, (“Did you know my best friend burned down his own mansion and lost ALL of his assets?!  I kid you not!”) to the downright strange, (“Sleep with whoever you want, I say.  That’s my motto.”)  I began to think of Scott as almost like a caricature or a Looney Tunes character.  When all my questions were half-answered and all of his stories finally hung out to dry, I told him I’d think about it and went on my way, knowing that while he was almost painfully strange, I was still planning on living here.

On the bus ride home, I called my mom and told her about him.  The skepticism in her voice was as thick as glue, and so was the disappointment.  “You’re just moving in?  Just like that?  But he’s…well he’s gay right?”  I took slight offense to this, but I did see her point, and she wasn’t the only one who brought it up.  Doug was just as wary: “Well, what exactly does a forty-five year old man want with a nineteen year old in his house?”  I told both of them not to worry, and that I would take care of that issue, and relay to him that this goose was not made for cookin’.

On the move in date, I got whatever my mom didn’t leave on the curb from the last place and hauled up the stairs.  Scott wasn’t home, but a nice little welcome letter was set for me on the table.  Unfortunately, his “friend” (quotations are sexual in this case) Huberto had not yet left the apartment yet, and since he was staying in the other bedroom at that time, I would be sleeping on the couch, at least for one night.  Stressed and in a rush, I unpacked whatever I could, and made my way to rehearsal.  Scott seemed to be trying to make me feel comfortable, but with all the notes and all the promises of refunds on rent for being put out of my own room just made me feel like a burden.  And I never did see a dime back from that first check.  Hmph, frugal indeed.

Prior to my move, the most real conversation I had about this situation was with my supervisor, Michael.  We were both doing a show together, and before rehearsal had started, we were outside having the usual cigarette break.  I started to tell him about my moving process and began to explain Scott, not leaving any of the quirky details out, but trying as best as I could to accentuate the positives.  When I was done, Michael frowned, “So, are you sure you’re paying with money?” he joked.  I laughed, and said I was nearly positive, which was the honest truth.  My response was followed by a short silence.  He squinted, flicked his cigarette, and took a different tact, “It sounds sketchy to me.  I mean, a forty five year old man living with a nineteen year old?  He’s alone and you’re both gay?  C’mon, you’re not stupid.  You know what that’s about.”  While it was a nice compliment to say I wasn’t stupid, I wasn’t all to sure he was correct.  Here I was with three people telling me, not outright of course, but implying that this move wasn’t in my best interests unless I wanted the world’s most long-winded sugar daddy, and I hadn’t wavered once about the move.  I’m stubborn by nature, but this time it was much more than that.  It was about convenience and money.  I was getting into a financial hole quickly and needed a cheaper place, so I told him it was all I could find on such short notice. 

He just shrugged and said, “Well, do what you want, just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”


Birds Of A Feather
November 18, 2008, 6:48 PM
Filed under: Hunting and Game, Obsessions, Pet Trauma

As a child, I was highly regarded for my eccentricity by my mom’s side of the family, who’ve now decided I’m too eccentric to even receive a call on my birthday or a Christmas gift.  My grandparents owned a cottage in the northern woods of Wisconsin, but it was almost too extravagant to be a cottage.  Yet even after $100,000 worth of renovations and a sun deck later, the charm of the word was more important than the actual meaning.

Whenever me and my siblings were up to visit them, I would always create different and unique ways to amuse myself.  Sometimes I’d dive for stones and break them open with a dull hammer to look for gold.  Other times I’d climb up beautiful rock formations, imagining I was scaling Mount Everest.  Probably the most docile and odd of them all was my bird-watching, which escalated from habit to obsession at an alarming rate.

I was always the one out of the three of us children that went through intense adoration for just about anything you could think of.  It was mostly short lived, and in about a year or so I’d be on to something new.  Probably the first I can possibly remember was my cow phase.  I remember my mom telling me that I wouldn’t even eat ground beef when I found out it was cow, and that whenever we were driving and cows were afoot, we’d have to stop, otherwise I’d sob uncontrollably until someone dangled an utter in my face just to get me to put a cork in it.  It went from cows to birds to whales to video games to rocks to music to acting.  From there, it’s been music composition, back to acting, and now back to music performance.  Honestly, if there’s any sort of decent balance in my life, I wouldn’t be able to identify it even if you put all my past experiences in a police line up.

Since my grandparents were fed up with watching me attempt to re-enact Peter Pan with my little sister and cousin (who were probably the most difficult actors I’ve worked with to date), I had decided to focus my attention elsewhere.  The lake that my grandparents lived on was stunning: the animals, the plants, the air.  Everything just made sense.  It was as if in the city the pieces weren’t yet put together, like there was some sort of crack in the sky hindering it from it’s natural earthly beauty.  But up here, have a bag of roasted marshmallows and a couple of qualudes and you’ll be sobbing at a dandelion.

I remember laying out on the hammock on a balmy summer afternoon up there.  I just got back from catching turtles, amazed at my swift hand and ability to establish what was actually a turtle or just a lily pad.  Diving into an unopened bag of Fritos, I glanced upward to see what I could only describe a kaleidoscopic bullet, darting to and fro, almost dancing about the air, the hues of its case painting the wilderness.  It was a hummingbird, and just as I had seen it, it was gone.  I immediately ran inside, opened up the bird book that was sitting on the coffee table, stuffed my face full of corn chips, and began to learn everything I could about birds.

“Did you know that those things I always thought were coyotes are actually just birds?” I’d announce at the dinner table later that evening.

Feigning interest, my mom looked up from her meatloaf, “Really?  What kind of bird, honey?”

“A loon.  They come out at dusk and make lots of noise in the water.  They’re kinda like ducks.”

“Imagine that,” my grandfather would add, knowing full well that they were loons.  All of them would try and pay attention as much as they could, but at a certain point, usually around the mating call portion of the seminar, they would tune out, look down, and wait for me to be struck by lightning.

Another time I had gone up there, that very same summer, my grandfather had just gone hunting.  I have never been a big fan of hunting, mostly because it’s inhumane to me to kill something in it’s natural habitat without any warning whatsoever, but also because it seems exhausting, and camoflauge is really unattractive.  Needless to say, I stayed behind to play Power Rangers with my cousin.  When my grandpa got back, my grandma began to shout down the hallway for us: “You’re grandfather’s back!  And look what he’s caught!”

Had it been a deer, I would have been fine.  Or a bear.  Or moose or otter or maybe even a python, I would have been fine.  His kill, however, was a grouse.  A grouse is apparently delicious and found in most parts of Northern Wisconsin.  Most importantly, it’s a bird.  A bird I didn’t want to see lying there, bloody and battered on the porch.  As soon as I realized what it was, I made a mad dash for the door, as if I was a doctor running to save a patient in the ER.  I didn’t think I could do anything to save it, but I wanted to try. 

Unfortunately, not only did I not get there in time, I didn’t get there at all.  My sprint was halted.  Looking out onto the porch, I assumed that the paneled glass door was already open.  I learned the hard way that you should always look before you leap.  I ran full speed into the glass, knocking myself back a few feet.  I was dazed for a good fifteen seconds and then began to cry.  My grandma ran to my aid, only to tell me that I “could have broken the screen door.”  The screen door may have had a warranty, but it opened and closed on command, something I can admit I was never good at.

After the glass door incident, my fascination with birds was beginning to come to a close, partly because I was afraid my parents wouldn’t have the medical coverage.  My grandma on my dad’s side never got the memo that I had moved on to whales, so for my sixth birthday, rather than getting me a orca whale or porpoise, she decided to get me a small, squeaky Budgie parakeet.  Albeit adorable, the parakeet smelled liked woodchips and sounded like a high pitched car alarm.  I decided to name the bird after this boy in my class who I subconsciously had an infatuation with, Max.  My grandma reminded me that the bird was a girl, but with no vagina in sight, I held fast to my christening.

Max was relatively low-maintenance, but miss a week of cleaning the cage, and the house would smell like a compost heap.  I’d almost always pass this off on my mother, who begrudgingly cleaned it just to prevent her house from reeking.  In all of the five years I’d had him, I cleaned the cage maybe about twice, and that was perfectly alright with me.

One day, while I was watching Spongebob, Max began to chirp.  Maybe chirp is the wrong word.  Gurgle is more like it.  I checked his cage to see what all the fuss was about, but he wasn’t on his perch.  Looking more closely, I realized that he was on the ground, shaking uncontrollably, like some sort of wind-up toy.  I didn’t know what to do.  I remember asking him, as if he’d respond: “Max!  What’s wrong?!  What’s wrong with you!?”  He’d continue to chirp frantically for another minute or so.  As the seconds passed, the noises got closer together and more high-pitched.  Finally, there was a flurry of wing flapping, one last gasp of breath, and then silence.  Max just had a heart attack, and now he was dead.

I mourned over Max for a few days, suggesting that we bury him in the sandbox we had in our backyard.  I thought it would be spiritual for the entire family, since my sister and I pretended we were Hopi Indians whenever we were in the sandbox, I figured we could do seances or ritual dances to bring him back.  Ultimately, Max was thrown away in a plastic bag, eaten alive by maggots, and never once did I get to ressurect his soul through sacrifice.

I took it the hardest out of everyone in the family.  Not just because he was my bird, but because I had neglected him, refused to show interest in him or take care of him.  My mom would try and console me: “Nancy said that Budgies don’t usually live past four or five…he was an old bird, sweetie.”  Yes, he was an old bird.  But with the proper treatment, diet, and maybe even a little birdie jungle gym, his life may have continued, and I wouldn’t have to bear the burden of the one who sat back and let it happen.

I really don’t intend on getting a bird again, mostly because I’ve realized, after being absolutely fascinated with them and even owning one, that we aren’t that different from them, and that’s always in the back of my head.  Some of us are bright and colorful and talkative, and yet we’re stifled by iron bars, only to dream of the world outside them.  And some of us are too free, able to fly through the air on a whim and spend are time as we please.  Some are swift, almost impatient, and beautiful, like the hummingbird.  Some are somber, elegiac, and dark like the loon.  And then there are the Budgies.  The happy, boisterous bird with the careless owner, just waiting for the five year expiration date.  And instead of embracing and maybe even understanding that I was that similar to Max, I ignored and distanced myself from what would be my, and everyone else’s, fate. 

We may eventually have the wings, but that does not make us free.

あなたの皿〔料理〕をしてください!(Part Two)
November 12, 2008, 11:00 PM
Filed under: Cleaning and Maintenance, Roommates, The Orient

The next morning, I woke up with renewed vigor.  I was on a mission to find a new place to live, somewhere that I could stay for longer than just a few months.  I started searching at work on Craigslist, and ended up finding a ton of possibilities.  One of them was a studio on Brady for $450 a month with utilities.  The perks were obvious: living by myself, cheap rent, close to a happening part of town.  Throw in a street-view window so I could see all the midnight crazies stumbling out of bars while puking up their Boca burgers and it was a done deal.

What was not obvious was how unbelievably tiny the living space actually was.  Sure, you could live by yourself for $450 a monthon fashionable Brady street, but you’d be living in what I could only describe as a glorified linen closet.  As the manager of the building “gave me the tour,” as she put it, I began to wonder what exactly we were touring; there was almost nothing to look at.  You could walk in the room, spread your arms and legs, and be touching both ends of the apartment.  When she said, “This closet over here is PERFECT to put a stove, or even a refrigerator,” I thanked her for wasting my time.

Feeling the crunching pressure of the move-out date, I had a second viewing the next day on Brady street, two days before my move out date.  Brady street is a huge part of Milwaukee culture and is home to many downtown festivals.  I only half-recalled seeing a sign for the next upcoming Brady-hosted festival, and it wasn’t until I got on the bus the afternoon of the showing that I realized it was the most feared festival in all the land: Harley Fest.

It only makes sense to hold Harley Fest in Milwaukee for two reasons.  One is that Harleysare manufactured here and originated here.  Two is that we harbor the kind of people that Harley-Davidson is trying to attract.  You know the type.  The man withthe lager-scented breath and the bandanna who slams into you at a bar screaming a Nickleback song at full volume and completely off key, all while you’re trying to enjoy your lemon drop in peace.  Harley Fest was just thousands of those men and their wives riding on motorcycles, yelling their thoughts to each other over the loud roar of the engine.  I guess the word “WHAT?!” is on a Harley driver’s mind a lot.

Getting to the duplex on Brady on the city bus wasn’t all that time-consuming, but I still ended up running late, which is never a good sign.  The house was very cute, with a relatively large front yard and an enormous backyard that bode well for the tenants’ Irish Wolfhound, who was the size of a station wagon and could probably swallow a small child whole.  I forget the man’s name, since we only met that once.  He had wilted black hair, almost peppered, which is strange since he wasn’t too much older than me.  He was pale, almost sickly pale, with large eyes and multiple facial piercings.  I figured from the septum ring that I could get along with this guy pretty well, so he took me inside to show me around.

It wasn’t a large living space.  Actually, what would have been my room wasn’t even a living space, it was currently an office, meaning that I would only be able to fit my futon and maybe a fold-out chair in there.  But the kitchen, living room, and bathroom were all too good to be true, and for the price, I was ready to sign a check at that moment.  Unfortunately, I had to go and open my big mouth.  After praising the place, he asked if I was interested.  I told him I was, and whenever I’m seriously interested in renting a place, I have to have the “I’m gay, don’t worry, I promise not to rape you” conversation.  I feel it’s one of those things that unnecessarily necessary.  It angers me that people would even care, but the last thing I would want is to bring a boy home only to find out that my new roommate is a neo-Nazi.  The phrase “that homo skin of yours sure would make a nice lampshade” is a phrase I’d rather never hear.

When I told him, I didn’t think he minded all that much.  His response was pretty typical, “Oh, that’s no big deal.  No big deal at all.”  I was excited: his approval meant that I could now negotiate an actual move in date.  He had no interest in that.  When I said I would write him a check right this minute and start moving whenever I could, he just shrugged and said, “Well, we’ll see…I’ll call you.”

He never did.  Plan B was a complete bust.

With only a day left until my move out date, I sat on my front step with a cigarette, immersed in thought.  I kept trying to convince myself that my move into the Courtyard Condominiums would be fine.  ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I said to myself, ‘A few days ago, you were fighting for this place!  Just remember all of the good things about it.  It’s close to work, close to a grocery store, and you can tell all your friends you live in a condo…you know, make ’em jealous!’ This was true, but my other half had a decent argument as well.  ‘What do you mean ‘good things’?  He’ll be away from all of his friends, so it’ll be twice as hard to make them jealous and has to spend $700 a month just for rent!  You call that good?’  I wanted the argument to stop, to be resolved; it wasn’t, and the next day, I was moving into the condo.

My first night, as I was trying to breathe through the noxious scent of dead animal carcass, Jack talked to me for a short period of time.  I learned some interesting things about him: he had a job, a family, and couldn’t vote.  Unfortunately, that’s all I remember, and to be frank, all I could understand.  It wasn’t that his English was terrible, it was actually rather good, just with a Japanese sound to it.  It’s more so that he talked at the volume of a field mouse, and I wondered how he would alert me if there was, say, a burglar in the house or a fire.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I’m messy, but not, I repeat, not dirty.  There is a difference.  The bad news about my messiness is that it reacts nicely with my laziness and my procrastination.  That being said, I used to get guff about dishes all the time when I was living with my friend Hannah.  Whether the note was warranted or unwarranted, she was always right: there WERE dishes piling up in the kitchen, and they were almost always mine.  The notes she left were quite sweet, always ending with, “I love you!” and never had a harsh tone to them, but I can’t deny that I felt constantly irritated.  After reading it, I’d roll up my sleeves, plunge into the grease and grime muttering, “Thanks Mom…”

When I started living at the condo, I began to think of Hannah’s notes, and I missed them.  A lot.  They needed to be here.  Jack needed a little, “Hey, could you do the dishes soon?  Thanks dude!  Love you!” in his life.  I may have left two or three plates in the sink, but with Jack it was comparable to Thanksgiving Dinner.  There was nothing that wasn’t already used, so instead of cooking or complaining or even cleaning the dishes, I just ordered take out and ate it in my room silently.

I remember one morning I woke up to an astonishingly putrid odor.  It was a new one, unfamiliar and twice as disgusting.  I couldn’t imagine what it could possibly be, so I opened my door to investigate.  The fumes nearly knocked me on my ass, but while covering my nose with my sleeve, I was able to race into the kitchen and look around.  After a few minutes I realized that he left an entire bag of frozen shrimp laying out overnight.  I thought about doing the right thing and throwing the seafood away, seeing as they were clearly no longer edible.  But instead, as my own little attempt at revenge via stomach flu, I placed the bag back in the freezer, cackled, and went to wash my face.

When I did attempt to make myself something to eat, I did what I normally do: I left it there until I was ready to clean it.  It was never left in the sink for weeks; probably about two or three days at the most.  I had cooked some rice on a Monday, ate it, and left the dishes alone.  Coming home from work on Tuesday, I walked in to see the unthinkable: Jack actually doing dishes!  Only he wasn’t doing his dishes.  He was doing mine.  My one plate and my one pot.  I cocked my head in wonder and announced myself.

He flashed me a wry smile, and began an overly hypocritical tangent.  Coming from me, that’s quite the comment, since hypocrisy and I go together like PB&J.

“Ohkay…soooo…weemembah dat when you cook foo, you have to do the deeshes.  I want to try and keep the prace crean.”  I glanced over at the counter, which was harboring four pans full of grease and what looked like bits of cornish game hen, “So, no probrem, just make sure you do deeshes.  I don’t want dis place smerry.”  Too late, it’s smerry as hell my friend.  I sighed emphatically, “Thanks for the tip.  I’ll keep it in mind.”  I slammed the door to my room in his face, and began, yet again, a search for a new apartment.

When I found my current roommate, I told Jack that I would be moving out by the end of the month.  He was slightly surprised, since I had only been there for a month, but he said he understood: “Man like you need his friends!” That was part of it, but what I also needed was an apartment that wouldn’t gas my friends to death should they drop by.  I told him I would write him a utility check and move out on the 25th of September.

I came home from work about three days before my move out date witha Subway sandwich in my hand, humming “All Is Full Of Love” merrily to myself.  It was a good day at work, and I was glad to have made a decision with my living situation.  When I got home, I retreated to my room to enjoy the gyro sub.  Jack was in the dining room on his computer, per usual, and he gave me a simple quick nod when I entered.  Twenty minutes later, I heard the front door open, and the sound of voices.  But these weren’t just any voices.  Oh no, it was the high-piched, shrill cacophony known as a child.  Two of them.  One of them was too young to talk, so it kind of just clicked and whizzed, and the other one knew too many words.  It was an entire family and apparently, they were here to look at the condo.

Feeling slightly violated, I emerged from my room awkwardly and introduced myself.  The man was a very kind Arabian man who was dressed for a business meeting and began to scour the house immediately.  He polietly asked if he could see my room, and despite the horrible mess, I conceded, and he took a look around.

“Very nice…what a perfect place for two young bachelors looking for wives!”

I tried to hide the look of amusement on my face, but failed miserably.  Since I had my own bathroom as well, he asked if he could take a peek in there.  “I just want to double check…make sure there aren’t any naked women in the shower!”

Rather using a witty quip or even just a homosexual confession, I shrugged.  A shrug doesn’t make any sense in this situation, because a shrug suggests, “Eh, could be, see for yourself.”  The man laughed heartily, making me believe that he took my shrug as a joke, so I felt slightly better.  I turned around to see his kids swimming in my laundry basket, and decided it was time for a cigarette.

After they left, I confronted Jack, who immediately apologized for any inconvenience.  “It’s just that…well, I still live here.  I need to know about these things, you know?” I implored him to make sure and let me know if there would be future showings, and he promised he would.

That very same night, two hours later, I was in the bathroom.  I had just gotten out of the shower and was getting ready for a little NC-17 fun when I heard voices again.  I figured Jack must have been on the phone, until I realized that the voices were coming from inside my bedroom.  I hastily threw my clothes on and bolted through the bathroom door.  I greeted both of them with pursed lips.  “Hi, I’m C.J., Jack didn’t tell me you’d be stopping by.”  I shot an angry glare at Jack, who seemed relatively unphased by it.  When the guy finally left, I didn’t have the strength to have the same conversation with Jack, only to hear, “Shure!  Shure!” and then see a family of eight rummaging through my unmentionables.

On the move out date, my mom, my sister, and her friend, Charmain all came over in a mini-van to assist in the process.  I got off work early and unfortunately had rehearsal that same night, so I was unbelievably stressed, to the point of wanting to curl up in the fetal position and begin sucking my thumb.  When we finally got all the furniture out, my mom confessed to me that she “didn’t really feel like taking any of this with us.”

“Well, what do you suggest we do with it?”  I asked.

“We could just leave it on the side of the road.  Someone will take it.”

I tried to tell her it wouldn’t really work in downtown Milwaukee like it would in West Allis, but she swatted my complaints away.  “You said the place was furnished right?  You’re running late right?  Do you want to carry all this?”  The truth was that I didn’t, so we left it there.

My goodbye to Jack was quick and business like.  Our relationship both began and ended with a “I barely know you” handshake.  The difference was the second time, I did know him, or at least, a particular impression of him.  I knew that he loved video games and stir fry.  That he couldn’t vote and that he enjoyed talking like an Anime critter.  Finally, I knew that he was a hypocrit.  Just like I am for even complaining about him in the first place.  Just like I was for complaining about Hannah’s disdain for my cleaning habits.  So you better believe that, at my new place, once I make something, the dishes get done.  Otherwise, all I can think about is those children doing the backstroke through my linens, the moldy bag of shrimp, and most importantly, the small, scribbly notes from Hannah, all imploring me to “DO MY DISHES!”  Or for Jack, “あなたの皿〔料理〕をしてください!”

Thanks Mom.

Confessions Of A Quitter: Prologue And The First Week
November 8, 2008, 11:05 AM
Filed under: Addictions, Journeys and Expeditions, Mental Torture | Tags: , , ,


Last Week Sunday, I decided to throw in the towel on cigarettes.  I’ve tried this before, and I’ve only made it about 24-48 hours.  This time, I thought, would be different.  Of course, I was wrong, but it did make for an interesting experiment.  Funnily enough, I wrote the title before the rest of the post.  See how it says “first week” instead of “only week?”  Yeah, that was my obnoxious optimism clouding my reality…again.  Regardless of the outcome, I am proud that I went this far, but in all fairness, I’m elated to be smoking again.  Call me morbid, I guess.

One way I figured I could help fight off cravings was by writing this post, day after day, and adding new material every time I felt the need to have a cigarette.  This blog, in fact, aided me a lot more than I expected it to.  And even though it felt like my conscience was rebelling against my body (complete with torches, pitchforks, andthe inevitable Guillotine), I was able to find solace here as it went to town on my happiness.

Day One-November 2nd, 2008

Today was my first day of quitting smoking.  My first serious attempt at never picking up a cigarette ever again for as long as I live.

That sentence alone makes me want to cry.

It hasn’t been so bad, but I think that’s mostly due to the fact that I’ve been high on weed all day.  Instead of having a cigarette at the bus stop how I normally do, I decided to have strange daydreams.  I dreamt I was a couture model whose stomach began to expand during her most important photo shoot, as if my unborn child was sucking Miracle-Gro through the umbilical cord.  And I was informed by Tyra Banks that I was not America’s Next Top Model.  Strange.  I mean, I’ve had that daydream before, but I never went home.  I usually just took “fierce” pictures and flung dollops of pistachio pudding at the jealous girls.

I’ve also started to develop a list of activities I already do andenjoy that I can replace with smoking.  They’re broken down into two categories:

A. Responsible-practicing flute, reading, cooking, composing, knitting, learning to change a car tire, volunteering, exercising, gardening, hop-scotch.

B. Irresponsible (More Fun)-drugs, sex, booze, gambling, downloading music illegally, prank phone calls, playing in traffic, prostituting.

While the first set seems more wholesome, it’s been almost a full day with out a cigarette, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’d start working the corner before planting alfalfa sprouts.

On my walk back to my apartment, I had a quick jolt of optimism, which died almost as soon as I saw someone light a cigarette.  It was all okay until then.  As soon as I saw that person lighting that…delicious stick of delicious, I was fuming.  I looked at the woman’s face, it oozed superiority.  The expression seemed to say, “Hm, can’t smoke?  How unfortunate.  How pedestrian.”  I wanted her to get hit by a minivan.  Not so that she would die or get hurt, but so that maybe in the collision the cigarette would fly out of her hand and magically land between my lips, so that I could smoke it and then, quite easily, convince myself that it was a total and complete accident.

I’m pissed, and don’t have much else to say.  Tomorrow will be fine.

Day Two-November 3rd, 2008

Without a morning cigarette, I feel kindof useless in every department of my life today.  It’s funny how one little tube of paper stuffed withpoisonous shit can make you feel like you’re worth something.

I had my first nicotine-deprivation-induced overreaction of the day.  My roommate sent me an e-mail asking me to buy my own food.  The inconsideration here is obvious: he toldme to eat his food, andnow I can’t any more?  The response I gave him wasn’t necessarily flying off the handle, but I didn’t need to be so snappish either.  I called him both “rude” and “patronizing,” andwhile he can be, those are things I tend to keep from roommates and instead just blog about later.

I’m a little worried that I won’t swap my cigarette addiction for heroine or ten-dollar back-alley boys, but for something much, much, MUCH worse: junk food.  I’m told by some pretty honest sources that after you quit smoking you can gain almost 20 lbs.  20.  In a last ditch effort to keep myself from blowing up like the Michelin man, I’ve decided to start looking for a healthy eating diet plan, just so I can avoid certain foods that will taste almost as good as a cigarette feels.

Foods I can no longer eat because of  quitting smoking:

1. Pizza (This blows, do you know how much pizza I eat?)

2. Ice Cream (I’m trying to convince myself that low-fat frozen yogurt will be the same, but my mind know that’s not going to happen.)

3. Bagels and Cream Cheese (That includes JUST the bagel or JUST the cream cheese.  This may seem strange, but I have one of these almost every morning.  No more.)

4. Specialty Coffee Drinks (Absolutely delicious, but not worth the double chin I might unleash upon the world.)

5. Chinese Food (I might as well just jump off a bridge.)

Why the hell am I punishing myself so profusely?  Good question.  Maybe the lack of nicotine has made me a masochist.  I guess at this point I’m just short a riding crop and a 300-lb man named Spike.

The fiasco between my roommate and I has escalated to the inevitable, “Maybe I should just find another roommate, huh?!” I’m hoping that one of us will be able to be the better man and back down in this situation, but I’m going to predict that of the two of us, it won’t be me. 

These cravings are kicking ass and taking names, but I’ve gone this far before.  And tomorrow will be a new day. 

Provided I don’t buy a pack and smoke it all in record timing.  Time to hide the debit card.

Day Three-November 4th

I went out last night.  All I had was one drag of a cigarette, and I felt like crap for doing it.  It was a careless mistake.  So seriously.  No more smoking.  Not even a puff.

It’s November and 72 degrees outside, yet I’m cold.  I’m already wearing a wool sweater, black pants, and I’m thinking about breaking out the ski mask and down parka.  I haven’t made it 72 hours before, so if I had to make an educated guess, I’d say the shaking and freezing body temperature would all be symptoms of physical withdrawal.  I don’t know when this ends, but on the bright side, it feels nothing like how I thought it would.

Yesterday and today, I’ve eaten almost everything on my not eat list.  This includes a small pan pizza, two specialty coffee drinks, a bagel with cream cheese, and a Dove bar.  I could use a good old-fashioned fad diet right about now, like the Cookie Diet or the Amputation Diet.  If all I have to do is cut off my left arm in order to stave off 20 extra pounds, then that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

My irritability has also increased.  This morning when I was ordering one of those calorie-ridden coffee drinks I specifically told myself to ignore, I could feel myself getting agitated, even though I was just standing there holding out my Visa and being asked if I had a Border’s rewards card.  I never did have it on me, and yet they always ask.  Can’t they take the hint?  If you call 5% off a book about the history of rubber bands a reward, then I want no part in it.

A co-worker and I always come in here during our morning break for coffee and bagels, and since this new employee Jasmine started working at the coffee shop in Border’s, there’s been a lot to complain about.  Lumpy, congealed cream at the bottom of your cup, not filled to the brim, an unidentified hair floating amongst the espresso: take your pick, these were all pretty familiar scenarios to us.  But the worst was the milk.  Everything that girl made tasted like warm milk.  It was like when I said, “I’ll have a Raspberry White Chocolate Mocha with skim milk,” she was so happy to comprehend the words “skim milk” that she forgot about the rest of the drink.  No raspberry, no white, no chocolate, no mocha.  Just milk.

Not today.

I went back after tasting my drink and slammed it (well not slammed, it would have made a mess) on the counter.  She looked at me, slightly alarmed, and I tried to explain as calmly as possible what the problem was.  I didn’t sound calm at all, I sounded irate and psychotic.  “I’m not drinking this.  It tastes like milk.  I want a new one.”  Normally I would go up and sweetly tell them that it didn’t taste right andask if I could bother them to make a new one.  “Oh, pretty please!” I’d squeal.  But that was the C.J. withnicotine, the “nice” C.J.  The C.J. without nicotine was different.  Cross him, and you’d be dealing with a well-dressed version of Arnold Schwarzenegger on Prednisone.  “MOCHA NOW!”

The good news is that I get to vote today.  The bad news is that the lines will be long and I’ll be thinking of cigarettes the entire time.  Doesn’t matter, tomorrow will be much easier, I’m sure of it.

Day Four-November 5th

We have a new president, Barack Hussein Obama.  I tell you, I’ve never been more proud to be an American.  This election is historic, but so is the change it promises to bring.  Thank you, America, for following your heads and your hearts, and for believing in that immortal phrase of hope: “Yes We Can.”

With all of the excitement, I had a cigarette.  Well, two actually.  Okay, fine, three.  I figured I owed it to myself.  President Obama would have wanted me to, andwho am I to argue withthe President?  When I was having these cigarettes, my friend’s boyfriendstarted telling me stories of dreams that he had when he quit withthe patch.  Apparently, in this dream he slept with Julia Roberts.  If nicotine patches would give me that same dream, then I think I’d prefer the gum.  George Clooney, on the other hand, would be a different story.

The problem is that I keep justifying the smoking.  I have to realize that just because your candidate wins an election doesn’t mean you get a “Get Out and Smoke” free card.   

My “quit diet” is a complete bust.  I’ve decided that since I’m miserable without cigarettes, I need food to cushion the blow.  Even if I end up gaining weight, it doesn’t matter.  I’ll die alone no matter what.  We all do.

Today isn’t winding up too well.  Cravings have subsided, although I did share one with a co-worker early afternoon.  Maybe I can kick cigarettes as a habit, but it seems downright impossible to remove them as a hobby.  I guess I just have to keep moving.  These setbacks don’t make my efforts futile, it’s all just fuel to get across that finish line.  And tomorrow will be better.  YES I CAN!


Day Five-November 6th, 2008

Okay, I can’t.

I had another one around 10 today.  The strange thing is that I didn’t really need it.  I wasn’t having a craving or anything.  I just had one because I felt like it.  And this time I couldn’t use the sweeping Obama victory as an excuse.

I ran across this site called Metrosexualo.  It’s a clothing store for men withmetro taste.  My bank account is going to need physical therapy after I’m done with it.  What’s great about this though is that I can now use the money I would have spent on cigarettes towards Metrosexualo clothing!  So hopefully that’ll motivate me a little more.

Well, get this: I bought a new trench coat from Metrosexualo AND a pack of cigarettes.  It appears as if I can have my cake and eat it too.  Even if the cake is cancerous.

Day Six-November 7th, 2008

Not even clothes can motivate me.

I have officially failed.  I didn’t really think I was going to…I honestly thought this time would be different.  I know why I failed.  I have yet to completely convince myself that there’s something wrong with it.  To me, smoking is cool, and against all my better judgement, I find them a necessity to function.  I talked to my friend Gloria about it.  She had some great words of encouragement: “Well, that’s the longest you’ve ever gone.  And next time it will be longer!”  She’s right.  Next time it will be longer.

When will next time be?  Don’t hold your breath.

The Ol’ Switcharoo
November 6, 2008, 5:51 PM
Filed under: Adolescence, Soul-Searching, Word Origins

I remember learning about etymology my senior year of high school.  It was one of the main focuses of a short but hellish regimen during my AP English course, complete with a little red book called “Word Power.”  Every week we’d have a test on new set of words, what they meant, and whether they were Greek or Latin or any other demographic that was bold enough to create language.  I’ve retained almost none of the information, with the exception of “misogynist,” which is, ultimately, a woman hater.  “Word Power” gave me no power like the title suggests, just a mounting feeling of anxiety, trying to remember what the difference between the suffixes “phone” and “phony” was.

There’s a lot in a word, yes, but in a name?  In a name there is life, lives even.  A name is like your definition.  I’ve often thought of the first date where the guy leans over the terrycloth table and says to me, “So…tell me all about yourself.”  I simply respond, “C.J.”, and he nods knowingly, having me all figured out.  Think about it: when you’re discussing a friend and you say their name, it isn’t just a noun.  It’s a verb, a preposition, and, most importantly, an adjective.

It’s borderline creepy to think that about a year ago this time my own definition was completely different.  In September 2007, I was lying on my futon eating bread and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, distraught over my recent break up with Dave, my ex-boyfriend who I dated for a year and lived with.  I had become lackadaisical and sloth-like because of my depression, and needed to do something severe to put my life back on track.  Post break-up, I moved into an attic in the Riverwest area for $300 a month.  It was all I could afford, and the only option I had with the increased pressure to leave my current living situation.  I remember discussing it with my mom, two weeks after I had moved in.

“Your place is on Meinecke, right?  Meinecke and what?”

Having only lived there for two weeks myself, I wasn’t too sure.  So I told her I couldn’t remember.

“Well, did you know that a Jimmy John’s driver was shot and killed in that area?  On Fratney?”  I looked up to see that I was walking down Meinecke and Fratney.  I picked up my pace.  “The guys had nothing against him, they just wanted his money…$25 dollars, they shot that man for gas money.  Can you believe it?  Of course, this was a few months ago, I think, but still, you ought to be careful.”

I didn’t sleep too well that night.  I hated how everything had went from Cinderella post-Royal Ball to Cinderalla pre-Royal Ball, all in a week or so.  Last Wednesday,  I was living with my prince in a freshly painted apartment with a cute, yet terribly smelly rabbit named Izzy.  Now?  I was surviving in a storage room that had no heat but approximately five thousand unnamed spiders.  At least I could pass the time by naming them, but since I took to killing bugs rather than christening them, that was starting to look more like a miniature bloodbath as opposed to an afternoon activity.

As I was lying there, attempting to make sense of the static on the T.V., I began to think about my own etymology.  What did I mean to others?  What did I mean to myself?  And if I didn’t like the answers, what would I do to change it?  I turned the volume on the T.V. to find out that the hazy static was actually Dr. Phil discussing a “large” age gap in a relationship, saying in his matter-of-fact Southern drawl, “It’s just fundamentally wrong!”  The crowd affirmed that it was with an uproar of applause, but I, the viewer, snorted.  Dr. Phil, to me at least, is fundamentally boring, so I opted for brief daydreaming rather than listening.

During elementary school, I never had a nickname, but that was due partially to the fact that I was invisible.  I was invisible, of course, until I did something that drew unwanted attention to myself, such as using a pink gel pen or mugging a kid on the playground for a holographic Charizard card.  When these outrageous events happened, I was briefly acknowledged, scorned, and hung out to dry, leaving the other children to wait for the time I would strike again.  Middle school I was finally noticed, but not as me, as someone else, which for all intensive purposes is an improvement.  A random student had called out to me, but it wasn’t my name; it wasn’t even close.  “Hey…Emerson!”  She had confused me with another of my peers who I shared a science class with.  I wasn’t upset or confused at the mix-up.  If anything, I was relieved that, even though people still didn’t see ME, I wasn’t completely transparent.

I began to collect a small group of friends, most of who probably felt like outcasts themselves.  After my Emerson nickname lost it’s luster, my friends were elated to find that when I’m embarrassed or shy (which was a good 95% of the time those days), my ears turn red.  The more I’m embarrased, the more red they become: colors range from a hushed rose to crimson.  The clever nickname I received because of this was Elmo, which, looking back, doesn’t make much sense.  I mean, I hadn’t watched Sesame Street since I could count to ten all by myself, but I don’t remember Elmo’s ears getting red when he was nervous or embarrassed.  I don’t even remember Elmo having ears.

Regardless, the name stuck for a good two years, but was sometimes replaced by a cleverly synthesized “Elmoson,” the juggernaut that haunted me for my entire 8th grade life.  The worst part was that I responded to it.  If you shouted the name down the hall, I’d come running like a whipped lap dog, and I hated myself for it, for Elmoson was not me.  It was just a compilation of another student and a shaggy red Muppet. 

By the time I became a high-school student, the once tight group that called me Elmoson had somewhat evaporated, and I was back at square one.  The invisibility in elementary school was tolerable, but high school was all about being seen, and on a good day I was almost as opaque as a Martha Stewart Living sheer window curtain.  To add insult to injury, the teachers barely knew my name, and made only a slight effort to learn it, leaving me, once again, alone and undefined.

When I came out my sophomore year, I had a new nickname that, while fitting, was a little unsettling.  I was now “The Gay Kid.”  The only out student at my high school, I was either ridiculed or put under a microscope like some sort of extraterrestrial organism:

“So…like, how do you decide which one’s the man?”

Easy, he’s the one who pays for things.  Next?

“How did your parents take it?”

Well, seeing as my mother used to get up at 6 AM with me to watch My Little Pony, I can’t imagine this shook her to her core.

On and on the questions went, and I’d answer them, excited to share my “new personality” with anyone who was interested.  But I can’t help but wonder how they’d feel if I asked them the same questions.  I suppose that’s the unexposed perk of normalcy: none of the really important questions pertain to you, because we already know exactly what you are.

Coming up on junior year, I had ditched the “Grandfather’s Closet-chic” look and gone more mainstream.  I started to shop at all the stores that encouraged teen sex appeal and just made you want to surf: Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle, Hollister.  Oddly enough, I bought those clothes to feel like I belonged, but in the end, I didn’t even belong in the clothes.  I was, and I hate to say it, but I have to…it’s like ripping off a bandaid, a grade-A poseur.  It was a point where I still didn’t know my definition, and I was hoping that through the mirage of popularity, it would come to me one night in a dream.

Senior year, I figured, was my time to shine.  I wanted to finish my high school career with dignity, go out with a bang, and hopefully bring my grades up.  I’d argue that I achieved two of the goals with diligent mediocrity, the third goal, finishing with dignity, blew completely apart the minute I started my first long term relationship.  I met Dave because I was a terrible math student, and he had explained that he was an engineer at UWM, and was very good at math.  I knew he was gay, but in all honesty, I hadn’t expected much when we decided to meet at Starbucks for a tutoring session.  I spent the majority of the hour and half poo-pooing algebra and praising my acting skills to the point of revulsion.  Dave seemed to be slightly bothered by my unwillingness to learn, so half-way through, he gave up and talked instead.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

The reason this relationship caused such an enormous miscarriage on the dignity front was because Dave was older than me.  Much older.  At the time, I was a cheeky 17 year old, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, just waiting to create my own personal future.  Dave was 32 (to be fair, he told me he was 28 until about three months into our relationship), a college student and someone who was looking to for the finality of a monogomous relationship, something I found I could only provide for so long.

As it goes, high school kids are absolutely brutal and have almost no consideration for other people’s feelings.  This isn’t bitterness speaking, it’s scientific fact.  I was the same way, so I don’t know how I was surprised when I was given the cold shoulder by the leviathan that was the student body.  I had gone from hero to zero in four months flat.  I traded in my Abercrombie apparel for mismatched t-shirts and sweatpants, moving from “Fake Prep-chic” to “Overworked Babysitter-chic.”  I did still have friends, but it was nothing compared to the popularity I’d been given during my junior year.  I was losing my visibility, and I was losing it at an alarming rate.

After high school, I moved with Dave to the East Side.  It wasn’t really my choice, but I went with it, thinking the change would do me some good.  It strained our relationship, mostly because I wasn’t having any fun being stuck in the apartment all day with nothing to do but paint the walls or blow dust around the kitchen floor.  It wasn’t all bad though, and there were many days where we were very happy, sickeningly happy even.  Some nights, I would lie awake and think to myself, “This is where I belong.  This is who I am.”

About three months later, there I was…lying on the couch, ignoring Dr. Phil’s all-too-familiar view on my past relationship, and jamming my knife back into the tub of margarine.  I was Elmo, I was Elmoson, I was the Gay Kid, I was the Kid Who’s Dating An Old Guy.  And now I was Chris.  Chris in the attic with the split top wheat and the barely working T.V.  ‘This can’t be it for me,’ I thought, ‘I deserve another shot.’  But how to get there?  What to do first?  To re-invent myself would be a daunting task, to say the least, but it was, at this point, necessary.  I wanted to be seen, to be heard, to be bold and forward and intelligent and sexy and everything I imagined I was.  All of these things I would finally be.  But…how?

I thought back to Word Power.  I remembered the etymology, the origin of a word…misogynist, even.  And then it hit me.  I would change my meaning my definition by changing my name.  Not a drastic change, but a simple one.  Something that exuded confidence, youth, and happiness.  Something that embodied my hopes and gave me the strength to move forward as a new individual in a new life.  The answer was simple.  So the following week, I decided to test it.

As I walked down Oakland Avenue, I wasn’t nervous at all.  I was excited, not only to see what could be my new place, but also to begin again.  I walked up the cement stairs to the door and rang the doorbell.  When one of the girls answered the door, she introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Brittney.  You must be…?”

I smiled.  In one clarifying breath, I released my past into the autumn air, and declared myself, “C.J.  I’m C.J.”

And just like that, I walked through the door, and into my new life as the person that I was struggling so hard to be, all these years.

Malibu, D&G, And Some Little Blue Pills
November 4, 2008, 7:58 PM
Filed under: Love and Relationships, Rudeness and Manners, Substance Abuse

“Can I pick ’em or what?!”

I might say this about a cute sweater.  I might say this about a playful kitten.  I might say it about a restaurant or some sort of unexplored vista in the Pacific.  But never will you ever, under any circumstance, hear me say those words in reference to another man.  The simple truth?  I can’t pick them.  I’m awful at it.  Too much optimism and too low of standards are the big glaring reasons, but it’s also because I have a hard time being alone.  I never really enjoyed it, and I probably never will.  I can do fine on my own, yes, but I’ve always found masturbation to be oddly depressing.  Essentially, sometimes I just want a person to be with even if that person doesn’t really feel like being with me, even if they have no interest in me whatsoever, and even if they overall suck as a person.

I never used to think I was bad at “picking ’em,” until one of the rotten apples that I picked came along.  I’ll spare him the embarrasment (even though I really shouldn’t) and rename this man.  I think I’ll call him Dickweed.  It’s a good description of him.  In fact, I’d say it’s near perfect. 

I was first introduced to Dickweed around the same time I was introduced to internet porn and ‘The Sims Hot Date’ (which sometimes felt just as naughty with the new jacuzzi feature!).  I was about 15, a freshman in high school, and still closeted.  The surprising thing was not many people really guessed that I was gay, although a few did.  I just occupied myself with the girls who would have me for a few weeks and then moved on (with one exception), so nobody really questioned my sexuality.  Well, it was more so my unpopularity in the earlier years that would have caused no one to question it.  Actually, if you would have told most kids at my school that I was gay when I was a freshman, they’d give you a quizzical look and say, “Who’s that kid?”

I came across (while looking for porn, obviously) a website called, which is a website devoted to gay culture, dating, and lifestyles.  Not knowing or caring what culture or lifestyles exactly entailed, I went straight for the gold: the chat rooms.  I wasn’t approaching many in the chat room, so I was surprised by how many different men I spoke with.  The average age was well over 30, and all prospects had either divorce baggage or thick facial hair.  I couldn’t exactly call what I had with them “conversations”, since they were so trite and annoyingly to the point.  Example given:

Man: hey cute boi how r u?

Me: I’m well, thanks.  How are you?

Man: horny as hell.  stats?

I would always frown at this.  When I was younger, I never really wanted anyone to know my cock size.  Now it’s on my business card.

Me: Um, well, I’m about 6’0”, 160 lbs, and I have brown hair with highlights and blue eyes 

Man: oooh ur a cute little twink boy.  i like that.

I frowned at this too.  I wasn’t a “twink.”  I definitely looked like a stereotypical one, but twinks are also defined by their smooth body.  Now I may have only been 15, but even then I was more shag carpeting than linoleum.

Me: Haha.  Thanks.

No matter how grotesque the comments, I would always be somewhat flattered.  I mean, even though I had no desire to sleep with any of these men, I did take all of the comments in stride.  Someone out there found me attractive, even if the poor thing was dappled with liver spots.

Not everyone I spoke with was that out of the question, however, and there was one man I had taken a particular shine to, a man named Dickweed.  He was dangerous-looking, like a loose cannon cop in a low-grossing action film.  He was holding some risque objects in his pictures, including a bottle of malt liquor and a handgun.  The handgun should have turned me off, since I have a mortal fear of weapons, but it didn’t.  It didn’t necessarily turn me on, but I was curious to know more about this man.  I forgot which of us struck up the conversation first, and while the specifics elude me, I’d say this is a pretty accurate recollection:

DW: look what we have here.

Me: Uh, hi?

DW: so what’s goin’ on?

Me: Nothing really…just sitting here, bored.  You?

DW: ohhhh…bored.  more bored now that I’m talking to you.

Me: Wait, what?  We just started talking and you barely know me.

DW: well i know you well enough to know that you aren’t entertaining me so far.

Me: What do you want me to do?

DW: idk you could do a striptease for me.

Initially I was surprised, but not necesarilly in a bad way.  Come to think of it, I might have laughed, thinking he was joking.  It would take me three years to realize he wasn’t.  Rudeness did not equal sarcasm, in his particular case.  Rudeness was to be taken for what it was: rude.

DW and I would talk on and off for several months.  One day, he was completely ignoring me, and at this point, as far as I was concerned, we were getting married.  So as my future husband, this behavior was totally unwarranted and unacceptable, and after doing a bit of online research, I came across a friend of his to discuss this with.

Me: Hi, um, you don’t know me but…are you friends with DW?

Asshole friend: I am.  How do you know him?

Me: Well, we talk sometimes, and I’m kind of interested in him, and well, I’m pretty sure he’s interested in me too, but…has he ever said anything about me to you?

Asshole friend: He’s interested in you?  Romantically interested?

I had said he was, and I wasn’t prepared for what was next.  I didn’t take the inflection of his sentence in the proper manner.  What he had meant was, “He’s interested in YOU??  ROMANTICALLY interested??”

Asshole friend: I don’t think he’d be into someone like you.

Me: Well, why?  What’s wrong with me?

Sometimes we ask other people questions that we honestly do want the answer to.  That is, until we hear what the answer actually is.

Asshole friend: Well, let’s start with those glasses.  Hideous.  And your hair is clearly box color.  That shirt looks homemade and your head isn’t in proportion to your body.  Your hair is frizzy and you have a big forehead.  That enough for you?

It was.

Devastated, I made an attempt to defend myself (‘You don’t KNOW me!  Whatever, I’ll talk to him myself!’), which ended up being futile.  There were so many aspects of myself that I didn’t like, that I hated even, and to have them all layed out for me, as frank as a grocery list, was uncomfortable, upsetting, and a huge blow to my already low self-confidence.  At the time, I felt nothing but rage towards DW’s friend, but now, looking back, as harsh as it was…I look at the picture, and it was something that desperately needed to be said.  At least the parts that could be changed.  That means no more self-made tye-dye, but I’m thinking I’m stuck with a watermelon head and an landing strip forehead forever.

DW and I fell out of contact after that.  There was an occasional discussion here or there, but by the time I had started dating my long-term ex Dave, we had stopped all correspondence.  After my messy and horrible break-up with him, I fled to Riverwest and went into hiding.  When I was finally ready to be myself again, I decided to move.  I found the infamous 1811 on Craig’s List, which turned out to be the most insane period of my entire life.  I had become good friends with everyone who visited there, and people would come and go so often, it felt more like a treehouse or fort than an actual duplex.  I loved every minute of it.  And not once in that three year period had DW even crossed my mind.

I went online one evening in January to do what I normally did at that time in my life.  I was on the prowl for men, and while I knew wasn’t running low on potential mates, I had discovered another website that was, unfortunately, exclusive for hooking up.  This website was lewd beyond belief, at least in my opinion.  I guess there are some people out there that think it’s commonplace to have a close-up of your anus as a profile picture, but I’m certainly not one of them.

As I was perusing the site, I saw that I had a new message in my inbox.  It was a message from Dickweed.  But here’s the funny thing: he didn’t know who I was.  In fact, judging by his diction in the note, he had absolutely no recollection of having talked to me ever.  To play devil’s advocate, I did look much different (better) in January than I did when I had first met him.  I responded to the message, playing a little cat-and-mouse game until the numbers were exchanged, and then I called him.

During the phone conversation, I could hardly maintain my laughter.  He was annoyingly suave and sophisticated, to the point where certain phrases, if spoken eloquently enough, could have induced vomiting.  But to top it all off, he still didn’t know it was me.  Three years ago I would have been offended and upset, but now it was hilarious.  Finally, I asked him if he remembered talking to a kid named Chris a few years back.  His response?

“I know a lot of people.”

So I gave him my last name.  His response?

“I don’t DO last names.”

What do you mean you don’t DO last names?  The whole world does last names.  People are defined by their last name.  Some people are only known by their last name.  And you just…don’t do them? 

Apparently that wasn’t enough red flag for me though, and we continued to talk, setting up a date for us to get together for a movie.  I was excited, but not because I really liked him, but because I was finally meeting this strange man…finally, after three years.  It wasn’t like I was waiting, but it’s still a long time for something to happen, whether it be a hook-up or completing a jigsaw puzzle you lost the box to.

I ended up having a lot of fun on the first date.  We went to see “No Country For Old Men,” which was a bad choice, since I tend to shriek like a baby rabbit being set aflame whenever I watch a scary movie.  You could argue that NCFOM wasn’t scary in the traditional sense, but the lack of music and the nailgun made it a modern day Poltergeist to me.  Embarrassing both him and myself, I jumped and started almost every time something happened, followed by the inevitable and incredibly annoying, “Did you see that?” He did.

What was odd about DW’s personality was that he still seemed to be of high school mentality.  In his eyes, the world was full of prom queens and jocks and nerds and techies, and he just so happened to be the head quaterback.  He was handed everything on a silver platter.  What’s worse is that he acted like he deserved it, as if he was slaving away for days out in a cornfield so that he could get that sailboat from his parents, or whatever it was.  He had a knack for making me feel uncomfortable, useless, and all around shitty.  So, naturally, we started casually seeing each other.  At least, that’s the impression I got, but the entire time he was dangling other guys over me, as if I wasn’t proving myself to be enough for him.

“You know, there’s a lot of other guys out there that could be in your shoes.”

I’d fall for this every time. “Oh please!  Don’t leave me, you’re one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met, you’re so funny and attractive and sweet!  What do I need to do?”

“Bring me the remote, make me a pastrami on rye, and get on your knees.”

I never buy rye bread, so I was basically screwed.

One night, when he stayed over, we were laying on my futon mattress in my below-zero sunroom/bedroom, he got up to ruffle through his bag.  It was a bag that he mentioned earlier was “authentic Dolce and Gabbana.”  He told me this specifically because he knew I didn’t care, and also because I think he liked hearing the words come out of his mouth.  It was late, maybe around 2 AM, so I asked him, in a sleepy stupor, what he was getting.  He flashed a smile at me and pulled out a bottle of Malibu rum and a bottle of prescription medicine.  I was puzzled.

“What…?  What do you need that for?  It’s 2 in the morning.”

He explained: “Well, the pills I have to take, they’re for my sleeping disorder.” I didn’t believe him. “And the rum, well…the rum is so I can take the pill.”

I chuckled, thinking he was kidding, until he began to tilt the bottle towards his mouth.

“Wait, you can’t do that!  You have to take that with water!  Don’t you know there are serious consequences to taking pills with alcohol?”  I felt like a living after-school special, but I wasn’t going to be liable for anything that happened to him, since he was in my house.  I also didn’t feel like staying awake and resuscitating him when I had to be up at 9 in the morning.

After a small bit of arguing, he took the water from me and put the Malibu back in his Dolce and Gabbana bag.  I never did ask why he carried a bottle of booze around with him like a pocketwatch, but I didn’t want the answer this time.  I fell asleep, hoping that I would wake up in the morning, and the man laying next to me would stop being a inconsiderate card-carrying lush and start making me french toast.

The problems between us developed when I was at work one day, and we had been texting back and forth.  Our texts were either very playful and light-hearted with a kinky subtext, or rude and to the point.  Today it was the latter.  The texts included typical romantic phrases, such as “I’m not going to talk to you right now, you’re annoying” and “Boy, I wish I could change my number.”  I was finally getting sick of the way he was talking to me so I sent him: “I’m tired of you.” 

I didn’t hear back for a few days, and during my wait I discussed it with a few of my friends.  Hannah gave me the most accurate analysis of the situation: “Dude, he makes you feel like shit.  He’s not all that cute, and when I saw him, I totally thought he was a child molester.”  While this, like most of Hannah’s criticism, was blunt, it was mostly true, but I held on to one little thread…’He didn’t ALWAYS make me feel like shit.’  This comment was greeted by a roomful of eye-rolls, and I went back to my Ramen noodles, wondering what my next move should be.

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long for an answer.  I had logged on to AIM later that evening to see that he was on.  I didn’t strike up a conversation.  Instead, I waited to see what he would say, hoping that he would apologize for upsetting me, and I didn’t have to feel so unsettled anymore.  I must have had my rose-colored glasses on, because what I got was in stark contrast.

“Hi, my name is C.J., I might not know much since I’m so young and stupid, but I sure can give great head!  But just remember, before you lift your legs, that I have the clap!!!”

He mocked me.  Like an eight-year old.  An eight-year old who knows way to much about sex.  Let me break this message down into fact and fallacy.

Fact: My name is indeed C.J., which stands for Christopher Jacob.

Fact: I am young.  Whatever, don’t hate.

Fallacy: I am stupid.  Actually, I suppose that’s up to popular consensus, but I don’t really think I am.

Fallacy: I have “the clap.”  Not only was I not altogether sure what the clap was when he first mentioned it, I’ve never had it, and I never really plan to.

That was the last straw.  I signed off, and vowed to never speak to him again, and I never did.  Except once when I was really lonely.

I’ve learned two things from this ridiculous excuse for a relationship.  One is that I should not be allowed to choose my men anymore, and instead should hire a pimp to do it for me.  Two, is realizing my own worth.  I began to understand the meaning of self-empowerment, thanks to someone who, at times, made me feel weak.  The trick is maintaining that image of yourself, that image that you are a good person, all while those who don’t believe in themselves try to bring you down.   And while I can’t seem to find the proper man just yet, I am proud to say that I can wake up in the morning, pack my bag, and leave the booze and pill bottles at home, where they belong.

あなたの皿〔料理〕をしてください!(Part One)
November 2, 2008, 11:13 PM
Filed under: Cleaning and Maintenance, Roommates, The Orient

At the end of August this year, I began to start looking for yet another place to live.  I’m somewhat of a self-proclaimed nomad, a title I embrace only to halt the sting of what it’s actual meaning: I’m indecisive, but when I finally make a decision, it’s usually careless and without much thought.  I don’t think about the roommate (“He says he’s into leather…maybe he means couches?”), I don’t think about the location, (“Just a quick 1 hour bus ride to work!”).  All I care about is the price, and if there’s enough room to not only fit all my belongings, but also extra room so that my belongings can be strewn messily about the room.  If an apartment can fit this criteria, then I’ll consider it, even if the roommate is an ex-con or a Republican.

Per usual, I waited to the absolute last minute to do my apartment hunt.  I do this with almost everything, but having honed my procrastination to almost an art form, I justify my lateness by saying I pulled through in the end.  Pulling through is a stretch actually.  Barely making it would probably be more concise.  My current roommate, Hannah, wouldn’t necessarily hound me about it, but I would tell her how I’ve looked at all of these places, most of which I had only seen from the outside or were completely imaginary, and they just weren’t working out.  “Well, what’s wrong with it?” she’d inquire, and I’d just respond with a shrug and maybe a, “no on-site laundry” or “rabid wild mongoose in the backyard,” to which she’d nod, indicating that she understood and applauded my thorough screening process.  This made me feel guilty, but not guilty enough to look for apartments rather than sprawl out on the futon watching “Dancer in the Dark” while eating Reese’s pieces and blubbering like a newborn beluga whale.

I had finally found a place about five days before my scheduled move out date.  The place was on Craigslist, the only website I will use to find a roommate ever since meeting one of my best friends on there by chance.  It seemed perfect on the screen: a beautiful condominium, 1 bedroom, everything included, in the heart of downtown…all for…$650?  ‘Am I reading that right?’ I wondered.  I called the number of a very nice Asian man named Jack.  He said that “siss fiffee” was the correct price and reminded me that this place would “go vewy kikly” because of the how cheap it was.  He was probably right, which meant I, in turn, had to act kikly.  I asked him if I could see the place the very same day, and he said he was available.

I left straight from work and walked to the complex, which excited me since that meaned that if I did take the place, there was no more taking the city bus.  Just a quick ten minute walk and I was “home.”  On my walk there, I began to fantasize about what life might be like in a condominium.  I imagined luxurious bath and shower combos with the water pressure that could knock over a steer.  I pined about soft beautiful carpet that always smelled delightfully like calla lillies.  People would walk in and say, “Wow, what is that incredible scent?  It’s…I just can’t put my finger on it, but very floral.  Very euphoric…oh my…um, did you need a roommate?”  I’d shake my head and laugh, pitying them slightly, all while handing them an application and telling them to throw it on the pile in the corner with all the others.  A breakfast bar, a jacuzzi, a pool table, a gymnasium…the sky was the limit it seemed.  But just as I was picturing myself being fed strawberries by two men dressed in sarongs while lying on a bearskin rug, a Kia honked at me, and I was snapped back to reality.

Shocking as this may seem to you, condo life isn’t like that.  At all.  But it’s not half-bad, and it’s certainly a step up from some of the grottos I lived in previously.  The building itself was attractive looking.  With aged maroon brick with large golden doors and high archways, it was a dominating and regal force on the corner of Milwaukee and Juneau.  How could a person not want to live here?  I went up the steps and called Jack.  He let me in, and the walk through the hallways to the unit was incredibly tasking.  Not only did I have to moderately jog just to keep up with him, but he expected me to converse too.  After walking in 80 degree heat with heavy black dresspants and a cardigan, the only thing I had to say to him was “水!”

I had learned that while Jack was Japanese and spoke it fluently, when I initially asked him what nationality he was, he said he was Canadian.  I was slightly jealous and a little embarrased, since here in America we don’t have free health care or equal rights for gays.  I figured he probably thought this was a step down for him, but he didn’t view it that way. “I ruv Amewika!  Is gweat heer.”  I smiled.  It is, isn’t it?  I made a quick mental note not to take it for granted, but I also noted I should try out Canada someday, just for a good-natured compare and contrast.

When we got to the unit, he opened the door, and I was almost knocked off of my feet.  Not by the beauty, no, but by the stench.  The horrible smell that makes you wonder why you ever complained about dog farts in the past.  Just to give you perspective, I would have rather stuffed my nose in Michael Moore’s ass than continue to smell that putrid odor.  I managed to somehow internalize my disgust, and walk through the entire apartment without passing out or beating myself to death with the nearest rice cooker.

The place itself was actually very nice, but you couldn’t tell unless you moved a pile of clothes or several stacks of paper.  The bedroom was relatively roomy with a large window, and I had my own bathroom that was attached to the bedroom, which was exciting because it meant I could do anything in my room completely in the nude.  Reading.  Exercising.  Composing.  Au naturale.  Suddenly the smell didn’t bother me so much.

The worst part of the place was how dirty it was.  Not just messy, but dirty.  Trust me, there’s a difference.  I’m messy.  Messy is throwing your clothes on the floor because you can’t be bothered to put them on a hanger.  Messy is having tons of loose change sprawled everywhere.  Dirty is having a family of squirrels living in your crockpot, feeding on the five week old egg drop soup you figured would just evaporate when you no longer had use for it.  Dishes were everywhere.  In fact, they were in places that were so odd, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that he purposely put them there.  Instead, I was convinced that during the night, the collander got up, walked over to the bathroom floor and said, “Ahhh…nice and cozy.”

To top it all off, I was under the impression that this was a one bedroom, as in I would be living there alone, so I didn’t care that the place reeked or that he had dishes that went bump in the night.  Once I moved in, the smell would be gone, the dishes packed and shipped, and the squirrels either drowned or strangled (I was having difficulty figuring out which one would be more humane).  Until he took me to the second bedroom.  His bedroom.  It was then I realized that if I wanted to live here, I was going to have to accept its nastiness.  Or was I?  Maybe I could change him.  Or, even better, get him to move out entirely.  Yes, that’s right, for a split second, I seemed to think I had the conversational skills to evict someone simply by asking them politely.  Here’s how that conversation went:

“So…you live here too?”


“Okay…okay, okay…well, you did say it was a one bedroom in your ad, you know.”

“White.  You onry get wahn bedwoom.   I get dee oder.”

I sighed pathetically.  Since I had no response to this, I moved forward.

“Well, were you thinking of…making a move anytime soon?” I couldn’t believe I was doing it, but go back to the paragraph about the smell, reread it, and tell me what I did was wrong.

“Sure, sure!  Yeah, I tink abow dat arrrrrott!”

I was surprised at this, but instead of asking more, I just let him continue talking.

“Yeah, I tink abow going to Frorida for work, see?  O maybe Washeengton.  I have some intavues so…if you move in, you kahn find new roommate!”

I began to think about having a fabulous female roommate.  Her name was Annette, maybe.  Or maybe it was Nadia.  We’d have posh jobs, Nadia and I, live in a posh neighborhood, only drink Bordeaux, and never swear in the house.  We’d have a labrador named Rascal and our neighbors would think we were married, but we’d always laugh and say, “Nope, just friends!”  I would be her Will, and she would be my Grace.  We’d talk about how hard work was that day, how our boyfriends are never as attentive as they should be, share childhood secrets…maybe even share the bed.  In the morning I’d wake up and look over at her, lying so still, with her beautiful canary yellow hair draped across the pillows. And I’d say, “You know, I don’t think I could live without you.” 

I told him I would be back tomorrow to write him a check.

I left feeling completely empowered, and immediately called my mother, who, as usual, didn’t share my same celebratory tone.  “Well, what’s he like?” she asked.  I thought for a second.  I didn’t know too much about him, but I since I moved out, I’ve always been honest with my mother.  I tugged at my sleeves, “Well, he’s very nice.  He’s just a little creepy.”  Dead air followed this comment, and I kept walking to the bus stop, puzzled.  She finally followed up, “Well, creepy how?  Like murder creepy?  Rapist creepy?”  I could have told her that it was easy these days to just be creepy without having a criminal record, but that would have complicated the matter.  “I don’t know…probably just assault creepy.  Nothing major.”  Her huff was audible, “Well, you need to make sure that you think about this before you make your decision.  This is a lot of money for you to be spending on rent, I don’t care how close to work it is.” I always get defensive when I know I could be completely wrong about something I thought I was so right about, so I said, “Look, this isn’t your decision, it’s mine, so don’t worry about me.”  Once again, dead air, and then, “Fine.  It is your decision.  I’m just saying.  Think before you make it.”  I said I would and hung up, knowing full well that my mind was still made up.

I returned home to recap the details about my day to Hannah.  She seemed all too relieved that I had found a place, mostly due to the fact that it took me so long to even start trying.  I told her about the condo, but left out anything negative, so that when I was finished, all I got was, “It sounds perfect!”  Music to my ears, I thought.  I needed someone else to confirm that my decision was the correct one, so I called my friend Doug.  Doug is a phenomenal person, but one of the reasons I ever ask him questions about my judgement is because I know that he’ll agree with me.  And if he doesn’t, he’s easily persuaded.  After about a 10 minute conversation, I received yet another, “It sounds perfect!”  With two ripe testimonials, I knew I was in the clear.

Because I can be a complete asshole sometimes, I decided to call my mom back and tell her that both Hannah and Doug had approved of my moving in there.  “And?” she spat, “Just because you’re friends tell you that handwashing a porcupine isn’t going to hurt, you’ll volunteer to do it?”  I really wanted to tell her that you probably got to wear rubber gloves while washing a porcupine, but I didn’t.  Instead I said: “You should really be more supportive of me.”  I use this line a lot, and it doesn’t just sound stupid, it IS stupid.  My parents, especially my mom, support me a lot, so it’s almost comical when it comes out of my mouth.  But I had gotten her angry, which is what I wanted, “Look, you need to stop making decisions on a whim, but if you want to go ahead and move with a creepy man you barely know for $650 dollars a month, I’m not going to stop you.  Just don’t come crying to me when you find out he jipped you or anything like that…I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear any of it.”

And that was that.  We both hung up.  Fuming, I climbed in bed and set my alarm.  As I turned off the light, my mind started to race.  I couldn’t fall asleep.  I just kept hearing her words, “Creepy Man” or “$650 dollars a month.”  But it wasn’t until about 3 AM when I knew that it was time for a Plan B.