The List
December 12, 2008, 12:07 PM
Filed under: Lists, Love and Relationships, Sitcoms

Anyone remember this classic Friends episode?

Chandler says to Ross:  “Ok, all right, look. Let’s get logical about this, ok? We’ll make a list. Rachel and Julie, pros and cons. Oh. We’ll put their names in bold, with different fonts, and I can use different colors for each column.”

So that’s exactly what they do.  The three boys dissect Rachel’s personality and looks.  We learn that she’s ditzy, a little too into her looks, and has slightly chubby ankles. 

It continues:

Chandler: ” Ok, let’s do Julie. What’s wrong with her?”

Ross sighs: “She’s not Rachel.”

Honestly, is this even slightly romantic?  Not really.

Let’s cut to Rachel finding out about the list, shall we?

“What is this? Ross, what is this?”

Hm, smells like trouble, so Ross decides to attempt to cushion the blow by saying: “Ok, just, just remember how crazy I am about you, ok?”

“Kind of ditzy? Too into her looks? Spoiled?”

At this point, you can just hear the pain in her voice.  The poor girl is devastated.  And later, she gives what I consider one of the best explanations as to why a list like this can hurt a person.

“Imagine the worst things you think about yourself. Now, how would you feel if the one person that you trusted the most in the world not only thinks them too, but actually uses them as reasons not to be with you.”

Actually uses them as reasons not to be with you.

My first real relationship since Dave ended last week Saturday.  I was in a complete state of shock when it happened; I honestly never even saw it coming.  I tried to convince him to continue forward, at least for a little while, but his mind was set.

“Look, the bottom line is that you’re 19 and I’m 24.”

He had been 24 for approximately 72 hours, so it was a stretch to even say that we were 5 years apart, not like that’s a huge difference in the first place.  But I’m told that there’s so much I have left to learn and experience and that I’m “just not there yet.”  He’s clearly never read this blog.

Before all of this had happened, he and I were sitting on the couch with his roommate, discussing all of his ex’s and how he used to make pros and cons lists about them.  I winced, “Why on earth would you do that?”  He shrugged, “Well, when you have multiple people that you’re interested in, it makes the decision making process a hell of a lot easier.”  Maybe so, I thought, but doesn’t that make it rather impersonal?  Dehumanizing?  Shallow?  But I didn’t pursue it.  The last thing I had to say on the subject was “I don’t ever want to see you make a pros and cons list for me.  If there’s anything wrong with me, I just want you to tell me so I can work on it.”  He nodded.

The night we broke up, I went to his friend T.J.’s house, where he already was for the majority of the night.  He had texted me around 1 in the morning saying that if I wanted to talk, I could come over there, so I did.  Heartbroken and upset, I spent the night with Liz, T.J.’s roommate.  We stayed up until 6 discussing my past relationships to figure out what it was I was doing wrong.

Liz gave it to me straight: “C.J., it sounds like you’ll date anyone as long as they show interest in you.  You need to have standards.  A set of rules.”

This sounded all too familiar, since my now ex-boyfriend just told me that he “broke his rules” by even agreeing to date me in the first place.  I didn’t know how I felt about the word “rules,” but standards I could live with.  And I couldn’t necessarily argue with her anyway, after all, she was completely right.  If you surveyed all of my past interests, chances are the only thing you’d find that they had in common would be me.

From that moment on, I had decided that I needed to have a certain set of standards.  But being the person I am, I also promised myself to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  The catch is that I can’t justify issues I have with them.  As soon as I’m aware of the problem, I need to address it, end it with them, and move on to someone who is more worth of my time.

I had already begun to feel better, that is, until recently.  By Wednesday, I had moved past the tears, past the anger, and past the vindication.  I was supposed to go see T.J.’s symphony concert that day, but because of a lack of communication on my part, I ended up not being able to go.  I called him later, and we settled on me coming over there and having some wine with him and Liz.

While we were in the car, either T.J. or I, I can’t really remember, had mentioned the recent ex.  I told him that I was for the most part over it, and that I had high hopes for maintaining a friendship with him in the near future.  I began to make my whole speech about age.  I told him it’s not a deciding factor in a relationship for me, and if it was for him, then there was nothing I could do about it.  T.J. nodded, “Yeah, it definitely was for him.  He made a pros and cons list about you and the fact that you were 19 was on there like six times.”

I scoffed.  I was only half-surprised, seeing as he told me he had done this in the past.  I wrestled with my mind for a bit before turning to him and asking him something I probably shouldn’t have.  “Do you still have it?”

He laughed, “Well, maybe…I think so.”

I nodded, but left it that.  My mind was swimming with curiosity, by my heart was pleading for mercy.  I didn’t know what to do.

I was still pondering this list when we got into the house.  Liz was working on an art project and T.J. began to pour the first glasses of wine when I said it.  “The list…the pros and cons list…I want to see it.” 

Liz and T.J. exchanged nervous glances and Liz asked me if I was sure.  I told her I was.  “I’m curious.  I mean, I’m already over it, so it’s not like it can affect me that much if I read it, right?”  She shrugged and told T.J. that it was probably in her garbage, but I asked him to fish it out.  I went from being anxious to downright desperate.  No matter how awful it could be, for some reason, I needed to read this list.

T.J. looked over it for a second, but I couldn’t wait any longer, so I snatched it from his hands.  My heart sank.

19: This was on here about six times, like T.J. had mentioned.  It came as no surprise, but the redundancy of it made me realize how big of a deal it was to him.

Controlling: Whenever I would talk to my friends about him, they would always tell me, “Do you always let him do whatever he wants?”  I would just shrug and say, “Well, as long as it’s not hurting me or him or the relationship, then there’s no harm.”  I never had a problem with him going to bars.  I never told him what to do.  I may have made suggestions, but I never forced anything on him.  This is a complete joke.  I am one of the least controlling people I know.  I like a person for what they are.  I don’t get into relationships so I can change people and release them back into the wild.  It’s simply ridiculous.

Pretentious about music: Hannah put it best.  “What do you mean ‘pretentious’?  Music’s your thing!”  And she’s exactly right.  I just love music.  It’s something I can’t really help.  And it’s not like I was sitting there saying, “Well…YOU wouldn’t understand, you silly little peasant.”  I was always open to explaining anything.  Maybe he didn’t know that.

Too sentimental: This one made me angry.  I express my feelings.  I always have, and I always will.  I think there’s nothing wrong with it.  In fact, I think it’s what makes a good relationship.  If he wanted someone who was going to be all closed up and cold to him, then I suppose he made the right decision in breaking it off, because that’s just not me.

And then…it gets to the “Rachel has chubby ankles” portion of the list.  These hurt.  Bad.

Carries a “murse”: Really?  The fact that I have a handbag makes you want to break up with me?  Sheesh, that’s ridiculous.  First of all, it’s cute.  No, I mean, it’s really cute.  Secondly, it’s big, so I can carry a ton of stuff in it.  It’s not really just the looks, it’s the function too.  But who am I kidding?  I don’t need to justify this.  I am a murse man, and I’m damn proud of it.

Hairy: When we were lying in bed once, I had told recent ex-boy that I was slightly self-conscious about my hair.  He smiled at me, “I don’t know why…I kind of like it.”  That’s why this one was such a slap in the face, because he told me a bold face lie about previously. 

Here’s the deal…

I have body hair.  Chest hair.  Stomach hair.  Thigh hair, armpit hair, hair hair hair hair HAIR.  And you know what?  I used to shave it.  I used to sit in the bathroom for hours until I was completely smooth, just so that I wouldn’t have a situation like this happen to me.  Men have before ended things with me specifically because I was “too hairy.”  I just want to scream, “I’m an area rug, DEAL WITH IT and like me for who I am!”  But those sorts of people are too self-absorbed to listen to such a rational comment.

The interesting thing about the whole hair ordeal is that I have a quite a few body image issues.  Consider the following:

I finish a meal with a guy I’m dating.  I feel guilty, so I say, “Ugh, I’m so FAT!”

He looks at me all crazy and says, “You should love yourself no matter what.”

I look in the mirror and I hate my hair or my outfit and I say, “Wow, I look like a train wreck.”

He looks at me all crazy and says, “You should love yourself no matter what.”

I get out of the shower and look at myself and say, “Wow…I have way too much body hair.”

He nods and says, “Maybe you should think about electrolosis.  I actually brought a pamphlet, if you wanted to read it.  I just happened to have it, by complete chance, I swear.”

Anyone see anything wrong with this picture?  I rest my case.

There were others, but that’s pretty much the gist of it.  After I read them, I was pretty upset, but thinking about it now, I’m actually really happy.  I’m happy that I’m no longer with someone that thinks these things about me.  A person who uses my manbag against me in my own relationship.  A person who lies to my face about probably the most sensitive subject when it comes to my body.  I trusted this person with a lot, and unfortunately, in the end, it bit me in my ass. 

But I guess that’s what I need to look for.  The one who doesn’t need to make a list.  The one who understands that I’m imperfect without having to address the imperfections.  The one who can still be with me despite those things. 

That’s just the difference between me and those other shallow, self-obsessed men out there, I suppose.  “See, because I’d never make a list.”


Alaska Or Bust

Before the most recent presidential election, only once before had the state of Alaska been such a powerful and obnoxious presence in my life.  Few people know this, but about a year ago, I had given serious thought to moving there, away from all things civilized.  A place where shopping malls are scarce and the idea of  “privacy” is less common than a drunk college girl using protection.  A place where polar bears are considered as docile as chipmunks and where policy is handled with automatic weaponry.  Alaska.  What in the world was I thinking?

Sometimes I’m almost inexcusably foolish when it comes to men, and the “let’s run away to Alaska together” is testament to that.  Last year, I had met, via MySpace of all places, a very sweet guy named Andrew.  We were talking on and off for a few months and inevitably lost touch.  One day, I opened my mail and saw a message from him asking me out to coffee.  I figured I had nothing to lose, so I accepted, suggesting Mocha, a quaint cafe and bistro in the heart of downtown Milwaukee.

I took the bus from my new place on Belleview and got there at 6:45, fifteen minutes before the date’s start time, just to make a good impression.  At 7:00, I was settled in my seat, sipping on a cafe au lait, and peering nervously around, waiting for this Andrew character to strike. 

At 7:15, I started to worry.  I began to observe all of the other patrons at the cafe.  I could feel them mocking me, silently and secretly mocking me.  I had been alone for almost thirty minutes, and with no book, no laptop, and nobody on the opposite end of me, I started to look as miserable as I felt. 

At 7:30, I was mashing the redial button as if it was a life raft button on the Titanic that just wouldn’t budge.  I almost began to cry, and I’m pretty sure I was sweating profusely, partly out of nerves and partly because the fire in that place could have baked a pizza from halfway across the room.  I was leaving crazed voicemails and people around me began to look worried rather than judgemental.  I was trying my hardest to smile and stay positive, but at 8:00, I finally threw in the towel and realized that I was completely and totally stood up.

I was walking back to the bus with tears streaming down my face.  I wasn’t like I had high hopes for the date or anything, but the pain and public embarrasment of being stood up is rivaled to a pack of wolves coming in your house and eating all the cheese popcorn, or your children I suppose, depending on where your faith lies.  The wind was whipping past with incredible force, and all I wanted now was to go home and sleep.  The entire night, I figured, was essentially ruined.

When the bus arrived, I was literally standing on the platform when my phone rang.  I picked it up.  It was Andrew.

“Hey!  I’m so sorry…I had really bad car trouble.  Do you think we could still do coffee tonight?”

Someone who was self-empowered, intelligent, and had a set of nuts would have told him to fuck off for making me wait an hour and fifteen minutes for him to show up.  I, however, was not one of those people, so I said, “Of course!”

Of course.  Gag me.

I got off the bus and started walking back toward Mocha, feeling much better and even more excited.  I figured this way I could redeem myself with anyone who was in the coffee shop, or at least prove them wrong.  I had a short fantasy that involved me bringing Andrew in and pointing at him emphatically while shouting, “SEE!  SEE!!  I WAS waiting for someone!”

I was only waiting about five minutes when Andrew got there.  He looked, to his credit, remarkably like his  picture online, which is more than I can say for most men.  He seemed reserved and timid, but maybe it was just in comparison to my personality.  He had a strong jaw, strawberry blonde hair, and even still one of the most ravishing smiles I’ve seen to this day.  The date, minus the dramatic waiting period, went off without a hitch.  We took a walk afterwards and just talked for a good hour, not caring at all that it was probably below zero with the wind chill.  I was positively smitten.

When we were walking, Andrew began to tell me about his past.  More specifically, about past ex-es.  Usually I find this taboo on the first date, but I was pining so much at this point that he could have body slammed me and I still would have given him at least a peck on the cheek at the end of the night.  His most recent ex, who for security purposes we’ll just call Big D, was, in all senses of the word, completely and utterly insane.  I also learned that Andrew’s car troubles that he referred to weren’t of the typical kind.  He couldn’t get his car to start because he didn’t have his keys: Big D had taken them from him because he knew about the date with me.  For the next two weeks, whenever Andrew would mention Big D, his eyes would flicker with fear and his voice completely changed inflection.  It was clear that he was not only upset when talking about him, but he was also afraid of him.

We started to see each other almost every day after that, and every time I would learn something new about Big D that was unbelievable and downright cruel.  The stories ranged from throwing Andrew’s car keys into a lake to beating Andrew when he was drunk.  I couldn’t believe that such a wonderful man was with such a monster, and I never missed an opportunity to remind Andrew that he was not just special, but much, much better than his snake of an ex.

One night, we were having cheese pizza and watching movies at my new place, when he randomly suggested we take a walk and talk for a bit.  I swallowed my first bite, shrugged, and made my way out the door.  As we walked through the cold, I started to wonder where we were going when he began to direct me with turn signals.  About ten minutes later, we were by the water tower on North Avenue that overlooks the lake.  It was around 1o o’clock PM, and the moon was glistening in the night like some giant shiny vanilla wafer (remember, I didn’t get to finish the pizza).  It was a magnificent sight.  I looked over at him, and he grabbed my hand.  I could see his breath colliding with mine, as we were standing there, both paralyzed with excitement and indecision.  Finally he said something: “C.J., I would like to ask you to be my boyfriend.”

I was elated, “Of course!  Of course I will!”  There’s that “Of course!” again.  And so we were boyfriends.  And we kissed under the moonlight, just to make it official.

Later in the night, around 12, we had gone into my room, and all of the romance had apparently made Andrew very horny.  I, however, was one who believed that since the relationship was so fresh, picked only two hours prior, the chastity belt hadn’t gone out of style just yet.  I allowed only certain things to happen, but when I started to feel uncomfortable, he noticed and asked me, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just…um…I don’t really think I’m ready for that yet.  Sorry.”

He smiled and kissed my nose. “Don’t be sorry.  It’ll happen when you’re ready.”  We went to sleep, and all I could dream about was how I had the best boyfriend on the whole planet.

I was woken up about an hour later, by Andrew shifting around, trying to find his clothes.  I was a little perplexed by this, so I cooed to him: “Hey…what are you doing?”  He was jolted by the sound of my voice, but then he flashed a smile, “I have to get home…early morning tomorrow.  I didn’t want to wake you.”  ‘How considerate!’  I thought to myself.  I gave him a quick peck goodbye and collapsed back into deep slumber.

I woke up the next day around 10 AM, refreshed and ready to start the day.  My roommates and I celebrated my new relationship with a bowl, some Family Guy episodes, and a helping of cracker nachos.  Around 12, when the haze wore off, I called Andrew, but he didn’t answer.  I tried again at 2, and again at 3, still with no answer.  Because I was such an insecure wreck, I started to worry that he was having second thoughts about pursuing a relationship with me. 

Around 5, I was walking down Farwell avenue, when my pocket began to vibrate.  It was a text from Andrew.  Sort of.  Well, the text was from Andrew’s phone, but his fingers did not touch the keys.  Instead, the text was written by none other than the notorious Big D.

“Hey this is Big D, Andrew’s ex.  He left his phone here last night, so that’s why he’s not answering.”

I was stunned.  Fuming, I texted back:

“Why was over there in the first place?”

I received, not a minute later:

“I don’t really feel comfortable telling you.”

At that point, he didn’t really have to, but I still wanted to see it.  I wanted to know exactly what he was talking about, without inferring anything for myself.

I texted: “Tell me.  Please.”

After about five minutes of pure agony, I finally got a response.  And it was exactly what I had feared.  Andrew had cheated on me, and it was only six hours into the relationship.

Around 7, Andrew called me and pretended like nothing was wrong, something I’m not very good at.  I began to scream at him, calling him all these names, and I told him it was over.  I stressed the fact that I couldn’t believe, after everything he told me about Big D, he still slept with him.  Andrew was begging me to give him a second chance. 

“Please, C.J., I’m so sorry…can’t we just have coffee and talk about this?”

Once again, I was a total pushover: “Fine, but I’m not promising anything.”

We went to Rochambo later in the evening, and for the first three minutes I did nothing but glare at him or look away, and he did nothing but smile at me and try to hold my hand.  The cat and mouse game was getting old fast, so I decided to end it by saying, “What am I doing here?  Don’t you have something to say to me?”

Andrew began to explain himself.  The explanation seemed pretty decent: he can’t seem to get away from Big D, since he lives so close to him.  He says Big D has so much control over what he does and he doesn’t know how to stand up for himself.  He began to emotionally beat himself, which was too difficult to watch, so I interrupted.

“Well, what is it you plan to do about it?”

“I’ve been thinking…I need to get away.  I can’t stay here anymore, C.J.”

“So you’re thinking of moving into the city?”

“No, further…much further than that.”

“Well, then why am I here?  If you want to go, then go.  I can’t understand why you’re trying to get back together with me if you’re flying out to Bangkok or wherever in the morning.”

“Because I want you to come with me.”

I hadn’t expected this.  I sat with my mouth slightly agape for a second, thought better of it, and resumed consciousness.  “You’re insane.”  But as I started sipping my latte, curiosity caught up with me.  “Where exactly were you thinking about moving to?”  I figured if it was L.A. or Paris or Milan or something, I could at least weight the pros and cons.

He grinned, “Actually, Alaska.”

‘Alaska?!’ I thought.  Hardly L.A., or Paris or Milan for that matter.  My immediate judgement of Alaska was non-cultured hick-sicles huddling together with harpoons to stay warm and search for weak Democrats to poach.  It wasn’t my idea of glamorous whatsoever, so my immediate reaction was to say, “There’s no way that’s happening.”

I’m usually easily convinced into doing things, specifically wrong things, but I thought that this time, since it involved moving into a remote corner of the earth, I would be headstrong and stick to my word.  But the more he began to explain it, the less crazy the move seemed.  At that point, I didn’t really have much keeping me in Wisconsin.  I had my job at the Rep, yes, but that was no career.  He claimed that he would be able to take care of me, which now seems patronizing and ridiculous, but back then was actually one of the reasons I considered it so much.  And I really did like Andrew…I didn’t want to see him leave.  So I was a dumbass and said that we would start fresh, and that I would think about Alaska. 

A few days later, I decided to air the idea to my mom after I had gotten done with work.

“Have you lost your marbles?  They skin homos up there and make them into parkas!”

I told her I doubted it, and I also reassured her that I can’t even keep my own body warm, so I doubt I’d make a good coat.

“Seriously, Christopher, this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard from you!  You can’t just…up and MOVE to Alaska?  When we will see you?  What about your job?  What about your friends?  What about your life??”

“Awww, Mom, it’s not that big of a deal.  I can scrounge up money for plane tickets to come back and visit.”  I couldn’t believe that I was defending this idea, as if I had made the decision to actually go through with it.

“Well, you need to think this through.  You can just go waltzing up to Alaska like you own the place.  You need to have a plan, if, lord help you, you do go with him.  But I’m telling you right now that’s it’s a bad idea.  I don’t want to have to say I told you so, but you know damn well that I will.”

I essentially ignored the comment, telling her my bus was here and that I had to go.  If history had taught me anything, it would be that my mother’s instinct is spot on, but at the time, I wasn’t really catching on to that.

Later that evening, I had called Andrew to talk to him a bit more about the Alaska situation so I could tie up some loose ends.  But when I called, he wasn’t interested in that.  In fact, he wasn’t interested in much of anything.  I kept talking, but I got little back, just the occasional “Mhm” or “Okay.”  About five minutes in, I noticed he sounded strange too.

“Do you have a cold or something?  You sound weird.”

“Huh?  Oh, yeah, I’m catching something.”

Stupidly, I believed him, but since he seemed uninterested in everything I was saying, I told him to get better, and that I’d talk to him later.  I hung up the phone, layed down, and opened up a book.  About two minutes after that, my phone started vibrating, and I saw it was a text from Andrew.  Sort of.

“Hey fag, it’s Big D.  Just so you know, Andrew’s over here again.  He gave me head while I talked to you.”

That was just the beginning.  There was much, much more he wanted to tell me.  And as hurt as I was, I really wanted to hear it, because I apparently love mental abusing myself.

“By the way, he told me to tell you that you give hand jobs like you’re milking a cow.”

I didn’t even really know what that meant, but it set me off.  I turned my phone off, set it down, and cried.  I cried for my foolishness, my optimism, my stupidity, and my hopes.  I cried for Andrew, and for Big D.  But most importantly, and probably the least dignified, I cried for myself.

I didn’t hear from Andrew after that, and sometimes I wonder whether or not Big D was telling the truth.  I thought to myself…maybe it was a ploy to get me to end it with him.  Just a cruel joke so that I would react exactly the way I did.  All in all, it doesn’t really matter in the end.  I told myself that I was stronger because of this incident.  That I had learned something, and I’ll be able to apply it to the next relationship.  But I never did.  Men continue to walk over me, and I continue to let them.  It’s a vicious, vicious cycle, that’s only fueling my cynicism towards relationships.  I haven’t a clue how to reverse the spiral, but I do know that I can’t just run from my problems, even if I run all the way to Alaska.

The Lies About Lying
December 5, 2008, 12:43 AM
Filed under: Animal By-Products, Forgery, Suddenly Satire

Lying…is good.


You shouldn’t be.  Your subconscious, your ego, and your pride probably all agree with me.  So do your friendships, your boyfriend(s) or girlfriend(s), and your co-workers.  We all lie.  And you know what?  Sometimes it feels good; better than it should, actually.  Kind of like angora.  Yes, it’s made out of bunny.  But have you felt angora?  Once you actually touch it, you forget all about the romping woodland rabbits and focus on how good it would feel to live in a world wrapped in furry goodness.

Lying is that furry goodness.  It’s that special security blanket.  It’s the protection we need from retaliation or disagreement.  Example?  A co-worker asks you if you like their outfit.  You disregard the fishnet stockings or the shoulder pads, and instead dish out a sweet little white lie: “You look great!”  Some people might argue that you should just tell them exactly how you feel.  That’s right: people suggest that you tell someone you have to work with, on a professional level, everyday that they look like complete crap.  Those who give this sort of advice have a name: douchebag.

“But…telling the truth is the right thing to do C.J.!  It’s always better that way!  The truth will set you free!”

Oho, so now you’re going to throw that cliche crap at me, huh?  Well, before you go and get your leotard in a bundle, Mother Superior, let me tell you some stories about how telling the truth got me nowhere, and for good measure, one that got me somewhere.  This, my friends, is the truth about telling the truth: it’s overrated.

Got Milk?

I can’t really fathom why, but in my earlier years, I never wanted to finish my milk when I was done eating my meal.  It was as if my brain thought that drinking it after all my food was gone was either selfish or just plain overkill.  Even stranger, I drank out of what my family dubbed “the small glass” until I was 16, so it wasn’t like I had to stomach a gallon or something.  I never really had the urge to upgrade to “the big glass,” except when I realized that my brother only drank out of the big glass.  After that, I tried to drink out of it once during dinner, only to be writhing later under the immense pressure of all the dairy coagulating in my lower intestine. 

I think it’s pretty typical as a young child not to be mindful of wasting food.  If it smelled weird, we tossed it to the dog.  If it was limp, we hid it in our napkins.  If it was crawling for the door, we called animal control and hid all of the cookware from our mothers until they accepted defeat and called Papa John’s.  My trademark move was waiting until my mom had gotten up to use the bathroom and then dumping any unwanted food (mostly vegetables but certainly ALWAYS lima beans) in the garbage.  I could almost always get away with this, since my dad was usually on his second drink by the time I had dinner anyway and his eyes were glued to whatever was on TV. 

The one thing I couldn’t seem to get away with was dumping my milk.  Some days, even the small glass was too much for me. (Side note: this might explain my overly-feminine wrists…low calcium intake at an early age.  Something tells me I’ll be getting surprise osteoporosis for my 30th)  On weekdays, I didn’t eat with my parents.  The three of us, Monica, Andrew, and I, would sit at the kitchen table and eat, and my parents would eat in the living room in front of the TV.  My mom’s sightline shot directly at me, and since she had, as she constantly reminded us, eyes in the back of her head, I had to act swiftly.  Failure to do so would cause the mission to be aborted, and not only would I have to drink the milk, I would probably have to apologize. 

One night, around 5 o’clock, I was caught.  Red-handed, actually.  I had, with all my stealth, approached the kitchen sink, and was preparing the discharge, when my mom announced herself.

“What do you think you’re doing?”


Okay, so THAT lie is a terrible one, and it never really works.  But everyone already knows that. 

I was sent back to the table, ashamed, and my mom looked at me with immense pity that drove me crazy, “Sweetie, why do you have to lie to us?  You need to learn…you can’t just lie your way out of things, okay?  Lying is what really angers us.”  I nodded in the fake-somber-kid way that lets the parents know that you at least registered the sound of their voice, and she went back to the living room.  I decided at that point that the next time I couldn’t finish my milk, I was going to be honest about it.  Completely honest, just like my mom told me to do.

Holding true to this, a week later, I had successfully mastered my pork chops, hoovered up my green beans, and slurped all remnants of applesauce.  But the milk?  It was just too much.  Rather than reinacting a Bond movie to dispose of said milk, I just got up casually and walked towards the sink, as if I was born to waste it.  I dumped it, placed the glass on the counter, and went back to my seat. 

When I sat back down, my mom surveyed me, probably wondering if I was having a stroke.  “What did you just do with your milk?”  Without thinking and without worrying, I turned to her, and told her exactly what I did: “I dumped it down the drain.”

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

“Oh really?” she spat, “Well, thanks for telling me.  Go to your room, you’re grounded.”

Being grounded at the age of 8 is the equivalent of a maximum security prison without all the awkward shower sex, so I was devastated, and tried to plead my case, just as any proper convict would do. 

“What??  But you told me that I should always tell the truth!  That you wouldn’t be mad if I told you the truth!”

“I did say that,” she said, crouching next to me, but still in an icy tone, “And I’m glad you told me.  But you’re still grounded.”

I felt foolish.  Had I lied, I at least had the opportunity, the chance to get away with it.  But this time I told the truth.  I had sewn my orange jumpsuit, and for the next week, I was going to have to lie in it.

Some Real Progress

Probably the worst aspect of my entire high school career was the progress report.  It was different from a report card, because you knew that there was no way to lie out of a report card, there was no hiding it, and it may as well have been chizeled in stone.  A progress report, however, was something that you could hide, so at least there was that.

To parents, seeing a D on a progress report was like seeing a man cheat on his wife.  Even though it’s not a final grade, their mind seems to be made up, because when the report card does come and the grade isn’t changed, they lack any anger or even enthusiasm.  They throw it in your face, tell you you’re grounded, and turn on Seinfeld.

Countless times, I had attempted protect my parents from my progress reports.  And for a while it was actually working.  That all changed when a math teacher by the name of Mrs. Kirsch began sending us home with progress reports that, get this: had to be SIGNED by our parents.

Mrs. Kirsch could have been a very sweet and kind lady.  She certainly dressed the part of a hard-working, stocky prarie woman, but the problem was that she had the bite of a poisonous adder.  Her face was somewhat sunken, so when she smiled, she didn’t light up, she flickered, like an oil lamp.  Her hair was a cross between some sort of helmet head and Didi’s hairstyle from Rugrats.  She swung her arms emphatically, which made her lady arm fat sway to and fro like little epidermal hammocks, each threatening to give someone in the front row a shiner.  In the winter, Mrs. Kirsch would apply a radically liberal amount of chapstick to her face.  She’d start with the lips, move all the way up and around, and 10 minutes later, when she was finished, you had something that resembled a greased-up snickerdoodle with eyes. 

Mrs. Kirsch was also incredibly mean, but not in the traditional sense.  She was always very creative with her rudeness.  While we were working on homework one afternoon I had shockingly raised my hand for help.  She came over to see what I needed, and she tried to re-teach me the lesson I wasn’t understanding.  I’ve never had a loving relationship with math, but when I said I still didn’t understand, she picked up my notebook, threw it to the ground, and shouted, “Then I REFUSE to help you!”

When she began to have us sign progress reports, I’d immediately take the sheet to my mom, beg for forgiveness, and bring it back the next day.  But when the report displayed the completely UNforgiving F, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands.  I did what any other 8th grade kid would do – I forged my mother’s signature.  Of course, this took some encouragement.

“Why don’t I just do it?  It doesn’t look like your mom has a hard signature.”

I was at lunch before math period and one of my friends who suggested the forgery in the first place was now volunteering to do it.  I was skeptical.

“Oh yeah?  Well here, draw it on this piece of paper first, lemme see…”

He didn’t even spell my last name right.  So after a few shots of gatorade and a splash of water in the face, I grabbed a pen, and tried my best to copy the strokes. 

I was sweating buckets when she finally came around to collect the progress reports.  I kept picturing awful scenarios in my head: me being grounded by my parents, being spread-eagled on the Problem of the Week  wall, being kicked out of band, having to apologize…the possibilities were frightening.  When she looked down at my progress report, I could see her falter, and then attempt to hide the falter.  Knowing she failed to maintain her curiosity, she just flat out asked me:  “Your mom signed this?”  The tone was icy and accusatory, but that’s the way she said most things, at least to her students.  I replied with a curt “Uh-huh.”  She gave the paper one last up-and-down, and moved on to the next desk. 

I was home free.  The lie had worked, the signature held up, and my mom never got to see the F I had in math.

Well, that is, until the report card came out.

So what do we learn from this?  Lying isn’t the best thing in the word, but it’s good.  Because without it, we’d all be pretty unhappy, I think.  Of course, there’s a lot that you shouldn’t lie about: relationships, embezzelment, things of that sort.  But why not tell your parents that you ate all of your spinach if you can get away with it?  Why not tell your teacher a harmless fib to stop your parents from flogging you with a soup ladel?  It’s not hurting anyone.  And as long as it’s not hurting anyone, then it’s kosher.  As long as you know what really happened, then the what the rest of them know is fundamentally unimportant.  And that is the truth about lying.

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.