Archive | June, 2010

How to Not Go Crazy When You’re Broke, Flat Broke

30 Jun

I have like $3.68 in the bank. Yep. I’m broke. It’s hideous. I’m terrified. God help me. Now please.

Just a short while ago I had so much money I would laugh out loud. Laugh out loud. I had equity from a house I sold so I started doing art full-time and was able to fund my mental illness art ventures easily. Then poop hit the fan within a few years and here I am back at square one, only my square one never really looked like this. I mean, I at least could get a job easily back then, a so-called “real” job working in an office shuffling papers and making copies and sending faxes. I at least had a place to show up to and when the phone rang I could answer it and say, “Thanks for calling [insert evil company name]. This is [Doomed in Left Brain World].” I could at least have health insurance within a matter of weeks. But now? It’s just ug-lay. It’s been treacherous. Backwards. Sinister, even. I mean, who will hire an artist who’s been doing this foreign, odd thing called ART for the past five years?? On my resume when they see “freelance artist/writer” it’s as if I’ve inserted “leper/unicorn woman” or “freelance freakazoid/chronic slobber” in the space.

I used to hear stay-at-home moms lament on the difficulty they often experienced trying to re-enter the workforce because they’d been out raising their babies for a couple of years. Potential employers simply weren’t biting stating that they had “no (recent) experience.” 

WHAT ABOUT THOSE 10-20 YEARS BEFORE WE WERE STAY-AT-HOME MOMS/ARTISTS/FREELANCERS?? HUH? What about those years?! I mean, gosh, how hard is it to handle papers and tell your boss he has a call on line three? How difficult is it to make a goofy Excel chart or type a letter to another snarky company goon? How hard is it to show up and have someone ask you to make their coffee or schedule a meeting every day?

Gosh. Get over yourselves with this “experience” hoopla.

So here I am with my less than $4.00 in the bank selling art and waiting (less and less anxiously) to hear back from literary agents about a cool book I wrote.  Being broke causes weird thoughts and even weirder fantasies. Why, I could easily find myself daydreaming about a car that doesn’t have a stuck window or about eating out–I’m talking anything on the menu I desire. Anything. And the tip? No problem. I find myself wondering what it would be like to just go into the grocery store and just buy cherries that are not on sale regardless of weight. I hate to weigh my cherries. I fantasize about when I had a house and my stuff wasn’t in storage and I could just go into a room and put my hand on something and not have to search for it while stuff tumbles down on my back or thigh or head. I dream about just going to the tire shop and getting a new tire and not driving around with not one but two nails in one tire that (thank God) right now only needs continuous air to keep rolling. The immediate needs list that I have is even ridiculous and embarrassing:

vitamins,  car battery, air filter, new tennis shoes, dentist, fix 2 car windows, new tire, watchband…

I’m late on paying my storage. I’m late (again) on my credit card payment. I’m late on healing from my childhood demons.

Being physically displaced makes one more displaced mentally. It’s like spending your life trying to catch up but while most everyone else is just running freely you’re on an obstacle course but with the same finish line. We live and learn, yes. So in retrospect I would’ve just taken the equity and went back to work immediately when I moved to another state (even though their workforce was crappy at best and they didn’t smile upon hiring, ahem, “Yankees” as much as their “own.” But that’s another post.) It’s just that I always wanted to get away from The Office and be free and artsy and tap into my inherent talents and make a serious go at it. Well, that backfired big-time. To the tune of less than $4.00 in the bank and behind on my bills and nail biting and daily fretting and, well, complete loss of grounding.

Each day I go out there and make a go of it. I’ve heard all kinds of feedback. People act as if getting a job that pays more than minimum wage is so incredibly easy for everyone. For an artist. We’re special, dang-it. Real special. We are the people that employers later wish they had hired because we become Oprah Winfrey and Bono and Dierks Bentley and Rachel Ray. Problem is, they can’t see all that when you’re lowly and desperate to be hired with your five years of freelance artist/writer on your resume. You’re useless to them now. Useless.

It’s so bad I’ve been eating those cheap noodles I ate in college. The ones with the little silver packet of mysterious salty powder that you stir into the finally relaxed noodles that you had to unravel with hot, hot water. Those noodles. I had to tweeze some white hairs out of my scalp last week. The audacity of them to show up now when I’m in crisis, reminding me that a clock is ticking loudly on my very life.

I may put a dollar and change in my account just to bring the balance up to a whole $5.00.

I greatly digressed.

HOW does one NOT go crazy in such a situation as poverty?

Wellllll, you keep calm & carry on. You eat those awful noodles (just not too often). You fantasize to break the self-defeating thoughts & depression. You pretend you’re in the future better place. You take Vitamin B COMPLEX. You get enough sleep. You leave caffeine alone. You press on in the path you have chosen. You laugh at cubicle dwellers (even when you have a cavity that needs to be filled stat). You–you–you believe in yourself when you’re cracking inside.

PUSH.

I Have a THING for Luke Danes

29 Jun

I may as well admit it. I’m in love with a TV character.

This has been going on for years now. Ever since I first got to know him on the hit show “Gilmore Girls.” Even the way I discovered the show was a fluke of sorts. See, I was waiting for my first house to be built and I was staying with family and it just got so ugly and crowded that I ended up renting a room from a friend of a friend who didn’t have cable in the guest room that I rented so I was forced to watch “regular” television which led me to Luke Danes.

He’s beyond dreamy. But he’s not merely dreamy, he’s easygoing at just the right temperature. He’s scruffy and unpretentious and intense and smart and loyal and soft and fair and sweet and tool-oriented and perfectly sarcastic and he’s a got-your-back-no matter what kinda guy. I just love him. I will also admit here that I have fantasized about a man like Luke. Could he be real? Is he out there in one package?

It was so bad that I found myself Googling Luke and learning about the real-life person, Scott Patterson. I wonder how much like Luke he is or is he just a great actor.

Go ahead. Laugh. There are ions of us out here loving on Luke and wishing he existed at our local diner.

I think I’ll start a Help! I’m in Love w/ a TV Character Support Group.

Remembering Michael Jackson: Circa 1977

25 Jun

In the summer of 1977 I was sent to live with the Birth Conduit a.k.a. my biological “mother” (and I use the quotes generously) by my maternal grandmother who was getting sicker by the year. I was just too much for her to bear. I arrived at the Birth Conduit’s (B.C.) ugly near empty apartment in Maryland and sat there on the couch staring at the walls. Literally. I had a few things I had brought with me from my grandparents’ home. Just a few things. The B.C. made me throw out most of my precious belongings out of sheer cruelty. I wasn’t allowed to play outside. There was no TV watching allowed. No arts and crafts. Definitely no conversation. No affection. No food variety. Same ole crap every day. It was quite a hideous existence, suddenly.

There are so many things to write about such an evil person but bandwidth slash time slash not-the-place-here prohibits me from doing so. Not to mention this is a blog about my predominant right sideness, not my monstrous unstable childhood. But the point is, I sat in that solemn apartment in totally unfamiliar surroundings with awful punishments like being forced to stand in a corner of the living room–nose to the crevice where two walls met–for hours with not much but a couple of Jackson 5 records.  I also had Judy Blume’s book Blubber and Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy but those Jackson 5 records were my absolute lifeline. 

Though he was several years older than I, Michael especially was a kid (though on vinyl) that I could somehow relate to.

I had always been obsessed with M.J. and his brothers, but particularly him. His perfectly high pitched voice and his flawless dancing and his gargantuan soulfulness carried me through that new hell. It was already a doozy of a summer. Elvis died. Freddie “Chico & the Man” Prinze died. My childhood had its first real death. Child abuse began– instead of on an occasional visit the B.C. made to my grandparents, now it was on a daily basis.

So I listened to those two or three records on a tiny record player over and over and over careful not to scratch the precious vinyl.

“2, 4, 6, 8 who do we appreciate?’

“Got to be there”

“I’ll bet you”

I learned every single beat, chord, breath, sigh in each and every song. I could imitate Michael’s singing voice so well that it sounded like him singing over his own voice. On Christmas day I actually wondered what he was doing, if he was opening presents or eating cranberry sauce like I used to at my grandmother’s. I was obsessed with him, even before Maryland. In my grandmother’s living room. I acted out one-girl skits to each Jackson 5 song. (Sure, there were other albums on hand like Chicago and Helen Reddy and even Spike Jones but I’m talking about J5 here, the most prominent and exciting music for kids under our roof.)

I probably would’ve jumped out of that top floor apartment window and splattered on the pavement below had it not been for Michael (& his brothers). So even a year later his death feels like a stabbing, a robbery, a twister, a gaping hole-like devastation. Some people will only remember his latter weirdness and peculiarity; I can’t forget my childhood with Michael. I don’t want to forget.

First Day of Summer

21 Jun

You could’ve fooled me. I didn’t even realize that it wasn’t summer yet and I’ve lived through many, many summers. Why, it’s been so hot some days before today. Sticky hot. T-shirt stuck to the backside hot. “Where are my shorts?!” hot. “I need a Slurpee right now!” hot. Sweat behind the ears hot. “Is there enough freon in my car’s air conditioning system??” hot. “Gosh, it’s just MAY?” hot.  Two-toned arms from the sun hot. Angry hot. “Oh, I love the fall, especially October” hot.

I actually love the summertime. It reminds me of childhood summers frolicking in the yard, running up and down the street until sunset. Fourth of July. My birthday. The Ice Cream Man and his jingling bells. Loud rickety fans blowing all night and day at my grandparents’ house. Summer fruits and their sticky juiciness. Going to the drive-in movies and eating anything with mustard on it. (I truly love mustard.) Mosquito bites. Dark rings around the white tub after taking a bath at the end of the day. Having to scrub aforementioned dark rings with Comet after taking a bath and letting all of the water out of the tub. Frogs. Gnats. Bees. Plum trees. Going to the beach and not wanting to return home. Flip flops. Tank tops. Disrupting ant colonies. Boy crushes. Neighborhood fights. Playing kickball until the ball itself got tired. Monkey bars.

It’s funny how things change, evolve, upheave.

Instead of running to the Ice Cream Man, I mosey into 7-11 and get ice cream on a stick.  Instead of playing outside until dusk I sit in rush hour traffic until dusk. Instead of going to the drive-in movie I have to stand in line at the AMC and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with people who loudly crunch popcorn in the dark.  Would it be odd for me to just show up in someone’s yard and swing around on their monkey bars? What if I got stuck?

There are times I wish I had a time machine, that I could revert back to childhood–whatever the  best day was–just for an afternoon.

Ah, but I do still have mustard and loud fans.

Ain’t No Father’s Day

20 Jun

I didn’t exactly have a father growing up. I didn’t exactly have a father after I was all grown up. I lived with (was officially adopted by) my maternal grandparents for a part of my childhood so my step-grandfather was my only father. He was a force of nature. He made his own hooch. Nevermind the gnats that congregated in the house and dinged us in the head as we watched “Welcome Back Kotter.” He always drove old beaters that pooped and sighed for several minutes after he’d turned the engine off. He had so much junk in the yard that we suffered teasing throughout our entire childhood. (“Our” being my grandparents’ two youngest kids, my aunt & uncle who were more like my brother and sister). He (still talking about my grandfather) would eat right through moldy foods while we cringed and gagged. He rarely wore new shoes, preferring hand-downs that were “just as good as new.” He worked hard and loved the “women-folk.” When my grandmother got ill, he took care of her like a nurse. He bought us watermelon and cherries and sparklers in the summer. He drove us to school when we missed the bus. In fact, he would drive my sister-aunt and I to McDonalds for what we specifically wanted and then he would drive my brother-uncle to Burger King to get his Whopper, etc.  He never said, “Just eat from the same place.” No, he got it and he accomodated us. He was gentle and kind and fun and precious.

Our daschund loved him more than all of us put together. She would climb into his lap the moment he got home and would not move until he moved. After his kitchen chair nap that he took while still wearing his government jumpsuit with his name patch.

He outlived so many people. He had obituaries piled in boxes. Some of the people he succeeded were half his age. He rented rooms to random people, gave them a place to stay when they were hard up. He loved plants and tools and gardening and the wonder of fruit growing from trees and springing up from soil. He loved the History Channel in later years, sometimes leaving the channel on for days at a time. We would tell him, “Pop, there are other channels.” He would hear none of it. He fought in Pearl Harbor. He was stationed in Guam. He worked on the railroad. He built things.  As an adult, he let me live with him many times either rent-free or dirt rent cheap so that I could “get on my feet.” He was the King of Hospitality offering his home, his sheets, his food, his bathroom, his bread, even his car at times.

He saw so many things come and go, come and go. He lived through assasinations and civil rights and was actually able to see a brown man become President of the United States. With a cane supporting him, he voted for the first time in his life for his “man”, Obama.

His eyes have seen the glory. He loved the Redskins by default. He loved to dance. He loved to tell tall tales.

He was an institution.

He died earlier this year at 92 years of age. He said he planned to make it to 100 but cancer made other plans.

I was driving today and thought of him. Again. I thought, “Gosh, I wish I could just call up Daddy and hear his voice, hear him tell a tale. Go visit him…”

92 years was too short for such a man. Such a man.

Right Brain Tidbits: All Over the Place

19 Jun

Gosh, I’ve been sucked in again. That darned Bravo! Are there subliminal messages in their programming? I’m betting on the young guy with the makeshift screenprint gadget thingy. I knew the first one eliminated would be the first one to be eliminated. Her stuff was, like, super bland.

I’m taking today off to detox some body parts and gear up for NYC. Once I hit the pavement there I will be lugging and begging panhandling selling art. It’s the ONE TIME in my life I need to have a “best friend” in the city. Speaking of which, I hope the seat next to me coming and going on the bus will be empty. No strange guy with a tank top and long blonde arm hairs brushing up against my anything. No coughers. No sneezers. No talkers. No snorers. No gum poppers. No finger lickers after a noisy bag of Cheetos. No cell phone abusers. No loud IPod users. No shoulder sores. I loathe shoulder-to-shoulder anything.

I’m such a person. I admit it.

Note to self: Work on tolerance.

Another note to self: Get focused. Stay focused.

I’ve been fretting lately because I’ve got so many projects/ideas and I can only get to but so many of them without the proper finances. Gosh, does a lack of enough money always have to be a monkeywrench? It hurts to see rich people do basically nothing with their fortune. That’s why I like givers. Givers rule. Givers make the world go ’round. Givers have souls. Givers are God’s angels.

Oy. I realize it, yes. I realize that Oprah will be ending her show in September 2011. Of course it saddens me because, well, just like so many of you I have become attached to Oprah. I mean, come on, we’ve watched her since 1986. 1986.

That’s like a gazillion years. Sure, she’s starting that OWN network, sure. I know. I know. But it’s not the same. I always, always thought I’d get on her show before she went off the air and I assumed that she wouldn’t be leaving until she was at least 60-ish. But there she goes. I’m hoping my book makes it on her regular show before it’s capoot. I know it’s lofty thinking but I’ve made it a goal. Sure, there will be limited shows stuffed full of flashbacks and current events and all that but I still believe I will make it on there. The book? It’s about the working life. That’s all I can say. I’ve been banned from talking about it over the internet until, naturally, it’s published and I’m promoting it. I’ve already pictured Oprah reading from it with bookmarks strategically placed in her favorite parts. She’ll so relate to it. So will millions of others. I’m feeling hopeful today. Work with me.

I’ve Seen Fire & I’ve Seen Rain

15 Jun

I knew his voice growing up. Sure. I didn’t know his name or his story or anything really about him. But I knew that voice and that guitar strum. Then as an adult I caught him on a PBS special and I’ve been hooked ever since. I don’t mean like “Oh, that’s James Taylor. I really like his music.”  I mean like I became nearly obsessed with his music.  Kind of like my high school obsession with J.D. Salinger.

When I get into a thing, I really get into a thing. A person. A place. A food. Whatever.

So at some point it became (and still remains) James Taylor.

When I’m out there maneuvering the world by car I pop in a greatest hits CD and moan about the wind being against my back and sweet baby James and fall pumpkins and love lost and down in Mexico and making it through another day and steamrollers.

I’ve always wanted to learn guitar. Always. But when I get on my J.T. jones, I must learn to play guitar. Right now. I have some moaning that is beginning to spill out.

His voice is therapy.