Go Home, Byron

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet.

This morning I was scrolling though Twitter and one of the local news stations mentioned an upcoming Q&A with India Walton and Byron Brown.  Some background:

Brown is the current mayor of Buffalo, where I live.  He has been such for many years, and brought great progress to the area.  However, despite the fact he’s a democrat, he’s always been the career-politician sort, and that leaves a slight sour taste on my tongue.  Then I investigated a little and found a bunch of things he could definitely be doing better with, so when I heard Walton would be challenging him in the primary, I was pleased.  New blood, so to speak.  She won, and I thought “awesome!  Buffalos first woman mayor!  What a great stride for the party and city!”  But, no.

See, Brown threw a hissy-fit.  The man barely even campaigned before the primary, and he was SHOCKED to have lost.  But instead of conceding and supporting Walton like he should’ve done, he ran a campaign to get on the ballot.  When the courts struck that down, he started a write-in campaign…with a healthy dose of smear, mind you.  Now, there are signs on every other lawn in my neighborhood that say “Write Down Byron Brown!”  Where were you people during the primary?!  My own parents have one on their lawn, not because they are necessarily supporters, but because their landlord put it there, which seems shady to me, frankly.  (Sidebar: my cousin G saw it yesterday and said “hey isn’t that guy my mom doesn’t like?” Yes, sweetpea.) Anyway, the whole city is now split Brown/Walton and it’s ridiculous.  1. They’re on the same damn team, and 2. What are you even doing here, Byron?  Which brings me to this morning.

So, some newscaster posted a tweet asking what qurestions he should ask the candidates.  I only have one, honestly.

Byron-what makes you think you have the right to be an option?  You didn’t win it; you don’t deserve it.  Dude is doing the same thing “that last guy” did…refusing to concede after a fair election.  Maybe, just maybe…we don’t want you anymore.

I wrote before about how the male ego plays a part in this and I stand by that but I think a lot of it is a thirst for power and control.  I just can’t imagine it: ”Oh, I lost?  Well, I don’t wanna.  So I say I didn’t.”  That’s not how adults behave, folks.  That’s the logic of a child.

Anyway, I can’t wait until election day when India Walton stomps the crap out of Byron Brown.  No, that doesn’t seem plausible where I live because South Buffalo is very pro-Byron, but the rest of the city is a different story from what I have seen.  I am hopeful…hopeful all these signs were put out by a handful of landlords.  Hopeful that Walton can weather the storm Bryon has created for someone from his own party.  Hopeful that Brown come to his senses and concedes, though I know that’s the most unlikely outcome of all.

Preptober, Abbreviated

The year got away from me, as it did with many of us, and so I found myself on the 15th wondering when it had become October.  The weather in the area was unseasonably warm, so I just kind of kept the summer going in my head, only to be blindsided by Autumn mid-month.  It wasn’t so much the seasonal change that bothered me, it was the fact that I wasn’t focused as I should have be

I forgot about Preptober.

Preptober is where you get ready for NaNoWriMo.  If you think I sound like a crazy person, read the next section.  If you know what I’m talking about, skip ahead one.

NaNoWriMo (NaNo) stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is in November.  The goal, though the website, is to pen 50k words in a month, leaving you a “winner” with a little bookie-book at the end of it.  It’s fun and pushes you to write.  “Preptober” is the month of October, when you prepare for NaNo.

Anyway, I did it in 2019 and ended up a winner, with a nice little novella.  Then in 2020 the world stopped, so I figured no problem!  I went hard in planning during October and was raring to go on the 1st of the month.  Alas, on the 8th I broke my finger, and dashed all dreams of getting a book out of it.  This year, I shall try again.

But I haven’t touched my outlines.

I’m so behind.  I have a workbook that helps me prepare and I have two weeks of exercises to look over.  On the up side, it’s the same project I worked on last year so much of it is already done, but I need to familiarize myself with everything again.  I have to get my head back in the book, so to speak.

I suppose the key to it all is to not stress myself out.  For instance, just thinking to myself that I already have so much more prepared for this novel than I did for the last when I started it makes me feel at ease.  I have a game plan; a script to work from.  It will make everything that much easier. 

So, for the next two weeks, I will be reacquainting myself with my book, and bonding with my characters, and dreaming of my settings.  Then, on Monday, November 1st, I will tap tap tap away on my keyboard, and hope I don’t smash my finger in a folding chair again.

Happy Preptober.

Camera Shy

One night, I was managing a show called The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia at a tiny bookshop in downtown Buffalo.  I could fit maybe 15 people comfortably in there at a time, but this particular evening at least 20 folks showed up, one in a wheelchair.  It was my job to handle the crowd while they were in the small space, and so I did what had to be done.  I stood on the stage area and announced we were all going to play a game of Tetris.  The crowd laughed.  I then comically rearranged all these strangers so that everyone could sit comfortably, and so the woman in the wheelchair could get a spot in the front row.  For five or ten minutes, I just riffed, no problem.  In my head I thought, what is this, if not acting?  I mean, it’s basic improv.  I’d been onstage acting for so many times in my life at that point, that it was just natural.

Now, I don’t believe I have lost this ability, but technology has altered it.  As it turns out, I have no stage-fright, but I am painfully camera-shy.

I never liked having my picture taken, and with the advent of the selfie I was very cautious.  But now, things are changing again, and it is videos that rule the world.  And I just can’t.

I’ve made a few.  The ones where I introduce myself and read a poem are best.  The one I made for the suicide walk didn’t turn out too bad, but I stumbled a little, and my palms were sweaty, and my heart was racing.  Then came the Patreon idea.

On my Patreon, I have The Vociferous Vlog, where I read a poem and then talk about the inspiration behind it.  In theory, it’s a really good idea, but as it turns out, videos are not my strong suit.  I should have realized…I’d always rather read the article, y’know?

The first one I made was ok, but E and I did it together and couldn’t quite get the angle on the camera right.  I was far away and not as clear-sounding as we had hoped.  The second one was worse, because Mark tried to hand-cam it and shook the whole time, which wasn’t even obvious until I uploaded it to the computer.  Then, it looked terrible.  I looked good, but I also kept my eyes down the entire time, which is something I will have to work on.

You would think I would be better at this.  And also, I’ve done plenty of Zoom calls during the pandemic, and never felt this way about those…perhaps because I’m talking with someone?  PLUS, my Patreon is just starting out and only has a few subscribers, so why am I bugging over people I KNOW seeing me in a video?

No really, I’m asking.  I have no answers.

I know that you could drop me in the middle of a stage and I could entertain for an hour.  I know it.  But to get me to film myself doing five minutes of poetry talk on my own?  Nope. I try to summon the theater person deep within me but I guess she’s sleeping (likely due to some SSRI’s,) and won’t be coming to my aide today, at least.

I shall try again tomorrow.

OCD Awareness Week

October 10-16th is OCD Awareness Week, so let’s talk about that.

I started showing symptoms during puberty, around 11 years old.  I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 19, however, as child psychology was still a bit taboo in the 90s.  It started with Trichotillomania.

For those unaware, Trich is a compulsive hair-pulling syndrome.  I started pulling my hair out in 6th grade.  At first, I didn’t realize I was doing it because I would fall into a sort of a trance, only to come out of it and discover hair everywhere.  My doctor diagnosed me with alopecia, because she and many other medical professionals I encountered over the years had no idea what Trichotillomania even was. 

When I realized I was the one doing it, I researched the crap out of it, as I tend to do when something makes me nervous or scared.  Once I realized what I was dealing with, it took 8 more years and three psychologists before I found one who knew what I was talking about.  I had another flareup when I was 19, so I marched my bandana-covered head into my doctor and said “Listen…this is what I have.”  She agreed.  She knew what I was talking about.  It was instant relief.

And then she diagnosed me with obsessive compulsive disorder. 

Trich is a definite red flag and true cousin to OCD, so there was little surprise.  They asked me questions, such as do you ever have intrusive thoughts that you can’t control?  Um…yes, doesn’t everybody?

Apparently not.

I was never the neat-freak, handwashing kind of OCD, but my compulsions lie in Trich and my obsessions rest in my brain.  It’s a truthful diagnosis, and also my best controlled one.  I deal with my anxiety and depression all day every day, but my OCD is pretty well regulated.  The only thing that still bothers me is the incessant counting…i used to count everything, but these days it’s mostly just my steps.  Mark got me a Fitbit so that I can remind myself there’s no need to count because my watch is doing the work.  It’s helpful…sometimes.  Not all the time.

I don’t think much about my OCD because it is so well-controlled now.  I do however take great offense when folks who have “quirks” claim they have OCD.  Oh, you can’t go to sleep at night with dishes in the sink, so you don’t have to do them in the morning?  How quaint.  Sounds a lot more like a personal preference than something you have to do in order to keep you and your family alive, which is how an OCD brain can think.  OCD is not quirks; it’s patterns of behavior that disrupt your life.

Alas, my life is not disrupted by it at the moment, which makes me happy.  I do worry daily about another Trich relapse, though, and I am extremely particular about my hair since I lost so much of it in the past, and it is much thinner than it once was.  However, I know now that should that happen, I can immediately call my doc and we can figure out a game plan.  That wasn’t a luxury I felt I had in my early 20s.  And even when I count my steps, I remind myself that my Fitbit is on the job, and try to use coping mechanisms to draw my attention away from the counting.  I do the same with the intrusive thoughts.  Truthfully, I am making progress daily.  I hope others our there can say the same some day.

Here are a couple of links to resources about OCD:

International OCD Foundation

Symptoms of OCD

Help for OCD

Trichotillomania Learning Foundation

The Return of the Writer’s Lift

As some of you know, in 2018 I started my publication journey.  A tool I found useful in this endeavor was Twitter.  On Twitter, there is a hashtag: #WritingCommunity.  I started following folks who posted in this community, and most of the time it was very fruitful.  I made new friends, and it connected me to literally thousands of writers in every stage of development.  There were these things called “Writer’s Lifts” where everyone got to know each other and promoted their work a little.  Thing is, back then, those lifts were about making friends.  Now…it’s all about selling books.

Don’t get me wrong, I participate, particularly on Saturday as that is #ShamelssSelfPromoSaturday on Twitter.  I drop my link into some lifts and hope for a retweet or two.  I can confidently say I have sold a few books this way, but it’s not like it’s breaking the sales records.  It’s just a nice way to get your work to someone who otherwise might not find it.  So yes, I’m cool with promotional lifts.  However…

I’ve lost the connection.

I don’t KNOW my followers like I used to.  Yes, there are a great many more now than I had a couple of years ago, but I don’t feel the camaraderie like I used to.  We don’t chat.  We just hype each other’s stuff.  Again, don’t get me wrong, that’s cool…but I have no real writer friends.  I searched for such on Twitter, and I found some.  Two live in the area; a guy from the city who writes what he refers to as “dude lit,” and a blogger in the southern tier who has a garden I am envious of.  I often contemplate what it would be like to meet these folks, and have some sort of Algonquin roundtable writing discussion, but I’m an anxious human who has trouble stepping outside her comfort zone.  So online friendship it is.

Anyway, I was thinking about how Twitter used to be cool and decided I would see if it still could be.  I posted a Writers Lift, but I made rules.  Number one, you could not drop me a book link.  If you did, I deleted it.  Number two, you had to introduce yourself and tell us what you write or what you’re working on.  Third, you had to make a friend.

I got 188 replies.

188 people introduced themselves and their writing, and conversations broke out all over the place.  I tried to keep up but eventually had to mute the tweet when I got 35 notifications at once.  Many folks thanked me for this “new spin” on a lift, which made me chuckle because really, I’m just bringing back the old-school jams.  One person gave me an idea for another kind of lift, where we praise OTHER author’s work, not our own, which I think I may try out sometime this week.  A woman in Greece emailed me and told me she liked one of my poems, and asked if she could translate it to Greek and publish it in her lit mag.  I agreed, and you can find it HERE.  Someone else emailed me and told me that they read my excerpts on Amazon and immediately bought the book.  Others talked to me about their writing endeavors.  Overall, it was a very productive little tweet for me, and I really hope it was for others too.

A lot of the crap I see on Twitter now is people trying to up their engagement with ads and random questions and the like.  Me, I have always kept my tweets either about writing or observations from life, and I try to keep the selling of myself to a minimum.  Not that I don’t, because I’m an indie author and that’s part of the job description, but I’d rather read “real” stuff, if you know what I mean.  I’d rather you tweet about the sandwich you had for lunch than see another post that starts with “now available on Amazon…”

I mean…yeah, I’m guilty.  But I’m trying to do other things, too.  Got to keep it fresh, y’know?

So my finding in this little experiment is that people actually do want to connect on Twitter still, it just seems to be a little harder somehow than it was 2 years ago.  Perhaps it’s the algorithm, which has totally screwed me more than once, but overall, I think it’s just that we have lost touch with each other.  I don’t like that, and I won’t do that.  I won’t succumb.  My

DMs are always open to fellow creators.  I am always down to chat about the business of words, and all I really want is a few folks who feel the same.

A Lonely Wreckage

I’ve been sitting at the desk for half an hour.  I wasn’t sure what to publish today because I had three topics in mind, so I did a poll on Twitter and in 5 minutes its’ going to tell me people want to read about the Twitter experiment I did yesterday…and they will.  But I’m in a contrary mood and gosh darn it, it’s National Poetry Day.  How can I not write about my favorite form of expression?

But that leaves me with more choices…share some poetry, as I have in the past-my little outliers who have no homes?  That’s what I usually do.  Alas…she is mad at me, and that is all I can think about today.

She…is my book, A Lovely Wreckage.

She’s a year and a half old and we are already in an argument.  She doesn’t think I’m doing enough…she wanted things like a signing or a store shelf to sit on, and I couldn’t get her those things, so she said I was a terrible mother and shitty writer and slammed the door in my face.  I tried to coax her out of her room with the discovery that she was now for sale on the Walmart website, but this was fruitless.  She is angry and refusing to sell.

Thing is, she knows she could do it.  She knows she’s a lovely little debut that would have been much better received were we not in the midst of a pandemic at the time and ever since, and she’s bitter about it.  And she’s not wrong…she shoulda had somthin’.

I wrote a blog called Schrodinger’s Chapbook about her and she liked that attention but then she never sent a royalty check so who knows…children are so moody.

All kidding aside…I really need to sell some books.  Everything I’m reading tells me that I need to be shoving my book down the throat of every person I meet, and honestly that is not something I’m capable of.  I wish I was, truly, so that I could give her everything she deserves.  We have worked so hard.  We are so tired.

So, today, on National Poetry Day, I will give you a poem.  One of hers.  My favorite of hers, actually (my mom’s too!)  And I hope that you love it, and I hope that you love her…lord knows I do.

Even when she calls me a hack.

Dead Nerves
I quit smoking but this poetess
needs her hit, her puff, her drag and
I can still taste nicotine on my fingertips like
the sweat on your skin but
it’s a phantom sense
like the tingling in my toes-
Dead nerves.
I put on black nail polish and an old flannel
because I feel like sixteen again when
the wind whips my hair up
into the tornado that hangs over my head.
Rain clouds are for amateurs and I build weather formations
to hide my intentions.
I dance with demons and dummies but it’s all the same
as being young and in love,
before needles prickled at my skin and
left me numb and frightened.
These little bits of a broken heart,
these sharp shards that leave
faint pink lines on my skin
keep me from second guessing my silly self.
This itching in my fingers is a reminder
of bad decisions and salty storms,
that youth betrayed me.
Dead nerves in my hands
like dead nerves in my heart.

Wanna buy a book? Click here!

Bye-Bye Buddy

Yesterday, a Facebook memory punched me in the face, as they sometimes do.  This particular one was a photo of a dog with a woman I met once, who came one afternoon and took him from me.

It was six years ago yesterday, and it was a very bad day.

We had been evicted from The Dump, as I so lovingly called it, and with that relief came also bitter disappointment as I was turned away from apartments time after time, due solely to breed restrictions.  I had cash in hand and good references, but I also had a pitbull.  His name was Buddy, and we had been together for a year when the word came that we had to leave.  It was one of the hardest years of my life, and without my pup I truly do not know how I would have gotten through it.  And then, when it just kept getting worse, he was ripped away from me.

Buddy and I had a lot in common, the main thing being anxiety.  But when I was in bed crying, he would nuzzle under the blanket and curl beside me.  And when he was having a panic attack over loud noises, I would climb into the closet where he would hide and he would put his head in my lap.  We were each other’s comfort.

Then, I had to give him up.

The woman, a friend of a friend, ran a group that rescued animals, and she certainly rescued Buddy.  She took him to a doggy day spa and the vet and got him all shiny and clean for his foster, but then they fell through.  There was a mad scramble to find him a home.  The post about Buddy was shared on Facebook over 20k times.  Then, a woman in Allegany, I believe, came and saved the day.

So yesterday, this picture shows up in my memories, and I cry, and then I send a message to the woman who rehomed him for me, thanking her for taking care of my dear little friend.  I told her that I always imagined him running in a field with a friend somewhere, as that was his favorite thing to do with me.  She thanked me for the kind words and said “You are right about running in fields.  He had his huge backyard and mountainside to roam and enjoy.”

…had.

I did the math.  Dogs don’t usually live for thirteen years.  I don’t know what I was thinking.

So, while it may not have technically been yesterday, I’m claiming it.  Yesterday is the day my dog died.

Buddy, An Obituary:
Known by many names throughout his life, this dog was nothing if not your friend, and so we called him Buddy.  A brown and white pitbull with floppy ears and a clipped tail due to an accident in youth, he never let his disabilities get the best of him.   Lover of rolling in the grass and peanut butter; enemy of car rides, fireworks, and the mailman.  He was the proud brother to four beautiful little kiddos.  On Friday afternoons, you could often find him waiting at the window for their arrival.  He protected and played with them, as though they were his pups.  Dear friend to Mark, he was always ready for a midnight play date after Mark got off the night shift. Constant companion of Brigid, always by her side, Buddy dedicated his existence to her comfort, and she to his.  His big brown eyes and sloppy smile will be missed by everyone.  (Her, especially.)

Football Sunday

I haven’t been around for a variety of reasons, none of which I feel like delving into, so let’s talk about football.

When I got married, my husband and I made an agreement of sorts.  He would listen to a bunch of Canadian rock and folk pop music that he never heard before and I would learn the game of football.

Let’s just say he’s taken to the music better than I took to the game.

Sometimes I’m involved, because I get the basics now and can follow it all, but I also get distracted a lot when they aren’t making plays.  So, I like to tease.  As one does.

Sunday, I decided to make some comparisons between the football game and live theater.  Just for funsies.  Just to get on Hubs nerves a little.  But oh, my goodness…it became so easy!

First of all, there’s merch in the lobby.  Nothing I could find in the way of a Playbill, but you do need a ticket to get in, so there’s that. Then you get your snacks and find your seats, and the preshow starts…usually they send you a band or an organ player or maybe a comedian, but here we have some people singing and cheerleaders dancing, and some folks make the house announcements…the signal for the start of show.  Except no one tells you to turn your cellphones off.

Then the opening scene, the coin toss!  Filled with drama and suspense right off the bat as they decide which team will get the ball first, and then the dance begins!  I say dance, because if you think about it, this is all carefully choreographed.  They follow plays that are laid out in the locker room and on the field, and while there may be some variances in execution, they have a game plan when they head out onto the stage…I mean field.  The “live stream” shows the coach, who is, for all intents and purposes, the director of the piece.  They show the quarterback, our leading man!  Then the supporting players are on the field and they are running and kicking and throwing and catching and how elaborate this performance is, truly.

At some point Mark was getting annoyed with me, but then one of the players made a touchdown and took AN ACTUAL BOW, and he hung his head in shame.  I was rather disappointed by what appeared to be a lack of climax followed by little to no curtain call, but overall, it was a lovely little Sunday matinee.

I don’t know if I will ever be a true football fan.  I have no problem telling you that I am bandwagon hopper, even though I was born here in Buffalo, which comes with it certain inalienable rights, such is that you are, first and foremost, a Bills fan.  To be other in Western New York is to be an outsider.  I don’t know what to tell you, that’s just how it is.  So, thinking to myself that it’s also a little like church, what with the Sunday of it all and the community connection and weird veneration of things, and I’ve done church, so I could do football, right?  Then to my surprise, to find it so much like theater!  Yes, I may annoy my husband during the game with my commentaries, but at least I’m trying.  Like I said, he cam belt out some Ani DiFranco and Marianas Trench with the best of them, so I had better pick up the ball…har dee har har.

Also, the snacks are usually good.

20 as 20

To start, I am 38 years old, in case you were unaware. 

I have very little problem with aging.  In fact, I embrace it.  I felt very awkward and weird until I was about 30, and I am loving this stage of my life far more than I did the previous few decades, likely because I have found a well of confidence in myself, due to things like feeling secure in my writing.  I have grown as a person more in the past 8 years than I did in the previous 20, and I am, frankly, very proud of myself.  So, aging does not scare me.

Terrifies the crap out of my husband, though.  He threw his back out not long ago and couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that he just cant lift 150 pounds anymore.  Kevin also has an aging issue, hoping that he is long gone before he ends up in a nursing home or something.  I personally think nursing homes are going to be rocking when were older.  I mean, it’s not like you turn 65 and have to take up knitting and backgammon.  Were gone have Xbox tournaments in our nursing homes, guys.  But I digress.

So, being 38 and aware of my health and such, I am usually comfortable with my limitations.  However, this weekend, there was no time for limits.

Let me tell you briefly about Nick.  Nick and I went to school together since PreK, and he was Kevin’s other best friend when we were kids.  We grew up together through Kev, and by high school, we had become very good friends.  Nick’s greatest talent is music, specifically the drums.  He has been playing since he was a kid, and sometime around the turn of the century he started his first band, Lurid.  I was a fan, though their music was a little heavy for me, but I went to dozens of shows.  Later, they disbanded and he formed Mad Yellow Sun, a band I liked much more, so I attended most of their shows.  After a while, Nick needed to progress, so he packed up his things and moved to Hollywood.  Ever since, he has been teaching music and performing with various groups and touring the world playing his favorite instrument.  I could not be prouder of my friend.

Anyway, a few months ago, Nick sent out a Facebook invite to a show he was doing near Buffalo.  He was going on tour with one of his bands, and I was of course excited to see him.  Thing is, it fell on Friday night…the night before the suicide walk, which was at 8am.  “I can do it,” I tell myself.  “I’ve done it before!”

Yeah, at 20, you idiot.

First of all, I woke up Friday morning and immediately made myself throw up.  Why, you ask?  Think of it as a preventative measure.  I wasn’t about to have some crap sitting in my stomach all morning only to flare up and make me sick on this, the day of days.  I took some Zofran and some Xanax and drank some coffee and was fine.  It was a good sign.

Around 530pm, Kevin and Johnny came over to pregame.  I went and got ready, taking a shower and getting dressed and putting on actual makeup.  I learned who my true friends are when I applied new foundation and Mark and John said I looked great, but Kevin told me “I cannot let you leave the house like that.”  Always got my back, that one.  As I reapplied, I thought of all the nights spent on someone’s kitchen floor getting ready for a “Nick show” back in the day.  I was momentarily grateful that it no longer took me two hours to get ready, though, even with the makeup reapplication. 

Eventually I was on the road, but, as it is when you are trying to be 20, it was one damn thing after another.  First, my sister, who was supposed to come, lost her ID.  Then my cousin decided to stay home.  Then Bern found ID, but didn’t go because Erin stayed.  Then my lighter died, so I had to get a new one.  Then, I had to go to the bank.  Then, I had to drive to flippin Tonawanda, which is a good 30 minutes from my house in South Buffalo.  By the time I got there and found parking I was terrified I was late.  Alas, no.

I saw him standing there talking to a group of people I don’t know. I waited for a lull in the conversation, and then said “Hi, Nicki.”

Nick’s reactions to seeing someone he misses are intense.  He is a hugger extraordinaire, and has the ability to make you feel as though you are the most important person in the room.  Which, I suppose is a good quality for a performer, but when you’re his friend, it truly is a genuine moment.  He tells me his mother is inside the bar.  Now, let me tell you about Joanne.

As there has always been me, Kevin, and Nick, there has also always been my mother, Sharon, and Joanne.  Sharon is Kev’s mother and I have always thought of her as my aunt, and another maternal presence in my life, as she helped raise me up as much as my mother helped raise up Kev.  Then Joanne, whom I because close to during my very tumultuous teen years, and a time when I felt like I couldn’t express things to my own mother.  She stepped in and filled that role whenever I needed her to.  She always was there for me, and for Kevin as well should he need her.  She still calls us her “babies.”  A while back, Jo got sick.  She has been battling some vicious cancer for a couple years now, and I haven’t been able to see her because she lives in North Carolina.  So, to hear she was mere feet away at the bar was incredible news, just as good as seeing Nick play again.

After greeting everyone and freaking out over Joanne being there, I ordered a drink and posted up by the window to take in the scene.  I need moments like this in crowded places, so as to keep myself grounded and not panicky.  An older gentleman sidled up beside me and started chatting me up.  After a little conversation he tells me that he hopes I’m not “weirded out by the old guy hitting on you.”  I tell him I’m not, and I’m flattered, but taken.  He smiles and tells me to have a good night and is on his way, and it makes me realize that this never would have happened if I were 20.

First of all, I didn’t have the confidence then that I do now and probably wouldn’t even have registered that the guy was interested.  Secondly, he never would have spoken to me because that would mean breaking me away from the pack I traveled in once upon a time.  If I’d had half a brain back then, I would have got a drink and stood alone for five minutes.  Could have met a guy instantly!  Again, I digress…

Eventually Nick goes on and plays better than I’ve heard, because it’s been like ten years since I saw him perform last.  I started to feel woozy mid-set, however, and went out for some air.  Jo was also outside feeling icky, and I told her I had to go.  I felt bad leaving early, particularly because I would have liked to spend some more time with Nick and her, but I couldn’t risk illness.  My attempt to relive my 20s wasn’t over yet.  I drove home and took my meds and went to bed…eventually.  I was weirdly amped up and tossed and turned all night.

I don’t know how I woke up at 7am feeling well, but I did, and it was a miracle.  8am found us out the door and headed downtown, and I thought of things like how I used to go party all night and then work a shift the next day.  How crazy!  I was so tired, and a little hungover.  Two beers might not be much for most people, but I am a lightweight who barely drinks, and I was feeling those Blue Moon’s from the bar that morning.

The walk was lovely.  It was bigger than last year’s experience which was significantly downgraded due to the pandemic, but it was still fairly small.  They spaced everything out nicely, and staggered arrival times for participants, so it wasn’t too crowded.  I raised 710$ this year, and was congratulated by the registration lady.  They gave me a t-shirt, they took our picture, and we walked around and looked at the info tables and basket raffle and such.  Then, we took a little walk, not as much as I would have liked to but as previously stated I was hungover and also my leg was killing me for some unknown reasons; probably the boots I chose to wear the night before.

Then, back to the car and home again and change of clothes and pack a bag and time for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  What’s that you say?  Its’ September?  Well, that means we are halfway there, so let’s do it up right!

Except they didn’t.  I’d like to say it was fun, and I guess it was to see people out and to be out myself, but the parade itself was lame.  Usually the best one (when held on actual St. Paddy’s Day,) this was just kind of sad.  It was a handful of families, a couple of bars with floats, a single pipe and drum band, and 4 politicians (and not even the one I’m voting for.)  Add in three fire trucks and a weird procession of Jeeps, and you have the entire parade.  No real music, no dancers, nothing.  Yawn.

Speaking of yawns, by the time I got home it was around 2pm and I was exhausted, I watched a little tv and then passed out on the couch.  I spent 20 hours acting like I was 20-drinking and partying and not sleeping and overexerting. 

And it was a blast, but, as I stated in the beginning…I like my 30s.  I like the pace I’ve got going here, and I hope it continues into the next decade.  As much fun as I had in that 20 hours is also as much exhaustion as I faced.  I have to face it-I am a one event per 24-hour period person now.

Still, it is joyous to grab those little moments where you can remember yourself in your youth, and I felt that this weekend, particularly on Friday night.  For a moment while I listed to Nick play, I’m sure, that in the right light, you could have sworn I was only 20 years old.

On Food and Funds

Not long ago, and not for the first time, I was having a conversation with a nutritionist about my diet.  This is a fun little topic that comes up on a regular basis given my gastroparesis and its tendency to make digestion an issue for me.  My diet is always evolving.  And again, not for the first time, I was encouraged to go out and buy food that I can never in a million years afford.

Because you can’t eat right if you’re poor.

I knew this a long time ago, when I went to my first food pantry at Catholic Charities.  The food was canned or frozen, and what little fresh food was available was a day away from the garbage bin.  Sometimes you got lucky, though.  I remember one afternoon when Trader Joe’s dropped off a load of almost expired products, and they put them on the shelves for anyone to take.  Some women were arguing over a pack of American cheese.  I looked in the cheese bin to see what was left, if anything, and was delighted!  Gouda? Havarti?  Brie?!  I scooped all that fancy cheese while those women were fighting over Kraft slices.  Still, the fresh food at that pantry was in low supply.  I had better luck at a secular pantry run by a health organization I was linked to, but eventually I stopped going to them and lost pantry privileges.

Then there are the grocery stores.  First of all, there’s food deserts: places with no access to fresh food, like downtown (soon to change now that Braymiller’s Market is opening, though I don’t know what their prices are like.)  I shop mainly at Savealot or Aldi’s, which are discount grocery stores.  Other options in the area are Wegmans and Tops.  These stores are very different from one another-take Wegmans and Savealot.  Firstly, you walk in the door and see the produce section.  Savealot’s is about a case and a half.  Wegmans’ is the garden of flippin’ Eden.  Then you find their bakery sections…one with packaged breaks and cakes and very little choice, the other with a million fresh baked options.  The meat and dairy sections at Wegmans are endless, but only a few cases at Savealot.  But then…frozen foods!  Savealot has two aisles for frozen food.  I’m sure Wegmans has the same or more, but in comparison to the other departments there is a huge difference between the offerings.  Almost as if there’s just more cheap and easy stuff per square foot at Savealot.  So, essentially, this low-cost store is definitely saving me money, but at what cost?  At the cost of my health.  See, the strawberries might be two bucks cheaper at Savealot, but at Wegmans, I don’t have to throw half out because they are rotting or damaged.

Another thing about the stores that Mark noticed is the way they are set up.  Savealot, has you enter in one specific spot and encourages you to follow a sort of zig-zag pattern through the aisles.  In Wegmans and Tops, is just laid out for you to go wherever and get your thing.  He noticed that when we went to buy cheese yesterday, we bought a few other things as well that we saw while walking the aisles.  Had we gone to Wegmans, that wouldn’t happen.  I would have gone directly to the dairy and got the cheese and left.  But that’s not just because of the way the grocery store is arranged; that’s because of my wallet.  I can’t AFFORD to aisle-wander in Wegmans. 

Bringing me back to how poor people can’t eat right.  My doc is from Amherst, a nice suburb, and likes to suggest I shop at Whole Foods and I like to laugh and laugh until it gets uncomfortable.  I can’t buy a head of lettuce in that store.  It’s outrageous.  It’s outrageous at Wegmans, and some days, I think it’s outrageous at Savealot, too.

When we used to get food stamps, a lot of people were always talking about how folks on EBT were spending it all on steak and lobster and I would laugh and laugh until it got real uncomfortable and then I would go on a rant about how I can barely buy ground beef and tuna fish with the 125$ a month they give us to feed ourselves and maybe you should just sit down and shut up before you make yourself into a fool in front of people who actually deserve help!  But I digress.

My point is that even with help, it’s not enough to eat right.

Mom told me Bill Maher went on a tear recently about how America is obese and her response was that maybe if we all had personal chefs and his kind of money that wouldn’t be a problem, which I think sums it up right there.  I, personally, am sick of hearing how going organic or something is better for me.  Why, I’d love to.  Just make it cheaper.

There is a ridiculous amount of poverty in this country and hunger and food-insecurity are real things in our communities, and there are just not enough services in my opinion.  I don’t feel as though people should jump though a thousand hoops just for the privilege of eating.  Furthermore, I don’t think it should be a frigging privilege.

In my research, a woman led me to FullCart, an online food bank.  I filled out the questionnaire and am hoping to hear back soon to see whether I qualify for a free box of food to be shipped to my house.  I know there won’t be a fresh thing in that box, but I’m going to try it all and find out what else is available for people who are hungry.

I could really go for a fresh garden salad with chicken and strawberries and walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette for lunch, but instead I’m having a chicken patty on white bread because that only cost me 25 cents to make.

Because you can’t eat right when you’re poor.