Thursday, March 08, 2007

Give Me A (Coffee) Break!

I broke down today and had a cup of coffee, even though my Lenten vow is supposed to include all chemicals. Even though I've been going to bed early and getting up relatively late, I've been extremely tired during the day. I'm pretty sure it's just my body adjusting to the sudden lack of alcohol (and nicotine, as well). So I decided on a practical exchange and allowed myself the caffeine to boost my performance at work. I'm doing pretty well and am almost caught up.

"I'm going upstairs now to sleep on what is left of my career!"
"So what else is new?"
—Edina & Saffy, Absolutely Fabulous
The contest loses hands down

I have decided, along with the friends who co-authored the original manuscript, not to enter the online writing contest, even after pissing and moaning when I thought I wasn't going to be able to enter. The rules of the contest bind you to signing a "standard publishing contract" with Simon & Schuster without delineating the terms of that contract. Even without that, the contest wasn't going to happen anyway, though. There was no way I was gonna pull six and a half chapters out of my ass in less than two weeks. The new plan is to finish the manuscript and shop for agents when it's done.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Pretty In Pink

"Caroline laughs and it's raining all day
She loves to be one of the girls
She lives in a place in the side of our lives
Where nothing is ever put straight
She turns herself round
And she smiles and she says,
'This is it. That's the end of the joke.'
And loses herself
In her dreaming and sleep... "
—The Psychedelic Furs, "Pretty In Pink"

This is it. That's the end of the joke.

This morning I woke up after 120 ounces of beer, a pack of cigarettes and less than eight hours sleep. I turned myself round. And I took a long shower, shaved carefully, brushed & flossed, put on deodorant and cologne and used gel in my hair for the first time in a long time.

I put on my power underwear (black), neatened and de-furred my blue trousers, buttoned up my blue button-down shirt and knotted by neon pink tie.

I didn't quite buckle down at work as I'd hoped, on account of being so drained. I did manage to get myself there on time (ish), work the full eight hours and make a good show of it, if not exactly being the most productive I've ever been.

After work I went to the grocery store to get two-week's worth of food before my rent check goes through tomorrow, and I'm overdrawn $500 (assuming they honor the check).

I'm feeling quite tired and emotional after plowing forward through the day. I'm either going to have a breakthrough. Or I'm going to have a breakdown.

Love, Caroline...

Monday, March 05, 2007

How Can Anyone Take Anne Coulter Seriously?

Last week Anne Coulter dragged her tired old bones onto another stage and released more shock-talk to keep her flickering zeitgeist alive. In her speech she referred to John Edwards as a "faggot." Nothing like thoughtful rhetoric to drive intelligent debate on the issues. Personally, I don't give a crap about anything Anne Coulter says. She's such a predictable, two-dimensional cartoon, like a caricature of herself. Why bother buying one of her books when you already know exactly what she's going to say on any topic? And frankly I'm not much more impressed with Edwards' attempt to use it as a springboard for a campaign contribution drive. But that's politics.

What struck me was how some news sources censored her comment as "fa**ot," or other variations. The F-word (or maybe the other F-word). The N-word. I'm beginning to detest these politically-correct euphemisms. I feel like Albus Dumbledore trying to convince people to say "Lord Voldemort" instead of "You Know Who." The problem with these niceties is that they focus the attention on the wrong problem. It's not about words or letters on a page. Slurs and epithets are the tip of the iceberg of bigotry. It's not the language used to denigrate minorities that's important. It's the underlying hatred and devaluation of individuals that has to be addressed. A "God hates fags" sign at the funeral of someone who has died of AIDS isn't an abomination because someone had the gall to use the word "fag." It's the assault on basic human dignity, the irrevocable right of every creature of God, that cries to the heavens for justice.

Just because we create a society where people are afraid to say "faggot" or "nigger" or "kike" or "beaner" doesn't mean we've made any real progress. That's nothing more than a sterile dressing to ease the minds and consciences of people too afraid to gaze upon the root of the problem. Don't sugarcoat the language used by bigots, because that only sugarcoats the ugliness bubbling beneath the surface, waiting to spew forth in a pus of violence and lynchings and gas chambers and every other atrocity catalogued in the sad history of humanity.

On a personal note

Not so good on the alcohol front. "One more day, and then I'll stop tomorrow," continues to be my running mantra. It's kind of hard to explain, but my smoking and my drinking go hand in hand. (I never bother to smoke when I'm not getting drunk or high on drugs.) I usually smoke about half a pack of cigarettes each evening of debauch. I've even convinced myself to drink one more evening just to finish off the smokes I have left. This morning I tore up the cigarettes I had remaining in an effort to bulwark my resolve not to drink tonight. But after work I just bought more beer and another pack.

I've decided that I need to call in the assistance of my priest and my counselor to help break this cycle I'm in. I keep mentioning that "things have been going really well lately" and intending to elaborate in another entry. The short version is that I've finally found a medication that helps break depression's iron grip. It seems such a slap in the face to the grace that has entered my life to sabotage my future with my continuing bad habits. And yet I feel powerless to fight against it. I may have a lingering affection for my demons, but I will overcome them and find the path God planned for me.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

On The Outside Looking In

There's an attorney in my officewho's gay and who I'm kind of friendly with. I've been to his house a couple of times when he's had people over, and we talk and quip with one another at work. We're not all that close, and there's never been any desire for romance on either side. But that's not why I bring him up.

This guy is always planning trips and outings and gatherings with his many friends. He's dating a great-looking guy, and they do all of these romantic things together. The attorney diligently works at his job as a means to the end of supporting all that he has going on in his life. Not to put too fine a point on it...I'm extremely jealous of his happy-go-lucky lifestyle. I know he has his problems and his challenges. And I know that things aren't really easy for anyone. But what I'm truly jealous of is the joy he gets out of life. He comes across so carefree to me, whether that observation is valid or not.

Lent's rocky start

I attended Ash Wednesday services this year. I seem to remember that priests would make a small but distinct cross with the ash, but in the past few years they appear to want to cover your forehead. I kept it on until the day, but I had to wipe the remainder off before I went to bed to avoid having it wiped off on my pillowcase by default. Now I've got an ash-smeared tissue lying around my apartment because it seems sacrilegious (or at least tacky) to throw the consecrated ash into the trash or flush it down the toilet.

Anyway, the tradition for Lent is to give something up and to add something positive. I chose to give up all substances (particularly alcohol) and to pray every day for peace in the world. Unfortunately I haven't made a very good show of it. Since the day after Ash Wednesday, I've pretty much gotten drunk every night and have been too befuddled to pray for anything except death. I also skipped going to Mass on the first Sunday of Lent.

So last night I went I went to confession to help work things out, and the priest was incredibly understanding. I've spoken with him several times and have started lecturing at the church, so he knows me. Other than saying an Act of Contrition (which I flubbed because I can never remember that one), all he asked me to do is approach this problem from a "place of serenity." Frankly, that's a little ambiguous, but I think he was telling me not to be hard on myself. I did confess that I'm an alcoholic, after all.

"Thou shallt not covet"

I have a solid, if undefined, faith. But one of the reasons I feel the pursuit of any kind of religious tradition can be so valuable is strictly pragmatic. Religion offers people with a mature faith the opportunity for self-reflection. Life should be a constant effort to better ourselves and to better the world around us. A "struggle towards the heights," as Albert Camu put it. And I was thinking about all of this last night.

After confession, I looked through the church bulletin while I was waiting for the service to start. Ironically, a blurb in there mentioned that the second Sunday of Lent was an opportunity to reflect on the admonition not to covet. I say it was ironic because of the initial theme of this entry and my endless litany of "Why am I the only not in a relationship?" all boil down to coveting. Instead of being thankful for all the blessing I have, I'm wasting my time by looking around at what others have and begrudging them for anything I don't possess. I'm sure a blind man would like to have my gift of sight. I'm sure a woman in a wheelchair would like my ability to stand and walk. And I'm sure countless people (including almost everyone stuck homeless out on the street) would like a family they can always count on to bail them out of any disaster they manage to get themselves into.

During Mass, I also reflected on how I need to work on anger issues, especially anger arising out of simple frustration. I see this a lot when I drive. Yesterday afternoon I was going apoplectic because it took me almost two hours to run two simple errands. Hollywood traffic was a particular cluster-fuck, and I was furious at how long it took me to get one book on tape at the library and one item at the grocery store. Then the bood on tape was messed up, so I had to drive to another branch that has about four parking spaces for the entire library to get another copy of the audio book. These aren't major setbacks in the schemes of things, but I was about to blow my top.

The irony continues...

And so I left church in my "place of serenity." Redirected on my path of Lent and mindful of my tendencies towards covetousness and anger. Unfortunately, all of this lasted about five minutes. I got back into my car, intending to listen to my audio book while patiently waiting for the cars blocking me in to leave. It turns out the tape I had worked so hard to get my hands on was jammed in the player. It wouldn't play or eject. I went ballistic. I tried to pry the thing out with one of my keys, tearing my thumbnail in the process and, I'm pretty sure, getting the thing irrevocably stuck. Why can't I just have a blasted tape player that works? (A tape player in a luxury car given to me free by my parents, I might add. But I wasn't thinking that at the time.) After getting more and more wound up, I finally gave up after several minutes. I looked up and noticed that I was still being blocked by a car or two. I yelled, "How fucking long does it take to get out of a parking lot?!" My windows were all rolled up, so I'm hoping no one heard me.

That night I tried briefly to resist the temptation, but ended up drinking 80 ounces of beer. Even though that is an improvement on the 120 ounces (80 of which were malt liquor) I drank the night before, I wasn't pleased with myself. I should mention that the alcohol issue is a bit more complicated than simply overreacting to frustration. See the end of this entry.

The moral of the story

So what's the point of all of this? At first glance, it may seem that I'm trying to prove that reflection and self-improvement are a pointless waste of time. That's not it, however. Awareness of both our foibles and our failures must be coupled with mindfulness for real change. I left church feeling a bit smug. I lot of times people think that conceding to a fault is enough, but as any AA person can tell you, admitting the problem is only step one. I think I was in danger of this, and the humility of my immediate setback this point home.

To booze or not to booze

"holding my breath again for fear of sleep again"
—Robert Smith of The Cure, "Disintegration"
My alcoholism is kind of weird. When I've been in a period of drinking daily, my panic at not drinking the next night doesn't really have anything to do with alcohol directly. Even though I love to sleep, can take a nap at almost any point in the day and can continue to sleep indefinitely once I've nodded off, going to sleep for the night always produces a certain level of anxiety for me. It's a bit like death, or the fear of death. That's why such a sleep-a-holic as myself can go through intense periods of insomnia, even after days of not getting enough sleep. Drinking eases the transition from wakefulness to sleep. When I haven't drunk in awhile, I want to do it because I don't feel well-suited for being sober all of the time. Drugs artificially eradicate my biochemical tendency towards anxiety and low mood, and alcohol is a relatively cheap and easily accessible drug. When I'm back into the swing of drinking, though, it's the fear of facing sleep anaided that drives me on.

Even now as I write this, I'm not sure whether or not I can avoid drinking tonight. I keep telling myself, "One more day, and then I'll stop tomorrow." I can feel the panic welling up even as every rational thought tells me that I'm best served by staying sober, even as my childish superstition (misplaced in any legitimate faith) fears the wrath of God.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Valentine's Day Edition

"This morning I woke up
From a deep unquiet sleep
With ashtray clothes
And Miss Lonelyheart's pen"
—Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, "Lost Weekend"

I've never had a romantic Valentine's Day. I've only had one significant relationship in my life, and that was with a CPA. While I loved him and love him still, we never had a memorable Valentine's together. That is, I literally cannot remember anything we ever did for the holiday.

As such, you might think I despise this day like so many other single people, but to be entirely honest, I've never really cared about it at all. Never having been particularly lucky in love, I think a syrupy, gushing, over-the-top Valentine's Day would just make me puke, even if it were with someone I love. I've been feeling a little low this year, though I think that I'm in a lonely phase in general, rather than being done in by the holiday. Also, I've been hitting the booze prettly hard since the beginning of the month, which is why I haven't been able to completely shake the cold I've had for a couple of weeks now and why I've been stalled in my book writing efforts.

Of course, considering all of the people in Iraq and around the world whose lives and families and bodies are being blown to pieces, the ambivalent mooning of a fat American isn't particularly significant. However, though I accept this as a truth, it doesn't make me feel any better.

"Papers in the roadside tell of suffering and grief
Fear today forgot tomorrow beside the news of holy war and holy need
Ours is just a little sorrowed talk, just blown away"
—Duran Duran, "Ordinary World"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Snicker Ad Blowup

Gay commentator Wayne Besen joined the outcry against the Snicker's Super Bowl ad in his blog. To be honest, I feel as if homosexuals have "arrived" as a minority because we can get ourselves into an uproar over something so pointless. Anyway, I posted a comment to his blog, so I might as well post it here as well:

The furor over this kind of bugs me, particularly the calls for boycotts, et al. The hypersensitive victim mentality adopted by a lot of minorities is nothing more than the knee-jerk reaction of the undiscerning. Something can be silly and ignorant (or in this case, pathetically anachronistic) without being an attack, and minorities always need to pick their battles. You will never find something in the mainstream media that doesn't offend someone somewhere. I truly believe that when you create an atmosphere where everyone is so afraid of saying something offensive, you stifle honest discourse which would actully further a group's cause. Honest discourse involves people presenting conflicting views and seeking common ground, not simply dining on the dictated pabulum. Save your righteous wings for higher things.

Monday, January 29, 2007

So what does happen now?

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
—Langston Hughes, "A Dream Deferred"

I was so excited about the writing contest I mentioned in my previous entry. I've been busy writing, editing, rewriting and formulating my ideas, in addition to going to the gym, eating right, keeping up (to some degree, at least) with my apartment blah blah blah. I've enlisted the help of a few people to review my work and offer me suggestions. All in all, I've been pretty psyched about finally writing and at the possibility of catching the eye of a publisher in the contest.

Unfortunately, the manuscript I've been working on is a complete rewrite of a fantasy adventure book two friends and I wrote back in eighth grade. When I told one friend of my plan, he was like "Sure. Whatever. I think this will be a good thing for you." When I told the other person about it, she was like "Well, I don't know..."

Before you think I'm trying to usurp someone else's hard work, keep in mind that (1) The manuscript I'm writing bears very little resemblence to the original, except in the most basic story (2) I'm the only one who's kept this story idea alive for the past twenty plus years (3) And the finished product is going to reflect 85-90% the sweat of my brow. I don't mind sharing the credit. In fact, I want to share the credit. And I certainly don't mind sharing any monetary profit. The reason I brought this up to my erstwhile collaborators was to make an arrangement for the share of any future monies in advance.

My concern is that no contest or book publisher would take a chance on an unpublished, untested author if there were even a hint of intellectual property dispute. I've told a few friends about this recent development. But so far none of them understand the real problem. This contest was a rare opportunity for me. All I've ever wanted to do in my life is write. And this was a way for me to bypass the endless slush piles of agents and publishers. Now as I march ever steadily towards forty, I see that chance slipping away from me.

As you might guess, I'm thoroughly disgusted by the entire affair. I swear, just being a drunk took a lot less effort. It's not as if I seem to be getting anywhere, anyway. Bollucks to the money, too. I haven't touched a drop in over four weeks, and I'm still dead broke, overdrawn on my checking account and conniving as to how I can scrape together a few bucks to put gas in my car.