By Way of Introduction

Perhaps you’re new to my work. Perhaps you were a fan of my old blog, which was taken down, against my will, by its host–a supposed friend–in late 2007 or early 2008. (I’ll explain more on that in due course.) At any rate, for several years now I’ve been doing journal/blog entries on a Word Pad document, awaiting the day I’d have a live blog again. I plan to post most of these entries eventually. Some must remain, for the moment, suppressed, because I still have some complications in my life that would be made worse if I spoke the whole truth and expressed everything I genuinely feel.

In addition to journal entries I plan to post excerpts from my books, essays, and articles, as well as my photos, and whatever else catches my fancy.

If you don’t want to wade through over five years of mostly dull posts (listing where I ate lunch and what movies I saw), just read this brief summary of what I’ve been doing:

I spent most of this year having a major nervous breakdown, which started after my dog Fred’s death the previous October. This breakdown was characterized especially by loud, violent crying jags every day, up to four a day, for six months. They would get so loud I’d have to shove a bath towel in my mouth, lest my neighbors hear my screams, think a woman was being murdered in my apartment, and call the cops on me.

Early in the year I quit a bad graveyard job shift where I was butchering my eyes “proof-reading” OCR scans made by a crooked company that was cheating various prominent newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses, digitizing their works using what was supposedly uniquely-designed software, but which was in fact a hodgepodge of software stolen from other companies.

In the spring I did some work for an online media company that was relaunching a popular site. Later, I had some serious personal problems, then took another bad job in June, at a store specializing in religious goods, artwork, jewelry, and books. Mercifully, I was fired five months later, the day I came back to work after a long bout with bronchitis.

In August my mental condition was such that a couple friends all but bullied me into seeking professional help. Since I had no money, I was reduced to looking for public services, and reluctantly signed up for treatment with the Austin Travis County Mental Health and Mental Retardation agency (MHMR), as well as a low-cost medical service called the Medical Access Program (MAP).

MHMR had three main programs of required treatment: 1) A monthly meeting with a Case Worker. (My first Case Worker was very good–the other two I had I rarely saw.) 2) Quarterly meetings with a doctor and meetings every six weeks with a nurse, mostly to check on the (useless) depression medications with which I was prescribed. 3) Monthly, day-long sessions at a group therapy center, where my fellow patients included ex-cons, the homeless and near-homeless, wrist-cutters, junkies, and such. This was like the support group segment at the beginning of “Fight Club,” but without the charm. I got to see how the other half lives, and certainly got a little material to write about, but I can’t say that any of this helped me at all.

Starting in September I began going to the Capital Area Mental Health Clinic (no acronym), a facility that charged a sliding scale, where the therapists on duty were mostly completing their graduate studies. Because of this set-up, I went through four therapists in little over three years. (One took me aside and said, “Off the record, speaking as a friend and not your therapist–you really need to write a book.”)

And yes, the combination of the public health service with Christian retailing does indeed make for a heady mix.

A few weeks after I got fired from the religious goods store, I got invited to write for the media company again. I soon was making money hand over fist, and was genuinely happy for the first time I could remember. I was actually beginning to make plans for a future for myself.

Much of this year was devoted to writing for the media company, or doing special editing projects for it. I also joined Facebook, and began spending an inordinate amount of time playing around on there. Towards the end of the year I appeared in a couple of advertisements for the media company, right before it changed certain parameters for article writing. After that, I was unable to find topics on which to write for one of their sites, and so I switched to doing sporadic editing and quality control projects.

Work started to dry up, and with that, I got more and more depressed. I was deeply depressed during the summer, but I managed to collect and edit all of my old “Downtown Planet” Austin history newspaper columns, and arrange them into a book form, complete with end notes. I called the book, “Austin Askew.”

I did a major sorting of the books in my house and sold several hundred of them to Half-Price Books. Some I later regretted selling. This project realized less than $200 and gained me only a few additional cubic feet in my apartment.

For a few months I went to an acupuncture clinic. I found the procedure relaxing, but since the major problems of my life hadn’t changed, acupuncture only did a certain amount of good.

I went through a period of five months where I went for long walks at night, of two or more miles duration. I ended this when I damaged my feet in September.

The company flew me out to Los Angeles in September for a “Creator’s Conference.” I stayed for three days at a hotel in Santa Monica, then spent the remainder of the week at my friend Jeremy’s house in Venice. I was surprised at how much I liked LA. Though there were some truly ugly and tacky parts of it, there were beautiful and fascinating parts as well, and I was much taken by the city’s history.

I visited, among other places, Santa Monica, Venice, the Getty Center, Hollywood, Downtown LA, the Central Public Library, Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, Chinatown, the Huntington Library, Art Galleries, and Botanical Gardens, Charles Bukowski’s former apartment, Clifton’s Cafeteria, the Grand Central Market, Larry Edmunds Bookstore, Hennessey and Ingall’s Bookstore, the Santa Monica Pier, Amoeba Records, Westwood Cemetery, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I decided I’d probably have to live at least a couple of years out in LA at some point.

My income for the year was $6600.

I finally took the plunge again, and arranged to let a new Basset Hound in my life. Her name was and is Belle, and she is a delight. I finally have a reason to live again.

I landed a work project that paid me better money than I’d ever earned in my life. I worked seven days a week for six months, taking only three or four days off the entire time.  I removed myself from treatment at MHMR, since it had long before become a pointless formality and was doing me no good. And with all the money I was making, I was in a good mood.

In August I went back out to LA to Jeremy’s wedding, and stayed a week for another vacation. Highlights of this trip included Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, and Venice, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Amoeba Records, the Huntington, USC, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (where I took the photo I use as my header image for this blog), Chinatown, Hollywood, Pasadena, the Gamble House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Millard House, West Hollywood, the Bodhi Tree Bookstore, LACMA, two branches of the Museum of Contemporary Art, City Hall, Little Tokyo, and Skid Row. I had taken the precaution of buying an I-Pod before the trip so that each place I visited would have the appropriate musical accompaniment.

Unfortunately the week-long separation from Belle was traumatic for us both. Another downside of the trip was that I had a woefully insufficient amount of money to spend, having used quite a bit on my pre-trip preparations.

Shortly after I returned to Austin my fortunes went into a sharp decline from which they have yet to recover. I had to stop seeing my therapist that December because of the cost.

My income for the year was $17, 676.

Early on this year I developed a new social media obsession–The Tumbler. (Yes, I spell it that way–I hate cutesy misspellings.)

I had only about two-and-a-half weeks worth of work the entire year–one week in January with the media company, and one-and-a-half weeks in July with an asshole realtor. We loathed each other from our first conversation, and relations got progressively worse. I was thrilled to be rid of him.

In March I wrote a 928-page book–“Withholding: Scenes From A Minimum Wage Life”–in less than a month. In it I described the 38-plus mostly bad jobs I’ve had in thirty-one years. Though my buddy James had encouraged me to write it, and especially to write it in my darker, more misanthropic style, he tired of it only one-fourth of the way in and never finished it. I have not yet got around to a major edit of the book.

The rest of the year was devoted to depression, ever-increasing social anxiety with seeming agoraphobia, waiting for jobs that would never come, and extensive reading. Oddly enough, most of the books I read came from the public library rather than my own. (I think the pressure of the return deadline pushed me to get the books finished.)

My total income for the year was less than $2,800. (And here I am, in what should be my most productive years.)

This year has basically been a continuation of the dead-end nothingness of last year. I fell even further down the social ladder, as I started receiving Food Stamps–which I had applied for in late 2011. In order to extend my benefits, I needed to get a doctor to re-diagnose me as Bi-Polar, since apparently all the documentation on my condition from my previous doctors was not considered sufficient.

I tried to get back into MHMR, only to find there was a two- to three-year waiting list. I signed back up with a low-cost health-care service. I engaged in an annoying run-around with a variety of bureaucracies.

I also qualified to take a series of computer education courses with a City-affiliated non-profit, so I took advantage of that.

Just a couple weeks into the New Year I saw a dog run over in the street that bisects my apartment complex. The dog suffered quite awhile before dying. The driver was some inattentive asshole who was probably yakking away on his goddamn cell phone instead of paying attention to the road, because he flew over the speed bump. He showed no remorse for what he’d done, and didn’t seem to pay much mind to the hysterical little girl who owned the dog, who was crying and screaming nearby. I gave the guy a good cussing out, but I really wanted to grab a big rock and bash his fucking brains in. The only thing that stopped me was I had Belle with me on the leash.

A few weeks later I learned that a child from my apartment complex had been gang-raped by teenaged boys who also live in the complex, while other children watched. The crime has not been prosecuted, or from what I can tell, even investigated.

The sleazeballs from my apartment management company began a major renovation of the property, implementing changes which for the most part I dislike, and guaranteeing months of noise, interruptions, and stress for me, as well as a gross inflation of my rent when my lease expires.


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