–Friday–11/2/07–My 44th birthday. Hip-hip-hoo-fucking-ray.
Any calmness I felt about my situation the previous day thanks to my therapist’s calm and sane talk was dissipated today, as I continued to worry over my situation. And it was not enough that I was making myself sick—James had to pitch in.
–I can’t talk long—I need to go out and start looking for jobs, and drop off my application at Starbuck’s.
–Why do you wanna do that for?
–I don’t wanna do it, I have to do it, to get some money coming back in.
–Well even if you started a job today it’d be 2-to-4 weeks before you got paid.
–What does that matter? I need some kind of income rolling in.
–You should learn how to live in poverty like I do.
–Poverty? You have a fucking paid-off townhouse. I do not want to be and will not be homeless and lose all my stuff. My stuff is the only thing I give a shit about anymore anyway.
–Well why do you keep applying for shitty jobs you hate and that make you crazy, that stress you out, that you can’t do well, and that you’ll probably quit or be fired from quickly?
–Because that’s the only place I can find work! I can’t find work in the fields I’m good at!
— You see, this is why your friends don’t want to help you—you never listen to the advice they give. Austin is the biggest writer’s market in Texas.
–Trust me—it is. And I could find you plenty of writing jobs in Austin.
–Okay, name me five. Five jobs right now or in the next few days, that are hiring.
–I didn’t say I could find you five places that are hiring. And I didn’t say I could find you jobs that wouldn’t make you crazy. I’m not inside your head, so I can’t know….
–Well stop playing fucking word and semantical games and name some places.
— “Texas Monthly,” the “Chronicle,” the “Statesman,”….
–Yeah, yeah. I know all those usual places. But they’re never hiring, And they already have a backlog of applications.
–When have you ever seen those places advertise openings. Never ever. They don’t advertise. You should know that by now.
–Well, what fucking good is that list? You’re just stating the obvious. And you’re naming places that never hire.
–Well, maybe you’ll have to become a better writer.
–Fuck you! I am a good writer! That doesn’t have a fucking thing to do with it.
–Well, you’re just setting yourself up for more misery applying for these crappy jobs.
–Well I know. But what fucking choice do I have?
–Your choice is to get a job in writing.
—Dammit, it’s not as easy as you make it sound!
–I wish I could kick you in the nuts every time you apply for those type of jobs. Those jobs are just going to increase your depression and hinder your treatment.
–I would rather get kicked in the nuts than work anymore of those jobs.
And so needless to say, I spent the afternoon of my birthday in a serious, serious depression, but I think less because James was provoking me than because I knew he was right. But I didn’t know how to fix the problem and break the cycle of shit I’ve been in all these years.
I went to the Starbuck’s. While I waited to drop off my application I noticed how busy it was and how painfully loud the music was. This would not be a good place to work. And none of the other places where I picked up applications had much going for them either. Each place was just a new version of hell, in different clothing. Every one of them seemed noisy, hectic, and involved using a cash register.
Later in the evening James came to take me out to dinner with his wife. He knocked at the door, and when I answered I saw he was wearing his Halloween costume. Gee…how can I describe it? Let’s just say if you’ve seen the infamous video Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg made for “Saturday Night Live” you’ll know what I mean. It made me laugh my ass off.
–Saturday–11/3/07–Sleepy. Depressed. And my ankles and shins are still killing me from that last job. The prospect of taking another shitty job just overwhelmed me. I took some meds and went to bed at 8pm.
–Sunday–11/4/07–After many interesting dreams, I finally got up around 2:30pm. Again I was overwhelmed with depression over my job prospects and the idea of doing more retail bullshit. I tried to fill out some applications, but could only get so far, plus I kept making writing mistakes, blacking out what I’d written, and so forth.
On one application it asked what I liked least about that proofreading job. There were so many answers I could’ve given but I just wrote “The hours (3rd shift).” It also asked what I liked most about the job and I wrote “Nothing.”
I wanted to sob unceasingly, but I couldn’t even force that out.
What the hell time is it? Did the clocks change again?
I went over to James’s for dinner and a viewing of the Sunday night Fox line-up. He’s been asking me for months to come over and stop being so anti-social, and I finally took him up on it. But my motive was not so much a need for society as it was a need to get out of the inside of my head. I’ve been driving myself crazy brooding over the idea that I’ll probably have to get yet another shitty job soon, and the prospect is causing my head to spin.
At any rate, I asked James for a status report on the kitty and he said she had been named “Bella”…”After Bela Lugosi.” I explained that “Bela” was a man’s name, whereas “Bella” was a woman’s name, but the always linguistically imprecise James didn’t seem to care. “They got it on Halloween, right?” “No, they got HER on the 29th!”
Though James claims to be a cat-lover, he keeps referring to the kitty as “it,” something which infuriates me. Calling an animal “it” paves the way for thinking of an animal as a thing, and makes cruelty to said animal seem more justifiable.
I explained to James that the cat is indeed a “she”: she has female genitalia. But James has a predictably ridiculous and illogical explanation for this. He said that since he’s not met the cat, he’s not determined whether the cat has a male or female personality, so until then, he’ll call the cat an “it.” (Of course the linguistically pure would just refer to a being as male until proven otherwise—male-related terms, such as “mankind,” serving as a blanket that includes both male and female.) Anyway, I suspect James must be fucking with me. He can’t be that fucking stupid.
–Monday–11/5/07–I was too doped-up on my meds today to get anything done. But since it was Guy Fawkes Day I went over to James’s house to watch “V for Vendetta,” which I greatly enjoyed. They were just wrapping up “Soylent Green” when I arrived, and I asked, “What is this, ‘Dystopia Night’ at the old home place?” “Every night is ‘Dystopia Night’ here.”
I liked both the heroes and the villains in this movie. I enjoyed the anti-American diatribes of the Limbaugh-esque “Voice of London” commentator. And how could I not love “V” himself, with his fondness for literary allusions, dense sentence constructions, old-fashioned music, great art, and a bunker full of randomly-stacked columns of books?
On the drive back to my place James set into me again about the whole job thing, and I insisted it was not my fault that I’ve gotten into my current situation, that I was compelled into a soul-crushing cycle of dead-end jobs by forces beyond my control. “But it’s your responsibility,” he insisted, which got me screaming at him.
James has said for ages that he’s “a big fan of personal responsibility.” That to me is another one of those bullshit phrases the dim-witted cartoon character Hank Hill spouts. (Hank Hill’s views of the world, of life, and of moral values are pretty much the polar opposite of mine in every way.) But it’s also the sort of drivel that you often heard coming out of the mouths of those tiresome people who survived the Great Depression.
I’ve encountered a lot of Great Depression survivors in my time, and many of them were made assholes by the experience. They’d brag about all the hardships they survived, and then would make malicious croakings of doom: “There’s gonna be another Depression coming soon, and I can’t wait for it to happen, ’cause all these spoiled younger folk won’t know what hit ’em and they’ll have to see what it’s like.”
Fortunately these bitter old bastards are dying off in droves, but I fear it’ll be decades before we rid the planet of their poisonous and negative mindset.
Anyway, I changed the subject and told James about how I’d found a transcript of an IM conversation we’d had a few months ago, where he was playing his fucking word games again, saying he knew the plot of my Paris book, but wanted me to tell him what it was about. He’d then thrown in numerous references to “Fight Club,” as he always does when he can’t think for himself, and before long he had me into a Grade A screaming fit. When I recalled all this for James it gave him a good laugh, and I spat, “Why must you insist on provoking me and pissing me off when you know how unstable I am?!”
–Tuesday–11/6/07–I got up early and bused it downtown. At the stop at 9th and Colorado I was listening to my little radio when I became aware of a woman yelling at me. I figured the fact I had my headphones on was a good enough excuse to not answer her. But I soon realized she wasn’t yelling at me—she was just yelling. I eased back about 50 feet away from her. Then she began stamping angrily at some invisible pests on one segment of the sidewalk. Then looked all around and yelled louder, then barked like a dog. She was really losing it, to the extent I think she probably should’ve been locked up.
My first start was the medical card place. I always leave there in a tearing, bloody rage, and today was no exception. Since the inefficient cocksuckers won’t transact any kind of business over the phone, I had to go AGAIN physically there to set another fucking appointment which won’t be until fucking December, when I’ll have to physically go in YET AGAIN. Plus I’ll have to bring along the same fucking stack of documents I brought in when I was there three fucking weeks before, as well as a fucking form filled out by my fucking former manager explaining that I no longer work at his fucked-up store. The reason I have to do all this bullshit is, of course, that I got fired and so my income level has changed. If I get a job between now and the appointment date, my new supervisor will also have to fill out another fucking form, so they gave me a spare just in case.
I was ready to hit someone when I walked out of there, and headed over to yet another bus stop. There was a drunk (at 9:30am) middle-aged woman there arguing with her boyfriend. I was waiting for her to start messing with me so I could bash her in the skull with my radio. But the bus soon arrived and the ride back into downtown was uneventful. I took another bus south and someone was kicking repeatedly on the metal panel against which I was leaning, so I thumped the panel back hard with my elbow.
I showed up at the place where the group sessions are held, just in time for the second hour of the art class. The project was to do a collage illustrating how we saw out “Higher Power.” I found this next to impossible to do with the same pile of shredded magazines that have been pawed-over for art projects the last few months.
At first I looked at a travel magazine for pictures of cathedrals, but in truth I found the assignment rather obscure and perhaps even poorly thought out: how, in fact, does one portray God with magazine advertisements?
So I settled for images of qualities that I considered important—pictures of dogs, to represent unconditional love, a photo of a guy working at a computer in his underwear—symbolic of how uplifting a good job well done is, and conversely, how miserable a bad job is. I found some pictures of beds—my shelter from the buffetings of life, and even a few pictures of mosques, even though I’m not a Muslim.
One of the group leaders came over with a picture of a statue in a beautiful Oriental garden, saying she heard I was looking for religious images. “Oh, that’s a Kuan Yin, right?” The group leader was astonished. “Wow, you really know your stuff. The Goddess of Compassion, that’s right. How did you know that?” “I study comparative religions.” “Wow. I’m from Malaysia, and there’s a huge statue of her there where people make pilgrimages.”
I never really finished my collage—in fact, I only managed to tear some pages out. But on the sly I was mostly tearing out pages of magazine stories I wanted to read later at home (the architecture of Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray on the Riviera, boutique casbah hotels in Morocco…).
But one guy—one guy—he baffled everybody…well, at least everybody in the room who wasn’t zombified from their meds. He made a collage of his Higher Power entirely out of images of Harleys. The group leaders had no idea what to say about that. Normally they can come up with something supportive to say about the lamest and most foggy-brained efforts of the most mentally-unsound patients, but this time they were gob-smacked.
This guy explained that the collage did not represent his Higher Power, but said he had once owned a motorcycle, and had known a lot of Harley aficionados, and to them owning and riding Harleys was a way of life, but he stopped short of saying that it was for them almost a religion. (Of course, I’ve known weird fuckers who regard wearing Birkenstocks and flip-flops almost like a religion, or at least a tacky cult, but that’s another rant.) At any rate, the links in this guy’s chain of logic seemed tenuous at very best.
During my Anger Management group (where it turned out I was the angriest person in the room, with an unscientific and self-applied rating of 9 out of a range from 0 to 10) the group leader asked a new guy a question and wanted to write his name on the erase board, and she thought he said “Rollen,” when in fact he said, “Roland,” which for some reason threw her, and I got impatient with her difficulty over the name and almost spouted out, “You know, like ‘Childe Roland to the dark tower came…,’” but I held my tongue.
I do tend to show off so much in those groups that I really have to pace myself. In the Health group one of the leader announced an art show that was being held at the State Hospital featuring work by former patients, and that got me off on a tangent about Louis Wain, the turn-of-the-century British artist who, after being institutionalized with schizophrenia, began drawing very bizarre representations of cats.
I talked to James after I got home and he finally decided to clarify terms for me, after I’ve been screaming for months about it. He finally defined what he meant by my being “responsible” for all my problems:
–If somebody on the bus hauled off and smacked the shit out of you and injured you, whose fault would that be?
–If you don’t go to the hospital and get your injury treated, whose responsibility is that?
–And I am getting treatment for my problems and trying to fix my fucked-up life.
–Yes, you are.
My problem was the way James was saying it, it sounded like he was claiming it’s my fault my life is the way it is, and despite my screaming at him over and over, he only now decided to explain himself.