Journal Entries (December 15th–21st, 2012).

Saturday, December 15th–I think I woke around 7:21pm. Or was it 9:21pm?

At any rate, not long after getting up, I decided I needed to go grocery shopping, as much as I dreaded it. I didn’t want to have to walk one mile there, then walk another mile back with my back and arms loaded down with heavy bags. I didn’t want to leave the house or deal with people. I didn’t want to hear Belle’s loud barking when I returned or risk having the neighbors complain to the apartment management about her barking that late.

The whole thing got me so anxious I was on the verge of tears, but I needed certain food items, so I set forth. Belle barked loudly when I left. I spent $42, some of it for ingredients for the big soup that should keep me fed for much of the rest of the month. I have $11 left on my Food Stamp card to last until January 7th.

On my way back I stopped off for an Icee. Belle barked loudly when I returned at 11:45pm, and I think one of my neighbors was beating on a wall, ceiling, or door, in an attempt to register disapproval, but I had bought some lunch meat, and gave Belle that and a rawhide chew, and that got her to stop barking a lot quicker than she normally would have.

Sunday, December 16th–
Moving on into Sunday, not long after returning home I showered and spent several hours finishing Bryan Connan’s “Beverley Nichols: A Life.”

I’d not heard of Nichols prior to a few weeks ago. I was doing a Google Image search for a picture of Rex Whistler, and came instead across a dust jacket Whistler designed, in the British Neo-Romantic style of the 1930s, for a book called “A Thatched House.” The picture was enchanting, and the subject and title intrigued me, so I looked up the author, Beverley Nichols.

I learned he is best-remembered today for his home and gardening books, and that got my attention. I found out my downtown public library had two of his books, and to my surprise, this biography as well. I had initially checked it out just planning to thumb through it, re-checked it twice, and then, a little over a week before the final due date, I decided to actually read it.

Nichols had been dubbed the first of the Bright Young Things. He was charming, attractive, and talented, with many irons in the fire. He knew everybody–Coward, Waugh, Beaton, Maugham, Churchill, the Sitwells, et al.–and was as much at ease taking tea with royalty or composing West End revues as he was getting violently buggered by sailors and Guardsmen in cheap bed-sits. He adored his long-suffering mother, and despised his alcoholic father to the degree he tried unsuccessfully to murder him on three occasions.

He was President of the Oxford Union, an editor, columnist, secretary, ghost writer, composer, singer, actor, pianist, playwright, debater, polemicist, pacifist, and a writer of over fifty books, on topics ranging from religion, politics, children’s literature, fiction, cookery, cats, humor, drama, autobiography, and homes and gardens.

Though I enjoyed the book, I did find some glaring errors, which were even more surprising in that this was a 2000 revision of a book originally published in 1991. I had considered writing the author and pointing out these errors (He calls Columbia University “Columbus University,” the wealthy Philadelphia Widener family the “Widnes” family, and the Third and last Earl of Lathom the Fifth Earl), but it seems he died a few years ago.

Overall, a cracking good read!

Monday, December 17th–I got up around 7:26pm, and immediately fell into a deep depression. I didn’t sleep as long as I wanted, and I didn’t want to have to stay awake until late Tuesday afternoon. For awhile I was overcome with the feeling that I wanted to cry.

I ate, showered, worked on tutorials.

Later on I watched “Julie & Julia,” which I saw a few years ago in the theatre. (Or was it Sunday that I watched this?) Afterwards, I listed to the DVD commentary. A few parts made me cry: 1) When Julia starts crying over the news that her sister is pregnant, and the viewers are given to understand that Julia is unable to have children, and 2) towards the end of the film when agents and publishers become interested in both Julia and Julie. I wish I knew what it was like for my writing to be noticed and wanted like that.

Tuesday, December 18th– Monday flowed into Tuesday. My severe depression toned down a bit. I think the coffee helped.

Shortly before I needed to leave for my appointments and errands I got some news online that was profoundly shocking, but also pleasant. It left me shaken for the rest of the day.

Still, the news made me late for the bus I’d planned to take, and this forced me to take a later bus and cut my library visit short.

The library was full of cops, something that always makes me uncomfortable. They’d probably had some trouble with the homeless people on the second floor.

I went to the DVD section, but felt pressed for time. An old woman was hogging the largest of the newly-returned DVD carts, and would just not take a hint and move. I finally gave up, and left the section without checking anything out. This is the first time in months I’ve not checked out DVDs from the library.

I then grabbed five books from the first and third floors, and checked myself out. I was probably in the library for no more than twenty minutes.

I caught a bus which got me to Burnet Road with plenty of time to spare. My next bus was a little late, but I got to my therapist’s office building thirty minutes early. This was to be my last visit with her, unless my DARS Case Worker sends me back.

I started out with the usual explanation of what I’d been doing and feeling since my last visit. I moved on to my observations about my social anxiety, work habits and concerns, and fears regarding DARS. I also digressed into talking about health matters.

She seemed to think I’ve got a pretty good idea about myself and these various matters affecting me. She admits that her knowledge of DARS is incomplete at best, and speculates that DARS will probably only be of moderate assistance to me at best in meeting my goals. She thinks DARS will probably not be directly responsible for getting me to my dream job or career, and that I might have to at least initially tone down my ambitions, at least for the immediate future and vis-a-vis DARS.

Then we agreed that probably the best course of action for all concerned would be for me to seek work locally with some sort of online media company, where I could combine my writing and editing skills with computer work–what the counselor from the Texas Workforce Commission told me earlier in the year. She also suggested I try to schedule a meeting with M___ and talk about the company he works for (or, I thought to myself, see if he knows of similar local companies to which he could recommend me or put in a good word).

I mentioned that I might go to the UT campus on Thursday to hit a few museums, and added that I occasionally take “me days,” where I go out and visit museums and libraries and take a bunch of photos and so forth. Then I added, “But who am I kidding? When you’re unemployed every day is a ‘me day.'”

She warned me that I should hurry up and take as many “me days” as possible, “Because soon you’re not going to be able to do that anymore. You’ll either be in a job or a job-training program.”

That disturbed me.

I had about a thirty minute wait for my first bus. Though it wasn’t even 4pm yet, the traffic on Balcones Drive, which is parallel to the horrifically-congested Mo-Pac Freeway, was thick. I saw a lot of very well-dressed people heading south. When traffic slowed down to a crawl, I noticed a woman talking into her pink cell phone while driving, her face contorted in pain, crying. Sometimes she’d have to put the phone aside to wipe away the tears.

Other people began to walk up to the bus stop. One young black guy made gestures indicating he wanted to talk to me, so I reluctantly took off my headphones. I gathered from his accent that he was African or maybe from the Caribbean.

“So I hear some people got killed at a school? Sixteen? Twenty? Sometin’…?”

“Yes, up in Connecticut. I think it was about twenty-seven people. Some adult teachers, but mostly little children.”

“Ah, I see….And who was dee shootah?”

“A twenty-year-old. Some white guy from the town. It’s a very white, affluent town.”

“Ah, I see….So if he had been a Mooslim whach you tink Americans woulda called him?”

I saw where he was going with this, and decided to let him run with it.

“They’d probably have called him a terrorist.”

“Right. And if he be a black man, what day call him?….A gang member, right?”

“Right, probably.”

“But since he white day just say he hab mental problems….Come on, man. Dat ain’t right. You need to change. America need to change. Dat’s not right tinkin’ like dat.”

“I agree. I agree with you totally.”

The bus finally arrived, but got me to my connection just seconds too late.

When I got back to my neighborhood, I got an Icee, then went to the dollar store for a few items, and finally to Petsmart, to buy Belle’s Christmas treats. They were priced so well I was able to buy a lot more items than I’d planned.

I got home, and Belle as usual barked loud and incessantly. She barked loudly and incessantly when I arrived, when I put down my bags, when I put on her harness and leash, when I led her outside, and while we stood on the stoop as I fumbled around to lock the front door. Her barking rang out and bounced off the walls, and my asshole upstairs neighbor, the rude young man with the fondness for blaring shitty dub-step music, felt it necessary to open his front door and shout out a comment, though all I managed to hear was …”your dog!,” before he slammed the door shut again, depriving me the opportunity of replying with a few obscenities.

I walked Belle, met my neighbor Danna and her dogs, then headed back inside. I think I ate something, and I know I showered and got online briefly.

I retired around 7:30pm, having been awake for 24 straight hours.

Wednesday, December 19th–I woke about 3:30am or so. I was a little surprised, as I’d hope to sleep for twelve hours at least. Still, I was very rested, as I always am when I sleep after being awake for a long stretch.

Even though I went to bed right after showering last night, when I woke I felt oily, greasy, and stinky, so I took another shower.

Was today the day I made my big soup, or was that earlier in the week?

About the only things I did today were fart around online and read in that Lovecraft biography.

Thursday, December 20th–I woke at 6:59am and quickly set about getting ready for my UT outing today, and indeed got down there just shortly after 10am. The streets were deserted, as they always are when school is out.

The main reason I went to the Blanton today was to see “Into the Sacred City: Tibetan Buddhist Deities from the Theos Bernard Collection.” This included “five mandalas and three thangkas dating from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries,” twenty minutes of color and black-and-white film footage of Tibet in the 1930s, which was fascinating and otherworldly, and educational materials about the collection and restoration of the sacred items. The exhibition was so small I actually read every word on every tag–something I don’t think I’ve ever done before in a museum.

I walked fairly quickly through the exhibition “The Rules of Basketball: Works by Paul Pfeiffer and James Naismith’s ‘Original Rules of Basket Ball,'” because it didn’t really interest me. Then I went upstairs, broke out the camera, took some pictures of Luis Jiménez’s “Cruzando El Rio Bravo [Border Crossing],” and went through “William Hogarth: Proceed with Caution,” “Portraits during the Reign of George III,” “Max Gimblett: Drawing Zen,” the collection of Greco-Roman coins, vases, and fragments, “Restoration and Revelation: Conserving the Suida-Manning Collection,” then did a major photography blitz of the Classical sculpture plaster casts, the Modern American abstracts, and some of the Suida-Manning European paintings.

I then went over to Jester, where a bunch of UT maintenance men gave me the fish-eye as if I was a dangerous trespasser. I was in hopes of getting a cheap lunch at Wendy’s, but it was closed.

I went over to the Perry-Castenada Library, and found Robert Walser’s “The Microscripts.” I knew it was short, and had planned to read it on the spot in the library today, but it wasn’t as short as I’d expected it to be, and I didn’t have the time to read it. Plus, I was late for lunch, and I get headaches if I don’t eat at regular times. I looked up a few books on and about Beverley Nichols and Norman Douglas, but didn’t photo-copy anything, and left fairly quickly because I was so hungry.

None of the food stands were open, since the campus was all but deserted. I wound up going to Dobie Mall, to Opa’s Kitchen, where I had some over-priced bibimbap with warm tea and miso soup. I didn’t leave a tip.

I went over to the Harry Ransom Center and did a quick run-through of the Norman Bel Geddes exhibition, neglecting to slow down and read all the captions. I took some pictures of the etched glass panels on the HRC and a few campus buildings. I went to the Architecture Library, took more pictures, but didn’t look at any books or do any photo-copying.

My usual bus stop was closed for street constructions, so I had to walk a few blocks south, taking more pictures all the while. I got back to my neighborhood fairly quickly, made some purchases at the dollar store, then went home. I was tired, very sore, had a blister on one big toe, and had really exacerbated my plantar fasciitis. I showered, farted around online, started a long reply to a lovely and unexpected message from a Facebook friend, and retired at midnight.

Friday, December 21st–I dreamt that my father tried to impose a serious punishment on me, and I argued back that at 49, I was too old for all that now. He seemed to disagree.

………………………………..

I woke up about 9am. Today was the day some people predicted the Mayan Apocalypse, but of course, nothing happened.

It was cold out. I puttered, wrote a long response to that message I got yesterday, and read in the Lovecraft biography.

It was just about this time ten years ago that I quit smoking. For twenty years I was a heavy smoker of cigars, pipes, and unfiltered cigarettes. Generally, I loved every minute of it. I didn’t hate myself or beat myself up for smoking, the way some smokers do. I never tried to quit. I never wanted to quit. I assumed it’d eventually kill me, but since I suffer from depression, I was fine with that.

Then, right before Christmas 2002 I got sick with the flu. I had it for two weeks, then went to a doctor, who made me get an X-ray of my lungs. I was just sure the X-rays would show my lungs to be as black as tar. I finally got the X-rays back, looked at them, couldn’t tell anything, then took them back to my doctor. He said the bad news was that I now had walking pneumonia. The good news was that after twenty years of smoking my lungs were still pink as a baby’s behind.

I had pneumonia for two more weeks, then it took one more week for me to get all the medications out of my system. So I had five weeks of being without smoking, cold turkey, plus the scare of a brush with mortality. I knew I never again wanted to be as scared as I’d been in the waiting room of that X-Ray clinic.

I figured that having a vice for twenty years and getting away with it was plenty. I’d dodged the bullet. I was going to take my winnings and leave the table. (I still occasionally have fluid in my lungs, and smoking weakened my diaphragm to the point it’s difficult for me to hack up phlegm, but overall, I really seem to have lucked-out as far as long-term damage goes.)

Now zealous anti-smoking campaigners claim that quitting smoking is harder than quitting heroin. Never having taken heroin, I can’t speak about it. But quitting smoking was actually pretty easy for me. I had to learn new channels for my nervous energy. I had to find new things to fidget with with my hands–generally pens do the trick. And I had to stop associating specific events of my day (checking my e-mail in the morning, tuning in to my favorite TV show, walking the dog) with lighting up.

After that, I had no trouble. I still occasionally have dreams where I smoke, but I’ve never been tempted to light up again in waking life. I still have half-a-pack of cigarettes in my old cigarette case and a Cuban cigar, rotting away into dust in a drawer somewhere. Sometimes I’ll take them out and look at them, wondering how they ever played such a big part in my life. Now I can’t be around smoke without it making me cough, and I consider cigarette smoke to be foul-smelling.

I don’t really pester people who still smoke. I just hope that if and when they quit, they have as few problems with as I did. Friends who knew me in my smoking days will often cite me as an object lesson: “If *HE* can quit smoking, anybody can!”

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