Tuesday, February 5th–I got up around 7am, did the usual things, then wrote a short article on Florentine tourist attractions….
I got a message from that …Career Counselor again. The meeting is Friday at 1pm, at the DARS offices, and [he] expects the meeting to last three hours. That put me in a blinding rage.
A little later I stepped out for awhile. I had a so-so, over-priced meal at Elevation Burger, then went to Barnes and Noble. I wanted to kill everybody I saw. There was some scrawny, creepy, dirty, wormy little old man who was slithering around the floor and getting underfoot around by the magazines, and I just wanted to stomp on and kick him repeatedly.
I looked through about twenty copies of “Dwell” for an issue that wasn’t damaged and found none. I wound up getting a copy of “Afar” instead.
I then went over to the remaindered books section, saw a fat biography of T. E. Lawrence, originally priced at around $30 or $40, marked down to $8, but of the eight copies in stock, not a one wasn’t damaged. I did, however, find a remaindered copy of Michael Caine’s second volume of memoirs, in decent shape, and got that. I was pretty much beside myself with anger by the time I got home.
I think I retired after midnight or 1am.
Wednesday, February 6th–I dreamt I was with my father on some night-time errand. We wound up at some sort of encampment or compound of simple buildings arranged around a dusty yard. I think this was the home of some sort of training program for young men–either those with criminal pasts, criminal potentials, poverty-stricken backgrounds, or mental retardation or mental weakness, or something along those lines.
My father brought some plastic crates of something to drop off at this place, as an act of charity.
I found myself in one of these buildings, possibly on a screened porch or in a kitchen or storage room. The space was brightly-lit, and I think I was wrapped in a blanket.
The room was very filthy. I was hungry, and swiped some food for myself from one of the crates. At first I couldn’t tell if it was food, feces, or some other filthy, vile, cast-off article. I knew it was dangerous to eat food that had been exposed to the germs of this room.
I noticed that a little animal of ours–possibly a puppy–had slipped in to the crates and had come along for the ride, and was now exploring in the dirty room, getting exposed to health hazards. There was another little animal doing the same thing, but I’m not sure what sort of animal he was.
I got the sense that I was being abandoned in this place, or that I might be unless I made myself known. I was getting sleepy, even in that bright room, and knew I must alert my father if the animals and I were to escape.
In the next dream I was also wrapped in a blanket. I was on a dark road, approaching a more built-up area, possibly near a beach. I came up to a fairly new bridge–not very long or wide–which crossed a creek. I crawled over it on my hands and knees, along the side.
There were some protrusions where some extra concrete had spilled over the side when the slabs had been poured. They hung, gargoyle-like, into the air, though some spilled onto the embankments at either end of the bridge. As I crawled past these protrusions I put out my right hand and pushed on them. They broke off and fell down into the creek.
Eventually, I got to my feet, and wandered into the built-up area, and met up with a woman I know, then went into a restaurant hoping to get something to eat, but the lay-out was labyrinthine, and the process of getting served was complicated.
I got up a little before noon, feeling pretty good. I did my usual rituals, then set about working on the things I needed to get done for the day. I learned that one sick friend is feeling much better, while a friend I’ve not seen in years is engaged.
Thursday, February 7th–I seem to have completely forgotten to write down what happened today.
Friday, February 8th–There was a dream that was built around my having a birthday party. A lot of people showed up, and it was held in a sort of Victorian farmhouse with rooms jam-packed with shelves and shelves of books.
When I arrived, I was greeted by my friend T___, who was leaving. There was a small car, filled with stuff, parked inside one of the front rooms, and the guests were helping themselves to these items. At first they looked like ordinary bits of trash, but upon closer examination, I realized these were all important keepsakes of mine, and I demanded that they all be returned.
Someone honked the car’s all-but-inaudible horn to get everyone’s attention, and finally I walked into the living room and started yelling at everyone to shut the fuck up and listen to me. In the end, no one really paid attention, and almost none of the items were returned.
Also during the party, someone turned up evidence that I’d had a very embarrassing love affair in past years, an affair I didn’t remember at all, (especially since I never have love affairs), but my friends being who they are, more interested in making fun of me than in respecting my feelings, they continued to produce evidence of this relationship.
The dream featured some acoustic guitar song from the late 60s or early 70s, that included the line “Sunday in Yslao (Mama knows it’s true).” There was also some connection to an on-going architectural exhibition called “Sunday in Yslao: L.A. Schools as Art.”
I woke around 8am, and prepared for a shitty day.
I left about 11am, went to the bank, deposited $10, and got $50 in cash. It took me two buses and over an hour to go about three miles. I went to the HEB on North Lamar, picked up my medications, prowled around for a long time looking for something I could eat for lunch, wound up getting junk food, then walked through the ghetto to the DARS office.
…[T]he Career Counselor, was at least fifteen minutes late. The impression I’d had of him over the phone, as a pushy, ass-holish salesman-type, proved to be quite wrong. He was a pleasant, easy-going guy.
We did the evaluation in the big meeting room where I’d gone for orientation last August. He set his lap-top and other things up on a narrow table, and I think was surprised when I didn’t sit directly opposite from him, but instead took a seat about seven feet away at another table, with an empty chair between us. I’m sure he read a lot into that protective gesture, but I wanted room to spread my papers around, and don’t like to feel that people are pressing down on top of me.
The evaluation was supposed to run about three hours, I’d hoped to cut it down to two, but I talked so much it ran for three-and-a-half.
At one point he raised his eyebrows and asked if I’d ever been tested for Asperger’s Syndrome, since he said I seemed to display a lot of the symptoms. When I told him my honest feelings about how I consider job-hunting and most jobs to be dehumanizing ordeals, my voice cracked, and he seemed both moved and alarmed.
At the end of the evaluation he basically declared me unemployable, saying that I would not have been admitted into DARS had I not “possessed a significant impediment to work,” and that I was “not eligible for competitive and gainful employment” in my current condition. He said there was no job that he as a career counselor could successfully place me in, and that even if I managed to land a job, I would not keep it for long in my condition.
So he encouraged me to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which could get me access to Medicaid and a better level of medical, psychiatric, and psychological treatment than what I now get from the City and County. Then, he hoped, with proper treatment, the care-givers I dealt with through Medicaid could get me healthy enough to go back to work.
But privately I felt he had pronounced my working life over, and that from here on all I would face would be snowballing failure and poverty and no hope.
I had to wait thirty minutes in the ghetto for my next bus, and thirty more minutes on Burnet Road for my last one.
I got back to my neighborhood, ate at McDonald’s, then went to HEB for groceries. I tried to keep my shopping light, but even so, I had too many, so the walk home was painful.
It was after 7pm when I got home.
I showered and watched “Les Amours Imaginaires.” It was entertaining, stylish, beautifully photographed, and with some attractive cast members, though the plot was a little thin.
I retired in the wee hours–I forget exactly when.
Saturday, February 9th–I got up around noon. My back was hurting from lugging groceries yesterday. It was drizzling outside.
My computer took a long time to reboot, as it was running a “Check Disk” program. After that, most of my photo collection had been moved away. So I’m going to have to go through a lot of bullshit to recover it all.
I sent someone a long message. The response plunged me into a deep depression, but I was due for one anyway after my bad news yesterday.
I watched “Rick Steves’s Italy’s Cities 2000-2009.” (Three-and-a-half hours of his sing-song, prissy voice, and bad writing.)
I tried to get J___ to help me come up with article titles for my potential work assignment, but as usual, he got off on a weird tangent, and stubbornly wouldn’t listen when I tried to tell him what my potential employers want.
Sunday, February 10th–I got up in early- or mid-afternoon, and immediately felt like crying. Eventually, I received indications that I was at least somewhat mistaken about the bad news that had upset me so much yesterday.
I posted this [online]:
“So how do you reconcile social anxiety with a desire to travel the world?
“I was recently told my social anxiety (among other conditions) is currently so severe that I’m unable to work outside my home in a competitive environment around other people. I was told it might take years of treatment before I can live a normal life.
“Some outings outside the home are for me ordeals. but I can generally do things like go to the movies, libraries, museums, and bookstores, and take photos and so forth, with no problem. Yet appointments, trips to the grocery store, and bus ride are awful for me. I might postpone walking across the street to buy a stamp for several days.
“Also recently, some friends invited me to come with them to Italy in April or May, at their expense, thinking I’d enjoy it as well as be a damn good tour guide for them. They’re taking a house in Florence. If I went, I’d probably be there for two weeks. Part of me wants to go, part of me wants to stay hidden away at home.
“I’m not sure what to do. I’m also not wanting to deal with people getting in my face and saying, ‘Ah, you lazy bastard! You spent two weeks running around Italy and looking at art! You must not be very sick or socially anxious if you can do that!'”
And some of the responses I received:
“Go! Even if it’s hard. It’s not everyday you get an opportunity like that. My social anxiety is the same way- certain places I can go with no problem- others are so hard I need days to recover. I’m sure your dr/therapist understands that.”
“Can you imagine it as a role to play, The Tourist? I only had a taste of severe anxiety this month (bad medication reaction) and I can totally understand where you are coming from.”
“SAY YES! GO TO ITALY! Worry about the rest later. I used to have social anxiety, and friends dragged me to Spain when I was at my lowest, and it was the best that happened. Getting out somewhere new gives a sense of perspective and confidence <3"
"I suffer from social and general anxiety. I had to be homeschooled throughout high school due to such. I HIGHLY recommend cognitive behavioral therapy. It helped me completely and now I work full time in a social environment. It gets better I promiseeee"
"Personaly I feel great every time when I overcome anxiety. My advice is to go to Italy. It would be great for you and may help you with your problem."
"I think you should go to Italy if you feel up to it. If not, that’s totally understandable."
"The exposure to being out of your regular environment will be good for you. Doctors used to prescribe changes in routine. The difference is what HAS to be done and what you CAN do. I say go!"
J___ and I continued work on those article titles, but working with him was like pulling teeth. He seemed to understand at first, then got more confused and difficult, then finally produced what I needed, though by that time he claimed he was more confused than ever.
I finally finished Norman Douglas's "Old Calabria," which I'd been slogging through for a long tme, and read more in the Cavafy book. I watched the documentary "The Art of the Steal." Shortly before I went to bed I read the shocking news that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning the Papacy at the end of the month.
Norman Douglas's "Old Calabria," has many of the qualities of the other Douglas books I've read ("Siren Land" and "Fountains in the Sand'), in that it was filled with scholarly digressions and asides, lengthy passages in foreign languages which are left untranslated, and often hilarious criticisms of the backwardness and ignorance of the locals. It discusses a part of Italy which even today few travelers visit, and it approaches the subject matter in a slow, meditative way. The text immerses you in Southern Italy and in the idea of travel at a sane, human pace.
Monday, February 11th–I got up in late afternoon. After walking and feeding Belle and myself, and showering, I prepared some messages and finished the list of titles J____ and I had worked on all weekend, then I sent messages to [several people].
I found my day's activities suddenly finished, and was at loose ends for things to do. I got into a long chat with J____, then watched again two episodes of "Brian Sewell's Grand Tour of Italy."