The End of Good Times

Upon reading the title of this week’s post, one might be under the impression that the subject matter is regarding the cancellation of the hit 1970s sitcom, Good Times. The series finale of Good Times was, in itself, a good time, because everyone lived happily ever after. Like… every single character had some pretty awesome closure on their respective arcs. I don’t recall all of the details, but I remember Keith gets to go play for the Chicago Bears, so there aren’t many good times that could top that one. Continuing his arc would be pointless (until 25 years later, when television ratings started to truly rely on how badly someone once-famous spiraled out of control after achieving fame).

Also, Willona and Thelma found out they get to stay neighbors, so that was also a pretty good time that would be tough to beat. Perhaps not for James.

Alas, this isn’t about the show. It’s about something people don’t usually talk about openly: The Happiness Hangover (I would love to take credit for that term, but I only just learned it, while researching this phenomenon). Think about a time in your life, when you were having the best time, and everything was perfect in your world, and nothing stressful or worrisome was taking up rent space in your head or your heart, and things just seemed to be exactly how you would want them to be forever… but then when it ends, you feel like you’re standing at the end of a long road, and there’s no clear way to go. The happiness of the experience is still fresh and vivid, but the experience itself is over. You wish it wasn’t over, because that means you’re back to the way things actually are.

Maybe you just graduated high school, and you’ll be parting ways with your friends, and you’re finally taking that step into adulthood, bound for work or for college, and you can’t help feeling that it’s the end of something, (note: it’s the beginning. Buckle the fuck up). Or you just came back from the most relaxing and fun-filled vacation you’ve ever had, and now you have to get back to The Grind, and you find yourself bored with the things that used to be a part of your everyday machine. The feeling is the same. You want to ride the high, or keep smiling and laughing with people, or keep pushing yourself to discover who you are, or keep seeing more of the world, or whatever it is that is keeping your dopamine flowing. When it stops, we feel a chemical dump that sends our spirit crashing down, and ordinary life seems bleak.

I talk about this, because my son has recently felt this for the first time. He has never been very popular or made friends easily. Even when he did have a “circle” of friends, they were a small circle. Like, not even a circle. More like a line segment. He’s always been an avid reader, and he looks like the stereotypical “nerd,” so people don’t approach him, and he’s never had success in approaching others, so he’s content to just be alone. He always sits alone at lunch, and nobody has ever tried to sit with him. It’s a mystery to me. Besides being intelligent, funny, considerate, and clever, he’s also interested in a wide variety of things, and could hold a conversation with any person of any age. He holds doors for people, and opens my car door for me EVERY time, even when it’s not exactly helpful. The sentiment is there, because it just occurs naturally to him, to be a good person. But he’s not very outgoing, so he generally goes unnoticed.

He was in his high school musical recently, and played a major part. He was incredibly funny, delivered his lines comically, and sang his heart out! He had a great time for the months they worked their asses off, and became friends with everyone in the group, finally showing how much fun he can be to hang out with. As a Sophomore, he is experiencing a sadness over the fact that the people he hit it off with most from the musical, are Seniors. They’re all friends with each other, and they all hang out after school, and they all have clubs and activities together, and they all have classes together, and they’ll all leave everyone behind together. Now that the musical is over, those students have no inclination to socialize with my son. He hasn’t felt that feeling of being left behind before, and it’s not tasting very good the first time.

We feel a sense of sadness when the rug is ripped out from under us like that, and though the feeling eventually wears off… and even though there will always be more good times… they will also end. Life is just a chain of good times, with painful idling between the links (I’m not calling them bad times. You call them that.) If we didn’t have that “down time” we most certainly would not appreciate the moments of happiness as much, so it’s necessary to feel that crash at the end, to keep us grounded to reality. Isn’t it fucked up that we can’t go flying away with the notion that any high can last forever? Some religions see life as suffering; to live is to suffer, and we die, and then we live again to suffer until we die, and it goes on, in a cycle called Samsara. This is what I think life would be, if we didn’t have this balance. 

Let me explain.

Opponent Process Theory tells us that when we experience a strong emotion, the opposite feeling is bound to follow. So when we go to a concert, or visit loved ones, or receive praise, our brain will try to counter the dopamine release (produced by the brain, during the good time) by swinging you back into balance with some mundane shit. That’s why life can seem gloomy and rather boring, after you’ve experienced something that causes your brain to release the drugs of pleasure. In my son’s case, he experienced months of happiness, culminating in high praise from his peers and his audience. When that was over, and he was no longer performing, he felt like there was no excitement to be had. The drugs from his brain had worn off. Going to school, reading, playing video games, and other ordinary daily activities brought him back down to homeostasis, and while his “normal self” is incredibly fun to be around, he doesn’t feel the same happiness that he did when he was being accepted by his peers. It’s a simple pleasure, but it’s something that was meaningful to him, and seemingly not very meaningful to anyone on the other side of the equation. Opponent Process Theory tells him that he’s going to feel accepted and appreciated by peers, only to go back to being ignored and alone. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

So now that we know good times are a fleeting luxury, what can we do to ease the pain of the crash? Have more good times, and try to limit the time in between, just in case? I wonder how good that could be for you? Is it possible to overdose on your own transmission of dopamine? Or worse: do we just not take the chance, by limiting ourselves to how much happiness we experience? I speak from experience, when I say this: THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER. But it made me really think about it. Why has nobody ever talked about this around me before? This is the shit they need to be teaching in school, because it sucks to not know.

The other night, Sonny had a chorus concert, and it was the 4th time I’ve seen him sing in public. I still cried like a baby. I love seeing him be so involved and dedicated and versatile and confident in what he does, and his good times often reflect as good times for me, too. So when he crashes, I crash too; his attachments are to the people he does extra-curriculars with, and my attachment is to him. If I have to see him be sad or lonely, it stops being a good time for me. He is still on the high of the praise he received for his singing the other night, and it happens to coincide with the beginning of his next endeavor in theater, so there may be some minimizing of “downtime” happening there. If that’s how he manages it, I can only hope he doesn’t burn himself out. I’ve been told, “by always looking forward to the next thing, you’re wishing your life away.” I wonder if any of that’s true?

-jg

Did Someone Just Fuckin’ Say “Christmas”???

It’s only October.

But it’s late October, which means a few things in this consumerist society in which we’re drowning. The first, is the Party City enema everyone is forced to endure on television. I don’t watch much television, but Hulu shows enough commercials to offset any lost time we may have experienced otherwise. Thank you, Corporate America! It’s virtually impossible to miss the fact that it is, indeed, Halloween, but that doesn’t stop us from putting up our own decorations, even if our neighborkids are just going to rip them down and destroy them anyway. We’ll probably make our own costumes, like we always do in my family because we’re cheap, because we just love the idea of being someone else, for just a few hours. It’s an escape no other holiday can offer. In my opinion, costumes should be heavily marketed all year round, but that’s not this blog post. It’s another one.

You may have also noticed that it’s prime season for pepperings-in of holiday commercials. While still few in numbers, there is no denying that these earlybird companies are merely the first to dip their toes into the icy cold water of the dreaded SHOPPING SEASON. That means more commercials, more catalogs, more magazine ads, more store displays, more articles about the “big toy of the season” that you’ll definitely have to pre-order, because just the very mention of something potentially becoming popular, is enough to make everybody want it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, really; it’s only popular because consumers were afraid it would become too popular, and so they take “precautionary” measures, and those precautions result in what we call A Clusterfuck.

Since I’ve been cognizant of the phenomenon of holiday product pushing, I’ve always noticed the stark absence of commercials for clothing, other than Macy’s or Kohl’s, and those ones are fuckin strange. The ads show a group of people usually laughing, and they’re bopping around or moving in some unnatural way for hanging out, and literally nobody is saying anything. Everyone is just laughing and smiling. What was that shoot like? Was it… like this….?

Director: “Hey, put these pants on, and get in there and laugh.”
Actor: “At what?”
Director: “I don’t know, just laugh. You’re having a great time wearing that sweater and scarf and super tight pants.”
Actor: “That’s not funny, though. What am I laughing at?”
Director: “Think of something funny. It’s method acting.”
Actor: *shrug* “Okay.”
Director: “Pick up that giant red ball, too, and throw it at her.”
Actress: “Me?!”
Actor: “You want me to throw the ball at her?”
Director: “Yeah, it’s fun. It’s what people do in scarfs and jeans. Make sure you get that kid laughing too.”

I’ve seen some good old fashioned snowball fights on commercials for clothing, too. Mostly for outdoor clothing, but some featured people without coats -but with scarfs and earmuffs and gloves- throwing snowballs at each other. I don’t know.

The majority of holiday ads are geared toward children and teens. You know why. It’s because they’re the ones who are doing all the watching; watching TV, streaming Hulu, or they’re checked into YouTube to watch some idiot watching something else. They’re getting their daily dose of commercials, and they’re going to know exactly what they want for the holidays, because it’s not just the adults who lose their minds over the next Tickle Me Elmo, it’s the young ones too. They know what The Big Ticket is, and if they don’t see it for themselves on TV, they’ll hear all about it, and you bet your ass they’re going to let you know. And then, the deal is fuckin sealed for you, because if you don’t get that thing, you didn’t do enough. Doesn’t matter what else you get them. If it’s not that particular thing, you get to hear about how you should have pre-ordered it, and you’ll learn the names of 16 other kids who did get it, and you realize holiday consumerism is a scam, and watch your hard earned money just sit there on the floor, because it’s not The Big Ticket.

And then they play with something they already owned. Is that in the holiday ads? Where the kid just says fuckit, and starts playing with the Legos he was playing with the night before? Or where they get mad that they can’t have candy canes or bell-shaped chocolates for breakfast? Where are those ads? I remember one time, my dad put dry Lucky Charms in my stocking, just to get me to eat cereal instead of candy. I ate the marshmallows, and left the rest. Holiday Loopholes.

Speaking of loopholes, there needs to be one for relatives, because physics has forbidden me from being in two places at once. I’ve used up all of my freebies with the universe, so now I can only be in one place at one time, and that essentially guarantees that someone is going to be feeling like the asshole (spoiler: it’ll be me). I have to tell somebody no, or at the very least, reschedule for a time that is convenient. You know what isn’t convenient? Having to tell someone that they are the person you chose to reschedule. Friggin holidays… creating unrealistic expectations and incredibly realistic arguments since too-long-ago.

I don’t know if you know this or not, but there’s a holiday we celebrate here in the United States, and it’s called Thanksgiving. It’s a bullshit holiday by its very existence, but it’s cloaked in an air of “appreciation” so people aren’t allowed to talk shit about it. You have to be thankful. Don’t be a dick. That’s for the other 364 days of the year. Surely, you can spare one day of your year to not be so greedy, because that’s what Thanksgiving is about!

NO IT ISN’T.

In the United States, Thanksgiving is a food holiday that we use as an excuse to eat more than we normally do, and we pretend to be nicer than we really are. There are not usually gifts involved, but like Christmas or Chanuka, there is a fair amount of prep work that must be done, in order to successfully drive you insane execute the holiday. There is usually a big-ass turkey as the star of the meal, unless you’re a vegetarian, or you have a weird bird thing. I don’t know what people eat, if they’re not having turkey. I could eat turkey every day for the rest of my life, and be alright about it. Aside from that, you gotta have potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and pie. That’s the big four, as far as I’m concerned, and I would need nothing else on my plate, to make it a good night. But for most people, that’s just the appetizer.

I used to run a Biggest Loser competition at my old job, and when Thanksgiving came around, I had to tune everyone out, because even someone who is trying to lose weight will still glorify the horrific extent of consumption that happens on this holiday. It’s almost a necessity to over-indulge. Americans are convinced that this day just doesn’t count, and their bodies won’t pay for the random day of odd dieting that could easily equal 3 days’ worth of caloric, sodium, and fat intake. The fact is, if you give a day a special name, Americans will find a way to incorporate food into it, even if we’re unhealthy. It’s what we do. It’s why we are the way we are. If you try to figure it out, you will get lost (make sure to bring some snacks, in case you get hungry along the way).

I’ve seen some Thanksgiving dinners that were ridiculous. My sister and mom are notorious for doing way too fuckin much. 3 turkeys, AND ribs, AND roasts and stuff. And that doesn’t even include the milliondy-four sides they have prepared. You’d think they were going on vacation, and wanted to cook up everything in their house before they left. Nope, just cramming enough food for 50 people into 10 people. Because it’s a celebration! It’s weird how far we have come, from celebrating our hard work paying off in a plentiful harvest, to spending $500 on a meal that normally costs you $40 to make. Happy Thanksgiving.

The funniest thing on Thanksgiving, I think, is the sheer number of hours we spend watching the Christmas commercials. You think you’re watching football, or the Macy’s parade, but you’re just being violated by the grubby intentions of corporate America. They know you’re watching. They can practically smell the food on your breath. They know the kids can see, and if they aren’t in the room, that’s okay, because the toy ads play just a little bit louder than the show you’re watching. The second that one kid hears the annoyingly sugary voice of a woman excitedly telling you about a tiny plastic dog that just shit out some puppies, the stampede is imminent. They need the toy, but they also need to see the commercial for the toy. Right after that, while you’re still reeling from the sound of screams, it’s the commercial that tells you what your wife wants for jewelry. They know your wife can see, and if she isn’t in the room, that’s okay, because the jewelry ads play on EVERY FUCKING STATION.

Let me tell you something about jewelry ads: they’re funny as hell. The only commercial funnier than jewelry ads (and As Seen On TV ads) is a food commercial. Sidetracking for a second… What kind of reality exists, where someone takes a bite or a drink, and they close their eyes and breathe in deeply so their shoulders shrug up toward their ears, and they smile, so you know they’re thoroughly enjoying what they just consumed? Seriously. It’s lunch meat. It’s coffee. It’s a pasta dish. It’s a damn chocolate that is gonna send you to heaven, apparently. I have never eaten anything like that, in my entire life, and I love food more than I love some of my siblings. But jewelry ads are so fake, they make the food orgasm scenes look like Shakespeare in the park.

“This Christmas, show her you mean forever. Get her the Eternal Sweetheart Wife In Love diamond set from Shitz’s.”

Let me stop you there. I like the fact that they’re encouraging people to show love, instead of just saying it with dumb old words (who does that anymore?) but this is a pretty expensive way to say it. Diamonds? I’d much rather have $400 in nachos, or massages, or shoes, or cookware, or books, or paint, or scrap wood. In fact, don’t even spend that much money on me, unless it’s in car repairs or vacation details. Diamonds have no purpose, and still, they’re constantly pushed on couples, as a means to prove how strong their love is. Why not just get her the 100% steel set instead? That shit is strong. Not even jet fuel can melt it.

Christmas is the time for buying a car. If you have been putting off buying a new Lexus, now is the time. If you have perfect credit, come down and get the best deals, so we can work on your credit score. Get $1,000 off a $45,000 car, with no money down, and 0% APR. There’s no better time to surprise your spouse with a major expense, without discussing it with them first, financially. Hurry in to your Lexus dealer, before all of the cars are gone… because that’s something that ever happens. When this sale ends, it ends, until our New Year’s sale, and then our Presidents’ Day sale, and then the St. Patrick’s Day sale, and the Easter Sale, which is right before the Spring Clearance! See your Lexus dealer TODAY, and get a large red bow at no extra cost! The large red bow indicates that it’s a gift, even though the payments will be a joint expense, and you’ll probably also drive or ride in it. It’s a gift for them, which you’ll be able to successfully hide until Christmas morning, because they’ll never look in the garage. No garage? That’s okay, we will drive the car up into the driveway for you, when you’re ready to present it to your spouse (as a gift, for your spouse) and then sneak away stealthily on foot, back to the dealership on Christmas day! We have nothing to do, trust me, it always works out this way. It’s the Christmas miracle.

It would be funny to see holiday commercials change with the season, to reflect how tired we are of the ads by mid-December. The guy has the sweater on, and he’s making the Angry Dad Face at the kid, who has half of his clothes off, and the pants have grape juice and cheesy fingerprints on them, and the dog is working on the turkey, on top of the table, while the woman is drinking a glass of wine and running away. There’s half-written Christmas cards on the floor, without stamps on them. A toddler is pulling a Santa costume out of Dad’s bottom drawer. Nana is snapping the Christmas records in half. The director might tell them: “I don’t give two fucks, I just want this nightmare to end,” and they’ll all be motivated by that.

I’m not ready for the holidays yet. I can dig Halloween, because I love candy, and free candy is always good (well, maybe not always, don’t listen to me, Kids). I don’t want to think about Thanksgiving, and I certainly don’t want to think about Christmas yet. There are so many things that have to happen between now and then, and if I start thinking about the holidays, the other things will just become unimportant bumps in the road, and I don’t want that. I want to enjoy each day, and experience each bump for what it is. We are always so obsessed with time going by, that we’re forever reminding ourselves of what’s to come, instead of just living it when it gets here. When it finally does arrive, we are too busy thinking about what’s next, to fully appreciate what is happening. Let the days go by, but don’t forget to live them. Make something special out of each day. Just like Mr. Rogers said for you to do. I’m copying him, is what I’m trying to say.

It’s only October. Let it be.

-jg

I Was Almost Vinced.

Last week, I learned the meaning of the word “vincible” in more ways than one. Obviously, I looked it up in the dictionary, and wasn’t surprised to see it there. It literally means the opposite of “invincible,” which we all know, means you can’t be vinced.

I also learned the definition the hard way, by getting into a car accident. It’s worth mentioning that everyone survived, so, this isn’t that kind of invincibility (or vincibility, as it were) story, you can relax. It’s more about realizing that you’re human.

As of the day I am writing this, it has been a week since the crash, and I have experienced a metamorphic transformation of sorts, in those seven days. Nobody ever expects an accident, and when you get into one, it happens so fast, that you can easily get lost in the true events of what you’re experiencing. You ask “How did that happen?!” which is a fair question to ask, unless you were doing something risky and it just caught up with you. In that case, be your own detective.

Not only do you wonder how it happened, you can actually block out the details of what happened. One minute, you’re driving, and the very next moment, you’re spun around in a ditch on the other side of the road. If you were rear-ended, it can be extremely unclear, and you’re left with unanswered questions because the other driver probably isn’t going to want to incriminate themselves for the sake of your peace of mind. Sometimes, they’re an old couple, who you run over to check on, and they’re grouchy fuckin dicks to you. Or, it’s a redneck who wasn’t paying attention while driving way-too-fast mph on a back road in the winter, and they tell the insurance company that it was your fault. Or, sometimes it’s an extortionist who wants to make a quick buck on an insurance payout, and isn’t afraid to lay low for awhile to prove how useless injured they are. In any case, even if they’re nice, they aren’t worried about you, as much as they’re worried about themselves. But feel free to call them for an interview, if you think you’ll be able to figure some shit out. I wasn’t so lucky.

This was my second accident with my son in the car, and I’m grateful beyond all that is powerful in the universe, that he was not hurt in either one. This one was a bit less intense, but he was a champ throughout the whole thing, and has been ever since. The thing I haven’t been able to shake, is the feeling that, if we had collided one second sooner, my son could have been killed. I don’t know what I would do without him in my life, but if something happened to him because of my inability to protect him, I would struggle with being able to recover and cope. Again, I am so thankful that he is okay, and that he isn’t also caught up in this line of morbid thought that I can’t seem to get out of.

Another thing I have been struggling with, is the fear that everyone is going to come out of nowhere and hit me. I can’t check both ways enough times before pulling into the street or turning a corner. I can’t slow down enough, or allow enough space between myself and other vehicles. I know it’s normal to feel this paranoia after a crash, but I feel like it’s becoming ingrained in me. I am always a cautious and attentive driver; I never text and drive, I don’t look at my phone at all, I watch my mirrors and blind spots, and I minimize my interactions with other features in the car. I have impeccable reaction time, and have always been able to work around the poor planning and neglectful habits other drivers. I do well with rotaries, highway traffic, crazy drivers, construction, darkness, inclement weather, and distractions from my passengers. I can drive for long distances without falling asleep, and even though I’m a terrible navigator, I can follow direction. So, being in the mindset that I need to be even safer than that or we’re all going to die, is so unhealthy. Matt says the more I think about it, the more distracted I’ll be. I do know this already.

Perhaps the oddest piece of this puzzle, is that, no matter how hard I try to relive the crash, I cannot figure out where those old people came from. They weren’t there, and then they were. They were not there, and appeared in the same space as me, at the same time, and my car fell apart, while theirs was virtually untouched. Not a scratch on it. And not only that, but neither of them were hurt even a little, and they didn’t call their insurance company, or talk to mine. Didn’t even give their names. Which leads me to the conclusion that they weren’t real.

Maybe I’m just trying to compensate for my momentary lapse of perfection on the road, but I have been so confused about their existence, that I can think of no logical explanation to account for their involvement in the accident. There was nobody on that road with me, in any direction, and it was broad daylight, bright sunshine, no distractions. I didn’t just imagine this; my son is also perplexed by the fact that they literally came out of nowhere. This is some Unsolved Mysteries shit, at the highest level. Someone needs to open an X-File, not an insurance claim!

When your car becomes worthless, it’s what they call a Total Loss, which means your car has sustained more damage than it could ever be sold for again. I think mine was already at that point, prior to the accident, but if someone thinks they want to give me the Kelley price for it, then I’ll take it. It certainly helps, when you have no idea how you’re going to get around all of a sudden. If you’ve ever been one of those people who doesn’t have multiple working vehicles, ATVs, boats, snowmobiles, and motorcycles in their garage, you know the struggle. In my area, everyone has 450 trucks and cars in their yard, but you can’t borrow one for a few days, because that person needs those cars to sit there, in case all of their other vehicles somehow mysteriously stop working at one time. You figure your own shit out, but don’t forget… they’re there for you if you need anything. Just ask.

Since the accident, I have driven over 400 miles, and I may as well be walking on eggshells. The anxiety I feel over the responsibility to keep my family safe has been great. Not great, as in good. Great, as in MASSIVE. I have a brand new car, and every sound is making me obsess over whatever the worst case scenario could be. I hate that feeling. I feel like I already live my life that way, ruled by irrational fears, due to traumatizing experiences in the past. (I am aware of what PTSD is, thanks) I just want to be able to shut out those thoughts, so I can be happy and enjoy life while it’s going well.

But the dilemma is, if I relax, I might miss something or neglect to act somehow. I know I’m vincible now, and that I have to rely on more than just my instinct; I have to be mindful in every second. How can I just sit back and enjoy life, when I am responsible for so much? I don’t have the “working” job, I have the job where everyone’s well-being rests in your hands. They eat, because you shop for food, cook the meal, and feed them. They go to school and work, because you take them and pick them up. The bills are paid, because you call the company when there’s a problem, and when there isn’t, you are making sure that things remain problem-free. The laundry is done, because you took care of it between other tasks. The appointments are scheduled around each other, however plentiful they may be, because you pay attention to the packed schedule, and ask what everyone is doing, or needs. Teachers and counselors stay informed, because you keep them in the loop. Unspoken issues get attention, because you notice that something isn’t right, and you dig. It’s not a paid job, but it takes from you. You end up being the one who pays, because the worry and responsibility of being a parent at home is a lot to bear.

That is, if you love and care about your family. I don’t know, some people don’t. Some people let all of the responsibility rest on the child(ren). Some parents don’t even like to be considered a parent. They want to be the Best Friend. In my opinion, a Best Friend would offer to do my dishes once in awhile, or clean up their shit around the house. Might be why I don’t have a best friend (just kiddin, Matt!)

I’ve learned about the fragility of life, and how easy it would be to just stop living, if we don’t take the time to care and consider. Even when you think nothing is happening, even when you think you’re not in danger, even when you think you’ve taken every precaution… it’s important to realize that we are not invincible, and that we are constantly surrounded by circumstances that we don’t even notice. Circumstances that can change your life greatly (great, as in massive). Even the most cognizant of people can miss something, and everything can be taken away in that instant.

But don’t forget to relax.

-jg

p.s. nothing heavy next week, I promise! I will come back swinging, whatever that means in the writing world.

 

High School (Not) High (Enough)

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a banquet at my kids’ school, and it really opened my eyes to why I used to smoke so much pot in high school: it’s because high school kids are fucking annoying as hell.

Don’t believe me? I’ll give you some examples.

At this banquet, there were 20 tables. Each table sat 8 people. It wasn’t going to be a very big event. When my family of 4 arrived, there was only a total of 8 kids there. Did they all sit at the same table? Of course not, and I wouldn’t expect them to. Let ‘em spread out. My family sat around one half of a table that was in the middle of the room, and left the other half of the table open for another family of 4 (or fewer, whatever).

Here’s where my first example begins: as the other students started arriving, the sitting students would scream their names, as if they hadn’t seen them for like, THREE WHOLE HOURS. And one by one, these kids were invited to “The Cool Table” at the front of the crowd, leaving the rest of the peasants to feel collectively excluded. I didn’t even know that shit still existed.

And can I just sidetrack for a second, about the fact that MY table WASN’T The Cool Table?! I mean, my family is fucking hysterically funny, and we have THE BEST dinner time conversations. If our table isn’t The Cool Table, then I don’t want to be cool, I guess, and it’s my choice, not because they said I wasn’t.

Back to the examples of my nightmares personified. The Cool Table started filling up, until there were like 450 kids at this table. What I want to know is, how is it The Cool Table, if everyone is sitting at it? Wouldn’t that just be A Table? As for the handful of parents and other students who weren’t screamed at invited to sit with all those hip turds, I’m sure they all loved hearing the sound of screeching banshees in their dreams last night too.

The Cool Kids started taking the chairs from the other tables, while those people were up at the buffet, WHICH WAS AMAZING. The buffet, I mean, not the stealing of chairs. That was pretty annoying, because they took 6 of the chairs from our table while we were gone, and we had to steal them from other jerks from Less-Cool-But-Still-Pretty-Cool tables. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I have principles, and I was not about to eat a whole plate of delicious meatballs while standing up. Those kids thought I wouldn’t be that lazy, but they obviously underestimated me.

The banquet presentation began, and just in case you were wondering, no it did not shut them up. On the contrary, there was a slideshow, so every time one of their faces was on screen for even a half-second, they would erupt in a roar of laughter and screams. This went on for 10 long minutes. It was a nice slideshow, and I’m sure they were just excited. But, I’ll go back to my earlier statement about having to cope with that excitement, with the help of my bff, Mary Jane.

Now, I know what you’re saying: “Well, my kids don’t do that stuff.” And I would say to you: shutup and stop lying to yourself. Just because your kids aren’t doing these particular things, doesn’t mean they aren’t acting like little shitheads when you’re not around, and they’re allowed to be “cool.” Believe me, they’re doing just that. And they’re good at it. No matter how great you think your kid is, I guarantee there is someone whose nerves they love to work on. Maybe it’s you. Who knows.

Some people like to say, “When you were their age, you did that too,” and to some extent, they’d be right, but I wasn’t even remotely excited about anything my peers were doing in the 90s, so they’re also kinda wrong. I mean, I remember being annoying, but everyone is. Everyone is annoying, including your kid, remember? But there’s a difference between being annoying, and being an experience that everyone has to live through. Perhaps it has something to do with how big the person’s platform is, how many people they reach with what they’re doing and saying. In that vein, we can rest a lot of the blame on social media, and the constant flow of positive reinforcement kids/teens (and adults too!) receive from their peers online. They adopt the position that they have gained unconditional acceptance among others, and that the virtual flow of adoration is going to be relatively similar in their real-life interactions.

So maybe yours is not screaming at the top of their lungs, to welcome a peer to the table in the most extravagant way possible. Maybe they’re the peer that is being showered with those feelings, making them believe they are extra special, just like everyone else who walked in. Maybe yours is wildly unpopular, and would die to feel the acceptance that others so freely give away. Maybe yours is like me, and realizes that, after you graduate high school, shit changes. Prom King and Homecoming Queen don’t translate well on a resume, and certainly not when it comes to keeping yourself alive.

My high school experience was full of days that I swore I had wished away hard enough, but didn’t. Every day was a struggle, in and out of school, and graduation day seemed like an eternity in the future, to the point where I couldn’t even decide what that would look like. I just knew high school was not what I thought life would be like, so I tried to laugh through as much of the bullshit as I could, which was a lot, it turns out. And as soon as I graduated, life got real.

I was back at the starting line, with everyone else, even the popular kids, and the century was turning. The next generation was already being born, and technology was changing the way we perceived each other (and life). The internet taught us how to parent, and we took those tips (sometimes from people who weren’t parents, and had no education on the topic) and we ran with them. We kept checking back, to make sure we were doing what everyone else was doing, and NOT doing what everyone else thought was wrong. It changes all the time. One day spaghetti is the best thing for kids, and the next day, it causes brain death. We could no longer afford to make the mistake of not being in-the-know.

Spaghetti doesn’t cause brain death, so if you’re not one of my regular readers… I exaggerate sometimes. Go ahead and feed your kids spaghetti. Or don’t, I mean, I’m not your kid’s parent, so that’s just some advice you can take or leave. I feel like they won’t die without spaghetti, but I’m no doctor.

Innovations in social media and personality shaping, as well as unrealistic hyper-active parenting woes, as well as the deadly sharpening of peer scrutiny and judgment, have all created a monster. Kids are being held to impossible standards, not by parents (though that’s another topic I could go on about) but by their peers. They feel the need to change. They feel the need to chase perfection. They feel the need to fit a mold. They feel the need to replicate what others admire. It’s just an image, based on the heavily edited photos and videos they see online and on television and in magazines, and we know this, but girls and guys alike are all susceptible to it. It isn’t just the ladies who are feeling the pressure. It’s everywhere, and if they aren’t adhering to the latest tweet or post from a major influencer (which is a fucking job now), they can expect to be rejected everywhere in their physical life.

That’s something I find annoying, and new. I didn’t have to deal with social media, so maybe that’s why I think things are so much worse now. Remember, I thought high schoolers were annoying before; there is nothing new about this. The part I find new, is the immediate broadcast of every feeling and reaction people have, before they have the opportunity to process the emotion. A minor tiff between friends can easily escalate to someone’s entire life being ruined, because social media allows us to share our feelings (about a person or event) amongst a wide net of people. The bigger the audience, the more people to share in that view, and the faster that immediate reaction turns into a group opinion. I’m not sure how I would have made it through high school, if I had to deal with social media. Knowing my own self, and my own mental health, I can honestly say I may have been one of those cases that didn’t make it out alive. It’s a scary thing to realize, especially when it’s mapped against my own daughter’s experience in this modern world.

Neither of my kids have social media, mostly for the reason that I don’t want them to be subject to the cruel judgment that is obviously the result of others’ insecurities. When they’re grown, they’ll have the choice to jump on the Social Media Bandwagon of Doom, but that will be then, and this is now, and I won’t allow it to work its corrosive magic on my offspring’s sweet minds. It’s not helpful. If my kids wanted insecurities projected onto them, they’ve satisfied that interest fully, by tormenting each other every single day. Getting into unfair biases on looks, body fat, talent, taste, and opinion, is something they can do without, for now. As I said, that’s a choice they’ll make for themselves, and hopefully once they see how fucked-up it is, they’ll just live in the real world and call it fucked-up enough.

I am fully aware that I am subjecting myself to criticism every day, and that I am also still vulnerable to unfair attacks, but it never occurred to me to care what others think, so until I’ve caused harm to someone, I’m not likely to apologize. Yes, this post is about Parenting and Pot, in the same sentiment, but I’d much rather be judged for making investments in my kids’ health and well-being while under the influence of cannabis, than to be that person who has nothing better to do than look for shit like that on the internet. I’m not beating my kids. They’re fed, they’re clean, they’re up-to-date on their education and current events. They don’t swear in my face, they don’t get physically violent, but they know not to be pushed around. They are accountable for their whereabouts, they aren’t partying (yet), they care about safety, and they are open about it. They care about humans as a species instead of a group of smaller sub-sets to be classified. They show love every day, as well as respect. And, super important, they see how plastic their generation is. They know how fake it is, and how much manipulation and hypnosis goes into growing up in the age of social media.

Not saying my kids are better than yours. They’re annoying too. But they’re well-adjusted enough to know they don’t want to be applauded into a room by attention-starved kids, who are really just priming the pump for reciprocated adulation. And that’s something I can feel good about, even without the influence of Mary Jane.

-jg

*Please note that I think students who participate in activities and get excited about school are absolutely wonderful. Students who could care less about the time and effort that is being given to them in the name of a free basic education: crap. Sorry. It’s my blog, and as much as I criticize schools, they’re still providing a service to your child, that you aren’t providing. (I know, homeschooling is a thing, but I can’t tell you how much I MYSELF ironically complain about the free school system, which is actually what I am talking about. No need to educate me on the fact that homeschooling is a thing.) I used to hate school, but I realize how valuable people’s time is, and teachers get paid bullshit to sit in a room with a whole bunch of annoying kids who aren’t all having their best day, day after day, after day after day. It’s hardly rewarding. The school I am speaking of in this story, is a wonderful school. The students work hard, and they have fun. Sure, there’s exclusion and constant evaluation and fake praise, but anyone in a thankless job such as -oh, i don’t know- a teacher, could tell you that there is a healthy dose of all that shit in any job. It doesn’t end after high school. This article was purely satirical, in the name of justifying the reasons I hated being in high school, and the reasons I hate seeing the weird unfair treatment teenagers bestow upon their peers now. I guess I’ll always be in high school, in my heart.

Writer’s Block

How do you get writer’s block, when your writing style is “journal”? It hardly makes sense for anybody, but I am especially surprised that I personally am unable to talk about myself. How do I have nothing to say, and I’m me? I was voted Biggest Mouth in my Senior class in high school. I always have something to talk about, even when I don’t.

I sat down to get my writing surroundings in order, and I’m moderately comfortable, for how hot it is, and especially for how humid it is! I have my fully charged laptop, my pillow chair that I customized to my own weird comfort needs, my coffee (okay, that’s gone now), my fan on, my lighting dimmed, my mood elevated, and my hair out of my face (for now)… I even put on some tunes, to get my brain primed for entertaining.

Unfortunately (I don’t find it unfortunate) for me, I chose to listen to Aesop Rock, and I don’t know if you have ever listened to Aesop Rock before, but he doesn’t exactly make you feel like you know a fuckin thing about the English language. And here, I thought I was exclusive in some sweet love affair (with super light expectations) with the English language. Then I met Aesop, dude. Then I met Aesop.

I didn’t meet him, but I did see him at a small show a couple of years ago, and he was like, pretty much sweating on me (during the show, guys…) because of how close I was. He looked really good, too. Hey, Aesop. What’s up with you coming back? My boyfriend is totally cool with me asking.

So as I was saying, Aesop Rock magically uses language to create stories from beyond my wildest dreams, and when I listen to his music, it reminds me of how good I think I am, only to then realize how good I could be, but still am not. He plays with parts of speech, and captivates the listener with relatable anecdotes, pop culture, double entendre, and philosophy, all blended by his hypnotic vocal style. To say the man has an extensive grasp on vocabulary would be an understatement, and I almost always learn some new word or foreign phrase from his songs. I am so captivated by wanting to listen and dissect, that I find it impossible to be able to write. How could I? Nothing I say matters.

If you haven’t listened to Aesop, that’s fine, because you still can. I recommend the entire Labor Days album, as well as Float, but that’s just because I luh dat old shit. His new stuff is great as well. You may not be into hip hop music, and I think that’s fine for you, weirdo, but even you may still enjoy his work. I don’t know if you will or not, but I don’t much care, so that’s where that part ends.

I wonder how many times Aesop has gotten writer’s block? I doubt he ever could get that deep into nothingness, rather, he probably has writer’s floods; always having so many ideas-per-minute, that I can’t imagine he would ever have a moment’s peace inside his mind. I wonder what it would sound like in there, or what a scan of his brain would look like. I remember that movie 8 Mile, which I am in no way admitting to having viewed, where Eminem is talking about the song “just coming to him” or something like that, and basically just naturally forming in his mind, and that seems like a very very mild version of what happens to Aesop. But with considerably more talent. Like Little League vs the MLB, except I hate Eminem.

That’s not to say Eminem hasn’t written some funny and clever punchlines, but I did drugs too, before, so… bravo, Eminem. I don’t do drugs, and I stay making people laugh.

I wish I could make someone laugh right now. Perhaps my writer’s block is due to the fact that my kids are back in school now, and I feel like I have no purpose. Today is the worst day to feel that way, considering how much shit I have to do, but “writing” was also on that list of shit to do, and we’ve seen how well that turned out. I’ve just bitched about how good of a writer Aesop is, and how good he probably smells. I still have to bake a fucking cake, and make turkey meatballs, and pick up Sonny’s glasses (which I was supposed to do yesterday, but have since forgotten about 4 times), pick up Dot from school and go to an appointment, which we have to rush through, to get to her second appointment, which takes place inside the house. I mean, counseling has to be in a comfortable setting, and already being at home is nice for when the counselor leaves, because then I have to get back into doing way more shit. There’s always more shit to do. Forever.

I did a professional dye job of 3 colors on Dot’s hair (’twas slick as fuuuuuck), gave Sonny a tight fade, cut my own hair, and surrendered a bunch of my old awesome clothes (that Dot thinks are cool all of a sudden), just in time for the 4-day weekend that will make me feel like I did all of that shit for nothing. Because here’s something I never understood: the whole “school-starts-before-labor-day-but-then-there’s-an-immediate-long-weekend-to-get-your-kids-back-into-the-swing-of-being-lazy” thing. I mean, start it after labor day.

There. I figured it out.

And, since I know there are some of you saying “Well that’s too late,” I say to you this: I am a proponent for year-round schooling, and think it’s ridiculous and counterproductive to get a break for such a long period of time, especially one which is completely unrealistic to the “real world” (whatever that is). People have to work at a company for many years (TOO many!), and that is, if they ever earn 15 weeks (plus holidays) off! If kids aren’t in school, they need to be doing something sustainable, like farming or gardening or fishing or carpentry or electrical work or mechanics of some kind… just like an adult. My two cents, which is coincidentally how much I got paid for all that cosmetology work I did on our hair.

It makes me sad to not be able to give you something worth reading this week. But then I start thinking about all the stuff I’m supposed to be remembering, and I stop feeling bad. It reminds me of that scene from movies, where the sleeping guard is like “wha-? oh shit” and jumps up to do his fuckin job. That’s what my brain does. The part where it’s “sleeping” is the feelings, and my brain just needs to wake the fuck up and get back to work. Maybe next week, I’ll care more about you, than I do about focusing on the unattainable goal of not forgetting any of the eleventy-billion things I am expected to remember, whilst micromanaging the individuals and collective family life.

But who knows. It’ll be a surprise for us all! See you then!

-jg

 

The Indignant Chef

I spent this past week visiting with family from out-of-state, and I had an interesting interaction with my mom, while preparing food for the horde.

She was making a rather “involved” dish, that wasn’t necessarily complicated, but included many steps, and ingredients you probably didn’t just have laying around (unless you did, then, whatever). In short, it was more time consuming than I would have been happy with, but I was merely a bystander, so I didn’t actually have to do any of the work.

Despite that fact, I still found myself getting frustrated while I watched her neatly dice every veggie, and patiently mince the garlic and cilantro (with a filet knife), and expertly blend the fresh limes and herbs and oils, and the whole thing was orchestrated with such a calm demeanor! It made me want to run screaming, because I would never be able to do that.

Matt was laughing, as I watched, horrified. “Are you really her mother?” He asked my mom, obviously recalling all of the times I have made him question whether or not it was a good idea for me to have sharp knives.

When I cook, everything is a weapon, and I’m always ready to use one on whoever wants to “help” that day. I don’t mean to be a dick about it, but I just can’t use your help, because it’s actually more work. And no, I don’t have time to relax, or stop shaking, or blink, or any of that. I have to do multiple moves at once, and they’re all taking too long. I never want anyone’s help. I tell my kids they can watch, but then when they stand by the counter, I tell them to get away, because the stove has a potential blast radius of 12 feet whenever I’m using it, and there are rogue oil droplets flying everywhere, or bubbling starchy water is popping off, or meat is sizzling, or I’m just tired of listening to questions while I’m clearly working shit out in my head (not always to solution).

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a great cook. I can make anyone like anything, I’m certain of it. I used to make some fatty delicious meals that would have you in a coma, but since I’ve started caring about how food affects my family, I have dialed it back. Fried chicken is not off the table completely, but I use canola for the oil, whole wheat flour, skim milk, and boneless skinless chicken breast. I don’t know how to make it any healthier than that, without eliminating it altogether, which I don’t want to do.

I’ve always cooked for people, and sometimes I even enjoy it. The process, however, is not pretty. I fuck up a lot, and I correct it, or at the very least, make it palatable. If all else fails, I make a sauce or a dip that can save the day. I rarely go beyond the point of no return, when it comes to preparing food. That’s not to say it has never happened, but I can’t recall any examples off the top of my head. I think it would take a lot for that to happen, but I get close sometimes. I flirt with disaster, and riff a lot, which is a big no-no when you’re cooking multiple things at once. If I tried to bake something, forget it.

Hey, did you know that potatoes will never ever be done at the same time as your other food? Did you also know that potatoes are my favorite food, and I’ve prepared them over 3,000 times? No matter how many times I give them a go, no matter how early I start them, I will never be confident that we will be able to eat them with the protein and veg at dinner time. The more you motherfucking know.

My family is always telling me “You could go on one of those cooking competition shows, and win!” Which, of course, is not true. I don’t cook well under pressure, and I would be swearing so much, they couldn’t use any of the footage. Plus, as good as I am at cooking, I don’t think I can just replicate a dish on command. I make what I want to make, and sometimes it changes form during the cooking process, but what is the real difference between Fish Fillet With Lime Rice, and Fish Tacos with Lime Rice? I’ll tell you the difference: I fucked up the fillets, and ended up shredding the fish with spices, and it became clear that my Mexican heritage was fed up with not having tacos. I always have fresh corn tortillas in my kitchen, so whatever I fuck up, I just make into a taco. If you said “I want This Meal, cooked This Way” I wouldn’t be able to help you. You’d probably get a taco.

My mom has infinite patience. That’s probably why she makes gourmet stuff, and I mostly live on Success Rice. (Shout-out to Success Rice!) I made Fair Food Night once, which was more of a nightmare than it seems like. It didn’t taste good enough to make it worth it, and I beat myself up (mentally, don’t worry, that’s the good kind) in the middle of the night, thinking about the heart attacks my son will have in 30 years. I don’t cook that shit anymore. That was a bad idea, and I owned up to it immediately. My kids still mention it to this day, but when they talk about it, they say the food was good. They also think Fried Chicken and Waffles is my signature dish, and has been named as the Death Row Meal in our house. I don’t know how we aren’t dead already.

If my kids made their own meal plans, I don’t know how we would survive, honestly. I asked them to each name three things they wanted for dinner this week, and the first thing Sonny said was Chicken and Waffles, followed by Baked Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto. I told him I wanted him to live, so he said “Well, are stuffed peppers going to kill me, or can I eat those?” I think he was mad when I said “I’ll stuff them with turkey sausage,” because he rolled his eyes at me, growled, and said “Nevermind!”

I ended up getting the ingredients for stuffed peppers, mostly because the peppers were on hella sale, and I found some nice meaty ones. I like to eat the males. Did you know, that if the pepper has three knobs on the bottom, it’s a male, and if it has four knobs, it’s a female? Sometimes, there are little baby peppers growing inside of the females. Sonny likes to eat those. Hopefully someone doesn’t tell me they’re poisonous. *Looks up whether they’re poisonous* (they’re not). The turkey sausage only came in the Hot Italian variety, so I said what the hey; I’m part Hot Italian. I can make that work out, I’m sure, right? There’s a chance I might end up eating beer cheese and Triscuit for dinner, but nobody is going to tell me I can’t!

I think, when people are shopping, they end up getting more crap than they need, because sales tell you that you’re going to save money that way. But really, I mean, maybe I don’t want to spend $10 on a “deal” just because it’s a great value, and I just want to spend $3 instead. I just saved $7 by sticking with my original plan, and telling you to go fuck yourself.

That’s not to say I don’t get suckered in once in awhile. It’s usually with meat, because I am always looking for a reason to “use that steak before it goes bad” and if I buy it in bulk, that’s more that I get to eat, in the same amount of time. Some people say that’s gullible, but joke’s on you, because I’d eat a full protein diet if I could, and I’m still iron and protein deficient. (I’m also calcium deficient, and should very much be eating a ton of ice cream.)

I think it’s time I really let Sonny and Dot get hands-on with dinner, and watch how easily they do the work. Maybe they will inherit my assholish nature in the kitchen, maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll take after Matt. He usually skips around the kitchen, and does a lot of double-takes, and that shuffle that makes you look like you’re wearing an invisible blindfold. But he does try to help. He is almost a great sous chef, and in my kitchen, that’s the scariest job. “Work closely with me, among my unpredictable anger, near the fire and sharpened blades!”

Maybe I’ll just stick with the old tried and true: “It would take less time for me to do it myself, than to teach you how to do it.” That’s my terrible parenting at work. I don’t normally shit on own parenting, but that’s the one that is always there. I never have the patience to teach them to cook, because they always approach me when I’m keeping up with cook times of like 4 different things.

I could just train myself to be less anxious, like my mom, but I know myself, and that looked really weird to me. More power to her (she is the queen of patience, unless she’s driving) but I don’t think I would get anything done, that way. Except maybe a taco.

-jg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please Will You Not Be My Neighbor?

Recently, Matt and I weighed out the pros and cons of moving. Again. Some of you who know me more personally are probably rolling your eyes, because you never know where the fuck to find me. My grandmother has replaced my last initial page in her address book so many times, it scrolls out. My ex has (effectively) used my roaming ways against me in court, as a means to imply I am not stable. Why he chose that for the example, I’ll never know.

In the time Matt and I have been together, the longest we have lived in one place has been less than 4 years, and it’s the place we’re currently in now, which is most likely why I want to move so immediately.

It’s always nice being able to move, because I think I might be a gypsy, somewhere deep in my heritage, and I don’t like being in the same place for long. I also don’t like things to look the same for too long. I have to move furniture around, or switch it out for something else, or re-decorate, or cut my hair, or alter my clothes, just to keep things interesting. I wouldn’t say my need for shaking things up has caused me to change my boyfriend scenery multiple times, but you won’t hear me deny that fact (read: FACT) either.

(It’s okay, Matt and I are still together, as of this post)

In this case, we are desperate for a change of scenery around our neighborhood. When I say the “neighborhood,” I am referring to exactly that: the neighbors.  If there’s a medical term for pain and suffering at the hand of your neighbors, I have it. We currently live in a side-by-side duplex, and the family on the other side of the wall is a full-time anxiety attack. There are, at any given point in time, anywhere between 5 and 10 people living there, depending on the day, and only 3 of those people are adults. They wake up early (not the adults), and run around the house, jumping up and down the stairs, screaming, hitting the walls, playing on our stairs outside, hitting baseballs around our car, ripping our roses off the vines, oh, and did I mention shouting? I can’t understand how the acoustics in their apartment are so clear and vivid, but my kids can’t hear me shouting to them up the stairs (even though I can hear every word they’re yelling saying). Everything is amplified in the wall that separates our apartments. I’m sure next door it seems like “just a crayon” dropping on the floor, but it sounds like they’re dragging a body down the stairs.

They are a church family, too, which is fine by me. Whatever you want to worship is your own thing, but my problem doesn’t stem from their theological preference. It’s the stuff that requires *me* to live the church life. Like when they’re up at first light on Sunday (weekend) morning (when you sleep), so they can all take showers before leaving for church, so they wake up everyone in the building, including those of us on the other side of the fucking property, with loud industrial fans that don’t do anything to dampen the shrieks and thumps that echo through the frame of the house. I’m saying, those kids are LOUD. They need boot camp for sure. At least.

On top of that, they’re incredibly afraid of us. Like, super scared. I don’t know why, because we’ve never been anything but kind and outwardly sweet to them, smiling way more than I normally would (or should), but there they are: whiny little quivering babies. Even if they’re having the best time outside, and the sprinkler is going, and there’s a parade, and there’s ice cream, and Spongebob is outside asking them to be his best friends… it doesn’t matter; they will still run into the house as soon as they see us coming. They scowl and frown, too, immediately, from smiles and laughter, and stare at us like they are preparing to see something unexpected. One day, I heard one of the kids tell the others that Matt was evil, which I thought was weird, given that the kid was waving around one of the roses she had just freshly murdered out of my yard. I guess killing things makes you less evil, somehow, but okay, Matt is the scary one. I used to be confused by it, and then I didn’t care, and now I think it’s funny and have even toyed with the idea of really playing up the part of the mean lady that hates all the kids. Just flex the shit out of my “acting” chops, and really make ‘em believe I don’t like ‘em. (I don’t.)

Speaking of all the kids in the entire god damn world, it isn’t just those kids next door. It’s a whole bunch of houses of kids who all want to play in MY yard. I know what you’re saying now: “Isn’t it everyone’s yard?” and you’re wrong. There is a clear line of demarcation between “their” yard, and “our” yard, and they are going to the far side of my yard, to the fence that divides our property from the other neighbors. That’s where they’re picking the roses from; nowhere near their yard. That also happens to be where they prefer to play, and have invited every kid in town to join them. They must love how shiny my beater car (that I’m stuck with, out of necessity) is, or how uninviting my glaring out the window is making the curb appeal seem. They obviously aren’t out there for me. They like the kids next door. (I don’t.)

So, we have kids from our street, and the next few streets over, all congregating on our front porch. It’s a shared porch, but as I mentioned, there is a divider down the center, which is invisible to children, I guess, because they use it as a tool to drive me to drink. It’s that weird kid shit that I don’t find fun. I didn’t like it when my kids were little, and I especially don’t like it, now that it’s a bunch of kids that I already wanted to send to boot camp. No special feelings there. I wish no harm upon them. I just don’t like them.

Perhaps it’s hardly their fault. I mean, I used to roll up in people’s houses uninvited and unannounced when I was younger, even when my friends weren’t there. I just didn’t know any boundaries, because my dad didn’t teach that kind of stuff. I stole things, I destroyed property, I spray painted a lot of things that weren’t mine. If that happened to me, or something of mine now, I would probably go directly to that parent and tell them to send their kid to boot camp. It’s probably the parents’ fault anyway, right?

Is it really too much to ask, to be able to go out on my porch and watch the sun set, without tripping over bikes and McDonald’s toys? Can I please go outside and write for a few hours in the breeze, without catching foam bullets with my teeth, or at the very least, some major 8 year-old side-eye? Can I sleep past 5:30 AM on a Sunday morning, just once? I leave everybody alone. I mean, I clearly don’t like neighbors, so I do as little as I can to attract their attention for any reason, believe me. It just so happens that every single time I go outside, they’re sitting out there. And any time I pull up into the driveway, and they’re not in the yard, they arrive within five minutes. This sounds like I’m embellishing, but that couldn’t be a bigger wish for me right now. I get no time away from the kids next door, and I BARELY want to hang out with my own! (Kidding). What makes them think I want to sit awkwardly in my witch rocking chair, while they stare me down? I’d rather they just go spinning off into the alley to play, but they don’t. They sit there scowling and it’s weird as fuck.

I don’t get down with the neighbor scene, even if they’re cool. I’ve seen some situations where all the tenants in the building leave their doors open, and they just walk in and out of each other’s places. Fuck that! That would never be my thing. Ever. The minute I saw that happening in my building, I’d be putting a guard dog outside my door. Don’t try to walk in my house without being invited, you fucking vampire. That’s against the rules. You need to be invited, just like Jesus. What makes you think you have privileges over Jesus?!

Speaking of lords, we didn’t tell our landlord we were thinking of moving, because we really really like them. They’re lenient when we need extra time on rent, they fix something as soon as we report it, they don’t come around and get nosy, they care about our kids, and they want us to be comfortable in this place. That goes a long way with me. Plus, they love us, even though I just made us sound like nightmare tenants. We’re actually very cool. Trust me. I’m also trustworthy. And cool.

Nevertheless, if I told them that it was, in fact, the neighbors who were driving us away, he might try to kick them out instead, because we’re so much cooler than they are. As much as I think they should be in boot camp, turning those brats into homeless kids would be something my conscience couldn’t handle. One of those kids is almost a little bit cute. So, I worked hard to avoid that whole conversation altogether.

It ultimately worked out, because we decided not to move. Instead, we’re fixing up the place we have, and NOT moving the hoard of shit we have accumulated over time. The rooms have been switched around, AND painted, and everything has new life. Including old Jupe.

Now if I could just convince the neighbors to send those kids to boot camp, all will be perfect.

-jg