I had a few hours to kill before I had to report to Wrigley Field, so I took myself to brunch in Wrigleyville.
“Waiting for one more?” my server asked.
I shook my head and said, cooly, “Nah, it’s just me.”
Brunch, the most social of pastimes, achieves optimum brunchiness when coupled with gaggles of talkative, laughing friends. That said, I am not afraid of eating alone when I travel. This must have seemed curious to my server, who kept throwing quizzical glances my way throughout the meal. When she brought me the check, she said,
“Sorry if I seem a little amazed here, but doing brunch solo. That’s so badass!”
“No,” I said as I raised my glass to her, “You are badass!”
Turning a compliment around to include the person who gave it to me is a social technique I adopted a few years ago. It keeps me from blurting out, “I am riddled with anxiety and my soul is the same shape as one of those broken boned, crab-person demons from American Horror Story. I have accomplished nothing. NOTHING!”
If you have social anxiety then you know all too well the niceties we engage in to hide our FOUL, WRETCHED SELVES. I have spewed out monologues of praises and bouquets to complete strangers because people have to like you if you say nice stuff about them. It’s basically science.
Unfortunately, for those of us who were didn’t make it aboard the Good Ship Normal Person, one of the caveats of anxiety is the inability to accept compliments. Perhaps you have trouble listening because you’re trying to stay ahead of the game and build your arsenal of amazing, life-affirming things to say. Let’s be honest, though: you are most likely focusing too hard on the time you said something shitty to a girl in 2010. You were thinking about your gross, nasty ass so intently that you didn’t really register ANYTHING in the conversation.
That leads to something like this:
The beauty of, “No, you!” is how simple it is. Just look what happens in the illustration when Margeret turns the compliment into a sassy NO, YOU:
It works for nearly all occasions. It did have worked for my solo brunch until my server made an unexpected move.
“No, really,” she said, “You’re such a badass for going to brunch alone!”
She doubled down.
I had to double down. I laughed and raised my glass again (I have but one signature move.)
“No, you’re such a badass for going to brunch alone.”
“Yeah,” she laughed, “It’s a little different if you work here.”
SHE WORKS THERE, JAS.
IT IS HER JOB TO COME HERE AND GIVE YOU FOOD AND COFFEE WITHOUT THE AID OF HER MOST TREASURED FRIENDS.
GOD, WHAT THE FLYING FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU ILLEGITIMATE THROBBING WASTE OF A HUMAN SACK OF FLUFF.
It was as if my inner town-cryer was beating against my skull, screaming,
REVERT TO SPEWING POSITIVE, LIFE AFFIRMING RIGAMAROLE.
TELL HER SHE IS PRETTY.
“Right! I meant for working brunch,” I started. “You should be proud. You’re a hero. You’re a brunch hero. You have great hair.”
She waved her hand at me as if to let the onslaught of wonderful gibberish fall right off her fingers.
“Oh, stop,” she said.
You know where this is going, right?
Because it went there.
I got back right before the holidays and everyone had already made plans that I couldn’t just jump in on. Well, everyone except for Grandma Betty. She wasn’t really doing anything for Christmas and I decided the universe was giving me a sign to go over to her place.
Grandma was an Airforce wife. When she married my grandfather she was under the impression that he was an Air Force Ride or Die. Then my grandfather came back from a mission and announced that he would not be renewing his time with the armed forces; rather, he was going to seminary.
And so she became a priest’s wife.
We spent early Christmas Eve talking about her life. As children, we tend to not think about our grandparents as real people who led lives independent of their families before they settled down. I had no idea that she had met Clarke Gable and had boyfriends before my grandfather, but she did. It kind of blew my mind.
I ended up sharing a little bit about my then-predicament. I told her enough about my situation while sparing the uglier details, but she held up her hand and disappeared to her room. She came back with half of a picture. I recognized it from a family event that I had brought the human dumpster fire to. He had been ripped from the picture – quite viciously, too, judging from the tear. She said something along the lines of,
She pointed to the cabinet below the sink and snapped her fingers.
“There should be a bottle of Wild Turkey under there. Get it for me, would you?”
I had no idea what Wild Turkey was, so imagine my surprise when I opened the cabinet and saw a bottle of bourbon sitting next to the Lysol. A true priest’s wife, indeed.
“It sounds like you could use a glass of this stuff,” she said as she gave both of us a generous pour. It was the first time I ever drank bourbon neat. We didn’t talk about my troubles anymore, rather, we both sipped Wild Turkey and watched It’s a Wonderful Life.
This is my grandmother on one of the last extensive trips she ever made. I had overcome much of my crazy situation. Thanks to my grandmother’s support, I was able to go to a community college and get my grades back up enough to transfer into Brenau University. I was the first kid to graduate in my family. She made a point to be there even though it was difficult for her to travel.
My Aunt Susie passed away a little before my grandmother. I didn’t know her health was in decline, so it came as a bit of a surprise and shock to me.
My favorite memory of my Aunt Susie centers around my Uncle Mark and Norm MacDonald. At that point in time Norm Macdonald was having in the middle of a minor comeback as a voice actor.
Funny thing about my Uncle Mark: he sounds VERY MUCH like Norm MacDonald. So much, in fact, that as a child I just assumed they were the same person. I would tell people that my uncle was on the radio and in movies. This falsity didn’t matter much with other children too young to know better, but it became a problem when I started telling adults that my Uncle Mark was the dog in Doctor Doolittle.
My Aunt Susie overheard me and set the record straight.
“Do you know that the person you are talking about is not the same person as your uncle?”
“It’s him, I swear!”
“No, it’s an actor. His name is Norm MacDonald and he was on Saturday Night Live a long time ago. Your Uncle Mark was never on Saturday Night Live. They are two different people.”
I’m glad she did that. I probably would have kept on telling people I was related to Norm until I learned the truth via the hard way. This wasn’t out of the ordinary; I told people that my Uncle Hubert went blind after he was struck by lightning until I was seventeen years old. I was convinced that he told me so himself when I was six. The reality was this: Uncle Hubert didn’t go blind from getting struck by lightning. He went blind because his pituitary gland exploded and caused him to see a flash of white – like lightning. I told people he survived natural electrocution well into my adulthood. Well in.
With that in mind, I am grateful that Aunt Susie took the time to set me straight.
The family opted to wait and have a belated memorial for Grandma Betty and my Aunt Susie. It takes place this weekend in Darien, GA, and I can’t be there because of finances and work.
I am thinking about my family, though, and I am thinking about these two women and how awesome and loved they were while they were here.
Aunt Susie, thanks for not letting me live my life thinking that Uncle Mark was Norm MacDonald.
Grandma Betty, I’m so happy that I got to say goodbye to you back in the summer. You were a down ass lady and I’m so grateful for everything you made possible.
I spent the weekend working the photo booth in Silicon Valley. I sported active-wear all weekend to blend in with the local women:
Maybe it’s because the companies that made Silicon Valley so famous feed, entertain, and wash their employees onsite, but I had trouble finding things to do. The bars were so empty and calm. The stores had no customers. I texted Nicopolitan, who lived and worked in the SV for a spell, and he replied: There’s a mall. It has an H&M. That’s all I know.
I ended up sitting and writing at Blue Bottle Coffee for six hours. This is what a coffee shop in Palo Alto looks like:
I thought it was the fanciest place I had ever seen – until I made it to my event at Facebook Headquarters.
WOW. That was an experience. Facebook HQ is currently made up of two massive compounds. They each span multiple acres and contain their own villages that give food, entertainment, and amenities to over 15,000 employees. Both compounds have restaurants scattered throughout the campuses where employees can literally walk up and say something crazy like, “Hey, I’d like to have a cornmeal dusted sushi burrito and a nitro cold brew coffee!”
Then the people behind the counter say,
“OK! Here you go!” and then GIVE THE EMPLOYEES THEIR FOOD FOR FREE.
There’s no POS system or logging of the meals. John Smith in coding could go the Menlo Park BBQ and order ribs four times in one afternoon and no one could say shit to him about hogging all the ribs. Facebook is made of ribs.
I couldn’t make it to the ribs shack because a Facebook employee must be within 10 feet of a guest at all times and they all had other things to do. I gazed at the rib shack from the terrace and mulled over every scenario in which I could make a run for it – super speed, drafting behind a larger employee, knocking someone out and stealing their clothes – but the rib shack stood in the middle of open quad full of employees. It would be impossible to make it to the middle undetected.
NO RIBS FOR YOU. NO RIBS FOR YOU EVER.
In the end I managed to grab an escort who stood off to the side and watched me make myself a sandwich at their sandwich bar. Eggplant tapenade, freshly carved Turkey, green superfood spread – they had it all.
I had to leave the event early to catch my flight back to Los Angeles, but I managed to snag a miniature apple pie and a canned cold brew on my way out of the compound.
Speaking of airports, something about flying makes me want to ignore all common sense and pretend I’m fucking rich. I can’t count my crimes against fiscal responsibility committed in an airport. $7.99 to watch a San Andreas featuring Dwayne The Rock Johnson? Take my Visa, please!
What about that slice of knockoff Sbaro’s pizza? I shouldn’t even be eating pizza, but who cares? We’re at the airport! Nothing bad can happen to us here! Or, wait, everything bad could happen here; I might meet my death on that plane so who actually gives a fuck if I pay $60 for an airport manicure?
Shoot. Nothing brings out my stupid privilege like the airport. Let me tell you something about privilege: Privilege is when you’re ready to choke an American Airlines flight attendant because they gave you pretzels instead of Specaloos cookies and oh fuck I KNOW THEY DIDN’T JUST TURN AROUND AND GIVE SPECALOOS COOKIES TO THE PERSON BEHIND ME AFTER THEY TOSSED ME A BAG OF PRETZELS WITHOUT EVEN GIVING ME A CHOICE.
At first I felt slightly alarmed by the site of the bits and pieces of tissue floating to my left. The way they swam through the solution, plainly visible for all to see even through the “HAZARDOUS MATERIALS” stamp, made seem as though they still contained some trace of life from the human they had been cut out of. Oh, God, what if part of this person’s soul was hovering above me right now, watching me stalk people I haven’t seen in years on Instagram instead of doing my work? Oh, Double God; I moved here years ago because I wanted to get serious about my acting career and I’m spending nine hours a day as an assistant to the administrative assistant in a plastic surgery center.
Then again… How many people can say, with 100% seriousness, that they spent the day doing data entry next to two plastic buckets full of goop formerly known as Jane Doe‘s Breasts while breathing in the scent of her charred flesh? I suppose this is as an appropriate enough time as any other to note that humans, when cauterized, smell ridiculously similar to Kroger’s rotisserie chicken tossed in a salad with freshly melted hair.
If this sounds strange to you it’s because it is. Your standard outpatient surgery center wouldn’t let a slab of freshly removed belly figuratively chill with the receptionist. I’m not complaining; I kind of revel in the opportunity to be honest about my exploits in administrative work and voluntarily surrendered organs. It keeps me from literally screaming at the thought of women my age who are crushing it as creatives in the entertainment industry. They no longer have room in their lives for the joy of staring at some rich lady’s organs all day.
I came to work at the plastic surgery office, which I will affectionately call the New You Store, last March. My temp guy normally sends me on assignments where all I have to do is transfer calls and look like I’m not spending the whole day on Facebook, but he knew I was capable of doing real work and he was running out of options.
“They just need someone for a few days this week. Their regular girl left and the last few temps didn’t work out. Just please stay off your phone. The doctors saw the last two I sent on their phones and apparently had a fit. You’re a rock star, though, and I know you won’t do that.”
(Side note: It’s fairly easy to be a rock star temp. Show up on time and make sure you delete your browser history before the end of the day so they won’t know that you spent hours Googling spoilers to the end of Bridget Jones’s Baby or how long a dead animal must lie in the sun before it explodes. You can be a rock star temp for the small price of not blowing up the coffee maker or the building.)
I knew I was in for a treat when I walked into the plastic surgery center lobby and immediately thought looked like a 90’s workout video.
The staff was everything I dreamed it would be and more. The two main doctors of the practice, Dr. NewFace and Dr. NewYou – and please keep in mind that everyone gets an alias since I prefer to stay out of trouble and also because I legitimately like everyone there – are seasoned veterans in their field. After finding out that they had been practicing since before I was born I had only one question that I had to ask. That question was:
“Are you the guys… who turned… that other guy… into a tiger?” Dr. NewFace stared blankly at me.
“No,” he said, flatly, “that was not us.”
The doctors do almost every procedure under the sun. Nose jobs, injections, hair jobs, boob jobs, revision jobs over other doctors’ bad jobs… Actually, one of my favorite things that ever happened during my time there centered around a revision job. I was answering phones and took a call from a frantic woman with a thick, middle eastern accent.
“Hello, this is the New You Store. My name is Jas.”
“Yes? I am coming in today.”
“Who may I ask is calling?”
“I need to see Dr. NewFace immediately. I am coming in today!”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“I got rhinoplasty with Dr. NewFace and something is gone horribly wrong. I must see Dr. NewFace today!”
“I need to know who you are.”
Side story: I never transferred calls to anyone unless someone gave me a name I could verify in their ancient scheduling program – and sometimes not even then. We periodically received calls from a woman with a lower-middle class British accent who claimed that Dr. NewFace operated on her over ten years ago and ruined her life. According to this woman, Dr. NewFace’s surgery caused the following:
1. Her mother’s subsequent disowning of her;
2. Her husband’s subsequent leaving of her;
3. Her terrible luck in obtaining another husband;
4. Her complete inability to have children when it would have been biologically appropriate;
5. Her first and second attempted suicides;
6. A whole assortment of violent familial squabbles.
She called every few months and launched into a three minute diatribe as soon as I picked up the phone. One day she claimed that she was about to “go pro in the semi-professional Tennis world” and that, unless Dr. NewFace agreed to fix her nose, she would write about it in her inevitable tell-all book.
Dr. NewFace insisted that he never worked on her and has no idea who she was. I couldn’t find her in the ancient scheduling program.
And by ancient, I do mean “DOS ancient.”
This was why I never transferred her calls.
With that in mind, surely you understand why I was suspicious of the women who called and started making demands.
“I am coming in,” she announced.
“You need an appointment and we are all booked today!” I repeated.
“I will see you at 3:30pm.”
“The doctor will be with someone else at that time!”
“I will see you at 3:30pm.”
Of course she arrived at 4:30pm.
She had gotten her nose done with Dr. NewFace and Dr. NewYou a couple of years before, but then went to another doctor for a revision on a perfectly good nose job. That second doctor completely destroyed her nose. It looked like Michael Jackson’s famous pencil shaving nose, but with an inflated balloon stuck in the middle. Dr. NewFace finally came out to see her and all it took was one quick glance for him to literally yell,
“WHAT DID YOU DO?”
The yelling faded as he took her back to his office, but suddenly the door swung open and out the door, clear as a bell, the doctor cried,
“I can’t just put it back! Your nose is literally in the garbage somewhere!”
“You need to fix it!”
“It doesn’t exist anymore!”
“But I need to have it fixed!”
“Two things: you have to wait at least six months before I can even TOUCH your nose. It could literally fall off. That’s a real thing that actually happens. Also I have no idea what this other guy did. I won’t have an idea unless you get him to release his records to you. Then and only then will I be able to see what can be done.”
He turned to me.
“We are done here. It’s up to her to make an appointment. I’ve got nothing until she does.”
He turned and left. The woman paced back and forth in front of my station, stealing glances of her face in the hall mirror. She’d touch her face and whisper, “We will fix this.”
She finally turned to me and said,
“Does this look OK to you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, playing dumb.
“Would you look at my face and think I am ugly?”
“Um…No? I’m also not a doctor. Or a medical professional. Like I never went to a technical college or anything. I can’t draw blood.”
“But do you think I am ugly?”
“No,” I said. I wanted to add, “I think the fact that you got your nose done by Dr. NewFace and then paid another doctor to chop it up so bad you felt the need to bust in here with no appointment and make demands of us is ugly, but your nose? Eh. I’ve seen worse.”
“Can I see the doctor again?”
“I’m pretty sure he’s with a patient.”
“Can you ask?”
I dialed Dr. NewFace’s extension.
“Dr., she –”
I pretended to listen for another minute before I hung up the phone.
“Dr. NewFace says he is very sorry, but he’s just booked back to back until the end of day. See what you can find out from your other doctor and give us a call.”
She took one last look at herself and left the office repeating, “We will fix this. We will fix this. We will fix this.”
Patients travel from all over the world to have these guys work on them.
Once, a man flew in from Eastern Europe with his teenage daughter. One of her eyes sat lower than the other and her jaw failed to sync up with the rest of her face.
“This is after three operations,” he said in a thick, brisk accent, “and I am marrying her off in three weeks. She cannot meet his family looking like this.”
“They’ve never seen her?” asked the nurse.
“No,” the dad said. He might as well have said, “Duh.” I am no doctor, but three weeks to perform an intensive facial reconstruction and heal from said facial reconstruction enough to fool your betrothed and new in-laws into thinking you never had significant facial deformities seemed like stretch. They used the least invasive surgical techniques available, but the girl still had to have a make-up tutorial session with our aesthetician to learn how to conceal the bruising.
I wanted to ask the nurses,
“Now, how in the actual fuck is she going to make it through her wedding night without knocking something loose in her face?”
I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which the husbands in arranged marriages were gentle lovers. Everything I came up with was more like Kal Drogo turning Daenerys Targaryen over on a rock and raping the shit out of her – and that would definitely knock an implant out of place.
Patients who needed extra attention – which was their way of saying patients who are total pains in our collective asses – got a gold star sticker on their chart. One gold star patient called constantly to ask questions that had already been explicitly covered in her pre-operative instructions. Then, after her nose job, she called to ask if she could remove the cast so she wouldn’t look silly at a rave. The question was so incredibly stupid that I feared Dr. NewYou would stroke out if I asked him. I don’t know what I would have done if the nurse hadn’t taken the phone from me and said,
“You want to go to a rave? First of all, no. You cannot go to a rave with a nose that’s not even two days out of post-op. Second of all: listen, dummy, what are you gonna do when you remove that cast and your face swells up like a friggin’ balloon? I — NO. That cast is on there so that your shit stays in place and it doesn’t come off until you come here and we take it off.”
The nurses there were so badass.
They offered me a full time position at the plastic surgery center, though for the life of me I cannot understand why. I constantly misfiled things. They never trained me in much more than minor day-to-day details since they rarely knew if I was even coming back the next week, so I frequently ran out of things to do and would surreptitiously check my phone. I almost always asked the other admin assistant, who was a great deal younger than me, where to find missing charts instead looking for them myself. She would stop whatever she was doing, come out of her office, look on the shelf, and pull it out with ease, leaving me to wonder why I was even alive.
Once I absent-mindedly let someone who had just gotten intensive rhinoplasty sit in the lobby. We were never supposed to allow anyone with visible bandages in the lobby to begin with, but blood still trickled from this woman’s face. It was only after she complained of being too hot that I thought to ask the if we could room her, but by then my error had caused an office wide panic. Dr. NewYou’s administrator ran out in the lobby and scooped the patient over her shoulder, acting like a human crutch, and helped her to the aesthetician’s room.
I put a patient in danger. I should have been sent home on the spot and told never to return, but they still asked me to come back.
They actually hired three women while I temped there, but all three of them quit within a week. One said it was too boring; another said she didn’t appreciate how Dr. NewYou got so close to her when checking the schedule. I remember feeling that way until I realized that Dr. NewYou’s eyesight was so bad that he had to wear special headgear during surgery to support the lenses that allowed him to see.
I hemmed and hawed when they finally called me into the office and asked me if I wanted a proper position within the company. I had just moved to east east east Los Angeles and my commute had gone from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. I wasn’t the biggest fan of their neighborhood, either; the novelty of working in what was essentially mash-up of Abu Dhabi and New Jersey wore off within weeks.
“We really like you,” they said, “We think you fit in very well here and we’d love to have to stay and dedicate some real time here.”
I told them I’d think about it, but I knew that I couldn’t stay. I booked out the following week and somewhat forced them to try out another temp. To the best of my knowledge that temp is still with them.
I do enjoy my stranger stints of employment. I also liked working there while it lasted. However… it’s someone else’s turn to keep Jane Doe’s breasts company.
Farewell, breasts. I will never forget that magical day we spent together.
Sometimes I have to take a Lyft to work because I share my car with my significant other, D. He had a car when he moved to LA, but it died. The next car developed clutch issues that he couldn’t fix right away, and it hardly would have mattered if he could; some neighborhood kids broke the windows in. Instead of getting it towed to our friend’s house out in East LA where street sweeping didn’t exist – like I had asked several times – he opted to leave it on the street. He’d move it on sweeping days by putting it into neutral and pushing it to the opposite side of the street.
I feigned shock when someone eventually stole it. The truth is I was surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Our upstairs neighbor saw someone exchange some papers with a tow truck driver.
“Jeff’s Towing,” he said, “That was what the truck said. I thought it was weird that you weren’t the one selling the car, but then again, it didn’t seem too out of the question.”
We filed a police report and even told them the name of the company that took the car, but D ended up locating the car the next day: Jeff’s Towing was a chop shop in Bellflower. All of the addresses for Jeff’s towing looked like private residences on Google Maps. D called the number and asked it the ’99 Audi A4 was there and, sure enough, it was.
D went to the LAPD where we filed the original report.
“Oh, that’s way out of our jurisdiction. You’ve gotta go talk to the police in Bellflower,” they said.
The police in Bellflower said,
“You can’t file a report here. You already filed one somewhere else.”
“But I found the car. It’s in a chop shop in Bellflower.”
“Ah. How do you know it’s yours?”
“Because I called and asked and it still has my plates on it. These people took it without papers or documents of any kind.”
“You need to tell them to give it back to you, then.”
“But they STOLE it. Shouldn’t you come with me?”
“Nah, you try to get it first.”
So D went to the chop shop. That exchange when like this:
“Hey, you stole my car and I want it back.”
“LOL you sold it to us.”
“Show me the proof that I did.”
“You’ve gotta bring a cop back here with you if you’re going to talk like that.”
So he went back to the police.
“They said they won’t talk to me unless I have a cop there. You need to come with me.”
This is the part where I imagine a giant eye roll and a sigh.
So D and the cop go to the chop shop yard. The “proof” that D had sold them the car was a laughable piece of scratch paper with four numbers and a scribble on it. The numbers were supposed to be a drivers license number and the scribble was supposed to be a signature.
“See? It’s obviously made up. This dude stole my car.”
“Eh,” said the policeman, “It’s a matter of he-said/she-said.”
I had already told D that the chop shop was most likely a gang or drug related operation and to be wary of the police. When he told me about the policeman’s overall ambivalence toward the situation, I knew I was right.
In the end the chop shop owner pushed D’s car into the road, further damaging the side by making sure it ran into the metal gate on the way out, tearing into the door.
The car was totaled and he sold it to a junker a week later. He still feels legitimate sadness whenever he sees an A4 out in the wild.
Without the means to obtain another vehicle, he was at the mercy of me and my car. Murphey’s law, however, states that whatever can happen will happen – and soon enough my grandma’s Buick gave out and I found myself of being the only one with a good enough credit score to finance a car. I ended up getting a hatchback like I had always wanted, and I knew that I would have to share it with D if we stayed together. I told him he could drive it when he needed to, but that I expected him to help with payments and insurance.
“If anything happens to my car and it’s your fault, I will break up you. Do you understand?”
I have repeated this to him on a couple of occasions. The words “Drive safe” have all but replaced “I love you” in my vocabulary.
Sharing a car is a big deal for me. I have accepted the fact that I don’t really do relationships like a normal person. I do not understand people who are fiercely devoted to their relationships or significant others like a fierce mama bear ready to kill. They will side with their partner no matter what. I just can’t understand that anymore. The “ride or die” mentality is all but lost on me.
“Jas, what is an ideal couple to you?”
“DWIGHT AND JIM.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“CLAIRE AND FRANK UNDERWOOD.”
I have purposely avoided good and well meaning partners because I thought,
“This person is entirely too nice to be with me,” or, “This person is way more into the idea of living as a unit than I am,” or, “Damn, this person is gonna want a baby some day and I ain’t about that.”
I realize that certain experiences have programmed my brain to be wary of commitment and sharing my life with another person. Perhaps this is why I gave D an ultimatum of “You have a very small window of opportunity to start generating an income or my car and I will leave you,” instead of simply dipping out. I have a rich history of dipping out. I feel like I should try to overcome that.
Sharing my car is, perhaps, a step in that direction.
This was all a roundabout way of saying that sometimes I have to take a Lyft to work.
Nosy girl next to me on my flight apparently sees what I’m typing on my phone, says, “Does it really take 5 text messages to let someone know that you are “stealing” the free blanket they gave you on the airplane?”
I have a problem with sharing too much. While I love people, I find myself simultaneously terrified by them. Whenever I start to talk I begin to worry what I will say ten seconds later and as the conversation gains momentum I tend to evolve into an avalanche of appallingly unnecessary information.
Here’s an example: I recently went home to Georgia, mostly to see my grandmother, but I took a night off to go meet some of my old crew at the Hi-Lo Lounge in Normal Town. It had seriously been years since I had seen a couple of them. There was so much catching up; we reminisced with anecdotes from high school and took turns sharing about our current lives, jobs, and relationships.
Now, I feel like the normal thing to do in this situation would be to say something along the lines of, “I have a significant other named X and they do X and they are very nice. What about you?”
What I actually did was lecture on the ups and downs of living with my obsessive-compulsive boyfriend in a tiny studio apartment until suddenly, somehow, I found myself saying, “… and so they said, “We are 90% certain that you are physically unable to bare children.” Then I finished with a hearty laugh.
I get on these weird tangents and there’s no telling where they will go.
“We found a new apartment in an awesome, up and coming neighborhood. Got the keys and moved the furniture and the cat and anyhow, two months later I ran into Dolly Parton on the street and we slit our arms with a nail file and mixed our blood and now we are sisters forever. HAHAHA!”
That one’s a lie, but you get the picture.
“Oh, the visit was fantastic. Did you know that Mom and Dad planted a garden? They grow real zucchini and squash and, anyway, the short and short of it is that I had no idea that members of the army who get deployed in the jungle adopt a jungle dog for their platoon and then shoot it in the head when their tour of duty comes to an end because the new platoon will not be bonded to it. HAHAHA!”
Yeah, I’m kind of the same way with my texts.
I’m good, a little under the weather. I sat next to the craziest person and they sneezed everywhere. Like they sneezed so hard that I felt it even when I was sleeping. Like it woke me up. I think I’m going to catch a sickness. I might die.
lol I kid I’m not gonna die
If I die I can’t go to work next week.
cant miss work
Yeah, I’m working a trade show for carnival people. I’m really excited. Carnival people, right? CARNIES! I wonder if any of them ran away from home. You know, growing up I frequently thought about running away from home.
Yup! K Bye!
Almost nothing I said in this hypothetical, but very realistic, exchange needed to be shared.
When I text, I prefer to send the final message in an exchange. This seems to go against the general opinion that it’s better to let the other person end the exchange, the logic being that you want to give the impression that you are too busy and important to answer.
I prefer text conversations to have a graceful, definitive ending. I don’t like the idea of leaving someone hanging. I say that as if I’m so amazing that everyone I text waits with baited breath for my next SMS surge of brilliance; that’s not the case. I think the reality is that if I’m the one who decidedly ends the exchange, then at least I know that I am not the one left hanging. Thus I occasionally find myself texting until I feel it is complete.
Perhaps I got a little carried away in the case of the stolen airline blanket. The girl next to me had a point; five messages was a tad excessive.
It’s ironic how my side hustle takes me to so many music festivals. No one in their right mind would call music aficionado. A music lover, for sure, but in case you aren’t aware, not all music is music. As a child, I happily listened to oldies and Broadway musicals from the 80’s over most pop music and to this day I remain near willfully ignorant of new artists and trends in the music world. I have never been the kind of person who can put an album on and listen to it cover to cover except for The Fratelli’s Costello Music – which, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I continue to tell everyone despite the fact that it’s something I should probably refrain from sharing with anyone. Then I forget who I’ve told and I tell them again.
“Jas. Stop. You told me this three years ago.”
In short, you will never catch my writing in an article on Pitchfork or Paste. I took an acting class where I had to bring in a piece of music that embodied the essence of “me.” The idea was it was a piece of music we could use to market ourselves to people. I had difficulty choosing between a song from a ska band out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and I Know a Place by Petula Clarke.
Just to clarify: out of all of the songs in the world that I am aware of, I narrowed my essence down to the band that did the theme to a cartoon about a anthropomorphic, mystery solving shark and a piece that embodied the Burt Bacharach era.
“Don’t you like anything contemporary?” the teacher asked. “What’s with you kids and your old ass music?”
Imagine my surprise every single time I get an email from my bosses asking me to take the photography machine to another music festival. I don’t understand it. It’s almost criminal that I get to go to these festivals and watch these bands. My own musical taste is so questionable that friends made me mix CD’s full of colorful artists, styles, and genres in an attempt to broaden my palate. My summer camp roommate begged me to listen to better things, but only after she burst through the door and screamed, “NO!” when she heard the DeLovely soundtrack drifting into the hallway. People have staged borderline interventions, saying that my musical taste is “like being at a roller rink on a Wednesday night.” I have been scorned by lovers because I love Jock Jams that much. Thank you for the sweet sweet sensations of your intimacy, Jas, but you think that DJ Kool is an artist so we can’t share the same bed anymore.
How does the universe justify all of the amazing music that I am pretty much paid to see? I’ve gone to Austin twice where I saw Andrew WK, Big Frieda, HAIM, Chvrches, Protomartyr, Cheap Trick, Estelle, Chance the Rapper, Anamanaguchi – and that’s only a few.
This time the work sent me to Little Rock, Arkansas for their annual Riverfest. The big headliner, for me at least, was The Flaming Lips. Everyone who has ever said anything to my about my terrible music taste has at some point publicly decreed their love for the Flaming Lips. Thus, I made myself familiar with them – though more out of a desire to move up in the world than to expand my mind.
I really enjoyed their music before, but you know how sometimes you have to see something live before the music really grabs you? That’s how I feel about The Flaming Lips. They put so much thought into their set. I saw some of the other acts at Riverfest and while it was great that they showed up, most of them did song after song without much else, which is fine, but the Flaming Lips were a drink of cool water in comparison. The show began with several explosions of confetti and, for a second, I was confused as to whether it was the air canons or the sheer energy of the opening number that propelled them outward. Wayne Coyne would clap his hands and yell, “Come on! Come on!” in between numbers to get the crowd on their feet and screaming. They figured out how to do the most they could within the amphitheater’s limitations. At one point, one of the roadies donned a massive Chewbacca costume and Coyne, wearing a massive, light-up cape, climbed upon his shoulders and rode him around the stage. My favorite bit, though, was when he climbed into a giant plastic bubble and sang Space Oddity as he traversed the audience.
“You guys make the magic happen,” he said at one point, “because they are just costumes and bits of paper we shoot out of a box but you all act like you’ve never seen it before in your lives and it’s completely magical.”
I like that I didn’t feel like an impostor in their audience. That happens to me a lot at live shows – where I go I fail to understand not just the music, but the overall concept. I once went to a performance where the singer snaked about the stage to pre-recorded beat boxing supported by some live musicians and I failed to get it atall. I considered turning to the person who brought me and saying, “So I know that this ticket was free, but I feel like you should give me $100 dollars for being here or else I’m going to let everyone know that you brought an outsider to the club.”
Th Flaming Lips were amazing – a real inclusive, everyone’s awesome kind of party. It was as if he said, “Good music and being a worthwhile human aren’t mutually exclusive. There is room in your life for 90’s club bangers and the joyful sounds of our lush, psychedelic rock arrangements.
Wow – so it has been a hot second since I’ve written anything substantial in Smile Big and Pretty. The last you really heard from me I had just started VEDA (Blog Every Day in April). I made it three or four days in before I got this bright idea to make a video about a controversial subject! Controversy, yeah! Because I couldn’t resist the urge to get mad about something! It seemed like a great idea – until about an hour later, when I legitimately felt like I was in danger. That’s how swift and hateful the response was. Vitriol in the form of emails and 140 characters and private messages flooded my social media. It seemed like it would never end – until the hatriarchy of the patriarchy threw me a rope and offered to make it stop if I took it.
And I took that rope. Oh, I grabbed it and I deleted the video from my channel and ended up eating crow on the internet to make it stop.
I felt sick for weeks. I wrote nothing, I posted nothing. I was worried that they were going to dox me and I was going to get out of my car to find someone waiting for me outside my apartment building. I was scared I would come home and find someone had broken in and harmed Taxi and I would have to go full Liam Neeson on their punk asses. That would suck, because I do not know if I am physically capable of achieving Optimum Liam Neeson.
I think that’s when I decided that being mad wasn’t worth it.
That was difficult because, as it turns out, I have evolved into a person who gets bent out shape easily.I find triggering things with such ease that I’m certain my subconscious actively looks for them while I tell myself I’m living a normal, healthy life. The problem? You can’t live a normal, healthy life when you are convinced that everything is terrible.
I have a theory: I seek out things that I know will make me mad. Then I make a big stink about them to distract myself and others from just how unproductive I’m being. I can’t be productive; there’s too much injustice in the world and I have to let people know how WOKE I am so that they don’t know I’m actually just sitting around my apartment feeling sorry for myself as I try to resist the urge to eat all of the chips. All of the chips.
After the internet incident, I went through both the public and private bits and pieces on my blog, my Facebook, and my twitter and did an inventory of the general tone of my posts. The disparity in positives VS. negatives was alarming. I used to be able to take things that annoyed me and put a humorous spin on them, but the past couple of years has been a steady decline of humor and a straight up spike in pure unpasteurized misery.
“Oh my god,” I thought, “I can’t be this person. I cannot be this person. I don’t want to be angry and miserable all the time.”
I wrote out a list of things that I felt the most frustrated about. Then I began to do something about them. My personal life, my social life, my finances – all of it.
For starters, I quit almost all of the feminist groups I was a member of on Facebook. I’m still a borderline misandrist hellbent on dismantling the patriarchy, but… see, Facebook knows that about me now. Facebook took ALL of the posts about rape, unequal treatment in the industry, and other genuinely terrible things that women experience at the hands of a male dominated world and put them at the top, front, and center of my feed! Whenever I logged in, which was all day/every day because I’m an addict and I have a goddamn problem, the first thing I’d see was a screen shot of a text-message conversation gone wild after a woman turned down her male acquaintance’s unwanted advances. Or how yet another woman in a less civilized part of the world got burned alive because she refused a marriage proposal from someone twice her dad’s age. Facebook loves to make sure I know all about creeps on Tinder and women who get stoned to death in the Middle East.
After the groups came the initiative that I like to call, “OPERATION: DON’T CLICK ON THAT!”
It’s where I resist the urge to click on links to articles about how terrible everything in the world is. I consider the fact that I haven’t clicked on a single thing about the gorilla at the Chicago Zoo an astounding success.
After quitting the Facebook groups and links of horribleness, I made a more concerted effort to establish good, meaningful friendships and relationships with women. For someone who spent much of her life saying, “Cool girls are hard to find!” I sure found some amazing women to cavort about town with. I cannot remember the last time I had girlfriends who actually called me. It’s like the friendship fairy rubbed my belly or blew kisses my way coated in magical friendship dust or whatever it is that friendship fairies do – and suddenly I know all of these down ass ladies.
After planting the seeds of friendship, I reassessed my personal life. I made some decisions, gave some ultimatums… you know.
I wish that this was the part where I could say, “I’ve achieved my acting and writing goals and I’ve unlocked the secret to financial autonomy!”
Yeah, about that – maybe if I had spent the last two years focused on myself and my happiness and living a good life, then maybe things would be different. Conan O’brien once said that there was no hope for success once you let yourself become jaded. Granted, Conan came from an affluent background and went to Harvard, so – NO! NO! NO EXCUSES, JAS!
The bottom line, for me at least, is that nothing good will happen if I spend every day angry at something. It’s good to be aware. It’s good to be woke. But I can’t be mad anymore and I cannot let angry people influence my mental health. I can only be grateful that somehow I made it this far and that I’m finally figuring this out.
For now, I’m going to choose to believe that the best road forward is the most positive one.
I booked a print job for Orkin a while back and I never found out what happened to the pictures. Until yesterday. Actually, that is a lie; I still have no idea how Orkin used these pictures. That didn’t stop their ad agency from posting one of my shots to their site, though!
Now if only I could finagle a role in one of those TV spots with the giant ant puppets riding in the back of a pickup.