Friday, February 26, 2010

Eric in the Dark

I wrote this poem in 1993 about one of my best friends, Eric J. It was actually published that year in a local literary magazine. Enjoy.

Such a lonely sight
was the boy who sat on the street corner
smoking a cigarette.

Half hidden in street light shadow,
his doubled over denim frame looked almost frail
sitting there alone.

He thought and
took a long drag off his cigarette.
Exhaling the smoke,
raising his eyebrows and
tossing that thought away.

Only one long drag remained on the smoke and
he took it...
then shot the butt across the street.
The little rocket landing, then sputtering out,
invisible in the darkness.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Digital music

So I spent some time on iTunes this weekend and downloaded some tracks from my youth: The Who, Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, and even one by Blind Faith. This is not necessarily music of "my generation" since I still think I was born 25 years too late. I wanted desperately to be a hippie and apparently so did most of my high school friends because we exclusively listened to music from the '60s and early '70s.
There seems to be something un-genuine though about listening to "Baba O'Reilly" on an iPod. It's just not how that music should be heard. For me, it should be listened to on a cassette player in a friend's car, or maybe on a boom-box in Memorial Park. Good grief do they even make boom-boxes anymore? Music has become so personal with MP3s and ear-buds, we can each walk around to our own individual soundtracks, but when I was a kid, music was a community experience.
When my parents and the neighbors would get together on Saturday afternoons for beer and burgers on the grill, someone would open up their patio doors and blare whatever music my parents and their friends would listen to from an archiac turn-table and speakers that were taller than I was. Usually it was The Beach Boys or a radio station that specialized in "the oldies." This was when vinyl was king as the 8-track had finally died so there was always the background sizzle and pop of the record accompanying the actual music.
All of that is missing in digital music. It's crystal clear but somehow more impersonal. Even listening to music on the radio comes with the occasional area where reception is lousy and the station gets fuzzy for a second or two. I miss liner notes and real album cover art. The teeny tiny album cover on my iPod just doesn't satisfy. My thumbnail is bigger than the picture of the album for Pete's sake - a lot bigger.
So this is what we're left with: clear, tiny replications of our memories. Maybe with my tax return I'll go out and buy a turn-table...if I can find any place that still sell them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Boredom: the good, the bad, and the ugly

For the first time in a LONG time I can honestly say I'm bored. This is a good state for me because the depression can sink me so low, it's almost impossible to see the surface. Could this even be "happiness?"
That I can't really answer. Well, I know I can so I should. I always picture happiness as this state of bliss where everything goes my way. That never happens in real life so I think that's why I struggle with actually admitting to myself that I am happy. I picture butterflies and smiley faces dancing around me when I picture being happy. But what prevents me from saying I'm happy right now?
It's such an ambiguous word. What is happiness to me may be completely different than how Bill Gates would describe happiness. We talk a lot about the concept of happiness in class because when people are sad and depressed and come in to see a therapist, one of their goals is generally to feel happy. So how does one get there? What is quantifiable?
I'm working out which is supposed to help with mood regulation and it does. Since I've abused so many drugs in my day, I always thought of myself as endorphin deficient: I was born with an unnaturally low level of endorphins and that's why drugs are so appealing to me. Well that's a load of crap on many levels, but since I've joined my local YMCA and actually started working out, I have felt those naturally produced endorphins and they feel really good, I have to tell ya. Even if I skip a weight lifting session, I am committed to my swim class twice a week and I feel great right afterwards and even the day after - like today. I was always under the impression that it would feel like the instant high I got after using, but that's not the case at all; it's much longer lasting and not as intense of course, but in the long run it still feels good and is MUCH healthier for me.
The status of relationships often contributes to the level of happiness one is experiencing. Although there are always issues in my marriage (and in any marriage I suspect) overall my husband and I seem to be in a really good place right now. The two most common things couples fight about is money and children. Since we don't have children together, that leaves money which is something that stresses us both out a lot. Since I'm on unemployment right now, things are tight, but since we've recovered from Christmas expenses, that hasn't been an issue for a few weeks now.
Going to school makes me feel good about myself and gets me out of the house to see people at least three times a week. That's important because isolation is a hallmark of depression and this semester started a couple of weeks ago so I've been getting out and meeting people for a bit of time. School also makes me feel competent because it's something I'm good at and interested in. So there's something that increases my self esteem: doing something I like, can succeed in, and have interactions with others who seem to find me friendly and interesting.
So it is boredom? Do I need constant crisis in my life in order to feel anything, or is it just happiness in all it's plain-Jane glory? I'm going with happiness today.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Weekend That Was: Lawrence Trivia 2010

Refryed Pink Gus. Here's a little history on our team name for this year's Lawrence Trivia Weekend contest.
In 1988 our team name was Gus the Autistic Wonder Dog. I wasn't part of planning our team in 1988, but we had a lawn ornament with pipe-cleaner horns, painted white, as our mascot. I was invited late to this weekend and thought I was "just dropping by" with Jeanette. We wanted to bring a snack so we stopped at a gas station and bought a 5lb. bag of popcorn. "Tube o'popcorn" it has lovingly come to be known as. This is the Trivia Weekend I have blogged about previously in my posts about falling in love with my first boyfriend, Chuck. This is where we met.
In 1989 our team was called Fryed Pink Clams. This is partially because our friend, with the last name of Frye, hosted the affair again in her basement (it's great having friends with verbs as last names.) The "pink clam" portion of the name came from the title of one of the porn movies some of the guys brought over. Apparently there is a porn flick with the title "The Pink Clam." Eww, but a great Trivia name. So we became the Fryed Pink Clams.
My friends from high school and I seem to be celebrating our 20th class reunion all year, because we made a hybrid of those two names for this year's team. Hence, you end up with Refryed Pink Gus: 20th Anniversary Edition.
Hays, Jeff, and I spent a good portion of last week trying out different technologies so we could be in touch with each other over time and distance during the contest. We tried Skype, Google Group Chat, and me beam. In the end the Google Group Chat worked the best because there wasn't a lot of lag between posts, however we couldn't see each other. Skype only lets you have video with one person at a time, and me beam had horrible echos and feedback. Although we did use me beam during "on campus questions only" just to check in with each other and verify the physical meltdown that I seemed to be going through: Friday night I didn't sleep. I finally fell asleep at 4am Saturday morning and I had to be ready for class at 9am. I was up at 8am, so I got 3 or 4 hours of sleep Friday night. Needless to say, there was no shower happening before class, so I threw on pajama pants and a long sleeved t-shirt. One of my friends drove up from Milwaukee to play at our house, and she was at my house by the time I got home from class. So there was no time to shower then. Two other girl friends showed up so there was a houseful of four women and Mark all clacking away at computers, looking for answers, calling in answers, chatting with friends in New York, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee via Group Chat. When we all checked in on me beam during the on campus only questions, I looked the worse for wear by far than anyone else.
I loved the video check ins. I got to see my two friends from high school who started dating junior year and have been together ever since. They married and now have two young sons. We got to see the boys too which was great because they look like hybrids of their parents; I mean, technically all kids are, but with these two, it's almost freaky. Especially since I've known the parents since almost the age their oldest son is now which is even freakier.
I didn't play much on Sunday as I was sort of "trivia-ed out." I have a lot of homework this week and I wanted to get started on it. This is graduate school after all, not high school.
Although for those 12 or so hours when I was on line answering questions and looking up answers, laughing with friends, eating junk-food and highly caffeinated beverages, I kind of felt like a kid again, which makes all the sacrifice worth it in the end.