Resolutions for the New Year

Without getting into the discussion about whether or not December 31 is really any different than January 1 (hint: it’s not), I’ve come up with three resolutions for the New Year. I’ve thought about it long and hard, and I want to have resolutions that (1) I can actually accomplish, (2) help me strive but don’t overwhelm, and (3) do not necessarily involve “getting rich quick” or “shedding a few pounds”… Because honestly, everyone wants to be richer and feel good when they look in the mirror. Those are basically standing societal goals, at least where I live, and I don’t need to contribute to that by falling for any pyramid schemes or jumping on the “join a gym today!” bandwagon.

When someone says something, believe them
Dear future self: You know that guy who tells some horrendous ‘joke’ (trigger warning: “I bought a rape whistle and it’s come in handy…really helps to mask the screams.”) and then, when you tell him that was completely not funny, he says, “Aww, don’t get bent out of shape about it! Lighten up! It was only a joke; you have no sense of humor”? That guy is not joking. Don’t worry about ‘being polite’ or ‘being nice’—that guy is not your friend. Don’t be afraid to tell off that guy; don’t be afraid to not laugh; don’t be afraid to ask him to explain the joke. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend; don’t be embarrassed, and don’t be afraid to embarrass him. When someone says something, they are feeling out how you’ll take it. Don’t be afraid to not take it. Stand up for yourself; don’t be afraid.

Get a job
Preferably in my field of study, and definitely higher-paying than what I have now… which wouldn’t be difficult, sadly. I actually don’t mind the work I do now; I dislike some aspects of it, of course, but I like my coworkers and the work isn’t terribly mentally taxing. And I would like to have higher pay. (Right now, I’m living below the poverty line.) In this vein, I’ll be applying for work every couple of days or so until I land something better than coffee shop work.

Submit my writing
Or, “Receive ten rejections.” If I’m not getting rejected, I’m not submitting enough work (or, I suppose, I’m just that awesome). This way, I will ‘win’ this goal either way: either I’ll succeed by having more of my work published, or I’ll succeed by having at least ten rejection letters by the end of the year.

I am just not with it today

I have a three-item list of “things I have to do today”:

1. writing at Zeli’s (apply for 2-3 jobs)
2. books with [friend] (if there’s time)
3. family night

One (#2) is even optional since it hinges on a friend’s ability to sit in my room and make help me do it. Another (#3) is going to happen whether I want it to or not since it happens every Sunday whether I want it to or not.

That leaves this morning, writing at Zeli’s (#1). Here I sit in Zeli’s, an independently-owned coffee shop, having intended to apply for two or three jobs in my field of study or at least something not-what-I’m-doing-right-now-related. Unfortunately, I completely forgot my flash drive, which has all my cover letter material and various resumes for tailoring. (By that I mean I have several differently-formatted resumes with varying degrees of the same information, not that I’m a con-artist, obviously.) I’m kind of stuck.

I’m so tired I’ve nearly fallen asleep in Zeli’s this morning, which is completely unlike me. Usually, I write and do other things with my writing group (we literally sit together on our own laptops and just write—that’s it) and I make my ride wait five or ten minutes once they arrive because “I just have to finish this sentence; gimme a second.”

Today, I’ve looked at the clock ten times already and it’s only 11:30ish and I’m about to keel over.

What. the. hell.

I do not like surprises: a true story

My sister is a participant in GISHWHES, and in the last couple of nights, she’s been excitedly telling our family which items from the July 2013 list she’s “found” (that is, those she’s been able to complete) and with which she needs help.

One of the items is “beefcake”: take a picture of three generations in a family sitting down to dinner to eat beefcake… literally. My sister signed us up for this, obviously, because right now we have three generations of family living under one roof. Fortunately, she was nice enough to warn us about volunteering us, and she even went so far as to ask for a specific day we’d all be available so that she could photograph us on our schedule, roughly speaking. Here’s how that conversation went a day or two ago.

Sister: So, when are you all available?
Me: I have Wednesdays and Sundays off.
Mom: Friday is best for me, but I could probably do Saturday morning, too.
Grandma: When I’m awake.
Dad: Uh… Ask your mother.
Sister (to me): Could you do Saturday morning?
Me (looking at work schedule): Yeah, but make sure it’s really in the morning.
Sister (to everyone): Is Saturday morning okay with everyone? I’ll work out the logistics.
Everyone (except Dad): Sure, fine.
Dad: Uh… yeah, whatever.

Okay, so that’s all fine. GISHWHES is stupid, but at least it’s fun, harmless stupid. Fast forward to today. I’ve worked a full eight-and-a-half-hour shift—on my feet 95% of the time—and I’m just hopping into the shower after a rather quick, bland dinner. My hand is literally on the shower door handle, pulling it open when my sister knocks on the bathroom door.

She asks something through the door, but the shower is already on and I can barely hear anything.

“What?” I ask.

She repeats the question, which I still don’t understand.

“What?” I ask again.

She repeats the question louder, and I catch something like “…when they get here?” but I’m still not sure what she’s talking about.

I close the shower door and crack open the bathroom door, poking my head out so that I can hear her better. “What?” I ask a third time.

“Are you coming down for the beefcake photo? [My friends] aren’t here yet, but when they get here, we’ll need three generations in the picture, like we talked about.”

I frown. “It’s a good thing they’re not here yet; I’m naked.” She makes a face, but since I don’t have my glasses on, so I can’t see her facial expression for context.

“When you get out of the shower, then.”

“Uh… isn’t that thing on Saturday?”

She looks at me, and I can tell even without my glasses that she’s losing her patience. “No, [my friend who baked the cake] couldn’t do it on Saturday because she works super early, so it’s tonight. The dumpster pool party is on Saturday.”

I wasn’t invited to the dumpster pool party, another of the items on the GISHWHES list, but that’s fine because dumpsters are gross and I have enough interaction with them at work to never think twice about saying “no” to having a pool party in one.

“So, are you coming down?” she asks.

“No.”

“What? Why not?” Now she’s irritated.

“Because I’m not prepared. I planned for Saturday.”

“What?” she asks, incredulous. “It will probably take ten minutes or less of your time.”

“I planned for Saturday,” I repeat calmly, not really able to explain why, just that I’m not at all prepared for any time tonight much less right now.

“You’re not coming down?”

“No.”

“Is that just because you don’t want to help me out?”

“What? No. I just… I have other stuff to do tonight.”

“It won’t take that long.”

“I’m going to take a shower and put on my pajamas,” I tell her. “Can I do this in my pajamas?”

“No, I want it to be a formal, dressed up thing.”

I snort. “That‘s not going to happen.”

“You have ‘stuff to do’ in your pajamas?” she asks, incredulous again.

“Yes. I have to apply for jobs and, y’know, sleep, eventually.”

Sister narrows her eyes, obviously not believing me, and then she throws up her hands and says, “Fine,” as if I’m completely a lost cause and it’s like I’m a horse she’s leading to water but remains unable to make me drink.

I frown. She turns away. I close the bathroom door, open the shower door again—the shower’s been running during our entire “discussion”—and step in.

As I shampoo my hair, I think to myself, “But I prepared for Saturday.” I sigh. Sister’s definitely angry with me, but she’s known me more than a quarter century. How can she still not remember that I don’t like surprises?

Why I don’t mind paying taxes

I’m a writer. I get paid almost nothing, at this point, for writing. Like most other writers in the world (the ones who have jobs at all), I have a crappy day job that barely pays the bills, and sometimes not even that.

On Thursday, after I had finally clocked out, I took my usual route home via the 210 West. My grandmother allows me to use her car for work purposes, so I am able to cut my travel time by more than 80%, something for which I’m continually grateful. I was taking the exit closest to my house when I saw a large, dead cat lying on the pavement in the right-hand part of the off ramp. It looked like a pretty cat—fluffy with grey and white stripes—except that it was lying there, obviously dead.

As I turned onto the surface streets, I thought about pulling over and going back, but what was I supposed to do? After I parked my grandmother’s car in front of the house, I went inside and asked my father if I should do something about the cat on the off ramp.

He looked dubious, asking, “What are you planning on doing?”

“I don’t know; just move it off into the bushes, I guess,” I responded, and he could tell it was really a half-question. I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to do, after all, only that I didn’t want the cat to lie out there until kingdom come.

He scrunched his nose up in distaste, as if I was asking him to go with me, but said nothing further. My grandmother, who loves cats, poo-pooed the person who’d kill a cat (even by accident) and not do something about it in good faith.

I decided privately that if the cat was still there when I went by again in the next couple of days, then I would do something about it. If not I, then who?

Unfortunately, I was called into work yesterday (Friday) to cover a closing shift for one of my coworkers. I’d completely forgotten about the cat, but when I drove past it on my way home, I pulled over immediately and put on the car’s hazard lights. I sat there for a minute while other cars sped by me in the dark.

Did I have anything with which to pick up this cat in order to move it? I searched around in the back seat and found tissues, some kind of store brand Kleenex. I frowned, waited until the coast was relatively clear, and opened the door into the lane so that I could go back to see what could be made of the situation.

I tried using the tissues to move the big cat—it was more than fifteen pounds, I figured—but the animal had been lying out there for more than 24 hours by that point, if not longer. It was stuck to the ground by its own dried blood and entrails.

I needed something more heavy duty. I drove the rest of the way home and called my dad as soon as I parked. He and my mother were out of town on some kind of fun thing that wasn’t really fun for my mom but she wanted to spend time with Dad so she was willing to put up with it.

“Do we have any shovels around?” I asked.

“Um… yeah, they’re in the shed in the backyard. Why? You digging a hole?”

“No,” I replied, “the cat’s still there. The one I mentioned yesterday.”

“Is…” he paused, “Is anyone going with you?”

“No. I mean, no one’s here. Grandma’s here, but I don’t think she’d be very helpful.”

He sounded wary. “All right, well, put on your hazard lights and be very careful.”

“I will, Dad. Thanks. Sorry for calling you so late.”

“It’s all right. Be careful.”

“Okay; talk to you later.”

I explained the situation to my grandmother, who seemed put out (again) that anyone would ever consider killing a cat, accidentally or otherwise. They’re her favorite animal—she’s most definitely a ‘cat person’—and she spent her time asking me what the cat looked like while I was searching around for a shovel.

I found a spade exactly where my dad had said the shovels would be and fit it awkwardly into the back seat of the car. Driving back down the main drag in order to get on the freeway in order to get off the freeway at the correct spot, I ruminated. Why hadn’t anyone done anything? The off ramp is well used; fifty cars had driven by me in the twenty minutes I’d been sitting there trying to figure out what to do the first time, and it had been nearly 10 PM by then.

As I pulled to the side of the road and flipped on the car’s hazard lights for the second time that night, I wondered whose cat it was that had been lying in the road for so long. Was anyone missing the poor beast? I pulled the spade out of the back seat and realised that it was 10:30 PM and I was wearing all black, head to toe. Great. Work clothes, but I hadn’t thought to change them and now I was essentially invisible, relying completely on my car to warn other drivers for me.

I stood next to the railing when I saw a car coming up the exit ramp, my car’s flashing lights between it and me. I was temporarily blinded by headlights, and then, so long as there wasn’t another car coming, I stood in the road and tried to move the cat with my shovel. It was slow going, and also I was squeamish. The cat didn’t feel like an animal should—it felt like heavy cooked spaghetti against the metal when I tried to move it. Most of its bones were broken, I figured, and that didn’t make me any more motivated to get the thing out off the pavement into the bushes. It felt… unnatural.

Finally, I pulled out my phone and called my best friend. When he picked up, he sounded concerned. (I never call him or anyone, nearly, because I have a phone phobia, but even I can get a handle on myself sometimes.)

“Hello?” he said.

“Have you ever buried anything?” I asked.

“Um… yes,” he answered slowly. “Why?”

“There’s this cat. On the road. On the freeway. I’m trying to move it into the bushes or something, but I—”

“I can’t get there at this moment.”

“Can you just tell me what to do, then?” The combination of the cars rushing by me, the smell of death in the air, and having to talk on the phone was making me panicky.

“Uh, you should probably call the sheriff. Wait a second; let me ask my dad. He’s the one who deals with dead things around here.”

He and his father had a conversation, of which I could only hear his side. I wasn’t listening; I was just trying with all my might not to freak out and hang up the phone immediately.

“Okay, call the non-emergency number for the sheriff.”

“Can you give me the number?”

“Yeah, one minute.”

“Can you text it to me?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, just realising that I’d had the phone up to my ear for longer than I could really handle. “Yeah, sure. I’ll text it to you so you can get off the phone.”

“Thanks,” I said and hung up without waiting for anything more.

After a minute or two, the text message sounded on my phone, lighting up with the non-emergency phone number for the local sheriff. I dialed and put the phone back up to my ear.

“Sheriff’s office; how my I help you?”

“Uh, yeah,” I started, trying to focus. “I’m here with a dead cat on the 210 West, Ocean View off ramp. Should I just shovel it into the bushes or call animal control or…?”

“Yeah, you’re going to have to call animal control. Let me give you the number,” she said, rattling off another phone number from memory. I thanked her and hung up.

When I dialed animal control, there was a voice message that said the shelter was closed for the day, but if I needed emergency services to please press “0”. I pressed “0” and waited.

“Animal Control,” a man’s voice said. “What’s your emergency?”

“Uh, hi,” I said, repeating what I’d told the sheriff’s office. “Should I just shovel it into the bushes or what? It’s… um, it’s kind of stuck to the ground.”

The man made a disgusted sound. “Yeah, scraping a dead animal off the road isn’t something I’d ask you to do. Animal Control doesn’t actually deal with animals on the freeway, though, but I’ll put in a call to CalTrans. Is that all right?”

“Yes, that’s fine. Thank you. Sorry for calling the emergency line. I wasn’t sure what to do.”

“It’s fine, ma’am. Thanks for informing me. We’ll let CalTrans know the situation. Have a good night.”

“Thanks.” I hung up.

I shoved the spade back into the back seat of the car and hauled my butt home. I smelled like dead animal and coffee and I really wanted a shower more than anything in the world at that moment. I mentioned on Twitter, “So, um. Dead things have this particular smell. >_>” and my best friend—the friend whom I had originally called for help—texted me to say, “Yes, they do. It is best described as rancid.”

“I didn’t know there was a word for it,” I responded. “But I don’t think I knew what rancid smelled like, so… I don’t think I would make a good coroner.”

As I hopped into the shower shortly thereafter, I thought to myself, Thank all the gods there’s someone else who can deal with dead animals on the freeway.

And that’s why I don’t mind paying taxes.

How I do the season

So, I work in a retail store wherein Christmas songs are playing nonstop every single day from November 15 until Christmas Day. I don’t dislike Christmas songs, generally speaking, except for “Santa Baby” and “It’s Cold Outside”, but hearing any song over and over and over for any extended period of time is going to make me hate it.

Here’s how I do Christmas where I work. A customer says, “Merry Christmas!” and I say, “You, too!”

A customer says, “Happy holidays!” and I say, “You, too!”

A customer says, “Happy Hanukkah!” and I say, “You, too!” I’m sure you get the idea, here.

I’m not against anyone celebrating their own version of the winter holidays. Seriously, I’m not. And I say it as non-curmudgeonly as I can, which—I admit—after a few hours, isn’t saying all that much. But I honest-to-gods try to be nice about it.

What irritates me is two-fold. First, that people assume I celebrate what they do. That’s… overlook-able, I suppose, since (1) people are afraid of what they don’t understand, (2) they incorrectly assume that everyone is like them, and (3) it’s in the “giving spirit” of the holidays, no matter what words actually came out of their mouths.

Second—less common and more irritating—that when they find out I that I don’t celebrate what they do (let’s just be honest here and say that it only happens with Christmas because it’s never happened with anyone except the Christians) they get offended and either (1) try to convert me on the spot, or (2) immediately tell me that I’m “part of the problem” in the “war on Christmas” (seriously??), or (3) immediately try to guess whatever holiday-of-the-moment I do celebrate and then explain how that’s actually just another way of celebrating Christmas because Jesus is in everyone no matter what.

I mean, really. You think all that is going to get me into the “spirit of the season”? Ugh.

Since before November 15, I have been complaining trying really hard not to complain about the Christmas music, putting up with the ridiculous Santa hats and reindeer antlers, tolerating everyone’s apparent (and, I hope to gods, temporary) lack of taste in clothing (when else, after all, is it acceptable to wear such gauche sweaters and jewelry?), and trying not to be bitter about everyone suddenly being “nice” and “caring” when I would rather just have them be decent all year round instead of hateful the rest of the year and sickly sweet for a month at the end.

So, fine. I’m Scrooge. I’m the Grinch. Whatever. During the holiday season, I just (1) accept presents that are given to me—because who doesn’t like presents?—and (2) try not to strangle anyone.

“Requiem for a Dream” and “Labyrinth”

NOTE: This is more the story behind why I watched these two movies in the first place, and why I’m featuring them here together, rather than an actually honest-to-gods review of the material. Fair warning.

Requiem for a Dream poster

At the end of March, one of my coworkers—Nate—and I were closing the store and since it was slowish, we had time to banter back and forth about our lives, at least as much as can be shared in 3-4 minute clips between customers and cleaning.

Somehow, I learned that his longtime girlfriend/fiancée was out of town and he wanted something to do to pass the time. He said he usually watched movies that she didn’t like in situations like this but he couldn’t think of any couple of movies that would go well together.

We got off topic for a while and then one of us (I don’t remember which of us) mentioned something about Jennifer Connelly. I said jokingly that he should watch Labyrinth (wiki) and then Requiem for a Dream (wiki) while his lady was out of town because who doesn’t want to watch the awkward, teenage Sarah Williams “blossom” into the lovely Marion Silver?

“Oh, that’s evil,” he said with a grin on his face. And that was the end of it for a while because we had to deal with Real Work™ and customers, etc.

Since I had been joking, I thought that was the end of it completely, but he’d apparently been mulling it over because when there was another lull, he said, “I’m going to do it. And I’ll bring in the films for you to watch, too.”

I laughed but agreed that, if he watched them, I would watch ’em, too, and report back. The next couple of days we didn’t work together because of our different schedules, but when we did next, he—as promised—had the films in hand for my viewing pleasure.

Labyrinth posterHe said, “I watched Labyrinth first and then Requiem, so I think you should do the opposite to see if the impressions you get are any different.”

Out of chronological order?” I asked, meaning I should first watch the film in which the older Connelly stars (Requiem for a Dream), and then the one with the younger actress (Labyrinth).

He grinned. “I think it might be worse that way than how I watched it.”

So, when I finally managed to sit down and take a gander (I watched the two movies back to back on an evening late in March), I realized that the first time I watched Requiem was at the prodding of another Nate, who I was dating at the time I first watched the film (in college). That’s neither here nor there, I suppose, but it was strange and discomforting for a minute or two before I was absorbed in the movie.

Well, here’s my verdict: Yes, it’s worse watching Requiem for a Dream first before Labyrinth. If the movies are watched in order of their production year, it just feels like the teenage character grew up and became a whore. I mean, it’s not pretty, but it happens in real life. But, if they’re viewed in the order I saw them, with Requiem first, it’s practically impossible to watch any of Labyrinth without thinking of that last ‘party’ scene in Requiem. Seriously. It’s a mild mindfuck. If I hadn’t already seen Labyrinth, watching the other one first might’ve ruined it for me; so I’m glad, in retrospect, that I’d already seen both movies.

Dear strange woman…

Dear strange woman who didn’t want the “drink” I made you because you thought I was sick because I was wearing a convention bracelet that apparently looks like a hospital bracelet,

Yaoi-Con braceletYOU ARE AN ASSHOLE.

I do not work in a tiny, corner coffee shop. I work at a place that has a behemoth corporation of coffee behind it. They are also assholes. Do you think, if I was actually too sick to be making drinks, that they would allow me to make drinks?

Also, when have you ever seen a hospital bracelet that wasn’t white? I never have. I’m pretty sure hospital bracelets are white or off-white. And, seriously, if I had been in the hospital, don’t you think the bracelet would be the first thing to come off after I got out? Being sick enough to warrant a hospital visit isn’t exactly something to be proud of. (Unless, of course, I’d overcome cancer or something, but in that case, my theoretical sickness wouldn’t be contagious anyway, so…)

Also, stage whispering over the counter to my supervisor that you’d like your “drink” (and yes, I mean to use the quotation marks; see below) remade because you don’t want to get sick from whatever I have is just going to put her between a rock and a hard place. Sure, she’ll stop that more important thing that she’s doing and remake it for you, and she’ll even do it with a smile on her face because she’s a nice person and being nice to assholes like you is part of the job, but as soon as the door swings shut behind you, we are going to laugh at you and lament the waste of good Chai (from the cup that I made for you). You are the reason this behemoth corporation of coffee is considered so uppity and wasteful; not us.

Sincerely,
Someone who’s not going to cut off her convention bracelet just to appease your sorry ass.

PS: The “drink” you ordered… wasn’t one. I don’t know if you know this, but “six pumps of Chai in a venti cup with ice” isn’t a drink. It’s the beginning of one, yes, but not something I’d give you just for funsies. No milk or anything? Seriously?