All-Stars

I technically live in Maryland, but if anyone asks, I live in DC. Fewer people know where Silver Spring is than the nation’s capital, and my house is 11 miles from the White House. If I was very industrious, I could walk there on the Sligo Creek trail. My Metro station is the first Maryland stop outside the district, so I can pretty much get anywhere in the city in 40 minutes. It might seem like I’m bragging, and that’s because I am.

I love where I live, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world… especially since I don’t drive, and every other city where I’ve lived has lacked true mass transit infrastructure.

I don’t know if I’ll ever start driving again, but it’s nice to have the option to not. Parking is expensive because there is more demand than supply, and it will always be that way in a city that’s only 60 sq. miles. There’s barely enough room for the cars that already “live there.” If you’re not used to walking, DC will have you up and at ’em in no time, because unless you have copious amounts of disposable income, you’ll most likely be dropped off between .2 and one mile from where you want to go. It’s the easiest workout routine ever, because you’re incorporating movement into your day rather than having to make time. Carry a backpack with everything you’re going to need for the day and you’ve got weightlifting AND cardio. For maximum hard core workouts, there’s always the years we are in full Snowpocalypse mode, and you have to lift your knees up to your chest in order to get forward motion.

If you’re going to be a tourist here, it helps to learn a little about the city before you arrive. For instance, in every Metro station there are escalators. Stand on the right, climb on the left. Break this rule and not only will we know you’re a tourist, we’re going to hate you a little bit. Also, most people on the Metro will not be friendly if you make them take off their headphones… and if they are, they’re still seething on the inside because you’ve interrupted their Metro mojo. We all have it, whether it’s getting settled with games, podcasts, or music. But Metro is a time of transition between work and play, and the zoning out is the beautiful part. We don’t want to be “on.” You’re better off talking to other tourists or using Google Maps. I’ve been using the walking directions for three years now, and they’ve never let me down.

Additionally, the federal government is here, but it’s not really indicative of the feel of the city. We are liberal loudmouths (well, most of the time, anyway) who will protest almost anything. Political activism doubles as leisure, because if we get fired up about something, we’re taking a group of friends and making a day of it. At the women’s march last year, there were so many people at Braddock station that when I got on the train with my friends, I leaned over to my friend Lindsay and said, man… if they squeeze us in any tighter we’re going to have to get married. I was riffing on Dorothy Parker, who said that her first office with E.B. White was so small that if it was any smaller, they’d have to call it adultery. If you come to DC during a major march weekend, be prepared to have to wait in line to get on the train AND to stand so close to someone that all personal space becomes null & void.

Washington reminds me a lot of Portland, Oregon for two reasons. The first is that the emphasis on political activism as leisure is about the same. The second is that the Potomac runs through the city, making it look very much like the division the Willamette provides. It’s kind of interesting that the neighborhoods are similar as well, groupings that felt like home the moment I arrived.

For those just joining us, I am originally from Houston, but have spent a lot of time in Portland, to the point where I identify both of them as my “home towns.” That means I don’t feel particularly at home in either, because they are so night and day different that I never felt settled. To my great pleasure, here I feel no wanderlust at all. Yes, it’s cheaper to live elsewhere, but why would I want to?

And, it has to be said, DC is one of the gayest places on earth, and because of the emphasis on politics, filled with the type people that make my heart beat a little faster because they’re so incredibly intelligent. I haven’t found romantic love here, but that’s because I’ve never gone looking for it, and probably won’t for a long time. I am smart enough not to wish a relationship with me on anyone right now. It’s a rebuilding year, as they say in sportsball. But when I do feel ready, I will have no shortage of ridiculously attractive choices. The hardest part is finding women who are single, because why would they be? If I think they’re star-spangled awesome, chances are, someone else does, too.

For all you southern gays out there that are looking for a place to relocate because your red state politics make your head explode, I can’t recommend DC highly enough. I think the best thing about living here is that it successfully mixes northern and southern culture… as JFK so eloquently put it, Washington is a city with Southern efficiency and Northern charm. This comment is absolutely tongue-in-cheek, and yet, right on the money. Some of us are suit and tie, some of us are all fleece, all the time. I remember a few years ago, I got the comment, we can tell you don’t work on The Hill. You’re wearing brown pants.

What, you mean the Converse All-Stars didn’t give it away?

Caffeine and Football

This morning I’m drinking Turkish coffee, actually a product of Lebanon. It’s spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric… I think. I threw out the bag in favor of refilling a coffee can with a tight lid. I’m not drinking it the way the Lebanese do, though. I just put it in a regular cone filter so that there’s not “mud” at the end of every cup. It’s just as strong, though. Of that I made sure. I’m sure someone will either comment or @ me about it, that the “mud” is an essential part of the experience, I’m bucking a thousand years of tradition, etc. While all that may be true, I don’t need the pomp and circumstance every morning. I got it on Thanksgiving in tiny Redskins cups. I have no idea where one would purchase a Redskins Turkish coffee set, but they exist, apparently. Nothin’ says lovin’ like caffeine and football.

I’m gearing up to go out in the cold because I have a couple errands to run and I’m dragging ass this morning. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t have an answer…. oh, wait. Yes, I do. I’m 40. I think I’m officially “I’m going to drag ass every morning for the rest of my life” years old. Insert platitude about how every sunrise is a gift here.

I am sipping frequently as I write because snow is supposed to start falling during afternoon drive, and I want to get home before it starts so I can sit next to the picture window and watch. Snow in DC is magnificent, truly. I mean, not all the time. Sometimes it just looks dirty and gross like an ice rink when the Zamboni driver gets fired…. but newfallen snow on the monuments is the closest version of heaven on earth I’ll ever reach. I wait until the active snowing has stopped, then get outside as soon as I can. Then I just photograph everything…. from the houses in the neighborhood to the Supreme Court. It’s all magic to someone who’s spent most of their lives in a subtropical climate.

It just dawned on me that I am almost old enough to have spent more time out of Texas than in. Wow, that’s a sobering thought, especially since I haven’t drunk any alcohol since Christmas vacation. Is there such a thing as being more than sober? You know, like infamous? I wish I could remember what it was that I drank, because it tasted expensive.

I know it was whiskey or bourbon- I wouldn’t have thought anything else was worth it… and by “worth it,” I mean worth losing brain power. I don’t drink that much because I’m not a 100-watt bulb to begin with. Plus, if I drink more than one shot of something, if I do something stupid I won’t remember it well enough to embarrass myself properly on this web site…. because out of stupid things comes great writing. I have a good time with self-deprecating humor. It’s one of my specialties, because if I didn’t laugh at myself, I would continually cry. There’s just so much material to work with. If my medium was visual art, I’d have enough for three museums.

….with coffee shops.

18th and Potomac

I think it’s a good thing and bad that I don’t write as much as I used to. On one hand, sites that aren’t updated don’t get traffic. On the other, I used to have a lot of shit to process, and it helped to write about it. Now that things are constantly calming down, there’s no conflict to endlessly discuss until I come to a resolution. I am sure that I could dig up something, but it would probably be something I’ve already dissected, and now would just seem like beating a dead horse. I do have a memorable quote from that time in my life, though. The setup is that Argo accused me of not listening. I said, sometimes what you think of as a function of not listening is not understanding and I’m beating the wrong dead horse instead of the right one. I got a point well taken for that one, so I’m assuming it was a good line. But what I think of as “a good line” isn’t saying something just to say it. I mean that I think of it as containing a truth that I should remember. I do listen, deeply, but if I’m on a different elevator, I will take what I think you mean and talk a bloody essay about it, essentially traveling up a building in Baltimore before you’ve even crossed the Potomac.

So, now I tend to get awfully “therapied” about conversation without even realizing how douchy it sounds, even though it works. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of what I think you’re saying is…. and speak more to that. It’s not like I’m trying to use my completed psychology minor to sound like I’ve got a PhD. It’s that I don’t want there to be a chasm between what both of us are trying to say to each other. Miscommunication, for me, is the root of all evil. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll never have a great, enlightening conversation with a person determined to misunderstand you. It’s easy to keep an argument alive if one person has a bias against the other and refuses to find anything positive about the other when it’s not that they can’t, they just don’t want to. For instance, missing the content and telling me I just ended that sentence with a preposition. 😛

Being on the same page takes a lot of work and dedication, because sometimes it takes more than one pass to try and explain what you really mean so that the other person understands it in their language. I liken it to being a child and having teachers that only know how to teach one way, so you just don’t get it and fail… not because you’re not smart enough to understand, but again, on a different elevator.

In relationships, no matter what kind, we all tend to ignore first family dynamics. For instance, say you grew up with a family that gets mad at each other in the moment and the other person grew up with a family that holds everything in as not to cause conflict. Getting angry at them is going to be terrifying for them and you’re going to hate it when everything you’ve done wrong for the past five weeks rains down on your head when you accidentally put a fork in the wrong drawer. In your family, when people get mad, when they calm down, it’s over. In their family, you never know when the Mento is going to drop over the Diet Coke…. so, in essence, you’re both living in fear.

It’s a conundrum to which I offer no answers, because it takes a trained professional to bring these two communication styles together. I just do the best I can, which is sometimes a success and sometimes a disaster. The hardest part is that all people are moving targets of emotion to some degree, and it’s difficult to score a double bullseye every time. If we all could, world peace would have been achieved long ago.

What I can say about conflicts, all of them, is that I want them to burn slower. To be passionate, but not to the point where I can’t hear anymore. And by “burning slower,” I don’t mean “fester.” I mean proceeding with caution as not to cause damage in either direction. Not everything has to be solved in one day, or even one conversation.

I could offer a hundred examples of all this, but you’ve heard them already if you’ve been even a casual reader over the years.

Just know that when I’m traveling up a building in Baltimore and you haven’t even crossed the Potomac, remind me that DC is still a thing, and we can meet there.

#prayingonthespaces

Seventeen Cents, Part II

Here is Part I. It is not necessary to read it to understand this entry, but recommended.


Fires cause emotional distress as well as physical damage. They threaten life and property and are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and terrifying. Children often are affected by what they see during and after a fire, whether or not they are physically injured. The best predictor of postfire distress in children appears to be how frightening the experience of the fire was and the extent of the loss.

-National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Ever since I saw the three gravestones of the children who were burned up in a house fire at my mom’s cemetery, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what happened in the aftermath of our own. I don’t remember what the symbols on the other graves were (Tigger? Marie from Aristocats?), but one stuck out. It was a GIANT R2-D2. While it is certainly what the child would have wanted (and I take nothing away from that fact), it is a punch in the gut to walk past, because you instantly know you are not walking past the grave of an old adult who died of natural causes. For instance, no one who dies at 98 is going to have people gathering around the casket at the visitation saying, dear God… they took her too soon. R2-D2 gravestones subvert the natural order of things, for me presenting with stomach-churning, bile-inducing nausea. Those graves tapped into every scar they could find that was still covered in the lightest of scabs.

I was 12, and my sister was seven; it was late enough on the calendar that we were only five years apart instead of six. As is often the case, Lindsay’s reaction was delayed, because we’d spent the first few nights at our mother’s parents’ house, a short while in a borrowed lake house, and then settled into our own home… at which point the bishop told us to move. There was not really enough time to settle before another enormous change happened, and though it was difficult for me, I met Diane the first Sunday in my new church, and the world was never the same after that. I was too busy to bother with the house fire anymore.

It wasn’t all her- it was discovering a part of me I didn’t know was there… only inklings and worry that I was an abnormal psych case waiting to happen, not knowing that it was healthy and just plain average to have same-sex attractions. It’s even sort of average to have the bipolar depression, anxiety, and ADHD combo meal (I think that’s a number 11, if you’re ordering). One in four people get depression at some point in their lives, but it isn’t all the same. For some, it’s situational. For others, it’s not. But the fact that so many people might not be in the same boat with me, but certainly navigating the same waters makes feeling normal despite not feeling normal comforting & safe.

I can honestly say without reservation that something has been wrong since childhood- nothing I’ve been through has changed the fact that I’ve had a chemical imbalance far longer than I’ve been taking medication for it, and it took years to find the right protocol because no one suspected I was on the bipolar spectrum until college, when I went back to University of Houston in 2006. Therefore, upping seratonin didn’t do a whole lot for me. It wasn’t until I was put on a mood stabilizer that I knew what it felt like to live without depression at all.

The hardest part was hearing my doctor tell me that he thought I was bipolar, because the images it brought to mind were nothing close to my reality. As I told Dana on the phone, “I don’t want to be Sally Field from ER!” Bipolar disorder, like Autism, is a sliding scale of challenges, and I’m on the end where my lows are so low that my highs are barely noticeable, but there. When I’m on a high, I act virtually the same, I just can’t sleep. There’s a line drawn in the sand between what I deal with every day and the complete sensory overload flipout I had three years ago, because it wasn’t due to being bipolar. It was completely psychological, not psychiatric. A med change helped, but I was vomiting up old trauma that I’d boxed up and put away, and when it was unearthed from deep within, I could not even. Psychotherapy and medication have to go hand in hand for true relief, and unfortunately for me, I didn’t think there was anything psychologically wrong with me right up until I found my emotional baggage hold. There was a pilot case for the fire, a hanging bag for internalized homophobia/emotional abuse, and a Samsonite 29 inch spinner for pent-up rage about just damn everything. I spill fun secrets. Ugly ones were eating me alive.

Now that I have made significant changes to my life, starting over in a new city without any triggers, eating good things, and nearly cutting alcohol out of my diet because it makes my medication work better, I am back to the same boring, average person I was before. Still working the combo meal, but blessedly stable. I would have become a teetotaler if that’s what my doctor said would work, but he said that every once in a while, it was okay. Especially when I was working in a pub, I’d have a drink every night after work, using the free “shift drink” to try everything in the bar at least once. It didn’t undo me, by any means, but I am going for maximum efficacy. Plus, over time I have noticed that since my tolerance is in the toilet, it takes one drink for my brain to feel a little fuzzy, and as a writer, that makes me (more) crazy. I spend most of the time after drinking a cocktail wondering when it’s going to wear off. It’s just not relaxing to me unless I’m being social.

Wondering is useless, but I do it. I wonder who I would have been without emotional trauma, because that was the shitty icing on the burnt cake. I wonder what my life would have been like had I only been through a house fire, and that was the beginning and the end of childhood emotional malady. I had enough family support that I rebounded quickly from it, but then fell headlong into another disaster. Or perhaps it was one continuous disaster without a break, and I just felt like I was over one before the other started because frankly, the second disaster was exciting. You never know when a relationship is going to turn out to be a train wreck, because everyone‘s nice in the beginning.

If there’s a good thing to letting it all out, it’s that the healing process can begin in earnest. In my wandering/wondering state, I project that without so much emotional burden, I would have been a doctor by now (of divinity or psychology, maybe higher mathematics [If you don’t know me, let me ASSURE you “higher mathematics” was a hilarious joke.]). But the bright side is that I only just turned 40. Lots and lots of people achieve doctoral degrees way after that…… Hope and time are on my side…. mostly because as Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently said, I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting sick of their own bullshit. I’m still not done blaming my emotional trauma for where my life has taken weird twists and turns, but I would had I been a responsible adult when it happened. It’s different when you’re an adult, because you have no one to blame for poor life choices except yourself, because you actively choose them.

I’m not over the ways emotional abuse changed me that I’d never have chosen on my own. I’m not over how long I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get it together, not realizing that tissue is stronger after it is scarred and took a much bigger knife to find the original wound. As Jonathan Kellerman says in The Murderer’s Daughter, and I’m paraphrasing, The Haunted need a surgeon, not a barber. Now that time has passed, though, and the poison is out, I’m on my own… which doesn’t render the previous sentences about not being done invalid. These things are both true, both equally valid. There’s a reason it’s called recovery, and there is only healing, never a cure.

So, tl;dr…. I saved up all the feels until I couldn’t anymore and exploded. I’m okay now. The end.

Lindsay had a much rougher time than me after we moved, because she did not have systemic euphoria to turn her head. She did not want to go to school. I do not remember this happening before we left Naples, only after we moved to Houston, because again, I think it was too much change, too fast. In the Methodist Church, everyone moves on the same day so no church is left pastorless (under normal circumstances). It was summer, so we were all together for a few months before Lindsay’s PTSD surfaced. Not going to school was her way of trying to control whether our new house burned down or not. I attribute this to a truly dick move on the part of one of the firemen, who didn’t look around when he started speaking and said that the fire started over Lindsay’s room, and if she’d been sleeping in it, she’d be dead. That one phrase repeated in Lindsay’s mind over and over and over to the point of paralysis, until second grade seemed impossible to contemplate. If she wasn’t home, she was helpless should anything happen…. interesting because not being home kept her from danger in the first place.

I can’t remember whether my parents talked to a psychologist or to her teachers, but someone came up with the idea that there should be a routine each and every day. My dad started out by walking her into class and staying for a little bit until she got settled. He gave her a “slap bracelet,” all the rage then, so that she’d know he was always with her.

Editor’s Note: My God. My God! Dan. Argo. Lindsay. Slap bracelet. Click.

Additionally, before he left her classroom, and later, before she got out of the car, he said the same words Every. Single. Day. Lindsay would say them with him:

Lucky Day…..
Gonna Getta E Today
Like I Say….

Wave to me!

An E was for excellence, I believe in conduct. Lindsay has what would be called “leadership skills” now, but then rendered her to a table with three other people also named The Bossy Girls. Perhaps feeling so out of control during the fire made her want more control over her environment later. Conjecture, but probably an educated guess.

It’s interesting how Lindsay’s trauma turned her outward, making her able to achieve incredible things at a very young age. Now that she’s a lobbyist (the good kind- things like helping people with cancer and getting money for state-run programs), I want to take a picture of her in the Willard Hotel and get it framed for my room.

The reason it’s so very interesting to me is that my trauma turned me inward, unable to stop the rumination until the puzzle was solved. Once I was out of high school and early college, focused on the college courses that piqued my interest rather than the have-tos, learning turned me on, made my internal flame burn white. But all of the rest of my available time was dedicated to this mystery. Even in the face of enormous interest, I’d find a way to let my mind wander away from it, especially when textbook passages got dry.

I am only now beginning to compartmentalize, marking cases resolved. I want to be a bossy girl, too.

The Last Little Bit

With all of the holiday craziness, it has been nearly impossible to find time to write. Now that I am back home in DC, I am getting in one last entry before the new year starts. It’s probably not going to be Hemingway, but good writing has never been the focal point of this site. It’s always nice when it happens, but the true nature is just to catalogue what has happened so I have a written record. You matter, but not as much as I do. I’m not even going to ask if that’s okay, because I can be codependent enough without asking “international television” their opinion (if you’re just joining us, that’s my nickname for all the “Fanagans-” it’s funny #crickets).

It has not been a good year, but it hasn’t been a bad one, either. I continue to learn more about myself every day, as well as escaping grief through copious amounts of reading. Through novels, I have traveled overseas, mostly to the Middle East. I read a ton on fictional intelligence (both govvie and non), because it is the one thing that will get me completely “out of my element, Donnie.” I don’t think as fast on my feet as Jane Whitefield, Atticus Kodiak, or Kathy Mallory… but thanks to them, I can at least rip them off verbatim should I ever get into a bit of a situation. For instance, I have learned that hair dye and different glasses (possibly a hat) are enough to fool nearly everyone in the world. 😛

For Christmas, I got a new novel called The Murderer’s Daughter, which I was told to read by the fire in my pajamas. I followed those directions explicitly, and enjoyed the hell out of myself after the hard-yet-amazing experience of decorating my mother’s grave for Christmas. My sister even found treble clef ornaments for “Fred,” my name for the tree that sits in front of her headstone.

Last year, when my mother had just died in October, I did not allow Christmas to happen. I did not wait for the baby, I did not count on new hope, I did not see magic in any form. I, in fact, went to sleep on Christmas Eve and did not wake up until Christmas Day was almost over. I didn’t get together with friends, and opened my presents alone in my room. In my devastation, I didn’t know what else to do, and nothing else felt right. I’d have ideas, and then think, “nah.” I didn’t sleep because I was tired. I slept because nothing else lifted me out of my pain. In retrospect, I should have gone to help the homeless or to Arlington National Cemetery, because if there is anything I have learned this year, a reminder that I’m not the only one who has ever experienced tragedy is powerful. But, again, I learned that this year. Last year, I was barely strong enough to go downstairs, much less leave the house… and by this year, I mean over Christmas at home, in the cemetery where my mother is buried, I found a set of three gravestones. They were all children who’d been burned up in a house fire.

Not only did it remind me not to be so egocentric, Lindsay reminded me that when our house caught fire, my mother could not find me, because I’d run to the neighbors’ house to call 911. Without even thinking about it, she sprinted into the burning house, because that’s what mothers do.

In our house fire, no one was hurt physically, but we all carry different sorts of psychological trauma from it. How could we not? It has faded mightily since December 20th, 1990, but there are certain things that stick with me, like my parents scrambling to buy new Christmas presents and thinking that all my birthday presents, my computer, and my clothes were gone. In fact, that last one knocked me out…. I didn’t have any clothes.

But like all tragedies, there were positive lessons, too. For instance, I do not give a rat’s ass about any of my property. My treasure lies in my relationships, which I often mess up for a whole host of reasons, but I keep trying to get them right, because I know a laptop won’t love me back.

2017 was all about learning to love again, after completely shutting down and refusing to emote unless I was writing. I could love as an idea, but I could not as a verb. Many people reached out to me which resulted in a lot of unanswered calls, texts, and e-mails. The only person I’d get back to immediately (or as immediately as I could) was my dad, because I felt so guilty that I’d shut out my mom in my depression that I absolutely could not alienate another parent. But everyone else just got the short end of the stick, because I didn’t have anything to give. Everything in my cup was the dregs from Pandora’s box.

Slowly, surely, things have changed… are changing.

This year, I got to wait for four babies, the eternal living Christ and three new characters to “Stories” as yet unnamed…. they’re still living in their first apartments, and won’t be evicted til Spring. I can’t name their parents because the news isn’t public, but I can tell you that two of them are sharing the same “bedroom.”

2018 is looking better and better every day, because there is no greater news than birth after dealing with death. I am now more and more excited to live my own life, rather than through the fictional pictures novels create.

It’s time.

#prayingonthespaces

Cheese!

Today was long and fruitful. About 13 years ago, I was so poor I didn’t have two nickels to rub together and didn’t want to ask anyone for help. I thought I had something stuck to my front tooth, and with no money for dentistry, tried to pop it off with a knife. In my infinite wisdom, I realized right after I’d done it that I’d actually knocked off a piece of plaque and most of the enamel. I’ve been walking around with the nerve exposed, worrying hysterically that it was going to fall out, every day since… until now.

My dad looked at my teeth and did some research, finding out that not only had my in-home surgery fucked up that one tooth, taking Lamictal this long was making my whole mouth worse, and it would continue to deteriorate, because I do not have the luxury to stop the medication that keeps me as sane as I can achieve.

He got on the phone and found a dentist that was open today, and she filled all my cavities, closed the open nerve on my front tooth, and rendered me into a puddle as I genuinely smiled for the first time in years without hatred of it. Her work is beautiful, and I feel almost glamorous. I say “almost” because I’m not sure that tomboys ever get all the way there. I suppose I am closer to dapper, what with my nerdy black Ira Glasses and black leather shoes, which I had shined at DCA.

I actually love to shine my own shoes, I was just running short on time. I asked the woman how much it would be, and she didn’t speak any English, so I flipped into Spanish. “Ocho,” she replied. The man in the chair next to me said, “how much did she say it would be?” Out loud, I said, “eight.” My inner monologue said, it’s been a long time since SOMEBODY’s watched Sesame Street. Additionally, this experience was my first in DC as a white person where a Spanish speaker didn’t look at me like I had three heads when they heard Spanish coming out of my mouth. It makes sense. In an airport, lots of people are going to be able to speak lots of languages. When I’ve been in shops that cater to the Hispanic community or, once, talking to a janitor in a mall, the surprise has been almost tangible. I get the feeling that Maryland, DC, and Virginia are more segregated that way. In Texas, it’s so much easier to get by if you at least know a few basics.

I took two years of Spanish in school, but that’s not really where I learned it. When my father was a pastor, there were people in the church who’d been organizing mission trips to Reynosa for years, and I went with them three times… two summers in a row and a winter break in between them. Nothing helped me more than immersion. After that, I began shopping in stores and eating in restaurants in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods, because otherwise, I didn’t have anywhere to practice. Because of these mission trips, I’m one of the few people in my Houston crew that can order at a taqueria without using the number next to the picture. 😛

One of the funniest things that’s happened to me recently regarding speaking Spanish is that I was chatting online in a room that wouldn’t allow special characters….. so I told someone that I’d studied two anuses of Spanish in school and now had 40 anuses…. that’s because in Spanish, you don’t say “I’m 40 years old,” you say, “I have 40 years.” So, for future reference, grammar nazis, ano means “anus.” Año means year. The difference in pronunciation is “ano” and “anyo.” Tengo cuarenta años, pero tengo solamente uno ano…. luckily. No one has ever managed to literally rip me a new one.

Having a family that lives in Texas is a beautiful thing, because even though I don’t live here, I still get opportunities occasionally to flex my Spanish-speaking mind. I actually prefer it to English, it’s just that I’m not fluent in Spanish and have to resort to English. If you are wondering why I’d say something like “I prefer Spanish” as a native English speaker, it’s that it’s so much simpler. All verbs are conjugated the same way, so the conjugation of the verb also contains about whom you are speaking as well, whether it’s yourself or others. Everything is pronounced exactly like it’s spelled- there are no silent letters or any of the other oddities we put up with in a language that comes from everywhere else. For instance, Honore de Balzac said that “60 percent of English is French badly pronounced.” And even though I prefer Spanish, I thank God I was born an English speaker, because I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to figure it out later. I’d stare at a word like “knife” for hours before throwing up my hands and screaming.

It’s a life goal to become fluent in Spanish, because I’ve often thought about retiring with the 17,000 other gringos in Enseñada. But that was before I moved to DC, and haven’t thought about moving anywhere since. As a poli sci major, it means something to me to be in the same city as the original Supreme Court. In terms of the United States, I live where Eddie Izzard would say “the history comes from.” It means something to me to live inside the national news.

I do, however, enjoy Houston in small doses. Being a Texan is, for me, akin to having brown eyes or being gay. It defines part of who I am…. and not quite the same as just being Southern. Texas was once its own country, and we have never forgotten it. For instance, I doubt you ever really have to ask someone if they’re from Texas. It’ll come up in conversation quickly.

This trip, I haven’t done anything uniquely Texan except drink soda from H-E-B. Oh, I take that back. I did remember the Alamo yesterday.

Today, after my hours of dental work were done, I went with my dad, stepmom, and one of their friends to see The Last Jedi. I’m going to have to see it again, because I honestly have no idea how I feel about it. I was high on pain meds and distracted by all the activity around me because we were in one of those theaters that serve food, so there were literally waiters walking in front of me while I was trying to concentrate… and the couple next to me just WOULD NOT SHUT UP. They were just aggressively white, treating the theater like they were in their living room. People like this are the main reason I go to movies when no one else is going to be there and don’t take anyone with me. I like to watch movies in complete silence…. and just like my mother, I will grin and bear it in full theaters right up until I just cannot even, trying in vain to get people to stop talking with an authoritative stare. The reason I try The Look™ first is that sometimes actually saying to people that you wished they’d stop talking is more trouble than it’s worth. They’ll start talking louder just because they know it annoys you, they’ll get confrontational, etc. Very few people, in my experience, are humble about realizing they’ve inconvenienced someone else.

As I get older, I find more and more things that make me feel like I’m turning into my mother, which was mortifying while she was still alive and priceless now.

Speaking of my mother, my father is taking me to meet my sister at the cemetery tomorrow morning, both because I don’t have a rental car and because he’s never seen her grave site. Lindsay wants to decorate Fred (the tree next to her headstone) for Christmas, and then we’re going to go see a movie or something. Death and grief don’t seem so bad in the cemetery, because it really does make me feel closer to my mother to be there, and the place itself is soothing and serene.

Then, at some point, I need to wrap the presents I bought. Because there are so many kids in my family (four of us, all with spouses except me), we do secret Santa. I got Mathew, Lindsay’s husband, and he is hopefully going to flip his shit. I am so excited to give him his gift that it will take every bit of strength I have not to shove it at him as he walks through the door. Giving presents is my favorite thing in the whole world. I love it 20 times more than getting them. I enjoy the hunt, the thing that will make people say, “how did you know?” or “this is totally me.” Though I realize how useful Amazon Wish Lists can be, especially because you might get someone something they already have, I sometimes think it takes away from the moment someone else realizes that you actually do listen to them, know them, etc.

I also really enjoy giving books now, because e-books always arrive on time and you can buy them the day of. Plus, you don’t have to have a physical Kindle. Kindle is also an app for every mobile device.

Sometimes I give people books I haven’t read, but have read the synopsis and think it would be something they would like. Sometimes I give a copy of my favorite book of the moment, just to be able to share it with someone else.

Alternatively, Kindle is the most dangerous of all shopping experiences, because in a lot of cases, a book series starts with a free “dime bag” and when you’re in the moment of “OH MY GOD! WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!” a pop-up will appear saying that you can buy the next one for $4.99. There are two series I’ve binged that way this year- The Face on the Milk Carton and Fat Vampire. I am sure they won’t be the last in the coming years…. although right now I am really into documentaries and it’s taking away a lot of my time from reading. It goes in cycles. Sometimes I need the TV on for “company” and sometimes I crave complete silence. I just don’t want to watch junk TV. I want to learn something, because I like Knowing Stuff.™

It makes me smile, the kind where my beautiful teeth show.

Nothing

Today, I did nothing. Not the kind of nothing that means wrapped in the covers. The kind of nothing where my dad had to take care of a few things and I was just the running buddy who held stuff. I have a big backpack, and I have a lot of practice. My main job as a PK was to ride along with my dad and hold stuff. Maybe I should figure out a way to work it into my resume. Great at following people around and when they say, “will you hold this?,” will always say “yes.” I was almost to body man level when I forgot the most important thing. We were transferring everything from my dad’s rental car to his actual car because it was finally finished at the shop. His checkbook had fallen into a crevice, and it was the only thing I didn’t see. I did get the empty Fritos bag, though, so I got that goin’ for me.

Right now he’s at rehearsal for Christmas Eve services, but before he left, he let me play his brand new horn. I was amazed- I was playing better than I had in years, because the horn was designed to be able to do more with less air. Apparently, I am less full of hot air than I used to be, so the notes floated off effortlessly, even though I can’t remember the last time I even thought about my embouchure. I wasn’t trying for crazy high notes or anything. Those days are gone. But I remembered how to get that fat, lazy tone I had in high school, the kind you can fit inside if you close your eyes. My dad asked me if I wanted to come with him and play. I ultimately declined, but I thought about it. Playing on the brass line at Second Baptist is a lot of fun, because even if I have extreme theological differences with other brass players, they won’t come up. We’re too busy busting each other’s balls. That’s so universal it’s a light bulb joke.

How many trumpet players does it take to change a light bulb?

Five. One to actually change the bulb and four more to stand around and tell him/her how much better they could have done it.

I swear to Christ, trumpet players don’t mentally age past fifteen when their horns are in their hands.

I just knew that even if a few notes came out perfectly, that didn’t mean I had enough endurance to last a whole rehearsal, much less a performance, and the balance would be different if I was there for one and not the other. I didn’t even take a horn to DC, not having anywhere to practice and wanting to focus solely on singing, anyway. Now, I’m not even doing that. I should, though. I was doing some really good work back in the day, amazed at how my voice teacher was able to unlock me into a solo artist when before, I’d always felt like a trumpet player who faked it….. even though I started singing when I was three, and didn’t pick up trumpet until I was 11. Well, technically I was 12 or 13. My first year in band, I played the baritone/euphonium, because the mouthpiece was a lot bigger and therefore, did not press on my braces. Once the braces were off, I switched instruments- mostly because the euphonium was almost bigger than me.

I was an incredible trumpet player alone in a practice room, but I got stage fright so badly that it’s a miracle anyone ever asked me to play for anything. I’d also get so nervous that I’d get lost, and once, during a solo, I came in a measure early. The entire band caught me so that no one would notice, and the band director said he wished he could take them all out for a beer afterward. With singing, though, I am ten times more confident, and it shows. I’m not sure I can count any better, though. 😛

It feels weird not to be singing anywhere for Christmas, but I am glad to be free of the insane rehearsal schedule this year, just sitting back and watching. Advent and Christmas are all about watching, anyway. This year, I’m just taking it literally.

Doing nothing, but not the kind that means wrapped in the covers.