Two Words

It’s amazing how two words can make your whole day.

It’s amazing how two words can destroy it.

The two words that lit me up like a Christmas tree were “someday perhaps?”

The two words that cratered me were “Mother’s Day.”

The words that made me smile were in reference to a future hangout with the aforementioned pen pal that I’d never actually met in real life, but had been writing to for years and years. When he/she (not giving anything away) comes to DC, it will be fun to laugh together, hug, and show them my version of my city.

My mother died in October of 2016, and as you can imagine, I’m not over it. Mother’s Day happens every single year, and I am sort of used to the onslaught of ads that pointedly ask if you’ve remembered to buy presents. The thing is, though, I’d forgotten Mother’s Day was coming up, and being reminded when I wasn’t thinking about it and wasn’t prepared was, in a word, awful.

So, like you do, I immediately bought a ticket to the opening of the new International Spy Museum that day. What I mean by this is that the museum itself is not new, the-new-spy-museum-atthey’ve just moved and expanded from F Street to L’Enfant Plaza. The only thing I will miss about their old digs is the Shake Shack around the corner. Because, of course, the thing you need after looking at espionage gadgets is a black and white malt. But get it to go. Every time I’ve been to a Shake Shack, seating was a nightmare.

I’m also saving some money for the gift shop. Last time I went, I got a t-shirt on clearance that says, “Argo @$#% Yourself” with the spy museum logo on the sleeve. It is brilliant, but I don’t wear it unless I’m hanging out with friends I feel comfortable with- not always a huge fan of meeting new people in a t-shirt that says “fuck,” even bleeped for child safety. Since I am such a huge fan of “Argo,” I found an old promotional t-shirt on Amazon for $10 that says, “the movie was fake. The op was real,” and has “Argo” in large letters with the skyline of Tehran cut into the bottom, plus the release date of the film. That one I wear all the time.

As I was telling a friend, I think I found the last piece of memorabilia available except the script, which I don’t need because I have the movie memorized, anyway. To say that I’ve seen it 25 times is an understatement by a large margin…. mostly because it is jaw-droppingly scary in some places and so damned funny I start laughing and can’t stop in others… especially every time Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and/or Bryan Cranston are on screen. To wit:

The setup is that O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) is driving Mendez to an airport to get on the plane to Tehran.

O’Donnell: I’m required to remind you that if you’re detained, The Agency will
not claim you.
Mendez: Barely claim me as it is.
O’Donnell: Your ˜In Case Of’s’ good?
Mendez: Just Christine (his son’s mother, they’re separated). Guess I should have brought some books to read in prison.
O’Donnell: Nah. They’ll kill you long before prison.

For those of you who haven’t seen “Argo,” Ben Affleck both directed it and played Tony Mendez (emphatic fist shake at not casting a Hispanic actor), who rescued six diplomats who managed to escape from the embassy in Tehran and hide out in the Canadian ambassador’s house (the ambassador is brilliantly played by Victor Garber- also one of my favorite fictional spies as Jack Bristow in “Alias”).

I love how the movie is heartbreaking and hilarious in one breath. And no, I didn’t have to look up the lines, just can’t remember whether they’re at National or Dulles. And even though I’ve seen it more times than all my other favorites combined, I still cry at the end (not a spoiler, just the orchestral score).

My best wish for the new digs is that they have a huge Tony Mendez exhibit, because he died not too long ago and therefore, I would guess that even more of his ops are declassified. I am not totally clear on the rules, but I believe when you die you lose your covers, and the ops you’ve done can be made public… just not the ones that involve other people still alive and/or are still in progress. It’s possible some are still current, because I believe that after Tony left the CIA full time, he was still an occasional consultant. No one would want to lose all that experience permanently unless the person was really, really gone. I can’t imagine the grief inside The Agency, because he was a straight-up legend.

In a way, I think that subconsciously I picked going to the spy museum because Tony died to remind myself that I am not the only person in the world in grief.

I feel the same way about walking through cemeteries. To me, it is not morbid. It is an uplifting reminder that I am not alone in my sadness, situational depression, wondering what we’d be gabbing about if she were still here, etc. What I find is that as time goes on, the well of emotional injury gets more shallow, but there are triggers that pull me right back to her open casket, and how I felt completely disoriented, as if the world had started spinning the other direction and I could feel it.

One of those triggers was Tony’s death. I started crying and couldn’t stop, eventually realizing that it wasn’t all about him. Yes, it was devastating to lose a national treasure, but it was also a direct hit on how “gone” death truly means. And not to demean losing friends or extended family, but your reality doesn’t actually crack until you lose a parent. The entire universe seems different, and for a while, it loses all its color. You just wander around sort of half alive in grayscale.

I knew that I was getting better when I could make an effort to see friends, but at first, it was only other people who had also lost a parent. They were my people, the ones who I could confide in and share my rage at the dumb things people say when you lose a loved one, knowing innately that they mean no malice, so you can’t get mad at them directly. You can only get mad at the situation. Bad theology got on my nerves, didn’t measure up to one lady who compared the death of her cat to the death of my mother at church. It made my rage go to 11 and I had to excuse myself as not to emotionally rip her to shreds, because if I had waited even another three seconds, I would have taken her head off.

There’s only one other situation that makes me truly uncomfortable, and that’s the people who, upon hearing about your parent’s death, start crying because they can’t imagine what’s going to happen when their parents die, and that also happened to me in public (again, at church). The reason it’s tone deaf is because my natural reaction was “well, it’s a good thing I’m going through it and not you.” It’s just so egocentric that I cannot deal. It’s just another situation in which I just have to walk away, because I have not come up with an appropriate response, just a sarcastic one.

And that’s the thing. Because you know the people around you aren’t trying to hurt you, there’s just nothing that anyone can say that will make it better, you have no idea what to say in response to the awkward and often just stupid.

If you don’t know what to do, let me tell you. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint, and everyone processes differently, but this generally works across the board. Say “I’m sorry for your loss,” and offer to be present. And that’s it. The ones I loved the most during that time were people who showed up, but didn’t say much of anything. They just sat next to me as I stared off into space and were willing to listen if I could manage to talk. But they offered no advice on what to do, they just let me process verbally. It’s never a case of needing advice on what to do, especially if you haven’t lost a parent yourself. It’s giving the person room to breathe and never, ever comparing grief, even if you’ve been in the same situation. Because we’re not in the same boat, just the same ocean and trying to keep our heads above water. Suffering is universal, but we all have different ways of coping.

For instance, when I was actually in town for the funeral and with my sister and my dad, I hardly emoted at all because I was speaking at the funeral and I wanted to feel put together for it. I wanted to be able to be funny, because the eulogies I enjoy the most are the ones that offer real insight into the person. My mother was a church musician almost her entire life, starting at 12 or 13. So my opening line was, “this is the only funeral Carolyn Baker’s ever been to where she wasn’t working.” It had the desired effect. The entire congregation just broke up.

I am also quite socially anxious, and only three people I knew besides my family came to the funeral, so I had to put on a mask and a suit of armor to deal with being in a HUGE crowd where I knew practically no one. The mask and the armor are extroversion to an Oprah-like level, while inside I am shaking and counting the seconds until I can get home. In short, I didn’t look like someone in grief until I flew back to DC, where I only got out of bed sporadically for about three months. I allowed myself to completely fall apart, just not in front of anyone. I did once, and it was terrifying, so I never did it again. I gave lip service to letting people in, and then I completely isolated, only emoting through e-mail or crying into my pillows when no one was home. I couldn’t even bear crying that was loud enough for my housemates to come running, and they’re people I’d trust with my life.

In public, I became stoic and divorced from my emotions, because feeling even small emotions led to a flooding out I couldn’t stop. It was better not to start, because it would stop me from engaging in conversation. Even when I was with friends, there was a risk I wouldn’t take- being there, but not present….. people talking at my body while my soul was out there somewhere, unable to respond appropriately with laughter or empathy or whatever the situation needed…. as well as just nodding and smiling because I could hear people talking, but I couldn’t understand what was being said. It became background noise.

In essence, compartmentalization was necessary to have a fighting chance at moving on.

I thought I knew grief from bad breakups, and it was a wake-up call to realize how differently devastating this grief continues to be.

That’s because even though you gain and lose people to circumstances throughout your life, there’s still a small chance they’ll reappear. You apologize for being shitty people to each other and as long as the apology comes with changed behavior, it will generally stick…. or as I call it from a stolen line, “resurrection happening in the middle of the mess.”

As an aside, Easter is a very important holiday for me, because I don’t generally celebrate Jesus’ resurrection literally, but the way we resurrect ourselves, both individually and in community.

When a person dies, as opposed to a relationship, you lose hope. You lose the future. And if the person dies relatively young, you get angry at having the years stolen away in which you feel entitled. My mother was 65. She died just months after her retirement from teaching- she never even got to enjoy it. What I miss the most is that I thought we could go to church together more often, because she wasn’t working. Even when she took time off to come and visit me, she’d never take time off from church as well. When she died, she was completely free, because her church had so few members that they decided to close, and she hadn’t found a new church yet. I’d already started looking through solos because I thought I had my favorite accompanist back, and I’d already talked to my choir director about it.

My choir director and my mother were cut from the same cloth, and every time Sam played solo piano, if I closed my eyes I couldn’t tell the difference. When my mother died, it made me come unglued. I went to church for about six weeks after I came back from the funeral, and it was just long enough to realize that it was the biggest trigger of them all and I still can’t go back. I know I will; eventually I will get that trigger stamped back down to manageable, but today is not that day.

I do appreciate that Mike, the husband in the family I live with, keeps inviting me to his church, even though it’s relatively conservative United Methodist. I’d still take him up on it because I know the hymnal from front to back, as well as soprano descants for nearly everything. Singing would be the most important part of church for me no matter what the congregation believes.

In true introvert form, I want to be invited even if I don’t take you up on it.

Another two words that make my day?

Please come.

Prep

Yesterday was both easy and difficult at the same time. I am not used to starting my day in the morning anymore. I go to work between 1500-1700, so I tend to wake up between 1100 and 1300, depending on how jazzed I am from the night before and what I have to do the next day. Flipping my schedule around for one day threw me into the “I got up on the wrong side of the bed and I’m very grumpy” set of feelings. I got two Rock Stars from 7-Eleven and I am not ashamed to say that I drank both of them. I did not sleep well the night before, and with prep, I have to be alert, because to not is to hurt oneself… badly. For instance, my first job was par cooking French Fries, so that the people on the line only have to drop them in the fryer for a minute or two before they’re ready. Therefore, I was standing in front of a 350 degree fryer for almost two and a half hours. Had I been sleepy, that could have ended with blisters, or waiting for them to bubble. Even when I’m at the top of my game, accidents happen. I think I burned off one of my fingerprints on Wednesday. I got some ice on it immediately, so no blister bubbled, but for the moment, at least, I have no feeling on the pad of my left index finger and part of my thumb.

I was proud of myself, because since I was able to get ice and extraordinarily cold water on the burns immediately, it allowed me to keep working steadily. It’s a long story, but we’ve changed lead line cooks again, and it was magical. The same give-and-take that was there with the last one is still there with him. I got the compliment of my life- “I’m going to put you on all my shifts, because you can keep up with me, and I’m fast.” Also, I was absolutely kidding, but I told my kitchen manager, “of all the line cooks in all the world, you had to pick a Yankees fan?” Turns out, he’s actually a Mets fan, but from Brooklyn, so as he said, “whaddya gonna do?” I’m not even that much of a baseball fan, though I will watch it more easily than anything else, save soccer, especially if the Giants or the Dodgers are playing…. especially against the Astros. I’ve spent too many years of my life rooting for the Dodgers and the Giants to give up now.

Here, I root for the Baltimore Orioles, for a nerdy reason specific only to me. I can’t get behind the “Walgreens W.” Come to find out, the W belonged to the Senators first, which makes me feel sort of bad about it. Still. Just. Can’t.

Fonts matter. Also love that they call the Os park “Birdland.”

I do like Bryce Harper and his ever changing hair, though. Believe it or don’t, the rumor is that the Nats are thinking of trading him to the Astros.

I am sure that I will eventually get on board with the Nationals, only because it’s so much easier to take the Metro to the park than it is to get on the Marc to Baltimore. When I was thinking about moving from Houston to the Mid-Atlantic, I actually thought about Baltimore in addition to DC, because as I said then, “I’m really more of a John Waters than a John Boehner.” But again, what changed my mind was the public transportation infrastructure, because I know how to drive, but don’t. The traffic and parking around here suck. DC barely has room for the cars that the people own who live there. Bringing them in from Maryland and Virginia is just a “goat-ropin’ clusterfuck,” my favorite Texas swear.

Plus, because of supply and demand, the cost of parking for even a couple of hours is outrageous. As long as I have the time, taking the train is is easy. If I have to get somewhere fast, the cost of an Uber is infinitely less expensive than even buying a cheap cash car and trying to maintain it, plus insurance, plus parking if I go anywhere near “the city….” I have proven over time that I need a lot of it. Such a stereotypical woman driver who gives my gender a bad name. I would much rather zone out in the back seat with a good book or podcast.

For instance, I got a Facebook direct message from Dan, who told me she wanted to watch Argo with me, because it seemed like it was my favorite movie. I told her it didn’t seem like that, it was that. So even though I just watched it last Saturday, we watched it again last night. It was perfect over a glass of wine and some Wheat Thins, of which I am very proud I did not eat the whole box.

For that reason alone, it was nice to be done with work by 1600. It was also nice that I still felt caffeinated, because otherwise, I would have fallen asleep five minutes into the movie, especially after a glass of wine.

Meeting Dan has been one of the great blessings of my life, because not only did she fold me into her own life, but introduced me to a great friend circle as well. She is the connector- every friend I’ve hung out with over the past two years has invariably come from a chance meeting at one of her parties. Jaime lives the closest to me, in Columbia Heights, a quick trip down 16th street or a short train ride away. But even going out to Alexandria is faster on the train than I could drive it, because the traffic between Silver Spring and anywhere in Virginia is atrocious.

Every time, I am thanked for making the trek out there, but it is really no sweat. The yellow line connects two stops from my house (at Ft. Totten), and I can take it all the way to Braddock, which is one stop past National (the day I call it Reagan will never come unless I’m senile- which, incidentally, objects in mirror are closer than they appear).

Slowly getting ready for my interview at University of Maryland on Tuesday, mostly surrounding what I should wear. Business casual has changed so much over the years. I have no idea what I’ll see when I show up. For some universities, a collared shirt will do. For others, everyone will be in jeans and t-shirts. Generally for an interview, I wear a suit, and I will probably do the same now. Although funny story- when I interviewed at Marylhurst, one of the things they said to me after I started was, “when you walked in wearing that suit, we thought, ‘she is going to eat us alive.'”

I, in fact, did not.

I am the Type B poster child, so by the time I actually started, I was in jeans and t-shirts and/or Polos just like everyone else…. and like in all offices, a coat or a hoodie for my constant battle against the air conditioner. I am always thirsty and cold, the temperature made worse by drinking cold water. As I joke with my friends, “I drink a lot.”

At Alert Logic, everyone could hear me coming because I put ice water and an energy drink packet in my Nalgene, so it sounded every day like I was shaking a martini on the way to my desk. I’m surprised no one asked to taste it just to make sure. 🙂

We also had a free Starbucks coffee machine, so there were many days in which I overdid it, because hey, free latte. It was amazing because it didn’t taste like hospital coffee. I spend most days wired for sound.

In fact, I’m prepping for it today.

 

Saute

Last night, I got a promotion of sorts. I was moved from pantry station to sauté. That means instead of salads, chips & salsa, brussels sprouts, hummus, etc. I was doing sandwiches, mac & cheese, and flipping burgers. I was low-key worried it would be a disaster, because changing stations on Friday night seemed like a bad idea… too fast and furious for me to think, “I got this.”

At the end of the night, I was so euphoric I could have lit up a car battery. It was insane how fast I moved, how many pans I had going at once, how many burgers turned out gorgeous. It was amazing, because what I have with our lead line cook is special… it’s clear communication, calls and “heards” and “all-days” without missing a beat.

In terms of burgers, we’ve switched from the grill to the flat-top, which I think is so much more gorgeous. The burgers are allowed to confít, a French cooking term for “cooks in its own fat.” My own rule for burgers, which I can’t seem to get across to other cooks no matter where I’ve worked, is “respect first contact, and only flip once.” Continually flipping them interrupts the beautiful crust that develops on the outside, keeping the meat juicy on the inside. I got the phrase “respect first contact” from Ferran Adrià of elBulli fame. I can’t remember which interview I read with him where it says that, but I think it was in Vanity Fair…. or not. I’ve slept since then.

Anyway, flipping the burger before the crust has had time to develop rips it off and tears the burger to shreds if you’re not careful. If the crust is intact, it will lift on its own. This is especially true of an open flame. The contacts are much deeper and further between, so the crust sticks to the contacts and if you flip it early, you’ve got rare (if not raw) ground beef flying at you…. and it’s hot AF. Additionally, on an open flame, the extra fat drips off, which just doesn’t taste as good unless the seal of crust is tight on both sides and the juice is locked in…. the thing that is missing from most, if not all fast-food. A really great burger takes time. I would rather wait an extra couple of minutes for something fantastic. It is also my joy to provide that fantastic to others.

I would have made all my past chefs very, very proud. I wish they could have been there to see it. The key is just not to get flustered and keep cooking, no matter how many orders come at you at once. Nothing helps more than a little Klonopin and a lot of caffeine with B vitamins. It leads you into this easy-yet-fast existence, because you don’t have the ability to get physically worked up, like heart and brain race. Of course there’s a storm around you, but you don’t take it in. It must work for me really well, because I got a lot of attaboys and “good jobs” last night from our lead line cook.

When I got home, I didn’t deflate like a balloon as I normally do. I was jazzed beyond belief. Perhaps that Mexican cola at the end of the night was a bad idea. 😛

It was just so life-affirming that I was baptized by fire and ended up walking through it unharmed.

In other news, my interview with University of Maryland is confirmed for July 31st, and I think it will go well because I have nothing to lose. An interview with Conan O’Brien taught me that. When he got the job as host of Late Night, he already had a great job writing for The Simpsons. He was happy- this was just another step in a different direction, and if he didn’t get it, he was content with the job he already had. It feels good to be in the same boat.

The new job is stepping out on a limb, because it’s sort of out of my comfort zone… but great things don’t happen if you’re not ready to approach the edge, unafraid to fall because you’re pretty sure you can fly. The reason that I say “sort of” is because I’ve been in IT a long time. There’s little difference between being trained at one support job and trained for them all. The “outside my comfort zone” part is that I am ridiculously in love with having my days free so that I identify as a writer first, cook second. Stepping toward the ledge is losing time and just rolling with it.

Tonight I’m off, though, because my kitchen manager is great about not making me work late on Saturdays, because I come in very early as the dishwasher on Sunday. I get everything ready before service, cleaning bathrooms and wiping down tables, etc. On the weekends, we serve lunch, which is why my shift starts between 0900-1000.

Tonight I am meeting up with a friend for dinner and a movie- Argo. I’ve hyped it up so much I hope she loves it. I’ve thought it was one of the best movies ever made since the moment it came out. She argues that the best movie ever made is But I’m a Cheerleader. As far as queer movies go, I’m not convinced, but she’s entitled to her opinion.Goodman-Argo

The teenager that played Graham is also in Argo, so perhaps that will carry some weight. I just can’t get over John Goodman. He absolutely steals the show, as he does in most media…. and I bet you can guess which t-shirt I’m going to wear. I think it has street cred with the International Spy Museum logo on the sleeve. You can still get a t-shirt with that most famous line, but not from them. They’re out. I got one of the last ones on clearance.

To me, it’s going to be interesting to see which movie quotes stick between us as inside jokes, because with everyone I’ve talked to after seeing it, they’ve been different. The one I use the most often actually comes from Bryan Cranston, who says, “brace yourself. It’s like talking to those two old fucks from The Muppets.” But that’s just one out of a hundred that I’ll pick on any given day…. usually “this is the very best bad idea we’ve got” or “…we did suicide missions in the Army that had better odds than this.” There are few conversations that cannot be made better with a funny quote from this movie… but don’t let them distract you from the drama.

It’s intense, which is why the comic relief is so important…. as important as comic relief in the kitchen when drinking from a fire hose also has better odds of success.

Last night, though, I WON. #touchme

U Street

I never want to forget this day.

My dad read my last blog post, about how I’d wanted a signed copy of Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History from the International Spy Museum, and how disappointed I was that they were sold out, and how I’d searched the Internet for a copy and couldn’t find one, etc. Maybe everything IS bigger in Texas, because when he searched for a copy, he found one. It is on its way to my house right now. Because of the cover, I think it’s an early edition, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity. For the record, though, it was not $20, and does not come with a coffee mug. I do not need the Argo coffee mug. I know this because I saw it at the Spy Museum and it only holds eight ounces of coffee. So, while cool, utterly useless to me. The screenshot of the signed copy of the book and the words “deliver date” made me cry so hard that my dad couldn’t even understand me on the phone. Just unintelligible sobs of “it’s not even my birthday.” I was going to meet Lindsay for dinner, so I was crying as I got into my Uber and retold the story to the whole carpool, and then they were crying, too. The driver, a big teddy bear of a guy, wiped off a tear and said, “that’s just what daddies do.”

Then, we switched subjects. He said, “so, you’re going to the Metro station?” I nodded and he said, “then you’re going to my day job. I sell them the rail cars.” I got really excited telling him how much I loved the new ones with the better signage and the electronic voices that are loud and clear, rather than muffled and/or give no fucks. Then he puts his Metro access pass on the dash and drives me RIGHT UP to the entrance. I think he was showing off, and it worked. I was very impressed.

Lindsay and I grabbed some ceviche for dinner and frozen yogurt for desert. Then, we went back to her hotel and watched Shark Tank. I left around 9:30 and started walking toward the Dupont Circle Metro, realized I was going  the wrong way pretty quickly, and proceeded not to care. I just walked. It was a tiny bit rainy- Portland spitting- and perfectly comfortable outside. The street lights shone and music spilled into the streets. I stopped for a drink at a bar with an AMAZING jazz band that I wanted to hear- the trumpet player being the main draw, of course, but the entire house was packed. I couldn’t find a seat anywhere, so I just left without buying anything…. although would have taken the trumpet and run if I could’ve- it was a Monette, unlacquered, with a sound as viscous as motor oil. Even on fast licks, one note oozed into the other, a brass Southern drawl. I don’t know the name of the band, or even where the club is. I was just out walking, and happened to pass it. It’s a true testament to a local band when there are no tickets being sold, it’s just a regular Wednesday, and the house is packed. I would have waited for a table if I thought there was a chance in hell that anyone was leaving.

Eventually, I made it to the U Street/African American War Memorial/Cardozo Metro on the Yellow Line, and made my way to Ft. Totten, where I transferred to Red. The train was delayed for quite a while pulling into the station, so I sat somewhere between Takoma Park and Silver Spring playing Solitaire on my phone. By the time we actually arrived, my bus had stopped for the evening, so I Ubered back home.

I walked upstairs to the sound of a movie in Arabic, obviously coming from Abdel’s room because he’s the only one on my side of the house that speaks it (the layout is that the homeowners have one side of the house and the renters have the other, with separate kitchens, bathrooms, etc.). Though Hayat speaks Arabic as well, I don’t know if Lebanon and Morocco have the same dialect. My friend Anthony says that if I’m going to learn Arabic, learn the Lebanese dialect first, not because it’s the easiest, but the most beautiful.

I believe him. Listening to Hayat on the phone is one of my favorite pastimes. She knows I’m not eavesdropping, I’m listening to the lilt of her voice. I felt the same way about Nasim, whose Persian phone calls reminded me of Tehran. Literally every time she started speaking, Cleared Iranian Airspace would start playing in my head. It was apt, as her own escape from Tehran is much worse than being rescued by Tony Mendez.

We’ve lost touch, but that is the book I was going to write before Nasim moved to New York, and unfortunately hasn’t been back since.

Tony’s book will have to do.

Presents

Now that I’ve given Lindsay her present, I can tell you what it is. I sent my mom some earrings that are flowers pressed in acrylic in a teardrop shape for either her last birthday or Mother’s Day (my memory is failing), so I reordered them for her and told her it was the last present I ever sent Mom. I think I scored a direct hit, which made me feel like a million dollars. We also went to Afterwords Café, my default Tuesday spot that made me happy to introduce to her. They had live jazz playing in the bar that you could hear from the restaurant, another plus that made everything over-the-top cool. It was a good day yesterday.

This morning has not been so cool. For a long time, the International Spy Museum sold, for $20, a signed copy of Argo with a coffee mug. I got paid last Friday, and it was the present I wanted for myself in honor of working so hard.51FM7IsJI2L._SY445_ So, I went to the web site to see if it was still available, and they’d sold out. Tony Mendez has Parkinson’s now, and is no longer making public appearances. Therefore, there was no way to buy a plain copy and get it signed later. I pored through web sites with collectible books, and no dice. My inner grumpy old man came out in spades. I “Argo Fucked Myself” by not buying it earlier. Apparently, they also used to carry signed copies of the script, which also made me say said phrase, because in addition to that line, there are just so many I adore that I can’t just pick one. The reason I love the movie so much is that in addition to the drama, it is so damn funny. To wit:

Jack O’Donnell: Carter said you were a great American.
Tony Mendez: A great American what?
Jack O’Donnell: He didn’t say.

In terms of the funny, though, John Goodman steals the show from his first line, which is “hey, Tony.” You’ll just have to watch the movie to realize why.

I may have to watch it again today just to mitigate sadness at being late. But if I had a nickel for every time I was late to the party, I could retire right now.

However, if that is my biggest problem right now, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t even matter. Too much is going on in the world that is making my weird shitometer go off, and the hairs on my arm are standing up. Supposedly, President Trump is going to sign a document ending separating families at the border, but no word yet that he’s actually done it.

My personal triumph for the week has been getting my laundry done, folded, and put away all in one day. For someone like me, this is a big damn deal. Every little victory must be celebrated.

If you are a fan of intel movies, John Goodman also steals the show in Atomic Blonde, but the movie is more serious than Argo, even though James McAvoy does provide some comic relief.

It would be a pleasure to get back in bed and watch a movie, because I am also not physically feeling the greatest. In addition to fever and pain from having the painters in, by dose is sduffed up. I bought some real Sudafed™ at CVS yesterday, but it’s not helping as much as I thought it would. Luckily, I don’t have to go back to work until tomorrow evening, so resting and doing nothing is not a problem. I don’t think it’s allergies this time. I think that because I’ve been isolated so much, my immune system is rebelling from being in such a public space all the time…. or, at least, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

If there was a vaccine for the common cold, I wouldn’t even care how much it cost. Just shut up and take my money.

I did get relief from my monthly malady because it’s the only time I crave chocolate. I basically had “Death by Chocolate” for dinner last night. It was delicious, even though I normally go for lemon or lime desserts. Theobromine is a beautiful thing.

What’s provided me the most laughter this week is people complaining about the heat and humidity. It’s only 80 degrees with 56 percent humidity, and as a Houstonian, I just think that’s adorable. I mean, yes. It’s still warm, but unlike Houston, it’s not hot enough to melt a doorknob, so I’m comfortable. I just carry a hoodie in my backpack at all times for the constant overcompensation with air conditioning. I will also never make the mistake again of wearing shorts to the movies.

Deadpool 2 introduced interesting timeline changes in the Marvel Comic Universe, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it. The biggest surprise in the second film is Dopinder’s character development…. although I will have to see the movie again at some point, because I was so tired when the movie started that I almost nodded off in a couple of places. Believe me, it’s not that the movie was boring. I’m just a cook, so I’m always tired no matter what time it is.

Speaking of tired, it’s time for a movie which I will fall asleep to in about 10 minutes. Maybe I’ll switch to watching Baby Driver, because the first six minutes are the best.

Argo F*ck Yourself

I’m not trying to be mean to anyone with that title. It’s a Spotify playlist I created with the Argo soundtrack. There are so many tracks that are amazing for writing; I highly recommend checking it out. My favorite is The Mission. I just hit “Write” in the WordPress editor and put the music on shuffle. It is background Middle Eastern music that is completely wordless, perfect for concentration. I use other playlists such as Deep Focus as well, but I’m so familiar with this album that I choose it the most frequently. This is because as a music person, I can’t write as well with something I haven’t heard before. My energy transfers to figuring out walking bass lines, lyrics, etc. Sometimes, like Matt Mullenweg, I will put one track on repeat so that music is playing, but it is just background noise and not a distraction (I learned he does this from a Tim Ferris podcast episode). My favorite for listening over and over again is Mausam & Escape from Slumdog Millionaire. It also makes excellent running music….. or it would, if I ran. I’ve been meaning to start for, oh, ten years or so?


Quick break for fact about Matt- we both went to HSPVA, but not at the same time. He is a bit younger than I am.


The last time I began running seriously was six weeks before I went skiing on Spring Break (senior year of high school) at Winter Park. There was a public pool 1.5 miles from my house at that time. I would run there and back every day. I thought I was getting in shape for downhill, but what actually happened is that I gave myself shin splints and nearly screamed in pain the first time I locked in my ski boots. Within two days, though, I was skiing blue runs, despite it being my first time on the slopes. To date, it is the only sport in which I don’t feel like a complete klutz. Just don’t ask me to do cross country. I like it when the mountain does all the work. Yes, cross country is a great workout. No, I do not care.

When I lived in Oregon, I also skied Mt. Hood, which has snow all year round. The Olympic ski team practices there because of it…. and although I do consider myself a good skier, nothing makes me more doubtful of my abilities than watching seven-year-olds do moguls and jumps.

Apparently, there are several ski resorts close to me, but since I don’t drive, it is prohibitively expensive to get there. Plus, this time of year, you’re pretty much skiing on ice, and that is extremely dangerous, because you can gather a large amount of speed extremely quickly, and then not enough powder to let your skis dig in to be able to slow down or stop…. unless you run into something. Even with enough powder to stop, I still had to take one for the team and “yard sale” all over the mountain (the term for when you fall and your poles, skis, goggles, etc. go every which way but near you). This is because there was a kid skiing horizontally across my path and I didn’t want to hit him. I wasn’t hurt, because I was taught how to fall, but there’s always that moment of fear before you know you need to do it. Please God, don’t let me run into a tree, etc. I believe my dad had the same experience with a snowboarder.

I’ve never wanted to learn how to snowboard, because I’m such a good skier that I don’t want to start at the beginning, and once Lindsay was teaching me how to skateboard and I broke my foot. I didn’t know it was broken, so I worked an entire shift at a restaurant (as if they would care if I broke my foot or not… just put some Windex™ on it….), and when I finished, my foot was the size of a small balloon and I went straight to the ER.

So, you can see how my aversion to snowboarding is real and it’s deep.

Speaking of restaurants and injuries, the only time I was rushed to the ER was when a dumbass put a broken mug back onto the rack and made an announcement to the team that he put it there while I was out delivering food. I came around the corner, and of course, it was the first thing I grabbed. It sliced my pinky to shreds, and they nicknamed me “Worker’s Comp” for the rest of the time I worked there. It never died down, even though it was clearly someone else’s mistake. Because there were other people out on the floor when the broken glass was announced, it could have been anyone. But I was the “lucky” one.

Oh, I take that back. I also had to go to Urgent care because I accidentally sliced off a piece of my thumb while cutting ham. All of my other injuries were treated with Superglue or burn cream and I just carried on, which is what generally happens when cooks get hurt. Work through the pain, no excuses. No one is sympathetic to injury, because the kitchen is down a man and one’s coworkers will take a lot longer to forget that….. even if fixing your injury only takes five or ten minutes.

The two worst injuries I ever worked through involved burns. The first was accidentally leaving a spoon with a plastic handle in an egg poaching pan, and it got so hot that the plastic fused to my hand. The second was wearing surgeon-type gloves while flipping burgers over an open flame, and instead of protecting customers from germs, it also fused to my hand from extreme heat….. and those are only my two worst examples. The lesser, yet incredibly painful ones I remember are accidentally touching the corner of a convection oven with my forearm, leaving a pink triangle in its wake, and burning the crippling fuck out of my wrist with a hot tortilla press.

The only good thing that came out of the convection oven burn was that Dana burned herself in the exact same place, so we both had pink triangles burned into our flesh. When it healed, it was awesome and appropriate for a lesbian couple. It has faded out over time, but mine was there for a good two years afterward.

The least painful but still memorable burn was taking out my index finger with a blowtorch making crème brulée…. and it wasn’t one of those little home jobs they sell at Sur la Table. It was big and industrial, so I’ll never forget.

Additionally, it wasn’t the worst cut I’ve ever had, but one that will stick with me forever. When I was 16, I was cutting a lime at home and sliced into my thumb. The reason I can recall the memory at will is that the nerves were completely severed and I don’t have feeling in that patch of skin anymore. Look at me, I’m a badass who learned how to cut limes so they look profes….. oh, FUCK!

Tip well. You never know when you’re helping pay our medical bills…. or the ski vacations we desperately need after giving everything we have to the people we serve, day in and day out….. some of whom are eternally grateful, and others who don’t care that we are human and treat us like garbage.

Because we’re only waiters and cooks…. what, like it’s hard?

I love the way the Argo soundtrack makes my memories spill onto the page. It’s as uplifting as Cleared Iranian Airspace.

Black Coffee with Splenda

Because yesterday’s post got so many likes, I feel that talking about depression, anxiety, and ADHD are fairly universal. So, I want to speak to a little more to connect with “my tribe” (I accidentally typed “trible” before tribe,  reminding me of one of the only Star Trek references I actually get. I’m the only nerd I know who’s maybe seen three episodes….. and The Trouble with Tribbles is one of them.).

It is amazing how much I will give up out of anxiety. For instance, I need to go to the grocery store in the worst way, because I’m out of milk and coffee creamer. I haven’t because I couldn’t people. I like sweet black coffee, so it wasn’t a big deal, but still. If I’d been a little more brave, I’d have fat in my coffee right now. I need it, because when I’m this down, I won’t eat. I don’t have a block on drinking, so I try to add calories to my day in coffee or Instant Breakfast. I think it’s because I feel out of control, so not eating is the one thing in which I do have domain. It’s not an eating disorder, I don’t think, because I’m mindful of the fact that I still need intake. It’s just the delivery method with which I have issues. Sometimes I will order pizza as not to leave the house. I’m making it to all my appointments and such. It’s the voluntary socialization that goes by the wayside, unless Dan calls or Pri Diddy is in town. They are the two people I will let see me even when I feel the worst.

It’s funny that Pri and I have been friends since, like, 2002 over the Internet, and met in person when she and her friend Nina came to Portland years later. I thought moving to DC would be a way for us both to be a part of each other’s daily lives, and not long after, she left. I don’t begrudge her wanderlust, though, because she’s gotten to see some amazing places and is now relatively parked in Rome. So, part of the reason that I will drop everything for her is that we have friend intimacy (into me see- Harville Hendrix), and part of it is that we don’t see each other that often and I have to make time with her where I can get it.

With Dan, she helped me get through my mother’s death by sharing her own experiences. Therefore, I will drop everything to support her, because she supported me first. I actually met her online as well, but after a few days of writing back and forth, we met up at Ted’s Bulletin and it’s been on like Donkey Kong  ever since.

So, to Pri and Dan, thanks for being the two people I can stand all the time.

As a depressed introvert INFJ, my personality type dictates that I will only have one or two close friends at a time. It is very true. I would much rather have an inner circle than a ton of acquaintances. Small talk drives me up the wall, so I don’t hate people. Rather, I hate people in groups (I accidentally sent a voice dictated e-mail to a friend saying I hit people in groups and had to apologize for my phone not understanding my accent. I think the last time I was proficient at typing on a phone, it was the Palm Treo.).

Having bipolar depression is a little different, because when I’m on a hypohigh, or Diet High as I’ve coined, impulse control goes out the window. The only time this has really bitten me in the ass is not realizing I was flirting with straight girls too hard and didn’t mean to offend them, but I absolutely did. The memory is so cringeworthy I wish I could delete it.

Other cringeworthy hypohigh moments include off the charts rage, and couldn’t help transference to someone who didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad at life. She just happened to “walk by,” and I stepped in it up to my ass. I pissed off the one person in my life that would destroy me if I couldn’t talk to her anymore, and then it did.

Yes, it was Argo. Yes, that ship sailed (I see what I did there). Even though Argo is actually named after the ship, I can’t even watch the movie without feeling pain, a damn shame because it used to be my favorite (it’s like talking to those two old fucks from The Muppets). I forgot in those moments that this was the same person about which I wrote I sleep deeply in the belly of the ship, for I know my passage is safe and one of the reasons I spill so much to you is that I feel like I go into my God space. I can’t know that God is listening, but I know you are. Those are my true feelings about her, but “being high” turned me into a loose cannon jackass, and I said some truly hurtful things for which I will never be able to apologize enough to make things right.

When cortisol is racing through my brain, I sometimes feel as if I leave my body and lose sight of important things, like some words not being able to be forgiven. “Sticks and stones” is a crock of shit. Sometimes, I’m not fighting with the person in front of me, they’re just the unlucky target and the person who deserves it isn’t even in the room. I had that realization from one of the comments on my marriage post, because it cut into my heart with Truth.™ Reflecting years later, it has only carried more weight.

I let my “dark passenger” rule me because I couldn’t stop long enough to realize what was happening. In the years since, I have learned how to control brain race with cognitive behavioral therapy so that I don’t “go there” with anyone else. Changed behavior is probably the best apology I’ll ever be able to offer.

CBT helps remind me that I am kind, lovable, and easygoing. Rage is just my illness talking, and not who I really am. For the record, though, over the top rage comes with a long fuse. I will sit there and think for a long time before I explode, just a Mento™ suddenly dropping into a Diet Coke™ because I’ve been stuffing so many emotions down. So, CBT says let’s not do that.

When you know better, you do better…. or at least, that is what is supposed to happen.

On my very best days, I feel six feet tall and bulletproof. On my worst, I have to take Klonopin just to make a phone call.

It’s all about balance.