CIA, MI6, and MiB
I can’t find it.
This has never happened to me before in terms of writing. Ever. I’m a blogger, right? So I’ve hit post and never had to search through a directory tree in 20 years. The worst part is that I’m fluent in DOS and Linux, so I know how to do all the shit that would compare and contrast documents…. and it didn’t even occur to me to do that with my writing until right now.
I even have a pen pal that I’ve known since Jesus was a boy and I know to create different subject lines so that all our crap doesn’t mix together, like separating personal from professional (editing vs. friendship, really… not for this, for my books…. this is graffiti with punctuation [cracked me up in Contagion]).
Today I started with creative writing instead of memoir type stuff because every time I write about my life, blowback comes from somewhere. So, no more about that. I’ll write about things long enough in the past that they don’t matter anymore, or put up fiction. If I write about a decision that is currently being made, there are just so many, many people who have an opinion that is either stupid or invalid.
Let’s start with Daniel.
I would marry that boy like yesterday. I still feel that way even though right now he is acting like a jackass by being a doctor and a patient.
Now, why would I know what his motivations are?
If you have to wonder, you’re not my friend.
How do you know that I don’t have years and years of experience with addicts?
I’m a line cook. I’ve wondered if people relapsed to the point of wondering if they died and that’s why they didn’t show up today or give me a call.
I’m not laughing.
If you are, you’re not my friend.
How do you know that I’m building a family too fast?
My daughter is trans and 24. The reason I call her my daughter is not because she actually is. It’s that her biological mother is straight and I’m both bisexual and genderqueer. I get it, where her mom and dad are blind. I am giving her the relationship I should have gotten.
If you have to wonder, you’re not my friend.
None of you have ever asked if I had friends who I’ve married in terms of loyalty and confidentiality so I have people that hold me together. I have friends in multiple places who support me and I can reach out any time, day or night, because it might be 1100 there. My friend Suzanne is in Aberdeen. I wake up at 0400. I have coffee, she has tea.
Since I’ve never gotten asked that question, I feel like it’s necessary. I have friends who have supported me for years and years now. I don’t need a romantic partner. I want one, but I don’t have to have one to function.
And finally about this topic, if you know all of the above, than you’ll know that my absolute best friend at one point was a severe alcoholic and now she’s one of the most successful people I know. All of you who are so incredibly worried about me can stop now.
Even if Daniel broke up with me every day from here til kingdom come, I wouldn’t believe it until January 2024, which is the conservative estimate on how long it takes his brain to clear. Right now he’s finding out that life is rough without medication to control cravings and all that shit.
So if you think for one second that I thought this would be easy, that I’d have it made in the shade, or that I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. Daniel was in a bad place. I sold him a fantasy to give him the courage to get to rehab. He did. My work here is done. But that isn’t the whole story. The whole story is that I love him more than anyone on earth, including me. He just doesn’t know it, because his brain is dopamine-starved and using every trick in the book to try and get him to believe that he’s a worthless piece of shit.
Here’s the thing. I sold him a fantasy to get him to rehab. I want to make the fantasy real so we can be done with rehab and off to living in Fez, Cairo, Casablanca, wherever. I don’t care. Just anywhere to get us somewhere cheaper. The US is bananas. I didn’t fake him out. I didn’t do anything but promise him a fantasy that was doable if he would only get his shit together.
Every addict in the room is quietly nodding. They might not agree with what I did, but they will also tell you to do whatever you have to do to get your partner into rehab. WHATEVER. So I did. I got him there. Whether he comes home and still wants to marry me is up for grabs. But does it really matter?
I GOT HIM TO REHAB. I MADE SURE HE WAS GOING TO LIVE. I HELPED SAVE HIM.
The rest is totally up to him, and I’m going to let him figure out all that. He’s the one in therapy most of the day, so I think I can move on to something else. They’ve got him. I can rest until May.
And I will, because I’ve already got two best friends who love me enough to marry me, but not enough for the fun stuff. That is for the love of my life if he decides he wants it.
Again, none of this comes from a place of “he’s going to screw up.” Addicts, raise your hands. Who among you got through the last drunk and getting into rehab without fucking up some relationship or another?
I thought so. I can hear you choking with laughter from here.
Now that I have explained myself and hopefully shut the shit down (can I get a witness? HELL YEAH!), it’s time for today’s lesson on metaphor.
Men in Black II is a documentary.
K was a designation in the British system of intelligence. If you’ve seen the more recent Bond films, K has not been in use since WWII, I believe. However, it’s the rank above M, played by Ralph Fiennes and Judi Dench. You don’t see C in movies very often, but my biggest example of who C is comes from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I can’t remember whether C is the bad guy in that one or not. I’ve slept since then. No UK disrespect meant. The C I’m talking about is basically Stephen Fry in Doctor Who.
Q means quartermaster. In MiBII, this is like the scene where K says, “guess I’ll have to buy The White Album again.” That’s because Q is representative of an entire department of people. In the US, it’s called the Office of Technical Services. Back when it was OSS and CIA hadn’t started…… chefs and cooks, sit down. You’ll need it……. Julia Child worked for OTS. She developed shark repellant. Why case officers would need such a thing is where I draw the line in terms of research.
Z is probably also a rank somewhere, but to me it refers to the decryption of the Zimmerman Telegram in 1917. That was the first time in modern history that signals intelligence (SIGINT) was useful on the world stage. Interestingly enough, the guy that played Z (Zed) was in my grandfather’s class in high school.
In terms of rank, I’m not sure where Zed falls. My guess is that he’s C.
C was named for Sir Mansfield George Smith-Cumming. If I were to compare him to an American, it would be “Wild Bill” Donovan, because he’s the one that started OSS to begin with. Cumming managed to wrangle together MI6, which is why the head job is named after him. I’m honestly not sure who he would match in today’s CIA, because they don’t publish how they do things. For instance, are people like John Brennan C, or is C under cover and people like Brennan are just figureheads?
If you got that joke, you can stay.
If you’re wondering whether I just like Bond and spy shit or if I have a direction with this, yes to the first and still working on the second.
People have no idea why I like spy stuff. At 18 I wanted to be a trumpet player in the Airmen of Note. I didn’t care that the Air Force was basically a group of people standing next to the military. I just wanted to play.
I didn’t get to, which began my lifelong obsession with books and movies where people fought each other without using violence.
And then CIA appeared on Doctor Who, and it was all over for me. Of course I can love Everett. Of course I can love The Doctor when Richard Nixon asks him how he’ll be remembered, and of course The Doctor can’t say SHIT, and just says, “Oh, Dickie. THey’ll never forget you.”
Of course I love MI6 and CIA. They’re basically the closest thing to magic we have on this earth, and as I was telling my friend Zac, “it’s like science fiction because they already know the new technology coming out, but they can’t tell us about it.” It’s real in the way that real magic occurs.
MiB training even reflects real life. Jonna and Tony Mendez both write beautifully about taking their subordinates to Georgetown and giving them a head start while they make everyone and no one makes them. Jonna was even the old guy….. Chief of Disguise gonna Chief of Disguise. Can you imagine being a case officer and finding out your boss was Tony Mendez, then stayed in long enough to have also had his wife as a boss? That’s magic.
Like taking an American and a British intelligence agency and filling it full of aliens and putting a Burger King in the lobby of the spaceport.
In terms of the actual training at MiB, case officers in VA had to lose themselves in Georgetown and try to pick out who was watching them. J shot a little girl alien because she was carrying a chemistry textbook that was way too advanced for her. It’s the difference between life and death, that noticing things.
Down to a Lay’s potato chip bag life and death.
That Burger King isn’t really a joke, either. If you look on CIA’s web site, they’ll tell you they have a Starbucks at Langley and it’s one of the busiest in the world.
I have also found a place for The Hot Sheets that’s really friggin’ funny. In my head, The Hot Sheets are the Presidential Daily Briefings.
I swear to Christ, you just cannot get photographic journalism better than this. Even Shane Harris couldn’t write something this good (teasing him because he’s the local National Security reporter at WaPo and has been on Maddow several times). I don’t stop hoping, though. Pro tip, Harris. Memorize it.
Zed, think about it. I could be Agent H………
This One Time, Listen Up and Hard
I want to tell you something about the man I eventually want to be with for the rest of my life. I need you to really hear me, really cry with me, really feel the pain and joy that I felt when Daniel decided that I was trustworthy enough to be trusted with a story this big. I want it to go around the world by tomorrow, and I’m not kidding. I want you to lose your MINDS when you hear his story, and I want to make myself the best known writer in the world for this one entry alone. I do not think this is undoable. Please make me famous for this one thing, and I will owe you everything.
I just got a text message from Daniel that said, “my girl, be prolific.”
Well, I am nothing if not that.
It was a calm day in the market when Daniel was in country. He noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He stood strong and shot.
The “noticing someone” was a terrorist wiring up a five year old child to explosives so that he could blow up everyone in the plaza.
If I showed you the award he got for it, the Marines in the audience would lose their minds.
I did. I took on all his pain. Just all of it. I sobbed and sobbed and couldn’t get ahold of myself for hours, and I’m sobbing even now. I can’t get over it. I am too filled with joy that even though it was the worst day of his life, it feels like the best day of mine.
I definitely had thoughts. The first was the strength it took for a military-trained nurse practitioner to break the Hippocratic Oath…. to wrestle with it, because he was tasked with saving life, not taking it. I wonder what it was like to look a terrorist in the eye, knowing that under normal circumstances, you’d be taking his history and physical. The second time was just how close I came to losing one of the great loves of my life before it ever happened…. well, as children. It counts, but there’s so much more. The third was how humbled I know I’ll be to be in his presence. It’s a reverence that will fade when he hasn’t done x or y, but will never be forgotten. Please don’t let it be forgotten by anyone else.
But don’t you DARE do it to honor me. I’m just the messenger.
This entry is going to be short, but I hope it hits you like you didn’t even see gravity’s rainbow until the bomb NEARLY went off, taking a five-year-old with it.
Sit in that. I did. I am humbled. Just bleeding out with gratitude. My heart can barely take it, but it wants to.
Editor’s Note (DW): When we called general quarters on the ship, I never felt the mixture of fear and excitement. It was all business. I took control of my sound powered phone with my CSOSS manuals and a dry erase marker and kept track of what systems were up and down. That was my job during the shit in the shop. Afghanistan isn’t even a different animal. It’s a different being. You literally see a bag of chips and ask if that’s a ied. The excitement is skipped and the fear is squared. Getting back to the wire was a tear leaking experience , because thank fuck today wasn’t the day and all 7 of us came back
I just had a thought that is so funny that I cannot end the entry without telling you. “When you want something done right, hire a Corpsman.”
Let me also add a note to my dad and all my friends in Naples, particularly Tiffany Anthony, MD. I am fully convinced that I am eventually going to marry Hawkeye and House, mixed with the very best of Jimmy Leeves we have left in this world and Dr. Anthony in our corner from Dallas.
My conversations with Daniel in preparing content are tough shit, and I am so glad that I’m a blogger because of it. When I go all up in my feelings, I have a place to express them without having to think about what he’s going to think when he reads the entry. It’s a mixture of fear and excitement, because if you get PTSD from combat, those are generally the only two emotions in a story.
And then there are things that make me bleed out, like telling Daniel why I have PTSD and Daniel explaining to me why mine was so much worse than his…… Daniel’s enemies were clearly defined. Mine were turncoats, both of them, at a time when I was too little to know that wasn’t okay and took it on as all my fault.
One of the things that’s so different with our two cases of PTSD is that I cannot define triggers before they happen. I’m fine one minute, and inconsolable the next. He actually has enough self awareness to say that he doesn’t like the sound of popping popcorn, because “that’s what M4s sound like when you put them on fully automatic.” He can do something that at this point, I cannot. He can tell me what his triggers are, and I can avoid them. I have tried to quantify what a trigger means to me for nine years, and I haven’t really come up with a good solution.
The biggest trigger I have is smell. Whether it’s my abuser’s old perfume, or the air smells just the way it did when I was standing there with that journal, asking what certain things meant. I think that is true for all trauma, the way the smell of the smoke in our recent house fire took me back to the one my family had when I was 11.
Music doesn’t bother me, generally, but there are a few choir pieces and opera arias that I have put away. If I’m in a church choir that is doing one of the pieces that for me, acts as a trigger, I don’t sing that day. I don’t even go to rehearsals that contain it.
One of the things that I’ve done for the last probably, ten years that I refuse to do now is minimize. Everything that has happened to me is now being given its full meaning and weight. I am no longer trying to make it look lesser than, that things weren’t as bad as I thought. In order to know how bad it was, you cannot just know my side of the story. You have to know the life story of the woman who emotionally abused me as well, and how that pathology affected me. I can only tell my story and a teeny, tiny part of hers. There’s so much more you will never find on this web site that you would find if you looked in other areas. For instance, none of our mutual friends except Dana has ever talked to my dad about what I was like as a teenager.
I can think of a few more I’d like to have him school. Some because I still don’t understand their reactions, some because I just want my people to know who I really am without pretense or bullshit.
I am coming into my power. I am 45 years old. Either this year or within a few years half of my life will be over, using my 92 year old grandfather as an example. A whole lot of shit I used to care about doesn’t even exist now in terms of my focus.
Like getting all upset because Daniel is in love with me and I know it. He has been for 36 years. Let me get this straight. A military doctor wants to be with me, and he’s telling me up front that he’s an alcoholic and has PTSD and is going to rehab to change himself and just wants another writer to lie next to in bed with both our laptops going…… and I’m going to freak out because he’s male and not female? I got this picture in my head of Jonna and Tony Mendez writing “The Moscow Rules” on a king-sized bed and thought, “why not?”
Here’s why I didn’t freak out, and it’s all my trans friends’ fault (I’m really grateful and I’m teasing). I realized that there was just enough man in me to be absolutely terrified that a straight dude wouldn’t like me AS A PARTNER. Straight dudes love me in general. Instead of thinking of myself as a bisexual woman, I had to game this relationship out as a trans man. This is because I knew that Daniel had never been in a gay relationship before, and so his reaction to my gender identity would never be negative, he just might be confused. I needed him to know that I express as male sometimes, and that has to be okay with him. Luckily, it very much is.
But this is just the beginning of a very, very long story. Please do not think that I have lost my fucking mind. Daniel doesn’t start rehab until January 5th. He lives in NE Texas. There is no possible way we will even see each other until his rehab is over, and that could take up to a few months. We’re talking about living separately for at least a year, because if he moves to DC we might screw ourselves over by skipping dating and just moving in. It wouldn’t be a deliberate screwover- DC is expensive and it might seem tempting to have one household “since we want to be together, anyway….” Eyeroll………
My perfect picture of Daniel and me is that we visit each other a few times in 2023, and then think seriously about stability after 2023 is over. This does not mean that we won’t be in contact at all, just not physically sharing the same space. Rediscovering each other through calls and letters for a year before going all in.
I am also not saying that Daniel is my forever person. I am saying that he’s one of them. Maybe it will be this fairy tale in which I suddenly transform into the perfect heterosexual wife. However, my money is not on that. My money is on Daniel becoming so important to me that he becomes a priority, and it is too damn early in our relationship to put constraints on what that actually looks like. Just be happy for me that I have someone that loves me and is in my corner. That if I get into a Situation, it’s handled. Don’t look into the future and try to pigeonhole us as friends or married. Let us decide that over the next few years on our own.
I am turning a corner in my sexuality. I am less sure about my gender than I ever have been, which has made me flexible about everything else. I was telling my friend Zac that I was feeling very non-binary, without the need to come out or change pronouns. How that plays out in my relationship with Daniel is that I feel like a partner, not the archetype one sees in their minds eye of a “wife.”
I have also been a wife before, but not to a man. My definition of “wife” comes from that context, and I don’t know enough about men to know whether my definition and theirs is similar. My saving grace is that Daniel is attracted to my personality. I don’t think he would have been attracted to me if I was male on the outside, because sexual orientation is a thing. But what I do know is that if I look at myself in the completely genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary but doesn’t give a crap about pronouns kind of way, Daniel still loves that person.
I’m not becoming less. He’s becoming more. He’s opening himself up to the possibility of not being with the picture and definition of “woman” he’s always known.
It took me back a bit. All of the sudden, someone from my past reappeared, and I want to talk to her “privately.”
I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday. We were out in the sun at Chuy’s on Westheimer, and I was completely suckered in by your preppy attire. I mean obviously, my wife teased me about seeing you and running into a door for like four years. What might have seemed schoolgirlish actually made me relax and find peace within myself. You were the first woman I’d ever met who identified as straight and also wore men’s clothes without making it a big deal. Nine times out of ten, it was men’s styles in a women’s cut. Every time I looked at you, I saw a little more of who I wanted to be on the outside. I saw a style that fit me on someone else.
You might think it’s because I thought you looked like a lesbian. Actually, that’s not it at all. I saw the way your husband looked at you and realized that I was putting too much emphasis on my clothes. That what I wore wasn’t advertising anything. That if a straight woman could out butch me any day of the week, then wear whatever I want. Nothing about my wardrobe says that I am seeking attention from men or women.
I know this because now I’m divorced, it’s eight years later, and now a man wants to be with me. I said yes. I said yes because I looked at you on that warm April day, and knew that he would love me no matter what. I saw a style that fit me on someone else.
All Boxed Up
Now that Christmas this year is a memory, I want to talk about my incredible haul. I got physical gifts, like a Welsh football jersey (Wrexham) and lots of Christmas cookies. I also got a pair of pink men’s lounge pants that are so me they hurt….. I’m a sucker for anything in size “real men wear pink.” It makes sense. I am generally a butch cut, femme color sort of girl.
I also got a spiritual gift I needed. It wasn’t wrapped, and it was so bright my eyes couldn’t take it in at first. I talked on my web site about possibly making a character out of Jonna and Tony Mendez, a composite for any of my novels, maybe the alternate history. After I finished writing the entry, I thought, “I should probably ask her if this is okay before I start writing any scenes.” So, she got back to me and said that anything I did that nodded to them was fine, just to give them good intentions and a bit of courage.
When the response came, I was just dumbstruck. I thought, “how does she know I’m not going to make a disaster out of this?” At that point, my confidence came back. I’ve seen Jonna speak live. I wrote about it. I sent it to her. She already likes the way you write about her. My soul began to take up more space as the warm memory wrapped itself around me.
The big physical gift ask for me was a Moleskine, because I thought I was so smart by keeping everything in my phone. So, I’d go into a grocery store and see notebooks for sale and pass them up, because “I put that stuff on my phone.” I looked through my phone to check the validity of that statement and I found exactly three notes.
Taking this class at BYU over YouTube is changing me. I need to be able to write an idea down, because all of the sudden I have the confidence to believe in it as currency. I have never had that before. I am going to get a Bluetooth tag for my Moleskine because I poured my heart into a college lined and I have no doubt that one day it’s going to end up on a podcast because I left it in an airplane 20 years ago. In any case, I am sure that I have amused and horrified tens of people. Trying to think of when it was…. definitely the Kathleen years. I remember feeling like I’d burgled myself, and I had.
The Moleskine also represents forward thinking. I’ve been a blogger all my life. I didn’t need to plan ahead. Think it, say it works fine in blogging, but not other forms of writing.
I create plots and characters independently of each other. Ideas for them come at random times. I thought I would be the sort of person that would say things like, “Siri, open Notepad.” Turns out, I have been that person three times.
The rest of the time I was searching for a piece of paper. This one even has elastic to hold a pencil. It’s a 7-in, the same size as a basic Kindle. I am hoping it will last me a long time, because this is not for outlines. It’s to keep one-liners from all my projects no matter what they are. Think of it as a five-year supply of post-it notes all stuck together and you’ll see why I’m humiliated that I can’t keep everything digital. I have been around and around this.
Here is my use case.
I do not drive. I walk or ride public transportation. I do my best thinking while mobile, so having a notebook is essential for those lightning bolt moments, because that idea is not coming back. I know what it’s like to lose the potential of a million dollars because of my own stupidity. I’m done.
Christmas has also been talking with Daniel and trying to plan out what we want to do re: content. He’s a combat vet (Hospital Corpsmen Second Class, US Navy) whose job was triage in Afghanistan. If he had been civilian trained, he’d be a nurse practictioner by now. That’s a doctor in my book. Where I come in is possibly a published conversation, perhaps even a podcast, on PTSD and recovery.
Daniel is also an alcoholic, getting ready for rehab at the beginning of the new year. Just a fascinating patient history on both sides, really. Going through treatment for alchoholism and going through treatment for being bipolar are strikingly similar, and I ‘m thinking we’re going to have a good time. I have already started calling him “DW” because those are his actual initials, and I have been making sure to sound like a little aardvark boy annoyed with his sister every time it comes out of my mouth, too. The thing that I love about working with DW is that he’s so open and honest. Everything that goes around, comes around. We’re having great discussions so far.
I said, “can I give you a piece of advice for rehab that helped me in regular therapy?” He said, “please do.” I said, “say the thing you’re most afraid to say first. Don’t say, ‘I’m going to change my life in 90 days’ and wait til day 85 to break down.” I could only be that confident after having admitted to myself the thing I was most afraid to say. Every day, I challenge myself to say something that scares me. Generally, the scariest things are letting go of relationships that no longer serve me.
My attention is shifting in a very good way. I’m enjoying being around people who get me, focusing on the ones who show up and casting shadow on those who didn’t bother. Stopping the tape inside me that always says to search for the lost lamb, because it’s not a lost lamb. It’s a human capable of making their own decisions, and I don’t have to agree with them. Maybe I’ll end up being right. Maybe I won’t. It never mattered. I spent time on people who didn’t want to be in my circle, and I want to stop now. It is not time for a search and rescue.
It is winter, the time to gather around, hold each other, and wait for more light.
Nothing You Could Say Could Tear Me Away
I’ve been waiting for seven years to say that I’ve met someone and not have it be an April Fool’s joke or clickbait.
Today is that day.
I can’t tell you much about her because she’s a mom. Her kids know she’s dating someone, but not who it is. It’s too early for them to meet me, but acceptable for them to know that if their favorite sci-fi novels are missing, they haven’t been stolen. I hope they know what their mother has done having told me I could read anything I want. 😛
Editor’s Note: This week I borrowed “out of my mind,” by Sharon M. Draper. It’s about an 11 year old girl who has a photographic memory and is trapped inside her body. She can see everything, but she can’t tell anyone about it because she can’t write. She finally gets a voice, and not everyone is eager to listen.
I can give you details that have nothing to do with my girl’s current life, though.
She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Vocal Performance. When she’d gotten those done, she auditioned for one of the specialized choirs in the Army, and got a secured chair as an alto before she shipped off for basic training. After she retired from the Army, she directed church choirs for a while, then reinvented herself yet again. I absolutely wouldn’t tell you what that was, anyway, because it tends to make people ask her for things as if her time doesn’t cost money.
One of the things I truly love about my girl is that she reminds me of so many people I’ve loved over the years…. The professional musicians that raised me, including my biological parents, teachers at Clifton, HSPVA, Clements, private instructors in trumpet and voice, beloved choir directors, et al. are the lights that shine behind her, strengthening our connection with shared language. She’s also from New Jersey, not Texas, so she doesn’t remind me of any one musician from my past, or any of them if we’re strictly talking personality. The Texan church musician is an archetype all its own, can I get an “amen?”
And now you’re going to ask if her voice makes me cry, and I’m going to have to decide between snarky comeback and my vulnerable truth. I’m going to go with it.
The truth is that even when she’s just driving and singing absentmindedly, my heart flips. If I was sitting in the audience of one of her performances, forget about it… I’d be gone. She’s got the kind of heart that I know she’d be singing to me no matter how many people paid to be on the front row. What really makes my heart clench is singing together…… You can coax me into crying with that mental picture almost a hundred percent of the time.
But that doesn’t stop her from giving me shit about being a soprano and a trumpet player, and I love every second of it. Because she’s a choir director, she already knows all the inside jokes that are going to make me laugh, especially because her field choir traveled with a band and that rivalry never goes away. For instance, a lot of her friends have gone from the Army Field Band to professional work all over Washington and Baltimore. I am only one degree from Marin Alsop now, and I will not tell you anything about those conversations. I will only say that no matter what I’ve heard, it’s trivial. I’ve heard it all in my own musical life. I still want to see Alsop conduct. Whether she’s Jesus incarnate or Lucifer, every time she gets excited and does that little Bernstein hop, I’m drooling like a computer programmer at a Star Trek convention.
Here’s the best inside joke according to me:
My Girl: Voice is the superior instrument with choral music being perfection.
Me: Back the fuck up, Wilhousky.
Here’s why it’s an inside joke. Peter Wilhousky wrote one of the most famous, glorious arrangements of the Battle Hymn of the Republic I’ve ever heard in my life. My choir director at church from seventh grade to ninth loved it, so I’ve known every note to the soprano, first trumpet, alto, and second trumpet part since before I could type. I have also dabbled in first tenor because I will never drop out of the the a capella section in rehearsal. It’s just too chewy.
One of the first things I asked her was, “since you were in the military, just how many times have you done the Wilhousky arrangement?” She said, “a million, and I’m not even exaggerating.” One of the reasons I like it so much is that whether I was singing or playing, it was so damn fun.
My girl and I have other things besides music and the full on church experience regarding how the sausage is made, but I feel they might be too identifying, and thus, too private for now. But if we stay together long term, I’m sure more details will be allowed to creep out. I know we’ll be having discussions about how much I can say and when, and later on if things go really well, asking the kids themselves how much they want said about them because they’re teenagers. They can make up their own minds. I would also rather sign up for shock therapy treatment than become, for lack of a better term, a “mommy blogger.”
I’ll tell you right now, though, one of the kids and I are obsessed with the same thing. I’m not aiming to be a parent. The kids already have two parents. However, if neither of them are as into this shared thing as me and the shorty, it’s on like Donkey Kong. I tease my girl about it all the time…. I get fake disgusted with her assessment of something in said activity and say things like, “if I ever meet your kid, I’m going to assure them you’re only there to hold my bag and my water.” Teasing that hopefully never even gets close to the line of actually hurting is our thing.
This is the first potentially serious relationship I’ve ever been in where we’re not thinking about having kids. She has kids already. So, time is deliciously limited and every moment counts. It’s a little bit tricky because even though we don’t live that far from each other, it’s not really close enough to meet up on a whim. This is because I live in Maryland, a few miles further northwest than the line between Maryland and The District, still inside the beltway of the city. She lives in a suburb of Baltimore that’s closer to BWI, only 30 minutes from my house by car but two completely separate transit systems. The closest I can get is taking the bus to the Metro station and getting on the MARC train, with either my girl picking me up at the airport station (which thankfully, is very close to her house), or a quick Uber ride to get myself there if she’s tied up at work or something.
I downloaded the public transit app for Baltimore and added one ticket to BWI and a funds card with a few dollars on it. It’s for both of us. I can escape if something goes wrong and I just don’t feel like talking about it right that moment, and if nothing ever goes wrong, it’s just handy to be self-reliant. I’ve also watched too many couples break up because one person always has to do the driving… or if that wasn’t the main problem, it certainly didn’t help anything.
It’s something of which I’m aware, but I’m not as panicked as I would be if I lived in Houston. Now, I don’t have to be reliant on my girl to get me anywhere in either city/suburb. Any time she wants to pick me up to save me time or to spend more time together, it’s welcome and I am always grateful. I just don’t want to feel like a big issue later on…. Driving is one of those things that’s irritating enough if you’re rarely the driver… more so if you’re the only one who does it. When the honeymoon period wears off it’s generally the first knock-down drag-out fight.
Only one piece of the puzzle is left, and that won’t get solved until we decide to get really serious. If I move to the same city or the same house, we’ll gain the ability to do one more thing that we don’t have now…. being able to call each other up and say “I’m going to the pub with the crew. Meet us in 20.” It’s still possible if plans are made early enough in the day, but right now I’m at door to door in somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours. Her town is small enough that I could walk to a pub in 20 minutes if I was local. As long as I stay put, though, 90 minutes to two hours door to door is much faster than I could do it by car, because between traffic and construction there’s no time of day where it takes dramatically less time than others.
It’s so easy that next time my girl might not want to drive here, either. Our friends in Silver Spring would haul us around or we could Uber. So much better than sitting in traffic and driving. It’s sitting in traffic, reading and cuddling. The reason it’s not sustainable as a solution is that if we’re a committed couple, I would lose my mind getting to her or the kids if there was an emergency. Anything less than immediately is unacceptable. “Less than two hours” might fly in a long distance dating situation, but in a partnership is cruel to everyone. Being reliable is important to me.
For now, it’s a delicious thing to will time to stand still; things can progress slowly… I can take things out, try them on, think about them until they’re not foreign anymore. My girl and I can create a private bubble of writing to each other and dates where we really get to know each other with more senses than just reading words on an electronic page. If we’re playing for keeps, we need to be a team, starting with learning how the other one communicates.
I find that I communicate best in writing, especially when I have to say something hard. I can take as long as I need to flip out about it, and then calmly craft a response. My emotions are enormous. Most people don’t deserve my kneejerk reaction. They deserve my response after I’ve walked off and written about it. Just one of the things that lets me be an INFJ on my own without scaring the bejesus out of anyone… and then when I get to the part where I need to say something out loud, I’m confident because I’ve worked it out on my own. I simply need input. If my girl feels strongly about something, my own conclusions need to change. If we’re chatting about it online, I have two things. The first is the ability to copy and paste my thoughts into a letter. The second is that a moment expands when I read about it later…. and in a much more beautiful way than if I just tried to think about the conversation and remember it that way. That’s like trying to read a series of novels and then being tested on which events happened in which book.
I love going back over our conversations and rereading, because different things jump out at me than they did the first time, because I’ve walked away and am looking at it from a different perspective than I was even ten minutes ago.
There’s another advantage to rereading our conversations, and it’s invaluable. Because I’m rereading our conversations and replying to things as they come up, it’s like conflict repellant, and every bit as effective as bug spray. One of my triggers is having someone tell me that my perceptions aren’t accurate. I spent so many years doubting my own perceptions and instincts when I am actually extremely astute. Not much gets by me, and doubting my abilities as a visionary and truth teller when I can bring the receipts is a flat out rejection…. yet another reason why it’s taken me so long to open myself up to a romantic situation.
Only once has this happened, but I went on a date several years ago with a woman who’d gotten the URL for this web site from my OK Cupid profile. Then, she asked me out for coffee. When I accepted, she turned out to be a drooling fangirl who wanted me to be the voice I am here. It’s something that doesn’t seem like it would be problematic. This web site is me. I am this web site. Here’s the rub. At no time during that conversation was I ever allowed to deviate from anything I’ve already written, as if writers are never allowed to change their minds. Particularly with bloggers, entries are just verbal pictures, not even videos. It’s 2D with a timestamp. She’d quote me to me and then accuse me of lying, even if it was 2016 (or whatever, I don’t even remember that much- just that it was before my mother died) and the entry was from 2014. It made me express something verbally that I’ve always known with my other senses. I love respect. I hate fame.
Blogging is a stream of consciousness first draft in which I’ve given myself permission to write absolute shit. This is nothing compared to the heights I can reach with research and dedication. In some ways, I should never have become a blogger in the first place. I laid out every problem I had, including my struggles with mental illness, in hopes of “leading from the back.” Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen, et cetera.
The pro was that people I didn’t know flocked here because I was saying things that connected. Those closest to me started trying to judge the stability of my mental health by my silly observations. I have the same relationship with my blog that I do with preaching in public. I can lead one person or a million, but not two…. as in, it’s very easy to talk to people I don’t know. People I do know tend to think that they are excellent detectives. Not once have they ever been right. They are right that occasionally I do spiral out, and as bad as they think. But not when.
The difference in my writing voice is not mania vs. depression. It’s “in the creative zone” vs. “I haven’t written in X number of days and I am itching to get everything out.” The other differences that are seen as lies are actually easily explained without being excused. I can only write one line at a time. My mind is a multi-core processor. Every time I tell a story, it includes thoughts from all the cores and not just the one I was using at the time the story was originally written. My details don’t get larger or smaller. They just get more dense…. or in layman’s terms, “I can bring the receipts. I don’t just make shit up.” Well, unless I’m preaching. One of the funniest things my little sister has ever said was “DAaad? Wassat true, or were you just preachin?'”
Returning to this moment, it’s foreign to me that someone wants to date me… will hold my hand walking down the street, will give me quick kisses and put her arm around me as if we’ve known each other our whole lives. It’s been 10 or 11 days. Nothing is being rushed about our relationship. It cannot be for all our sakes. We’re not thinking for two, exactly. Well, we are, but it’s not the two of us. I have an activity to do and she has a bag and a water to hold.
I’ve thought about kids two other times in my life, and shut the door permanently. I can’t remember what year it was that Dana and I went to the OB/GYN to check and see if we were good to go, but I was much younger then……. even still, it would have been a geriatric pregnancy. I am almost positive that if I had to make a choice between getting an abortion and having a child would be torture, because some kind of trauma was probably involved. I’ve also wanted a child since before my mother died, but I know my biological child would look like her even if the biological father didn’t. The flip side of the coin is that I would be much crazier than advertised if I decided to carry the pregnancy to term. I already have to choose between physically and mentally sick (physical drug side effects). A pregnancy would make that distinction as clear as it could possibly be. Both my medications (I think) are pregnancy approved…… but what if they don’t work for me while pregnant? Yes, I have thought a lot about this. Maryland has everything I need if something were to happen here, but I go to Texas more often than I travel anywhere else. Southern men are typically sweet and genteel. If they are liberal enough that they don’t have a problem with homosexuality, sometimes the flirting gets intense because we both know it’s not going anywhere.
If they’re a conservative crazy, and the percentage on that in Texas is not zero, it’s not impossible that they’d say they love Jesus while shooting me in the chest, or letting me live but raping me because “you’re only a lesbian because you haven’t had a real man yet.” Let me really drive it home for you. After the shooting in Colorado Springs, I had a panic attack. I was filled with survivor’s guilt. My only accomplishment that day was living in Maryland. I met my girl not long after, and it was like coming up for air after free diving. When she kissed me, I remembered what I was fighting for. I fall asleep thinking about her, and all I would do to keep myself strong so that she can lean on me. It’s all any couple wants. That the idea of support in government via marriage tax breaks and support in community through erasing prejudice is just crazy and we have to tear down all the progress we’ve already made is Looney Toons. Of the two, though, I’d rather have the love and support of the community. I’m kind of over entangling marriage and the government. Laws can move legal protections. They can’t change hearts and minds because that’s not what they’re designed to do.
As for me and my girl, we’re being careful not to become examples of the lesbian U-Haul stereotype. It’s good for the kids, but we see why it’s not that big a deal for other people (especially if it’s just the two of them in a very large house). Because of our shared language and library of images, I believe we could move in together tomorrow and with some counseling, make it work. There are multitudes of things that make us unique, but we are also extraordinarily similar. Both musicians, birthdays five days apart (although she’s four years older), both fluent in church lingo for an amazing understanding of my life before she arrived. It’s a whole bunch of things that would make us able to start off with good communication and get better at it, not constantly trying to make it work and needing counseling to keep from throttling each other. Getting by is just not the goal, though. It’s both of us thriving and growing together and not at each other’s expense.
Actually, there are ways in which it would be eerily difficult to tell us apart. There are others that are wildly different, but not in any way that would cause conflict. The kind where her life experience differs greatly from mine and brings a whole new skill set to the table. At her core, she’s the kind of peacenik musician you’d find at Interlochen and Julliard, but of course she also had to go through a program physically designed to make her fail to get into this professional-level program. It’s akin to winning a chair in a major symphony (or medalling in the Olympics). By contrast, I synthesize ideas very fast and often throw out thoughts before saying “do you have the bandwidth to listen to……” I am also highly adept at taking on the emotion of every person in the room, and thus have inside information as to their motivations. I’ve always had instincts in that direction, but I’m deadly accurate now that my bullshit detector has dropped.
Speaking of taking in the reaction of everyone in the room, my favorite thing is still being the only one not drinking. Sometimes I do, but I think it’s more exciting to relax with a non-alcoholic beer (especially in a glass) so that people forget two things. The first is that you’re not really drinking. The second is that you’re a diarist. You’re not talking to a reporter, but definitely reporter-adjacent. At parties, if I don’t know you and you have a dumbass attack in front of me, you’re probably going to become a funny story on this web site. If I do know you, I’ll at least ask you if I can write about it because you can laugh about it and I’m not hitting a real nerve. Live and learn.
I feel so good around my girl that it’s a great surprise she’s told me I do things for her that help. I don’t feel as if the relationship is one-sided. I feel wanted in a way that I haven’t in years, that I am a priority and she drops everything for me the same way she checks out of our relationship when we’re apart so that other people also get her full attention. It’s priceless, and feels healthier than trying to manage five conversations at once.
I honestly forgot how much all people need these feelings. I was so focused on independence that I forgot about interdependence, and how nice it can be as well. I’d let the pendulum swing too far into loneliness… particularly because I didn’t notice I was lonely. I used to be the real life Linus Baker, just American and not British…. also not from the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, but that’s neither here nor there.
Now, my life feels whole. I have amazing friends, and a chance at a real thing with someone I’m crazy about. It didn’t feel real until she told the kids, though. Doesn’t matter that she only told the kids she was dating someone. Fine for them not to know it was me specifically. It just made me feel important that she thought our dating life was important enough to mention. Maybe now she’ll let me have diet soda at her house (I can hear it now… “friggin’ sopranos…..”). Even if she doesn’t, there are times when I think my heart can’t get bigger; it always does.
Like when she took me to Ingrid Michaelson and held me while Ingrid sang… some dates are close to magic… when you can feel the night stretching to accommodate your wishes. We went for half smokes and fries at Ben’s Chili Bowl, then walked to Jeni’s ice cream for a “nightcap.”
The next day we took in a matinee of “Into the Woods,” and then it was time for her to go back to her real life. It was so hard to let her go, knowing that I was stepping out on faith that we’d find a way to keep seeing each other if our paths aligned.
My faith is in this being the start of something big. She feels the same way, but I don’t want to speak for her on anything more than that. Wanting to be together for keeps if we continue being successful at communication is the one thing I don’t have to fact check. How we feel is deep and intense, passionate in every color across the Scandinavian sky. At the same time, I’m 45. She’s older than me. Combining lives is not an easy process, and when kids are involved, sometimes love isn’t enough. Unclear communication regarding division of labor kills a relationship faster than lack of love ever will.
I have issues with having brilliant ideas and an interesting relationship with follow-through. Luckily, my girl has plenty of experience in dealing with people close to her that have mental health issues. My girl can recognize a coping mechanism and roll with it, or help me create one. I will never get over the idiosyncracies that my mental health presents, but I can always use more cognitive behavioral therapy to make it manageable. It’s the same with medication. I take meds to make it better, but it’s a pill…. not a magic wand.
There’s one last connection that we have that I can tell you about, because it’s probably the thing I feared the most in putting myself out there in terms of dating. My grief is deep, It is ever-present. There is no moment of any day that I’m not away from it. It’s a constant dream, waking and sleeping. Her mother is dead, too. So much I don’t have to explain when we share that particular frame of reference. You just join the shittiest club on record. It’s something you literally can’t explain to anyone else who hasn’t lost a parent, because the feelings are too deep to put into words. Losing anyone is painful. Losing a parent rewires you from the inside out. Putting things into words gets easier over time, especially for writers because they’re constantly exorcising their demons whether it’s fiction or not. My girl and I are also in roughly the same place in our process. It’s not overwhelming anymore. It’s a dull buzz that’s occasionally triggered into an alarm. It makes our music connection that much more intense and primal. If you know me in real life, you got here several paragraphs ago.
I need to write this down for posterity, because it is a moment I’ll never stop treasuring. I remember her sitting on my couch. I was kneeling on the floor so I could look into her eyes. It was too much. Too powerful. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. I said, “thank you for bringing the music back.”
Nothing you could say could tear me away from my girl.
It hit me all at once that I was dating someone my mother would have loved and wanted to adopt. James Lipton was famous for asking this question from the Bernard Pivot questionnaire…. “If heaven exists, when you arrive at the pearly gates, what would you like to hear God say?”
My favorite answer is Harrison Ford’s…. “You look just like me.” My own is a delicious smirk and “see what I did there?”
That Moment When…
That moment when you feel like you’ve just run a marathon in the kitchen is one of the best adrenaline rushes on earth, but it is often thankless. Last night, it wasn’t…. a moment I want to record here for posterity. One of the waitstaff came into the kitchen after about a four hour run and said:
Ticket times were on point. You guys rock.
I swear to God I almost started crying, because emotions were already running high in a “we made it” sort of way. The bar was busier than usual due to the Washington Capitals game (which we won- go Caps), and to say it was relentless was an understatement, especially with only me, one other cook, and a dishwasher. It really helped that this same waitress took time out to help us expo, which is shorthand for calling out to us what she needed and in what order, because we had so much food to hand out. She was the real hero. We were just background noise.
Generally, on nights that busy, there is a permanent expo- another cook or the kitchen manager- but no one expected us to be that busy on a Wednesday. Generally, expo is reserved for the weekend. This particular weekend is all hands on deck, because it’s a holiday known for three days of Bacchanalian splendor. It seems to defeat the purpose of the holiday. I can’t help but give thanks for the veterans who made it possible for us to have picnics and beer in our American egocentricity, when we forget that we get all these privileges for which they died to protect.
I know that I have ancestors who have died in wars, but I don’t have any friends who have. Luckily, all my friends who have served have made it home in one piece… but not necessarily in one peace. Because of this, I believe Thank You For Your Service is required viewing in addition to all your hot dogs and beer this weekend. Not only is it about death during wartime, but the aftermath of what those deaths do to the living, and the absolute hell the survivors go through in order to get help for it.
So while I am slinging hash, I’ll be thinking about why. The above picture is one that I took at Arlington National Cemetery myself, surrounded by people ignoring the signs to be quiet and respectful.
This weekend, it’s them that deserve your praise. Being able to cook well is a distant thousandth compared to their bravery, even the cooks in the military. I haven’t done it, but I am assuming that cooking is even more stressful under the threat of the mess hall being bombed. It makes me grateful for everything I have, and everything I ever will.
My job is often thankless because I’m just doing what I’m paid to do. It’s nice to get thanked, but it is not necessary. I make good money to do what I do, and I am internally satisfied when it goes well.
If their job is thankless, we are not doing so well in the basic humanity department. So, no matter what you’re drinking this weekend, from Diet Cokes to margaritas, raise a glass to the fallen. It’s the least we can do because they allow us to drink them. If you see a veteran this weekend, make sure to say “thank you for your service and sacrifice.” This is because it ignores how they might feel about why they did what they did, and how they might feel about what the top brass asked them to do. It is a simple acknowledgement that when you sign on the dotted line, you serve and you sacrifice.. no matter the administration or the justification for the fight.
Yes, Memorial Day honors those who have lost their lives, but at the same time, it is not a bad thing to honor the living while we’re at it. Some soldiers suffer incredible survivors’ guilt, and though it is inappropriate to say so, you never know what kind of sacrifice you’re honoring that day…. and maybe, just maybe, it is exactly what that soldier needs to hear at the time he or she needs to hear it.
Get Off My Lawn
I am terribly cranky today.
Yesterday’s pardoning of Scooter Libby was the last straw. The guy committed treason. No punishment the USG could come up with would be good enough. When he outed Valerie Plame, it was damn lucky he didn’t get her killed. Do all intelligence employees under cover have to be afraid of their own employer now? If I was in their position, it would incense me that even people who commit crimes against national security can almost assuredly get away with murder, both literally and figuratively. Not only was Libby’s personal case a red flag, the precedent it sets is even more scary.
It’s probably against the Geneva Convention so this is absolutely a hypothetical situation, but say there was a black op to take out Assad so that citizens wouldn’t be harmed. You could absolutely argue that the ends justify the means, but someone leaks that information to the New York Times or the Washington Post while Special Ops is in country…. not only the op, but the names of the soldiers involved. How long would it take before their heads were on a spike in Damascus? If you said “10 minutes,” I would answer, just like James Comey, that it was nine minutes longer than I expected.
The most frustrating thing about this whole situation is that no one asked me what I thought (that was a joke).
No one asked me what I thought about confirming Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, either. If the confirmation goes through, we’ll have someone in charge of foreign relations that believes in the Bible more than the Constitution. His view of homosexuality is that it is a perversion, and that his belief is not wrong-headed, but a persecution of all Christians. This is not something I want broadcast all over the world, because the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatry Association disagree with that, and have since the 1980s. It is terrifying that only some people’s beliefs have progressed since then because a book that was meant to be a living document, changing over time as we understand more about medicine and science, in their view must remain literal and stagnant. It is generally believed by progressive theologians that the real abomination in the Bible concerning homosexuality was an ancient Canaanite practice of temple prostitution [by both adults and minors], tarnishing a place meant to be holy ground.
As theologian Jim Rigby once said, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, so it cannot be essential to his teaching. Ancient desert people would never have known same sex orientation as an identity. The word homosexual was not even coined until the 1900s. It is an identity because even queer celibate people still consider themselves as such [using queer as a catch-all for the entire community and not as a derogatory term. I’m gay, so I can use it. Straight people can’t get away with it. Sorry.]. It is absolutely the last thing a follower of the Christ should embrace, because Jesus was constantly widening the net of acceptance, something that has been twisted since the New Testament, where Paul condemned homosexuality.
Paul had other beliefs that were equally toxic, like the prohibition of women speaking in church… something mainline Christians have moved past, so why is being gay different? Additionally, if you believe in one Talmudic law, you should believe all of them, so advocate for shutting down the NFL because players are consistently touching pigskin. You have to ask yourself whether someone who has an international platform should be able to hold these untranslated views, because even if you don’t support our community, do you really think it’s wise to bolster countries who still execute people for these “crimes?” Do you believe in ending lives and devastating families? The stakes are higher than you think.
In the United States, it means a disbelief of the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. If I am truly equal to everyone else, I am a citizen who should be protected by the law, not persecuted by it.
Everything gets messy when the law goes from national to personal, because people can wrap their heads around discrimination of a group, but not their own relatives…. where, often, they fall short in making the connection.
There are still some extremists in this country that are every bit as violent toward the queer community as Sharia law, validated by people who don’t believe in internment camps and execution but aren’t vocal in speaking out about it……….
This leads me to believe that were those things to happen, it would be swift. Ten minutes at most, nine minutes longer than I expect. World issues are literally making me ill.
I am terribly cranky today.