50 Things You’ve (Probably) Never Been Asked

Hat tip to Martina for the writing prompt. 🙂


1. What is the color of your toothbrush?

It’s black & red, but I need a replacement soon. Stay tuned.

2. Name one person who made you smile today:

Bryn, who said she was sending me birthday presents in the mail (my birthday was 10 September). I love mail.

3. What were you doing at 8 a.m.?

Talking to my sister on the phone. Sometimes we talk during her commute.

4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago?

Drinking coffee with cinnamon & soy milk and talking to my new housemate. I’d tell you all about the conversation, but it wasn’t that interesting. If it had been, this entire entry would be about it instead.

5. What is your favorite candy bar?

I’m not really a candy bar person, although I do like Zero. Right now I am all about licorice allsorts. I ordered the original from Geo. Bassett & Co., Ltd. for my birthday and I just sat there and ate them until I felt fat…. and then I ate some more.

6. Have you ever been to a strip club?

Several, but it’s not a turn-on. I have to love the person to be attracted to them. There was a strip club across the street from my apartment in Portland that I used to go to for a drink occasionally, because it was within walking distance of my house. But I didn’t sit where you could see the women. There was a closed off bar section that was really fancy and the bottles were back-lit with neon. I didn’t even know something that cool existed in my neighborhood, and to this day I’m not sure why I went in the first place. I’m sure it was originally someone else’s idea and I just went with it, but I went back because it was a cool place to hang and no driving afterwards.

There is also a famous vegan strip club in Portland that I went to for another lesbian’s birthday party. I ended up sitting outside for most of it, but honest to God I loved the food, particularly the sloppy joes and mac & cheese. The part of the show that I saw, I liked, though. It wasn’t just women looking bored and dancing to music, it was acrobatics that defied the laws of physics, like Cirque Du Soleil but naked. Not only that, there were no French existentialist clowns. For that reason alone, 10/10. Highly recommend.

7. What is the last thing you said aloud?

I can’t remember exactly, but I was trying to get out of the conversation with my roommate so I could go back upstairs and enjoy my coffee quietly.

8. What is your favorite ice cream?

Every flavor I try is my new favorite, but I have a special spot in my heart for the banana/vanilla swirl soft-serve at Florian Fortescue’s in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My dad, sister, and I got different flavors to try, and I think that was the winner out of all of them. Now that I’ve been eating a lot of plant-based frozen stuff, I like “ice cream” made out of almond milk that has almonds in it….. really ties the dessert together.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink?

Coffee…. are you even paying attention?

10. Do you like your wallet?

I love it, and I haven’t seen one like it, so if I find one, I need to buy it because this one will wear out. It has a clear pocket on the front that I’m sure was originally for an ID, but I put my Metro card in it so I don’t have to take it out to swipe. The only thing I don’t like about my wallet, and this is a small gripe, is that it has a money clip on the outside that makes it uncomfortable to put in my back pocket.

11. What was the last thing you ate?

Extra, extra Hot Tamales.

12. Have you bought any new clothing items this week?

Does a new clear protector for my Apple watch count?

13. The last sporting event you watched?

Franklin, one of my housemates, is a rabid soccer fan, so I watched a game for a few minutes with him, but I can’t remember who was playing.

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn?

If I’m buying it while I’m out, it’s hard to find but I love cinnamon-glazed. I also love caramel-glazed and cheese corn mixed together, which is much more widely available. If I’m making it at home, I pop low calorie butter-flavored and then spray Pam on it to get turmeric and All-Purpose seasoning to stick (the more garlic, the better).

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to?

Well, I use FB Messenger a hell of a lot more than texting because I can respond on any of my devices. It was to Dan, confirming our birthday plans for Tuesday.

16. Ever go camping?

Once. For me, the line about only wearing long underwear in your sleeping bag was the worst piece of advice ever. I finally got up around 4:30 and put on every piece of clothing in my suitcase. I would probably enjoy it more at a lower elevation where it’s not so cold. I was on Mt. St. Helen’s, which to me was freezing even in the summer.

17. Do you take vitamins daily?

Not always, but I do take an iron pill daily because I donate platelets and your iron level has to be above 12.5. Multivitamins give me terrible gastrointestinal distress, so I limit my intake…. but sometimes I need them because I am not the best eater on the planet.

18. Do you have a tan?

As Jim Gaffigan said, “I am what you would call ‘indoorsy.'” I tan vicariously through my friends who do that sort of thing. I think I’ve only tanned a few times in my life, and that was from living in Houston/Galveston. The most serious tan I ever had was spending weeks outdoors. I went to Mexico on a mission trip, then spent a week at choir camp, then three weeks at marching band practice before school started. Marching band practice in Houston is akin to signing up for a three bedroom, two bathroom condo in hell, except hotter. Who was it that said given the choice, they’d live in hell and rent out Texas? Same.

19. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza?

I can’t. I eat pizza every Friday night in memory of my mother, who started the tradition when Lindsay and I were young. Besides, Argo, Aaron, & Dana would be so metaphysically disappointed (I’ll link to the entries, but if you got those jokes without clicking on the link, you are an OG “Fanagan”).

20. Do you drink soda with a straw?

There aren’t many “always” and “never” questions in this life, but here’s one of them. I never use a straw if I’m sitting down at a table, but I will always use one on the go. I am down with both the reusable and plant-based plastic straws, and I am so proud that my McDonald’s (don’t know if it’s a national thing) has switched to the latter.

21. What did your last text message say?

“Leslie, your Rx order is ready. Get it delivered!” I get wigged because they don’t offer delivery in my area and it irritates me that I get the possibility of delivery with every message and the disappointment of reality at least three times a month.

22. What are you doing tomorrow?

Finally, I have something exciting to say on the topic!

  1. Drink coffee and be awesome.
  2. Find something cool to do until 8:00 PM. I’m thinking of going to the National Gallery of Art, because I just learned today that they have a Van Gogh room, and I didn’t get nearly enough “time with him” at the MusĂ©e D’Orsay. I’ve always said that if I ever go back to Paris, I would like to spend an entire day there, staring at Van Gogh paintings while writing so that my crazy mixes with his crazy and we’ll see what “comes out of us.” I would be lying if I said Doctor Who had nothing to do with this (truly memorable trying to not freak out with joy at seeing The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise for real). By the way, none of the sunflower paintings say “Amy.” I checked. Twice. Also, as far as I know, Bill Nighy does not actually work there. I could be wrong.
  3. Meet up with Dan for outrageous desserts at Tryst. You might have heard of it during the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy scandal. Not why we’re going there, but when Dan suggested it, I realized I’d walked past it but had never been in, so it’s not NOT why we’re going there……….
  4. Curl up with a good book. Right now I am in the middle of Three Women, Blink, and War and Peace. That last one may sound ambitious, but after reading The Moscow Rules, I decided it was appropriate (and only 99 cents for the Kindle version with amazing commentary). I wanted to go back and read Tolstoy’s take on Russian history having started it in high school and never finishing. This time around, I have learned that the Russians thought Napoleon was every bit the fool and tyrant that over half the country thinks our current president is now (for reference years in the future, I’m talking about Donald Trump).
  5. Eventually fall asleep, but there’s no telling when because it depends on how engrossed I am in reading.

23. Look to your left, what do you see?

An empty McDonald’s cup that I need to refill with green tea, all of my medications, and my iPhone.

24. What color is your watch?

It changes at least four times a week, because I have an Apple Watch that makes it way too easy to slip the bands out. Today it is hot pink with a black & white Minnie Mouse face. I have a red leather strap that I wear the most often, with the classic color Mickey Mouse face. Today, Minnie is in grayscale because she is also classic colors and I needed her to coordinate with my choice of band. The face also has lots of colors, as you can put on “complications.” I have no idea why they’re called that. They’re basically “desktop icons.”

bindi-irwin-o-bindilrwin-some-days-you-just-need-to-3323284725. What do you think of when you hear the word “Australia?”

Not a thought so much as pictures of my friend Allison and a meme of Bindi Irwin (if the text is too small for you to read, click on the image for hi-res).

26. Do you go in a fast food place or just hit the drive thru?

I don’t drive, I am rarely pressed for time, and generally there’s free wi-fi. So, inside it is.

27. What is your favorite number?

So easy I don’t even have to think about it. Eleven. Matt Smith, the baby giraffe in a bow tie (and sometimes a fez), is my Doctor. I’m in love with him a little bit because when he got the role, the Internet rebelled against him and said he was never going to be any good, but I haven’t felt more emotion in the show than watching his interactions with Amy, Rory, River Song, Vincent, and himself in a memorable soliloquy in “Nightmare in Silver.”

Also, Stranger Things. Eleven completes me.

28. Who’s the last person you talked to on the phone?

We have covered this.

29. Any plans today?

Well, my prescription is ready and they don’t deliver in my area.

30. How many states have you lived in?

Lots of geographic areas, four states:

  1. Texas
  2. Virginia
  3. Oregon
  4. Maryland

Maryland is where I have really put down roots, but I would move back to Texas to be with my family in a heartbeat if they needed me. It is the only reason I would ever move again. I’m done.

31. What most annoys you?

A little thing? When people use up all the toilet paper and don’t replace the roll.

A big thing? Injustice, anything and anywhere. I am never more angry than when I feel something is unfair, locally or globally.

33. Can you say the alphabet backwards?

I would really, really have to think about it. Not something I’ve ever really had to know…. although a funny thing about me and the alphabet is that when I was first learning my ABCs, the setup is that my mother’s name was Carolyn. I thought the song went “ABCDEFG, HIKJ Carolyn NOP.” “KJ” is not a typo.

34. Do you have a maid service clean your house?

No, but I would think I had died and gone to heaven if I did. So jealous of Disney Princesses, Mary Poppins, and Molly Weasley.

35. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time?

It’s a three-way tie between brown Converse All-Stars, black Converse All-Stars (black laces, rubber, AND canvas), and Keene sandals. I told this to a friend and she said, “ok, you just lost cool points for wearing Keenes.” I had an unprintable response.

36. Are you jealous of anyone?

Disney Princesses, Mary Poppins, and Molly Weasley. I would even settle for Shary Bobbins.

37. Is anyone jealous of you?

I didn’t think so until I was telling a friend that I was absolutely done moving (unless my family needed me in Texas) because I had already moved so much in my life that I was ready to settle down permanently. She told me that she was jealous of me, because she wasn’t ready to make that decision yet. Actually, I’ve had that conversation twice with the same results. One lives here in town, the other lives overseas.

38. Do you love anyone?

Not romantically, but agape and philia are the rivers that run inside me. I couldn’t do without my friends. They are my lifeline, the brothers and sisters I chose for family because my bio family is so far away.

39. Do any of your friends have children?

Yes, some of them even on purpose.

40. What do you usually do during the day?

A little of everything except laundry. It’s an issue.

41. Do you hate anyone that you know right now?

Hate is such a strong word, and changes me a lot more than it changes them…. but everyone I dislike at the moment, I’ve never actually met in person.

42. Do you use the word “hello” daily?

No. I generally say “hey” even though “hey is for horses.” There’s your “Texas-ism” for the day. The reason I don’t use “hello” daily is that I generally only answer the phone that way, and people rarely call me (not that I don’t like it).

43. What color is your natural hair?

Dark brown, but liking it better and better now that I have a few gray strands that look like highlights. I might dye it anyway, though, but only because the color isn’t quite deep enough for me. It looks a bit mousy. Probably won’t go back to auburn, though. Stay tuned.

44. Are you thinking about someone right now?

Deeply.

45. Have you ever been to Six Flags?

I have. I’ve been to three Six Flags-owned parks. Six Flags Over Texas in the Dallas suburbs, AstroWorld and WaterWorld in Houston. For those that aren’t familiar, the company is named after the governing bodies throughout Texas history:

  1. Spain
  2. France
  3. Mexico
  4. The Republic of Texas
  5. The United States
  6. The Confederate States

It seems apropos right now to also give you this fact: Texas and Hawaii are the only states in the union that can fly their flags at equal height to the US flag, because we were both once our own countries.

46. How did you get your scar?

Christ, which one? I fall and hurt myself all the time. Although here are the ones tied for first place. When I was 16, I was cutting a lime with a serrated knife and sliced into my thumb. Those nerve endings never came back, so I have a dead spot I play with all the time. When I was in my early 20s, I had choir practice on Thursday nights and my first wife was way too obsessed with ER. I forgot my house key one night and even though she wasn’t a mean person, she did a mean thing. She wouldn’t let me in until a commercial. So I’m fumbling around in the yard because it’s after 9:00 PM in the fall and I trip over a tree stump, scraping and cutting my shins so badly that the scars are still so deep it feels weird to shave those parts of my legs. Let me remind you that it’s been 20 years, and the scars are no more shallow than when they happened. Geez, and I actually spent time wondering why that relationship didn’t work out……………..

47. Do you have tattoos?

Yes, an ichthus that says “Yahweh” in Hebrew, a tribal dragonfly, a Celtic knot, a quill dripping blood, and $1.83. The last is the smallest, but it’s the most important. Here’s the story behind all of them.

48. Have you ever been out of the country?

I’m not especially well-traveled, but I’ve been to Mexico, Canada, England, France, and The Bahamas. I do have a bucket list, though, and I may never make it to some of them because in the Middle East, I am terribly afraid that everything I want to see is going to be reduced to rubble, and even if it isn’t, I don’t currently have a male chaperone. I’m a feminist and all that, but I’m not stupid.

49. Looks, brains, or personality?

I am going to go with personality, because if they have a great one, their intelligence will naturally show itself. I don’t know many dumb people I could stand for more than a few minutes. For me, personality and brains are inextricably interrelated, because brains inform humor, and if I don’t think you’re hilarious, I’m out.

50. Biggest regret?

Let’s end on something real. I used to be on the “think it, say it” plan no matter what emotions I was feeling. My biggest regret is all the misdirected rage in my life at Argo. It was over-the-top and egregiously wrong, because by then I wasn’t fighting with her. I was fighting the real enemy and Argo was a not-so-casual bystander, the receiver of all the shit rolling downhill. It was not a short amount of time until I realized that I was fighting with two people who weren’t even in the room, and only one of them deserved it.

I am so glad that part of my life is over and done, but if I could pray for a do-over and it materialized, I would go back and love her the way she loved me…. with sweetness, bright, white light, honesty (both painful and real), walking around in each other’s inner landscapes……………… truly receiving all the other had to offer- no more, no less.

The CP and My A

I know I am the same person I was before I accepted the fact that I had cerebral palsy and there was nothing I could do about it. There’s no cure, only management. It’s the management that drops my heart into my stomach, because how can you manage something that’s so random? Falls happen. Running into stuff happens. The worst part is being clumsy AND having monocular vision, because when I fall because of something that’s out of my field of vision, my reflexes aren’t fast enough to catch me. Yesterday I didn’t see the step down off a sidewalk and fell so hard on my left hip that I saw stars. I thought I had broken something, but I didn’t. I just have a bruise that would make the medical journals and lingering pain from pebbles and asphalt. Nearly breaking my ass was a wonderful way to start my day, just in case you were wondering.

Life is easier when I have a partner or friend to watch out for me. Sometimes they point out things I might miss, sometimes it helps to have someone to hold onto or help me up. My dad is obviously the best at it, because he’s had decades of experience saying, “watch it. There’s a step down.” Sidewalks are evil (especially when the city leaves them jagged because of buckling), as are door frames, particularly the left side. This is because I am right-eye dominant, and the left side is out of my field of vision. My shoulders sometimes ache from running into them. Is it any wonder that I feel the safest in my own room?

I get agoraphobic sometimes because I am not immune to being laughed at when I fall, nor are people graceful about my lazy eyes (they drift one at a time depending on my field of vision- called an alternating isotropia). I think that people will be less likely to laugh the older I get, because the chance I’ve really hurt myself will be higher. Right now, I just look like a goofy teenager who’s always clowning, as if I am taking pratfalls on purpose.

For the record, I am not.

I will be 42 years old on September 10th, but I look a lot younger than I am because I tend to wear boys’ clothes. I like looking crispy and if I shop in the big boys’ section, I have Oxfords and Polos where the shoulders fit perfectly, as well as shorts that don’t come down past my knees. I think it’s hilarious that I am so liberal, and yet most days I look like a tiny Alex P. Keaton (wow, that reference proves I’m the age I say I am……….).

There’s a simple reason I dress the way I do. Most people think it’s because I’m a little bit butch, a little bit femme. Nope. It’s because I still want to look good even though I need comfortable clothes and shoes in which I can really move. I look fantastic in dresses and heels, but it increases the chance that I will fall by at least 75 percent. The last time I wore heels, the muscles in my left leg went slack and I went to the floor in a heap. That was nine years ago. It just helps that I have the boyish charm of a lesbian to make my style pop. My style actually got better when (ironically) I met a straight woman that looks even better in men’s clothes than I do.

When I sent her sister a picture of me, she said “are you channeling your inner ________? I can think of worse people to resemble.” I replied, “it was accidental, but I’ll give you the popped collar for free. Thank you for pointing it out. I appreciate it sooooooo much. Now, every time I get dressed, I ask myself ‘is this too ________?'” It’s okay. I just chalk it up to the fact that my friend is evil and must be stopped. She knows it. It’s a thing. It has provided us with an endless supply of the fun kind of being teased. I like it.

That was six years ago, and I STILL ask myself if my outfit is too ____________.

Sometimes I don’t care. I like having a style icon to look up to when I am having trouble picking out clothes on my own. I ask myself if she would look hot in it, and if the mental picture is on point, I buy it. We have the same body type, so if she looks good in it, I will, too. It’s been nice to have clothes in which I look polished, but don’t impede my movement more than clothes already do.

I won’t lie, though. I miss the way girl clothes make me feel. Or as Dana and I used to joke about them, “my ho clothes.” I never minded going to clubs in short skirts, etc. because if I fell, people would just assume I was drunk and help me up.

In terms of “helping me up,” I absolutely hate the way that cerebral palsy lessens my self-reliance. I can get around alone, and I do. But having a companion, no matter who it is (parent, sibling, partner, friend), makes walking around the city so much easier. I have done a lot of crying over the past few weeks (months?) because it has finally sunk in that I am not going to recover from this. My movement will never be any better than it is right now. It is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow…. and yet another reason why I shy away from dating because I am terrified of becoming reliant on someone, even though it’s something that would help me navigate life so much easier.

My attitude right now reminds me of my sister when she was a toddler. If my parents were helping her to a degree she thought was too much, she would say indignantly and angrily “wanna do it BYMYSELF!” It’s not a question of desire to be completely self-sufficient, but practicality.

My health is a psychological issue I need to work on, because it makes my self-worth plummet. Whether it’s rational or not, it makes me feel like a burden and I’ve felt that way for years. Asking someone to take on CP and Bipolar II is a lot, especially when each one is big enough on its own. In my reading about CP, I learned that it can cause mental health problems, so it’s not impossible that the two conditions are related. The difference is that in terms of keeping things under control, Bipolar II is so much easier. There’s medications for it, many of them. If the medication I’m currently on stops working, I have resources.

Physically, I got nothin.’ By that I mean preventative medication. The only thing I can do right now is take pain meds after I fall. Ibuprofen and arthritis-strength Tylenol™ have been lifesavers. Walking helps to a degree, because my muscles get stronger over time. It is also fraught, though, because the more I walk outside, the more chances there are to trip over things.

The one thing I feel good about is that I’m not a flake. I’m not ditzy. These things don’t happen in a vacuum. There’s a solid reason for it, when previously I thought I was just having dumbass attacks all the time. It has solidified my need to take care of myself mentally and physically.

But again, the question on my mind is always “how do you take care of a problem you can’t see? It’s hard enough with problems you can.” I haven’t been idle about looking for help, though. I feel like it would be beneficial to get into group therapy for people who have the same disorder. I am sure that I will find one, but what I’ve found so far is for the parents of kids with juvenile cases and learning to navigate the school system, their home lives, their adjustment to not having a kid that’s completely normal, etc. No wonder my mother wanted to pretend I was.

There is no such thing as competitive suffering, but there are two sides to that coin. The first is being grateful that I do not need crutches or a walker to get around, and that my case is as mild as it is. The second is being able to accept the fact that though others are suffering more, that doesn’t mean I don’t.

I mean, I nearly broke my ass.

Psychosomatic

I don’t know what got into me yesterday in terms of switching gears and writing about technology instead of emotionally vomiting all over the Internet. Oh, I know. I was being selfish, because I needed a place to go back and copy and paste my commands. The one thing I didn’t do was show you a picture of what Cinnamon looks like when I’m finished with it. Cinnamon is my next favorite desktop after MATE. They look a lot alike, but Cinnamon has better graphics. I also have the wallpaper set to change every five minutes, so I always have more cool quotes. I find that I take them away, think about them, and sometimes use them as writing prompts.

Workspace 1_002
“Thus, in a real sense, I am constantly writing autobiography, but I have to turn it into fiction in order to give it credibility.” -Katherine Paterson

This one isn’t so good, because when I write fiction, I feel like an imposter. Character studies are generally okay, but I have no knack for world-building or plot. In a very real sense, I see that as a flaw in my own character. So, I stay in my lane. For the most part. What’s interesting is that I could lay so many more cards on the table in fiction, but I don’t feel it would turn out better. Maybe someday I’ll write a novel with someone else who really knows what they’re doing and can edit/add to my complete and utter crap work.

Autobiography seems to be my jam, but I also think I would be good at non-fiction if I put some elbow grease into it. I have a ton of interests (in none of which I am truly well versed…. jack of all trades, master of none). Perhaps illiteracy, real crime, espionage, cooking…. I don’t know. They’re all things I’d have to study intensely, but it might be fun. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to study in the Library of Congress at a moment’s notice. CIA also has an advisory board for writers, film makers, etc. to help people get their facts right (and in some cases, “if this is what you’re saying, here’s how we would say it”). In DC, though, there are already more people writing those things than the market will allow. Food for thought, in any case.

I’ve always thought that I’d like to collaborate with a spy on a novel that’s a hybrid fiction and non-fiction book. It would alternate chapters. One would be the story, then the next would be the real life inspiration for what just happened. It’s a good thing that now I know one, but not well enough to get down on one knee and ask her to write a book with me. Not only that, she’s already collaborated on all the books about espionage that I really want to read. Plus, she makes me laugh. In one video, she says that when she was at CIA, she was a real hard-ass. It’s funny because I am a hundred and crazy percent sure she was being accurate. Introspection is key.

And while that is true, I would also bet dollars to donuts that her attrition rate was low, because her people would take a bullet for her. It seems to me that acid funny and inside jokes go a long way as a boss.

It’s funny how your relationship changes with espionage once you actually meet a CIA case officer, albeit one who’s retired. You begin to think a lot more about the families behind said spy, and that they are completely normal people with an extraordinary calling.

For instance, Tony Mendez was an artist. He was always, first and foremost, an artist. Being a spy was almost a side gig. He didn’t even write Argo until George Tenet asked him to do it. Tony said, “that’s classified.” “No it’s not,” Tenet replied, smile on his lips. Tenet waved his magic wand, allowing Argo to be born.

I am not immune to the reputation of The Company. What I have learned is that there are good officers and bad, good agents and bad (case officers work for the CIA, agents are informants- generally overseas. The movies always get it wrong, and for someone who has read so much non-fiction regarding the history of spycraft, it’s quite a bit irritating.). I’ve even watched interviews on YouTube where the host calls the case officer an agent, and you can see their pained expressions (actually, that’s pretty funny).

Where my emotions come in is that I feel case officers do extraordinary work, and I have always wanted to be extraordinary at something. On my best day, I am fair to middlin’ at most things. I am a good writer, not a great one. I am an above average cook. It would be a much longer list regarding things I don’t know about computers/networks/the Internet.

If there is one area I feel extraordinary, it’s love. Romantic or platonic, local or global, I love hard. I am so empathetic I can share mirror neurons with strangers. It’s the one good thing my ADHD does for me. It heightens my sensory perception and most of the time I feel like I have emotional X-ray vision. I am excellent at cutting through bullshit and seeing what’s really going on with people.

And perhaps that feeds my fascination with spies, as well, because they are the embodiment of what I feel all the time…. the way they have to cut through bullshit to see others’ weak spots, sussing out what to say in order to obtain an asset. Gathering information in conversation without letting on to what they’re doing.

People want to tell me things, whether I want to hear it or not. I am so polite that I will always listen, but when strangers go deep, I am fascinated and exhausted all at once. This is because I don’t have very good clinical separation, and I will take their scars and write them on my own skin. I am truly capable of manipulation, not for malice, but for getting people to spill things they’ve never told anyone else. And then I hold on to those secrets until they make me sick with worry… to a lesser extent with people I’ll never see again, but still.

All that pent-up emotion presents physically. Just because it’s psychosomatic doesn’t mean it’s not real. It’s hard to tell whether headaches and stomach aches will be cured by taking medication or thinking about something else.

Slaying the dragon of emotional abuse freed up my mind, but since I hadn’t lived my life since I was 12 without the constant puzzle of other people’s emotions, it left a big hole to take on everyone else’s…. from people I’d known for years to strangers on a train. I live for black comedy because for people that have experienced much, it takes a lot to reach them with laughter.

That was what drew me to Argo in the first place. I saw the movie before I read the book (very shortly before), and it spoke to me on a spiritual level… mostly because every note of humor was my kind of humor. I quote it incessantly, especially when I’m in the kitchen and my eyebrows are about to go over my forehead (“There are suicide missions with better odds than this.”). There’s basically an Argo quote for every occasion. Meeting with the boss? “Brace yourself, it’s like talking to those two old fucks from The Muppets.” On the daily? “This is the best bad idea we have, sir.”

I also named my friend Argo because just like the movie, she was named after the Greek myth. At that time in my life, I was trying to tie myself to the mast to avoid disaster, breaking my life apart at my own hand. It did not work. Though thankfully, those days are long past, they are not forgotten. It has engineered the way to move forward (“I think we’ve all arrived at a very special place. Spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically.”). Past missteps have truly made their imprint upon me, a reminder to keep reaching upward. Self care is the most important thing in my life, because if I can’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else. Eventually, I’d like a girlfriend. Eventually, I’d like my life to be bigger than it is. Eventually, I’d like to be a person of interest in the very best sense of the phrase. Alas, baby steps (pregnant sigh).

Having a girlfriend isn’t completely up to me, but what is my doing is making room for her. I haven’t made room for even the idea in my mind, heart, or house. I suppose it’s a self defense mechanism. Once you’ve been hurt badly, you’re caught between the ideas of loving like you’ve never been hurt and taking time to lick your wounds, especially owning the ones for which you feel responsible. By now, everything I’ve wanted to accomplish in that arena is done. All that is left is reticence…. the fear is real and it’s deep.

The first step was realizing I was capable of disaster and fixing it to the best of my ability. The second step is not constantly beating myself up, because when I am really paying attention, I realize that I am not the only one. Not realizing this has led me to be incredibly hard on myself.

I get headaches and stomach aches. Just because it’s psychosomatic doesn’t mean it’s not real.

 

My Favorite Finnish Export

If you have ever mentioned to me that you have any interest in technology, you probably know that I am a Linux nerd. My Finnish fever started in 1997, when my friends Luke and Joe asked if I wanted them to host my web site on a Linux server they’d set up (somewhat sneakily, I might add) where Joe worked. I was given shell access, and it was love… mostly because I found that typing at the command line was so much quicker than using a mouse.

When I first started using computers, I was a fan of IRC (Internet Relay Chat), but I couldn’t type very well. By the time I finished responding to someone, other people had added over a page of dialogue. I made it my mission in life to learn to type as fast as I speak. Now, I can type as fast as I think. Therefore, using a mouse to scroll through menus instead of just typing one word into the terminal seems terribly inefficient.

Depending on my mood, sometimes I’ll dual boot my computer, sometimes I won’t. It depends on two things. The first is whether I want to play Fallout 3 on my desktop. The second is whether I feel like rebooting a lot. Having a dual boot computer is like having a two story house. Everything you need, you left on the other floor.

Because Windows and OS X are so prevalent, and because I change my mind all the time about how I want to set up my computer, I thought I’d write a blog entry on the tools I use. I will include terminal commands in case you want to install them as well. Otherwise, I look forward to your comments on how what you use is better.

When I first set up my Linux box, I make the desktop pretty and useful. No matter what Linux distribution I’m using, I install MATE as my desktop (pronounced Mah-tay, like the green tea). It is the least graphics-intensive and therefore all of my processing power can go to things that matter. It’s kind of retro, actually. It will remind you of Windows 95, uncluttered and easy to navigate.

My favorite theme and icon set is Numix. I particularly like the Numix Square icons.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:numix/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install numix-gtk-theme numix-icon-theme numix-icon-theme-square

For desktop wallpaper, I use a program called Variety. The images are top notch, grabbed from all over the interwebs, and there is an option to add random quotes as well. The other extremely useful feature is that you can tell it whether you prefer dark or light images. I much prefer a dark background so that my icons show up more clearly.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:peterlevi/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install variety

Because I use my computer so much, I am fanatical about fonts. It’s amazing how choosing the right family can reduce eye strain. My favorite is Droid, which for some ungodly reason has been taken out of Ubuntu’s main software repositories. I just download it and install it myself. Since I’m the only user on my computer, I find the easiest way to do this is creating a folder called .fonts in my user directory and copying them over. My entire desktop is Droid Sans, except for the font on the quotes in Variety, which is Droid Serif. In the terminal and in coding HTML, I use Droid Mono.

In terms of making my desktop useful, I watch my system resources in real time with a program called “conky.” However, it is not particularly user-friendly, so I also install Conky Manager to configure it. While Conky Manager has been taken out of the Ubuntu repositories, it’s still available. There’s all sorts of cool stuff you can do with it, but I use it to watch how much CPU and memory my top processes are using and my upload/download speed.

wget --no-check-certificate https://github.com/teejee2008/conky-manager/releases/download/v2.4/conky-manager-v2.4-amd64.run
chmod +x conky-manager-v2.4-amd64.run
sudo ./conky-manager-v2.4-amd64.run

I like using Facebook Messenger without having to stay logged into Facebook. I have an application that sits in my system tray that is only for messaging, and doesn’t do desktop notifications unless someone is writing specifically to me. It’s handy that my desktop isn’t blowing up all day (like my phone) and I don’t have to type on a touch screen or open a browser to respond. It’s called Caprine, and it has basically replaced text messaging for me because unlike SMS, I can use Facebook Messenger on any of my devices (I use encrypted e-mail for anything that should stay private). For instance, I don’t like it when people use SMS to send me web links, because then I have to retype the URL in my browser if I want to look at it on anything bigger than my phone’s screen.

For screenshots, there’s an amazing tool called Shutter. It will take a picture of anything, from an area you select to the entire desktop. It also has a built-in editor for quick jobs like cropping when you don’t get the aspect ratio right.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linuxuprising/shutter
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt install shutter

For big photo editing jobs, I use the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, known by its unfortunate acronym. It can do everything that Adobe PhotoShop can and it’s free. For things like logos, I also install all the fonts in the Ubuntu software repository by Ray Larabie of Typodermic Fonts. Note that if you are using Linux Mint, GIMP comes standard, but not the latest version. The last version is also available in the Ubuntu repository, but I prefer the next iteration.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:otto-kesselgulasch/gimp
sudo apt update
sudo apt install gimp larabie*

Because most of my work is on the web, I generally don’t need word processors, spreadsheets, etc…. and I am not sure I’ve ever made a presentation. People do send me documents and such, though, so I enjoy LibreOffice. Again, it comes standard on most Ubuntu versions and derivatives, but you’ll need the Launchpad repository to get the most up-to-date version.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt install libreoffice

Occasionally, people will send me complicated Microsoft Word documents in terms of formatting, and for that, I use Wine to be able to install Windows applications. Wine doesn’t work with every Windows program available, but it does work very well for the three I use the most, which are Office 2010, Picasa, and Notepad++. If you’re not sure whether an application you need will run in Wine, check the Application Compatibility Database.

sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
wget -nc https://dl.winehq.org/wine-builds/winehq.key
sudo apt-key add winehq.key
sudo apt-add-repository 'deb https://dl.winehq.org/wine-builds/ubuntu/ bionic main'
sudo apt update
sudo apt install --install-recommends winehq-stable

If you’re not using Bionic, you can change out the name in the above command. All releases are supported.

I am incredibly ADHD, and I find that it helps me work to block out all outside noises. Though I could use a browser plugin, I prefer a native application called ANoise. With community extensions installed, there are TONS of choices, from ponds to a raging fire to a dump truck idle to an oscillating fan. Right now I’m listening to what sounds like TV snow, but in the application is called “Pink.” Only one piece of advice from me to you…. if you have to pee at all, don’t listen to the thunderstorms or rivers. Kidding aside, this thing boosts my productivity to an insane degree.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:costales/anoise
sudo apt update
sudo apt install anoise

Lastly, I am a rabid Kodi fan. It’s a media center (originally an XBOX hack) and has plugins for DVD cover art, surfing YouTube, recording live television, organizing and playing your music library, telling you the weather, etc. It’s just incredible. It’s available for all devices except iPhone and iPad (well, you can install it with Tweakbox, but I don’t recommend it– TB is basically a soft jailbreak), including Raspberry Pi. This is useful information if you’re looking for a cheap computer that stays attached to your TV at all times. If you want to use it to record TV shows/movies, you’ll have to buy the TV card to do it, but those are relatively cheap at places like Amazon, Best Buy, Fry’s, etc.

sudo apt install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install kodi

Keep in mind that these are the tools I use in Linux that aren’t standard knowledge (with the possible exception of Kodi). Most things are operating system agnostic, like Google Chrome, Firefox, etc. I’m pretty sure I could find a way to do everything between those two browsers, but like all geeks, I have my creature comforts. Let me know in the comments if you need help because a command doesn’t work or you’re stuck. I mean, I can’t help you, but I still want to know (kidding).

If you’ve never worked with Linux before, all it takes is some sisu- the Finnish idea of grit and perseverance while climbing a mountain or talking to a stranger. The hardest part is taking the first plunge, because it seems intimidating right up until you use it. Then you’ll see what all desktop support people see…. every OS sucks.

The Year of Acceptance

I went to the pub earlier and stuffed myself with brunch. I got everyone sitting at the bar addicted to Crosswords With Friends™ as I gobbled up banana custard French toast, eggs, Irish bacon, coffee, and orange juice. I was pleased with myself because I just showed up and sat down, and by the end I was specifically invited back every weekend by “the brunch club.”

The way I got into the conversation is that they were having an argument over something and I asked the woman next to me what it was all about. They were arguing over the capital of Canada…. whether it was Montreal or Toronto (pregnant sigh). I said, “it’s Ottawa.” The woman next to me said, “I like how you said that without missing a beat.” I told her that I was 100% certain I was right unless they’d moved it in the last few years.

I had my Slumdog Millionaire moment of hearing the question and video of Meagan and me  in the beer store buying a two four of Alexander Keith’s popping up because who can paint a living room without beer?

I was not invited to Ottawa just to paint Meagan’s living room. I was invited for Thanksgiving, and like the wingnut I am, didn’t look up the date for Canadian Thanksgiving because I thought I knew it.

I didn’t.

CDN Thanksgiving revolves. Who knew?

It ended up being a better trip that way, though, because I got Meag, her then-wife Deah, and her daughter to myself instead of having to share them with all their other friends and relatives.

When Meag and I were actually together, I thought seriously for a few months about immigrating to Canada, but I didn’t really get the concept of what an enormous change it would be until over a decade after we broke up, because believe it or not, I never made it there while we were dating…. and not because we only knew each other online. We were high school sweethearts and when Meagan graduated from high school, she went back to her home country while her parents stayed in Texas.

Seeing Canada for real was learning how European it is compared to the United States, and while I picked up the English dialect quickly having heard Meagan use Canadian slang “my whole life,” there was still a feeling of dissonance.

After a few days, though, I could totally see myself living there. Ottawa felt strikingly similar to DC and Portland, Oregon…. or rather, if the two cities got together and had a baby.

When I was looking for a change of scenery in 2015, Ottawa would have been a good choice for me if it hadn’t meant immigration and losing my US Citizenship (I would have wanted to be able to vote). Ultimately, I made the right choice. I’ve been in love with DC since I was eight. I feel the magic of Washington like most people feel the romance of Paris- it vibrates inside me.

Things happen here that would never happen anywhere else. For instance, I got to hear Jonna Mendez, former Chief of Disguise at CIA, talk about her latest (and her husband Tony‘s last) book. That was on 31 May, and this weekend I finally found a way to send her the blog entry I wrote after I came home that night. She told me it was wonderful and Tony would have loved it as well. It was a huge moment in my life, as it is for all authors when their favorite authors pay them a compliment.

Ok, I am being tame. It was hug from Jesus level awesome and my skin is still buzzing. I feel so good about it that my energy could jump start a car battery.

If I could, I would bottle that feeling and use it as hair product.

Being so high on a compliment is tempered by my anger at unfixable situations.

On September 10, I will be 42 years old. I will always remember 41 as The Year of Acceptance™ (pregnant sigh).

Because of medical malpractice in the delivery room, I have cerebral palsy. It’s a mild case, and my parents never agreed on how much to tell me about what happened. My mother didn’t want me to know anything at all, to pretend that my mental and physical health were just like everyone else’s. My dad was always on the side of truth, but as soon as he would start talking about it, my mother would either A) disagree loudly II) change the subject.

My mother always said that my dad’s memory was wrong or that he was just making a big deal out of nothing.

My sister found the report in which I was diagnosed, and for the first time, I saw my pediatric neurologist’s impressions of me. I was a little over a year old, and presented like I was only six months. I didn’t have the physical reactions of someone my age, and my muscles couldn’t support me. I have never caught up to my peers.

So basically I’ve just been living life thinking that I was perfectly able-bodied, to not so great results. I’ve done a lot of research, and CP doesn’t get worse as you age. It is what it is. However, its implications are bigger. For instance, I don’t fall more than I did when I was younger, but I do fall harder. And with monocular vision, it doesn’t matter how careful I think I’m being. There’s always something I’m not going to see and either I run into it or it runs into me. I spend a lot of time accidentally apologizing to inanimate objects.

Some of my muscles are way more developed than others, so while doing one physical thing I may look completely normal, and then during a different activity, you can immediately tell I’m struggling.

This year was about accepting why as fact. I stopped beating myself up that I wasn’t faster in the kitchen. I was never built for it in the first place.

You don’t come to acceptance of something as big as CP in one moment or even in one day. It’s too big, too complicated. It took me a long time to stop beating myself up that there was no such thing as being born with floppy muscles and being miraculously cured of it while still being more of a klutz than all of my friends put together.

It’s also confusing because my symptoms are so mild, because it’s taken a long time to figure out where I excel and where I, in a word, don’t. It’s a long haul from thinking that you can do anything you want to taking your physical limitations seriously…. that they aren’t a series of unfortunate events but consecutive verses to the same song.

I’m just trying to figure out where I excel so that I stop beating myself up. It’s not that I got a bad hand, I’ve just been playing blackjack while the rest of the world plays poker.

At the very least, I know the capital of Canada.

Waking Life

I am drinking a mediocre cup of coffee; it’s my second one if I’m being honest. That probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but the mug is 16 oz. I normally drink iced green tea in the morning because DC summer has set in, so I’ve got a bit of a buzz going. Though it’s basic, I put four Splenda in it, so at least it feels like dessert going down. I normally add a plant milk- coffee tastes better with fat- but I’m out. I need to go to the grocery store, just one of the things I need to add to my growing To Do list because I’m ready to get out into the world again.

It startled me when I realized I hadn’t written anything since the end of May on this web site. I get so busy with e-mail and Facebook that I forget to be a writer in public. Facebook is easier because I can write in short snippets and it’s not a large, blank page staring back at me.

I have a different “voice” over e-mail, and I like who I am when I write them. I tend to make them weighted because I can let myself go with one person or a group of friends. It’s not so easy with my hundreds of subscribers and thousands of casual readers. It becomes intimidating when I think of it that way, so I need to go back to framing it as writing only for myself, an e-mail from me to me.

Since I’ve come back from Texas, my depression and anxiety has flared up to an enormous degree. It’s another piece of the puzzle when I think about why I haven’t been eager to write (or engage, really). It’s frustrating because with mental illness, I can’t point to where it hurts and I can’t vocalize what will make me feel better. I legitimately have no idea. I have tricks to fool myself into a brighter mood, like putting on gangsta rap with a great hook and lots of bass, or at the other end of the spectrum, ABBA or Aqua.

Today, it’s the Argo soundtrack, because I’ve been writing to it for years. It helps to go back to music that encourages body memory, the feel of typing into the night even though it’s 11:00 AM. Night is when I’m the most vulnerable, which I feel is universal. Conversations that happen when the sun go down are different than the ones had when it comes up.

For instance, during the day I am unlikely to admit what I’m really pondering. It is the barbed wire fence around my emotions, and how much I’m willing to take it down depends on the day. I get the most defensive when it comes to my lack of a love life, because I  think I have good reasons for not wanting someone to walk around in my inner landscape, but as more and more time passes since my disastrous break up with Dana, those reasons don’t seem good enough for other people. I grow weary of people asking why, as if it’s their right to know and try to the be judge and jury of my answers. I want to live life at my own pace, which is infinitely my choice. I just want to tell people, in the words of an old Texas gun safety video, “leave it alone. Don’t touch it. Call an adult.”

My reasons fall in many percentages, but the largest piece of the pie is that when two adults are in a relationship, it is codependent unless both people are strong in themselves. One of my favorite quotes from Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, paraphrased, is that couples should be like trees, not entwined at the trunks, but the branches. I am not that person yet, and I currently have no indicators as to when it will change. Because I am incredibly sapiosexual, I will be sparked eventually by the way someone thinks and interacts. It has happened three times over the last five years, but something hasn’t been right in every case, mostly timing. For instance, my admittance of feelings led to the conversation of “I’d totally be down for dating if I hadn’t just started dating someone else.”

Just to be clear, I thought I was admitting feelings to someone who was single. It wasn’t as if I knew she was with someone else and didn’t care because my ego was big enough to think she would jump at the chance to date me no matter her status. I also didn’t think of her “that way” until Samantha saw us together and said we looked cute…. and then, of course, I had to overthink about it before I said anything, and by then it was too late. This was about a year and a half ago, and since then I have been battling the up and down of depression medications, and if you’re taking them as well, you probably know what I mean. For the uninitiated, the downs mean lack of lust for life, much less anything else. However, I do enjoy being chilled out and relaxed, and that more than makes up for lack of a partner.

I also know that when someone does tilt my vision their way, it probably won’t come through searching profiles on web sites. Every date I’ve been on by doing so felt like a job interview, stiff and uncomfortable to the point of nausea. I just feel done when it comes to internet dating. I’m over it.

I am the happiest when going out alone or with close friends, those that have become as close as siblings while I wait out disinterest. When I’m alone, I am very good at chatting up strangers, so it feels like I’m meeting up with friends I haven’t met yet, as opposed to being insular. I am very much in love with my own thoughts, and I want to wait until I feel that way about someone else’s. I also feel that waiting is appropriate until I don’t feel like my crazy spatter is going to stick to their clothes. That seems like cruel & unusual punishment.

The smallest piece is not feeling ready to compromise or share. I enjoy not having to check in with anyone about where I’m going or when I’m going to be home. I don’t want a relationship to feel like an obligation instead of a joy. The woman I picture is drop dead gorgeous, smarter than I am, and has respect for the fact that we will not share everything. There is a box inside me that I will never unlock for anyone, for any reason. Lack of privacy or jealousy on her part would ruin everything.

In short, I would give my heart to the right person, but I’m not going to settle for the wrong one, even if she is a basket of hotness. More than one person has been worried I’ll be an old lady with seven cats.

Well, what in the hell is wrong with that? I wouldn’t necessarily choose it for myself, but I’d choose it every time over being irritated with someone else. As I have said before, relationships are a lot of work, but they shouldn’t feel like trying to nail a square peg into a round hole every damn day…. and those relationships are worth the wait.

As is, I hope, waiting for a new entry.

 

The Spy in the Room

The archetype most people have of a spy, if we’re talking real vs. reel (seriously, James Bond is a spy and everyone in all his movies knows what he looks like, what he drives, and what he drinks?), can usually be summed up in two words. They are “aloof” and “inconspicuous.” I say “aloof,” because the more distant you are with people, the less they can get to know you…. also, many less lies to handle under cover in terms of what you told whom. Additionally, others won’t be able to identify you later, because they don’t have details to jog their memories. “Inconspicuous” has to do with being the person you’d never notice so that case officers can move more freely.

For instance, I would make a terrible spy in terms of having the right skills for the job, but perfect in my appearance. I am a white woman over 40, who, dressed correctly and wearing a baseball cap, can also pass for a teenage male; I could even embody a tween if I dyed my hair.

For the woman over forty cover, all I would need is a sweatshirt with appliquéd school buses, pencils, notebook paper, and perhaps a chalk board for good measure. The micro SD full of intel would, of course, be hidden in a tote bag full of kid-level math books and flash cards.

“As a kid,” all I would need to get through airport security with a micro SD card is a Kindle Fire for kids and a Minecraft backpack…. maybe a t-shirt that is obviously a DC souvenir and the ubiquitous tween cargo shorts (which, for better or for worse, I already own).

The International Spy Museum speaks to this with a t-shirt slogan- a lot of them say “I Was Never Here” (the link to this particular t-shirt is cool as hell, fyi).

As Chief of Disguise (ten years apart) it was Tony and Jonna Mendez’s job to create these personas (link is to my source material), including the tiniest details. For instance, a rock in your shoe or an ace bandage around one knee completely changes your walk. An artificial palate can change the way you talk- perhaps adding a lisp. During Jonna’s lecture last night, she talked about Tony’s first quick change to show his superiors it could be done. 45 seconds and he changed from a man in a business suit carrying an attachĂ© case to an old woman pushing a small shopping cart (the briefcase expanded).

After hearing her speak, the characterization of aloof and inconspicuous was demystified. I still believe that case officers have to be that way under cover, but in person, as herself, she couldn’t have been more warm and gracious. Her talk was a little under an hour, but it could have been three hours and I wouldn’t have moved. Not only was she personable, she was quite funny.

She told a great story about Tony… that he was originally hired by the CIA as an artist, and thought, “what would the CIA want with an artist?” The answer was painstakingly recreating passports, both foreign and domestic. He was also a genius at copying, and did a demonstration at the Spy Museum years ago in which he taught an entire room of people how to forge Vladimir Putin’s signature.

There were many, many laugh lines over the evening… there were also a few stories that were quite scary.

American case officers are not known for those Bond moments where everyone in the room is shot. Their mission is to get in, get what they need, and leave… often more quickly than you would think an intelligence operation would take. In Moscow, this is not the case. If you are caught spying against Russia, you are tortured and executed…. because to simply execute someone would be too kind.

Aleksandr Ogorodnik (code name Trigon) was recruited by the CIA as an asset, and because he knew what would happen if he was caught, requested what is called an L pill (a cyanide capsule). He said that he would not work for them without it. This was debated by the directors for a long time (due to the psychological damage done to the carrier, and its predilection for premature use) before they ultimately agreed, and hid it in a pen.

Trigon was caught in  1977, and offered to write a full confession. He then bit down on his pen, and was dead before he even hit the floor.

Trigon’s death was a tragedy, and not just because he was a human who knew he was better off killing himself. He was known as the best asset the CIA had, providing an exponentially larger volume of intel than others. The reason he was so critically important is that Moscow got so dangerous for American case officers that they had to recruit Russian assets, because the risk was too high that they’d get caught, even in disguise.

The only person that managed it was a woman named Marti Peterson. Jonna explained that since the KGB never, ever used females as operatives, they assumed that the Americans wouldn’t, either. She was never under surveillance, and was able to get away with being Trigon’s contact for over a year before she was caught. The only reason she’s still alive is that the Russians declared her a Persona Non Grata with diplomatic immunity and sent her packing back to the US.

The story is a miracle because as she was being interrogated, she was sitting at a large table where all her spy gear that the KGB confiscated was laid out in front of her one by one. Though I don’t know why she was considered a PNG instead of a case officer is beyond me, but my first guess is misogyny… which is alive and well today, but even more prevalent in the late 1970s.

It was about that time that Jonna ended her talk and started a Q&A session. I was second in line, and my question was about Argo. “First of all, let me say that I am sorry for your loss [she thanks me]. When did you and Tony meet John Chambers (the Hollywood makeup guy), and have you worked on any other movies? The one that occurred to me today that you might have been involved in was Atomic Blonde.”

First, she told me that Tony had a lot of friends in both Hollywood and magic, but didn’t know how he was introduced (I forgot he didn’t meet Jonna until years later). Then, her personality seemed to flip. She became a total product of her training. She gave me The Look,™ a combination of a smile, a winky face, and “I can’t say.” She redirected to “perhaps we should hire you.” I thanked her for answering the question, and said “that bit about ‘perhaps we should hire you’ will live in my memory for the rest of my life.” The entire room broke up with laughter.

There were lots of people with questions, and my favorite was from a young woman who said, “it seems as if The Cold War is still going on, but yet our current administration seems to be pretty friendly with Russia. Could you speak to how one feeds the other?” Jonna said that if they were out and both had a drink in their hands, they could talk about it, but she didn’t want to get into politics. So, note to self. Invite her to have a drink.

I don’t know why it panned out this way, but I was a little annoyed that I was the only person in the room that said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Maybe other people were just afraid to acknowledge the spy in the room.

Before the lecture, I bought The Moscow Rules, and I also brought my copy of Argo, because she’s an uncredited author on it and I thought that was unfair.

I set “TMR” on the table and held Argo in my hands. I leaned in and said, “do you mind if I tell you a really quick story about this book?” She said, “about Argo? Sure.” I said, “at The Spy Museum’s old digs, they used to sell autographed copies. I didn’t have a job at the time, and I thought it was too much money to spend on a book. When Tony died, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake, and I wrote about it on my blog. My dad read it, and searched through every rare bookstore he could find. Two days later, it arrived at my house. I called him, crying hysterically, and he said, “don’t worry… that’s just what daddies do.” And that is the precise moment where my heart dropped into my stomach like a rock.

My story had made her start crying. I knew I’d pierced her public persona armor. Because my mother died in 2016, I knew it was the only thing holding her together. A string of profanities unleashed in my head, because I wish I had remembered other people had cried after that story and they didn’t even know Tony Mendez. She took the book from my hands and opened it lovingly, fingering Tony’s signature. She said, “I can really tell this was signed after the Parkinson’s had set in.” Under it, she added “+Jonna Mendez.” To redirect, she got serious and said, “so, are you looking for a job for real?” A shitstorm of pictures ran through my head as I pictured background checks that would put my family through the ringer and disclosing my Bipolar II diagnosis, getting rejected before I even got to talk to anyone that would take the time to know me. I said, “well, I am a professional cook.” She laughed and said, “well then, maybe I should hire you.” I don’t remember how it came up, but I also told her that I’d never gotten to see Tony before he announced he would no longer be doing public appearances. She said, “that’s such a shame. He would have really liked you.”

Then, she opened “TMR” and wrote, “For Leslie- Maybe we should hire you.” I shook her hand rather than asking if I could give her a hug, because I was feeling overly emotional and I knew she was, too. A hug would have undone us both. I told her it was such a pleasure to meet her, and the last thing she said to me as I walked away was, “I will remember you.” I walked very quickly to the women’s restroom, dropped my backpack, and cried my eyes out.

Feeling refreshed, I opened my Uber app and walked outside, desperately hoping that in some time, some place, we will meet again.