Nobody’s Fault But Mine

January 18, 2011

*Give credit where credit is due.  This small flash of inspiration and the subsequent writing was inspired by On The Road, my good friend Seth, and the Grateful Dead.

I doubt this will get polished.  It probably won’t even be that good.  But it’s the first thing I’ve been able to write in a few months.  That’s all I need. *

I carelessly threw my bag into the backseat and slammed the door, keeping my eye on Neil.  It had been a long time since we had even been around each other for more than 5 minutes.  He set his backpack down carefully and closed the door, hopping into the front seat with effortless grace.

“Let’s do this!” he growled as I sat down and pulled my door shut.  I looked at him as his eyes locked on mine.

“Man, I missed you.” I said as I moved my eyes back to the steering wheel, the dash, the keys, to what I was doing.  “It’s been too long.”

“I know, I know.  I’ve been busy.” he said, drumming his hands on his lap.  But who hasn’t been busy?  Everyone has been busy, but it hasn’t been work to see them, to talk to them.  I had reached the point of not caring and had somehow bounced back to caring more than I should.  Fuck.  The engine turns, sputters, and then roars to life.

“Where we goin’?” I ask, hoping to get the conversation rolling.  It’s been months since it’s been just the two of us around each other, but it doesn’t feel awkward.  No response.  I throw the gear down into drive and the car lurches forward and we’re going, gone, on our way back.  But I don’t want to go back just yet.  I want to talk.  I want to tell him how I hated him, how I disowned him, how in my mind we weren’t friends.  I want to tell him that he’s being a dick, that his friends have been pissed, that he isn’t the Neil that I got close to.  The Neil I knew would put his friends before himself, would give himself up to make them happy.  I get my speech in my mind, I take my eyes off the road to look at him, to give him a piece of my mind, to do what I had been saying for months that I was going to do.  “Just as soon as I get the chance,” I say.  “I haven’t had time where it’s just us.  As soon as I get the chance, I’m talking to him.”

Neil is sitting in my passenger seat, his only-looks-shy-if-you-don’t-know-him closed-mouth smile on his face, his eyes alive and glowing.  He’s happy, and he’s here.  He’s my friend, and he’s riding with me.

“It’s been too long, man.  Too long.  I really missed you.”


Death Toll

December 10, 2010

This past week I was preparing for finals, and as I’ve related to a few people, I definitely consumed enough caffeine to induce hallucinations.  I probably wasn’t at the LD50 for caffeine, but I had to have been close.  Maybe I’ll do the math and figure it out.  Anyways, this is the body count for finals preparation:

4 large black coffees

5 5 hour energy extra strength

10 Arizona Herbal Energy Tonics

20 Monster Imports (both low cal and regular)

15 (at least) Nos Energy (in the 22 oz bottles)

2 liters of Mountain Dew

1.5 liters of Coca Cola

My Sanity


And when I say hallucinations, I mean hallucinations.  I have a poster of The Dude in my room, and his forehead became a window.  During my Calculus final the floor started moving and patterns appeared in colors.  OChem?  The pages had rainbow edges.  I’m now going to lay off caffeine for…. three weeks.  But at least I’m done.

The Zippo

December 3, 2010

And so it begins.  My writing, that is.  In an effort to write more, I may turn to this as a sort of writing journal.  With finals coming up I doubt I’ll be writing much in the next week, but afterwards I would like to say that I’m going to write a lot.  We’ll see how that goes.

The idea at the moment is one I’ve toyed with, but it finally hit me as an actual idea for a story.  By toying with it, I mean that the notion or general concept had crossed my mind, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that it actually hit me as an actual story idea.  That epiphany-type of sensation as I was walking to the bookstore to kill time before what I thought was going to be discussion (there was none, and I wasted a whole hour waiting when I could have been at home).

The main characters are college students (or graduates… that detail is still being worked out), and they’ve come to the conclusion that their education or degrees are basically worthless, what with the economy and all.  Long story short, they turn to dealing drugs.  Small at first, but the idea I have is that it will grow and get larger and darker and seedier.  It’s not my usual type of story, either.  I mean, it is, in a way, but it’s vastly different from what I normally do.  Most of my stories revolve around someone dying and how people are impacted by that.  It’s similar in that it will be looking at someone’s internal struggle, and I suppose, to stretch the idea, that it’s about someone dying on the inside.  But I’m aiming for dark, hopeless, gritty, and depressing.  I have a general direction, but I want to see where this goes, in all actuality.

I have a couple of paragraphs that will probably get completely thrown out in a revision or two, but the point is to get words on paper, and that’s all I’m going for now.  The story will come when it wants to. I just have to write and revise until then.

Thought for the day: High School was driven by wanting to be cool.  But really being cool isn’t being cool at all, but just trying to be yourself without regard for what others think of you.  And not many people get to that point in their lives until college, or later.  This has probably occurred to people before, I’m sure, but it’s never explicitly come to me before today.  Random realizations keep me moving.

More later, as things get worked on.  Cheers until then.

Everyone is Golden

November 30, 2010

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything, which is ironic given that I’m supposed to be writing an article on finding time to write while in school.  At first I was just gathering my thoughts, and then it turned into me not even following my own advice on how to write while in school.  Go figure.  But I, as substrate, have encountered the catalyst and have begun to react.  Slowly, given the presence of a catalyst, but reacting slowly is better than not reacting at all.

I had an idea for a story today.  And it might be a long one. You know a story is going to be good when it starts with a Zippo.  But more on that as it comes along.

This quarter has been killing me.  But I finally sucked it up and went to CAPS for help, which I desperately needed.  And what do you know, it helped.  Hopefully it’s a resource that I’ll be able to continue using.  It’s done a lot of good for me.  But let’s see if I make it through this quarter with my grades and soul still intact.

So much to talk about, and I’ll save it all for later.  I’m just happy that I’m actually updating this blog.  It’s a huge step forward for me.


September 14, 2010

Totally unappropriate, perhaps, but I still love it.

These comics are genius. And so many puns and history references!  The T-Shirts even more genius.  I mean, “Death Camp For Cutie”? ” I ❤ Juice”? “Heilvetica”?

I’m gonna continue to enjoy these.  Feel free to do the same.

Losing Humanity

September 8, 2010

I’ve been meaning to write this, but I’ve been putting it off for about a week.

My grandmother (paternal) died yesterday morning.  A week ago I got a call from my Dad saying that she was in the hospital because she had a stroke.  He couldn’t give me any more information, but needless to say I rushed into the hospital to check on her.  She was sent home the next day to be put in hospice care “to wait”.  What had happened is that she didn’t have a stroke, but more a brain aneurysm.  A bleed had started deep in her Right Frontal Lobe, the hemorrhage had doubled in size in 24 hours, and despite minimal risk from surgery, it was deemed that little could be done to restore function, much less improve quality of life.  She was sent home with an active bleed.  For those of you who know a little about medicine or have watched at least one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, this means eventual death.

So what happens when she gets sent home with only family to watch her?  They ask questions of the one person who knows anything about medicine.  And I become the doctor, in effect. This is where I began to notice something.  When “playing doctor”, it wasn’t hard to see my Grandma in that state.  I checked her vitals, evaluated her, and did what I could to ascertain her situation.  Clinical distance, or clinical detachment, became a defense mechanism.  As soon as I reached a point where playing doctor would be redundant, everything would hit me again.  And so I delved into the medical aspect of her death more and more.  Looked up answers for family members.  Reassured them using what I know about End-of-Life Care.  Gave a tentative timeline.  It kept me safe.

About this time is when I wondered if I was losing my humanity.  If medicine had made me cold.  What if medicine sucked the life out of me? What if it stole my compassion and empathy?  Maybe instead of Doctors not having compassion or empathy, they had it and it was taken from them by their job?  Dad and I started talking about how we were dealing with it, and he asked how someone could just watch someone go like that.  I started talking about the various times I’ve seen someone is horrible shape, or dying, or even dead, and talked about how in the moment I was able to take myself away from it and focus on what needed to be done.  I said it was a skill that you have to develop to treat people and to not get lost in everything.  This is the moment I really realized what I had been doing, and when I began to feel badly.

On Monday I visited her for about the 5th time, and I was told that her kidneys had shut down.  Well, they assumed.  I confirmed it.  I checked her pulse, and I found that where her blood pressure had been hypertensive the whole week, I could barely feel a radial pulse.  In other words, her systolic (top number) was around 80.  Her brother asked me what I thought, and I told him “It’ll be today, sometime.  Hopefully, for her sake.”

I saw Cheyne-Stokes breathing for the first time.  I had to explain apneic episodes to my family (they thought she might have died the night before because she stopped breathing for about 30 seconds).  I said my goodbyes and left.

My Dad didn’t come home until 5 in the morning.  I woke up and asked him how he was doing when he finally got up.  He told me that she had died around 4:30 in the morning, and that he just couldn’t watch it.  I cried, and not just because he cried.  I cried because despite my knowing that it was coming more than they did, I wasn’t ready for it.

I’m not sure if it’s completely sunk in yet.  But I don’t think I’ve lost my humanity.  At least not yet.  But I worry about it, sometimes.

Since yesterday I’ve been going over mortality in general.  I’ve legitimately thought about what would happen if my parents died, or what will happen when I die.  All of the cliches about death went through my mind, and I just let myself go with it.  Maybe it’s how I ultimately deal with it.

This whole experience is completely new to me.  I’ve lost both of my maternal grandparents already, but I wasn’t close with them whatsoever.  I barely remember my grandpa (the last time I saw him I didn’t even realize it was him until about halfway through his visit, and I barely talked to him), and my grandma was an alcoholic, and I only have a handful of memories of her.  When both of them died, I was sad, but I never felt like I was appropriately sad.  I cried more when my dog died than when either of them died.  And yet this grandma practically raised me.  I spent more time with her than with any of my other grandparents.  She made me the bookworm I am today.  She got me interested in my Family Tree, and always told me stories.  Whenever I hear the word Grandma, she’s the person I think of.  And I actually regret how things have been the past few years.  When I became a teenager, I didn’t want to hear her stories anymore.  My Grandma was the epitome of garrulousness, but when her Alzheimer’s started taking it’s toll, she stopped talking because she didn’t want to give away the fact that she didn’t remember things.  And so I spent less and less time with her because it felt like I wasn’t spending time with her at all.  How I wish that now I could go back and slap the hell out of 13 year old me for not listening to her; she was probably trying to tell me an interesting family anecdote that I would love to know now.  But I can’t, and I have to come to terms with that.  I suppose it’s part of living.

My Mom asked me a few months ago “If you don’t believe in God, then what do you think happens when you die?  I like knowing that my Mom and Dad are in heaven watching over me.”  I replied with something completely off the cuff, because I had never thought about it before, but it still makes complete sense to me.  “Well, a strict scientific view would be that the Carbon atoms that made each of them up are still in the world today.  It’s the closest thing that science has that comes to reincarnation, and it gives me some comfort.  Knowing that what made them is still in the world, and could be in another living thing, that’s comfort to me.  It means they’re still here, in some sense”.  It’s how I deal with it.  I know that that’s a general (and possibly loose) interpretation, but it’s more or less true.  The carbon atoms aren’t going anywhere (for the most part).  And until I see another naturalist way to find comfort in death, this is what I’m going with.

Last thought before I wrap this up: What Sarah Said, by Death Cab For Cutie has one of my favorite lyrics of all time.  The line is “Love is watching someone die… so who’s gonna watch you die?”

After this, and after talking to my Dad, I think it’s more flexible than that.  I would say that sometimes love is not watching someone die, just because it hurts too much to see that person suffer, or to see them go.  Even now, I wonder if I could watch the very closest people to me go.  Let’s just hope that that will remain a mystery to me forever.

RIP Grandma.

Defining Tolerance: Follow Up

September 4, 2010

Before anyone says anything, I don’t agree 100% with all of his comments.  However, where I do agree with him, I feel he makes great points.  For instance, if you own the land, you can do anything you want to with it as long as you aren’t breaking the law.  Or how just because you may find an idea or anything else repugnant does not mean that you can keep it fro existing.  Or how both good ideas and bad ideas have been unpopular, and unpopularity (or intolerance, I would say) should be a criterion for taking someone’s rights.  Plus, he angrily cusses… a lot.  That just made me happy.

Sadly, though, it seems as if the people who yelled the loudest in this situation were the intolerant ones.  But if history has taught us anything, it’s that sooner or later the right thing will happen.  Tolerance does increase over time, and the younger generations are more tolerant, more accepting, and less ignorant.

On a side note, as much as I despise the man, I do have very significant problems with the current screaming and yelling over Glenn Beck’s religion.  The man who was (and is, to a very large extent) a voice for many is now being discredited by his peers and even followers because he’s a Mormon.  Worse yet, his Mormonism is being compared to Islam.  The phrase “Mormonism: America’s Islam” has been thrown about in print in one form or the other at least 5 times that I have seen.  What happens when you combine ignorant Christians who believe that Islam is dangerous with the trope that Mormonism is a Satanic cult?  Well, my imagination doesn’t have to run wild to figure out the likely outcome.  Hell, even I was taught that Mormonism was a Satanic cult.  I know better, obviously, but that idea was planted in my head a long time ago, and for people who don’t know better, that can be an issue.  Again, intolerance at work.  It’s Modern American Politics.