REPORT A PROBLEM
The anticipation of the first day of school is always overwhelming. Sifting through the catalog of academic choices. Picking an appropriate class schedule. Which classes do I need to graduate? Which classes do I want for enjoyment? Which classes fit with my job? Finally deciding on course selections. Then the anticipation builds as textbooks are purchased; fresh notebooks are prepared; and pencils are sharpened. Waiting for that first day. Will my teacher be interesting or monotonous? Will the class be challenging or simple? Will the grading system be based on tests or papers? Finally the first day arrives.
I was recently cajoled into joining an exercise program. When I first started I could barely make it through half of the workout. For example, the routine called for three sets of twenty crunches, after six crunches my stomach was burning and I felt like I was going to throw up. I never imagined completing all of the sets and repetitions of the entire program. After two months, I am now able to perform every exercise (albeit reluctantly). Now all I need is to not feel like a person shaped blob of jelly at the end of the routine.
I read way too much to ever be a confident writer. How can my prose ever compare to Edgar Allen Poe; my adventures to Thomas Perry; my future to Robert Heinlein; my quips to George Carlin; my fantasies to Mercedes Lackey; or my life to Maya Angelou? Every night I curl up with a book and enter a world of literary imagination. The greatest writers of all time are always just a page away. Therefore, I look at a piece of paper and this perceived competition locks up my brain causing every word I write to become an extreme effort.
She sits across from me enthroned in her office chair with adjustable levers. We all wait for her royal decree of retirement. The days turn into months as her mind deteriorates. Yesterday she forgot her password; our technician wasted two hours resetting the system. Today she reverted to her birth-tongue of Spanish, leaving the rest of us bewildered. Tomorrow will bring another gap in her memory and we will all respond to the slack her presence brings. She may forget the requirements of her job but she will always remember that sitting on her seniority will produce large paychecks.
Mass-production and consumer spending must obviously lead to individuality or at least that is what the increasing number of stores, such as Hot Topic, implies. At any local mall, you can now purchase a pair of flaming Doc-Martins, a pre-ripped/safety-pinned shirt, and a rainbow assortment of hair color, all of this conveniently located between the Gap and Cinnabon. Punks and outcasts used to shop (scrounge) in thrift stores and craft shops, but creativity is not necessary for today’s off-the-rack Goths. An entire ensemble can be compiled in minutes with the prodigious use of mommy and daddy’s credit card.
Today, the media had successfully filled me with enough fear that I am in mortal danger unless I have 911 at my fingertips. Fellow consumers finally convinced me that I must be available to society at any given moment. I entered the bastion of consumer desire to acquire this modern-day necessity. No less than six establishments demanded my financial support. I was led along confusing paths paved of rate structures, roaming charges, and additional features. Hours after entering the maze of telecommunications, I broke free to an exit using my new cell phone to banish the creatures of marketing.
CHEAPER THAN THE ZOO
The bats with their silver piercings and black eyeliner wait in alleys for their cave to open.
The bulldogs growl and bark at the other animals, safe in their group of dogs.
The poodles prance down the street in packs of four, bouncing their tails behind them for all the bulldogs to see.
The beavers work the dams, dispensing liquid, and hoping that the other animals will leave soon.
The owls perch in their nests, hooting out the meaning of who while maintaining their levels of caffeine.
And I? I just observe the nightly bar scene.
KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
During cold weather I huddle under my comforter trying to stay warm. Curious to this ever shifting blob, my cats explore, attacking the moving parts and leaping on the stationary sections. They quickly learn that a well directed "Mreow" will cause a hand, suitable for petting, to emerge from the mass. As the night progresses the structure becomes still, which is when Ngw and Prince play their favorite game. They climb the peaks of my body, fighting for superiority over my shoulder, bosom, or hip, leaving indelible bruises for the mountain to find in the morning.
My mother was told not to have another child. At the age of 42, her health was deteriorating and there was little likelihood that she would survive the pregnancy. But she wanted the child and abortion was against both her beliefs and her desires. Against her doctor's and her husband's wishes she decided to continue the pregnancy. Nine weeks before her due date, labor started, and she was rushed to the hospital. While trying to stop the labor disaster struck – Heart Attack. It took the doctors eight long minutes to remove the baby girl from her mother's womb.
The nurses immediately noticed that there is something wrong with the newest infant in the ICU. The little girl is responsive when touched, she cries when she is wet or cold. But when the intern knocked over a tray all of the babies, except for her, started screaming at the unexpected noise. As she opens her eyes for the first time the nurses know something is seriously wrong; the baby's eyes are locked into an unfocused gaze and they will not track light or movement. The doctors are summoned to begin a myriad of tests on the baby girl.
Unfortunately the child is healthy and will live, but what kind of life for someone completely blind and deaf. The mother also survived and heads home with the newest burden on the family. Her husband's anger is palatable, flavoring every activity in the house. He told her to abort the child; he told her it was too risky; HE TOLD HER SO.
Now look what her hubris has brought. Their boys, his boys, are already in college. His boys will be successful, but what of this useless girl? Her mother wanted her so much, let her mother have her!
The call sounds down the hallway, telephone for J, telephone for J.
"J, telephone, it's your mom."
The young man rushes down the corridor, expecting to hear news of his baby sister. Instead he hears news of his father. His father did what? How could his father walk out? It must be temporary; after dad has calmed down, he should come back. He has to come back. He will come back.
"Yes mom, please stop crying mom." "Of course I'll come home." "Don't worry about school; I am sure my professors will understand."
How could his father walk out?
J taps on the glass in the nursery, trying to get the attention of his brother. M finally looks up, smiling, with his newborn son cradled in his arms.
M emerges asking why mom and sister T aren't there. J tells him that mom was afraid that T would have a reaction to the smells of the nursery. M nods his head; smile diminished as he clasps J's shoulder, trying to give some comfort.
M has his family: his lovely wife and his brand new son. And J has his family: his dependant mother, and his disabled two-year-old sister.
AFTER THE SURGERY
"As you know, Mrs. N, these things are never guaranteed but we feel confident, that eventually, full sight will be restored to her right eye."
"As you know, Mrs. N, our earlier attempts created limited vision in her left eye but we were unable to improve upon existing conditions."
"As you know, Mrs. N, she will continue to need extensive treatments and instruction but we believe that one day she will be able to function in regular society."
"Oh and as you know, Mrs. N, your ex-husband's insurance will be lapsing at the end of the month."
"Mom, I think she can hear!"
"No, M, she has just gotten very good at lip-reading. Ever since the doctors corrected her sight she picks up on things so quickly."
"No, mom, I really think she can hear. Just wait, I'll prove it."
He runs to the kitchen and grabs the large copper stockpot and a metal ladle. He hides the objects behind his back as he steps behind his sister, waiting for her to continue playing. Then he raises the ladle and bangs loudly on the pot.
His sister quickly turns, one hand raised to her left ear.
“But mommy I don’t wanna go to a new school.”
“I know honey, but this is a better school for you.”
“But I don’t wanna. I wanna go back to my old school, all my friends are there, and Miss Dorothy, and Miss Alice, and Nurse Susan, and Dr. Silver.”
“I know honey, but you will make new friends and I am sure your new teachers will be very nice. Besides this is a regular school, you don’t have to go to a special school anymore.”
“But mommy, I thought special meant better than regular.”
“Not this time.”
INFERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
Visions of tax accountants dance in my head as I question my own judgement. I am an intelligent, meticulous person. I reasoned that I could complete my own tax forms this year. This was before I bumbled into the instructions for line 13 on form 8863:
“If line 11 is equal to or more than line 12, enter the amount from line 8 on line 14 and go to line 15. If line 11 is less than line 12, divide line 11 by line 12. Enter the result as a decimal (rounded to at least three places).”
During my first semester in college I felt it would be nice to get straight A’s. My returning to school was a struggle and I felt that the highest possible grade would be a sweet reward for hard work.
Now that I am entering my final semester at community college that feeling has turned into a compulsion. After maintaining A’s through 61 credits a lower grade is unacceptable. I have preserved my 4.0 through some very difficult classes. I have even used my grade point average to secure university scholarships. I now feel that a B would kill me.
My first serious relationship was during December of my sixteenth year. My boyfriend and I had such grandiose plans for New Year’s Eve, but my parents had other ideas. They limited our distance to 10 miles from our middle-of-nowhere suburban home. They refused to lift my ten o’clock curfew. They claimed that they were afraid of the drunks on the road. I decided to crawl out my bedroom window and join my friends’ pre-planned New Year’s adventure.
“Hey little girl, you have just run away from home, now what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to Disneyland.”
My mother would describe Mary as zoftig, Yiddish for big beautiful woman. Her full breasts and wide hips seem small compared to her smile. Her voice carries over a crowd, catching your ear. Once caught, her humorous dialogue keeps you from escaping. Mary’s laugh entices you to learn the joke. If given the opportunity, you should attend a bash with Mary because she shines as a drunk. When liquor flows free, Mary loses all of her inhibitions. This larger than life woman then transforms into a sexual diva, and usually ends up naked by the end of the evening.
I found a great new radio station, 97.1. For the last three days I have merrily bobbed down the road listing to artists such as Green Day, Tool, and Nirvana. The station hails itself as Tampa Bay's Alternative Rock Station – 97X. I however have just noticed a repetitiveness in their song list. Yes, they do play some great alternative music, but I feel they need to change their station identification to 97XY, as in the XY chromosome. After three days I have yet to hear a single song by a female artist, where is Garbage, Tori Amos, or Belly.
GOT ANY CHANGE?
Living in the urban jungle I pass at least three beggars a day such as the smelly man or the legless veteran. I have become very good at methods of avoidance; I have found it very easy to say no.
But today while getting gas a man stepped out of his van and asked if I could spare a couple of dollars for gas. This request was so specific and so obviously needed that I ended up filling his tank. I guess I am a nice person after all, just don’t tell the vagrants in my neighborhood.
Why does every single scholarship application require unique essays and original letters of recommendation? I am quickly running out of college professors and I can’t exactly ask them to write a letter of recommendation in triplicate. The essays are even worse: Describe your favorite historical figure. Give a brief overview of your community service activities. How can college students today improve the environment?
I am a returning college student trying to complete my education. I work full time, go to school full time, and don’t have time to write award-winning essays. Someone out there … just give me money.
Tonight’s gallery opening featured erotic art, including a performance piece by artist Nathan Naylor who hired a local “model” to assist in the work. After gyrating around, the “model” performed some truly amazing calisthenics. She then removed all of her clothing, including her black vinyl thigh-high boots and her purple bra and panty set. Finally the artist returned to cover the “model’s” body in Vaseline and plaster casting. The art finally became apparent as the audience closely examined the “model” while waiting for the mold to dry. I guess there is no six-foot rule at an art gallery.
Changing signs delineate the life cycle of the building.
Room for Rent: As an ever-changing populace crosses it's threshold the house deteriorates.
For Sale $30,000: Now vacant, weeds and vagrants are the house's controlling forces. The building has become a meeting hall for the undesirable.
Fire Line Do Not Cross: A garbage-can cook-stove was knocked over in the mists of a crack-party leaving only an empty shell of a building.
Condemned: To eliminate a potential hazard the city has claimed the house.
Geraldi Construction: Purchased for back taxes, the house has received a pardon.
For Sale $250,000: Re-birth.
Your plastic bag of rainbow colored pills worries me.
Your gruff attitude and cheerless face worries me.
Your exclamation of pain from simple touch worries me.
Your insistence upon "nothing wrong" worries me.
Your forgotten list of doctor's instructions worries me.
Your fitful sleep and exhausted days worries me.
Your lack of appetite and drastic weight loss worries me.
Your doctor's appointment after doctor's appointment worries me.
Your withdrawal from my contact worries me.
So I hover, and I question, and I prod, and I bother, and I pester, and I smother, and I probe, and I worry.
The Assistant General Manager of Pop City started the interview by giving me a tour. The place was wonderful, large rooms filled with games, separate section for billiards, full sit down restaurant, and enclosed dance club. Later, while offering me a position, the AGM referred to my previous employer, GameWorks, located in the party capital of Tampa.
"At least you won't have to work in Ybor with all of those purple-haired freaks."
I immediately stood up, let my hair cascade out of its bun, and walked away, giving the AGM a full view of my long brown-and-purple hair.
What is this crimson tide that encompasses the streets? Police are on the scene to control the overpowering mob. Paramedics are on hand to help the injured. Screaming can be heard from miles away. Mayhem has been projected to the farthest reaches of society. Emotions run high as 120,000 people gather to chant the immortal words “TAMPA” “BAY”. What has induced this fervor and fanaticism? What good and worthy cause has produced so many citizens? Could it be a political protest, a cry for action, a show of patriotism, an act of war? No, it must be football.
While perusing the bookstore I noticed I was being stared at – by a magazine. The cover containing one very large eye provoked my curiosity and I grabbed for the periodical. While flipping through the pages I noticed something unusual; there was no advertising. I closed the publication and read the title, “Adbusters”. Then re-opened it and started reading an article about “Gap Tag” (object: get to the back wall of the store without being greeted by a Gap employee); enlightenment ensues, this is an anti-consumerism, artsy-fartsy, environmentally-friendly, vegetarianism-pushing, high-gloss journal.
So why is it available at Barnes and Nobles?
CHURCH OF WAL-MART
I dreamed that Wal-Mart had become a religious organization. There are nightly prayer meetings in the snack bar and Sunday bible study is taught from the Wal-Mart brand New Testament. If God’s weekly demand is too much for a patron, they can always visit the sister-divinity Sam’s Club, where absolution can be purchased in monthly packets and Year-at-a-Glance Holy Day Prayers are available free (with membership). Some branches even operate shelters for the destitute where the homeless are given a clean bed in exchange for working in the church store. Wal-Mart’s Motto: Charity begins with store credit.
IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY
A 2000 sculpture by Wim Delvoye, Cloaca, can be said to imitate life. This large contraption of steel and glass performs the same function as a small infant, transforming food into excrement.
Artist Damien Hirst also toys with the concept of life. His 1990 piece, A Thousand Years, showcases an entire life cycle. On one side of a large glass box is a breeding ground for maggots (life); once they have transformed into flies, they are drawn across the barrier (exploration) to a cow’s head (survival) placed directly below a bug zapper (death).
The Tip Jar