Category: rants and raves


…get out of The Woods.

But let’s back up. A few weeks ago Jimmy, the boyfriend of my neighbor Angela, sold me a window unit air conditioner that belonged to his recently deceased mother. I put it in my bedroom window and have been sleeping better than I have in years.

This is the third summer I’ve lived in this apartment complex. It was built in the 1950’s, presumably by workers on loan from the local chapter of the Special Olympics. On the ground floor there is a single unit that has heat and A/C, similar to what you see in hotel rooms, but older and less efficient. The bedrooms are upstairs, with no A/C, and windows that slide horizontally rather than lift up. Of course hot air rises, so the ground level unit doesn’t do jack shit for the bedrooms, and putting anything in the window requires a solid understanding of architectural physics. Essentially, I placed the window unit on the window sill, one bracket pushed up against the wall and the other against the sliding window. I slid a piece of plexiglass into the window frame to weigh down upon the unit. I then filled in the cracks with foam insulation tape and covered almost everything in duct tape for extra security. Fun times.

The first summer I lived in this complex was bad, but mostly bearable. Last summer had several days that topped 100 degrees, with nights when it was still in the 80’s until dawn. I got physically sick on numerous occasions, getting headaches, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It was then that I hatched the plexiglass idea, and I was determined that this year things would change. And it’s been great – like I said, I’ve been sleeping like a baby and things seem wonderful. Or they did, until the other day.

I got a letter in the mail from my landlord saying that window units were not allowed. Friday morning I called up to the office with the intention of telling them how secure it was, and how I didn’t have to drill any holes or do any modifications, so therefore didn’t violate anything in the lease. Evidently none of this matters as much as how a unit looks hanging from the window. To quote the property manager, “If everyone had window units hanging out this place would look like the hood.” Nevermind the fact that it is the hood. I offered to pay a fee, but they still wouldn’t budge. I told them how last year I was physically sick from the heat, but he assured me that since there are 190 units and only two have installed air conditioners, there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to cope with the heat like everyone else. He said that one option some people choose is a portable A/C, but those typically cost around $300, still require feeding a tube out the window, and don’t cool nearly as well. When I brought up those objections, he had the audacity to suggest I should start looking for a new place. Three years as a tenant in good standing, always paying my rent on time and never causing any problems, and that was as close as he would come to a compromise. So I told him I would find a new place, but I planned on leaving the unit in the window until I move out. He said that if that was my choice, then they would send a notice and I would have seven days from then before they began the eviction process.

This long phone call ended up making me late for work, but it didn’t matter. When I got there I was still so worked up I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I told my manager what had happened and asked if I could just take the day off to calm down and look for a new place. I came home and hit up Craigslist and started searching. I ended up going to a rental office downtown and applying for a trailer in Woodfin, so in 3-5 days I should find out if I’m approved or not. Then I went by the complex I nearly moved into before this one to see if they had any open apartments. There was a note on the door saying the office manager would be gone until Tuesday. Then I went to my bank to see if I qualify for a personal loan, so I won’t have to do a cash advance on my credit card to pay for a new place and a security deposit. I’ll most likely find that much out on Monday, which will determine what I’ll do next.

My roommate was pretty pissed when I told him all of this. Not that I really care about his feelings anymore. He constantly uses and consumes everything of mine without asking, and he is quite possibly the most disgusting person I’ve ever lived with from a personal hygiene standpoint. But he is a pretty nice guy, so I’ve done my best to tolerate his shit and convince myself that the problem isn’t him, but my own OCD. So I told him I would pay for this coming month’s rent to help him out and not leave him in a bad place on such short notice. Tomorrow morning I’ll go down to the office and give them a check dated for Friday, which is when I get paid. I’ll find out the absolute last day I can keep my A/C before they start to evict me, and take it down at the last minute. Hopefully by then I will know where I’m living next, maybe even have the keys to a new place so I can sleep in a cold bedroom there instead of sweating it out here. After work and on my only day off I’ll do a bunch of packing and moving, and if I need to a friend has agreed to let me store some non-essential stuff at her place.

Also tomorrow morning before work I will call a few other places that weren’t open on Friday. There’s a string of “affordable housing” complexes in town, most run by the same rental agency, which is only open four days a week. The main ones I’m interested in are the apartments I mentioned before that I almost moved into, and a complex they just built in the River Arts District. The place I almost moved into had a waiting list, and by the time a unit came open I had just signed a lease at my current place. Hopefully they have something open right away this time, because it would be pretty much perfect. They have two bedroom units starting at $345 (only $70 more than what I’m currently paying) and the complex is really nice. It’s also right off the highway, so it might even be more convenient than my current location. The complex in the River Arts District is around the same price for a one bedroom, but a two bedroom is about $50 more. And then there’s the place I applied to Friday. It’s a trailer park, which isn’t ideal, but the location is good. The price is a little more, and a quick drive-by revealed that these are pretty old trailers. They couldn’t show me the inside because the tenants hadn’t moved out yet, but hopefully I’ll find a way to see it on my lunch break or something one day this week. As long as the inside looks okay I don’t really care about the outside, and if the other places have waiting lists this might be my only option.

I’m so sick of living with people, so that’s a distant last option. I replied to a Craigslist ad thinking it was for an apartment, but when I got there it became evident it was a room for rent. The guy seems pretty cool, but he’s older and the place smelled like smoke. He also has a big dog that doesn’t like new people. If that wasn’t enough, I just don’t think all of my stuff would fit in the available space. Today I attempted to go see a trailer out in Candler, not realizing just how far away it would be. I found the street but couldn’t find the trailer. The guy had said to call him if I had any trouble finding it, but I didn’t get any cell phone service from the second I turned onto the street until the second I decided to give up and turn back onto the main highway. I don’t like the idea of a half hour commute to anything, and not getting any service would make life inconvenient on so many levels.

After giving up and heading home, I decided to make a quick trip to Wal-Mart in Weaverville before doing my laundry. On my way home it began to pour, and all of a sudden my car wouldn’t get out of second gear. I put my hazard lights on and turned off the highway onto Merrimon and drove 30 miles an hour the whole way back home. I braved the rain and popped the hood, but didn’t see anything unusual at all. I waited a little while to see if the rain would stop, and eventually decided to just head to the laundromat. This time my car drove beautifully, so I have no idea what its problem was. This is the second time in two days my car has done something like that. Yesterday on the way to work my brakes squealed. Then they suddenly stopped and it braked normally. I attempted to take it to the shop just to get it looked at rather than take a chance, but they were too backed up to do anything because of all the people bringing their cars in before the 4th of July. So yeah. My car is weird. But I already knew that.

And that’s pretty much where I am now. I’m sitting in my cool, air-conditioned room (for now) not sure where I’ll be in a week’s time. I’ll still be working crazy hours at my shitty job, but I’ll probably be having to cut into them for a while so I can look at places and sign leases and all that good stuff. And hopefully I’ll have a car that will take me to all of those things without any hassle. If I have to bring my car to the shop, the only option is to bum a ride to and from work. By the time I get off work the last bus has already departed the station for Merrimon, and in the event I move into one of those places in Woodfin, the bus doesn’t go that far anyway. Maybe I’ll finally get a fat check from unemployment. Maybe I’ll get approved for that loan. Or maybe I’ll give up and decide that I’ve had enough of Asheville and its low wages, high rents, and hot summers. All I know is, I wish I could find this Murphy guy and teach him a few laws of my own…

 

Someone in my apartment complex drives a car with a bumper sticker that says “I ❤ Handmade!” (Obviously the ❤ in this case represents an actual heart symbol, for which there is no key on my keyboard.) The heart in question is almost completely faded from its original (presumably) bright red, and is now just barely visible. The edges of the sticker seem to have become brittle and started to chip away. Now I have no way of knowing exactly how long this sticker has been on this car, but the car itself appears to be a late 2000’s model – perhaps 2008 or 2009 – so I’m going to assume it’s been on there for about five years, tops.

My car is covered in bumper stickers. Every year, when the weather finally decides to stay warm for a while, I go through the process of scraping off old stickers that look like shit and replacing them with new ones. Over the years I’ve had some that didn’t even make it a year (Moroccan flag sticker from stickergiant.com I’m looking at you!) and I’ve had some that have lasted almost as long as my car (Who’s awesome? You are, OBX sticker from 2005 that still looks brand new!) But I can’t help but feel a sense of irony when I see the car with the faded “Handmade” sticker.

As my regular readers (both of you) know, I live in Asheville, NC. In addition to being the “cesspool of sin,” it is also the unofficial Hippie Capital Of The East. Everyone here is all about things that seem to preserve the hippie ideal – local businesses instead of chains, local food instead of stuff trucked in from three states over, organic and sustainable, handmade products instead of something from a factory, etc. While I have nothing against these ideals, I feel like sometimes we sacrifice quality for the sake of pleasing our guilty conscience.

The first obvious example would be the bumper sticker. What better way to tout your love of handmade products than with a sticker that will fade and deteriorate faster than the other ones on your car? This sticker doesn’t speak for the entirety of handmade crafts and goods – there are plenty of quality things produced every day that are head and shoulders above anything made by a machine. As an artist, my first default is to handmade paper over that which is produced on a machine mould. But in the cases where a handmade product is not superior to a machine-made one, should we continue to buy the handmade one just on principle? Chances are most people in Asheville would answer “yes.” That is the mentality that I’m protesting with this blog.

How about another example? My former roommate Sofia insisted on buying an organic and biodegradable dish detergent made with a fair amount of post-consumer content. It would barely even lather, and when the winter temperatures would dip, it froze inside the bottle and would not come out. I’m all about the principles of organic, biodegradable, and recycled. But if the product in question is clearly inferior, why should I use it? It doesn’t accomplish its most basic purpose. It completely fails at its raison d’être. I would much rather buy a dish detergent that wasn’t organic, yet produced a good lather, cut through grease, and didn’t freeze every time the overnight low fell to the mid 30’s.

In addition to supporting people and companies that make inferior products, we also form a very damaging paradigm for contemporary consumer culture. If you produce it, and appeal to the right emotions, people WILL buy it, regardless of quality. There’s a sucker born every minute. Go to your local grocery store and compare the price of standard onions versus organic ones. The organic onions routinely cost as much as double, yet every major food website that I’ve seen says that with a vegetable with a non-porous exterior like an onion, no pesticides enter the inner layers and organic farming techniques are completely pointless. But if you grow an organic onion, someone will buy it. If you make organic dish detergent, someone will buy it, even if it fails in every way. If you produce a handmade good that falls apart, it won’t matter, because people with guilty consciences feel like they’ve done their civic duty by choosing it over a competing product.

And now, let’s turn this personal and address the reasons that inspired me to write this in the first place. This morning, after an unfair “probationary period” in which my hours were cut in half without prior warning for mostly invented and irrelevant performance issues, I was fired from my job. I was working for a small local business. A business run by one person, with a small staff, that has become a local institution. Asheville is king of the “buy local” scene, with people here regularly cursing those who choose to shop at chain establishments and chastising them about how they feel chains are destroying the economy and forcing the mom-and-pop businesses to close. For the most part, I agree with these sentiments. But just because a business is local, does that automatically make it the kind of place you should patronize? Hardly.

The store that I worked at was notorious for several problems. As long as I was there, we had a revolving door of employees. People would either get fired, or quit on their own because they could no longer tolerate the owner and her attitude. She was also notorious for putting people in the position where they feel their only option is to quit. I saw that happen with two coworkers, both of whom were at one point in time valuable assets to the company who simply grew tired of the bullshit and stopped putting their all into their performance. When their performance dipped in the owner’s eyes, even if it was due to very legitimate reasons, (one of the aforementioned coworkers quit anti-depression medications cold turkey and can’t really be blamed for withdrawing when she refused his request for some time off because we were “too short-staffed”) she would amp up the criticisms and do everything in her power (especially tweaking the schedule) to make the work environment as unfriendly as possible.

In addition to personnel problems like these, we were notorious for the owner’s complete incompetence when it comes to ordering products and stocking the shelves. We routinely run out of things an art supply store should NEVER run out of, (black and white paint, pens, gesso, handmade specialty papers, artist-quality spray paint, etc.) and rather than order in advance and create any sort of back-stock, she would always let things run out completely, causing us to go a week without these items. There are several lines of products that for one reason or another she has chosen not to restock, letting the displays continue to empty until she can’t stand the sight of them and pulls them off the shelves. All the while, we would get shipments of kitschy craft supplies, (paper garlands, cheap-o enamel hobby paints, tie dye kits) specialty items that should logically only be done as special orders, (projectors, light tables, expensive top-of-the-line brushes) and displays of new lines that she thinks would be “neat to have” (a full line of Pentel technical pens) that would proceed to sell down and then never get restocked. If we were out of the item a customer wanted (or if it was something we didn’t regularly carry) we would offer to do a special order. While some customers took their sense of self-entitlement to the extreme (we have limited space and money, we can’t realistically carry every brand, which might include your favorite) most had valid complaints against this process. We should NEVER have to do a special order for a black Micron pen or a tube of white oil paint, yet all too often that’s exactly what happened.

Granted, I am not a businessman. I’ve never run a company, I’ve never been in charge of inventory for a company, and I don’t have a business degree like some people, who shall remain nameless. But unlike my former boss, I was in the store every day. I interacted with customers. I heard their complaints. I knew the things they asked for. When a store owner takes such a hands-off approach to running their business, it would only make sense to cede some control of the inventory process to the employees who actually run the store in your absence. It would make sense to refocus your business model and give more emphasis to your strengths, leaving your weaknesses to be picked up by other businesses that do a better job of things. It would make sense to do everything in your power to use what limited financial resources you have to stock the products that sell the most and are the most in demand. It makes no sense to complain about money and get aggravated with customers who just expect you to have certain staple items on hand, while simultaneously trying to compete with chain craft stores and toy stores and stationery stores that can do that much better than you can. At that point, you’re no longer providing a quality service to the local community. You’re doing what you think you should do, and forcing them to find ways to work around that. That’s the kind of mentality that forces businesses to close their doors for good.

So to make a very long story short, the “buy local” mentality suffers from the same sort of problems that plague handmade bumper stickers and organic dish detergent. There are plenty of local businesses that provide quality merchandise at great prices, quality customer service, treat their employees well, and are well-respected within the community. But there are also local businesses that don’t provide quality merchandise, can’t compete on prices, treat their customers like shit, and fuck over their employees. Maybe you’re too idealistic to see the forest for the trees. If so, then by all means continue to lecture me about how Wal-Mart is anti-union and sells sweatshop goods and you’d support ANY local business before you would a chain. But it’s this lack of peripheral vision that allows these businesses to continue to exist and continue with their ridiculous practices and policies. And let’s not forget, while it’s true that chain establishments have led to many a local business having to close, every chain began life as a local business. Before they were the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart was some guy in Arkansas who just wanted to sell stuff at a lower price. If we’re going to preach about how the free market will always prevail, then we need to back that up with our actions. Don’t shop somewhere just because it’s local. Shop their because they provide quality merchandise, excellent customer services, and treat their employees fairly. If the free market principles we always hear about are true, then the market will decide who lives and who dies. Businesses that succeed in all of those areas will prosper, and perhaps eventually grow and expand and become the gigantic chains of tomorrow. Businesses that fail in those areas will see their customer base dwindle until eventually they have no choice but to throw in the towel.

I’ve now worked for two local businesses, and I’ve seen a lot of what goes on in the background that customers can’t see. At the end of the day, by blindly supporting a local establishment regardless of their business practices, you’re ultimately just buying frozen dish detergent or a sticker that will fade and peel. Don’t be fooled by misguided ideology. Support companies that make the best products. Support businesses that treat their customers and employees the best. As consumers, we hold the power. We can change practices with our purchases (or lack thereof.) Investigate and inform yourself, and then choose wisely. If the superior product happens to be handmade or organic, that’s all the better. If the superior business happens to be a local mom-and-pop shop, great. But if not, don’t fool yourself and settle for inferior quality. That only unnecessarily prolongs things and no one really wins.

 

The past few days have been rather productive…

Thursday was my day off. I started by paying my rent and dropping a bill in the mail. Then I went downtown to talk to the ESC about my claim. They told me everything was processed, but evidently there’s still some issue with my claim, so I’m gonna have to call there before work on Monday and see what’s up. I got my letter in the mail and it said there was something wrong, and when I filed my weekly certification it said I wouldn’t be getting paid this week. I’m wondering if the fact that I’m still employed complicates things, or if maybe my boss is trying to fight it or something. Hopefully I can get it figured out soon, because still no bites as far as other jobs go.

When I got home I went on a cleaning spree – vacuuming the living room and my bedroom and cleaning the microwave. I watched a little television and then cooked a nice dinner. Then I went to work on some art. A while back my friend Cassidy asked me to paint her a puppy, so that’s what I did. I did a light wash on some Japanese paper, then when it was dry I drew a cartoon-ish puppy, his doghouse, and some trees in the background. It’s pretty cheesy looking, but I’m fairly certain she’ll like it. Then I started on another piece in my Musings Of A Predator Drone series, which I eventually finished Friday before work. Other than that, Friday was pretty uneventful.

Today I woke up entirely too early to go to Geekout, a convention modeled after the big comic-cons that happen all over the world. I met up with James and Nici there and we roamed around for a while. We were all surprised by just how small it was – they didn’t even fill up the bottom level of UNCA’s basketball stadium. Most of the booths were just people selling prints of their geek culture-themed artwork, and a ridiculous amount of nerdy jewelry. There was live music, but it wasn’t particularly good. There was sword fighting with giant foam swords, a few panel discussions on things none of us were interested in, and gaming rooms where you could pay to play in tournaments. After about an hour and a half we were bored, having walked by every booth three or four times. They left to go see a movie and I picked up a quick lunch and then took a nap. I went back a little before 5:00 for a “shadow cast” of Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. Basically it was a handful of people lip synching along while the actual production played on the screen behind them. The only one who was really in costume was Doctor Horrible, and while he definitely looked the part, he wasn’t particularly good at miming the motions. The guy playing Captain Hammer was tall and scrawny – he’s lucky if he weighs 100 pounds. He basically just wore a black t-shirt with a paper print of the Captain Hammer logo taped to it. The girl who played Penny was actually incredibly hot, and seemed to have a bit more personality than the others, even though her timing and lip synching skills weren’t exactly great either. They recruited people from the audience to do some of the non-essential characters, and in all honesty they did just as good a job as the supposed professionals putting on the production. Overall I’d say Geekout was basically a bust – a good way to kill a few hours, but ultimately disappointing and definitely not worth the cost of admission.

As of this writing I’m basically killing time before dinner, and then after dinner I’ll be going to a concert. The band Murder By Death is playing the Asheville Music Hall. While they’re not necessarily popular, they’re still a pretty big name for a venue that typically gets only local and regional bands. I told my neighbor Angela about the concert, and she looked them up online and decided she wants to go too. She’ll be bringing along her new boyfriend, and based on what she was saying, they’ll most likely leave early or right when it ends. While I’m not a huge fan of MBD, I really like the sound they have going on. Hopefully it will translate well and they’ll put on a pretty good show. I’m under the impression that any band with a cellist will make for an entertaining evening. James and Nici invited me to some burlesque thing at The Boiler Room, but it starts at the same time as the concert. Depending on when the concert ends I might swing by there and check it out, but probably not. I’ll more than likely just come home and veg out, in preparation for a nice boring day tomorrow…..

 

How about a little rant?

I’ve been an artist for basically my entire life. Over the years I’ve studied and learned different mediums, techniques, etc. I’ve read about artists, genres, and movements. I’ve been to countless museums and galleries. The arts, visual and otherwise, have always been a huge part of my life. I’ve absorbed so much of what I’ve seen, and it would be crazy to deny that I’ve been influenced by a lot of it.

In school I was forced to try mediums I didn’t like and to learn about artists I didn’t find interesting, all with the intended purpose of making me a better and more well-rounded artist. My learning didn’t stop when I finished school. In the years since then I’ve learned about countless artists and techniques that I never knew existed. Not to mention many new products and technologies that weren’t around even a decade ago.

When you add all of this up, it sounds like diversity would be an accepted part of being an artist. There’s so much out there, so of course you’re going to dabble in as much as you can. But for some reason, that’s the exact opposite. The art world wants you to find one distinct style and stick with it, and never vary your work more than one or two degrees to the left or the right. This has always infuriated me, and probably always will.

An acquaintance from the gas station where I used to work is an art consultant. When I showed her my website, she commented that my work was too all-over-the-place and that I should eliminate a few galleries and styles from my page. Last week I went to a gallery downtown and spoke briefly with the owner. He told me that the epic neoclassical paintings of gods and warriors in the main gallery were done by the same artist who painted the pretty bowls of fruit in the auxiliary gallery. The artist uses a pseudonym for the fruit paintings, because “if he used his real name, neither of them would sell.” A quick flip through any contemporary art magazine or a quick browsing of Deviantart will reveal that most artists these days just keep reworking the same images and styles over and over again until every piece by them starts to look almost identical. Having your entire body of work blur into one singular style is the name of the game.

But why is this so? If I’m influenced by and appreciate different styles and mediums, why am I wrong for wanting to work in those styles and mediums? If I have different ideas and emotions, why should I be expected to express them all in the same format? And when did it become this way? Contemporary voices in the art world seem to forget that there is an overlap between Picasso’s cubist works and collages and his “blue” period. Richter painted photorealistic candles and skulls at the same time he was throwing paint on canvases and painting squares of color. Artists have always experimented and developed, and their progressions weren’t always linear. But for some reason, these days we’ve decided you have to fit into a little box.

That’s really what it’s all about – marketing. If you stay within one style, you’re easier to market. If people can more easily understand and digest your work, there’s a better chance they’ll be drawn to it. We’re afraid of what we don’t understand. But if we can categorize something, we have power over it. This is the antithesis to what art is really about. Art is freedom. Art is expression. Art is power. It has power over us, not the other way around. As for me, I’ll continue to let art exert its power over me. I’ll continue to follow my muse wherever it may lead. I feel that when we’ve collectively recovered from this contemporary era of art where marketing is more important than talent, expression, and beauty, it will be whether or not you stayed true to yourself and to art itself that separates the great from the mediocre.

 

It’s nearly 2:00 am. I’ve just returned from Katie’s apartment. She has four cats, and her roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend both smoke in the house. I haven’t been able to breathe for quite some time and I itch all over. I just took a Benadryl. What better time to finally write my review of the past year?

Yeah. I’ll make this quick.

This year was pretty eventful. In January I got out of a long-term relationship. I’ve spent the past year chronicling my dating life, which has been mostly humorous. I seem to have found someone who isn’t interested in stupid games, but this post is about 2012, not this year.

It was a year of loss. In February I lost my grandfather on my dad’s side, three months to the day that my grandmother on my mom’s side passed away. In September I lost my other grandmother. I drove to Fayetteville for my grandfather’s funeral and saw how completely and utterly insane my family is. I decided to stay far away when my grandmother passed. In the interim, my aunt has severed all ties with everyone else in my family. She even un-friended us all on Facebook. Is it possible to “un-family” someone? Holidays haven’t quite been the same since then. I’m pretty glad I live on the other side of the state from her and the other nutcases I’m somehow related to.

On a professional level, 2012 was a year of triumph. In late 2011 I set a personal goal that by my birthday I would have my art career off the ground. I bested that goal by several months, putting together a website, a Facebook page, a shop, getting business cards printed up, and being booked for my first solo show in Asheville by the end of April. My show started in August and ended up running for over two months. I sold a lot of prints and an original. In November I was booked for a group show, and while that ended up being a disaster thanks to the complete unprofessionalism of the “gallery,” it was still something. Not only this, but I was given a raise and promotion at the art supply store, enabling me to quit the gas station, gain an extra day off, and not lose any pay. On this end of things, I really have nothing to complain about.

A lot else happened. I got sick a few times. I most certainly did damage to my liver. We survived another election campaign. Justin Bieber still exists.

In the end, it was like any other year. It had its share of ups and downs. I met new people and watched old friendships dissolve. I laughed and had good times. I got my heart broken. You win some, you lose some. But returning to the world of blogging has helped me to keep things in perspective a little better, and be the introspective sonofabitch I was designed to be. So far 2013 is off to a smashing start – a potential new girlfriend, a new roommate, a new bank account. But like any other year, there will inevitably be low points ahead. That’s really about all you can say about life. I made it through another year, and this new year will be one hell of a ride. Life is a journey, not a destination. I’m not sure if that was Coleridge or Aerosmith, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Benadryl is kicking in. The End.

 

Grandparents Day

Let’s do something a little different. Let’s have a bit of a heart-to-heart here. Tomorrow is Grandparents Day. As some of you might know, I no longer have any grandparents, having lost three in the span of ten months. I didn’t get a chance to see any of them before they died; I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

The cynic in me feels that Grandparents Day is just another Hallmark holiday, designed to sell greeting cards and flowers and diabetic chocolate and dashboard statues of The Virgin Mary. But speaking as someone who is coming from a place of loss, I know it’s much more than that.

If you still have grandparents, treasure them. When they speak, you shut your damn mouth and listen, for they know more than you do. When you’re not sure what to do in a situation, ask them, for they’ve experienced more than you have. Indeed, they have lived more than you have. They have forgotten more about this life than you can ever hope to know. Sure, you might think that they’re senile and cranky and out of touch – but they’ve earned their right to be all of those things and more!

The downside of having lived a long life is that it could end at any time. No matter how much time you have with your grandparents, it’s never really enough. A grandparent isn’t like a dog; when they’re gone you can’t just get a new one. They’re the only ones you’ll ever have, and you’d better make damn sure they know how grateful you are for that fact. In your words and your actions, constantly show them that you love them and appreciate everything they are to you and your family, for you never know when the day will come that they won’t be there. Grandparents Day gets lost in the shuffle, but you need to tell your grandparents how you feel, because there might not be another birthday or Christmas to tell them you love them.

This isn’t a chain letter. If you copy this and send it to twenty people your rich uncle in the UK won’t fly you over and let you stay in his mansion. And if you don’t tell your grandparents you love them, pretty much nothing will change, life will go on as always. But you know what will happen if you do? Your life will be FUCKING AWESOME because they will know how much you cherish them being a part of it! So get up off your ungrateful ass and hug a grandparent today!

Poppy, Nanny, Grandpa, and Grandma – I miss you all.

 

Boredom

I’m bored.

Like, really bored.

So bored I’m writing a blog about nothing.

I got home from work today and wandered over to my neighbor Crystal’s apartment. She’s been bugging me to introduce her to this police officer who sometimes works at the gas station. I knew he would be working tonight, so I went to see if she wanted to go ride up there. Her oldest daughter was supposed to be watching her youngest daughter, but was nowhere in sight, so she couldn’t go anywhere until further notice.

I made some dinner and lounged around for a little while. I grabbed my guitar and sat on the front porch playing, hoping neighbors would appear out of the woodwork and cure my boredom. But alas, ’twas not to be. I briefly talked to my neighbor Michelle as she was walking to her car. She was going over someone’s house for their birthday, and once again was not accompanied by her cute friend.

My roommate got home and went out on the front porch to smoke and chat with some of her friends. For some reason my body has just completely rejected even a hint of cigarette smoke lately. My nose fills with the smell until I can’t smell anything else, gets really super dry and itchy, and I find it hard to breathe. The only thing that seems to work is to blow my nose, take a few puffs of saline spray, and force myself to inhale something that smells good, like an air freshener. Then all the nicotine makes me feel jittery and sometimes I get a headache. I’m going to have to start shutting all the windows in the house, even though the weather outside is gorgeous and the perfect temperature for leaving windows open. The day she stops talking about quitting and finally does literally cannot get here soon enough.

But yeah, that’s pretty much all that’s going on. Mass amounts of boredom, a guitar, a lack of cute girls, and some cigarette smoke. Fun times. Mental note: find something to do tomorrow night.

 

I never really mind being single until I’ve spent some time around a couple. I mean, sure, I’d rather be with someone. But if I’m not, no big deal. I have friends, I have other outlets, I’ll survive. But for some reason, whenever I spend any amount of time around a couple (not just any couple, but a couple) I get super uncomfortable with my singleness. I feel extra lonely, and every moment of every day is filled with dread – what if I never find someone? What if I’m single forever?

My roommate and my neighbor (I like both of them, individually at least) have become one such couple. They spend a lot of their time together, and they often do couple things, like cook together. They’ve even gotten comfortable enough with their relationship that they’ve started with various levels of P.D.A. They’re too cutesy, and too joined at the hip. I understand that because of their triangular situation they can’t really spend any time at his place. But that doesn’t mean they have to spend all day and all night over here. Thankfully tonight they’ve gone out, so I can finally have some alone time. I’m still just as single when I’m alone as when they’re around, but for some reason it feels much more bearable.

I’m hoping my singleness might end soon. My neighbor Michelle is going to try to play matchmaker for me with her awesome friend Kat. Evidently she tried to get up with her tonight but she couldn’t get ahold of her. Obviously simply bringing her friend over won’t instantly change my status one bit. But over the past year or so I’ve built up this previously unknown level of confidence, and when we hung out last week we really hit it off nicely. So there’s probably a good chance I’ll at least get a date out of it. Whatever happens I’ll definitely be in debt to Michelle, I know I’m probably a huge pain in the ass. But yeah, fingers crossed…

In completely unrelated news…

The other day a course catalog from AB Tech came in the mail. I’ve resisted the concept of “going back to school” for a long time now, but I’m really sick of the world of retail. I was browsing through the online classes and saw a three level course to become a veterinary assistant. I’ve always loved animals, and while it probably wouldn’t pay any more than what I’m making now, it would be great to get out of retail and spend my day surrounded by animals. I sent an email to the address listed in the catalog asking if there were any prerequisites that I didn’t see listed, and if these three classes were all I would need to become a veterinary assistant. If so, I think I’ll go for it. The classes aren’t that expensive, comparatively speaking, and with it being an online class I wouldn’t have to worry about missing work. I’ll keep you posted.

In further unrelated news…

I have a painting that I’m attempting to sell CHEAP. I did it one day at work, I think I might have posted a picture on here. I used nothing but store-use supplies and a damaged canvas, so it didn’t cost me anything. I don’t really like it either. I figure if I sell it dirt cheap someone will want it. I might post a picture to Facebook and see if anyone is interested. If not I might end up giving it to Michelle as a reward for her matchmaking abilities. I guess we’ll see.

Aaaaaaand that’s about it. I’m pretty boring lately. The End.

 

We used to have a regular customer at the gas station who was an artist. He moved to the other side of town and we didn’t see him for a while. Then today (or yesterday, it’s after 3:00 AM as I’m writing this) he came in and said that he had a bunch of supplies and wanted to see if I was interested. I told him I was broke, and then he said he meant he was giving them to me. Evidently his mom took some art classes and then stopped, and now he has all this stuff. So he brought it by and my coworker and I divided it up. I snagged a canvas, a huge drawing board, a watercolor pad, a ton of pencils, an eraser, and some Sharpies. Not bad for free.

Hopefully my car will be finished tomorrow (today?). I called off at work, and I’ll take the bus to go get my car. Hopefully it will be ready fairly early in the day so I can try to get some stuff accomplished. In the next two days I need to get my pills from Target, bring some stuff back to the library, do some grocery shopping, pick up my stuff from the frame shop, and do my laundry. Add to that working on next month’s newsletter for the art supply store, finishing up a commissioned piece, and finishing up a few more pieces for my show. I can’t really imagine doing all of that on Tuesday, so having my car at a decent time on Monday will be a huge help.

My roommate picked me up from work tonight and mentioned that she was going with a friend to see The Hunger Games and invited me to tag along. As someone who hasn’t read the books, I’m really not sure what to make of the movie. I’m still processing stuff, and I’m way too tired to write a full review, but a few random thoughts…

  • The movie gives almost no back story, and as a result a lot of things don’t make sense. I understand it’s based on a book, and it’s part of a trilogy, but I shouldn’t have to read the books and stick around for the second and third movie for things to come together. If the movie can’t stand on its own then we have some problems here.
  • There was almost no character development, and the non-essential characters were reduced to sketches and clichés. I understand this is mostly the result of cramming a novel into the time frame of a movie, but that reverts back to my first point.
  • While I think it succeeds as an action/fantasy story, it mostly fails as a dystopian scenario. There’s no consistency regarding how much disbelief one has to suspend for the story to work. Some things are very believable, whereas others are not at all. For a dystopian future world to be convincing, minute details need to work. The story as a whole works, but there were too many things that didn’t, which made it hard to go along with.
  • I totally don’t understand the style of dress and homes in District 12. I understand these people are poor, but they don’t dress poor. They dress like they’re from another era. It would make more sense to show them in simplistic versions of the dress of the day. Instead we have this world of gaudy costumes, and this pocket of poor people who dress like mountain folk circa the 1920’s. It’s as if the filmmakers were trying too hard to show that they filmed this in rural Appalachia, or to show that these people were poor, or whatever. But it ended up coming out of nowhere and seeming like a different universe. Without a detailed back story this makes no sense and comes off more as a not-so-sly nod to viewers in the mountains – “hey these are your people!”
  • There’s also no back story regarding the names. Why do some people have very odd names, while others are more normal? Again it’s all about consistency, and this story has very little, at least when it comes to finer details.
  • Possibly my biggest complaint – the camera work was HORRIBLE. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen worse work in a major motion picture. I get it when they’re in the woods, running and chasing and fighting. They want you to feel like you’re right there in the action. That doesn’t mean it’s effective, but I do get what they were going after. But in a scene that is a simple interior shot? Why do we need a shaky cam for that? And what’s with all of the out-of-focus scenes? It’s almost as if they were purposefully trying to hurt your eyes. This made it a very hard movie to watch without feeling seasick. With a huge budget and capable people behind the camera, I just can’t believe this was allowed to happen.
  • As for what I did like – the action. The sequences are very well done on all counts (except maybe the magical dogs – WTF is that all about???) and you end up genuinely caring about the main characters. I also really loved that the country is named Panem – Latin for bread.

So yeah, that’s basically what I felt. It was an enjoyable movie, but not one that was easy to watch, follow, understand, or accept. Based on conversations with my roommate and her friend and other fans of the books, I honestly don’t think a lot of these issues are addressed in the books. From what I’ve heard, they go into more detail, but not necessarily the details that would make things click for me. As a fan of dystopian literature, this seems like a paint-by-number attempt. I got the impression that the author and/or the filmmakers cobbled together a lot of elements of various dystopian novels, added in a tough female lead and a love triangle, and hinted at a bunch of other directions without actually going there. As entertainment it works, but when measured against other works in this same broad genre it just doesn’t hold up.

So I’m bored. I’ve spent the last half hour Googling some of the claims the guide on the ghost hunting tour made. I can safely say that it’s a bunch of bullshit. And I’m not even talking about the ghost hunting aspect of things, I’m talking about the “historical” side that he so often used to back up what he was saying. So let’s see…..

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