Forever Unclean

We found a dead cockroach on the living room floor last week.

Little did we know, that was the best possible scenario for meeting a cockroach, for if you meet a cockroach and it’s NOT dead, it’s scrambling over your dishes in the pantry as you shout every profanity you know with Megan screaming and hopping from foot to foot across the room while you fling all of the boxed appliances out of the cabinet onto the floor and you stare that twitchy motherfucker in the eyeballs and it unleashes its secret roach speed and sprints for the crack between the cabinet and the wall where you know all its family and friends are waiting, breeding, building whole roach civilizations in YOUR FUCKING WALLS that YOU’RE paying money for therefore only YOU have the right to live and have sex in them, and you know that if this roach escapes he and all his roach buddies will be back, they will have won, so you start bludgeoning the general area the cockroach is darting around in with the tool in your hand, a cup –

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This cup.

– until you manage to come down on its ass with such force that the blunt lip of the tumbler severs the bug’s disgusting head from its disgusting body with a mighty crunch and spray of bug juice and you fall back on your heels, panting, swearing that you will not rest until all cockroaches are still and dead and cold in the ground by your hand and Megan stares at you because she’s never seen your murder face until now.

Then, when you think peace reigns again in the kitchen, everything gets much, much worse. The cockroach head starts flinging itself around by the antennae and the roach’s brethren stir in the walls audibly for you’ve unwittingly given them half a dead cockroach body to consume (Cockroaches are willing cannibals, you see, and can also survive on an endless loop of eating their own shit. The life cycle and habits of the American Cockroach prove, irrevocably, that there is no god.). I ask you, which is more horrifying: the sight of a disembodied head rocking itself in a wide, panicky circle, or the scritch-scritch sound of an unknown number of enemy bugs in your walls?

Wordlessly, Megan and I agree that now we are at war.

Continue reading

Solitary

The hard economic truths of my life (No Dolla$, No Cent$) have made it necessary that I continuously live with a roommate, and I’ve gotten lucky because Megan is a special kind of roommate that cooks for me, allows me to coerce her into afternoon drinking and puts up with my…peculiarities. We’re approaching our five year anniversary, which makes Megan shit her pants, so I’m probably going to send a singing telegram or a stripper in a giant cake to her office to mark the occasion because I’m not afraid of publicly declaring how much I love paying for only half of everything.

Just another Saturday morning at our place.

These are your options: live with your parents, your significant other, a roommate or no one at all. The last option is frightening indeed, because it means those peculiarities I mentioned above have nothing and no one to keep them in check. Without a human reminder of how weird you actually are, these tics annex the rest of your life. I know this, because Megan has been out of town for five days. Continue reading

Death and the Office

My grandma died shortly before Easter. I made the trip back to Omaha. My cousin came by, and we taped photos of our grandmother’s life, most of the pictures previously unknown to us, on a science fair board. Scotch tape and cardboard. It stood in the back of the church for the next few days. I attended the visitation, rosary, funeral, acted as pall bearer, shook a lot of hands.  I flew back to Austin the night after the service, considering over the course of two dark plane rides, the legacy of dementia in the genes of my father and brothers and me, constantly fighting with my iPod as it churned out, unbidden, the saddest of my sad bastard jams. I wouldn’t cry, not while I shared an armrest with some fast food-smelling stranger.

I was up early the next day to begin the New Job, in which so much time and interviewing and cover letter writing had been pumped.  First days are a grim business. One has to be determinedly cheerful and friendly, exude an air of gratitude and aggressive industriousness that would make Willie Loman blush. This was to be who I was for the next few exhausting months.

I’d been smiling so long when I sat down with the creative director that even when shit started going south my face didn’t falter.

“Make this job the priority in your life, and you’ll be successful here,” he said, all steepled fingers and knitted brow across a conference table.

That, I think, was the catalyst. A small bloom of claustrophobic panic opened up in my chest. That a job that I took out of rent-paying desperation and a lucky knack for the business should become my life was laughable, but it had also unquestionably brought the exhilarating (and selfish) momentum of moving and running around for the last 6 weeks to a halt. Where there were open doors, there was now routine and a silent, soul-searching commute to bracket the parts of the day that belonged to them.

Is it coincidence, the constant convergence of these things (grandmother, job, death) in my head? How can I help but read my own future in all this shit, predict that these are the days that my rotten brain will play on a loop for me in, what?, fifty years? This is the present that will replay because these rote office days outnumber the days that can be counted as actual living. Is this what she saw, eyes open through the morphine?

FML DMV

I should know by now that I exist on a sine curve of karmic reactions. For every positive event, there is a corresponding low of equal magnitude. I moved to Texas with minimal hitches!! I landed a job!! Mad Men season 5 is on Netflix two weeks before the new season starts!!!! So many consequence-free happy goings-on….I have been feeling indestructible of late and for this, today, I have suffered. Foolhardy mortal am I to think that I could visit the DMV unscathed, unraped in my more tender orifices.

Behold this map showing the location of the nearest driver’s license office:

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Thanks, DMV.org, for shrouding your lies in a veil of gov’t legitimacy

If you’re thinking that looks suspiciously like a neighborhood, you’re correct. It is a neighborhood, and a cul-de-sac is no fit place for a government office. I was acting as navigator, Megan driving, and this fact dawned on us slowly. With each turn the houses became more hopeless, lawns strewn with more broken toys until at last the grass became so untended that we couldn’t even see front doors.”Peach Grove Road”, indeed. We pulled up to the address we’d been told by the internet was the correct and real location of a correct and real State of Texas DMV. Here’s what we saw:

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So about American infrastructure…

So. The unpleasantness had begun. A second consultation of the internet revealed that there was another DMV of a less dubious nature not too far away. Off we sped, still unaware that we had only just begun the downward trajectory of our karmic journey. We wove out of the depressing neighborhood into a depressing business district, barely escaping death from multiple blind people driving in whatever fucking lane they so chose and at whatever speed would result in the most fatalities. Apparently knowing HOW to drive is not a requirement in Texas. so I supposed we wouldn’t have to take any tests when we arrived at the DMV. Silver lining.

At last we spotted our destination strip mall. Could it be? Could the parking lot really be so empty at 1 pm on a Friday? At last, a turn of luck! The lines were going to be short, we’d be back to our lives in less than an hour! Megan and I trotted to the front door, laughing breathlessly about how silly the adventure had been so far. My hand was on the door when-

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Good Friday: a state holiday in 12 of the 50 states, who knew?

So this afternoon, while we’re all off work not getting our driver’s licenses renewed, let us observe not only Jesus Christ’s death and crucifixion, but also the Passion of Erin, who’s physical, mental and spiritual anguish this day hit an abysmal low.

Wild Wild Life

A few weeks ago I watched this video of lab chimpanzees being retired to a chimp sanctuary after fifty years of captivity. They had never felt grass under their feet. They stopped and stared at the sky for minutes because their whole lives were spent enclosed. They, full of caution and wonder, touched each other for the first time. It was moving and makes you want to club your fellow humans for being such assholes. (Feel the feelings here.)

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Why not me?!

I watched this video and thought, Man, that’s some serious emotion. Look at those happy primates just hanging out and having a good time and being FREE for the first time in their whole lives. I wonder what that feels like. I wonder if I’ll experience anything even CLOSE to that in this 21st century, hyper-connected world we live in…

With regret, I closed my laptop and looked away. I had a move to attend to, bills to pay and boxes to pack, a car making a shitty and curious noise, rent to make, resumes to update, cover letters to bullshit.This was the heavy price one pays for roaming and committing to hobo-dom. Ugly responsibility follows no matter where you go.

But I arose the morning of March 12th and knew something was different. On the wind was the smell of cigarettes, patchouli and beer. The air practically hummed with the collected bass lines of a million bands playing on patios throughout the city. Megan joined me on the porch and we gazed at the choked traffic of thousands of concert goers hoping to catch a Yeah Yeah Yeahs set. The meaty, sexy music times of SXSW had arrived.

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“But I don’t want to go among mad people.”
“Oh you can’t help that. We’re all mad here.”

 If we were better people we would have turned our backs on that scene right that minute. We would have closed the blinds and logged in to LinkedIn and found work. We would not have filled water bottles with vodka, applied sunscreen and cute underwear and walked to the bus stop. We would not have followed the trails of cords and amps like bread crumbs into the hellmouth that is 6th Street. We would not have returned day after day to revel and forget what bands we’d seen, to wonder where all the bruises came from, how we got home at 4 am, why we were so tired, who was texting us from that number.

But we were captive chimpanzees until that morning. What were we supposed to do – climb back into our lab cages and ask to be shot up with carcinogens again? (That is a mild description of what job hunting feels like, yes.) We had to stare into the sky because we’d never seen it before! We had to day drink and dance and get put on lists because when was I going to have zero obligations to attend to for five whole days again?

I’m stiff and tired. I still have no job. There’s blood from a mystery wound on one of my t-shirts. But I have no regrets. This monkey went to heaven last week.

Pack That Ass Up

The best moving advice I ever completely rejected was that I should sell/trash all my possessions and buy new things where I landed. But I was like, look at my stuff! I refinished that coffee table and bureau, I reupholstered that chair, I made that painting! It’s been 10 long years since the collected furnishings of my life have been in the same COUNTRY. Now is the time to feather my glorious, mismatched nest. Now is the time to pack. Marvel at my latest efforts:

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fat stacks

In the dead of a winter’s night, that crap was Tetris’ed  into a 6’x7’x8′ cube for to send to Texas (IT’S GO TIME). This is a packing masterwork; the photo doesn’t begin to do it justice. You can’t see the boxes cleverly stuffed into bookshelves, or how, like a true professional, my wall art is secured between the mattresses so’s not to be broken on their journey.

Like all great art, this piece was also an outrageous pain in the ass. It wasn’t even the furniture that was the problem. It was, and try not to judge me for this, my relentless book habit. It’s been growing, unchecked, for twenty years. It’s old fashioned. It’s a waste of space. It’s heavy as balls. It’s super flammable. It’s the only thing I actually care about in the world and it has made me a very smart person that uses a lot of words to express herself.

My greatest achievement will one day be owning a library with a wheelie ladder.

I haven’t inventoried my library in years. I’ve felt too guilty about it; I know I’ve been greedy. Over time I’ve squirreled novels away in boxes of kitchen gadgets, in my underwear drawer, in purses. I have no idea where they all are anymore. And still, at the end of the day, I was able to round up eleven (11) boxes EXCLUSIVELY of books. That’s 11 boxes measuring about 2’x2’x1.5′ – that’s 6 cubic feet, 11 times. (Right? Someone check my math.) It seemed wise to let Megan know a metric ton of knowledge was about to descend on her living space. She said not to bring it all. I’m bringing it all. It fit in the cube.

Eventually Megan will escape our living arrangement and I can use her room to hoard more books. I have, after all, mastered space-saving stacking techniques. I’m prepared to be the old lady from Fahrenheit 451.

No reeeeegggggrrrrreeeeeeettttttssssss…..

Good God, someone please buy me a Kindle.

Something In The Way She Moves

It happened – I gave my boss my notice. And as guilt-inducing as that was (see here for another example of how bad I am at telling people I Quit), I survived crying in a bathroom stall and emerged on the other side, a human being about to be unemployed and on the road, sans health insurance and care. Once again I’m filled with the complete Don’t Give A Fuckitude of purest freedom. Word has got around the office.

Me everyday at work, until February 27th

The inevitable reaction by every coworker of mine to the announcement that I’m moving to Austin next month is as follows:

Response One: “Wow! So do you have a job lined up?”

Answer: Nope! Pre-move job searches are for pussies, sir.

Here we have encountered a problematic mid-American assumption. Everyone in this neck of the woods worships at the altar of Stability. Stability is not a virtue, it’s a condition and a contagion. It’s the state of having your balls removed. Symptoms include total paralysis..

Read this book and tell me you aren’t terrified of suburban malaise too

I know how much work change is, how it requires constantly deluding yourself about grass being greener and adopting an optimism you don’t normally possess. Why do I need a job before I go to that place I want to go to? I don’t! Will a gap in my resume render me unemployable, dooming me to a life of cheap prostitution and eventual death by sex crime? Sure won’t! Will moving to Austin put me closer to the music, beer, art and people I want to surround myself with? It will! Will that content me? I’m willing to roll the dice. The lure of Stability is strong, and I can’t lie and say that I never worry about careers or retirement plans or owning a pair of jeans that cost more than $20. Choosing not to do something that might, MIGHT make you happy because you don’t want to try? That’s some bullshit laziness, that is.

Response Two: Coworker looks wistfully to the sky and sighs, “Ah, well you can do that. You’re young!”

Why so many wists? For what are you wisting? You’re 35, Tim! You aren’t old, and I’m not young, and you’re not a tree, move where you want to, son! Take advantage of those god-given appendages and follow the warm gulf stream winds of your desire that whisper, “…southbysouthwest…..southbysouthwest….” in time with your heartbeat.

This whole Do Things While Your Young initiative is ridiculous, and also goes back to the stability issue. It implies that you’re making a mistake you’ll need years to financially and professionally recover from. It forgives you your ignorance, while ringing with longing. The speaker of this sentiment once came upon the same roads diverging in a yellow wood that I’m pondering now, and they, sorry they could not travel both, settled for the one that was not Interstate 35, South. No shame in that, though this route just happens to lead to beardy men, food trucks, patio day drinking and rocknroll music. Or, heaven.

Is this the last stop the Erin train will ever make? Unlikely. But it’s a new one, and that’s all I’m looking for. Quit your jobs and join me. Margaritas for everyone.