Saturday, December 29, 2007

excercising caution

for the past four years i've been living in atlanta i have spent enormous amounts of money. at the time, it made sense; i needed a new pair of pointe shoes or that one MAC eyeshadow that i rarely ever wear. maybe if i would have taken the time to think about what i was getting myself into, ahem, debt.... i probably wouldn't have bought that trivial shit.

but this is my life. take the time to think about something before you do it and the repercussions aren't that bad. no, no. i still have not yet learned this concept, instead indulging my desires at the time they strike. but what's the line of being thoughtful to becoming overly-cautious? my free spirit cancels all that out. i can't seem to get to the medium.

my old apartment was located in Inman Park, a quaint and quiet neighborhood right outside the city. it's probably one of my favorite places in all of georgia, with it's gnarly oak-lined streets and huge carosel houses with pillars and hand carved crown moldings that line all the porches. i could walk to a number of small boutique restaurants with great wine lists and gourmet menus, and it holds my favorite coffee shop where i am currently writing this post. they have an annual festival every spring in which local artists display their work inside little collapsible kiosks, and the open container law becomes null and void, as people get drunk listening to the live musicians and buy antiques that have been painted in electric colors for their kitchen. i have never met someone in inman park that was not incredibly nice and helpful. it seems that everyone here has a little bit of a pleasantville syndrome, but i don't mind cause everyone else in atlanta has a little bit of a fuck you i'm a dick syndrome. i prefer the former over the latter.

my apartment complex was one of the oldest in atlanta. inman park itself is ancient, so i guess that makes sense. but the difference is monumental... all of the gigatoid houses in the neighborhood have been gutted and restored, even though most retain the same frame that was built hundreds of years before. they look like the pictures of themselves from the first famiies that moved into them in the early 1900s, but at closer inspection have been outfitted in stainless steel convection ovens and hidden track lighting with dimmer dials. elizabeth terrace looks as if it hasn't been touched since the civil war, with it's musty smell, ivy covered walls, and rusted metal fire escapes on either side. i could put a golf ball at my front door and watch as it rolled into the living room. the floors were the original wood, a beautiful strong mohagany that would attack your foot with splinters if you opted out on shoes. there wasn't central heat and air, but two dilapidated wall units in every apartment, one in the bedroom and one in the living room. mine leaked so bad that if i wanted a nice breeze all the shit i had around it would be sopping wet by the time i woke up. there were spiders that lived in holes in the window frames and my fire alarm would go off everytime i cooked, wether it was tea or a casserole and it stood right next to the train tracks so every morning at five am when the trains switched cars it woke you with a sound equivalent to that of a small atom bomb... it was a piece of shit with lots of character, and it was the best apartment i have ever lived in. i was sad when i had to move out, and let that period of my life go.

everyone in the apartment complex was screened by the manager, bruce. bruce was a small man in his early sixties who drove an old two door beige mercedes and talked in a heavy southern drawl. at first glance he seemed to be somewhat of a square, with his brown horn rimmed glasses and responsible slacks, but when you visited his office you were greeted with warrants for arrest and mug shots of a younger bruce with more hair. i guess he was a bit of an activist in the sixties and was notorious around atlanta police stations for being a threat to the hierarchy. bruce loved me, though, as i soon found out his duaghter was a ballet dancer for much of her life and he has an affinity for anyone who reminds him of her, as he wasn't able to see her that much because she had long since moved to hawaii. so i was in like flynn, and because i paid my rent on time every month and was considered to be a quiet tenant, he cut me some slack on my rent expenses.

everyone in the building was alot like me. there were only twelve apartments, so i assumed that i would eventually get to know everyone who lived there, but we all kept to ourselves so much that i ended up not really knowing anyone at all. there were a few faces i reconized passing at the front door, or that i said hi to when i got my mail, but for the most part even though they were nice they weren't sociable. that was fine with me, as i like my home life to be kept to myself and out of harms way. i lived on the third floor too, and beyond the occasional package i didn't get much traffic on a daily basis.

one weekend i was packing up to go home to orlando, and i was checking my list to make sure i didn't forget anything when i heard a knock at my front door. this was exciting for me, because of the rarity of visitors, and i bounced over and greeted my subject with a smile. it was a rather large and burly man who introduced himself as chelsea, and when i shook his hand i noticed he had some shitty tattoos on his forearm that made him like like a sailor from the forties. he told me he had just moved back to atlanta and was trying to get settled again, and that he lived in apartment 2 on the first floor. he looked as if he could bench press a tractor trailer but spoke with a small and indistinguishable voice.

"do you happen to have any change for the washer? i only have ones and i didn't want to go all the way to the bank just to change them out..."

did i ever - i have a serious ocd habit of collecting change. i will pick it up off the floor no matter if it's mine or the parking lot of a groacery store and save it in a small ming vase that rests on my bedstand. when i fill up the vase all the way i go to a coinstar and get it changed out to bills and treat myself to something special, like a tank of gas or some oreos. it's like a bingo jackpot, and i win every time.

"well, it's your lucky day, man, cause i got change for hours. come on in, let me get it for you." i let him inside and closed the door behind me, not thinking that it wasn't perfectly fine to allow a strange man into your apartment when no one can hear you scream. i got the vase and changed out his cash.

noticing a package of rolling papers on my kitchen table he said, "oh, you smoke? cool, i haven't really met anyone yet here and i'm always down to have a smoking buddy. hey, maybe did you want to come down and smoke? i'm just doing laundry and i'm bored, so..."

i was hesitant to agree but i did because i was being nice, but when he left and i got to thinking while i was packing up my car that maybe it wasn't such a great idea. i didn't know him and there was something unusal about him; he had a vacant look in his eyes the more i talked to him, like there was a void where his brain should have been. and why did he come all the way up to the third floor, and happened to pick my apartment out of the three other men that lived up there too? was that a happy coincidence that he knew i was the only single girl who lived in the apartment complex? no, something reeked about the situation, and i went to knock on his door and tell him thanks, but no thanks.

first mistake. i should have just left. but no, i am exponentially nice and do no have the ability to just leave someone hanging without an explanation. i walked up to the door, but it was already cracked, and he looked as if he was waiting close to the door so he could open it quickly, which he did. ushering me in, he said "come in, come in... sorry it's a little messy..."

messy? i could do a fucking white glove test on his shit and it would come up clean... the apartment was laid out alot like mine, but was painted a deep red and had art up all over the walls. "have a seat, i just need to let the dog out." he explained it was his girlfriend's dog, which made me feel better, like nothing was going to happen to me because he already had a woman in his life. but that didn't last for long.

i sat on the loveseat next to the couch, making sure that i was in a position that i could see where chelsea's hands were at all times. he sat on the couch and looked at me while i pretended to be really interested in the art on the walls, though i was silently trying to plan my escape. he said something about writing, and i told him that i was a writer and that's what i graduated with from FSU.

"oh, yeah, i have about 1500 pages of manuscript. i think i'm going to try and be published soon too."

one thousand, five hundred pages of writing? i write five pages and i'm done. that's why my novels have stalled fifty pages in. i just can't seem to find the time to do that. i remarked that the number was quite high, and that he must have been writing for years to be able to accumulate that much. and it was after his reply to this that chelsea and my meeting was met with flashing red lights and sirens in my head.

"well. i did some time, and i had alot of downtime, i guess you could say."

right. did some time? how do you just slip that in a normal conversation and expect to be met with anything but nervousness? i guess i didn't hide my reaction very well, even though i thought i did a pretty good job of keeping my poker face, and retraced his steps in a mildly frantic state.

"oh, i just freaked you out. it was a non-violent offense, you're freaked out, aren't you. are you freaked out? really, it wasn't anything..."

doing time that enabled him to write fifteen hundred pages of script told me that he didn't just go in for mortgage fraud. no, chelsea was someone that could do damage to people's faces or domesticated animals, and i was not about to stick around to find out. thanks, i'm all set on death.

"no, nah, i mean, shit happens you know? everyone has bad days, i guess..." i was trying to conceal the fact that i was in a threatending situation by keeping a straight face and even tone. but my bad days do not consist of going to jail for a long period of time. i nervously picked up the camera that was on his coffee table and wound the hand tie around my fingers a couple times. i have a tendency to look at anything but the subject when i get nervous. that's what makes me a better writer than a talker, and it's much less awkward.

"no, i freaked you out. i can tell...." he just looked at me and i opened my mouth to say that i was going to pass on smoking with him and that i was already late on leaving, but he beat me to it. "i don't really have any pot..."

now, after hearing this i was ready to get the fuck out. that's what he invited me down to do. "but i have some cocaine, do you want some of that?" no. no, i did not want some of his cocaine. first of all, it was around eleven in the morning, but second, really? really. i calmly thanks-but no thanksed it and my gaze was becoming erratic and frantic, looking for an exit. at this point the only thing i could see in my mind was his eerie vacant gaze from across the couch and watch in fear as his hand stealthily moved behind the arm of the coach and grab a sharp metal object like a fire poker stick or crowbar and swing it, smashing against my temple and dragging my body into the bedroom to skin me and make a people suit. i could hear my skull tinkling off my face like ice in a cocktail glass and feel the blood pouring from my lifeless eyes. this was on repeat over and over and over... i just wanted to get out.

he pointed to his camera and asked of he could do some and if he could take pictures of me afterwards. i jumped up from the loveseat and backed up towards the door, facing him and mumbled something like, "well, i think that i am pretty much set and i'm late for orlando, no one likes being late you know maybe i think i'll take a raincheck and we'll see when..." i opened the door (thank god he didn't fucking lock it, that would have been a different ending than what i'm about to tell you) and literally ran down the hall to my car. i didn't stop, i didn't look back, and i was almost out of the line of fire when i heard him calling my name, chasing my car down, dog on leash. as i slowed down he leaned into the passenger seat window and said, "i don't think we should talk about this again, okay?" his voice was small, but he growled this and his eyes had gone from vacant to fixed. i said "sure!" and got the fuck away from him.

leaving the parking lot was one of those surreal situations, and i ended up talking to myself for a couple minutes, making sure that what had just happened indeed just happened. i was pretty sure it did, but the more i thought about it the wierder it became. not talk about it. right. i couldn't have written that shit; it's too golden to be true. plus, i was alive and not a skin blazer, that's something to boast about.

about a month after that situation happened, we got a letter from bruce. he usually gave us heads up when maintenance was scheduled on the building but this letter was longer and had a big red WARNING label at the top. i read in horror about how a female tenant was accosted by chealsea but was eventually able to get away after calling the police on her cell phone. it said that chelsea had an a warrant out for his arrest and if he was seen that we should call the police immediately.

i was so lucky. i was so lucky that my naivety didn't land me in the hospital, or worse yet, the grave. i'm lucky to have had the mild experience. in bruce's letter it mentioned something about his arrest for domestic violence and rape, which easily could be very true, given his demeanor and height to weight ratio. i never saw him again, but i also never looked for him again, either. hopefully he was arrested and not able to get to me. who knows? maybe if he reads this post he'll get really angry at me and try to hit me over the head with a crowbar again.

but until that happens, i'll be fine over here in my apartment, alone, with all the doors lockes, excercising my caution. i like to stay in shape that way now.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

sharing everything by doing nothing

"i'm so smart its almost scary. i guess i'm a child progeny."

"most children are."

"... nothing."

"people think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don't realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world."

"isn't your pants zipper supposed to be in the front?"

calvin and hobbes is one of the world's purest, glittering shards of truth that has been offered up, ever. i don't give a shit that it's a seven year old boy who talks to his only friend, a stuffed tiger that only has eyes for calvin. or that bill watterson the creator has long since retired it from print.

it's an epitaph of reality through the eyes of a naiive but vividly realistic child, who's mind is the only tool he has to make sense of a garbled, pop-culture world.

i grew up reading these comics, in the newspaper and eventually, in the paperback books my mother would buy for my older brother and me once we found out they existed. it was the one thing that she had no problem forking over money for, even though they were simply nothing more than cartoons. it was an investment in me that she didn't know she was making, an equity that has stuck with me over the years, supplying me relief from my reeling mind. she liked the periods of silence in the car or at home when we would become immersed in calvin and hobbes two dimensional life, silently congratulating herself on triumphing over our constant bickering and creative insults we would throw at one another. it was a symbiotic relationship, the comics and my mother, and we collected them until watterson stopped printing the books when i was in the eighth grade.
i didn't understand alot of the material in the comics, though, even though i thought i did. but i also thought i was somewhat of a superhero, some sort of a golden child that had powers beyond what humans thought possible, like when i thought i could reach a jacket at the top of my closet and instead of finding (oh, i don't know) a footstool or even a fucking box, i tried to stand on a lengthwise framed glass picture of winnie the pooh, and ended up getting five stitches in between my first and second toes. or like when i ate a thermometer underneath the kitchen table. and even though my brother martin was classified as an actual genius, reading from the dictionary at age two and eventually being segregated from his peers into the "gifted" trailers because the standard for regular sixth-grade students fell way below what marty was able to do in his preschool years, i knew that someone had made a mistake in their judment. it was me. they just didn't test me for geniosity because it was obviously too blatently obvious. the whole family knew that, knew i was destined for greatness. and, here i am. obviously.

i can say that the time we spent with calvin was really some of the only times i remember getting along with my brother. marty and i were different beings, were placed on two different school buses for our appointments on earth. he was an actual genius, and i actually thought i was a genius. way different. he wasn't really a sociable boy, either, and awkwardly stumbled through sports my father so desperately wanted him to play well, his goggle-glasses making him a blinding example of failed youth organizations in left field. he inherited my mother's genes, making him tall and lanky, with no actual hand eye coordination unless it had something to do with a nintendo and hours to waste. he was cut out to read books and formulate complicated equations in the quiet and non-conflictual haven of his room, not look like kermit the frog running away from the ball down the basketball court to an unpopulated position. it wasn't until he found, in his junior year of high school, he like to row on the school's crew team that my father and him were able to settle the longstanding rift of a father longing to have a superstar athelete son. it may not have been football, but it was a competition and therefore acceptable to my father as some sport they could share together.

i, on the other hand, liked to pretend that i was a singer and dance around the living room like the diva i was to become. i played with my friends as much as i could, because i liked to be away from my suspiciously too normal household, and also because they would usually have the sugary cereals my mother refused to buy us. my parents enrolled me in some sports, and i bet i could've actually done well if i actually had given a shit. i never saw the point of chasing a ball down a court or a field and when i was chastised by coaches for being lazy i would wait until they turned around and squash their heads in between my thumb and middle finger. they deserved it, for talking to me like that. i guess they didn't know i was going to be their president one day. their time would come. i enjoyed to draw and paint and write in my time alone, and opted for ballet, the non-contactual storybook romance sport. most of my middle and high school years were spent reading about ballet and looking at pictures of ballerinas and drawing portraits of dancers. i was also bulimic, but that's not as sweet in comparitive evidence between youth and ballet. regardless, i eventually came to the conclusion that i would be the world's first superstar ballerina destined for world domination. i preferred being outside planning my ultimate takeover to being holed up in my room with my atari game system and no imagination, until i hit my teenage years, which i have dubbed of late as the medieval period.

in the years to come, my brother and i never found a path to lay straight on... he would tell my parents if he smelled smoke on me and i told everyone at school that he was so skinny because he was anorexic. he would correct me in front of people so that i knew where he stood (way over me) and later i would kick him in the leg so hard he would hold back tears. we did shit for the sole purpose of pissing one another off, and our quiet time with calvin and hobbes was now simply a distant memory of a forgotton friendship.

i have always been wary of my brother, first because i don't understand him, and second, because i feel in alot of ways, i may never. his intelligence is still off the charts, and mine is having a margarita at a mite bit above average. his life has been spent in libraries and smells of the dog-eared pages he's devoured in his quest to doctordum. mine has been spent daydreaming about what i will one day become, even though it has brought more questions. he will be married by the end of the new year, and i don't know if i'll ever find someone i'd be able to stand for eternity. but i have come to one conclusion.

i spent much of my life comparing myself to him. soon after i realized i may have jumped the gun on my intelligence, it was apparent that my penchant for ballet was nowhere in the ballpark of importance as his booksmarts. my grades were mediocre and it was fine. if he got a B in a class he was grounded. i concluded that i was not a genius as i first thought... i was actually just average in that department, and it was as if my worth plummeted to the ground. marty was expected to get straight As. i was simply regarded as never being able to. and even though it was me who came to that conclusion, without verbal help from anyone saying so, everyone's actions led to one simple point -

if you aren't smart, you really aren't worth a shit.

but. i will say. in the last couple of years that i have been alone, i have thought about this until no end. one year i came home from college and i was looking in my brother's closet for a tie to wear (because i was soooo concerned with fashion) and came across a bad version of a michael godard painting, with what i presumed to be an olive at the bottom of a perspectiveless martini glass. i asked my mother if it was hers, and she half-snorted and said, "no, it's your brother's. not much of an artist, huh?"

maybe, just maybe, could martin have been jealous of me when i was young? growing up drawing and writing and dancing and singing, being able to play sports when i didn't care about making anyone happy that i was doing so, getting by with mediocre grades because people knew i was an "artist". his awful use of color and inability to make a realistic martin glass glisten in the light above it told me more about my brother than he has and maybe ever will. yes, i'm sure he's happy that he's a doctor and that he worked his ass of to get there doing shit he's done all his life, but maybe when he see me he's jealous that i never did any of that at all, that i make under the poverty level doing something that i love, that i come home with black hair and tattoos because i don't ever want be someone in corporate america.

marty and i have this wierd bond of good and bad, of smarts versus arts... i've wanted to be him in all his genius glory and he's wanted to be me in my arts influenced psychosis, but when it boils down to it, the only thing we can agree on is that we are both smart enough to enjoy calvin and hobbes. who knew that psychology for the siblings soul lives inside the 2 x 3 captions in a dog-eared paperback comic book?