Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mental State Review #1: FEAR

It started last night on the way to see "Rango."  I had smoked a little weed and was in the backseat of the car.  Wife driving, mother-in-law shotgun.  Conversation turned to Japan and meltdowns.  No one seemed to know what was, or is, going on.  Mother-in-law dropped a casual remark about radiation reaching the West Coast.  She heard it somewhere.  News or news radio probably.  After that, it was very hard to keep my mind on the movie.  This morning I woke up antsy.  Kept one eye on two kids, the other on the computer trying to figure out if there was anything to be worried about.

Here's what doesn't help: you're at Trader Joe's and the check out guy who sees you every Sunday and remarks how much your kids have grown ALSO is talking about how he is buying $100 worth of water today and making sure his shotgun is ready when he gets home from work.  Casual conversation turns to how I should be armed as well, on account of having a family to protect.

So like that, I'm thinking about guns and maybes.  It's gone now pretty much, that line of thought, and I have returned to my normal point of view that basically guns are magnets used to attract bullets, home invasions, and other acts of violence.  I may go back to the maybes when we return to Topanga and there aren't neighbors or private security outfits or cops within shouting distance, but for now it's not people that have me scared... at least not in the individual oh-no-they're-coming to get me sense.  More in the why-are-we-such-an-idiotic-species sense.

I'm afraid of a radioactive cloud possibly traveling 8,000 to me from a nuclear reactor that hasn't even melted down yet.  I'm afraid of the fact that I live in earthquake central and am trying to figure out how to run my errands and get writing done rather than getting the fuck out of here based on what happened in Japan and New Zealand only recently.  You read the fringe sites and they'll tell you that well, since a bunch of whales beached in New Zealand a few weeks before their quake, the mass fish deaths in Redondo last week can only signify the same thing -- though the fact that there wasn't any huge loss of  marine in Japan never enters into the conversation.

It's very strange to be in this semi-panicked state.  First, I really kind of can't be.  My wife said something very astute as I was trying to hold it together this morning.  She said: "imagine if the girls understood what you were saying."  Giving in to fear and hysterical thinking is, I think, something you have to give up when you have children.

I wonder why this is effecting me so much.  The economy doesn't, illegal immigration doesn't, muggers and serial killers and terrorists don't (much).  I mention these things because they're hot-button topics one sees on the news.  Right now I guess they are boogeymen.  But the Mayan calender doesn't spook me, and I may be kidding myself, but I feel like meltdowns notwithstanding we may be able to pull ourselves back from the brink of environmental catastrophe.

The only thing I keep coming back to is being a kid in the 1980s, which was full of nuclear anxiety.  How many magazine articles were there with colorful fallout maps?  Silkwood.  Three Mile Island.  I was at that No Nukes rally on the Great Lawn in '82, so I know from whence I speak.  This non-existent cloud is killing me, Jack.

And then there's this kind of quasi-emergency news reporting that's going on.  There are meltdowns, there aren't meltdowns, there are "soft" meltdowns.  No one seems to know precisely what's going on but the reactor stories are never the top ones.  They're like, third.  And everybody's government is saying stuff to the effect of "the situation is under control."  So is it?  In my paranoid head, whenever the situation is under control I feel like it isn't.  The BP spill, Climate Change, what have you.  I'll freely admit that the times when the situation IS under control and the folks say it is, well, I tend not to remember those.  There's also a thought meme out there in the ether that culturally the Japanese are not inclined to admit any kind of defeat or failure, so who can trust them... but that might just be good old fashioned racism.  Racism that, in my panic, I somehow seem to have subscribed to this morning.

So first thing: no smoking weed today.  That shit can get you paranoid, and I'm not trying to be paranoid.  Or more paranoid.  After that, I rechecked our earthquake emergency supplies.  They're okay, but there's going to be a run to Costco and the S.O.S store in Van Nuys later this week.  And gas in the car, full tank.  I don't know what kind of sense driving away from a cloud makes, but I'll feel better with a bolt hole somewhere.  I know people in Sedona, and there's always New York.

But what is this fear doing except tightening my chest and keeping me from enjoying a Sunday?  I don't know, but it stinks.  I'll say that things do change when you have kids.  I heard this lots of times from friends of mine who are parents before we had the girls and I understood it intellectually, but not really at the gut level.  I used to equate having other loved ones, people and animals, with having kids but there is a difference: in most cases with loved ones you know, roughly, that barring any surprises, when they are going to be checking out.  Your peers and your significant other are hopefully going to last as long as you do, and your parents and elders -- depressing as it is, are going to be gone before that.  Dogs and other pets, and I still can't wrap my head around why we do this to ourselves, come with an expiration date -- like having a "kid" you know is only going to make it to 17, if you're lucky.  Kids though, they're supposed to outlast you.  You in some sense are making the world for them, so the panic, at least in apocalyptic scenarios like this radioactive cloud or an earthquake, for me, is crippling.

Then again, this might not be entirely fair.  At something like 27, when books like "The Bible Code" were all the rage I got tweaked about Biblical Armageddon.  What if the Bible was right, I'd ask friends in a panic.  It seems insane now of course, but those 1980's were a bear.  I still can't get the image of a nuke flying toward New York City from an old Ripley's Believe It Or Not episode on Nostradamus out of my head, despite knowing that Nostradamus had a very low batting average when it came to predictions.

The only thing I could think to do was make a couple of phone calls today to see if anyone else I know was or is concerned.  The two people I called weren't -- one figured that if a killer cloud makes it here we might as well just leave things up to providence, the other hadn't even been paying attention.  These two were the ones I picked after deliberating on whose point of view I would take seriously, and I came up goose eggs.

I'm writing with a real lack of focus, hoping that it will give me a kick in the pants.  I don't really feel like I'm expressing what this low-level terror I have is all about, so maybe that means that there is nothing to be afraid of or at least that I should get out of my head.  That could be my kick in the pants.  Also, maybe, I'm hoping for come comments.  When I made those two phone calls earlier, my wife asked me what I wanted out of them.  I said I was hoping to talk to someone that was knowledgeable and would tell me that my cloud-based fears at least, were unfounded.  That didn't happen.  I got a nice comment on Facebook with a link that made everything seem okay, but the comments on that link called the author out for being full of shit.

BOTTOM LINE: Even though I have been abstaining from alcohol for the first quarter of 2011, I may have a drink today.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Living Situation Review #1

I made waffles for the first time this morning.  Though I cook, waffles have always intimidated me.  I think because of the equipment.  Either waffle irons are archaic pieces of heavy heat-conducting metal or they're dopey plug-in impulse buys at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I hadn't put it together that waffle batter was just pancake batter with vegetable oil and a little more egg.  It just felt like trouble to me.  Anyway, this morning I busted out a waffle maker of the analog variety, the kind you just put on the burner, and made waffles.

The waffles came out really well.  It turns out they're easy to make and they don't gunk up the waffle iron if you spray a bunch of canola oil on it.

My mother-in-law, who constantly complains about how fat she is but

(A) isn't


(B) eats sweets relentlessly

said she would like a waffle when I offered her one.  When I put it on a little plate and gave it to her, she said "do you expect me to eat standing up?"

I told her to sit down at the kitchen table.  The kitchen table is often piled with shit.  I think today there was: a New York Times, a New York Magazine, some mail, a wrap gift my wife got the director and producer of her play, a basket of baby toys, baby bibs, baby socks, high chair trays, some napkins, a changing bag.

My mother-in-law remarked "wow, this table is getting cluttered."  Believe me, the way she said it was like was "you guys sure are a bunch of assholes for cluttering up a table I never use with stuff that will get cleared out in an hour anyway."  I asked her if there was anything else.,

Mina and I then sat at the table on either side of her.  She has been sick, and remarked on being sick.  She did not cast being sick in a favorable light.  Then she spoke of her sciatica and other aches and pains.  These, combined with her depression, had conspired to make her unhappy.  She also lamented that she was fat.  Mostly, this conversation was entirely one-sided.

BOTTOM LINE: Are you kidding me?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Media Review #1: Five Minutes of Sarah Palin On FOX News

I felt weird ordering a Garden Burger at Astro but recently I got a pretty clear message from the universe to the effect of I can't really eat an animal if I don't know where it comes from.  This happened during an ayahuasca ceremony and it basically boiled down to me being "of the animal," something like that.  It was a feeling more than anything, and it's hard to put words to.  Being "of the animal," it's perfectly acceptable to me and for me to eat meat but the universe told me it really had to be meat.  It couldn't be factory farmed or gorged on that stupid patented corn they put in everything, it had to be an animal.  One that could walk around.  Just didn't feel like eating torture patties or whatever.  Chickens that are fed concrete, pigs and cattle that are fed hormones and cruelty.

I got over it, ordered the thing, and drove back home.  Wouldn't be making the stand up show after all on account of my mother-in-law being sick.  She was good for watching the baby monitor for the duration of a burger run, but little else.  So I'm listening to FOX News and Sarah Palin is being interviewed.  I tell you this stuff, I listen to with my own ears.  Palin and this anchorwoman are talking about what's going on in Libya and the anchorwoman asks "Why do you think it's taken President Obama so long to denounce Gaddafi and he asked Mubarak to step down almost immediately?  How come he seems to be more lenient with Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad than Mubarak?"

For some reason Palin didn't get the implication that the reason - duh - Obama is more lenient with Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad is because he's in their Radical Muslim Hate America Club and wants to replace the Constitution with Sharia Law.  So the anchorwoman had to ask it again.  Palin kind of figured out what she was saying the second time but still didn't answer.  She just said it "worried" her.

BOTTOM LINE: FOX News is a bunch of assholes.

Drama Review #1: The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles

This is what it's like having babies:

On Thursday after putting them down, I answered a couple of emails.  Minutes later I was downstairs with my wife in the kitchen marveling at how I thought I wouldn't get any replies because it was too late and everyone was probably done with their day and in bed.  The reason I was marveling was because minutes before I had looked at the clock and seen that it was 7:26.

It's 7:23 now on a Saturday.  Once again, the girls are asleep and I'm like "really?  Do something now?"  I'm in sweatpants.  They can be either pajamas or I can wear them out.  I have a good friend doing comedy pretty close, and he's doing it at a comic book store, which is a plus but man, I do not know if I'll be making it.

I just got a little high.  My wife is off acting in this play, and while she'll likely be home around ten, there's a slim chance that she'll go out for drinks afterward.  I, unfortunately, am not drinking this quarter.  It's some arbitrary thing I came up with when I caught myself doing a shot of vodka one Sunday afternoon.  Shot of vodka and a beer.  I don't even like vodka really, but we were out of bourbon.  That's when I thought: "chill."

So here I am.  High.  Blogging.  40.  All "fuck going out," and the shit's only 7:30.

I have been hired recently to write a screenplay.  My quote for writing ranges from the mid three figures to the mid five figures.  This one's mid three, for a first draft of the first act.  I don't mind though because I'm writing something different.  Also something I'll finish because I'm doing it for someone else.  A docudrama.  Straight character stuff.  People living their lives, power dynamics, that shit.  Without going into too much detail, I decided to read the Oedipus Cycle so I could start thinking about drama and tragedy.  Turns out that Sophocles is a good writer -- either that or he's got a great translator.  I know the twist in Oedipus Rex obviously, but the build up to it is really well done.  Very dramatic, but not in an annoying way.

BOTTOM LINE:  The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles is quite good and not annoying.