Old Man Yells At Cloud

I feel sorry for you Millennials with your student loans.  As a solid Gen-Xer, I was fortunate enough to not have to bear the burden of having student loans.  I know.  I’m one of the fortunate ones.

What’s my secret?  How did I manage to escape the burden of such heavy debt?  How rich are my parents?

Were my high school grades just that outstanding and I got a scholarship?  I mean, my extensive knowledge with regard to the 1982 NBC primetime line-up alone…

All good questions.  Every last one.

I managed to escape the student loan trap by being a goddamned dirtbag who never went to college.  I do not recommend this as an approach to avoiding student loan debt.

Not attending college was a “bold move”, in that I had no money to go to college.  Since nobody else in my immediate family had gone either, there was nobody to tell me how I could have even done it, anyway.  There was no internet to find this information.  We were poor as fuck, so nobody knew the first thing about crazy shit like “applying for financial aid”, or “talking to someone about your future”.  When you grow up poor, you are acutely aware that you don’t have a future.  It was just assumed that if you didn’t have $40,000 in cash lying around, then you didn’t go to college.  Go find yourself a jobby-job.  End of story.

As the brilliant Ted Knight so eloquently says in Caddyshack, “Well, the world needs ditch-diggers, too.”

When people asked me on my graduation day from high school what I was planning on doing after school, my answer was that I was going to, you know, hang out.  See some bands.  That’s exactly what I did, too.  I hung out.  I saw some bands.  I had no car and no job.  Had my mother not gotten remarried and moved out of the house, I would have had nowhere to live, either.  She let me live rent free in the old, falling apart house for six months as a graduation gift to me, thank god.

After lying around on the couch doing nothing for months on end and slowly descending into a flaming bout of mental illness which was akin to those scenes in “The Aviator” where Leonardo DiCaprio is crazy as fuck, manic with OCD, stops bathing, and keeps repeating the same sentences over and over while twitching, I finally pulled myself out of it and got an entry level full-time job that paid me $6.00 an hour, through a friend who could also give me a ride there.  My two-week paycheck, after taxes and whatnot, for 85 hours of work, was $373.00.

Anne eventually moved in and we split the rent at the house.  We relied heavily on the Burger King “Two Cheeseburgers and Two Fries for $2.22” deal for meals, and ate at our parents’ houses whenever we could.  I still didn’t have a car and instead had to pester everyone I knew to give me rides.

I was fortunate that my mother’s husband surprised me with an awesome used car one day when I was 21 years old, that he let me pay him back for over a five year period at $100 a month with no interest, otherwise I would have never been able to get a car on my own.  I was never able to put more than $5 worth of gas into it at a time.  The first time I could afford a full tank of gas, I was 26.

In the end, stuff worked out, and by “worked out”, I mean I spent decades of my life not even having $400 to my name.  If I had to estimate how much money I spent cumulatively in overdraft fees at my bank, it would be in the thousands.  Sometimes I overdrafted on purpose, and took the max amount of cash out as sort of a gonzo loan until payday, where I would deposit my paycheck at the end of the week and it would just take my account back up to $0.

After working full-time for 16 years, the first time my checking account had $1,000 in it, I was 34 years old.  I felt like a millionaire.  I opened my first savings account when I was 36, and didn’t start contributing to a retirement account until I was 37.

When the subject of my lack of higher education has come up at job interviews over the years, it makes me feel like I want to literally die right there in the interviewer’s office.

“You mean you didn’t go to college…at all?”

Then they make the face.  The face that, if I’m lucky enough to be hired, makes me feel like I have to work ten times harder than everybody else, just to prove that I’m worthy of the position.

That’s why it is incredibly insulting when someone asks you what college you went to, and when you tell them that you didn’t go to college, they say, “Good for you!  I wish I hadn’t gone!”

It’s like telling someone who has polio that you wish you could go back in time and not get vaccinated against polio.

Why am I regaling you with all this nonsense?  Because I want to impart one large piece of wisdom on you.  GO TO COLLEGE.  A CHEAP ONE.  FOR A DEGREE THAT WILL SOMEDAY HOPEFULLY MAKE YOU SOME MONEY.*

“Okay!  I’m thinking of majoring in philosophy!”

No.  If you tell me that, I will push you into a fire and walk away.

You can toss any arts degree in there while you’re at it, and I say that as someone who has both tried to make a living as an artist and is a huge, huge supporter of the arts.  Someone whose friends are almost all exclusively artists.  Someone who believes art is the most powerful language in all of humanity.

Had I had the ability to go college when I got out of high school, I surely would have majored in some broke shit like creative writing, or painting, or poetry.  You know, things you absolutely do not need a degree for in order to do them.

Get an accounting degree.  Major in international finance.  Medicine.  Science.  Engineering.  Something with computers and whatnot.  You can work your job and still write poetry in your spare time.  Also, your poetry sucks.

That was uncalled for.

I guess what I’m really saying is loans or no loans, nearly everyone is fucked unless they’re born with money.

 

*This is just one humble dirtbag’s opinion.  Your anecdotes where you fully disagree with me or show me your student loan bills will be printed out, put through a shredder, and then used as kindling for a drum circle bonfire, which I will not actually be attending, because “drum circle”.

80s Parents and The Saga of BoyCrush 

When I was 7 years old, my favorite song was “Maniac” by Michael Sembello, from the Flashdance soundtrack.  Yes, I was allowed to watch Flashdance when I was 7 years old because “80s parents”.  Anything short of a snuff film would have passed muster with 80s parents.  Now I’m going to make you repeat the words “snuff muster” over and over in your head, because I’m doing it myself and I feel it’s only fair that I spread the wealth.  Snuff muster.  Snuff muster.  Snuff muster.

We discussed this earlier.  Never do anything just because I told you do it.  I will become drunk with power and the next thing you know, you’ll open a bag of Fritos and I’ll appear from thin air, take the bag from your hands and say, “You weren’t eating these, were you?” and then walk away with it.

“You wouldn’t do that!”

It’s like the Maya Angelou quote everybody loves to throw around:  “When someone tells you they will steal your corn chips, believe them the first time.”

We had a local rollerskating rink we used to go in the early 80s, where parents would typically drop you off around 10am with $3 in your pocket, speed away while blasting a Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, and then pick you up 7-10 hours later.  It’s what they now call “free-range parenting”, and except for everyone getting molested and stabbed, it worked out pretty great.

Generally speaking, back then if you were savvy enough when you were 7 to turn down a pixy-stick of cocaine from a 30 year old guy named “Scary Gary” and skate away like your parachute pants were on fire, your parents felt they had done their job instilling a solid fear base in you, as well as the athletic prowess required to escape such stealthy, googly-eyed, predators-on-wheels.  You could basically just self-parent from that point forward.

My sisters and I had been dropped off at the skating rink one Saturday, and it turned out my super duper, #1, oh my god, crush was there.

BoyCrush was, by far, without question, the cutest boy in the first grade.  He had sandy light brown hair, big dark doe eyes, and a smile like someone in a toothpaste ad.  He was always dressed so clean and neat, and unlike every other boy in class, his hands weren’t covered in dirt and warts.

My feelings about BoyCrush were not unique by any means.  Everyone had a crush on BoyCrush.  Aside from being cute, he was the only boy who was ever nice to us girls.  Instead of throwing rocks at us on the playground, he was usually found delicately pushing us girls on the swings or playing Chinese jump-rope with me and my friend Tricia on the basketball court.  BoyCrush was the total package.

My sisters knew about my crush on BoyCrush, and even if they didn’t, anyone could have put two and two together.  This kid was universally adorable.  Any girl could have walked by and someone could yell, “You think this kid is cute, DON’T YOU?” and they’d eventually cave in and say, “YES.  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR?  YES!  HE’S SO FREAKING CUTE!  I’M NOT MADE OF STONE.  I HAVE TWO EYES, YOU KNOW.”

In an effort to match-make us at the skating rink, my sisters cornered BoyCrush near the restroom and told him that I liked him, and then he immediately ran into the boys’ restroom and hid.  Upon hearing that they ACTUALLY TOLD HIM that I liked him, I ran into the girls’ restroom and hid.

Unbeknownst to me, my sisters then went to the DJ and requested my favorite song, “Maniac”.  They came back to the girls’ restroom with a plan to coax me out.

My sister Julie knelt down beside me on the restroom floor, the feather roach-clip in her hair danging over me and said, “You know, BoyCrush just went to the DJ and asked him to play “Maniac” because it’s your favorite song and he wants to skate with you.”

My sister Bonnie chimed in, “It’s true.  I saw him go up to the DJ booth and ask.  He totally wants to skate with you.”

I said, “Really?  BoyCrush said he wants to skate with ME?”

They nodded their heads in unison, “Yep.”

I couldn’t believe it.  BoyCrush wanted to skate with me.  Of all the girls in the world, he picked me.  I’d never felt so special.  At least not since Chef Boyardi started selling Beef-a-roni in the family-size can.

I eventually came out from the girls’ restroom and passed by the boys’ restroom.  BoyCrush was sitting on the tile floor, up against the wall, looking extremely distressed while a couple of my sisters’ guy friends (including his own older brother) appeared to be trying to talk him into something.  He had a desperate look on his face, like he was being interrogated by the police.

Just then, “Maniac” came on over the sound system.  I guess my sisters weren’t lying after all!  I waited for BoyCrush, but he was still in the boys’ room, so I skated out on the rink alone.  About halfway through the song, I saw BoyCrush emerge from the boys’ room and come out onto the rink.  I slowed down so he could catch up with me, then he took off like a rocket and zoomed right past me.

When Monday morning rolled around at school, he and I pretended like the whole thing had never happened.

I ran into BoyCrush at a bar many years later, when he had returned home from college for winter break.  We had a couple drinks together and reminisced about our old school days.  After my second drink, I worked up some nerve and said, “What was the deal that day at the skating rink when we were in first grade?  My sisters said you requested “Maniac” so you could skate with me, and then you just blew me off!”

I playfully knocked him in the shoulder and laughed, “How could you break my little 7 year old heart?!”

He laughed, and laughed and laughed and laughed, and then said, “Oh, my sweet.  Your sisters were soooo fucking with you.  I never asked the DJ to play that song.  Did you seriously not know I was gay?  For god’s sake – I used to play Chinese jump-rope with you and Tricia – in public!”

(I imagine you probably came to that conclusion yourself when I mentioned Chinese jump-rope a few paragraphs ago.)

I said, “How the hell was I supposed to know?  I was 7!”

BoyCrush said, “Fine.  How about when we were in middle school and I went to the New Kids on The Block concert with a pack of 13 year old girls?”

I said, “Plenty of people liked New Kids on The Block besides teenage girls!”

BoyCrush gave me his best “Bitch, please” look and said, “Name ONE boy or man.”

I started to answer and he put up his index finger and said, “One that’s NOT gay. And before you continue, may I also remind you about the time in high school when I did a spot-on lip-synch performance of Madonna’s “Hanky Panky” in front of everyone outside the art room?”

He probably had me on that one.

He clinked his glass against mine and said, “And I NAILED IT, chica.”

First Time? No, I’ve Been Nervous Lots of Times.

We’re flying to New York for vacation.  I like to repost this old story sometimes when I’m about to get on a *plane.  Mostly because posting it is a ritual, and OCD is not really “curable” so much as “treatable”.

I’ve also been touching a particular stuffed animal on the right foot eight times every day for the past week, but we won’t get into that yet.

So it’ll take a couple hours to fly to New York, which means a couple hours of me white-knuckling the armrest, rocking back and forth and saying, “What was that noise?!  Did you hear that?!  We’re crashing aren’t we?!!!  We’re crashing and you know it and you just won’t tell me!!  You would tell me if you knew something, wouldn’t you?  WOULDN’T YOU?!!!!  No, don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know –  unless you know something!  Why did you just look at the wing?!  Is there smoke?!  What the hell was that noise?!  What was it?!!”

This is after popping a tranquilizer (or two) before the flight.  Good thing, too, because otherwise I might become a real asshole on that plane. 😐

So I have a few phobias, flying is obviously one of them, but all of them revolve around some kind of hideous, improbable death caused by things like plane crashes, serial killers, and flesh-eating bacteria.

My New Year’s resolution in 1999 was to spend an entire year studying the world’s religions and pick one that I thought would suit me, so that I could finally stop being so scared of this stuff.  I was raised in the Protestant church (sporadically), but something about it never sat quite right with me.  Probably the whole “Jesus loves you – unless you don’t love him – in which case fire will rain down on your tortured soul for all of eternity” thing.

Man, talk about a guy who has a problem with rejection! Even when you have the misfortune of dying, there’s still all that judgment!

Just got decapitated on a ride at the fair?  Seems pretty bad, doesn’t it?  Well, you better pick up your bloody head, your list of sins, and get in line for the pain train straight to Hell.  You’re gonna be all, “I just got my head cut off!” and he’s gonna be all, “Remember that time you hit your thumb with that hammer and yelled out my name in vain?  Time to pay the fiddler, my child.”

Also the “no dancing” thing.  But not unlike putting Velveeta in literally everything, that’s really more Methodist/Baptist specific.

So I sought out a religion that would give me something to believe in, without the threat of burning in hell for all of eternity because I had an impure thought about the rhythm section of Duran Duran ONE TIME.  After much reading and research, I settled on Hinduism.  You know, like every other navel-gazing white girl asshole in their early-20s.

I studied every text I could get my hands on, started meditation classes, became a vegetarian, and visited the local Hindu temple.  I carried the Bhagavad Gita around with me like a newborn baby.  When I became tense or frightened, I would chant, “Amaram hum madhuram hum” which means,  “I am immortal.  I am blissful” – and after a while, and for the first time in my life – I believed it.

I no longer had an obsessive fear of death, because what was death but a doorway?  Was I afraid to walk through a doorway?  Of course not!  I became incredibly centered, calm, and really annoying to be around.  Nobody likes a 23-year old who thinks they’ve got it all figured out.

After a year of religious enlightenment, I had to take a five hour flight to Las Vegas.  This was going to be the big test!

Balanced, centered, and fearless – I refused a tranquilizer for the flight.  I said to my mother, “There’s nothing to fear anymore.  Does it really matter if I die?  What is this body if not a mere switch-plate for my soul?  You and I have found each other so many times in the past after being separated.  We’ll find each other again.”

She pursed her lips at me and said, “Uh huh.  How about you take one just in case, Maharishi?  You can crush it and sprinkle it over your tofu.”

I dismissively waved my hand at her, gave her a hug and a “Namaste” to which she replied, “Whatever.  Just try not to sell anyone any flowers at the airport.” I boarded the plane and placed my carry-on bag in the overhead compartment, sat down, and fastened my seatbelt.  I had never felt so in control…

…until the plane started down the runway.

Sometime between take-off and landing, the Bhagavad Gita became a paperweight, and my new mantra was, “I’M SORRY, JESUS!  PLEASE DON’T LET THIS PLANE CRASH, JESUS!  OH MY GOD WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!!!!”

Thankfully, the nice old lady in the seat next to me was kind enough to give me her barf bag to hyperventilate into, and she even loaned me her crucifix-embroidered handkerchief, which I attempted to return to her after I’d wrung it out several times with my tears and sob-drool.  She politely told me to keep it.  I later dropped it into the trash at the airport, along with the bindi that was on my forehead under my bangs.

 

download

“It was at that moment that I first realized Elaine had doubts about our relationship. And that, as much as anything else, led to my drinking problem.”

 

*I realize that by posting this before a plane trip that it’s going to make it double ironic if we’re in a plane crash.  You’re all gonna be like, “Oh my god – SHE KNEW!”

One of the most important things to know about dealing with OCD is that you do not have the ability to control things with your mind.  Seriously.  Here’s the treatment for OCD:  Stop acting like you can control things simply by thinking about them or saying them out loud or touching inanimate objects X number of times.  That shit will make you crazy.

I also realize that by pointing out said double irony that it’s actually going to be triple ironic if we’re in a plane crash.

Damn it.  See you in Hell.  I’m off to touch a particular stuffed animal on the right foot eight more times.