Monthly Archives: August 2014

What I thought I’d be doing by now.

Certainly not this. As a boy I had a dark sense of humor. I remember there was some art period at school, and they handed me a little dittoed prompt sheet, four squares. There was “draw yourself” whose contents are lost to memory. Probably a stick figure. “Draw your house”, where I am sure I crudely interpreted my childhood home on Toledo St. “Draw your family”, whose contents are a little hazy. Mom, dad, maybe a dog I have no real memories of called Popeye. It is unlikely my sister appears due to acute lack of conception at time of portrait. And the final panel, “draw yourself at 30” in which I drew a tombstone.

I don’t know if the very young boy who drew that tombstone really understood suicidal depression. I don’t think he did, but I don’t remember much about being him. I don’t remember the dog. Maybe 8 year old Aaron already did. Maybe he woke up at 7am, climbed up on top of the fridge to get cereal and poured it in his bowl, and while he walks from the kitchen, through the dining room to get to the TV to watch cartoons, all he can think is “I wish I were dead.”. I can clearly remember 15 year old me acting out this scene (right down to the cereal _and_ cartoon brand for that matter), but the evidence exists — wee bitty Jarvitron had a pretty dark streak to him already.

Lets talk about 15 year old Aaron for a minute. I was having a hard time fitting in with kids who were doing normal things. I did not understand how to modulate my emotions or separate/elevate my needs and my poor socialization had made me an easy target for bullies. Actually it was the bullied who came for me. If you needed to “throw down” to make sure the rest of the students didn’t think you were a pussy, there was always Walker, big and kinda fat and perpetually scared. Anyhow, I had this fun thing around this time where I’d hit myself. 15 was probably the peak. I figured it out around maybe fourth grade, fifth, if you’re in class and you can’t stop wanting to cry or do something other than just stare laser focused at your book, you just ask if you can go to the bathroom and you make sure you go to one where nobody else is in because they will be able to hear you and then you hit yourself in the face just hard and fast, there is a technique to it because you don’t want to accidentally hit your nose and give yourself a black eye because people notice those and you don’t really want to hit your temples too hard because it makes it really hard to hear but you hit yourself and you hit yourself and sometimes you hit your head on the wall not too many times because people notice but it is a good, hard feeling, with an edge of danger and you SCREAM it in your head you scream I WISH I WERE DEAD I WISH THAT SOMEBODY WOULD COME IN HERE AND STAB ME AND THEN CRACK MY SKULL OPEN AND THEN SET ME ON FIRE AND I WISH I WERE DEAD AND THE PAIN COULD GO ON FOREVER AS LONG AS I WERE DEAD AND IT WERE JUST THAT IF I COULD LEAVE ALL THE REST AND JUST DIE AND HAVE PAIN then everything is pretty much good and red-tinged and then you go into a stall in case anybody comes in because now you’ve got that fucking warrior face on and people don’t like that, they can tell and you don’t want to be disturbed so you sit down on the toilet and wait as the adrenaline just rooocks in. It’s not pleasant and I’m not really sure I’ve ever talked about it to anyone ever. Certainly not in depth. You can sub out a shed in the back yard for the home version. And then for the rest of the day, it’s books books books. Math math math. Anything where there’s rules, simple rules that build to bigger better rules.

Fast forward to college. College was real hard and I wanted to die in earnest all the time. I’d learned in High School that people were awful, and my hopes that College would be some kind of different beast altogether were dashed in the first 72 hours on campus. I didn’t want to go back after the first semester break.  I cried a lot and went to great lengths to make sure that nobody ever saw that shit. I still hit myself, at a greatly reduced rate, and I went to great lengths to make sure nobody saw that shit either but I definitely remember headbutting the wall by the Sun Terrace Apartment payphone a few times. Cinderblock is definitely not the preferred surface for such a thing. I wonder if I could get a gun. My roommate at this time had one in his room, had I gone snooping. He’d probably have handed it to me had I asked. I had given a lot of thought to methods of suicide, and I believed (and still do) that a gun is the only way I could do it. Anyhow, when I’m busy I’m fine. When the work is overwhelming, that’s fine. When I get bored, I feel like I want to die.Whenever I cry or think about dying, I think about my mother and what it’d do to her. What she’d look like at the funeral. What it’d do to my sister. So I do my rageface thing and then back to some math. But the god damned thing about college is the free time, they give you so much of it and you’re supposed to find people and make relationships and all I wanted to do was get away. Anywhere else. Sometimes I called that place death. I could only even conceptualize sex when I was obliterated drunk, and when I did get there it was always awkward, terrified. Sooner or later I found drugs. And drugs have rules. Simple rules that build to bigger better rules.

Fast forward to 2007. I’m trying to buy a video card from somebody off Craigslist. My roommate has unexpectedly taken my car, so I am making the trip on Portland’s better-than-average-but-still-just-public-transit. I’m running about 20 minutes late, and I’ve also unexpectedly had to take a visitor from out of town (a friend of my roommates) with me to show around. We’re walking from some weird bus stop toward my house in St. Johns, along a greenway I’m not sure I could ever find again. My phone rings, and lo it is my roommate, whose friend I’m showing around. He’s calling from somewhere very very far away many clicks of my car’s odometer. Miles of tree lined Oregon road. Maybe he saw a waterfall. All I see when he talks is a gas gauge pegged on E, a hate-vision fringed with crimson and dazzling sparks. Wait what was going on here oh. He’s bartering some computer hardware I’ve upgraded away from for some industrial size bin of electronic garbage to store. And while he describes the trade in earnest, our shared family plan minutes smoldering, I see the room full of old computer stuff in my house, imagine it packed fuller. It is already a drift of carcinogenic obsolete shit, a frozen tsunami of old wires and reclaimed computer racks. And finally here is where it happens. I hang up my phone, and the Craigslist person is calling me, and I look up at this tree (which is what I do in situations where devout people might “look to heaven”) and I think, “I wish I were dead.”. I pretend I don’t hear my phone and keep heading back to the house.

That’s it. That is where it changed for me. Not then, but in the remembering of that moment. It is so fucking ridiculous. SAD. It’s… it’s asinine. Pathetic. Every synonym of every word that has ever implied someone who is as irrational as they are immature. It wasn’t long after that, that I broke down what was happening. I had bent and bowed and “helped” and “done what I could”, and my relationship (and business entity) was still a never ending hole into which money and time and effort were pumped… from my real job, which at the time needed 60+ hours of my week. I want to be dead, Mr. Tree. Something snapped and the tree talked back. It said, You want to be dead? Because you have a shitty roommate?! Because you don’t wanna be “the bad guy” and stop supporting some other person’s half baked dream? What happened to all those other times dipshit, you wanted to die, and you felt so strongly about it you were just prepared to but you needed to find the gun, tomorrow you’d go get a gun, and you never did. By morning, that feeling was completely gone, and tomorrow morning this’ll be completely gone too. In fact it’ll probably be gone as soon as you eat a piece of fruit or take a shit. So stop tellin’ trees your sad sack bullshit and go fucking buy that video card after you EAT A MEAL. And after that THUNDERCLAP of thought… I finally felt my stomach growling. I thought about how long it had been since I’d eaten anything.

It didn’t end that day. Neither my shitty roommate situation; nor my brain’s flagrant, flippant insistence on the suicide option being tabled in all brainstorming sessions for every scale and variety of problem in my day to day life. But that’s when it started. I was able to get outside of my head, for just a moment, and see how childish that thought was when looked at realistically. I definitely don’t remember the exact words, but I do remember, as a child, saying “I wish you were dead, for a MILLION YEARS.” And while my adult ears twigged to how immature an understanding _that_ emphasis belied, for some reason it took until I was 27 years old for me to hear “I WISH I WERE DEAD” in that same babyish tone. I WISH I WERE DEAD as a replacement for I WISH I WEREN’T IN THE LINE AT A CARL’S JR., as a stand in for NOBODY KNOWS HOW TO MERGE FROM THE LEFT LANE.

And finally it is wrong of me to try to put some kind of pleasant cap on this. Like I’m dusting my hands of it. Far from it. This is a reminder, that the brain is a tricksy thing. That there will be thoughts that get stuck in the rotation, that don’t really have anything to do with what is going on. And the old tricks are always the best tricks, and for me, and for a lot of people I think, the brain’s first best trick is pretending death is a painless alternative to every passing discomfort. I hope that my last best trick is pretending enduring discomfort is the only alternative to the painful permanence of death.

Economics 151

I hate to sound like Ben Stein here especially grown-up Aaron awful, retrogressive, Ann Coulter-buddy Ben Stein but what is going on in this country. Every single time I try to spend my money, in an economy that is ostensibly struggling, I find myself face to face with the worst customer service one could imagine. I’ll give you a few examples here, feel free to remember your own last “JESUS CHRIST I AM GIVING YOU MONEY WILL YOU PLEASE JUST MAKE IT LESS UNPLEASANT TO DO SO” moment instead of reliving one of mine, because they’re all quite boring.

I am at the grocery store. We are at the grocery store. I’m going to go with we because I’m taking you, society, on a cruise with me. It’s not the royal we (it is so the royal we). Again, we are at the grocery store, waiting to check out. Because we cannot allow part time workers to live or something I forget why we’re doing it probably… recession? Anyway, we have fired all the checkers at the grocery store. We fired all the bag boys first and Lord knows that was a great idea because there were too many after school opportunities for good but less well off kids to socialize themselves and make some money. So we’re waiting for the self checks, which we have to admit are a pretty good idea when they work right and there’s not some open-gawped dick-wringer eternally waving the wrong side of their membership chit at the scanner. It also helps when there’s an attendant nearby who isn’t just facebooking on their cell phone. So we’re waiting and there’s this turdlump who is clearly not buying anything anymore just staring at their phone still and all the other registers are waiting for the attendant to clear bag-weight-jams or alcohol purchases, so we just go ahead and shove over to where this asswart is standing and push in toward the checkout.

“Excuse me, I need to get some groceries.”, we say, with a real shitty tone.

And that is when we realize… this is the attendant. This is the employee. The representative of the business whose wares I am waiting to custom…. The employee in charge of, amongst many things, both directing people to open self checks, clearing the weird errors and shit that seem to constantly happen on these machines, and or not just standing in front of one screen, with a second screen uncomfortably close to his face. He steps to the side enough for us to use the station, but does not go back to any of the other registers. He has not looked up from the phone. We are now… ultraviolet rage livid.

“Hello, customer of the store, I’m EmployeeName! Oh here’s an empty register. If you need anything I’ll be right back, there’s three people waiting for me to help them with their checkouts.”

The employee seems to dimly register that we are talking to him.

“Oh thank you that’s exactly what a great employee who was doing their job would say, you must really be on top of it.”

The employee puts their phone in their pocket and walks directly away, without comment. Without helping the other customers. Just walks away. We are now done checking out. We follow.

“Hey, where are you going. Where is your supervisor, right now.”

The employee keeps walking.

“YOU. STOP.”

The employee stops.

“Where is the person you report to. Take us to them.”

“I can’t I am on the clock.” and then the employee bolts toward the back while pointing toward the customer service counter.

Already we are dismayed. There are three differently vested employees at the counter, “Front End Manager” over “Customer Service Specialist” in plasti-gold pin badges. A dozen people wait in line. Two of the vested employees are talking to each other in angry tones. The third is filling out a Western Union form as though it were the SAT, puzzling over the answers to each line, while a woman who has probably filled out that form fifty times stares at her phone on the other side of the desk. A child’s shriek peals our eardrums and nobody else in line even reacts. We find a manager. We explain what has happened. But we know we are beaten. The manager can’t stop listening to the radio on his waist long enough to get to the end of a sentence. “The service here sucks.” we finally blurt. And the manager finally focuses.

“What?”

“I said, the service here sucks. Your cashiers don’t care, your front end managers don’t care, and apparently you don’t care. There’s nobody running the front end of your store.”

“Can you repeat that please.”

We realize he is replying to the radio. We walk away.

The manager says something about how rude it is to walk away when you’re talking to someone. We dig our car keys into the palm of our hand, and clench our jaw so hard our eardrums start to ring. We leave.

Later we are at a hardware store. This isn’t a hardware store where you’d go to build a house, once upon a time maybe. These days you buy screws in bags of 8 in between aisles of popcorn tins and plasma TVs, but we managed to shut down all the other hardware stores by only going here so, here we are. We are trying to buy unglazed quarry tile. We tried to call on the phone to see if they had it but we kept waiting to be transferred to tile and hung up on. We needed a tin of popcorn and some beanie babies anyways so we came down to see if we could find them ourselves. We cannot. We walk to the front of the store, there’s a customer service desk.

“Hello”, we say.

The elderly clerk neither acknowledges us verbally or glances our direction.

“Excuse us,” a bit louder, “We need some help in the tile area, is anybody working there now.”

The elderly clerk turns away from us, and picks up the phone, calling on the intercom for assistance to the tile area.

“Thank you, we appreciate it,” we say.

Time passes. Several employees push past us in the aisle, none of them even pause to ask if they can help.

We walk to the back and find a different employee, this one with a radio.

“Hi do you know anything about tile.”

“No, but I know who does, let me get someone over for you.”

“Thanks.”

More time passes. We are just about to leave, and an employee walks around the corner.

“Hey yeah so sorry. I had STUFF to do like IMPORTANT THINGS but if you NEED HELP I guess I am supposed to RUN OVER HERE even though I’m in the middle of a CRISIS halfway across the…”

“UNGLAZED QUARRY TILE.”

“What? I said I was halfway across the store and so I’m sorry if it took me a MINUTE to get over here”

“UN. GLAZED. QUARRY. TILE.”

“Is that what you want or something.”

We breathe.

“Well it’s been I don’t know what year is it hah I’m losing my mind or something 2014 right so yeah it’s been like five years, or maybe like seven? At least five. Maybe it was just six. Six sounds about right, no, 2009, so five. Five years ago was the last time we stocked those. You could have called ahead.”

“I did, four times this morning. Hung up on every time.”

“The phones here are constantly disconnecting people and for years I have been telling them they need to get a good phone system and it’s not my fault that it hung up on you, I’ve been busy all morning with…”

We walk away.

“Is that ALL.”

“Yes, that’s the thing I need.”

“What you just needed help with something we don’t even HAVE and you couldn’t WAIT.”

We are walking away but the sentence bothers us, our right eye twitches involuntarily, and we turn to counter, but there’s a seam in the floor we catch with the toe of our shoe. We trip, and then we fall toward the floor, forever, through time, and space. We pass through the floor, we pass through every floor that has ever been and ever will be. We drift through gaseous clouds and past protostars, swirling toward the center, where finally the gas clears, and we breathe for a microsecond before we are blasted, each layer of flesh ionized off our bodies two cells deep. The massive pulsar in the center spins and chars and spins and chars, two layers a second, then three, then ten, the pulsar spinning faster and the whole universe burning and shrinking and pulling and tearing. First the dollars burn, then the buildings, then the companies, then the idea of companies. The idea of men, the idea of women. The idea of legs. All burn. All fall. All crumple.

And that’s my plan for how to fix the economy.

Please make checks payable to “Cash” and send them to me by facsimile or telex under my new Corporate Personhood name “Chipotle FedEx Solid State Logistics, A Non Profit Co-Op”, Cunnilingus Mills, MD.