Friday, September 30, 2005

You Can Have Vegas, I'll Take Nashville

I hate politics. There’s nothing that can make a relatively kind, normal individual more ugly to me. Seriously. I mean, aside from all the obviously horrible things a person can do which are automatic grounds for destruction such as: rape, murder, torture, child abuse, extreme censorship (i.e. banning the Harry Potter series from your school, etc.)—politics is a divisive, ugly tool in society.

During college, I didn’t pay attention to politics very much and to be quite honest, I got a D in my required political science class. That wasn’t because I didn’t get it, it was because the class was at 10 am and I slept through it. How could I not? Very often I was awake until 3 or 4 in the morning—this was my first quarter in college, you know. And anyway, in college, the majority of your professors are Democrats and not knowing what party I belonged to, I just nodded my head when they complained about Republicans. I think there was a point somewhere in there where I joined the College Republicans, but I think that was mainly because my neighbor was in their presidency and made me go along—but only to one party. If anyone had tried to talk to me about politics there, I would have stammered out some b.s. and then changed the subject.

And as recently as May of 2004, I didn’t know what was going on. On a train between Prague and Vienna, my friend Math Matt (a professor of, yes, math) tried to have a conversation with me about the political division of people in America. He likened it to the strength of divided ideologies before the Civil War and told me he thinks the only thing that will cleanse the hatred and discontent between the political parties is something similar to the magnitude of the Civil War. Obviously I was tired and uninformed and so, being an Aries, simply got mad. We argued and ended up in separate cars for the rest of the trip, with me in the food car and Matt sleeping in some compartment somewhere.

But, aside from Stoker, I never hear more sense from anyone than Math Matt. After not speaking to him for a year, and after listening more and more to politics and paying more attention to the climate of the political parties, I think maybe he’s right. Or maybe it’s just me and my passionate inclinations. When I meet someone, I think, “I like her. She’s great. What a girl.” But then they let some comment slip that I don’t agree with like, “The war in Iraq is a joke. It’s all about oil and it’s disgusting,” and I notice that they drive a behemoth SUV, the largest of the leviathans with a 40 gallon tank, big enough to land an F-16, and I think, “Yeah, it’s all about oil. What a crime. But, there is no demand for oil, is there? Americans like you don’t drive vehicles that require their own oil tankers. What a stupid war.” And I don’t even know if the war in Iraq is all about oil, do I? That’s just an opinion.

Anyway, Math Matt may be right. Perhaps there is too much division between people when it comes right down to it, and maybe we can’t all get along. Maybe we need to strike an agreement of some sort, divide the country up. With the Democrats in the southern states from lower California across to Florida, since they don’t mind all the Mexican illegal immigration, you know. They could just open the borders and let the flood of immigrants rise. Then of course, the Democrats would be free to make the working class support the lower class, and that way the Republicans would be happy living in the northern states where they didn’t have to support the lower classes and capitalism could rule supreme.

I’m not sure where I’d be, but I know that I want Utah. And I can’t have it divided down the middle, because the lower half of Utah is just as beautiful as the upper half. So, I’m thinking the Arizona-Utah border would be the dividing mark, because probably I’d end up on the Republican side. Mainly because my family would be there . . . but also because, honestly, I don’t want to be obligated to support the poor—and maybe that makes me an enormous jerk. But I think if everyone considers it as honestly as I have, they don’t want to support the poor either, because deep down they know the truth: “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” Or something like that.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Seeking a Future

I've been looking into M.F.A. programs. I can't decide what to do with my future, wait around for something to happen or set something in motion. It's hard to know. So while I was at the UNLV site, I discovered this poet, Aliki Barnstone. And then I looked her up and found this poem. I think it's very good. So, for those of you aren't threatened by poetry, here it is:

Blue Earth

The moving van slowed uphill under my possessions:
jewels, lifework, junkboxes.
The turtle with the world on its back.

Mile markers rushed by.
The truck crossed the Missouri River into the Midwest,
and I left California's promise.

Just when I thought, "There will be no more,"
I saw a sign, BLUE EARTH. A town perhaps
named over a century ago

by someone who could see the earth from space,
a Winnebago holy man who prophesied
the moonshot photograph.

Then I guess the land was stolen by settlers
who counted blessings in corn flourishing lush
blue in the haze and summer storms.

Affliction was the twister that ripped away a wall
but left the Afghan hanging on the rocker-back,
every dish in the hutch intact.

And then snow came,
the sky cleared,
and the fields turned blue again.

I imagine the faithful filing into church
to kneel and clasp their hands in the awkward pews,
then to bear witness to the commonplace in the graveyard.

I don't know how they broke the frozen earth for the dead.
Now I see my old life everywhere it isn't. Here
the lakes tell me brightly how the light looks:

the now in all the ohs the sun reflects on water —
then my awe becomes a history,
open-ended as loss, and I need

to make it like something I see:
white barnsides in the morning
next to rectangular black fields just like billboards

advertising WHITE and BLACK
or the real billboard exhorting, PRAY! IT WORKS!
as I drive to work.

My soul under winter, my sad sleep
are like black dirt
and corn stubble,

or the white farmhouse and the white barn
lit up unlikely, like hope or home,
the white house and the white barn followed

by another house and barn that almost seem to yearn.
Just when I thought "There will be no more," I saw
Blue Earth. Hope, harvest, stubble, title of my days.

Aliki Barnstone

Friday, September 23, 2005

Crested Saguaro

I've been neglectful in posting, I know. But I've been very busy and exhausted. Don't think I don't feel guilty every day for not writing, because I do. That's how I am. It's disgusting.

Anyway, last Saturday, I took Stoker to the Garden. Obviously. Who wouldn't? It's free, because I work there, but normally it's $10! If you can believe it (I wouldn't lie to you). So we think a free trip to the garden on the weekend is a pretty sweet deal and wanted to take advantage of it. And we'll take advantage of it several more times, I'm sure. They have many festivals and celebrations there, and apparently some people actually pay to be members. I don't know how much it is, but I think it must be rather expensive.

For the most part it's a relaxing place -- unless of course it's one of those sweltering, punishing days and you nearly die of heat stroke in spite of the shade. When you're there you don't feel like you're in Phoenix, that is, except for the airplanes landing at Sky Harbor and the occasional swarm of helicopters flying over head. I don't understand it, sometimes there are five or six helicopters hovering over the same spot, as if they're looking for an escaped prisoner or elephant (the zoo is right next door to the Garden. Over there, they probably call it the Zoo, with a capital 'z'). But overall, I feel lucky to be able to spend part of my day at the Garden.

Anyhoo. I just wanted to post a photo of me in my favorite t-shit. Kidding. That's not all. I wanted to show off my sweet hat. Joking. But honestly, that IS my favorite t-shit, and that is a pretty damn sweet hat. I got it in Cabo (during the ol' honeymoon). Really what I want you to see is the amazing crested saguaro in the background. It grows that way because of a genetic mutation, I think. Supposedly they don't know (that's what someone told me at the Garden). But I assume it's a genetic mutation similar to how a four-leaf clover is a genetic mutation occuring in a three-leaf clover. These crested saguaros are rare, but the Garden has three. They transplant them and stuff. As many of you probably know, saguaros only grow in the Sonoran desert and they're pretty damn cool, if I do say so myself.

FYI -- I got another job at a health food store and I'll be dividing my time between it and the Garden. I'm actually looking forward to learning about nutrition. You know, vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements and all that stuff. It's nice to be working. Mostly. If only for the reason of financial security, because as you all know, I'd rather be at home playing Xbox and computer games.

AND, just to show you that I AM an adaptable creature, Arizona isn't so bad once you get through the blistering hot months. Last week the temperatures were down in the 90s, which is beautiful when compared with 105-110. But this week the mercury was back up there in triple digits and I've wilted like a sick flower. I'll be recuperating this weekend by resting up in a comfortable meat locker. Should you need me, you know where to find me.

Monday, September 12, 2005

"The Garden"

Finished: first day at "the garden." That's what they call it, but really it comes out sounding like garden with a capital 'g'. Which is accurate, since it's the Desert Botanical Garden. But when they say it,"the Garden," it might as well be a religious cult, the kind with a leader whose charisma demands complete devotion and who papers his headquarters with images of himself. No, I'm joking. Just a little. But you know, you start to suspect a place where everyone talks about how great it is. Unsolicited talk of how great "the garden" is, strikes me as fishy.

What can I expect? If, at my first day of training, someone pointed out all the flaws of "the garden," I would either suspect that person of being a jerk, or suspect "the garden" of being a hell hole. Kidding, I just wanted to say hell hole in this post. More accurately, I would suspect it of being a seriously flawed institution. I imagine the minor flaws "the garden" has will become apparent in a few weeks, or months.

I always feel cautious, though, when I hear employees talk of their company as anything with the definite article in front of it, like the first letter should be capitalized: "the Company," "the Garden," "the Store," "the Brothel." The larger the company, the more ominous it sounds. When I worked at Graywhale, the cd store in Logan, we called it "the Store." But there was only five of us, so we were like a little family. When I worked at that big company in Salt Lake which I shall not name (for some reason. I don't even know why I don't want to name it), people often called it "the Company" and I always cringed. It sounded like a living being, with limbs or tentacles. It really had tentacles, which it stretched to Florida, Connecticut and Illinois. And those tentacles were moving and multiplying constantly, like the hungry monster that it was (I liked the Company, I really did). Anyway, the point being: Graywhale = small; mysterious Salt Lake company = very large and, therefore, ominous.

But so far, "the garden" is amazing. I was thrilled to discover that I get a free book all about the Sonoran desert (it takes so little to please me), and I was even a little thrilled to find out that I have homework. Yes, homework. I have to study the desert ecology. I mean, I'm going to have to be able to explain facts about the plants and stuff without sounding like a fool. Being a natural tour guide, guiding won't be hard for me to do. But first I have to actually know the stuff.

Today we went on a small tour of "the garden." It's a meticulously cultivated place (as it should be). And honestly, looking at some of these plants up close, you can see why Gene Roddenberry or whoever, thought they ought to film the planet scenes of Star Trek in the desert. There's this plant called the boojum that's rather freaky looking. Beautifully freaky (like the Eels song). I've given a link to an image of it, but photos don't do it justice. You have to see it in real life. And there are other strange plants. I think part of the experience, the otherworldy feel to it, is only present because these crazy plants are all in one place. One place called The Garden. Ooooo-wah-ooo-oooo.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Inadvertently, I Let the Metaphorical Cat Out of the Metaphorical Bag

I've been trying to work on my book. Oops, the cat’s out of the bag. Yes, I’m one of the millions out there writing a book. Now you know the truth about me. Silly, hopeful girl, writing a book, you’re thinking. Well it's partly why I've disappeared. I recently reworked the beginning and felt pretty elated about that. 

So I had Stoker read it, just about 8 pages. And he gave me some constructive criticism, which I appreciated very much and agreed with what he said. But then I got depressed because I’m one of those types, and he didn’t come back and lavish me with praise for my mind-blowing writing skills. Because that’s what you have to do with me. So I haven’t worked on it for a few days.

Then the other night Stoker told me he was worried that I haven’t worked on it because he didn’t give the reaction I needed to keep going. And yes, that’s true. I had to tell him the truth. “All I wanted,” I said, “was a few positive words. That would have sufficed. Such as, ‘Where’s the rest, Nikki? It’s sooo good, I’m hungry for the rest.’ That would have made want to keep going.” As it is, being depressed and everything, I doubt very much that I can write at all. Even the things I truly love don’t appeal to me. Except Stoker. He still appeals to me.

Anyway, we worked it out and he does want to read more of it. In fact, I seem to have overlooked that he told me he wanted to read more at the time (but that hardly counts as lavish praise, which is what I needed, being emotional high maintenance like I am). But I’d extrapolated from that, at the time, that he just thought it sucked and was hoping that it would get better. You know. It’s easy to extrapolate.

The other reason I’ve disappeared is actually two reasons, but they’re related. One: Stoker bought me a computer game called Rise of Nations. I’m told this game is very much like Civilization. Anyway, it’s consuming all my spare time because I’m obsessed and must conquer everything. I do alright on the easy level, but once I switch to moderate, the computer wastes me (you should know, there’s an easier level than easy level. This level is known as easier). It’s very unfair. I barely have time to amass an army. To keep my morale up, last night I switched back to easy, amassed an enormous army, and laid waste to Alaric’s (king of Austria) villages. He was at my mercy and begged for peace, which of course I granted because I’m such a sweetheart. It was beautiful.

The other reason is yet another game, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. This is an Xbox game, and I’m hell bent on conquering it (I only just started playing video games again). Recently Stoker bought us a wireless controller, which I’ve had to test. Several times. And for several hours on each occasion. Who can blame me? It’s too hot out to do anything remotely active and so I stay in, entertaining myself through various means such as reading, writing, playing video and computer games. Plus I clean, do the laundry, wash the dishes, exercise and etc. I’m amazing. I’m super woman*.

With all these great things keeping me busy, how can I be depressed, you ask? The answer is that I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a lack of direct sunlight or something. Maybe I’m like a flower. Or a vine. A tomato plant. Something that requires direct sunlight. Finish the metaphor for me because I’ve reached my limit.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I’ve recovered and I feel the fire burning again. The fire, that is, for finishing my book. I was reading through it, a later part, like page 70 or thereabouts, and realized, I’m an amazing writer. Damn amazing. If I finish it and can’t find a publisher, I’ll be 100% convinced that all publishers are insane. It’s good stuff.

I have to tell myself stuff like that—stuff like “I’m amazing”—and be convinced, or else I’d quit. You see, perhaps I truly suck and I just don’t get it. But the point is to keep going. That’s the point of writing a book or completing any large task, and even the point to life. You have to keep going regardless of how awful something is. But to keep going you must fool yourself into thinking you’ve really got something here. Something worth something.

*Stoker helps. He’s very good at doing his part. Just didn’t want you to think that I do it all.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Music Reviews + Depression: What I've Been Doing in My Spare Time

Some of you may have noticed a significant decline in new posts. That's because 1) I've been depressed, and 2) I've been writing reviews for a music web site (links: Moondance review, Dark Side of the Moon review). But don't worry, I found an old bottle of 5-htp and have started taking them to help my mood. That's a joke, but also serious. I did find a bottle of 5-htp and I am taking them again. How can a joke be serious, you're asking? I'm not sure. The point is that I realize pills don't make you happy. I decide to be happy and come hell or highwater, I'm happy.

You may not know this, but I'm a recovering anti-depressant addict. No, joking again. I wasn't addicted in the sense that I went on them voluntarily and I had to get a daily fix to function normally. Not like that. I went through depression in junior high school, when I was 13. So my mom took me to a psychologist, we deduced that I had a problem and then she suggested anti-depressants. First Prozac, then Zoloft, followed by Paxil. Not all at once, of course. One at a time. We finally settled on Paxil. Tom Cruise may find this hard to believe, but it worked for me.

The truth is, I didn't even know anything was wrong with me. I was just having a hell of a time in school and in my life. I was tired all the time and I thought about suicide often. Well, death more than suicide. So, I was really messed up because only messed up people think about death that often. Really, I'm not kidding. But I thought life was like that, you know. Messed up.

There are plenty of deeply embedded reasons that I became depressed. Puberty is the worst time of life, I think, and I was amidst that hell-storm. Plus my dad had gone psycho, so my mom divorced him and we were always on the run from him. For a year there were times when we'd pack up spur of the moment and head to my grandma's, because my mom had received death threats from my father (some may take death threats lightly, we didn't. Especially not when the violence and abuse he was capable of had already been exhibited) or his psychiatrist had called to tell her he was in a psychotic mental state.

Then after a year of this, my mom got remarried. My step-dad was a good guy, but I didn't like him at first. All of it was tough for me, but up to that point it was all I had known.

It wasn't like the psychologist dredged up repressed memories of abuse or anything (I just want to point that out). She helped me realize that it's not normal to want to sleep all day and to sleep through class, and to hate your family (oh yeah, and I hated my family, for reasons I can't fathom now). But it was normal to struggle and to feel alone and be upset that your dad left you. So therapy helped and so did the anti-depressants. And I was on them until I was 20 or something.

I'm not pushing anti-depressants or anything. And I'm also not complaining about my life, because my life has been fine. Good. Wonderful, and I'm rather pleased with how things have turned out. I don't have expectations that it's supposed to be easy. But I'm not the person who's going to point a finger and say that anti-depressants don't work and you should be ashamed for taking them. I feel otherwise. I've seen how they work for some people (me, duh).

And yes, I'm going to take advantage of a bottle of 5-htp I found in my medicine cabinet when I feel like it, because you know, sometimes it's just really tough to be happy even when you know you should feel happy, come hell or high water.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I feel so helpless. I've been watching and reading about Hurricane Katrina and I want to do something to help. But I've nothing to offer, not really. Some people are offering their homes to refugees, but I live in a one bedroom apartment. Some people have boats. I don't have a boat. My cousin Mark has a boat, and if I had any authority, I'd order him to take it down there. And some people are donating money, I don't even have a job. We're barely scraping by as it is. Some people are donating their time and skills. What skills do I have to offer? None. I'm not a doctor, an engineer, or anything. My dad is, an electrical engineer (power) that is and if I had any authority, I'd send him down there to help rebuild and get power to the city.

In short, me . . . I'm useless.

I sit here and mourn for the people and their losses and love them and pray for them. But that seems to be all I can do. I'd do more, if I could. I think if someone said to me, "We're leaving tonight, with (insert organization here), to go to New Orleans. Come with us." I think I'd go. I'd have to clear it with Stoker first, but if it was alright with him, I think I'd go.