I spent half my day playing along in the rigmarole of motor vehicle registration, which ended with my bi-weekly cry. It turns out that in Colorado, you can't register your car with a bad catalytic converter because of this whole emissions testing hogwash that I was never aware of before now. Something to do with a "smog" conspiracy. For a state of stoners, Colorado is very threatened by little blonde women from Minnesota single-handedly destroying the western United States with little white Subaru's.
I hope no Denver cops are reading this because my plan is to just drive with my Minnesota plates until the car itself disintegrates and blows away in the mountain winds and back into the cycle of mining the planet for precious metals. That would be easier than getting my catalytic converter fixed and going back to the DMV. I'm not a fan of adhering to unnecessary government rules and procedures. I think they're fine for some people, but I'm just not one of those people. I've been told I'm a good kid by some folk who may or may not have been lying, and that's enough to qualify me as exempt from motor vehicle registration. Besides, I only let one person work on my car, and that's Tug Boat. That car represents my life. I'm trying really hard to keep it together, and I'm very picky about who touches my engine.
In tumultuous times like these, I resort to my constants. Internet distractions. For me, that means listening to the same songs over and over on Youtube, which is better than talking to anyone or approaching my problems with the intention of solving them. I'd rather just listen to other pissed off people bang on drums and scream nonsensically. Although lately I'm hooked on the new melodic Sawed-Off Shotgun by The Glorious Sons. I've listened to it about 37 times today.
For anyone in a pickle, that's a reassuring banger. Almost as delightful as thinking about disappearing from the hubbub of society and dying alone in a cave, just rotting away until archeologists find my bones a thousand years from now, name me something hot like Belinda, and put me in a museum basement to be studied from the era of when people used to die young and drive machines along the ground with rusty flanks and bad catalytic converters. Alternatively, I could probably settle for just buying an actual sawed-off shot gun whenever I have money to spend on frivolous things to keep in the trunk of my illegal car.
This first sentence is an apology for the quality of this blog post. I've been a mile high for two weeks, and oxygen hasn't reached my brain since North Dakota. I just moved to Denver on a whim. I was told there were mountains here, and I can testify that that is not true. There is only a haze of smoke California fires (or marijuana) masking anything that might be a mountain.
I went from living in a one-bedroom apartment with a cat to a house that's being remodeled with three adults, a five year-old, a dog and two cats. I wake up to Alex tickling me, the dog whining at my bedside, Pajamas hissing at the dog, and the other cat doing laps around the room. I love it. And the other day I hit my head on the corner of a windowsill really hard, so I might have a concussion, but without health insurance I'll just have to tough it out.
We live in a town full of old people, homeless people, and junkies. Just the kind of seedy riffraff I can get along with. I have ridden my bike. I have gone to Torchy's Tacos. And I have met with some other writers. I have not taken the time to photograph the copious amounts of graffiti here. (Because I'm lazy). I have been up into the mountains zero times and counting, and I'm starting a fling with a 23 year-old unemployed meditation instructor who's driving across the country in a Honda CRV with 103,000 miles on it. I told him to check the oil.
I'll be working as a FedEx delivery driver pending a background check, but with my shady past, I don't know it will work out. I'll be fine if they don't dig up my blog. On that note, I don't do drugs, I've never killed anyone, I'm not a sex offender, and I've never even been arrested. I ran over a raccoon with my car one time in college, but I think most people are okay with that considering the Great Rabies Epidemic of 2011 when the offense took place.
So, yes, I sort of just up and left. Some of my Minnesota friends believe I left Minnesota to go looking for something that I'll never find. Others think I might be running from something. I won't say if either of those is true, because maybe even I don't know the answer. But not all who wander are lost. I may not be moving up in the world, unless you mean literally in which case I am about a mile high. I drove by a sign in Northglenn that said Elevation: 5280ft. For those of you who have not seen Remember the Titans, that is exactly one mile. But I would never say I'm moving onwards and upwards. More just onwards and sideways. Same shit different state. Same clothes, same cat, same car, same sort of rigmarole.
I had a death in my family two weeks ago, completely unexpected. It took me by surprise even though he was pushing ninety and had become weak and depressed after his wife died four years ago. He crossed over to the other side to be with her and two of his sons, and he's happy now. I know he's happy. In his casket, he looked like he was going to sit up and say, "just kidding!" and then probably "you betcha" and "how about dat." I remember him only as someone who was so alive.
After the funeral we all went to Chili's, and I ordered an entire rack of ribs. While also downing a beer, I turned the whole rack into a graveyard on my plate, partially just to show off, but also because I was hungry after refusing to eat all day. My meal became just a slack pile of bones. And I thought about death like I always think about death, but this time death was apparent, present, and perhaps thinking about me, too.
I had just come from the cemetery, and there I sat in my black dress turning a family-friendly restaurant into a valley of dry bones all dropped in a pile one at a time until it looked like a fallen tower of Jenga. At least Warren lived while he was alive. I already feel dead like the pig bones in front of me. Deader than Warren in the casket.
Loneliness can literally kill you. That's what happened to him in those last few years after Gladys was gone. When I was in the army, a chaplain told us that loneliness was more deadly than smoking and drinking, and that you needed a minimum of four hugs a day. Loneliness is like walking around with a backpack full of bricks, except that it doesn't make you stronger, it just makes you weaker a little at a time. We had been having a problem with suicides in our battalion.
So there at Chili's I was acutely aware of not just death and its mysterious prowling about, but also of loneliness and what it can do. I imagine death and loneliness probably stroll around together looking for hell to raise. .
One week later, my friend sent me a picture of him and his newborn. I looked at it and broke. I realized how alone I am, and that something was definitely missing. Not a baby, but something that could take the place of being too independent, too self-sufficient, and totally alone. So I looked at that picture and started to cry. Just going out and finding a boyfriend wouldn't cure the loneliness; plenty of people share a bed and still wake up alone. And empty sex only numbs you for however long it lasts.
Being alone means you're dead while you're alive. I'm just one of those piles of bones in the book of Ezekiel that got up and started to walk, had flesh that grew over them, but did not start breathing. They missed out on the breath of life.
I deleted the picture of my friend and his newborn from my phone. I felt pretty stupid at that point about all my goals, ambitions and ideas. The things I wanted to do with my life, and all the things I wanted to learn and make happen. I felt stupid about my pipedream monkeying around with some pathetic graffiti and street art photography.
I'll keep doing it, though, because of the inner voice telling me to keep doing it even when I don't want to. Because I haven't seen the forest when I just planted the seed yesterday. Because I probably won't feel alone like this forever. And because sometimes you have to pick yourself up by the bra straps and keep barreling forward. Despite what I think, I will live. I usually do.
I went to Detroit for a short getaway to see a friend; we'll call him Bob. I did not go with the intention of collecting graffiti shots, but I thought there would be time for it in the crevices of our Detroit experience between the Henry Ford Museum, a Tigers game, Canada, a pig roast, and eating literally everything that came within a one mile radius of my face, including Derek. I'll get to Derek in a second. Bob informed me on Friday night that just across the river was Canada. I had no idea it was there, which proves how much attention I paid in eighth grade geography. So we decided that Saturday morning (late morning) we'd drive over to Windsor, Ontario because I happened to bring my passport and I had never been to Canada before. I've been a Minnesotan for 27 years, and I'd been all the way to Namibia in southern Africa, but I'd never been to Canada.
Canada was just as I expected it. The streets were paved in slippery maple syrup, hockey pucks rained down from the sky and Mounties patrolled the city on stallions. We had burgers and Canadian maple beer, and we happened to walk by some street art painted over a brick apartment complex. I saw a few of them and took some shots. I felt bad for not getting anything in the city of Detroit where some really great graffiti can be found, but Bob wasn't willing to take me to the parts where we might find some of the best stuff. At least not that time around. Next time I'll make him take me there.
That night was the night of Derek. Derek was a pig slowly roasting in Bob's neighbor's backyard, named after the one hated resident of the subdivision. And after a mountain of hors d oeuvres (mountains I can move, you know) and drinks and seconds and thirds and fourths of Derek the pig, I was deeply entrenched in a food coma and my insides were a war-zone. I lost all hope for doing any graffiti hunting the next day, and thought I might not even wake up the next morning. Bob and I both wanted to kill ourselves.
We got a slow start to Ann Arbor the next morning. Derek was satisfying when he first went in, but after our relationship took off, he became a parasite, and so ensued an abusive relationship. But Bob and I made it to Ann Arbor and lunched at a vegan organic restaurant and drank fresh-squeezed vegetable juice from a vegan organic juice bar, and I felt that soon Derek would be out of my life.
We happened to wander past a dumpster in an alley that was spray painted by some amateur artists, and I took a picture of it. It was the kind of thing that says something incoherent and vague in poorly chosen colors and drips down like blood running out of a deep cut. Not great, but I like the chaos. I kept walking down the alley and turned the corner and found where all those vegan organic college hippies have thrown up all over the brick walls with their paint. It was an explosion of colors, images, tags, sayings and hashtags. (Note, everyone should #prayforJason).
I wish I had spent more time taking better pictures at better angles and zooming in on better images. I could have spent an hour in that alley strip, but the green juice was getting in a fight with Derek, and I had to make it to a bathroom and then rush to the airport to make my flight. So I did what I could at the time. So far Ann Arbor has been my favorite site, and I have a good reason to go back there and get Detroit. I'll make my next trip out more purposeful instead of drinking and eating all the food in Mish (does anybody call it that?) and going to Canada to see the Mounties.
Next time I'm in the Detroit greater area, I'll be more intent on graffiti hunting. It'll be way more gooder, as a good friend of mine would say. Don't try to be more gooder than anyone else. Just try to be more gooder than yourself last time you were in Detroit. My titbit of great and infallible wisdom today.
I usually just get a new phone when I drop mine in the toilet. I felt like this time around, I should skip the bathroom and go straight to the carrier. I just got the spanking new Samsung Galaxy S9+ in lavender purple (I'm not getting paid to tell you that; I wish I was). They conned me into the bigger, beefier phone with the high tech camera that I could use for my graffiti photography. You'll see the difference between the photos from Ann Arbor, MI and the photos I've taken around Minneapolis and St. Paul. These' new ones are much better.
The tall, strapping young ginger who helped me at At&T was amused by how little I understood phones and technology and databites and gigs and caches and storage. When he asked me how good I am with technology, I looked at him and said, "I met kids in Africa who grew up in mud huts that know more about technology than I do." I knew dazzled him with my technological illiteracy when he said, "If you have any questions, ask them now."
My new phone, Phoney as I call it while I'm throwing things around my apartment looking for it and Keysies, has 64 gigs instead of the 8 that my old phone had, so I can use things like Instagram and Lyft, and I can listen to music without running out of those databites so fast. Tall Strapping Ginger just looked at my old LG and said, "If you made that thing last three years, then this Samsung will probably outlast you." And I said, "Well that's a long time because I'm going skydiving for my 105th birthday."
I'm not trying to brag about my snazzy new thing; I'm still trying to grasp how it all works, and I think that if I recount the information to you that I'll understand it better. At first, it was an overload of notifications and information that pissed me off the day I brought it home, laid on my bed, and took high-tech pictures of my foot to test it out. It's hard to focus on my toes when I'm getting notifications about Facebook.
I don't have a Facebook.
At first I hated not the phone, but the necessity of the phone. Within days I realized how much of my own intelligence I could outsource, how much I could rely on it and mentally check out. I hardly have to open my laptop, and I never have to fidget with a Tom Tom. I don't have to worry about using up data, and I can finally use those stupid apps. Sometimes it makes me want to go back to those African mud huts for a long time. Eventually I figured out how to turn most of that garbage off and focus on what I want to use it for. Documenting graffiti and taking pictures of my ginormous cat, Pajamas.
Let me know what you think of the new photos.
Who the hell has time to do anything with their laundry other than wash, dry, and dump on the floor in the designated clean-clothes corner? I've never ironed, steamed, or dry cleaned in my life. If I necessitated that kind of luxury, I'd have to incorporate a live-in boyfriend, and in my limited experience there's a tedious process to that whole charade of monkey business. I just grab whatever fits, which is contingent on how much water I'm retaining and how many sandwiches I had for lunch the day before, and throw it on whether it's wrinkled or creased or slightly stained. Half the time I forget an article.
I saw a man at Burger Moe's in St Paul the other day. He was wearing a Pepto-Bismol pink polo that looked like it just crawled out from under the barbed wire fence of an origami-themed torture camp. I've never seen such a wrinkled shirt. This man who defied the societal garment expectations of public neatness, was obliviously heroic, this rebellious middle-aged white man with glasses and a generic brown hairstyle. This average man, probably an HR rep at a medium-sized office supply company who enjoys the evening news and pretending to listen to his wife, became a man of great defiance the day he made the conscious decision to put on a shirt that was more wrinkled than the left half of a life-long over-the-road trucker. #theresistence.
Now I don't feel so alone for my laissez faire dealings with garments. I have left home and forgot to put on shoes more than once. It's just one more thing to think about, and I already have so many thoughts cluttering my mind that fabric softener and dryer sheets won't fit on the mental shelves. My mind is already so cluttered I wish I could poke a big hole in my head and drain all the sewage. Then maybe I'd have room to think about grown-up things like laundry and bills and getting a real job.
I think that if we were even meant to wear clothes, we would not have been born naked. It's just one more distraction. One more decoy to divert attention from the finality of existence, the limited time that humanity has left before we are scorched from the earth, the blessing of a single life that is as brief as a fart in the grand expanse of time and the universe. It's like being asleep in small pictures instead of awakening to the biggest picture. Without seeing big problems, the little ones become magnified. Like a wrinkled shirt or some scuffed shoes, or the fact that I only have six presets on my car radio but I like seven radio stations.
Tangents like this are why no one likes me and all my friends are imaginary.
When I was younger and dumber, I worried about stupid shit. Now I'm less young and less dumb and I worry about different stupid shit. I might even be dumber than I was before. I'm less mature and far less self-conscientious for certain. My brain cell could just fizzle out. I can't remember things like I used to, and I'm only twenty seven. I haven't even really started my life yet, and every morning I have to gradually remind myself who I am, what I do, and what I did the day before. That last one is the hardest part.
I feel like my life hasn't really started yet because I'm mentally solidified to future plans that will, in my imagination, take me from nothing to something. And every day, in my mind, all of these plans will start tomorrow because today is a horse I already shot in the face. If I would spend less time talking to myself and more time making shit happen I would be a lot further than I am (in the subjective sense of being somewhere in the intangible modern-day success story).
I think about my past, and it all just feels like a beta test to the actual thing that is supposed to be my life and my long list of achievements and experiences. I'm starting to realize how useless future plans are. Too many unforeseeable variables hinder a blueprint for life. I have no idea what the world is going to look like tomorrow. Nor do I know what I'll feel like doing.
In an economy like this, when trends are always shifting from one to the next, I think I'm supposed to keep up with the changes in jobs, technology, and pop culture, and then I forget to enjoy what I'm in while I'm in it. I'm too scared to be spontaneous because if I am, it might get in the way of something else I could be doing to make my plan work. I'm so busy planning out my rat-race hamster-wheel mixed-metaphor life-plan that the present just floats by and all I have is my to-do list and a five-year plan. Plans are like boyfriends, they're nice to have, but don't marry them. There will be one, and then another one, and then another one.
I never planned to become a street art photographer. I just started doing it one day, and I'm not even good. But I'll keep doing it. It has become a staple in my life. It motivates me to go for a walk or a bike ride or explore a new part of town—all without making plans to do it. It's something I enjoy enough that I just do it. It balances out all the other stresses in my life and things I have to do that I don't actually enjoy doing. And it might end up more fruitful than any of the things I plan to do.
Blogs are the worst. I despise all blogs. They epitomize the hazards of free speech; anyone can write anything, true or not, smart or dull, nonsensical or totally logical. Blogs are full of poorly constructed opinions and bad taste. They're click bait, SEO slaves, and internet trolling marketing predators. I wish all modern writers of the internet would just go to hell. Except for me because every word I put on the page is phenomenal. I'm too good for fact checking and peer review. Everything I have to say is absolute and infallible. Besides, I'm not really a writer. I'm a "street-art photographer," or so is the euphemistic title that I now put down under "occupation" on any formal application. Salary: $0. Responsibilities: None.
Lately my productivity has been low; I'm looking outside myself for sources to blame, and I'm going with power outages. My building has been having some power outages recently, so I can't charge my phone and have to go to bed early just to pass the time. Maybe it's because of recent solar flares. Maybe we'll have a solar flare big enough to wipe out our power grid, and then we'll have no blogs. Our abyss of data—Social Media rubbish and uneducated political diatribes—can just be metaphorically razed to the ground. We'll have to fight each other for food when the looting begins. I'm warning you, I will hit men, women and children to get to the oatmeal bulk bins at Whole Foods. I have an axe and a hatchet in the trunk of my car, and I'm not afraid to use them.
I have all the time in the world right now to go find good graffiti shots, but I always find my day filled with other things. Someone decided to play a mean joke and replace my cloth blankets with lead ones so I can't get up in the morning, and I just have to lay under the blankets for hours. Then when I do get up I just want to put an elephant dart in my neck. After a cup of coffee I feel okay. I put the tranquilizer dart back in my dresser drawer with my other toys, and I start my day with TWA—Time-Wasting Activities and looking out the window to see what season we're going with today.
Things aren't going the way they're supposed to go, generally. It's almost time to take out my bicycle, but we're expecting another snowstorm here in the middle of April. Also, Pajamas has been using my tires as a scratching post, so I don't know how well the rubber is going to hold up. I'll probably get out there when the snow melts in September, and my tires will pop in a bad neighborhood. By that time it will start snowing again right then. I'll just have to hump my bicycle parts back home on my back, trudging through the snow in my flip flops. This is why I'm a well-known lover of the outdoors.
1. Everyone just forgot about planking
Whenever I have the perfect planking opportunity, nobody cares. Society is blind to planking as the timeless jewel among fads; it was both an internet quirk and a core workout--or a brief nap. I'm hoping for a planking resurgence just so I have an excuse to lay across a low-hanging tree branch and a fence post in the middle of the day, mostly because I like avoiding actual work.
2. My butt is too big for a gun holster
So I don't know how to protect children from the grizzlies running rampant from school to school. As a petite woman with a curvy figure, there's just no good place to keep a pistol. My hips are too wide, my boobs are in the way, it won't fit in my skinny-jeans pocket. It's like there's almost no point in a conceal and carry permit.
3. The NSA steals all my best comedy sketches
Every time I come up with something good, I write it on my computer in a word document. Then I hear it somewhere else before I ever have a chance to market myself. I can think of no other explanation than that my assigned agent is stealing my ideas and reselling them for profit. I'm responsible for the hilarity of Amy Schumer, Dmitri Martin, and Trevor Noah, but no one will believe me.
4. The Insurance Industry is too heavily regulated
You can insure your car, phone, house, health, children, spouse, life, pizza, vacations, and anything on the premise of a rental property. But what about a major life insurance policy on my cat, Pajamas? Apparently there are laws against such practices. What kind of country is this in which industry is so heavily regulated? He's a therapy cat, and I don't function without him. In the event of a loss I would suffer such grief that I would not be able to work, but apparently that's not good enough for AIG.
5. Every little thing you do defines your political agenda
Including what you eat. Having some organic broccoli? You're a left-wing hippy liberal that hates corporate agenda, wears a nose ring, and pickets outside Burlington with buckets of fake blood. Enjoying a bacon cheeseburger? Congratulations! You are a gun-toting red-neck right-wing conservative with diabetes and a love for AM radio.
6. They're going to start checking ID's for Tide pods
Because of teenage idiocy, I now have to prove that I'm over eighteen just to purchase my favorite afternoon snack. They're so easy to have when I'm on the go. Packed with nutrients, they really cleanse the system. Anyone (over eighteen) can enjoy these little delights.
7. Vandalism is Illegal
Street art is legal in Melbourne, Australia, but America can't seem to catch up with the progressive ways of Down Under. Our "civilized" society is balls-deep in monochrome gray matter, and most commissioned art is just tacky busy-work. For example, the Bob Dylan mural in downtown Minneapolis and the Walker Art Center.
8. Social Media
On social media, you can play pretend, you can create any fantasy, you can even make up an entirely fake life. In my other life I have sixteen kids (four sets of quadruplets) and a Go Fund Me page to support them. As a single mom, a lot of people are willing to help me out in trying times.
9. Life is comfortable enough that I can really focus on my existential quandary
I don't really have to fight for my food. I know I have reliable shelter and quality transportation and running water. I don't work 32 hours a day in a sweatshop making shoes for rich people, and I don't worry about being dragged from the mud hut by a lion in the middle of the night. I have extra time to really think about why I'm here, what matters, what happens when I die, and whether or not the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is altering the time-space continuum and what that means for reality.
Donald is one of the most atrocious role models of any cartoon duck. He teaches children that you don't need pants and that it's okay to speak unprofessionally.
A body in motion wants to stay in motion, and a body at rest wants to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.
I got the title for this blog from Namibia, where lies the oldest desert and the tallest dunes in the world, and where I commenced a quarter-life crisis. Where fairy circles puzzled scientists for ages and the barren oasis lures Hollywood filmmakers. Also where I met good-looking dudes.
Daniel, a desert guide and my hot African date from the night before, sped past the pokey tourists and over the road of divots and rock and loose sand, through the park gate and into the vastness or red dunes and indigo sky. I sat in the passenger seat of the jeep. A Dutch couple jostled from side to side in back. The sun was rising behind us, and I was too warm with my sweatshirt, but too cold without it.
Sossusvlei hadn't had rain in six years, and the river and watering hole were dried up. But life has a way of adapting; oryx can go a year without drinking water, camelthorn tree roots grow three hundred feet below, and the catfish are still alive underground, hibernating in the mud. They are fixed in the earth, slowly sinking further to the core, following the moisture down to hell. And if the rain returns, they'll spring back to life and vitality as if the drought had never sat in protest on the country.
I pictured the fish underneath us, preserved in mid-swim with open mouths and open eyes. Later I imagined myself as one of those catfish stuck in the mud, asleep and unaware, unable to move and awaiting the rain to restore me.
I draw the comparison because I'm in my own drought and stuck in my own mud. It's easiest to waste life away with TV and junk food and a mental loopty-loop of self-doubt. It's easy to waste time on phones and computers, never having seen the physical dimension cycle through the seasons. Sometimes I lay on my couch and stare at the ceiling with no rational thoughts in my head to keep me grounded in reality. When my friends gave me the password to their Netflix account, I didn't get out of my sweatpants for three weeks.
I wish it wasn't so easy to set the default to idle. I scroll through the internet as if I'm looking for something, and maybe I began by looking for something, but I forgot what it was and still search mindlessly. I repeat the same few actions every day without change, without learning, without action, and it's like being stuck in mud. Ostensibly mobile, but not alive. Frozen in motion while time hurdles forward. So deeply asleep it's like hibernation.
And I am always trying to wake up.
Catfish in the Mud
I went to Namibia and took a tour of Sossusvlei, where it hasn't rained in 6 years. The river is completely dried up. My guide told me that even in the six-year drought, catfish are hibernating deep down in the mud and will surface again when the rains come back and restore life to the desert. I didn't believe him at first, like I didn't believe in the mysterious fairy circles on the dunes. But now the idea of catfish in the mud has become a metaphor for the things trapped on the inside and down below that wait for the rains to give them some vigor and life. Catfish in the Mud is a pretty standard millennial blog in which I say mostly nothing in about 300 words.