Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BDAY IRL

"Do you get good reception?"

Aging Acid (a birthday post)

I was 19 years old and sitting on a bench in Richmond, Virginia when an old man came over to talk at me.  I say "at" rather than "to" because he was one of those babbling old guys that hangs out on streets all over America... you know, the kind that use their verbal diarrhea to inspire guilt and annoy people into handing over their pocket change.

I was enjoying some time alone (which is how I enjoy most of my time), book in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, and the sun shinin' down. It was lovely. I have no idea what exactly the man said to me but it was something along the the lines of ,"Whatya doin', baby?" and decidedly not lovely.

Without looking up, I lifted my nose ever-so-slightly from the pages and said "Reading." Somehow, he took this snubbing as an invitation to pitch me his (probably fabricated) story, which didn't call for the usual cash donation but rather the other thing that these street-yackers always want: a chat with "a young pretty thang."

I remember finding the accusation of being "pretty" "young" and a "thang" incredibly amusing because behind the eyes he was attempting to gaze into was nothing but a pit of boiling acid encased in a bitter old soul, and was, by no means, a thang. I felt momentary pity him having gotten that far into his life yet still being unable to identify a terrible witch like me. I tried to take this pity out for a stroll, but he was right... I was young and I had not honed that skill yet. So I put down the book, looked over at him for the first time and said, "I'd like you to get up and walk away. I want to be alone." He stood up silently and looked me from my big toe to my cow lick as if he had never seen such a foul woman in his life and said as walked away,

"Girl, you'll always be alone."

Today is my birthday. I'm 28. I've spent the last 10 years as an adult and for the last week I've been reflecting on those years. Overall it's been a pretty stellar decade, but it seems that I have not refined myself much in certain situations (like when I'm annoyed, which is frequently.) I've been wondering if I should work on that. But despite my acidity, I'm completely optimistic, generally happy, and usually caring. And I'm older now, my pity and empathy for other human beings take strolls all the time.

However there are still times much like my day on the bench where I bubble and boil and seethe. Take yesterday at work for example.

A man asked me where the McDonald's was located. I told him that it was just on the other side of the (not very big) building. He asked me how far that was. I told him I didn't know (because I don't.) Then he got angry because he thought, apparently, that I was withholding the precise distance from where he was standing to the McDonald's. So he asked me again, this time rewording it as, "You don't know?!"  And that's where my caring, happy and optimistic nature moved to the back burner.

"What kind of question is that?!" I asked.
 
He stared at me, slack jawed and agitated.
 
"You want me to guess?! Ok. It's 180 paces down that hallway." I pointed down the hallway next to me.

He threw his arms up in furious exasperation and stormed down the hall.

A few minutes later, a man walked back by me stuffing a hamburger into his mouth. As he passed me with his trap stuffed with mystery meat, he mumbled something. At first I thought it was a greeting so I smiled and said hello. He gave me a look that made me think I had just acted wrongly, and then I realized that he was the McDonald's guy from moments before.

He repeated himself, bits of food flying out of his mouth.

"Too many faces."

Too many faces? What could that mean? Then I thought he must have meant me. I'm two faced. I'm a dickhead giving shitty directions with a sarcastic smirk one second, and a smiling sales-girl the next. And he was right. I shouldn't be so cruel, I shouldn't shut people down, I shouldn't...

He repeated himself one last time as he neared the end of my counter, hamburger an inch from his face, bits of bun stuck all over his lips,

"Too many paces."

And then I thought something else. Whether that meant I had overestimated the paces to McDonald's or that he had felt there were too many to make it worth his pacing over there, that man was a fucking shithead. And I was two faced, but that because there are two kinds of people in this world. Motherfuckers who harass you while you're reading on benches or while you're at work, and those kind, understanding people who don't expect you to measure distances in case they someday might want to traverse them and who know that sometimes, you just want to be left the fuck alone.

So here's to another 10 years of multi-faced solitude.

Friday, July 9, 2010

mental traffic

I look and feel like shit. I'm on my period. My jawline is dotted with zits so big I feel like my face spent a night as a foot in an ill-fitting shoe and in consequence my jaw (the heel of the head) is now covered in blisters. I'm wearing blood-stained Blood Stands Still mesh shorts and a tattered old wife beater and i'm not even being intentionally ironic. My hair is growing out into an unflattering shag and has been bleached by the sun into an extremely unnatural shade of orange, which I'll tell you, is not my color. Anyway, on to other things...

Kingdom (my band) is doing shit again! After taking winter/spring off we got off our asses and wrote some new songs. We're recording at the beginning of August. Writing lyrics is taking its usual toll- I'm stressed out, having trouble sleeping, and am hovering closer to depression than I ever have before. When I write lyrics I let myself get swallowed up by the topics I'm handling, and since I mostly write about the horrendous oppression and exploitation that takes place on this planet, it's, to put it lightly, a fucking bummer.

For example: in the new record there's going to be a song about human trafficking. This is something I knew a bit about before but it wasn't until I started reading up and watching documentaries and news clips that I realized the breadth and gravity of the situation. Now it's all I can think about. I have nightmares almost every night that I am being trafficked, and it's so horrible I wake up feeling sick. I'm so upset, so overwhelmed, so... horrified that I don't know what to do. Dave has stopped me twice in the last week from detailing yet another trafficking horror story to him because, for some reason, he thinks it's not good dinner talk. The other day I was at a restaurant watching a film on sex trafficking  on my laptop and I had to pause it so I could throw up. I literally fucking threw up. (Lesson learned. Food + learning about or educating others on human trafficking do not mix.)

I get caught in the cycle of outrage-into-frenzy-into-overload-into-hopelessness and back into outrage every day. (Which is exhausting.) My Grandmother told me to take it easy on myself, and I asked her how I could when just last week there was a trafficking bust in Philly. 30 people (trafficked from other countries) were "kept in virtual bondage by threats, intimidation and rape" working 16 hour shifts for a cleaning business for the last 7 years. (Quote from this article about the bust.) I can't take it easy. Or rather, I am taking it easy by the little I'm doing. What I really want to is bust down doors and liberate people myself. Anyway... take 10 minutes and check out Free The Slaves and Transitions Global (a very cool aftercare program for sex traffic victims in Cambodia), read up, watch a couple videos, and lose your mind.

Dave and I may be leaving Philly this fall. I've been here a long time and I love this city, but I think it's starting to change who I am in a negative way. I'd been thinking I needed a break for awhile, then on the 4th of July when I flinched at every fire work because I thought it was a gun shot, then noticed people around me do the same, then heard numerous people say, "Shit! I thought those were shots!", I realized I absolutely need a break. So we may be moving to NYC (which is actually far safer than Philly.) I texted one of my friends in Brooklyn the other day to talk about his neighborhood and asked if he heard gunshots every night, or saw people getting beat up on the street on a regular basis, and if, in general, he'd call his area "chill". He said, "I haven't been in a fight in 3 years." and coming from him, that means a lot. So we'll see...

And on that note, while people scream and curse outside my window at 1:30 am (as usual), I'm off to bed.