Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rich like Snooki.

What's crackin', chimplets? Chicklet-chimplets? Chimple-pimples?

I have big news for you today: A retired friend of mine offered me the use of one of his cars for the month of January, so that I may commute the 24 miles each way between Hometown and Northward town, where trucking school is!  I have regular access to a motorized vehicle now!

Wasn't that crazy generous of Retired Friend? Cuh-razy generous. You know what having access to this car means? It means I won't have to stay in a homeless shelter in Northward town, as I'd expected, and it means I can still work at the library on nights and weekends to pay for gas, and I can stay living at my brother's for the next month, which means I can maintain my access to a daily shower and a kitchen to cook my foods and a washer and dryer to wash my clothes! How fucking exciting is that?

I just hope the car starts tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

I say that because it wouldn't start Thursday morning or Friday morning. It needed a new starter, and it got one on Friday, but now I'm worried that I'll get into the driver's seat one of these frigid mornings and the car won't start again, and then I'll miss school, and then I'll get washed back or I'll fail out or get an "I" for incomplete coursework. ERMAGERD!

That little speck of car trouble, which Retired Friend paid for and not me (see: crazy generous), reminded me of why I'd rather just live in a pedestrian-friendly area and skip car ownership altogether. You just never know when a car is going to break down and leave you stranded on the side of a desolate highway during a raging blizzard on a holiday weekend when no repair shops are open, or leave you stuck in the middle of a busy intersection all embarrassed because your decrepit car is the one causing a traffic jam and you can barely scrape together enough money to cover the towing bill, much less the huge repair bill.

You guys, I haven't had to deal with car maintenance and repair issues since 2006. That was the last time someone let me use their car for a number of weeks. I like driving rental cars and borrowing other people's cars and such, but the thought of owning a car makes me want to rock back and forth and suck my thumb, it makes me so anxious. No matter what anyone tells you, there is no such thing as a "reliable car." They're all pieces of shit that can and will break down at any moment.

A lot can go wrong with a bicycle too, or a moped, or any mechanical form of transportation. The only thing that has never failed me are my own feet and legs, which is why I prefer walking over anything. When I was a young whippersnapper back in the day, we didn't have a car because we were always broke, but sometimes when I needed a ride somewhere, I'd call one of my older siblings, and they'd either get really irritated and angry and begrudgingly say yes, or they'd flat out refuse. "What, are your legs broken?" they'd say. Or, "You've got two legs—use 'em!" So I grew up doing a LOT of walking and a lot of bicycle riding, through ice storms and lightning storms and pouring rain and dangerous wind chills and tornado sirens blaring. I walked to school and back every day until 8th grade, when I started taking the city bus. 

I've always marveled at kids whose parents drove them to and from school every single day, and I've often fantasized about what it must be like to have parents who do that. What a nice, cozy, luxurious feeling that must be! And to have that kind of luxury every day, no less?  Wow. What's really weird is that the kids who had that luxury growing up don't see what the big deal is. They don't even CARE, and that fascinates me. Jennifo told me that her parents always gave her a ride and she never once walked to school, and who do you think was wildly jealous about that, hmm?

One opinion of mine that hasn't changed a bit since I was 5 is, If you have a car, you're rich. People who own cars can insist up and down that they're poor, but there's nothing they can do or say to make me believe them. If you can walk outside and open a car door and get inside and go somewhere in that car, not just on one or two special days per year, but every single day, face it, man—you are rich. When I see pictures of traffic jams, the first thing I think is, Wow, look at all those rich people. How did almost everyone in the US get so fucking rich? It's just obnoxious how so many people here are rich, and they won't even acknowledge it.

So today when I got into the car that Retired Friend has lent me, it started up, and I got to scrape the frost off the windows, and I filled the tank with gas at a real gas station, and I got a $5 car wash, and I felt really rich. Rich like Robert Mugabe. Rich like Imelda Marcos. Rich like Snooki.

Anyway, because a lot of major things in my life have been comically bad over the 8 months, I recently decided to start a gratitude journal. Have you heard of these? It's a little record that you keep of things that are going right in your life, things that you're thankful for. They can be big important things, or mundane everyday things. I already do this in my head all the time, but I keep hearing from other people that actually writing all this stuff down changes your whole attitude and therefore your whole life, and helps you focus on positivity instead of negativity.

So on Christmas Day I started my gratitude journal in a little blank book, and so far I've listed 37 things. I definitely listed Retired Friend's car offer, and my friends and family of course.  Other than that, though, I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to be happy about. Most of my entries are big-picture items, like how I'm glad I was born in a developed country that has a decent infrastructure and which looks down upon female circumcision. Or how I'm glad I've never been raped or tortured or beaten with a baseball bat, have never been stabbed or shot, and how I'm not missing any body parts. Those are all things to be grateful for, to be sure, but writing them down just reminds me that millions of people don't have those luxuries, and that life is a violent struggle for any living organism, and that makes me sad. So the trend has been that I sit down with my book feeling neutral, and then I list some things to be glad about, and then I feel sad and guilty and not glad at all. What the fuck, man?

Then I tried writing down a few materials or services that I'm thankful for, such as food, clothing, electricity and running water, a smartphone, and this Netbook that I'm typing on, but that only reminded me that the reason I can afford these things is because they're made using non-renewable resources and processes that emit plumes of greenhouse gases, and assembled by poor people who are treated like slaves in horrible sweatshops. And that only reminded me that no matter what we buy or make, where we go, what we do or eat, we're destroying something. And it reminds me of those religious people who thank their god for blessing them with material possessions, but who can't answer why god would "bless" some countries so much and others so little, or why those material "blessings" are constructed under such filthy and inhumane conditions by marginalized people, to be consumed by those with wealth and power.

Suffice it to say that my gratitude journal has inspired me to feel not grateful, but pathetic. I feel like I'm looking at a terrible wreck where a car has been totaled and several people are dead, and I'm the goon standing there saying, "Well, at least the left rear hubcap was spared!" I dunno...maybe I'm doing it wrong. Or maybe this whole gratitude journal idea is just some stupid pop-psych gimmick and I've fallen for it like a schmuck. Which, you know...great.

Well, I AM thankful that Christmas is over, and I am thankful for New Year's Eve. Once again I went out with Jennifo, because we've promised each other we'll always be together on New Year's Eve no matter what. We originally dreamed big dreams for this New Year's shindig--Hawaii or Costa Rica or Rio de Janeiro. But since we both have a serious case of the No Moneys virus, we looked at the International Directory of Hottest Party Spots, and what was next on the list after Rio? Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bitches. 

It took some real schmoozing, but I succeeded in convincing Jen that fake eyelashes would make all of her wildest dreams come true, so she agreed to wear them on the condition that I not touch her eyebrows, and that I do something outdoorsy with her in the future. Probably like camping or something that involves inspecting decomposing biomass. See, I bet she likes the outdoors because she never had to walk to school. To her, being outside is a novelty. To me, being outside means being too hot, too cold, soaking wet, sweaty, sunburned, up to my thighs in snow, and having my hair and shoes totally ruined right before an important interview or presentation.

I like to be inside where my sequins and tulle are safe and warm. Observe:

As per tradition, we got our gowns at Goodwill. My blue one was $20, and Jen's black one was $30, and we found them in less than an hour. Mine was a much better fit than the one I had last year, so it did not succumb to the wiles of gravity during the festivities and expose the ol' mams.

Aside from stopping at an Irish bar for dancing and free food, and at the old Pabst brewery for more free food, Jen and I also attended a comedy show at a fancy wine bar in downtown Milwaukee. The cover was only $10, which should have been a red flag.

There were three comedians—and I'm using that word loosely—and a host. I'm not kidding when I say the host was the funniest of the lot. Jen and I have attended several comedy shows over the years, mostly really good ones, but a few bad ones, and I think this one was the worst we'd ever seen. All three of these turkeys were from Minneapolis, and apparently they were all friends with each other, so I'm thinking the wine bar probably threw auditions to the wind and hired these guys using a package-deal coupon, like "Three Comedians for $5!"  

What made them so terrible? Well, for starters, all three of them took paper notes (!) up to the microphone with them, and after each joke, they'd turn to the paper to see which joke they were supposed to tell next. I am not making that up. Like, their fingers would actually move down the paper searching for the next joke to tell. If the jokes had been real zingers, I might have forgiven the lack of memorization and rehearsal, but they were lame and not funny at all. For instance, the first comedian, who was a woman about mine and Jen's age, was saying that she told her graduate school advisor that she wanted to study public policy and comedy. "Yeah, public policy and comedy," the woman said, nodding her head slowly. She paused for a moment, waiting for the audience to laugh. No one did. In fact, the longer she talked, the more sedate the audience got, and after about 10 minutes of her "jokes," I was in the mood for a nap. "You are way funnier than that chick," Jen said to me in a secretive manner.

The second comedian, a male, was just as bad, and the third one, also a male, was okay, but definitely still an amateur. I don't know if these three kids were just trying to fill a semester requirement for comedy school or what, but they kept pointing out that they were comedians standing at a microphone telling jokes, and I couldn't understand why. Stand-up works best when the comedian is just telling a funny story the way a good friend would, using a relaxed, conversational tone and weaving jokes seamlessly into the conversation. It doesn't work so great when the comedian stands up there saying, "Hey audience, I'm a comedian, and I'm going to stand up here and tell you some jokes."  It's like the difference between how a child tells a joke and an adult tells a joke. A child will loudly announce, "Hey, you wanna hear a joke? I'm gonna tell a joke! Are you ready? Okay, knock knock...blah blah blah...Get it? Do you get my joke? Wasn't that a funny joke? Okay, I'm gonna tell another joke, and this one's gonna be REALLY funny!" Whereas an adult will just slip a little something absurd into an otherwise ordinary sentence, and because it catches people off guard, it's funny. The teller doesn't announce that they've just told a joke, because the humor should speak for itself.

But these three knuckleheads, after each joke of theirs would flop, they wouldn't transition to the next joke, but they'd say things like, "Wow, you guys don't like that one? Well, it went over really well in Minneapolis." Then they'd go back to their paper list and say (out loud, mind you), "Let's see, I told that joke, I told that joke, I told that joke...okay, I've got two jokes left."

That was how I knew that we could leave soon. Okay, he's only got two jokes left. That's about five minutes, right? Then we can make like a tree and go somewhere else. Guuhhh...please hurry up. I'm dying.

And this went on for an hour. I swear each "joke" was like a tranq dart that made my blood pressure drop lower and lower. The rest of the audience seemed to be falling into the same coma, because those comedians had turned a loud and boisterous bar into a mausoleum. Hardly anyone was laughing.

You know, as someone who is planning on attending comedy school within the next year, I was kind of reconsidering my openness to doing stand-up. I mean, what if I get the "crickets" one day? What if I invent some jokes which seem hilarious to me, and I smooth them out into a routine, and I try it out on friends and family and classmates, and they all think it's hysterical, and then I try it out on a real audience and they don't laugh at all, and then I go home and cry and hate myself and get drunk to Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me"?

Well that'll never happen, you silly—I'm allergic to alcohol!

Hence, the Shirley Temples and root beer.

Hence the rampant tooth decay. Hence the lack of funds for my own car. Hence the shitty life. Hence the gratitude journal. Hence the realization that life is inherently shitty and that nothing will ever get better because life is a cycle of trading one set of problems for another.

Happy New Year!

Oh, and I also cleaned up that last post a bit. I had published it when I was in a hurry, and parts of it were kinda sloppy and needed some kneading and smoothing and palpating. And I added a few more JOKES! You wanna hear some JOKES? Are you ready for some JOKES? Get it? Did you get my JOKES? Weren't those some funny JOKES from my paper list of JOKES? Okay, I've got two jokes left, and they're REALLY FUNNY!

I'm going straight to hell. I will not pass go, I will not collect $200.

Therefore, I mustache you to pass me some ice.