Things Get Stale

Well, an ol’ friend of mine, Colin, has moved off to North Carolina. He’s excited about the prospects of starting fresh in a new town with a house of his own after living here for 19 years. I’ll miss him, and I wish him the best in his new life in beautiful Asheville.

I’ve been thinking of my life, of the way it was when I lived in North Carolina. My talks with Colin, sharing my experiences, memories, joys, and caveats about that state have brought a lot of my life there back to me, and I feel so weird about it. Times there were tough; I make no bones about it, they were tough. Hard scrabble. But every place I went was still fresh. Not much in that mid-20’s time in my life had a chance to go boring.

Well, to think of it, that’s a lie; there were excruciatingly boring times; stale. Very stale. As stale as the air in my closed bedroom; the smell of cigarette residue, dust, chemicals from my work clothes, and sleep. For the eleven months that I worked my night shift job at PBM Graphics, I was nocturnal. I tried what I could to make something of my daylight hours. Gave it the old college try. I would catch the bus and hang out on a city lawn somewhere or do some shopping or just go walking around. But until I was fired from that job, I spent my days and my off nights mostly alone. Wrote a lot of poetry and journal entries. Got emo before “emo” was a word. Worked on my website. Life was dull, and I tried everything I could to make it exciting.

And then, as I mentioned, I got fired. That’s when my whole world changed. I was a daywalker again. But with no income it was a hard life. Paul and I were no longer roomates; he found an apartment in a triplex house north of the UNCG campus, I lived in a locking bedroom in a boarding house just south of campus. Rentwise I was on my own and I did what I could to make rent. Even went so far as to rake the thick blanket of leaves from the boarding house property in a deal to work off my rent.

Outside of looking for work and doing odd jobs here and there, I supported myself by “telemarketing”, meaning I would call my mother and ask her to bank transfer some money, which she did because, for once, she could. And I lived that way for over two months until I wrecked my car in the first snow of the winter and made the decision to move back home.

Well, it was during those hard times that I met the greatest people who ended up being the greatest friends someone could have. Kind people. Smart people. Not your typical coffee shop people. People who would listen to your problems and offer useful advice. People who would have you over for dinner and drinks, no charge. People who would drive you around when your car is stranded and in need of parts from the auto store. I don’t know if Greensboro is just loaded with people like that, or if it was all happenstance that I crossed paths with them and their charity, or if it was just the state my life was in that demanded my reaching out to others to survive, but those were good people. They made my life rich. Their general lack of negative comments and attitudes helped me stay upbeat, kept things fresh. Gave me good perspective.

So, I’m here in Austin, on the eve of my 5-year anniversary as a resident of this good city. Colin has gone away, and I know of others who are making the same moves to other places, and sometimes I have to stop and wonder what it is that’s urging me to keep my life in Austin. I get shaken about it sometimes, because right now my life is really, really stale. It feels that way more often than not. It’s good to be established, I guess. It’s good to have longevity when it comes to jobs, residences, habits, friendships, being a regular patron somewhere, yeah…but it’s stale. It’s boring.

I’m not considering moving back to North Carolina. At least not seriously. I know in my heart and mind that if I did it would not be the world I knew. Those 15 months there were unique and cannot be duplicated. They were at a time in my own lifespan where the neurology of feeling “fresh” about life was more prevalent, where feeling haggard and tired didn’t happen. I’ve aged, and these eyes of mine have seen a lot since then, so the innocence, newness, virginity of living there won’t exist, at least not to the same scale. Just as anywhere else. I’m sure if I would’ve lived in Greensboro for five years I’d most likely be feeling some semblance of what I’m feeling now.

I feel like I need a change. A different view on life. A different set of motivations. I’m not asking for sudden termination at my job. I’m not asking for eviction from my apartment. I’m not even asking for a different roomate. What I’m asking for is a sea change in my mindset; the ability to see things with new eyes, to find things that are still fresh, that are allowed to be fresh in the eyes of my friends. I don’t want the pass-or-fail edge that my final 2 months in Greensboro had, but I want the attention it inspired in me, the connections it inspired me to make. The last time I felt that was almost 5 years ago, and it’s time for an end to the stale.

Something “New”

Old news: The coffee shop known as Mojo’s Daily Grind has changed owners and is under new management. Gone is the owner who bought the place from Wade and ran it into the ground. New owners. So there’s hope.

New news: Tonight I knew I didn’t want to spend the entire evening at home. Again. So I left the house and went to Spiderhouse. The place was crowded as usual, and tonight I’m fuckin’ tired of crowds. I knew Mojo’s would be mostly dead, so I decided to give it a try again. And now I’m here.

I ordered an iced tea. What I got was a pint glass full of the murkiest, cloudiest, harshest black tea I’ve ever seen. Ever. And I’ve had some bad teas. I took one look at it as the barrista handed it to me and went, “woah, what the hell is that?” And he responded, “yeah, it’s strong.” And I said, “No, somebody squeezed the teabags after brewing.” He gave me a dumbfounded look as the other barrista rang me up for $2.25, to which I was like “‘scuse me?” So I ponied up the money for the bad tea and sought out a table.

This place is sparse, barren. There are people here talking, people on laptops, people reading, people doing stuff, but the place is lifeless. It is an empty shell of what it once was. Almost no art on the wall. The lighting is harsh and direct. All the funky second-hand furniture that Wade had accumulated to cram into this space with the intent of cramming this space with people is all gone. Every stick of weird painted chair, every tiled table, every oven door welded to a table stand – gone. What is left (thanks to the previous owner) is a sparse collection of wood and wire chairs, small tables, end tables, and couches. Pretty institutional. Sparse minimalism is best when used for the theatrical stage and for New York loft apartments, not for places where you’re trying to rebuild a lost community. We need to see less floor; these empty spaces reek of emptiness.

The new owners of Mojo’s have a long, long way to go if they’re aiming to bring this place back to prominence. It has decayed like an old amusement park, like a dead mall. The place I spent so many evenings and days between 2000 and 2004, the place in my memories, is not here. Hints are around, but it’s not here.

Another 4th on the Down

Two weeks ago I looked forward in time to this three-day holiday weekend and saw a bit of fun, frivolity, high times. Now that there’s only about 4 hours left of it, there’s still hope for the weekend delivering on those visions.

My fingers are crossed.

Today, scratch that, this weekend has found me in a weird mood. Restless, trying to escape the pervasive heat, trying to deal with parts of my body that let me down. Last monday I was getting dressed for work and inhaled some saliva after brushing my teeth. So I coughed. And each cough was punctuated by a hiccup. The coughing stopped, but the hiccups stayed. A few minutes later, I was bent over to pick up some socks in the closet when a hiccup hit me, sending my heart into another of its famous tachycardiac fits. Pulse shot to 180bpm (it’s normally 80~90bpm at rest). And it was rough. Lasted longer than usual (30 to 90 seconds). Much longer.

I had my roomate drive me to the E.R. where no sooner do I finish the paperwork and sit down to wait on my name to be called the tachycardia stops, my blood pressure drops, and I settle down. Total time: 15 minutes – the longest spell to date, and that’s scary. I was sore, and pissed that I couldn’t get an EKG before it was finished (that’s the only way to diagnose the cause of tachycardia). So I wasted time at the ER. And money.

The past two weeks have been kinda shitty moneywise. It was good that I did some math on my expenses because after all five of my autodebited bills come out of my checking account I’ll have around $150 left, and that’s to be spent on food, etc. I’ve been living skinny, and it’s scaring me. Always one paycheck from disaster. I want a job that pays better than my current job. I’m considering taking a part-time job in addition to my regular gig; put my wasted nights to good use.

Apparently, times aren’t tough just for me: I found out two weeks ago that my mother is sick again. The woman was too proud to call me to let me know (“I didn’t want to bother you…”). She’s unable to work and is down with full-body pains. Can only walk around with canes and walkers. So she has no money coming in, and the V.A. doctor will only give her pain killers instead of trying to give her quicker access to getting tested for Multiple Schlerosis. She has to be diagnosed with MS to be given the essential drugs she needs to minimize the MS attacks and get on with life. And things are moving glacially while she’s living the bad life on the skids.

It bothers me that I can’t afford to help my mother more; I shipped her two books, a card, and $40. She has food stamps, so she’s not hungry, but nobody visits her, hardly anyone calls her, apparently my sister will have nothing to do with her – and she lives in the same town (I need to get to the bottom of that) – and my mom’s just too young to be going through this kind of thing.

So I guess I have a few issues to deal with. Normally I am able to have good weekends and even better 3-day holiday weekends, but it’s not possible this year. Not at all. Don’t expect me to celebrate much.