For Entertainment Only

A long-time friend warned me that joining an established choir would certainly bring more drama than music, and I had to ask Andy what he meant by that. His console controller is probably held a lot more than his saxophone these days, which is how things can go. We were each on our own couch, sitting back and playing co-op on the PlayStation 4 when he warned me.

“They’re just really petty,” he reasoned, probably drawing on his own experiences with bands.

Then the question remained, why would that matter?

From what I could tell within the first session, people were divided by generation more than anything else. And it wasn’t hard to find what I was looking for – the ones who ignored everyone else, belting their notes like sopranos who did no wrong. And let me tell you. They did NOT have a spare seat in their row, and they gave zero fucks for me.

My motivation for joining was to be part of something else, fewer solos in the shower and more group singing. But after one of our first shorter concerts my boyfriend’s first remark afterward was,

“Who was that girl singing all of the high notes?”

Not a blended sound, if you stick out like that. Not the ideal situation for me. If a measure needed working on she would raise her pointer finger and declare, “They’re singing the wrong note” as if she hadn’t already established that there was us, and then there was She. This girl in the first row, whom I had been watching, I nicknamed this soprano Nemmy. For arch nemesis. Her second in command turns around only to eerily, quietly take attendance with her cold glance. 3 absences and you’re out, so she’d better see you.

Picking a spot during practice was sheer hell. If I got the wrong woman next to me, I had better luck plugging my ear than using nearby sound for help. I thought you had to audition to be here. Apparently the struggle of trying to establish myself doesn’t always bring out the kindest thoughts.

People would approach me during break for the fellowship aspect of community choir, and I would give my best fake smile but always in some way dismiss their ice breaker. These notes needed to lead somewhere and I refused to settle for coffee and crackers. I had to figure something out. If there was no room in the front row… I would just have to redefine the coolest place to sit.

Immediately I latched on to a new member the second I heard she could sing, mold her before the nature of the thing got its hands on her. She thought my “us vs them” mentality was absolutely hilarious and then I told her I had auditioned for the honors choir sect, a small ensemble that is composed largely of Nemmy & Friends.

“I have to be honest… I kind of hope you don’t get it.” As in, you think I’ll disappear in the front row, never to turn around again? As in, you’re already helping with damage control after I don’t make it? Either way, a real friend sounds like that.

During the honors rehearsal, I treated them exactly how they’ve treated me. I sat, purposely, apart from them on the floor. And when the director gave us the section to sightread, I memorized the sounds and never sang them out loud. Instead I hummed them to myself like a secret, learning something more each time it was played.

I listened to how the other girls were doing. I noted their missed notes, struggles with breathing. I coached myself, stay cool, this is no big deal, these are not particularly big fish.

Then he called out one person for each part and had them sing the section a capella. Everyone was nervous and taking this little choir game awfully seriously. Soft singers sang softly, sweetly, and Nemz got up there and pushed out those high notes with something to remind us.

For whatever reason, I was called last. And I was singing with other parts that had already auditioned with other voices. After I stood up I set my paper on top of the piano so I could see the other three, as if seeing them meant hearing them better… Nemz went with her vibrato. My strategy was to move in toward them and act like I was trying to hear them so I could “understand” and “blend” better.

Within the first 20 seconds I saw the other girls’ hands fly up and it nearly broke my focus so I turned back to the piano. They seemed upset that I had memorized it? – I couldn’t waste a second figuring that out, I just went on like I was smiling. When everyone else had taken a breath, I pushed through the phrase, and I didn’t get louder – I never got loud, because I already had the melody that would be heard. I got softer instead, and for that last string of notes I hadn’t heard anyone get right, I got those notes right.

“You’re really good,” I heard one of them say, almost sadly, but I had a hard time not looking at the floor as I went back to my seat. When I did look back, watching them as I always had, they looked very different. They were uncertain. They had doubt and questions. If the whole thing turned out to be a loss, if he honestly preferred someone else’s sound over mine, I had done exactly what I wanted to do and it felt great.

The results weren’t announced for a week, and I knew they would wait until at least halfway through the rehearsal, so I asked my real friend if we could sit, specifically, away from the elitists but still directly in front of the director for practice.

“Whatever you want. I’m scrappy. You’re practically an amazon. We can take em.”

Well the chairs weren’t exactly as I’d remembered and we were still suddenly sitting right behind the other girls. One of them leaned to their friend, cupped their hand and whispered to another before they both looked back with emotionless expressions.

I smiled. Heyyyy!

And when we sang, he heard us individually. How could he not? We had both also taken advantage of another lesson learned – that in the beginning of the session, no one really bothered practicing. It was like singing alone. Almost like cheating. In case you had to hear me one more time, and clear up any thoughts you were having on the fence…

So Beth had just told me she hoped that I hadn’t made it. She added that the whole thing, the jokes we shared, the separatist stance we had taken, was never necessary and that it wasn’t too late to just enjoy everyone and every moment equally, to which I said, “Be honest with yourself. That would be so, incredibly, boring. Because without this little game, the whole thing is just a little bit laughable, don’t you think?”

She must have agreed, because she laughed.

“If I call your name, congratulations and please stay after rehearsal. The rest of you can stack your chairs and I will see you next week.”

It mattered, okay? It mattered to me. I was hoping, and I never hope. I endure. I adapt. I survive. But suddenly I had dreamed a little dream and dammit I wanted to live that dream.

Nemmy’s name was called. For whatever reason it was at this time that Beth had decided to pick up her chair and begin walking away from me. A few more names, then mine. YASSSSS BETCH.

Eventually I realized, one of the Elites, the one who took attendance every practice, who had to learn everyone’s names while I made up stupid nicknames, she hadn’t been called.

“Alright! See ya next week!” she said, grabbing up her stuff quickly. There are so many ways to perform.

Later nights, more music, and scrutiny upon us. The director calls this ensemble Perfect Blend.

Andy was right. Choirs are petty.

And as I stood beside Nemmy for the first time, I admitted to not minding how that sounded.

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On the Half Shell

Remember the words of your teacher, your master:

Evil moves fast but good moves faster than LIGHT.

I tried ordering these when they were limited edition releases but they sold out in 30 seconds before PayPal could even complete the transaction. Imagine waiting, planning to be doing nothing else at a certain time just to find something you couldn’t throw your money at! I was so bummed.

I watched them sell on Ebay for over $300 and decided that if a manufacturer didn’t care enough to supply then I wasn’t going to care anymore. Or so I told myself. When you stand for what you believe in and have the strength to do what’s RIGHT…

Several months later and NECA has come through and offered them again, cheaper even, as a GameStop exclusive. I just preordered something I won’t even get until winter next year but I’m happy and I can’t wait to see my four heroes again.

So when you’re in trouble don’t give in and go sour,

Try to rely on YOUR

Turtle Power.

A Far Cry

And when I grew old, I was riddled with sin

Locked my soul in the dark, never let the light in

I crawled to the gate, with little time left

I cried, “What have I done?” as I took my last breath

***

This Summer I tried something that I had only seen men do: I put a gun in my hand.

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A machine gun, actually. And a flame thrower. And a grenade launcher.

My introduction to the first-shooter world was Far Cry 5. I roamed around a beautiful depiction of Montana, through lakes, forests and countryside, assassinating predominantly white cultists who were taking over field and farm with a false religion.

It was absolutely exhilarating.

Stealth is just so quiet. So many slow crawls to vantage points and all of those deep breaths while you aim. I can only stand it for so long. I tried to use the technique, find nearby cliffs and silently snipe outposts one by one, throwing enough explosives to decimate the entire site without ever being detected. But after I had explored and hunted enough to level up, I had the tendency to run in to their camp with the most ridiculous automatic weapon and murder everyone in a circle as they approached.

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Help me Faith, help me Faith

Shield me from sorrow

From fear of tomorrow

Help me Faith, help me Faith

Shield me from sadness

From worry and madness

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I felt really bad about that one. My side mission was to gather eagle feathers and it lead me up a tall cliff where all of these eagles were flying around, so I started shooting them out of the sky. And when I kept missing and ran out of bullets I used the torch. It was modern ‘Merica. Then I realized I just needed to climb a little higher to their nest and grab the feathers from there. Whoops.

I’m not going to review the game – there are plenty of informative reviews out there. I’m just going to say that the concepts reached me. The songs with controlling, evangelical lyrics, friending a giant cat, destroying shrines emitting poison that seemed all-too-familiar, militaristic theology (“Cull the herd!”) and perhaps the thing that resonated most of all was, of course, Faith. I mean, who hasn’t reached out to her at one point or another?

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Lead me to the bliss.

Succs To Succ

I should have seen the warning signs. Green tea iced frappacinos, a three hour drive to a lake because it had a beach for dogs and made a great photo opp, binge watching older episodes of Dance Moms because I found out Abbie Lee was dying of cancer and was wildly misunderstood, I WAS BASIC BITCHING ALL OVER THE PLACE. The stage was set for sabotage.

Then it happened. I don’t know what I was doing at Home Depot, I don’t build stuff. Maybe it was a routine outdoor nursery stop, but I was bummed by the heat, didn’t want to plant a damn thing yet I was still going through the motions. Basic bitch blind.

I stopped and looked at the succulent display. How cute, how harmless, how could they ever possibly ruin my life? Look this little guy is 4 or 5 dollars. $. Ooh let’s add a little volume to the indoor plant collection. Ooh, there’s so many. $$.

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And look how many are online. Oh wow look how many different ones are online! My store didn’t have those. I know I’ll just head up to another hardware store. $$$. Score! Now I have 5 more but not those ones I saw online, I have to order those online… $$$$ A PROMO CODE let’s order again $$$$$

Oh shit, WHAT? Potting soil kills them? I have to buy what now? What the fuck is a gritty mix oh man where am I going to buy the parts for this soil. FOUND THEM! $. Oh look at these succulents I don’t have these. $$

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Plants, check! Materials, check! Now let’s spend HOURS AND HOURS potting them up, cleaning up our dirty shitmess from the kitchen counters, figuring out how to keep the windowsills clean, dusting them, watering them, and in our spare time when we’re NOT touching succulents we can watch YOUTUBE VIDEOS ABOUT SUCCULENTS!

My choir mate: How’s your summer going?

Me: My goal is to conquer succulents. Everything has lead me to this mission. There is no other news. Only succulents.

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Choir mate: I mean, people do that with kids…make them their life. It’s like the same thing.

Wow… there’s so much to learn. I didn’t know any of this. GOD WHY ARE THESE SO DIFFERENT. I have to repot them now. Fuck I spilled one. Is this one dying? What are these bugs? WHATS HAPPENED TO MY LIFE?

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Sucks to succ. If you have found or ever find this has happened to you, here are my core takeaways from succing.

  1. Research them online. There are like five different families of succulents that need different care. Learn their names. Kalanchoe, haworthia, echeveria, lithops, shit like that. Feel real smart.
  2. Succulents have to be in gritty mix that has only a little succulent grade soil in it. Perlite will save you, look in to it. Put it in the soil.
  3. They need lots of sun. If you don’t have a place in your house that gets hours and hours of good sun, don’t even start. You won’t win. And fertilize them like twice a year cuz that’s succy food.
  4. Succulents might love the garden hose in some states but in Michigan and colder climates, water touching them will kill them. And they hate humidity. Bottom water only, after their soil has dried out and the succs start to look crappy, and then water very little. If they get too cold they’re dead. You can’t keep them outside unless you’re in some hot ass climate. Hot hot hot.
  5. Gold and brown is sunburn. Yellow and saggy is over watering. Showing their stem between leaves means it is etiolated, google it. It looks bad.
  6. They often reveal little insects called mealie bugs. You get to remove them, swap out their soil and spray them with alcohol in the battle to fight pesticides. It WILL happen to you.
  7. If they get colder they go in to dormancy phase usually Oct-Feb and watering then will kill them. Oh and if you get less sun during the winter they will probably all die without lighting.
  8. Succs love being cramped in small pots with neglect. Water them like every 3 weeks or even less. They hate being “sprayed”, the spray bottle is meant to spray down at the base soil only.
  9. Don’t believe every online care video. They do the wrong shit all the time, things that would kill yours. You’ll hear about “top dressing”. Rocks and gravel shit at the top will maintain moisture in the soil and kill them all. Warning you now. Looks nice, ends badly.
  10. Stop (STOP STOP STOP EVALUATE YOUR LIFE) when you are out of room because you probably already hate yourself, went broke and now have to worry about what to do when/if they survive, grow bigger and need more space.

Default Courses Can Suck It

I love being a mezzo soprano.

I know I didn’t say anything about it, but I was treading carefully. Testing the waters. If something had happened, had I failed the audition or refused to wear the dress, I could have just acted like it wasn’t an idea. I can be shameless in that which never happened.

Honestly I didn’t think I’d fail the audition. I was, however, worried that my register would land me in the alto section. And I am entirely way too self-important for that.

I love the instant gratification of singing most of the entire melody and then sitting at the piano to pluck out the little parts where my part breaks off in to harmony. It’s like learning a remix, not different enough to be a new song, not so old as to seem repetitive.

I love encircling a sanctuary, hearing our a Capella voices ring through the pews, singing Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes”. I love the dissonance in the highest point of Whitacre’s “I Hide Myself”. I love having to practice, having to try, having to learn and get better. I love knowing that I will be singing “Once Upon A December” over and over again until it’s ready to perform next session.

These were always my songs in odd coincidence, so it only makes sense I sing them now.

And I love the ways I have conquered at my workplace. When I look back on some of the shit I had to go through. Show up early, wrap pallets, listen as someone told you that your demeanor was “too overbearing” while they issued you an eleven cent raise, I am so happy I stuck through it all.

Everyone kept asking what I would do next. I just stayed put. Couldn’t they see their positions disappearing, didn’t they all expire in some way? Why would I accept a few dollars more and five times the responsibility when I could just cap out for the same “promotional” amount where I had always been? I wasn’t stupid. Just for staying there, I found the recognition and the bumps I needed. I love my four figure paycheck.

And I love catching people. So much. My average catch has gone up because the behaviors are guaranteed. Grab the same trending item, walk it to the same neglected area, begin compromising it in some way, move in and stop. Sometimes there is so little time and support that I just walk up, tell them I’ve been watching on camera for a while and that I need the shit back.

“C-c-can we please work something out?” she says, unzipping her purse, taking out merchandise.
“Yeah. You wanted it right? You needed it? Buy it.”

“Okay!”

One teenager was shaking so bad, over an extension plug he removed from his pants. My body language, having stepped in front of him and sounded kind of like a bitch, had trumped his body language. His was genuine, and I was pretending not to be just as scared.

“I’ll leave.”

I reached out and touched his arm.

“You can BE our customer. It’s ten dollars, what are you doing? Come on. Do you want to go to the register? You can.”

“Yea.”

Don’t think I’m offering any free passes. The bluff is all mine. In some way at some point they meander off camera and I don’t have permission to apprehend them via our policy. Every blind second is lawsuit territory. I have to make a move, choose words carefully, like “I want to talk to you about that blue and white box I watched you take to the back of the store” and without accusing them, suggest that our inventory is soon and that we need everything back in its right place, etc etc.

If they get to the bathroom alone you can easily lose. But nothing stops me from wanting to discuss the item of ours they took in there, and kindly ask if they would be able to “just get that back to me”. They’ll be so happy to oblige, taken by surprise, that they turn around and go back in to the stall, take what is stolen off their person, put it in the crinkled package they stuffed in the garbage and put it in my hand.

What’s your best move, after being seen and approached? How much do I know? It’s a lot like how our company suggests multiple points of contact. If someone is asking you if they can help you every 20 seconds after you did something dumb, you’d better undo it and get the hell out while you can. If you still can. I might have the cops outside.

And by the way: just don’t do dumb shit at all. Because it’s dumb.

Are people ever really kind or are they just whatever they can afford to be?

It’s all relative. If I bring attention to the fact that you aren’t immediately holding a receipt, you can accuse ME of accusing YOU. And you could always be psycho with a gun or a knife. There’s nothing safe about it no matter how many acronyms I abide by. I just try to watch as much as I can and believe what I see.

I’ve always been changing what was going to happen.

It’s every song I’ve ever had to sing.

The one with the metal pokey thing.

One day you might find that you do not sleep alone. You’ll have spent your fair share of time on an experiment gone all too well, and spent less time in your personal space. Just when it seems to have become old routine, maybe, you will find yourself in the night, unable to sleep. The person next to you will be there, connected to the world you share, fast asleep.

But you will be awake. Unfortunately you may have responsibilities the following day requiring this to be a mini-reflection, a quasi-spell. The thoughts in your head cannot keep you for too long or you worry of the havoc it will cause on your body. Knowing that rest is not immediate, you very well may get out of bed quietly and walk away.

I can hear insects outside, and I can see the glowing of internet boxes lighting up a shelf in the beast of an entertainment console. It glows orange and red like a cyber fire. The last time this happened was years ago, and I remember seeing an old DVD VCR combo blinking the time in green, over and over again.

Just know that this will be normal. In case you haven’t lived or learned enough yet, it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong or right with your life. Sometimes we reach that odd combo of stresses, worries, anxieties, fears and what-have-yous, and without much focus on any one thing those unsettling ripples will come and go. You can get something to eat. Write. Pray. Whatever you want to do, because you just couldn’t sleep, and you needed a little time for the right chemicals to catch up.

Or it could mean that you are about to change your world. I know that I have come to feel swollen, tight in my skin, like I could hover over a sink, poke my arm with prongs and watch poison fall. Not in any sort of convenient rush, either – more like a small hole you have to squeeze for little drops. This could take a while.

I haven’t got that kind of time.

A few dreams can take you to a few too many places you probably didn’t need to visit. And oh, those unresolveds, those regrets. Just remember they lie within everyone.

I’ll always care too much about what other people think. It doesn’t matter how good I’ve tried to be, there will be people who put me in horns and made me the enemy. What’s important is that I never do that to myself.

My 1st boyfriend once got a message from his friend saying that I would be nowhere if it hadn’t been for him. I still remember reading it from a Razr phone. And there the fear was borne, that I would forever be nothing without other people. It took a while longer, but truth told that I could be something without the both of them. “Fuck her” was certainly how my chapter ended in their book.

I’ll always wish there could have been some magic way to make hurting someone okay. I’ll wish for the knowledge that I had qualified to dare, been smart enough to translate my own emptiness, felt strong enough to act on the fact that I was somewhere I would not stay.

An old pen pal thought I was atrocious. Someone I had drummed up as a hero found me after my adolescent demon had resurfaced, looked at me lost in its aftermath, and told me how disappointed they were in me. “If you’re not happy, GET OUT”, he said.

I would read his sentence several times over, like a question. Wasn’t that a crazy thought?

Wasn’t it nice, Codewriter, to live so many floors high in to the sky, and walk outside at night in a robe just like Spyder Jerusalem? A random pile of desserts and candy spread across the floor from the Asian market, a spreadsheet detailing just how much more money you spent in a relationship than without one? That feeling to be free, say whatever you wanted, do whatever you wanted?

Shame on me for thinking the monster was finished. That you can act like you just forget about shit and distract yourself and start building parallel and it never comes back to knock you over. I was always headed right there, inevitably, to deal with it in final form.

We were all flesh and blood. It scares me to death to even think about. The people, the memories, how the universe I had created had alienated me from ever really feeling here or now, with the physical things that moved past. It was where my voice was, and it was my voice that ever made me anything at all, and got me out of the world of trouble I would have been in had I stayed frozen in moving times.

I’ve gotten much better at bonding to the now, and it requires a lot of work. I give it parts of me, things go practical and I lose the fantastical.

I worry about my family because they’re still all right there, in the older journal entries. They’re in that same place, connected to all of the same things, and sometimes bad things happen. My brother struggles with alcoholism and has remained invalid, my father is on a breathing machine for half the day and my mother had mobility issues due to the need for a second hip replacement. They’re still in that house, dysfunctional but loving as ever, screaming and worrying about me from several hours away.

It doesn’t get better. My brother doesn’t go drug-free and functional. My mother doesn’t walk better. My father’s lungs do not de-crystalize. We can’t just go back and re-read. Each day is the most stable day I have left. And it’s hard. It breaks my heart, trying to celebrate it all when there are times when I could just as well cry.

My moon sister knows something is going on. She posted a photo of her eyes, which I saw in my media scroll before singing “Private Eyes” at the bar, before Dan heard it and it got stuck in his head, and I never told her because of a strange silence I cannot understand other than the simple fact that the moon has always been bloody.

Always been a dark world for us. Always been a part of who we are. And I have been thinking, how poor behaviors were imitated by a others who only brought light of them. Only made good things happen, became the saving grace that makes me smile about the entire goddamn nightmare…

which it finally feels like it is. Enough of a distant memory. Flashes, and who can remember exactly what was real or just real to some one?

Private eyes, clap

They’re watching you *clap clap*

They see your every move.

It is up to me, if everything is going to be alright. Up to me to begin tomorrow and start something over. Up to me, what is carried on…

Then you will simply slip back in to bed.

Gearin’ Up For Summer, Or, It’s Called A Belt Bag

This morning my boyfriend strapped on a fanny pack for his trip to Cedar Point.

My sensible conclusion was to respect our differences and let him use an appropriate tool for his generation. Either they’re back in all of their glory and he will be a fashion god or those junior high kids are going to laugh their asses off on that field trip.

“It’s a nice one,” he explained as he snapped the plastic ends together, strapping it on. “My wife gave it to me.”

Then he pulled out a plastic bag of weed, a glass pipe, and whatever else. Whenever he touches something old the past is guaranteed to manifest itself.

“This was the joint I rolled for her, her last one before she died.”

Every day for the past four years this woman has died. I deal with it according to my mood, or according to things going on. That and the house, and all I am surrounded by, they’re all a constant reminder that my life will never be a certain kind of normal. It will always be my whatever-I-decide, whether that’s normal or abnormal or good or bad.

It seems kind of fucked up and doesn’t seem to have made any sense to anyone else, but what matters is what makes sense to ME.

And anything I struggle with, or bitch about, or laugh at, it’s part of my normal. How absolutely bored I’ve been, how soul-searching, the more my life was hunky dory. Dark days dressed in mediocrity just disappeared into repetition – taking innocent bystanders with it. I am happy – genuinely, happy, that those days are behind me… or wherever they went.

It’s so much better with a million questions.

Goddamn fanny pack is right.