Friday, November 26, 2010

If Fruits and Vegetables were the Only Medicine, I Wouldn't Have to Pay $189 a Month to Blue Shield

Here's the result of those five months of body- and mind-wracking anxiety: I've got not what I would call a full-on-brawl cold, but rather just a stuffy nose that goes in and out based on when I've taken Sudafed and had decaffeinated tea mixed with honey, lemon, and as I was told to put in, a little sugar, even though I prefer only honey and lemon. Mom says a little sugar helped my sister get rid of her ailment faster.

Fine. I agree with this. It's only a little bit of sugar, far less than I used to consume back when I could seriously ask NASA for planet certification, but leave me to my own methods.

I got up this morning, after having slept 7-and-a-little-plus hours from 10:22 last night to 5:37 this morning. I can't start my day at 5:37, unless I'm scheduled to go to work at my dad's school, in which case I just lay there quietly, keep my eyes closed (which I learned works better for me because it at least conserves a little more energy than blinking right then and there), and wait until his alarm goes off in the other room.

So I tossed and turned a bit, not as violently as I did when I was completely worried about sleep during the worst of my anxiety, and eventually drifted off again to a dream that involved construction at the side of my house, some elaborate gazebo I think, or maybe just an amphitheater. I woke up, and I felt fine, at least in my body. My nose was still stuffed, one nostril always open and available, though their shifts switch throughout the day. I have a slight cough, but nothing that'll explode into pneumonia. After I decided it was time to work toward reducing the anxiety, and switched to a better diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables, I had hoped that any future illnesses I might have would be dramatically lessened by all that crunching and chewing. For example, I saw yesterday on the package of baby spinach that spinach is considered a superfood that helps a healthy immune system. I'm getting back to one of those. I'm sure it was battered considerably during that great and terrible personal storm, but it feels like it's helping me now.

Mom's been a heroic help, too, first and foremost for the suggestion of the tea, second because she had bought the Sudafed quite some time ago in anticipation of anything like this happening. Good move. But one thing she told me this morning that I refused to follow was to swallow the orange pulp already.

For breakfast, I have Cheerios (the plain kind, if I have them, which I didn't, so I had multi-grain Cheerios and will continue with that until I get another box of the plain kind) and fruit. It's usually a Bartlett pear, but I've been out of them all this week, so I've had the Valencia and other oranges from the fruit bin in the fridge. The Bartletts and the bananas sit in separate bowls next to the stove on top of a folded paper towel sheet.

My teeth are strong, but orange pulp takes a little bit of time to chew. It's not a McDonald's Shamrock Shake, or the many times when I was overweight, didn't much care, and ate faster than any human should probably eat. I used to swallow macaroni and cheese without chewing. Fettucine Alfredo merited one or two chews, and then down it went. I'm sure that's part of what brought on the anxiety, the shock of my system in trying to process generally unchewed food, along with the copious amounts of sugar I'd easily bring down into my pit without much thought of the consequences.

So this morning in the kitchen, Mom saw me still chewing the orange pulp and told me to just swallow it. Uh, no, for that reason. Anything that I chew will be chewed thoroughly. Then she told me I looked like a cow and I replied, "I'm not here for appearances." It's not her mouth, and it's not her body, though she was the UPS company that delivered me. I need to be much more careful with this hardware than I was before. When I began improving what I ate, and began to embrace more fruit and vegetables, I started to feel a bit better, and I got very lucky. My nerves, screaming inside my body like they were in Abu Ghraib, was one of the most horrible experiences I had with anxiety. It's said that if your nerves are acting up like this, you need to change something, though for a while, it's hard to change anything, because you're so confused about what it is and it feels so rotten. Add to that the little sleep I got over that period of time, and it was doubly horrific. If I want to chew anything to its natural conclusion, even if it takes a while, then I'll do it. I don't care about those comments anymore, just like I'm working to make sure that Mom and Dad's continued arguing doesn't affect me as much as it used to. I realized that there's nothing to figure out or solve about their marriage, it'll always be messed up, and I need to think about me, in whatever I want to do in life, be it as a writer or hopeful lover.

Though I do sound more nasal than I did yesterday, one thing that did help was going out for a little while. Since no campus supervisor at my dad's school needed a substitute up to Thanksgiving, I had been in the house since Monday. I needed to get out, and fortunately, Dad had to go out to get The Signal and the Los Angeles Times at the newsstand store near K-Mart (One day I'll go through the swinging double doors they have there, with the sign that basically says, "Get out if you're not going to buy anything," and see what their porn stash looks like, partly out of curiosity), and then to one of the supermarkets to pick up a few things to complement Thanksgiving dinner, such as onions for the stuffing, and we needed bread. We got the onions at Ralphs (doesn't any supermarket in Southern California believe in a possessive apostrophe where necessary?), where I also partially restocked my supply of Bartlett pears, Gala apples, and bananas, and then to Vons for bread. That outing helped a lot. I felt better; I felt more human that I had in those morning hours before we went out. Before that, I was worried that the anxiety might rear up again. After I had gone out, I forgot all about that.

That I slept fine this morning was an absolute miracle, considering how much I worried myself when I spent two days and a combined 10 hours in the middle of the week reading over proofs of my forthcoming book, and realizing why I don't spend so much time on the computer anymore. I had my music, such as the 1969 cast album of the Broadway musical Company, and I played many of those songs over and over, but the work just got so tedious, and I was reminded of how I pushed myself so hard with this book, how I read so many books for the purpose of research, how I transcribed 30-40 pages of notes at a shot into Microsoft Word, how I wrote and wrote and wrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. I know it was my first book, but my biggest regret is shutting out more than I should, such as the other books I could have read during this project that weren't related to this project. But you know, as I read each essay, and I was making corrections in a separate file to be sent to the copy editor to work on, I was proud of what I'd done. My essays read so well, and I'm glad I worked as hard as I did, but I will not kill myself like that again. I wasn't passionate about some of the essays I wrote, but they read as if I was. And that's a huge accomplishment. But next time, I will not do what I did just to write well. I will write what truly makes me spark like 4th of July fireworks, and I will do research as necessary, but I will not feel like it has to be done right in the moment, and allow myself more than just two or three minutes to breathe before I hold my breath and dive back below the surface of my work.

In other words, even though this cold was partly brought on by not dressing warmly enough, even though it didn't seem that cold at first, I will not run myself down so hard and harshly that this happens again. And I will chew my orange the way I want, thank you.

Edited to add at 9:36 a.m.: I just received in my e-mail the corrected version of my book from the copy editor. Now I know I'm going to have to go into it alongside of my corrections Word file and make sure everything is correct. I'm remembering just to breathe, that this is nearly the end of this sometimes strange and surreal trip, but it'll be worth it when I get my five free copies in the mail ahead of its publication. And then I'll leave it until that time and make sure the rest of the day is filled with everything I love, and every day after that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Movies Made Easy

When I was a film critic for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Teentime pages, and then Film Threat and The Signal and Screen It!, I watched movies all the time. For Teentime, I'd go to Muvico Paradise 24 in Davie, Florida all day on Saturdays, and then press screenings in later years (One of my fondest was missing school for a morning screening of the Disney film "Dinosaur," which my mom allowed, since she took the day off, too, and drove me to it). For Film Threat, I reviewed independent films, and for Screen It!, did extensive reviews of films released before 1996, noting exactly the violence, sex, drugs, etc., almost like a transcript of the entire film.

I seemed to watch more movies than doing anything else in my life and I think that's one thing that brought on the anxiety I had. I was finished writing "What If They Lived?" and the owner of Screen It! told me he wasn't making as much money as before with the site, and couldn't pay me the $150 he had paid me previously. He was a mensch, because he didn't ask if I could write for lower pay. He simply said that the site was going to be revamped, and hoped that that would boost what had been profitable before. So I honestly felt useless on two fronts, that I didn't have another book to do to keep myself busy, and I had lost what I think I had basically defined myself by, writing these elaborate movie reviews that I consider the best on that site. I was dedicated.

As the anxiety lessened and I vowed to make changes in my life and put them into action, I decided to watch less movies. Sitcoms, Antiques Roadshow, basketball games, all acceptable to me in the living room, on the Tivo. But sitting in my room as I did, watching movie after movie? No more.

It took a few weeks of getting into the routine, but I like what I have now. On Saturday mornings, early Saturday mornings, after I've finished breakfast by 7:30, I watch two movies: A crapshoot and a favorite. The crapshoot is from Netflix, something I haven't seen, which, this past Saturday, was "The Joneses," which I thought was brilliant, and a marked improvement from last Saturday, when I couldn't get past 20 minutes of "Just Wright," even though it was basketball-related. The writing wasn't outlandishly bad, but subtly bad, and I get more annoyed when it's like that.

The second movie on Saturday was "My Blueberry Nights," my 7th favorite film.

I give my Sunday mornings completely over to audio commentaries. This morning, I listened to the audio commentaries on "An American in Paris" and "Frost/Nixon." Always double features. I will never add a third or watch something else after I've finished two, such as episodes of "Scrubs," say, because by the time I'm done, it's either past 11 a.m. or closer to noon, and it's time to get on with the rest of the day. Unless I've got a movie on the Tivo in the living room (and even then, they end up sitting there for quite a while because I inevitably have other things I want to watch), I only watch movies on the weekend.

While I was watching "An American in Paris" and listening to Patricia Kelly, Gene Kelly's widow, guide a masterpiece of an audio commentary, I began planning my movies for the next three weeks, and I like what I have ahead. Like, not love, because of the crapshoots. I can't be sure yet if I'll love them until I've seen them.

On Saturday, I have planned "Lovesick" (checked out from the library on VHS, unfortunately the only way I could get it, but despite the temptation, I was not going to pay $3 at Big Lots yesterday just to get it on DVD and see it. I was tempted to do the same for "Heartburn," since I want to read all of Nora Ephron's books right now, but no) and "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (from Netflix. After my association with Screen It! diminished, I dropped the 3-discs-at-a-time plan to one disc, to save my dad money since he still pays for it). I saw "The Mirror Has Two Faces" a long time ago and I liked it, but after seeing Barbra Streisand on a recent episode of "Oprah," I have a yen to see it again.

For Sunday morning, I want to listen to the audio commentaries for "My Favorite Year" and "Rocky Balboa" (That one I bought from Big Lots for $5, and well worth it, because I like the first and sixth films the best. I also bought for the second time "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio," since Julianne Moore is one of my favorite actresses, I should have at least one of her films in my collection, and I have no idea why I threw it out the first time, except that I probably had too many DVDs back then, and it was caught in that wave).

The Saturdays and Sundays for the following two weeks are tentative, since I'm not sure yet when we're going to Six Flags Magic Mountain to take advantage of their toy drive-free admission deal. You bring in a $15 toy, and you get in free. We spent $50 yesterday at Big Lots for toys for me, my sister, and Ivan to bring with us to donate. Still worth it, since we made sure that the toys related to each of our interests. For me, two Nerf basketball sets; for my sister, toy cookware; for Ivan, a Sesame Street-themed doctor's kit, since his mother is a registered nurse.

So, for possibly Saturday, December 4th, either "Heartburn" or "An Evening with Kevin Smith," and "California Suite."

For possibly Sunday, December 5th, the audio commentaries on "Julie & Julia" and "Grease" (After I finished "An American in Paris," I popped "Grease" into my DVD player to see if it had an audio commentary, and it has one by director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch).

For possibly Saturday, December 11th, I'm not sure yet what the crapshoot film will be, but the second film will be "The American President."

For possibly Sunday, December 12, the audio commentaries for "Beavis & Butt-Head Do America," and "From Russia with Love." Rather than going in order by year with the audio commentaries for the Bond films (I own nearly all of them, except for "Quantum of Solace"), I decided to listen to the ones related to my favorites, or rather at least one of them, since most of my favorites have two commentaries on the first disc. Over time, I'll also listen to the commentaries for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (my absolute, tippy-top favorite Bond film, and the best of the series), "The Spy Who Loved Me," "Licence to Kill," "GoldenEye," and "Casino Royale."

Watching movies like this is far more relaxing to me, and it gives way to more time to get back to my always-love: Reading. I've been reading since I was 2 years old, and one of my regrets while I was voraciously reviewing movies is that I never gave myself time to simply sit and read. That is likely one of the reasons I'm glad to be free of it now, but also because I don't feel like I'm in a cycle anymore that doesn't have a way out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I've Been Waiting/For a Girl Like You....No, Not Her.

We got home last night from our hair stylist (I could say "barber," but he does my sister and my mom's hair too in his garage), and from Ralph's where I loaded up on broccoli florets, carrot chips, mushrooms, two bananas, two gala apples, and a Bartlett pear, and I got to work on the Freelance Daily newsletter, with "Jeopardy!" on next to me, paying some attention to it but mostly waiting for "The Big Bang Theory" to come on.

After three days, Meridith and my mom were STILL talking extensively, much more than they do on any other normal given day. I thought it strange, but didn't think anything else of it. Then, Mom told Meridith to tell me what was going on, concerned that I might not approve.

You see, either the first or second Sunday in December, we're going to Six Flags Magic Mountain because they're having a toy drive where you bring in a $15 toy, and you get in free. The day before yesterday, I was excited to go with Meridith, to have my partner-in-crime with me at the park. I didn't mind that she doesn't want to go on many rollercoasters. I only want to go on Viper, since it's my favorite, and the rest of the time, I can really get the exercise I've been sorely lacking these past few weeks, despite at least two days over those past few weeks spent at my dad's school as a substitute campus supervisor, and I walked that campus extensively. Plus, to go from ground level to Samurai Summit where the temporarly closed "Superman: The Escape" ride is along with "Ninja," you have to hike nearly horizontally, and that's exactly the kind of walking I've wanted for so long already.

Last night, Meridith told me that she invited Ivan to go with us.

I've known Ivan for a few years now, though not fully. And that's been ok with me, because he's a great guy. My favorite time spent with him was during Grad Nite for Valencia High at Disneyland, for which I was a chaperone, when we walked what must have been two miles from the parking lot to the entrance of Disneyland (since they weren't running the parking lot trams), and we amiably traded insults along the way. Ivan can give as good as he gets, and that impressed me the most. I always like someone who can match me mentally and he's outstanding at it.

Last Saturday, we met him again at the library, after seeing him a few times briefly last year when he worked at Office Depot. When I saw him, Meridith was already talking to him, and I told her not to let him go. After I had my books scanned back into the system, and I picked up what I had on hold, we three went to a table right at the edge of the entrance to the children's section, and we talked for a good half an hour. Find me any other conversation that can tie in anxiety (he had a few panic attacks in the previous year and told me what he went through with those), our mutual love for "Married with Children," (he owns many of the season sets, though I said I couldn't because Sinatra's "Love and Marriage" was replaced by a completely dumbass instrumental opening theme that ruins what made the show partly what it was), comments about diet (he gave up junk food completely, but can't go as far as I do in sticking to only fruit for dessert), and a whole host of other topics that had me glowing after Meridith, my dad and I got home from our errands that day.

Last night, Mom told me that there was one detail I didn't notice in that moment after we came home. I walked in the house, enamored with the fruit I got from Sprouts, including the bananas, which were incredible to look at there because nearly the whole crop in that section was green and would need time to ripen, which is exactly what I prefer. Add to that the "Simpsons World" book, 1,200 pages profiling each and every episode from the first to the 20th season, and "Finishing the Hat" by Stephen Sondheim, besides other books, and you could see how my attention could be diverted from what was going on with my sister. She was just standing at the open door, in the garage, dazed. But a happy daze.

Apparently, Ivan's liked her for 7 years now, but she went ahead (unknowingly) and dated a complete schmuck named Brian. I won't go into complete details, but he was not good for her at all, I pegged him as such right from the start, and I was eventually right, as Meridith saw when Brian continued to be jealous of the people Meridith spoke to and the friends Meridith had, and didn't want her talking to anyone else. That's as much of the mess as I'll broach.

Through all that time, Ivan was there. When Meridith didn't have lunch on some days, he made sure to buy a bigger portion and tell her that he couldn't finish the rest. This guy is an ultimate mensch that I wouldn't mind having as a brother-in-law some day. I know that it's up to Meridith what she wants to do, and I respect that, and I will not interfere, but if she hadn't acted and considered, as she's doing now, I might have overshot the runway.

Getting back to Six Flags Magic Mountain, Mom wasn't sure how I would take it that Meridith had invited Ivan to go with us. I was completely enthused. To some extent, thus far, I consider this guy a friend. He has such a good soul and a good heart, that I'm relieved Meridith will finally get what she deserves in a guy, if she decides to date him. We all went through hell with the whole Brian debacle, but it's not because of that that I say this. With any other guy, I would check out the area gun shops to see what kind of weapon fits my grip. I'm protective of my sister. But with Ivan, I've no need. I trust him absolutely. Most of all, for me at least, it's rare to find a delightful conversationalist in this valley like he is. It's just remarkable.

After I approved of Ivan going with us, Mom told me not to monopolize him when we're there. I won't. I understand the gravity of this, and I will hang back often and they can talk and do whatever they'd like. The only thing I'll probably be bothersome about is the corn cart at the Gotham City Backlot area. I haven't had roasted corn in years, and I really want that.

Which reminds me. In order to enjoy that, I'm sticking strictly to my diet until that day. No deviations. Last night, I had a SmartOnes lasagna florentine along with newly-bought baby spinach, carrot chips, and broccoli. This morning, I had Cheerios and the other half of an orange. Lunch will probably be toast with a little bit of peanut butter on it, carrot chips, baby spinach, and maybe one or two broccoli florets. I'm not sure what's for dinner, but with all of that consumed before then, I'll go a little riskier, but not by much. The point is that even with Thanksgiving dinner coming up, I'm not going overboard. I want that roast corn at the park, I may want a turkey leg, or sausage or something, and I also find out that at Goliath Goodies in the Colossus County Fair area, they have fruit there. Or I might have my sister put an apple in her purse for me. Either way, I'm going to be good about my diet up to that day. I'm not going to go wild at Six Flags either, but I want to enjoy myself without nagging thoughts.

Now, everything I wrote above was not the reason for this entry. I had another residual dream this morning. And boy, was it good.

I was at an ATM machine with a brunette I apparently liked. At one point, as we were talking, I put my arm around her waist, and she didn't shake it off or tell me to get off. I wanted to go on a date with her and I asked her, and she thought I was more into purusing a neighbor of hers, Stefanie or Stephanie. I'm not sure of the spelling, but I'm going to say it was the latter, because the one Stefanie I did know, Stefanie Markham in 11th grade, had knockout legs and could wear a dress very, very well, and is part of the standards I'm developing for the kind of girl I want. And I know for sure it probably wasn't that Stefanie this girl thought I was pursuing.

Anyway, we talked for a bit after we left the ATM machine, though I forgot about what, and then I fully woke up.

I liked this dream. And believe me, it felt good to be that close to a woman. And she seemed receptive to me. Plus, she matched a bit of what I'm looking for, with that partner-in-crime aspect. So far, so good with the standards list.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No!! IN the plane! IN the plane!

A few things before the meat of this entry:

- When my anxiety began in May, I was pretty hefty. I could easily fold my hands over my stomach and rest them there without them sliding down. At one point, in August, when I saw the doctor again about all this, he said I had lost 10-20 pounds since the last time I was there. I must have been about 256 lbs.

I weighed myself on the scale in my parents' bathroom earlier this week. 216.3 lbs. I weighed myself last night. 216.9 lbs. I know what it was. Marble jack cheese (a combination of bleu cheese and colby jack cheese) from Sprouts, stunning deviled eggs my sister made for me, and I'm sure that's what did it. That's not to say I overindulged in either, but I had a little more than I should have. I'm not sitting in a corner somewhere in the house, bawling over slightly regained weight. I'm not that worried. My latest goal is fairly modest. I want to reach 200 lbs. by mid-December, but am hoping for somewhere in the late 190-range.

- Yesterday was an outstanding day. I received the revised cover of "What If They Lived?", as well as the proofs to look over, all in the .PDF format. Imagine if I had received the proofs in the mail and had to send them back marked up. These are the advances in technology I love, not iPods, iPads, iPhones and Kindles. I spent part of the day with the proofs yesterday, making sure that the words in there matched the words I wrote, and mostly they do. My writing partner did the editing, and I'm pleased so far. Some adjustments he made I'll have to rewrite to fit my own style, but I can live with what's there. However, I don't yet feel like working on the book this morning, since I want to shave off this crummy beard, and hopefully get in at least one basketball game today that's still sitting on the Tivo (amidst 4 or 5). I'll probably choose Phoenix Suns vs. Miami Heat. I tuned into the game last night when the Heat were beating the Suns at 114 to whatever, only to express my continued frustration with timeouts toward the end, because I have to extend the recording by half an hour to an hour, and I couldn't last night. So, reluctantly, I chose the edited midnight showing ESPN had of the game. Even though I don't like that they cut out some of the action in favor of moving the game along more swiftly, I'll take whatever basketball I can get right now. However, when the Lakers play the Timberwolves on Friday night, I'm making sure I get the whole game. Not so much because I'm a fan of either team (I prefer to float between teams), but because I want to see one from beginning to end, dammit! The last time I did that was during the NBA Finals many months ago. I want it again.

With all that out of my head, here we go.

Early yesterday morning, I had a series of "residual dreams" (what I call the ones you have while you're drifting in and out of consciousness before you wake up). The last one before I woke up was of a woman in bed, with an ass curved to look like Heaven. I'm a staunch leg man, but I consider the rear of the plane the bonus round. It's just lucky for me that it happens to be there, above two of my favorite pleasures in life.

So I thought, "Oh fucking great, another woman I can't have."

Remember, I'm waiting until we get closer to moving to Nevada before I start seriously pursuing the dating scene, whatever it is in and near Boulder City.

Well, a dream I had this morning before I woke up a little bit before 6 a.m. (I don't fight sleep anymore. When I wake up, I don't try to go back to sleep. My body tells me it's had enough sleep, depending on what I've done the previous day to either tire me out a lot or a little, and I go by that. It's fortunate for me that my body choose to get the day going before 6 now. That's enough for me, since I go to bed every night before 11 p.m.), made me think, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" much more than the previous dream.

I was in a plane, a smallish one, but one still with jet engines. However, this plane was apparently capable of flying at low altitudes, since it appeared to be a very local flight. I refuse to try to figure out why Sarah Palin and family were sitting in the row in front of me, though to my relief, they weren't involved at all in this dream. I attribute their appearance to having read her claim that she can beat Obama in 2012, a little while before I went to bed.

In the back were two girls. One was a blonde, but not a bubbly blonde. More of an I-can-kick-the-shit-out-of-this-day-and-get-exactly-what-I-want kind of blonde. Over the past few days, I've really been thinking about what kind of woman I want in my life, and I've hit upon one thing I will never compromise on: I want a partner-in-crime in life, someone with the same unseriousness about life as I'm rapidly working on to embrace fully. There's a scene in The Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy where Nora Charles (Loy) says to Nick (Powell), "I read where they shot you five times in the tabloids." Nick replies, "That's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids." That's exactly what I want, and even though I want to date again soon enough, I will wait if that's what it comes to. I can easily learn about someone else's interests and perhaps become interested in those interests, too. I'm a naturally curious person. But I will not bend on that.

During the flight, this girl kept looking at me. Not staring, since she talked to her friend at various intervals, but she was looking at me. And I looked back and felt so strongly that this was the one girl I was looking for, and I needed to get up, sit next to her, and introduce myself. Not at all like Bud in Married with Children said to a girl in a movie theater in my favorite episode ("Movie Show," from season 7), "Hi. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm your new boyfriend," but confident enough that she'd still be interested after I started speaking. I wanted her.

Lucky for me, she and her friend jumped out of the plane into a field of sporadic flowers. Yes, jumped. The back door of the plane was still slightly open, since the plane was flying low enough so as not to require pressurization (I'm not sure if that's how it works on jet aircraft, since I haven't been much into aviation lately), and out they went, picking daisies or dandelions. I forgot which and it doesn't matter. I asked someone nearby what had happened and she told me that those two are daughters of employees of this airline, and they do that often.

I had my chance. It was right there. And my shock at what had just happened transferred into my waking state where I felt, well, a little devastated, I'll admit. Just a little. But mostly disappointed. She was perfect for me.

However, I turned on NPR on my radio while resting in bed until my dad and sister left for work (which I always do), and I thought to myself, "Well, at least I'm getting a lot closer to figuring out completely what I want in a woman. This is a good start."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Did It!

I went to bed around 10:40 last night.

I slipped in between my covers, pushed the "sleep" button on my radio (always set for 90 minutes), and as I tried to sink into my two pillows as much as I could (they're stacked), I listened to a conversation on 89.9 KCRW about cab drivers in Los Angeles. I didn't catch what the reason was for this discussion, because 20 minutes later, I was asleep.

I awoke briefly in the middle of the night and then returned to infinity.

Next time I was aware of anything, I heard my dad turn on the computer in the living room, open the wooden shutters, and call for the dogs to go out.

It was 6:15 a.m.

I did it! I slept 7 hours!

During my anxiety (I know, I know, I keep talking about it, but I'm still piecing together the wreckage, looking for concrete reasons, and so deeply thankful for changes I've made both in diet and lifestyle), one of my biggest worries was sleep, especially in those nights when I'd go to sleep at 11 p.m., wake at 1 a.m., and that would be it. No more. It got scary for quite a while.

This is an incredible start to improvement of my life, which has been helped by a steady influx of fruits and vegetables, which I won't break away from just because I'm feeling better. The stress I used to have in my body because of lack of sleep is gone. I feel a little tired right now at 3:37 p.m., but I'm supposed to. I spent a few hours sitting on the couch, thumbing through my mom's word seek puzzle magazines (I love Penny Press and loathe Dell), picking out the puzzles I wanted to do, and did them. I got up a few times, for the bathroom, for some water, and to switch magazines, and only when I was done did I stretch remarkably and went out to get the mail.

I think my body's now used to bedtime at or near 11 p.m., and waking up some time in the 6 a.m. hour. Out of everything that happened to me emotionally from this, I hoped for this the most. And now I got it. And I know that Ventura Harbor Village tomorrow will be a lot more enjoyable because of this. Not that I had the anxiety when we went there the first time, but it's going to mean a lot more to me now. I'm free.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Land and Sea Lunch, Movies, and a Job

Ever since I recovered from this anxiety after 5 and 1/2 months, I've been hoping for an absolutely perfect week, full of everything I'd want to do and would be game for.

So far, so good.

My body's getting used to going to bed at or a little bit before 11 p.m., and though I seem to wake up early, sometimes after 6 a.m., I don't mind, because that's enough sleep for me. Monday and today went well with that, though I looked at my clock and found out that it was only 4:41 a.m. Most of the time, I can get back to sleep without a problem, but there are those occasional instances where there's a tiny bit of that former full-blown fear that I won't be able to get back to sleep.

Today was perfect, and it began with a book of interviews with comedy writers called "Funny Business," including Louis Sachar, Beverly Cleary, and Judy Blume. I started it after I finished breakfast, at about 8 a.m., and finished it late in the morning, probably at around 11:40. It felt so good to read extensively and to actually finish a book, unlike all those months ago when I'd literally fill up my library card to the limit with 50 books, and be excited about the options available to me, but I'd never really finish anything.

Along with the reading, I turned on the Real Jazz channel on the XM radio we have in the house. Perfect. I use as bookmarks the paper hold slips that are in my library books, and I always keep a blue pen near me to write down any titles I find within the books that interest me, or, any names of jazz musicians I hear that I want to hear more of. (Screw the dangling preposition tightwad rule. It's my blog.) I have two of these slips so far (one from finishing "Nothing Happens Until It Happens to You" by T.M. Shine), and the third is in Jeff Dunham's autobiography, "All By My Selves," and there's already about four names of jazz musicians on that slip. Only before 3 p.m. did I turn on the TV and the Tivo to begin watching the episodes of Saturday Night Live I had recorded off of VH1. It feels so good to not use the computer that much anymore, and also not to watch as much TV as I did during the day. I'm not going to become one of those proponents of keeping the television off as much as possible, but I could live with it.

So that was today. Tomorrow, if I'm not called into Dad's school to be a substitute campus supervisor, I'm probably going to blast my way through the rest of "All By My Selves" by Jeff Dunham, and then start on "Giving Good Weight" by John McPhee, a collection of his writings for The New Yorker, which include a profile of a farmer's market, and dueling pinball champions. I'm fine with another quiet day, since I'm really anticipating Thursday, a blessed day.

Thursday is Veteran's Day, which means schools are closed, and my sister, who works as a one-on-one aide for a special needs kid, and Dad both have the day off. Friday's a furlough day, another day off, which means neither she or Dad get paid, and neither does anyone else in the entire school district. No idea what's on tap for Friday, but Thursday is going to be incredible. We'll start with a pit stop at the grand opening of Williams-Sonoma at the Valencia Town Center Mall, which my sister has been salivating over for a number of months now. They open at 10 a.m. (I don't mind, since I'm sure I'll be up by 6 and then resting and listening to Morning Edition on NPR), so we'll spend probably half an hour there, and then we'll be off to Ventura, to the Ventura Harbor Village. When I heard we were going to do this, I got excited for two major reasons:

1) Andria's Seafood Restaurant. Best clam chowder in California, based on my limited experience with the clam chowders of seafood restaurants in California. Last time, I ordered it in a bread bowl, and there turned out to be more bread than soup. A large bowl this time. I was going to order something with it, but a shrimp cocktail there is $6.99. I'm satisfied with just my soup. It turns out that the fish they use there comes from local waters. I like that.

2) My favorite spot in all of Ventura Harbor Village, which I can't wait to show Meridith. And it's not even anywhere near the harbor, not any of the boats I see, not any of the pedal boats. It's right in between one of the entrances to the arcade and the restrooms. You stand right there and you look up, and you see a window with a drawn shade, with a little strip of darkness underneath. Now, these places are for lease, but whether they're used solely for offices, or as residences, I'm not sure. But I love standing there, looking at that window, imagining the person who might use that as an office or residence. I prefer residence, because I imagine that person placing their bed right near that window, the foot of the bed right there. This jibes with when I was at my graduation from College of the Canyons in 2005, I think, and while ignoring the long-winded speech by the president of the school, I looked up at all the windows of the building looming over us, and I imagined that there must have been some crazy professor up there, sitting cross-legged amidst piles of papers on desk and floor, searching, searching for hidden meanings in "Moby Dick." I'm fascinated by people like that.

There's also an ice cream place in the village called Coastal Cone Ice Cream & Yogurt, which my mom loves. But no more for me. After I came out of the worst of the anxiety, I vowed to change my diet, and I have. I suspect that's what my nerves were screaming about, and it must have helped, because I don't feel anything exploding in my nervous system now. In the morning, I have Cheerios (for now, Honey Nut, since we ran out of regular Cheerios, which is my favorite) and either a banana or a pear. For lunch, depending on if I'm at work or at home, I have yogurt (reserved for home) or a peanut butter sandwich, carrot chips, and an apple. I also dig into any green stuff we have, which, right now, is bagged broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage) and baby spinach. I reserve dinner for the most sodium intake, though not to extremes.

Even though they do have fat-free yogurt at Coastal Cone, I don't think I'm going to partake in it. I asked my sister to put an apple in her pocketbook for me for after lunch. So a land and sea lunch. And the harbor with all the boats. Can't beat that.

I've no idea what we'll be doing on Friday, but I'm thinking of adding an extra day to my weekend plans.

The Saturday before last, I pulled "The Ramen Girl" DVD out of my stack of library materials, but couldn't get past the first few minutes. The writing was pretty bad. Instead, I watched yet again Stephen Sondheim's "Putting It Together." And from that, I decided to start something new, since I wake up early enough at the start of the day anyway.

As mentioned before, I seem to wake up more regularly around 6 a.m. During the weekdays, I'm ok with resting in bed for a while, listening to NPR. But on the weekend, as 7 a.m. passes, I don't want to do the same thing. So after that Saturday, I continued what I think might be a weekly tradition, at least until it's time to begin moving to Nevada.

Last Saturday morning, I had a double feature of "Down with Love" (from Netflix) and "Clerks II" (my own DVD). During the day, Wal-Mart finally received the copy of "Swing Vote" I ordered, and I was very excited about that. So on Sunday morning, I listened to the audio commentary on "Swing Vote" by director Joshua Michael Stern and co-writer Jason Richman.

I'm not sure if I'll always have a double feature on Saturday mornings, but since I watch far less movies now than I used to, I really like this idea of just lounging in bed, watching movies on weekend mornings. Today, I received "Just Wright" from Netflix, and plan to watch that on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, I'm going to listen to the director's commentary on "Undercover Brother." I've already planned the following Saturday morning: "The Joneses." And on the following Sunday morning: The audio commentary on "An American in Paris."

For me, this is the way to watch movies. I love having more free time to read books. Sometimes I'll use the Instant Viewing function on Netflix, but I haven't done it much lately, though there are a few movies I want to see on there, including "Mojave Moon," starring Danny Aiello.

One of the campus supervisors went to my dad yesterday because they needed a substitute campus supervisor for Monday. That would be me, and I love having a job again. I wish it was more than just this day, but I'll take it.

Plus, I'm also seriously thinking of forgoing the wait for Hanukkah and just buying "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" and "John Waters' This Filthy World" off Amazon Marketplace, to complete my DVD collection. After those two, I can't think of any other DVDs I want. I'll see if my parents can get me either "Jeopardy!" on Nintendo DS or one or two of the books of Neil Simon's plays.

I can't wait for the rest of this week to begin.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Dreams Build, But Probably Not to That Crescendo

She wouldn't talk to me.

No, that's not all.

She wouldn't even look at me.

I didn't know what I had done to have unfortunately achieved that tortuous degree of being ignored. I'm sure I rewound through my mind the moments we had spent together and wondered if anything within those moments had caused this.

Then I saw an old crush, Sara Mangan. 9th grade. We got to know each other a bit, and I wanted to date her, but she had a long-distance relationship going and didn't want to give that up. I asked her if she could think of any reason, out of everything she knew about me, why this girl would be so angry (I assume) to completely shut me out.

I finally get a girlfriend after not dating since 7th grade and somehow I screwed it up.

But yet, I didn't.

What you read was part of a dream I had, the second after the night before, in which I was with a girl who seemed very, very formal and mannerly. I was fascinated by her, wondering why she was the way she was, and also how she got to that personality quirk.

Two dreams in a row about girlfriends. The last time this happened was up to February 14, 1998, the day of the Valentine's Day Dance at Silver Trail Middle, which I couldn't go to since I had gotten into trouble for inadvertently giving the girl I was going with the password to something that was not meant to be given out. I don't remember what it was for, I didn't have any ulterior motives; I just gave it because I knew it. Not to a whole host of people, just her.

The day of the dance, I wasn't there, but she was there, moping around because I wasn't there. Irene became my girlfriend on that day, and it lasted for 6 months, until she and her family moved across the state of Florida to Naples, and we broke up amicably because a long-distance relationship seemed like a lot of work.

Up to that day, I had had many dreams about girlfriends and it led to this. There might be a third dream tonight about a girlfriend, maybe a fourth the next night, but I don't think it will lead to girlfriend #2. For one, I haven't made any effort in this valley to find anyone, though I do admire some of what I see in the stores in the area. My gold standard is the woman who retrieved my Site to Store order at Wal-Mart near Copper Hill Drive, who matched Julianne Nicholson in her glances and wore dark eyeshadow that I loved. But it wasn't only the eyshadow, it was the smoky personality she had. She was also probably 20 years older than me, but hey, I have great taste.

I see these dreams as helping me sort out exactly what I want. I've never thought of it beyond being a staunch leg man, helped along by Monica Haynick and her pantyhose in my 8th grade math class. Personality? I've got some idea now. I want a partner-in-crime in life, kind of like Myrna Loy was to William Powell in the first "Thin Man" movie in 1934. I want that kind of rapport, so yes, I require a woman with a sizable brain. But that's all I know so far.

Or who knows? If we end up going to Ventura Harbor Village this Thursday or Friday, my dream girl might be there. Maybe that's what these dreams are hinting at. But even if not, at least I'm finally thinking seriously about it and not thinking it strange of me to be thinking about it at all.

Addendum at 8:05 a.m. on November 9: No dreams about girlfriends last night. The most prominent dream I remember was some group of re-enactors performing on a mountain at dusk while the Santa Ana winds blew terribly, and the sparks some of their special effects produced made me worry that they might set the whole mountain aflame.

I'm not disappointed. I'm just glad to know for sure that I want this.