Riddle of the ghost: solved. He’s a man on the job

Ice-cream bar tender at state fair, Donaldsonville, Louisiana., 1938 Photo by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration; transfered to Office of War Information Photograph Collection and then to Library of CongressWe’d wondered about the ghost in the neighborhood for a really long time. Me and my boyfriend had, I just told you about it. Then last night with no warning my boyfriend mentioned that he’d seen him at the Food Pit, up close, in person, a few days before, without telling me.

The Food Pit is the real-life name of the gas station/convenience store in our neighborhood. I guess it’s like the Peach Pit in the original 90210, except a bit more honest. They didn’t serve or sell the stones of fruit at the Peach Pit. The Food Pit sells “food,” and it is a bit of a hole.

I have had a craving for grape bubblegum so fierce I might just go pee on a plastic stick just to prove what I already know: I’m not pregnant. But I’m so psyched out over wanting grape gum I’ve even got him eating like there’s no tomorrow–he’s hysterically pregnant now. Life is cray-cray up in here. And it’s harder to find grape bubblegum than one would think, just to twist the knife.

We were both so happy about the grape gum (and the Lifesavers that the boyfriend got, a really nasty kind that I haven’t learned to get a taste for yet–I’m like a bacterium when it comes to sweets. I can learn to eat about any kind there is if it’s the only thing around, but I do have my preferences), that he forgot to tell me about the Ghost!

The Ghost was standing in front of him in line at the Food Pit. The Ghost is in his mid-forties. There are two wireless speakers attached to the handlebars of his bicycle. And he isn’t a ghost. He is a man, made of meat and bones and skin, not ectoplasm and fear and regret and longing.

“I think he’s a connect,” my boyfriend said.

And it all clicked! Of course. The music, the bike, the slow roll, the night, the reason we’re fascinated with him, the everything. He’s the ice cream man.

He has a reason to be out. He’s just going for a ride. Anyone can stop to talk to him. And they can hear him coming, so they get their money together and then come out of their houses. And the cops don’t have any reason to stop this guy. He’s just sharing the joy of music with the neighborhood. He probably isn’t a big time guy. Maybe he’s just making deliveries for the club, I don’t know.

I have no proof this is what’s up. I don’t know his life. But suspected small fish rolling through the neighborhood is far less interesting than undead spirit riding a ghost trick bike across the earth. I’m still considering this mystery solved.

Neighborhood bicycling ghost on the loose

Man on bicycle, in the 1920s, Germany, probable BerlinA little more than a year ago, we moved  across the street from Pinkeye Beach. Seriously, it’s beautiful, and it’s smells all wonderful salt and wet and thick on my face, and I love driving on the highway next to the water, and there’s red tail hawk that hunts from the tree across from our kitchen window sometimes, so majestic, and the campfires smell so wonderful (until someone starts smoking something that smells more like plastic and tar and 151), but really, that water will get you sick.

Never mind that the ocean is nature’s toilet. Never mind that there is always a dead sea lion on the beach (that’s why the dogs always start running as soon as they are off leash–they’re looking for that sweet rotting sea lion). Never mind that there are a million other dead things there; that’s why Pinkeye Beach is covered in crows and pigeons. Kick the bulb of the bull whip kelp and a million flies pour out of it like it’s a corpse’s eyeball.

Never mind all that: there are floaters in the water. You see them every time you go there. The treatment plant is right at the end of Sloat Boulevard. That’s grody. Don’t go in there. At least get a hep-B series first.

Our apartment is one floor up, over the garages, and goes through the building, but it isn’t a railroad, I don’t think. My desk is by the dunes side (we’d have to be on the upper floor to have a view of the beach proper). My boyfriend has the street side. At night, when we eat and watch our stories (y’all, I am just now learning how fucking great Prison Break is. I can’t understand how I slept on this shit for so long), and at night, that’s when this magic happens. A ghost rolls under the windows.

For months and months, we didn’t see it, just heard it. It went too fast to be walking, and too slow to be driving, and too quiet to be on a skateboard. So it had to either be a) disembodied, or b) on a bike. The weird thing: always blasting 1980s hiphop, like Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, Kool Moe Dee, and almost always the same ones, like he had a Time Life collection of Greatest Hits CDs, or an 8-track.

It didn’t help that the ghost was fleet of foot. Every time we heard him, we looked, but ghosts get, well, ghost. He was always gone.

Finally: a man rolled by when we were by the window for no reason on a BMX bike, blasting some LL Cool J. He looked young, but it was from far away. Maybe he got hit by the train? Or a car? Maybe he has a message from the 1980s to share with us? A message of peace and freedom through rapping? I can say that hearing Kool Moe Dee and other old school beats made me happy as hell.

Since we saw him once, we see him often. He very much seems male. He is always alone. He is always with music. We can’t tell if other people can see him or not. I want to know his story, since the ones I write for people and ghosts are certainly wrong.

(This is the song I always want the DJ to play, but I think requesting shit from the DJ is rude. I want the ghost to play it, too, but I think requesting shit from a ghost is pointless and rude.)

Yo! Back on the grid

Overraskelse_RAVNEN1896So the thing about being in a writing program is it feels like all writing needs to be devoted to making work for my program.  I feel less guilty wasting time doing things that make me feel worse about the world than I do about writing here. But reading about how shitty the world is is starting to get to me.  I can’t spend time on the internet anymore. It’s just too terrible a place.

All this to say: I’m trying to come back here. It’s better than reading about who hit whom, and who is going to prison for what, and where in the world is on fire, and where in the universe smells the most like farts (spoiler: it’s everywhere. Everywhere smells most like farts).

I am trying to finish my thesis for school (a novel! A novel about a terrible family doing terrible things to each other terribly, but the writing is good, so I got what I came to school for), and another project (a weird, weird sort of semi-autobiography thing, made up of bizarre answers to a questionnaire I stole from a psychologist and an inventory of myself and a gazetteer of the places I’ve lived–needless to say IT’S HOT, SO HOT, AND ALL THE KIDS WILL BE IN THE THEATERS SOON WATCHING A MOVIE BASED ON THE BOOK OF MY LIFE), and I’m trying not to stretch myself so thin I just give up on everything and eat salty snacks. I ate a bag of goldfish crackers yesterday and it was painful to open my eyes this morning. They weren’t crusty or anything, the corneas were just so dry the lids were almost sealed to them, pieces of rubber to glass.

I have no illusions this will last. We shall see.

Poor me, or why I was gone

Gryphon and the Mock TurtleI have been away for a long time, I know!  Quite a lot happened.

I was there, at my mother’s house, not at all enjoying my spring break, tending to her after her knee replacement surgery, when I discovered she’d been lying to me to get me up there.

Her cats had tapeworms again.  After I had taken them to the vet in January, two months before.  This was one of the few things I told her I needed her to do for me to come up there.  I just needed her to treat them for fleas consistently so I could be in her house without parasites.  She said she would

She didn’t.

I felt manipulated.  Used.

At this point, I don’t trust her anymore.  She’ll do whatever she feels she has to and will say whatever she feels she has to in order to get whatever she wants.  My needs, comfort, health and safety don’t matter.

That’s not at all to speak of her cats’ health.  I asked a couple of people if I should get them treated again and they told me the same thing: if you treated them two months ago, and they’re sick again, they’ll just keep getting infected.  There’s nothing you can do for them.

Unfortunately, I think they’re right.

Then I came back here and tried to get work done.  I didn’t get anything done up there.  Yes, poor me!  I have the privilege of being one of the elite few in the world who can earn an advanced degree full-time.  I have no illusions about where I am in the world.  This is the top, really.  I have clean water, a safe place to lay my head, an automobile–this is great.  I do get anxiety, though.  I’m behind in my work.

And I churned out a book for a contest just now.  I’m proud of it, and proud of myself.  It’s good work.  Poems.  No one would read it except for my boyfriend.  They’re too depressing.  Everyone said to send them some, but they didn’t really want to read them because they’re too down.  I understand; they’re all about death.  That’s not something people really want to read.

My habit has been to wait for the muse to come to me and then work off of inspiration, and I didn’t do that this time.  I just worked through the time I had allotted.  There was only so much time, so that’s the amount of time I had to work on it.  It’s still work I’m proud of.  This means I can do this always–it’s a new skill for me.  I feel like I should have had this sooner (I’ve been writing for twenty years!  I should be here by now!), but I’m at where I’m at and it’s here.

I also feel bad today because I set a boundary that was the right thing for me, but I don’t think the other person saw it that way.  I can justify and explain and make a case to you, but I don’t have to.  I know what was the right thing for me to do.  I can’t hurt myself today because that’s what I think other people want and need.  I have to put my own oxygen mask on first.  Besides, I don’t know what they need!  I’ve never been that good at figuring that out.  I destroyed my own life and showed up somewhere with a shoebox full of most of the pieces and needed help putting them together.  What do I know from life coaching?

Boundaries are tough, y’all.  But living without them?  Way fucking worse.  You can take that to the motherfucking bank.

Food review: Insight Coffee Roasters

Insight Coffee Roasters
1901 8th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 642-9555
Open Daily 7 am-8 pm

Bag of Insight Brazil beans

Sacramento, California is not a bad place.  It just isn’t mine.  I lived here for over six years.  And it never did feel like home.  Santa Cruz wasn’t home, West Los Angeles wasn’t home, the DC Metro Area wasn’t home, Brooklyn wasn’t home.  I had different reasons for not being wholly, roundly happy in any of them.  But wonderful things and magnificent people abound in all of them.

So I’m in my mom’s house and I need coffee.  She’s a tea drinker.   (Incidentally, she gets her imported Welsh tea from the Tea Cozy, a little independent, local shop near her house.  Strongest bagged tea I’ve had.)  I was driving around picking up take out Mexican and I drove past Insight Roasters and stopped.

I usually ask the people who work at a place to recommend to me what I should try first, especially if they aren’t busy at the time.  It was evening, and chill.  Nice space, airy and light.  Sacramento has cheaper rents than the Bay Area, so rooms are bigger here.  It feels less claustrophobic than any other place I’ve lived.  (I told Shadow Fairy I thought my apartment was 300 square feet and she was appalled.  I didn’t tell her she’d be appalled with the rents in Southern California should she get down there.)

Insight Brazil beansI was recommended the Guatemalan by the very nice man pulling shots behind the counter (barista still feels like a stupid thing to call a coffeeshop gentleman or lady), but they were out, so I got twelve ounces of the Brazil.  Fifteen dollars, which isn’t cheap, but that’s probably what an independent roaster has to charge to make a profit.  Beans aren’t cheap, equipment, et cetera.  And it’s not like Peet’s charges that much less.  Plus you get a free shot of espresso with every bag of beans.  Nice.

The coffee itself was one of the smoothest brews I have tasted in memory.  It is chocolaty, sweet and complex–without any sugar or milk in it.  These are the beans talking.  They aren’t greasy or very dark, which is usually what I reach for, but that’s fine; they’re mellow, full, rich, and deep.

I went back and am on the Guatemalan now.  I prefer the Brazil, but the Guatemalan is nice, too.  It’s heartier, with more of an acrid finish.  My next bag is the Sumantra.  Haven’t opened it yet.

I grew up on Peet’s coffee, so I’m used to a really dark cup, and Insight satisfies that.  It’s really full coffee–don’t let the sweetness in the description or the review throw you off.  I’m sure they have a coffee that hits a more bitter note if that’s how you roll.  (I don’t care for Starbucks, myself.   Tastes acrid-bitter-burnt and bites on the top of the back of the throat.)

They also sell unroasted beans.  I have wanted for years to roast my own coffee beans at home.  I haven’t, but I want to.  You can do it using a popcorn popper, or a heat gun, or a skillet, or a wok, or a cookie sheet in the oven.  Anyways.  I don’t need another expensive, time-consuming hobby.  I probably won’t make better coffee, and it really isn’t that much cheaper when you consider how much time I’m spending cooking it and storing it and shipping beans to my house.  But a girl can dream.

Anyways: this is damn good coffee.  Highly recommended.  When you’re here and I’m here we’ll go here and get a cup.

On my mother’s lies

Giovanni_Segantini_Die bösen Mütter 1894 The Evil Mothers

My mother is an artist.  Her medium is reality.  You know how some people work with oils, or clay?  She shapes facts, events and time.  It’s folk art more than a trained thing.

She’s a liar, is what I’m saying.

The world isn’t what she wants it to be, so she makes it up to be more comfortable for herself.  But when she lies about me?  Oh no.  Fuck that shit.

Here’s the nasty truth of this particular matter: one of her cats is obese.  Morbidly so.  He’s a nice cat, sure.  (He keeps tapping me on the shoulder while I’m typing, asking politely if I haven’t forgotten to give him some extra calories.  Oh, he has as much kibble as he wants.  But lardito wants gravy.)  But he’s gotten too fat to wash his own ass.  That’s disgusting.  Today, on his normal sleeping blanket, there was cat shit.  That is so far from okay I can’t.  So I washed his blanket. I told Moms about this, because I will not be giving him treats or extra food.  He does not need to weigh seventeen pounds.  He needs to wash his own ass.  I’d get him a rag on a stick and be done with the matter, but he doesn’t have thumbs and can’t use that, so he needs to shed the three or so pounds.

I found him sleeping on something else today while my mother was talking on the phone.  (Mom has weird phone manners.  Relevant, as she will talk about me while I’m present.)

Here’s what happened:

  • Fat ass cat was sleeping on something.
  • I picked him up.  He was resistant.  He had been asleep.  He wasn’t angry, just sleepy and confused.  He held onto the pillows he was sleeping on with his claws.  (Who wouldn’t be a bit or a bunch upset?  I don’t like it when people bother my sleeping body either.  Apparently, I just wail, Why? in a sad and small and broken way.  Unfortunately for me, my lover thinks this is adorable.  Fortunately, he is not a sadist and has impulse control and doesn’t do this on purpose since the first time when he tried to smooth the furrow out of my brow while I slept.  “You looked so sad, so upset!  I was just trying to help.  You sounded like you were channeling the ghost of a wounded bagpipe.”)
  • I put fat’n’fur’n’browneye on the floor.
  • I put a protective blanket on what gingery bacon had been sleeping on.  He hopped up on it and went back to sleep.

Here’s what my mom said to her friend on the phone:

“Oh, Seer’s waking George up.  Yes, she doesn’t want him sleeping on the chair.  She wants him sleeping on a blanket.  She’s waking him up because…because she thinks he’s too fat.  Yes, she thinks he’s too fat.”

On what planet does that make sense?  There are lots of fat people and creatures in this world.  I don’t have an air horn in my hand waking them all the time.  NO…SLEEP…FOR FATTIES!  All god’s children deserve forty winks.  I’ve been a big girl too, you know.  I used to weigh about seventy more pounds than I do right now.  That’s why my belt has thirteen extra inches on it.  Because it used to fit me.  Never forget.  But why judge the obese?  Not my steez.  It was hard being fat.  And everyone has their own issues with their own weight, good, bad, and indifferent, no matter what they weigh.  I have mine, you have yours.

When Moms lies about shit like this, here’s what happens: her friends come over and ask me about these things and will hammer on me for harassing a poor fat cat.  I can either put up with their wheedling or I can tell them there was cat shit on the furniture.  Either way, I’m a horrible person.  Either for being irrational or busting Moms on her disgustingness.

I told her today not to lie about what I’m doing.  I told her it wasn’t fair.  That it gave me no space to defend myself.  She looked blank, as if she didn’t understand what she had done to wrong me.  I explained again: I tell them nothing, I’m an asshole who hates him; I say there’s cat shit on your furniture, I’m an asshole and the house is filthy.  She said the clipped, “Okay,” the one that really says, Stop picking on me.  I am defenseless.  I didn’t watch her to see if she started wiping her eyes later.  She’ll cry over that.  In my experience, those with no boundaries can’t stand having one set.

Later, I realized I got triggered by the whole thing.  It happened in the moment, the triggering, but the knowledge didn’t surface until later.  Because this has all happened before.  More than once.

The worst instance that I can specifically remember was a long time ago.  I was having terrible symptoms about twelve years ago before my medications got straight, and I couldn’t stand to go out and harvest the tomatoes in the backyard.  Every time I saw a tomato hornworm I felt them crawling on me for hours (I have tactile hallucinations when I’m really ill).  She told all her friends I was afraid of insects–they never asked, she would just bring it up, Guess what’s wrong with Seer now, the princess–and they would mention it.  So I could either tell them I had psychotic symptoms as a result of my thought disorder or be teased by her friends.  (Yes, grown adults in their fifties would tease a grown woman in her twenties who was for some reason now living at home.  Some people are assholes.)

She folds my life around hers in ways that makes her feel more comfortable.   I understand this behavior is one of her coping mechanisms.  I understand this logically.  Emotionally, it fucks me up.  I feel manipulated.  I feel used.  I feel angry.  I feel things I am not able to process or name or aware of yet because I am not an especially emotionally awake person.  I’m learning the language, but I live in my body.  I dissociate from my mind and I am not fluent in heartspeak.  I’m learning to sit in both without flinching, but I still fidget.

I doubt she’ll ever stop doing it, the lying.  And I know it’s not my job to control her.

It is my job to learn to stand up for myself and act appropriately.  I’m getting there.  Slowly.  Fifteen years in almost, and getting there.

But it is hard.  I don’t like it, and in no small part because of this: I don’t like remembering the person who gave birth to me does not or cannot or will not take care of me.  I don’t like that at all.

Sorry my arbitrary, self-created rule set conflicts with yours!

Anger or the Tussle Dosso_Dossi

Dear Fellow Member of Society,

Here we both are, swimming upstream in this.  I do not know where you need to spawn.  I do not care.  That’s not my business.  We will both eventually die in the abyss.

I am sorry my arbitrary set of rules and regulations I have created for myself and crystallized my behavior around conflicts with yours.

I realize in the grand scheme of things neither of them matters more than the other.  It doesn’t really matter if there’s space for pedestrians in front of you or behind me or if someone’s in the intersection or if someone has eleven items in a line at a checkstand or if you aren’t carpooling or if you don’t cover your mouth or whatever fifty years from now when I’m dead or dying.  I won’t care then.  But right now I’m caught in minutia because they give me the illusion of control over something, just something, anything, a slippery sense of falling off into the void, and you got in the way.  You got in the way of my feeling powerful over loss of ego.  Ego is really what I need to lose.

I am sorry if I made you feel less that the amount of respect other human beings deserve.  I’m working on it, but sometimes I need to work harder than others.  I am sorry if I hurt you.

Be well,