Happy Birthday NF

You’re still always on my mind. There could be someone else, I guess. But she’d never be you. My heart needs yours here, with me. I don’t want to see all this without your eyes next to mine. I love you.

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“existential claustrophobia”

love is the unconditional God, and justice is the conditional God. i don’t want the injustice of first being broken inside to later found the justice against my involuntary hate. my purpose is not supposed to be a pressure cooker’s purpose (to not burst) especially if the lid is off and the pressure isn’t lessened.

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I’m What’s Known As A “Difficult Patient”

A baffled nurse from “Africa” (the, frickin’ … continent) said to me once, “Why can’t you be grateful? You have a bed, you have food, you have medical care.” And I said to him, “Because this isn’t where I live, and they won’t let me go home. They’re holding me, and I don’t need to be here.” Which, that’s true. But what he said to me has always stuck as a North star toward gratitude. These are low-paid, hard-working people, dedicated to helping the mentally ill.

One of my lines to them was, “No, you’re not underpaid. You’re getting paid one hundred percent too much.”

Bob was one of my enemies. The last time I saw him he was stalking through the psych dept lobby at the outpatient clinic, probably after losing his job for refusing my psychiatrist’s two attempts to get me back on case management. I had my one chance to echo back to him his infamous line: “That’s your choice.” But I didn’t. After all, I’d known the second request would be denied. I was honest with my doc, to a point. I needed case management. But I knew what had happened. Bob hated me. They all hated me. I’m what’s known as a “difficult patient”. I either wanted to destroy their insides piece by psychological piece, or fuck them, or both.

I let my psychiatrist put the request through because I knew that Bob would refuse again, and it’s totally not his right to do that. With anyone. He ended up shuffling me over to the “severely mentally ill” case management team. One of them called me up and said, “You don’t seem at all like you’re severely mentally ill.” I said, “I’m not.” She said, “We would only come by once a month to check to see if you needed to be hospitalized.” I was like, “Yeah, no thanks.” So that was that. But I’m still technically with SMI to this day, I think.

Bob was (or maybe is) the head of the ACT team. There’s been a lot of positive press of late about ACT teams around the country. It doesn’t bear up from the inside, though. In the traditional set-up of therapist and doctor, you have one person who gov’t insurance requires to be at least an MSW, and one person who is required to be both an MD and have a PhD. The ACT team is a way around that, sort of. Two nurses (who are both fully-qualified RNs), a therapist, a “peer support counselor”, the doctor, and the one who heads up the team. I could never get over the fact that I couldn’t place my trust in their therapy process. My college girlfriend had gotten her PhD in psych. She went to Columbia in NYC for her Master’s, and Illinois School of Professional Psychology for her PhD. And I’d been in therapy all my life. Private practice. I knew the experience of being able to communicate with someone who didn’t focus on the details of what you were saying, but on the gist. Someone who understood patterns, theories, best practices, etc.

One of my therapists was Dalton. The first time we met he drove me out to the park, and we sat on a park bench where he went through some xerox’d quizzes with me. They were quizzes from the back of Cosmopolitan magazine. “Picture a woman descending a spiral staircase. Who are you thinking of?” — “I guess I’m thinking of D—.” — “That’s the one that you’ll never get over.” It was clear Dalton didn’t even know what therapists did in session.

Like Dalton, Bob didn’t have the qualifications. He was another way that the outpatient mental health clinic could pay people who had less than the required MSW. He was making decisions about whether or not I would be stuck in the hospital, transferred to adult foster care (!), threatened with AFC, etc. And he only had a Bachelor’s Degree, in something he would never specify, but which wasn’t psychology. As mentioned, he only knew one bit of psychology: “That’s your choice.” But if I would end up in the hospital, it was ultimately his own choice that would put me in the adult foster care system for the three months that seemingly every ACT team patient had to endure once or twice. (My parents, at different times, had to pay my rent at my real apartment while adult foster care sucked away all my social security.) And the adult foster care experience is so gruesome that I always have to deal with nausea — even now — in thinking about it.

That food’s a challenge, man. Even though they keep you hungry. Can’t think about that.

The backbiting, childishness, stupidity, evil … residents and managers. Can’t think about that either.

Counting the minutes for three months. That happened to me twice. What more could I do to Bob than I did? Luckily I never found out. I never straight up hit that fuck.

Maybe they get paid too little, come to think of it. But trust is hard when you’re crazy. I know that.

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“i may have done my best”

i may have done my best
in a blackout
to fuck up your life
over the phone

and looked at the clock
every day at 12:34
awaiting your phone call

for all these years since,
but there’s always the hope
that something or someone
holds you back, and you
need to wrest forward and free
in a Victorian way, always
dreaming, and in that way we’re together, but
i heard your voice yesterday

on an old recording
and i couldn’t breathe
in the power of the need and grief
that i had created

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“Be An Optimist Prime!”

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RYM Top 100 Singles For 2016

RYM = Rate Your Music. This is the auto-generated list as of today (which, you know … I wrote it down).

  1. Radiohead – “Daydreaming”
  2. Radiohead – “Present Tense”
  3. David Bowie – “I Can’t Give Everything Away”
  4. Childish Gambino – “Me And Your Mama”
  5. Leonard Cohen – “You Want It Darker”
  6. Grouper – “Paradise Valley”
  7. Danny Brown – “When It Rain”
  8. Solange – “Cranes In The Sky”
  9. The Avalanches – “Because I’m Me”
  10. Radiohead – “Burn The Witch”
  11. Danny Brown – “Really Doe”
  12. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
  13. A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People”
  14. Radiohead – “Identikit”
  15. Car Seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers”
  16. Denzel Curry – “ULT”
  17. Kanye West – “No More Parties In LA”
  18. Kanye West – “Ultralight Beam”
  19. Grimes – “Kill V Maim”
  20. Kanye West – “Real Friends”
  21. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – “Skeleton Tree”
  22. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – “Jesus Alone”
  23. The Avalanches – “Subways”
  24. Xiu Xiu – “Falling”
  25. PJ Harvey – “They Wheel”
  26. The Avalances – “If I Was A Folkstar”
  27. Run The Jewels – “Legend Has It”
  28. Deakin – “Just Am”
  29. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Boy Problems”
  30. Lambchop – “The Hustle”
  31. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
  32. Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me”
  33. Denzel Curry – “Gook”
  34. Frank Ocean – “Nikes”
  35. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – “Rattlesnake”
  36. Kate Bush – “And Dream Of Sheep”
  37. Bon Iver – “33 ‘GOD'”
  38. Xxxtentacion – “RIP Roach ‘East Side Soulja'”
  39. Denzel Curry – “Knotty Head”
  40. Cigarettes After Sex – “K”
  41. Angel Olsen – “Sister”
  42. Disillusion – “Alea”
  43. Kendrick Lamar – “Untitled 07”
  44. The Weeknd – “I Feel It Coming”
  45. Bon Iver – “22 / 10”
  46. Danny Brown – “Pneumonia”
  47. Death Grips – “Eh”
  48. Death Grips – “Giving Bad People Good Ideas”
  49. Elbow – “Magnificent (She Says)”
  50. Beyoncé – “All Night”
  51. Eminem – “Infinite (FBT Remix)”
  52. Clarence Clarity – “Vapid Feels Are Vapid”
  53. Danny L Harle – “Super Natural”
  54. Ariana Grande – “Into You”
  55. Angel Olsen – “Intern”
  56. Jenny Hval – “Conceptual Romance”
  57. Xiu Xiu – “Into The Night”
  58. Vektor – “Charging The Void”
  59. The Avalanches – “Colours”
  60. Deftones – “Prayers”
  61. Hope Sandoval And The Warm Inventions – “Let Me Get There”
  62. Kero Kero Bonito – “Trampoline”
  63. Nine Inch Nails – “Burning Bright (Field On Fire)”
  64. Kanye West – “Father Stretch My Hands”
  65. Mitski – “Happy”
  66. Xxxtentacion – “#ImSippinTeaInYoHood”
  67. Kanye West – “30 Hours”
  68. Preoccupations – “Anxiety”
  69. Vektor – “Pillars Of Sand”
  70. Sigur Rós – “Óveður”
  71. Gucci Mane – “First Day Out Tha Feds”
  72. Joanna Newsom – “Make Hay”
  73. easyFun – “Monopoly”
  74. Run The Jewels – “2100”
  75. Kero Kero Bonito – “Break”
  76. Young Thug And Travis Scott – “Pick Up The Phone”
  77. A$AP Mob – “Yamborghini High”
  78. Death Grips – “More Than The Fairy”
  79. Xxxtentacion – “Look At Me!”
  80. Sun Kil Moon – “God Bless Ohio”
  81. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – “Gamma Knife”
  82. Car Seat Headrest – “Fill In The Blank”
  83. Chance The Rapper – “No Problem”
  84. ScHoolboy Q – “Groovy Tony”
  85. Weyes Blood – “Do You Need My Love”
  86. Car Seat Headrest – “Vincent”
  87. Nails – “No Longer Under Your Control”
  88. Rihanna – “Love On The Brain”
  89. Grandaddy – “A Lost Machine”
  90. Anohni – “Drone Bomb Me”
  91. Preoccupations – “Memory”
  92. Charli XCX – “Vroom Vroom”
  93. Massive Attack – “The Spoils”
  94. Solange – “Don’t Touch My Hair”
  95. Whitney – “No Woman”
  96. Hannah Diamond – “Fade Away”
  97. Earl Sweatshirt – “Balance”
  98. Rihanna – “Kiss It Better”
  99. Mick Jenkins – “Drowning”
  100. Migos – “Bad And Boujee”
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The Dracula Had An Aardvark Theory

Which, see below.

I’ve started boiling situations into a +1, a 0, or a -1, and at rare instances a +2 or -2.

If the President is lampooned, for instance, about a third of the people will see it as a -1 (for not respecting the person), about a third will see it as a +1 (for not respecting the person), and about a third will see it as a -1 (for invective tone). So the minus and plus cancel out and you get a minus. A bad idea.

Cleaning up the desk right now involves a -1 (the fear of the labor), a +1 (the joy of the labor), a +1 (the joy of the outcome). So the minus and plus cancel out and you get a plus. A good idea.

Was thinking earlier that if I want to have a theory, I can pick a stupid name and force it on the world. The aardvark refers to the “spooky” creature we see in Dracula’s castle in the 1931 film. For no reason.

UPDATE: I believe I was thinking of an armadillo.

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All-Dialogue Horror Flash Fiction

“You’ll have to explain that concept to me again.”

“Okay. Listen. The desert is totally flat and free of obstruction between here and those mountains about fifty miles away. Not even a road. And there is no one out there. That’s why they do this particular thing every year. You just get on the bike, and you pedal in the complete darkness. It’s like a trust game.”

“Yes, but haven’t you just taken a large quantity of LSD?”

“I have taken the king of acids. Orange Sunshine. And yes, a lot. You can take that much if it’s so pure.”

“And this is safe? And you want to do it?”

“Absolutely.”

“Stevie, I wish you luck on your Burning Man journey this year. If I see you later, tell me how it all went down.”

“I will. I promise.”

“Do you want to say goodbye to Hank? Stevie? Hey Hank. I think you missed him.”

“Dude, I’ve been trying to tell everyone. Don’t go out there into the desert this year.”

“Why? What’s the problem?”

“It’s a big problem. Start yelling for him. Too much rain over the wintertime. Very large nests of very large spiders scattered all over the place like jungle traps.”

“STEVIE!!!”

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All-Dialogue Meta Flash Fiction

“What are you listening to? It sounds like techno.”
“It is.”
“It’s called techno?”
“Electronic dance music.”
“What’s the name of the band? Have I heard of them?”
“Sniffed By Kittens. No you haven’t heard of them.”
“Sniffed … what?”
“Sniffed By Kittens.”
“Sniffed By Kittens?”
“Yes.”
“What’s the name of the album?”
“Now Is The Glitter Of Our Discotheque.”
“Hmm. That’s actually pretty good. That’s Shakespeare.”
“Yes. The beginning of Richard the Third.”
“Now is the winter of our discontent.”
“Yes. Made glorious summer by this son of York.”
Pause.
“I can’t remember it either.”
“Who’s in the band?”
“It’s two people. They’re not really musicians. They’re journalists. Music journalists.”
“That’s funny.”
“Why?”
“They say writers can never come up with good names for bands.”
“I’ve heard that too. Do you ever read Stephen King?”
“I’ve read some of his stuff.”
“His band name … that he invented, was ‘Round Here.”
“’Round Here? Is that a band name?”
“Yes. I think it’s a riff on New Kids On The Block.”
“There’s a band called ‘N Sync.”
“Yes. That too. You’re pretty up-to-date.”
“That was about twenty years ago, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. But that’s still up-to-date for someone who doesn’t follow pop music.”
“What name would you come up with for a boy band?”
“Ooh. That’s a good one. I don’t know. Hold on.”
“It would have to look good on posters.”
“Okay, yes. Hold on. Give me a second.”
Pause.
“And I didn’t know you knew the term ‘boy band’. Do you watch a lot of TV?”
“YouTube.”
Pause.
Pause.
“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that.”
“Well what’s your ideal band?”
“My ideal band would be noise metal with all women.”
“Noise metal with all women.”
“But I used to have this idea for a band called The Pirates Of The Radio.”
“Oh, no. No.”
“Just hold on.”
“That sounds terrible.”
“Just hold on. It’s the only band to consider Frankie Goes To Hollywood their main influence. They come out in these big foam rubber cowboy hats, neon—“
“No. No.”
“Hold on. And they’re terrible, and obnoxious. The whole point is that no one can be cool anymore, not truly. So the only way to be cool is to be shockingly uncool. A band like that would start a riot.”
“I see. Good name for a boy band?”
“Start A Riot.”
“That’s not a boy band name.”
“Yeah. That’s a good name for a punk band, though.”

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Karen Stevenson

I was in Pine Rest Hospital, in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1987, when I was fifteen. I ran into her there, on the Short Term Unit. I had just come in from the Crisis Unit, and she came in a few days after me. The first thing she said to me was, “I had to take a shower and put on the same underwear, which I would normally never do.” I perked up at her, because whatever. She was the kind of girl who had the cute chipmunk cheeks with the freckles. I fell in love with her at first sight.

There was so much camaraderie between everyone that she and I could be as close as two people could be, and yet be firmly friendzoning it. It was an aching heartbreak that (turns out) always suits me. She left Short Term to go home just before I was to be transferred to the Long Term Unit. She and I were in class. (Our textbooks were sent to us from our schools, so everyone studied something different.) She was studying Algebra II. I remember staring at the cover of that textbook in sorrow, making out the shapes in three-dimensional cubes inked onto the blue hardback cover, knowing she was about to leave for good. And when she got up and said her sweet goodbye to me and walked out, I had the only premonition I’ve ever had — that we would be married one day.

I got a postcard from Switzerland a year later. She was touring Europe with other kids from the Interlochen Music School in Northern Michigan. (Karen played the saxophone.) She told me she loved the cheese, and loved that she was of age to drink beer.

Karen was the girl who got me into underground music. (I’m still on that path.) Back when we were on Short Term she went through my case of cassettes I’d amassed via Columbia Tape and Record Club, saying “No, no, no. Yes. This is good. No, no.” She concluded that my only good cassette was from Thomas Dolby. I gave her money to buy me the Cure cassette Standing On A Beach when she was to go on a weekend pass, but when she came back she pretended to have had her wallet stolen. I did the same arrangement the next weekend, and she returned with that Cure cassette, and Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, to make up for the week before. That was where real music started for me.

She civilized me, basically, and turned me from an unpopular overweight nerd into (when I returned) the cool quiet kid that the girls fell in love with. The Cure became the center of my life. My buddy Derek and I camped out all night in the Fairplain Plaza in Benton Harbor, Michigan, to get Cure tickets for summer ’89. (We had no idea until we got there that we’d be the only ones.) (He introduced me to the band Jane’s Addiction that night as we sheltered from a thunderstorm. (He said to me before it started to come down, “The gulls are flying inland. That means a storm’s coming.”) (“Why?” — “The water in the air baffles their senses.”)) He and I got 20th row center at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago. Three tickets. I asked Karen out over the phone and she became the third person. Still on my learner’s permit (because I had had to take driver’s ed four times for being so rebellious) I drove from southwest Michigan to central Michigan, to Chicago, and back to central Michigan, beneath a constant thunderstorm that had us hydroplaning around in my mom’s station wagon. Before I drove away from her house the next morning she gave me a kiss. (The show was great, too.)

As I went to Michigan State after high school, and she lived about twenty minutes away, she became my girlfriend. She took my virginity for my eighteenth birthday. (She was a year older.) We hung out with the other punk rockers and went to poetry readings. My love for Karen Stevenson was absolutely down to the core of my heart. We never really fought. We always got along. She said eventually that it seemed all we did was have sex, and that brought me back suddenly to the memory of that short term unit. The friendzoning. That humiliated feeling. I nursed resentment against her for the first time.

She said that she wanted to get married. Not long after, I broke up with her. I was freaking out about marriage, but it was really my stupid formality, in thinking that cheating on her was unforgivable, so if I needed to tell this beautiful girl from Michigan’s upper peninsula that I loved her, it was only right to break up with Karen first. Because I was a teenager, and I wasn’t sure yet about morality and choice. Of course the other girl just brushed me off. The realization of what I’d done was one of the worst moments in my life.

I ran into her the next day, and she said to me, “Oh. It’s you.” And she turned away. I never saw Karen Stevenson again.

The week following the break-up with my latest ex, back in spring of 2012, I first went into tachycardia for five days straight. (Pulse consistently above a hundred.) (On the phone to a friend who was an EMT: “I can’t go to the ER, because I’ll get sucked into the psych ward. I’ll end up in there for a month, and then they’ll stick me in AFC for ninety days.” — “Well, completely unofficially, I think you’re making the right decision. But if you start to get chest pains, I think you should take the risk.”) Then I unsuccessfully tried to block out my grief and rage with heroin, cocaine, pot, vicodin, and alcohol, all at the same time. Then I fired my treatment team from community mental health. (They were so grateful.) And then I did the “girlfriend search” and discovered that not only was my ex Jen dead (the girl I’d gone out with after Karen, and for four years) but Karen was too.

Karen A. Stevenson, born April 5, 1970 in Detroit, MI, passed away August 25, 2009 in Grand Ledge, MI. Karen was a former employee for CBI Products, Lansing and a member of the St. Michael Catholic Church, Grand Ledge.

I never had a picture of her.

As far as I’m concerned, from the moment I lost her, I’ve been on a path I was never supposed to be on. It’s why I believe in free will, and why I’ve felt for so long that I’m in the middle of an overlong denouement.

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