I can’t tell you how old I was when I found myself in foster care. This is something to do with my incredibly stressful and relatively traumatic childhood; at some point, I subconsciously decided it would be best if I just didn’t remember when or how anything happened. So if I seem a little vague about dates, time periods, ages? It’s because I don’t really know. I get flashes, sometimes, though. Snapshots, like the ones I have of the night I was separated from my mother.
- My mother, high on meth, taking us to the San Diego Marshal’s Office in a haze of drug-induced paranoia.
- Sitting at a table across from a female officer who clearly did not know what to do with me, but was very kind and gave me one of her colleague’s meals.
- Being taken out of the room too soon, and seeing my mother thrown up against the wall and handcuffed.
- Being shown to a bed in a dark room filled with beds in the middle of the night. I would soon learn that I was in the Hillcrest Receiving Home. I didn’t know why I was there.
- Being introduced to a woman, Mrs. White, and told that I would be going home with her.
- Not knowing where my mother was, what had happened to her, or if she would know how to find me again.
- Not knowing if she was gone forever.
There are, on average, between 400,000 and 500,000 kids in foster care in the United States in a given year. Some of them have even less to go on than I had, and many come from far worse situations than I ever did. It’s a very rare foster youth who isn’t suffering from trauma, and on average, foster youth are almost TWICE as likely to suffer from PTSD as US war veterans.
Children in foster care suffer from dramatically higher rates of psychiatric, behavioral, and substance use disorders resulting from the abuse and neglect they have experienced, in addition to the traumas of removal from home and the instability of the foster care system itself. However, only about 10-15% of them receive any mental healthcare at all, and virtually none of them receive long-term therapy. The majority of the therapy they receive is short-term, crisis-based care, which is ultimately more damaging than not.
I work for a nonprofit organization called A Home Within. Now, I’m glad I found this org right when I desperately needed a job, but I wish I’d known about it earlier, because after a lifetime of dealing with depression, anxiety, anger, trauma, and the fear of abandonment—much of which was aggravated or added by my time in foster care, I could have benefited from the services A Home Within provides: pro bono, open-ended therapy.
That’s right. We offer free long-term mental health care to current and former foster youth: One child, one therapist, for as long as it takes.
But finding therapists and reaching foster youth takes time, and it takes funds. We have chapters all over the country with kids waiting for services that we are doing our best to provide, and areas where foster carers and youth have no idea we are here for them. We are going to change that. I’m part of a team trying to raise $2500 for A Home Within. I’m working with Faith Grant, one of our most recent additions to the A Home Within Board of Directors. So I am asking you to help us out by donating today, and to help me and Faith out by choosing either her name or mine (if you already know it) from the drop down menu when you do.
Please, help us make a difference in the lives of foster youth.
Uh uh, Right Foot. No. No fucking way do you get to fall asleep while I have to work. I got up at 6:30 this morning so I could take care of business, and that business does not end until 5:00 PM at the absolute earliest. You know that that means? No naps. No naps for me. No naps for my hands. No naps for my goddamn feet. You are one of those feet, Right Foot.
Speaking of which, you don’t see Left Foot falling asleep, do you? Left Foot is on the job. Left Foot is happy to support me in my walks across the office and to the corner store for provisions. You won’t catch Left Foot snoring. Why can’t you be more like Left Foot, Right Foot?
It’s a Monday, Right Foot. That means I really need us all to be working as a team. I understand that you are undercaffeinated, but guess what? We are all undercaffeinated. We all have gone without coffee for over a week. We all are trying to make do with tea and the sleep we are able to sneak in before the girlfriend starts snoring and after I manage to find my earplugs in the dark.
I need to work and I need to walk and I need your help to do it. So, wake the fuck up, Right Foot. Wake up and get through this day with the rest of us. I promise you, it hurts me as much as it hurts you.
Let’s work together on this, Right Foot. I really don’t want to have to outsource your job.
I have officially typed the word “raccoon” too many times and now it doesn’t look like a real word. What the fuck, raccoons? What the fuck kind of word is “raccoon”?
Anybody who knows me personally figures out pretty quickly that I adore animals. It’s not a walk home from the BART station unless I have stopped to pet and talk to every neighborhood dog and cat I can reach. Even the dog who so vigilantly and vocally guards the erstwhile itinerant squat and crackhouse around the corner from my humble abode gets a thumbs up and encouragement from me—I’m not offended, he’s just doing his job, and a damn fine one.
Animals tend to enjoy my company as well, and it is very rare for a wee beastie to reject my advances (and that usually only lasts for a day at the most). The number of times I have heard, “Whoa, wait a sec, s/he doesn’t let anybody else do that but me” is sufficient to make me think it’s a bit of a thing.
So when, in the days just before the wedding of one of my dearest friends, I had the opportunity to visit the Earthfire Institute and hang out with some beasts who were not especially tame but were deemed unfit (for reasons of health/fitness, usually) to be released back to the wild, I could not have been more excited. Excited enough, in fact, that I was one of three people awake early enough for the morning session (note: excited enough and not so painfully hungover that a morning was required to recover) at the Institute.
My friends Kelly, Ken, and I were warmly received by Susan and Jean, who gave us some quick background on the Institute, introduced us to their dog, Boychuk, and then took us into a brand new enclosure area. There they informed us we were going to meet some wolves.
“Don’t make eye contact,” they admonished gently, “and don’t let them sneak up behind you. These wolves have been around people, but they aren’t tame.”
Being a person of both wit and intelligence, I was sufficiently cowed by that spare warning that it took some effort to remain relaxed and breathing slowly; I did not want the wolves to be put off by tension or anxiety.
They let the wolves in. One male (Wamaka), large and confident, and one female (can’t remember which one she was), diminutive and skittish. Each tried their hand (paw?) at sneaking up behind me, the female several times. Each time I whirled around, looking just to the side of their beautiful faces, wishing I could meet their intelligent, lovely eyes without it being a sign of aggression. Their paws danced on the ground as they nipped in to smell the new humans in their midst, and their tails wagged and brushed my leg and side as they explored and examined the situation.
I left my hand down for them to smell and snuck scritches in when they got close enough. The female rarely got close enough for me to touch her; I was only allowed to get that good spot behind her ears once. Wamaka, however, began spending longer and longer at my side, allowing me to bury my fingers in his thick silvery fur, to feel the muscles shift under fur and skin as he moved, to let me feel just how soft his ears really were. He took to leaning up against me so I could get that spot between his shoulders as I tried not to let him unbalance me. He played with me a little; we were both cautious about that, for I did not want to inadvertently threaten him and he was still unsure of me. I suspect, given a day or so, we might have been running about the enclosure like two pups, but we didn’t have a day.
When we were informed that the wolves were going to go back to their homes outside the enclosure, he was leaning up against me again, so I leaned down and, with the abandon I usually show when faced with a large, particularly friendly dog, put my arms around this wolf and scritched him all over, as if he’d just triumphantly returned a frisbee to me. He huffed in my face, sneezed (but not in my face, for Wamaka is a polite wolf), and ran off with the the female and the two humans who cared for and fed him.
It was one of the best experiences of my life. I have rarely met two people so dedicated to the animals they serve as Susan and Jean (and Jean might as well be half-animal himself, for the way he communicates and bonds with the beasties there, from fox to bear to wild cat), and the few hours I was there fundamentally realigned how I felt about the world around me. I recommend a visit to their website, and think it would be rad if you could make a donation to them so that they can keep doing what they do. And if you ever find yourself heading to Idaho, it’s definitely worth a visit, or more.
(But not donut holes. Seriously, fuck those. They aren’t holes. The hole is what is left in the donut. They are donut balls. And that’s all I’m going to discuss about balls and holes today, or at least before lunch.)
Okay, so the very first thing you have to do is spend 30 seconds watching this video. Yes. This post has a video component. Watch it. Waaaaatch it.
Okay. Done? Now, this is what happens when C and I are allowed to:
- Run rampant on YouTube
- Think we are very clever and hilarious; and
- Text each other.
For reference, I am Ed. C is Bob. For this convo.
Some girls get roses.
Others get cactuses, and cactosaurs that have been, after extensive thought and consideration, named “Francois.” (Francois was just barely chosen over a sturdy, loyal-looking buffalo who was obviously named Ted, but it turns out buffalo don’t like to frolic among cactuses like cactosaurs do.)
I’ve been informed that they are both quite comfortable in her new apartment.
Brunch is the most important meal of the week. So naturally negotiations with regard to favored brunch spots are going to be intense. Witness this (text message) negotiation between me and my friend, who will be known as Alexis, because that’s totally her name. I won’t give out her phone number for less than $1k/person, though.
Note: ALL text messages have been edited for grammar and spelling (this convo happened between 1 and 1:30am) and some have been ellided because they just clutter shit up.
[We decide to get brunch next weekend. I suggest Luna Park. She says...]
Alexis: Can we go somewhere less expensive and with better food/drink?
WP: Right. I am gonna go think about cheap brunch places that don’t serve crappy bloody marys and also how to catch unicorns.
WP: Also, I like oxygen.
Alexis: It can be done. Tipsy Pig in the marina has fabulous bloodies, but we’re not going to the marina.
WP: Right. *scribbles over marina on map of SF brunch spots.* NO MARINA. Farmer Brown?
Alexis: I don’t really like the food there either.
WP: HEY UNICORN? WHERE CAN I FIND A BRUNCH PLACE ALEXIS LIKES WITH GOOD BLOODY MARYS AND, LIKE, A PIRATE SERVER AND A LIVE BAND? ALSO I WANT GOLD PLATES. CHEAP.
Alexis: Ooh, that sounds like a great place! Let’s go there.
[...series of texts in which we narrow brunch spots down to two and I flip a coin to decide...]
WP: Okay. Brunch at Farmer Brown. In other news, I have a unicorn, now.
Alexis: I want one.
WP: Turns out unicorns take up a lot of space? Um. Honestly, I dont know where you would keep one at your place. Also, I think they are allergic to mold.
Alexis: I don’t want one. I don’t think they poop rainbows. I’m pretty sure it’s just regular horse poop with glitter. I don’t want to clean up after that.
WP: Are you kidding? This fucking unicorn has been here for 15 minutes and it’s already left a pile of rainbow in my living room. Worse? No pot of gold. WTF.
WP: Want some rainbow?
WP: Damn. Hey, this whole convo just gave new meaning to “taste the rainbow.”
Click on the pic to buy the t-shirt and support the artist, Mike Jacobsen, who graciously
gave me permission to use this image.
When I was a kid in New York City, my mother would take me to get the absolutely amazing bagels at the H&H at Broadway and 80th. It was not a rare occurrence to walk to or stand in line with celebrities at H&H—those bagels are famous for a reason, and few seemed above waiting in line for them at fresh o’clock in the morning. But the celebrity we used to see most often on our walk for bagels was Christopher Reeve. Well, he’s the one my mom used to see.
“Look!” She would stage-whisper. “It’s Superman!” But for the longest time, I never saw him.
She used to tease me about it, because of course, Christopher Reeve was right there in front of my eyes. But I possessed the combination of a literal mind and a vivid imagination. My mother said she could see Superman, so I looked up. Never once doubting that my mother had been truthful about her sighting, I always assumed that he was just out of sight, and if I had been just a bit faster, I might have seen him.
Had my mother said, “There’s Clark Kent,” it would have been a different story. Clark Kent doesn’t fly.
I put Superman: The Movie on last night for the first time in at least a decade, maybe two. And it’s melodramatic and silly and over the top and so much fun. And I just can’t help but smile when I hear the theme, because it brings me back nearly three decades, to when it was within the realm of possibility that Superman might actually be flying above us; to a time when an occasionally caped hero walked the city streets with me and my mother; to my favorite bagel shop, now heartbreakingly closed; to the first time I finally realized he was right there in the room with me, ordering a dozen bagels.
Seems only right I should meet Kal-El in a bagel shop.
Thanks for the offer to make me a vampire. It’s obviously a great honor to be chosen; I assume that out of all of the candidates in downtown Oakland at 3am, I was the closest.
When I said, “Let me think about it,” I meant it. I really did go home to think about it, and I’ve decided—yeah, like, okay. Sure. I could totally be a vampire. I mean, I’ve been human for a while and that doesn’t seem like the most winning option of the three I currently have (those being life, death, undeath). But before I let you sink the couple teeth you still have into my neck and let you drain my life (will that hurt or just be sexy vampire fun time—you know what? I can still smell you, so never mind about the sexy part), I just have a couple of questions and minor concerns.
First of all, what kind of vampire would I be? Are we talking Buffy vamps—I lose my soul, get all bumpy, get slain by some superpowered hottie? Or Charlaine Harris—I’m me, only with fangs and an insatiable thirst for melodrama and fucking everything that moves? Or a Stephenie Meyer vampire—who sparkles, stalks underage girls, and was created by somebody who can’t even spell her first name? Because, while I can make either of the first two work for me, if it’s the latter, I’m out. But you know, come to think of it, you don’t sparkle. I don’t think you even bathe. So I guess we are good on that count.
Second: As a vampire, do I automatically get awesome acrobatic and fighting skills? Or do I actually have to, like, train for them?
Third: Which asshole consulted on Underworld?
Okay, I guess I got off track with that one. Where was I—Oh, yes. Okay.
In some books, when people turn into vampires part of the process is that the body releases all of its fluids and fecal matter. So I should totally eat a light lunch the day I see you again, right?
Are all vampires mysteriously wealthy (in which case, I assume you were spare changing for fun)? Is there a bank I will be able to draw from, like a bloodsucker credit union (must be a vampire or somebody who likes vampires—but no fucking werewolves—to qualify)? Or do I build up a base of wealth by ripping off my victims? Do we at least have some pawn shop owners and fences in our ranks? Also, do we just leave exsanguinated bodies in various alleys or is there some kind of mechanism in place for that?
Will my cat hate me?
Can I still gain or lose weight, or am I stuck like this forever? What about tattoos? Hair? Fingernails? Are the fangs actually a whole new set of teeth that grow down, or do my existing teeth just extend?
Will I still be able to drink whiskey?
I really can’t accept your offer of eternal life and damnation without having these questions answered to my satisfaction, so I hope you can get back to me on these very soon.
My cat worships at the base of the heater.
“I love you,” I imagine him whispering tenderly,
Reaching a paw out to touch the tile on which
purring only for the flame that is just—
to my relief—
out of his reach.
“I love you,” he says, “but Heater, oh beloved Heater—
can you do something about
this dry food situation?”
The heater sighs regretfully, and creaks its sad reply:
- Finally returning all of Olivia Wilde’s phone calls and going out on a date (naked in bed by midnight).
- Smoking weed and playing video games with Mila Kunis. Always a fantastic time.
- Flying to Melbourne to see The Dresden Dolls.
- Partying with a small group of good friends.
- Hooking up with random hottie.
- Working floor (trash, bathrooms, puke, urine) at a club filled to capacity with drunk/high sweaty half-naked men and marina girls.
Yeah. You know which one I just had to go with:
Finally returning all of Olivia Wilde’s phone calls and going out on a date (naked in bed by midnight). Smoking weed and playing video games with Mila Kunis. Always a fantastic time. Flying to Melbourne to see The Dresden Dolls. Partying with a small group of good friends. Hooking up with random hottie.
- Working floor (trash, bathrooms, puke, urine) at a club filled to capacity with drunk/high sweaty half-naked men and marina girls.
Yesssssss. YES. You know what I’m talking about. *high five* Unh.
Dear Blue Polar Bear Pajama Pants,
I love you. I mean, I really love you. I have for a long time.
You were just hanging there in a Gap store over ten years ago, and a woman in whom I was interested pulled you right off the hanger and said, “You need to have these.” I knew immediately she was right. Seriously, from the moment I saw you, it was obvious we were meant to be together.
You’ve been my favorite sick day pajama pants, my favorite cuddle day pajama pants, my favorite pajama pants to put on the morning after bringing somebody home because you inevitably get a giggle from the women who only ever see me in jeans. Apparently I don’t strike them as as the Blue Polar Bear Pajama Pants type.
You are comfortable, soft, faded from your original dark blue background after years of wearing and washing. You have polar bears on you. Let me repeat that. You have polar bears on you. Light blue ones. I love them.
But, Blue Polar Bear Pajama Pants, you are falling apart. You have virtually no structural integrity left. You tear when I so much as look at you funny, and that’s making me so very, very sad. You are so worn that I wonder if even sewing you back together would work (and by that I mean, having somebody who knows what they are doing sew you back together; the only thing I can do well with a needle and thread is stab myself with the needle).
So I am thinking, maybe it’s time to retire you. Maybe it’s time to put you in the back of my bottom dresser drawer (the one with the rest of my lesser pajama pants), and stop hoping I can get one more comfy night without you falling right off of me.
Maybe I’m not ready yet, Blue Polar Bear Pajama Pants. But I have to start coming to terms, somehow. In the mean time, hang on. I mean, literally. I wear you where other people can see me.
Click Image To Make Readable:
(Thanks to Nate for title and the reminder about Berkeley Bowl West. Nate is awesome. Go read his blog.)
- 2 Churls 1 Goblet
- The Knight Your Knight Could Smell Like
- Dancing Baby Jesus
- Happy Tree Druids
- Sir Leeroy Jenkins
- Mead Looter Guy
- O FRSTH?
- Three Wolves Rampant Argent with The Moon In Her Plenitude†
- Don’t Lance Me Bro!
- Leave Matilda Alone!
- St. FIGWIT: St. Francis is great—who is that?
†I never did get into heraldry, so I am sure that’s just wrong. Don’t lance me, bro.
I’ve been discussing a silly amount of serious issues in this blog, lately. Which is odd, because I originally intended this to be a platform for a serious amount of silly shit (please pardon the alliteration, it’s a hack tool, I know).
So, Gentle Reader, I’ll give you a break from all that, and tell you the story of how I woke up in the Dick House.
I was hanging out with two of my favorite people, W and N, at their place in Berkeley. It was a pretty chill night, and it was decided that N & I would watch some Miyazaki film or other. I can’t for the life of me remember which one (you’ll find this story light on details). N asked me if I wanted to try one of his new culinary masterpieces: ginger snaps made with the finest of cannabutters. I accepted the cookie, nommed on the cookie, and settled in to watch the movie.
At some point I blinked. It was a four-hour blink.
At around 3:30am my eyes opened again. I was on a couch that may never have been intended to comfortably support the human body. I was in a position that only mummies find comfortable for longer than 20 minutes. My glasses were still on, confirming for me (à la Giles in “Tabula Rasa”) that I wore glasses, but not making any difference whatsoever in my vision. Somebody had covered me with a blanket, which was kind, but had failed to leave me a prominently displayed note informing me of where I was and how I had gotten there.
I said, “mmph.” Or, I tried to say it. I think it would be more fair to say I thought it, emphatically. And then I considered my surroundings. I had no idea where I was. Nothing looked familiar, and the dark unfamiliarity was slightly sinister. I didn’t move at all, partly out of wariness, and partly because reconnecting brain to limbs was proving enormously difficult.
And then I remembered: I was in the Dick House!
Wait, what? What the fuck does that mean? Seriously, what does it mean? What the fuck is a Dick House? What the fu—wait. I am still clothed. So…okay. Dick Dick Dick. Dick House. That’s because…I’m high. I’m fucking high. That cookie wasn’t just a little green, that motherfucker was made of green, like, with a leprechaun baked in the middle, an angry leprechaun, with gloves—okay, get a grip, Whiskeypants, you didn’t actually see a leprechaun when you bit into the cookie.
By this point I had managed to tangle myself up in the blanket and in trying to get up, was in the process of rolling off the couch. The shock of hitting the floor relieved me of my concerns regarding leprechaun-filled ginger snaps and jarred me slightly more awake. Of course. Of course, I was in the Dick house. Not the Dick House.
Specifically, I had eaten a magical leprechaun-enabled ginger snap and passed out in the Berkeley house in which Philip K. Dick had once resided (or, one of them). A major accomplishment. Maybe next time I could pass out with a bottle of whiskey in Edward Gorey’s house, or drop acid in Stratford-upon-Avon—no, terrifying idea. I’ve been to Stratford-upon-Avon.
The whole process of figuring out where I was, falling off the couch, and situating myself properly had taken only a few interminable minutes. Getting back to sleep took no time at all. The relief that came with the realization of what “Dick” meant in this context I expect will last forever.
Alexei: Whiskeypants, why aren’t you a supervillain?
WP: No funding.
Charlie: Sounds like a Kickstarter effort needs to be mounted.
Sounded like a good idea to me.
Click to make with embiggening:
Riana, in answer to my surprise at the popularity of The Sookie Stackhouse Decision Tree: