Alternate titles for this post included “How I tried to give myself pneumonia,” “I should compile a list of things I won’t do for food,” and “How I almost got murdered three times, but one of those times was by a puddle.”
But first, a bit of backstory:
I stepped out of class to see that another rainstorm had begun, and even though I considered grabbing my umbrella before class, I had decided against it, because what were the odds it was going to rain, anyways? So I had to sprint back to my dorm amongst raindrops so big and cold they were just a step below hail, praying my notes wouldn’t get completely ruined. You’d think that would’ve been enough for me, but I’d already made dinner for myself three nights in a row, and I was pretty sick of all of my meager options, so I decided to walk downtown to my favorite local restaurant.
You also would think that I would’ve realized this was a bad idea when I stepped outside onto my balcony, and immediately sank my foot in a three-inch puddle that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there twenty minutes earlier when I went inside. A puddle I could’ve easily avoided if the combination of rain and night hadn’t reduced my visibility down to about nothing. I then realized that given my immune system and the number of nasty illnesses floating around campus, this little trip was almost guaranteed to leave me bedridden for at least a day or two.
Then I thought to myself, very eloquently, YOLO.
And then I thought I should probably bring up my need to take pointless risks when I’m depressed to my therapist.
So I set off downtown, trying not to drown or step in any other massive puddles. There was construction on my normal route, so I ended up having to backtrack a block or two to avoid it, but finally I made it to the shop. I began making my way back home along the slightly sketchier route, past a few bars where, even in the pouring rain, people still hung around outside. I passed in front of a very tall, very buff man who was also out walking, before realizing that I now couldn’t keep an eye on him. He began following me (which, admittedly, wasn’t all that big of a surprise, seeing as we were both going in the same direction to begin with), and I figured it would be just my luck to get murdered because I put myself into a completely avoidable situation only after I’d paid for a meal I’d never get to eat. But then he turned into a bar and I turned the corner and I was free to throw myself into the next completely avoidable situation.
Instead of taking the same route I’d taken a dozen times before, I decided to take an early turn that I’d hoped would allow me to walk back through campus, rather than along the street. This, of course, was the completely wrong choice to make, and I ended up in a residential area even creepier than the street before, lit by exactly two streetlights. One of which went out as I walked under it.
Me: “Just kill me now.”
Then I thought maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say on a dimly-lit road at night, right next to a very convenient body-dumping location.
Me: “Just kidding. Please don’t kill me.”
I picked up the pace as the lights from the campus came in sight, and nearly had a heart attack when I finally noticed a) there was a car parked under the other street light, within spitting distance and b) there was a person in the car. I wish I could say whether or not they were watching me and/or judging me for talking out loud to seemingly no one, but at that point I was speed-walking and half-hiding behind my umbrella, trying to enact the “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” rule commonly employed by three-year-olds.
I made it back on campus, only to slip and almost fall in a puddle, which was guaranteed to make me spill my food and probably break my face. But I survived, and finally, I made it home.
…and promptly discovered the fork I’d haphazardly stuffed in the to-go box had poked a hole in the top of my pot pie, and had bled it of all its sauce. I then concluded that the universe probably didn’t want me to eat the pie.
And then I ate it, anyways.
The moral of this story is that there’s quite a lot I will do for good food, including getting almost murdered. Also, that my definition of “almost murdered” is probably grossly different from everyone else’s, and so if this story was a letdown, I apologize. If it makes you feel better, this might help you avoid making my same mistakes. And by that I mean the true moral of this story is to not shove forks in to-go boxes if you don’t want holes in your food, because dry pot pie is a disappointment. It’s still good enough to be worthwhile, though. Either that, or I was hungry enough that just about anything would’ve tasted good.
Which meant that I could’ve just made myself pasta at home, anyways.
Touché, universe. Touché.
Visiting family is usually quite the event, since basically all of our extended family lives on the other side of the country. Recently, my aunt and cousin visited (well, okay, they visited my family for a week, but I was only there for the weekend, because my Spring Break was earlier on in the semester), and there was slight concern that the combined forces of my mom and aunt might just level our town. Which of course I mean in the nicest way possible.
The next day, we went to Chinatown in San Francisco, where we spent a good five hours shopping, and I was finally able to get my hands on some decent dim sum (something I just can’t manage to recreate well, and that I’ve sorely missed). My mom had brought along her tribble, now named Ed, to take pictures with, and for most of the trip she kept him in her purse, but occasionally he would get triggered, so her bag would just start chirping and vibrating, and occasionally purring. When we made it to the Chinatown gate, she pulled him out to take pictures, like he was on vacation. I don’t know what tribbles would need to take a vacation from, since all they seem to do is eat and replicate, but apparently that can get very monotonous, so they need a nice trip now and again to shake things up.
Secret time: shopping makes me feel better. I don’t actually like spending money (which may be news to my parents), but the act of going to a store and seeing what they have to offer is weirdly cathartic.
I was feeling really bad one day, and I needed a few odds and ends from the Dollar Store, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone, and indulge a little. After all, there are worse places to spend money than a shop where everything’s a dollar or less.
The store’s fabulous for little knickknacks and home goods, and also for lead-based paint. The most peculiar/surreal moments were when you find name-brand goods tucked up next to soup mix from Chef Swagger’s Kitchen. We found one warning sign repeated in several areas of the store saying that certain named products were known to cause, among other things, cancer. This warning was posted next to things like dishes, as well as several kinds of medicine, which really put a damper on the proceedings. It’s not like these things weren’t being sold, either; they were pretty picked over. It really speaks to the state of US medical coverage when people need medicine so badly that they’re willing to risk it giving them cancer. So that made me sadder, and also really grateful that I had the means to buy cancer-free medication. And cancer-free plates. And food that looked like food. And it made me want to work harder at helping others, so that they could have the opportunities to afford these things I have access to.
And then I found Jurassic World-themed Band-Aids, and my friend discovered the book section, which boasted classics such as: an Irish romance novel compilation, the literary version of a chick flick, and a book in the series about the Mayan Calendar heralding the end of the world. So our mood was lifted once more.
Sidenote: I started at least four sentences with the word “and,” which I’m pretty sure is some form of literary sin, but I also discovered a new philanthropic mission/life goal while emotional shopping, which might make it even out? Who knows? This is stressful. I need to go emotional shopping again.
While I’m away at college, I attend a sweet little church on a semi-regular basis. After the service, there’s a meal hour, where we can gather to eat and chat. During one of these meals, I’d just grabbed some food from the buffet and settled down at a mostly-empty table, not far from a man I hadn’t talked to before. There was something about his face that was naggingly familiar, but I knew he was the husband of the Reverend, so I figured that was it.
We made small talk for a few minutes, and I mentioned I was a student at the local college.
Me: “Where do you work?”
Him: “Up at the college.”
Me: “Oh, cool! What do you teach?”
Him, trying not to smile: “Your class.”
And I finally realized what it was about his face that I recognized. I’d been listening to him lecture three days a week for the past month.
Me: “Oh. Oh, my gosh, I am so sorry.”
Him, now trying not to laugh: “It’s fine.”
Me: “I—I really like your class.”
Although the statement was true, I think it made the situation worse, and I discovered there’s not a whole lot you can say to explain away the fact that you didn’t recognize someone you’d spent roughly twelve hours giving your supposedly undivided attention to.
Me, recounting this story to friends later: “…and so I can never talk to him again.”
My friend, not even trying to not laugh: “How did you not recognize him?! You’ve been in his class for a month!”
Me: “It was out of context! He looks really different outside of class! Or—not standing thirty feet away.”
My friend: “Uh-huh.”
Me: “It’s fine. You know, he was really nice about it, he’s a lovely person, and it’s over now.”
My friend: “But, what if you have a question about the class?”
Me: “I will suffer in silence. Confused, regretful silence.”
My friend: “Good luck with that.”
If you don’t enjoy secondhand embarrassment, you should probably just skip this post. Or, if you don't like secondhand embarrassment but do enjoy book recs, just skip to the last paragraph.
I flew back home again this weekend to visit family and check in with/take care of my mom. Since she has cancer (and a cold to boot), she’s been off work for the past week. And, since she’s part of our family, she’s made some thoroughly tasteless jokes. Which have apparently lodged themselves in my brain.
We drove to pick my brother up from school, but arrived twenty or so minutes early. Since neither of us wanted to wait around in the car, my mom sent me in to sign Ian out early.
The receptionist, who's worked there since when I went to school (whose name I'm withholding because she probably doesn't want to be associated with this nonsense): “Hi! What are you doing back already?”
Me, very offhand and before I could stop myself: “Visiting my dying mother.”
The receptionist and I exchanged horrified looks. (Another parent who had stopped by the school office to pick up their kid gave me a very unimpressed stare. Looking back, I don't think my blue hair and leather jacket got us off to a good start, either.)
Me: I cannot believe I just said that. What the hell.
The receptionist: “Cal! Don’t say things like that!”
Me, backpedaling all the way to China: “I’m so sorry. I have no idea why I said that.”
The receptionist, laughing: “Visit your dying mother.”
Me: “She made some awful joke like that last night, and I guess it stuck.”
She just shook her head, quite possibly giving up on me ever becoming a model citizen. Which I doubt she would ever admit to, because she's a nice person who probably doesn't make jokes at her sick mother's expense.
The receptionist, still chuckling: “I guess if she’s making them, too…”
The receptionist: “Be sure to give your mom a hug for me, all right?”
Me: “I will! Nice seeing you!”
My only explanation (aside from remarkably poor impulse control, which I should probably get checked out) is that my family tends to abide by the Prince Kheldar/Silk school of thought: “I've looked at the world for quite a few years now and I've found that if I don't laugh, I'll probably end up crying.” Which isn’t an explanation quite so much as something I offer up in the vain hope that it’ll make you judge me less. Let me know if it works.
Sidenote: If you haven’t read the Belgariad/Malloreon series (where that quote was from) and you like fantasy, I highly recommend it. Seriously. Go read it.
I'm having a really bad week. There hasn't been anything new in my life that happened or went wrong, exactly; it's just one of those weeks when I'm having an incredibly difficult time coping, and the darkness in my mind has grown up around me, creating a seemingly impenetrable fortress. It's one of those weeks when, try as I might, I can't seem to manage any of my responsibilities, and all I have the energy-- mental or otherwise-- to do is peruse social media, taking brief breaks to attempt to do things that are supposed to make me happy, like writing or drawing. These past few days, I've considered it an accomplishment if I can even hold a conversation with someone.
That being said, I'm doing my best to distract myself, and surround myself with cheerful, funny things to try to pull myself back together again. I was checking out a mental illness blog I like, one that usually posts resources or bits of inspiration, and I came across this image:
Cheerful, if slightly macabre? Check. Full of suggestions for what I should do when I'm completely at a loss? Check. Cute ghost art? Octuple check.
According to their website, "The Sad Ghost Club is a club for anyone who’s ever felt sad or lost. It’s the club for those who don’t feel like they’re part of any other club."
In that case, I think I just joined the club. I feel so accomplished, today.
I was eating out at a local alehouse with my family, and my parents brought up how once upon a time we almost moved to Kentucky. It’s something that’s brought up every few years: how my dad got a job offer at a college in a small town, and they came so close to moving there that they went so far as to look at houses.
Me, exchanging grimaces with my brother: “Well, I’m glad we dodged that bullet.”
Mom: “What do you mean?”
Me: “I just don’t think I would’ve done well there.”
Dad: “Well, you would’ve grown up there.”
Me: “Yes, and I have nothing against Kansas, I’m sure it’s a lovely state, but I wouldn’t have done well there.”
Dad: “It would be the only thing you would’ve known, so you’d think differently about it.”
And I’m just sitting there thinking, okay, I’m sure growing up queer in the Bible Belt would’ve been real great. But yeah, of course you’re right, growing up there would totally make me immune to the delightful world of homophobia and transphobia.
…and that’s the story of how I almost came out to my parents to win an argument.
When I went home recently, I ended up dragging my mom and brother along to a small art gallery. It was weird, bizarre, and totally awesome… in my opinion.
Me, after we had left: Aren’t you glad we stopped here?
Mom and Ian gave me dubious looks.
Me: You broadened your artistic horizons!
Ian: I gained fuel for my nightmares.
Me: You can use it for your stories!
Ian: I don’t tend to write about human experimentation.
Me: That’s what you got out of that? I got aliens.
Me: Hooray for the magic of subjectivity of art!
Me: I can see where you’re coming from, though. Like, a futuristic piece on the perils of human experimentation? Or the perils of allowing aliens to experiment on us.
Ian: I could write about that, maybe. Go all Steven King.
Me: Do it.
Ian: I mean, it has all the necessary elements: horror, creep factor--
Me: I do tend to associate supernatural elements with him.
Ian: Yeah! Like in Carrie, with the weird telepathy thing. Ghosts and everything in The Shining.
Me: See? Going there was totally a good idea.
Ian just sighed.
Me: You’re welcome.
So I think I’ve come up with an idea for Gordon Ramsay’s next television venture. You know how he’s always going around to restaurants and hotels, telling them their food sucks and working with them to make it better? He’d make a killing going around to college cafeterias.
Seriously. When was the last time you had cafeteria food?
For those of you who haven’t tried it, consider yourself lucky. For those of you who have been subjected to it, allow me to refresh your memory.
I recently made a series of mistakes when it came to dining at the main cafeteria on campus. The first was that I decided to eat there in the first place. If I’m being honest, the only time the food’s consistently edible is at breakfast, but as it’s the cheapest place to eat for students, I’m usually stuck with it for most meals. My second mistake was seeing something I’d never had before and thinking, hey, they couldn’t possibly mess that up!
I was wrong.
I was so very, very wrong.
The dish was cheesy mashed potatoes, combining two of my great culinary loves. I’d never had it before (cafeteria version or otherwise), and I thought it would be a safe enough venture. Truth be told, I had been told beforehand there was regular mashed potatoes on the menu, and was craving it, which probably contributed to my decision to try it.
I pranced over to my friends’ table, sitting down to scoop up a bite of cheesy, potato-y goodness…
And the gates of Hell opened in my mouth.
It tasted like they combined instant mashed potatoes with nacho cheese powder. Eating this lukewarm, flavor-imbalanced monstrosity was like watching a cherub set fire to a garden filled with kittens. Something that should have been so wonderful was perverted beyond all recognition, and I’m pretty sure a small part of my soul died that night.
Gordon Ramsay, if you’re out there, I implore you to save the students of the world. Save them from being forced to choose between culinary abominations and eating Top Ramen for the fourth night this week. Save their stomachs, and you just might save their minds.
I’m begging you.
I have no idea what I'm doing.