Sage & Frankincense



Today we had a requiem mass at  my church for Chief James LaCroix, a long time parishioner. I don’t think I ever met Chief Jim, as his friends called him. I am familiar with his brother, Albert, a parishioner I see every time I’m there. I attended because I respect & like Albert a lot.

Albert, it seems, is our link to the homeless population of Hollywood. An ombudsman, if you will. I don’t entirely know his situation. I just know that he always says good morning & always has a joke ready & I’ve watched him jump up immediately & protect his fellow parishioners when disturbed persons have wandered onto church grounds. 

He’s a fricken bad ass. He & our sexton, Eddie, are fearless knights in shining armor. Albert’s armor just happens to be a black leather jacket.

You know when you’re stuck behind a broken down Budget Rent a Truck on Highland & are freaking out because you’re going to be late & not get a good seat at church where you can both see & hear? Well, maybe you’re familiar with the situation. Anyhow, that happened. And I am so glad it did.

Because I was stuck behind that broken down truck, during rush hour traffic in Hollywood of all places, I ended up getting there just before 7 & right as Albert was talking in the car park with his friends Mikey & Phillip. Bless you, broken down truck! Albert introduced me to his friends, friends of Jim, & I noticed he was holding a smudge stick. “You’re saging!” I said.

“Yes!” said Albert with a smile. “It’s a Native American thing, & I’m pretty native.”

I told him it was nice to see someone using it in context, as opposed to how it’s usually used in Los Angeles. Which is to expel the negative vibes of an argument with your agent.

Albert & I walked to the church & he told me the true use of sage, which in this context was to help Jim’s spirit go to the good afterworld “with Jesus”, & to send the bad spirits away, so they don’t keep him here on Earth. He told me he had saged the whole church already & had come out to prepare himself. I asked if he wanted to sage me, & he did. Properly prepared, I went in ahead of Albert, Mikey & Phillip so they could prepare.

The whole church did smell like sage, & not the usual frankincense/lemon scent. This did not change the sacred aura of St. Thomas at all, it just changed the flavour. Albert then came in with Mikey & Phillip & they saged the pascal candle.

I have never been to a requiem mass before, or a funeral. It was very peaceful & similar to the regular mass (even down to the whole thing coming to a screeching halt so Father could give me gluten free host). I found I knew what to do most of the time. The regular church incense mingled with the aroma of sage, & I felt very much as though the world was still for James.

The sermon was replaced by Father’s remembrances of Chief Jim & how he & Albert represented the homeless breakfast club at his dedication as the new rector of St. Thomas. Father also remarked that Los Angeles’ homeless population is double the entire population of his hometown in Wales. I think Father choked up a little bit during the Kontakion. It was a wonderful service, blending a little of James & Albert’s traditions with old school Anglican & Orthodox liturgy.

Afterward Christopher & I stood in the car park & talked about being nerds while it started to rain. It was a long day. It was a good day.

Let light perpetual shine upon Chief James LaCroix.

Back On Me

I keep forgetting I have a category on here for music I’ve recorded. Subsequently, I keep forgetting to talk about the band that graciously allows me to sing harmonies with them, The Army You Have. I’ve even recorded a couple of tracks with them, duh!

Anyhow, if you like The Pixies, you will probably enjoy this very much. It’s fun to back Gary & Shelli with harmony because I get to play different roles. When I sing harmony with Gary, I have to channel a gritty chanteuse who sips apple pie ‘shine & smokes Marlboros. When I back Shelli, my inner Kim Deal comes out. Can’t be helped. You get both on this track.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy.

Back On Me–The Army You Have

Bonus track: I’m not on this recording, but it’s my absolute favourite TAYH song & it is utter ecstasy to do live: Hold Your Fire

An Honest Answer

Dearest Normal Humans, whose rituals & customs confuse & bewilder me to this very day, please explain the following scenario to me:

You show up at an event where you don’t know many people, like a friend’s performance or a church coffee hour or a Tupperware party. You end up standing next to someone & you introduce yourself to each other. Then the person you just met asks “And what do you do?”

Not “How do you do?”

What do you do?”

This is very Los Angeles, bee tee dubs, & is always answered with aspirations & outright lies. “I’m an actor/writer/producer” which translates to “I was in a student film/I have a blog/one time I filmed a squirrel with my iPhone” because nobody wants to say they wait tables. 

But it’s also correct.

Because you don’t wait tables. That’s not what you do. You dream. You plot. You conspire. You walk the dog. You binge watch Justified on Netflix.



This is not limited to people with “day jobs”. Doctors, lawyers, therapists & the like also hate this question because the answer inevitably is followed by a request for free advice. Hey, when I come into your restaurant, I don’t ask for unlimited, free globs of goat cheese. So stop now.

The truth is, nobody likes the question “What do you do?” but you assholes ask it anyway, like what a person does matters if you’re not at that very moment purchasing a good or service from them. Yes, how you contribute to society is important, but it is only 1/3 of who you are. 

I don’t understand why the “go to” question for meeting new people is not “What brings you here?” Because that makes sense. “Oh, I’m with the DJ/I’m a huge Gotham fan/they have amazing latkes” are all way better conversation jumping points than how a person earns money.

From now on I’m going to answer “What do you do?” with such raw, brutal honesty that heads will spin & genitals will literally dry up & drop off. I will say the first thing that comes into my head. Here are some examples.

What do you do?

  • Listen to The Killers “When You Were Young” on repeat.
  • Imagine complex post apocalyptic scenarios in my head, not to write down, but simply to amuse myself.
  • Pray.
  • Hate small talk.
  • Think about what it must be like to be a cat.
  • Fantasize about avoiding men I find attractive.
  • Attempt to see the universe as it truly is by taking on the perspective of a quantum particle. Which is some rabbit hole shit, FYI.
  • Post random shit on Twitter.
  • Admire Albert the Great.
  • Survive.
  • Ponder how much Jesus must love our stupid arses.
  • Wonder if my friends love me as much as I love them.
  • Try to figure out what my style is.
  • Lie awake at night wondering why Daryl won’t shower.
  • Avoid editing a novel I wrote 3 months ago.
  • Become annoyed by a number of smells and sounds.
  • Wonder if rich people ever feel uncomfortable.
  • Use every fibre of my consciousness to not worry about germs.
  • Imagine dancing.
  • Try to figure out what I can eat.
  • Pray for death. And other people.
  • Hope my family are okay without being so obtrusive as to ask them, because that wouldn’t be very English.
  • Try to remember things I’ve forgotten.
  • Walk around the house talking to myself in different accents.
  • Wish my boyfriend lived here.
  • Keep secrets.

If you are a normal human, please explain the “What do you do?” thing in the comments below. If you are not a normal human, try my technique above & report back with results. Let us change the status quo!*

*”Change the status quo” is a totally legit response to “What do you do?”

Paths

There is an incredibly fine line between sociopathy & empathy. Some of you immediately grasp the truth of that sentence. The rest are aghast.

First, to the people who grasp it, I’m sorry. You either distrust anyone who is kind to you, imagining there is an angle, or you are a caregiver of some kind, & you know how you get when you’ve given too much. 

To everyone else, here’s a quick run down of the surface characteristics of a sociopath & an empathetic person.

Sociopaths:

  • Seek to soothe you by identifying with your issue & offering a solution.
  • Are charming & engaging.
  • Appear calm in a crisis, detached from chaos & pain to get things done.
  • Move from one issue to the next without taking energy from the last one with them (let things go).
  • Avoid conflict.

Empaths:

  • Seek to soothe you by identifying with your issue.
  • Engage you.
  • Approach crisis and chaotic energy by matching it and appear to detach when things are done (let things go).
  • Move from one issue to the next with no fluctuation in engagement.
  • Avoid conflict.

These lists seem similar, & they are, but the subtle differences betray the motivation of the sociopathic and the empathetic. The main difference is that the sociopath is self centered, but the empathetic person is other centered.

The sociopath wants something from you. They have studied how normal people like to be received, & they have become masters at gaining your confidence. They’ve learned to be people persons exactly how we learned our times tables: by rote.

The empathetic person wants something for you. They have no idea how normal people work, either, because they feel best when the people around them are content. They can’t ignore pain, & they want it to end. 

Frequently the sociopath is more attractive. They know there is a formula to making others feel important. They make themselves look like someone you want to know, & say things designed to make you feel special.

Empaths are usually unconcerned with appearance & have no idea how to be fake. They sometimes say very awkward things or delve into serious issues without the buffer of small talk. This is incredibly off putting to most humans, who devise a carefully constructed identity for the outer world. There’s nothing wrong with that; it is a survival technique. It’s also a technique the empathetic don’t often learn.

Why isn’t she being funny? you whinge in your head. Ok fine. Let me introduce you to two people.

Tom sees a young attractive woman typing furiously into her phone. He straightens his suit jacket collar & approaches her. “Wow, somebody fucked up.”

She looks up, huffy, then softens slightly at his well coiffed appearance & brushes an errant hair behind her ears. Still, how dare this weirdo interrupt her? “I’m sorry? Did you need something?”

He smiles, embarrassed. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. I noticed you from over there & you just looked so annoyed. I thought What kind of ignorant asshat would piss off this beautiful creature? And I admit I had to find out.”

She blinks up at him for a second and half smiles. “That’s an awful line.”

He rubs the back of his head and looks down, still smiling bashfully. “And you’re smarter than me, too.”

See?! Already half the women reading this are like OMG he sounds dreamy get me one & the men are like “That works?!” & my answer is “If you look like Tom Brady, yes. If you don’t, you will have to work slightly harder. But the technique is the same.”

This is still not funny, KJ. Where is the wackiness I pay good money to see here?

You pay nothing, so screw you. But I will give it to you anyway.

Terry (combonamed after his mother, Teresa, & his dad, Ryan, so his life already started out ridiculous) sees a young attractive woman typing furiously into her phone. He comes over and stands about three feet in front of her. “Hi.”

She looks up huffily, flits her eyes warily over his jacket and t-shirt, then goes back to her phone before saying “Hi.”

He continues to look at her. “Are you ok?”

She looks up again, confused and annoyed. “What?”

“Are you ok? You seem really upset.”

She glares at him & goes back to her phone. “My mother.”

“Ohhh. Is everything ok?”

She looks up. “Who are you?”

“I’m Terry. Your mother loves you. You guys just have a lot of baggage when you communicate. Ok, sorry to bother you. Bye.”

Terry is now either perceived as an intrusive creep (valid, as many Terrys would just secretly pray for this young woman’s happiness & go on with their lives), or as some sort of mystic angel, which he might be. A slovenly mystic angel at a bar, for some reason. But Tom is less likely to be perceived as a creep, because Tom plays the human game.

The human game has rules everybody knows, so they are more comfortable with it. Everybody plays a role & advances according to the dice rolled. People who are good at the human game tend to go pretty far. The unscrupulous ones know how to game the system to their benefit.

The angelic approach (there’s no game) is confusing and weird because it’s like the Spanish Inquisition: nobody expects it. Some people actually react hostilely to someone acting completely outside the rules of the Human Game, even when they are totally benevolent.

Here is your wacky analogy, jerk. You’re playing Clue with Tom & Terry. Tom shows you his cards with a reluctant, play-acted mortification. How dare you be figuring out what I have, his devious winky eyes say. Terry meanwhile is showing you extra cards and skipping his turn so you can go again. 

Immediately register your reaction to Terry’s game play before scrolling down…






This is exactly how you are looking at Terry.

Terry isn’t being fun! You ask Terry “Bro, what the fuck are you doing?” and Terry says “I know it would make you so happy to win!” And you say “Bro, not this way. Not this way.”

And yet, he genuinely wants you to win. And it makes no sense.

And?

Jesus.* 

Thank you for indulging me.

Fin.

*Your angry comments will be mocked. In a loving way.

*Also this is why you hate empaths.


“Ha Ha, Your Potentially Fatal Disease is HILAIR!”…

…is what I hear when y’all make gluten jokes. That’s because I have celiac disease, & am not on some trendy, totally misguided diet.

“Celiacs can’t touch this!”



I talk about fibromyalgia a lot. I published a book of my experiences with it & I have an entire blog devoted to it. I don’t talk about celiac because, I realized a few days ago, it’s the one thing I’m actually kind of sensitive about. And then I realized it’s because it’s the one disease (or rather its only treatment) that the first world makes fun of all the time. Constantly. Without end.

I empathize with why you do. The type of people that go on & on about gluten are exactly the type of people everyone hates. They end to be upper class white people who also rabbit on about eating raw, locally sourced, fair trade, cruelty free everything & wax rhapsodic about colonics, vaginal steaming, & Pilates. They say “Namaste” as frequently as the rest of us say “What up?” 

They appropriate cultural staples & turn them into fads. They are history’s greatest monsters. I get that. I’m with you on that.

I confess we celiacs also secretly love these people.

Why? Thanks to their deep pockets & frivolous spending habits & mouthiness, they have greatly expanded the number of options people with celiac disease have for getting super fat. It’s awesome. Because these munificent harridans wave their credit cards at every damn thing that seems “clean”, the market has responded by making actually edible gluten free baked goods. Donuts, bread that doesn’t have the consistency of dry wall, cakes, brownies, cookies, tarts, pasta, cereal, pie crusts…it all exists! A copious bounty of ready-made, ridiculously expensive treats are now available in nearly every supermarket. It’s a golden age for our potentially fatal disease.

Wait, what?

Yes. Because the only treatment for celiac disease is avoiding gluten completely. If we don’t avoid gluten completely, let me explain what happens. It’s very different from what people who are just cutting out gluten experience.

After ingesting gluten (a protein present in all wheat products, including soy sauce & damn near everything else in the West), our immune system trips out & attacks it. It does this in the small intestine, which makes the villi (tiny projections on the intestine wall which do all the work) freak out & flatten. Then we stop digesting fat.

“That sounds great!” you say, like some kind of idiot who doesn’t understand human biology. No, it is not great. Aside from bloating, gas, & yellowy diarrhea coming out of you at rates that would make laxative abusers envious, fat is essential, essential, for brain function. It also makes you feel full, so if you meet a fat person with celiac, they are feeding their constant hunger with sugar, which the body stores as fat faster than fat becomes fat, thanks to stupid evolution.

Additionally, the part of the intestine that is damaged by celiac disease also generates most of your serotonin. Yes, much of your neurochemicals are made in your gut. So after the sexy, sexy gastric symptoms comes depression (like, crippling depression), cognitive issues, & lovely additional neurological symptoms like falling, aching, loss of grip strength, fasciculations, etc.

Many people with undiagnosed celiac are worked up for MS or ALS first. This is why. There is mounting evidence that celiac causes permanent brain damage. Those of you who know me are probably not surprised.

Side note: I was also deemed infertile because I did not ovulate during my peak childbearing years. This is not uncommon in undiagnosed celiac because the immune system in your abdomen is so freaked out, it panics all over your ovaries, too.  You save money on tampons, but no baby. Well, crap.

Untreated celiac kills because the cells in the small intestine, after years of abuse, just give up being normal cells and frequently turn into bowel cancer. Those are everyone’s favourite two words: Bowel Cancer. That’s of course if you survive the suicidal depression & the falling & whatnot.

So when you crack your super funny gluten joke on Twitter or Facebook or your high profile late night TV show, what you are saying to people with celiac, unintentionally, is “You’re hilarious for trying to not die of bowel cancer!” I am not asking you to not crack your jokes. You do whatever you like. Just be aware there’s a population of us out there who cannot do stuff you take for granted. Here are some of those things:

1. Attend a food-oriented event without concern.

I hate any event associated with food, because I hate being that stupid girl asking about gluten. If you want me to come to something in a totally carefree spirit of learning/socializing/worship, don’t provide food. Snacks, “dinner included”, & “pot luck” all create 100 scenarios where I am saying “No thank you” repeatedly to people who see that I am fat & just assume I want food. No, I don’t want food; those 36 years where I was turning sugar into fat made it so I don’t need food. I don’t want to talk about food or explain a disease. How are you? Put the cookies away & just tell me about you. No for fuck’s sake I don’t want a sandwich.

2. Order at a restaurant.

I have to be that stupid girl who asks about gluten. The wait staff assume that I am that stupid girl on a stupid diet who will eat her carefully prepared gluten free quinoa goat cheese salad, then take a sip of her friend’s beer & a bite of her friend’s cake. No. So I have to start each order (at a place without a designated gluten free menu) with “I’m so sorry, but I have celiac disease.” Sometimes, I have to explain celiac disease. “Which of your menu items can be made gluten free?” Then the poor server has to figure that out, which usually means asking a chef, whom I envision swearing loudly & throwing a handful of wheat flour into the air.

This is 800 times worse when I order somewhere that the server has English as a second or third language, if at all. I love food from other counties as it is delicious & frequently gluten free, but of course all the best authentic “ethnic” food comes from businesses that employ almost no one from America. This situation is my own damn fault. And they are frequently stuck using American ingredients, which may have wheat/gluten as a binding agent. I have come up with creative ways to ask about this, but I feel like an asshole every time.

Then the people at the table launch into their good humoured “You’re so difficult!” ribbing, & even though I know they’re kidding because I am usually the one accommodating others, I want to crawl under the table & stab all of their ankles with my fork.

3. Sit at a common area without worrying about breaking out.

This is going to sound stupid to y’all, but if I brush crumbs off a desk, table, or bench with the side of my hand, I break out in nasty little itchy bumps right where my hand touched the crumbs. A lot of us do. This rash can last weeks, & is the opposite of sexy unless you like your hand jobs with extra texture.

4. Use soap/moisturizer/shampoo/make up/sun block without reading the ingredients.

Do you know all the chemical names for wheat? I don’t yet, as there are many. Skin absorbs 70% of what’s on it. If I slather or lather on wheat, it’s just as bad as if I accidentally ate a piece of cake, yet 600 times less satisfying. Wheat proteins apparently make everything soft & youthful, so y’all put it in a lot of shit. It’s “all natural”.

5. Digest other foods.

Yup, when your intestine is compromised, dairy, other grains, sugar, & pretty much everything is harder to digest & absorb. We are frequently deficient in something even when we’re doing everything right. We also get a lot less fiber than the rest of you, which is why you see us inhale vegetables.

As diseases go, celiac ain’t the worst because the cure is free: don’t eat gluten. You can also reverse a lot of the turmoil you suffered most of your life. There’s a lot you can’t, though, & you must be in a state of constant vigilance. You also have to put up with people’s little cracks.

Nobody else will understand how irritating this is until another disease’s treatment becomes a trendy weight loss method. Gangrene sufferers, you’re next. Wait till the Goopers of the world figure out you can lose ten pounds in a day by cutting off your lower leg!



Everybody Be Propelled Through a Hurtling Vortex, Now!

C&C Music Factory probably didn’t have synesthesia or migraine with aura in mind when they paid an obese woman to sing “Let the rhythm move you” (& then filmed a super skinny chick lip syncing it because the general public have no idea how diaphragms work).

At this very moment I am recovering from a migraine that woke me at 4AM this morning, unfortunate as I fell asleep after midnight. It was also accompanied by the usual sense that the world is blurrier than usual & the desire to pop out my right eye & hurl it with full force at the wall. There are also other sorts of hurling.

Sometimes all I can do in the midst of it is put something black over my head & shove ear buds in my lug holes. This may seem counterproductive to some of you, as noise can exacerbate migraines. As I also have fibromyalgia, I have to distract myself from the exaggerated pain or I get a little suicidal. Because it’s bad, & it shuts off my ability to reason. So I have to block out all light, but to keep from being bored & focusing on pain, I listen to music. It is very carefully selected music, as tunes I normally adore in wellness drive me batty in sickness. There will be no “Uptown Funk” or “Fly On The Windscreen” today.

Just now I was listening to “Synchronicity II” by The Police & had the sensation of moving rapidly backward through a tunnel during the “many miles awaaaaaay” bit at the end. As I am also nauseous, this was not as fun as it sounds. I am now trying to sort out if feeling like you’re moving with music is another thing that comes under synesthesia, or is just a basilar migraine happy fun time thing.

I also saw a man standing over my bed during Aha’s “Minor Earth Major Sky”, but I realized it was just a man shaped shadow sculpture, which is a thing I see during migraines. Sometimes the walls melt, too.

Meanwhile the cats continue to vigorously wash my elbows, as they feel this helps somehow.

LEAVE BARBARA WALTERS ALONE

Barbara Walters is into some high level shit. She’s down an Illuminati rabbit hole so deep you’d come out the other end wiping Morlock poop off your shoes.

“Uh oh, KJ’s had sugar,” you moan.

BUT NO. Y’all are making fun of the doyenne of dreck because she said that Amal Clooney’s wedding to George Clooney was one of “the greatest achievements in human history“, but that just proves you’re an ignorant snarky asshole & I’m about to tell you why.

But first…Google the happy couple. Google them! I’m not going to link a photo here cos that shit is probably copy written & I don’t want to be sued by Big Clooney. Look at them. Stare deep into their dark, expressive eyes. Behold their generous brows. Bask in their chiseled features. She is his female clone.

I screamed this at the TV the first time I saw them on TMZ. Then I remarked, probably to a cat, “Those other women he’s been dating all his life never stood a chance. He’s been waiting while his opposite-sex clone grew to full size in her maturation vat. He cultivated his sexual desires & prowess on many willing partners while Amal obtained her total Clooney-brain-download in the Inculcation Chamber. Only when she was ready could he claim her as his unholy, created bride.”

And why not? When you have the money, power, and social aspirations of a George Clooney, why would you not use all your Masonic pull to get a little blip past congress–a little legislative oopsie–to allow you to get past international bans on human cloning? Christ, the word Clooney* is so close to “clone” it’s like God Himself pointed His finger at you, clicked His tongue, & said “Go for it, sport! You alone deserve the Heinlein-inspired ego-stroke of the opposite sex clone!”

Barbara Walters wasn’t calling a mere Italian wedding one of the greatest achievements in human history. She was talking about the pinnacle of fucking biological science.

So knock it off, you smarmy assholes.

#Science!

*Heh heh, Cloney.

Plus also he can harvest her organs.

When Candy Crushes YOU

I have deleted Candy Crush Saga & Bubblewitch Saga 2 from the iPad, but not Pet Rescue Saga. Also I think the folks over at King Games believe that in English, the word “saga” is used like a period.

BUT WHY YOU BITCH I NEED YOU TO UNLOCK LEVELS & GIVE ME LIVES you scream in your head, or maybe into the void or at a rather confused cat. I deleted them because they were quite literally destroying my brain.

I shall, of course, explain. Young persons working on their Advanced Stats for Psychology or Experimental Psychology 2 projects may want to take particular note.

I realized about two weeks ago that Candy Crush & Bubblewitch were both having terrible effects on my mood. I advanced fairly quickly in both games, so it had nothing to do with pacing or losses. It was how my brain was working during each game, & where my mind kept turning.

It would help to know that I fight PTSD & depression daily, as well as fibromyalgia & celiac disease. I have to be super careful what I ingest, do with my body (hey now), & think in order to lead a productive if not particularly happy life. The days I squeeze happiness out are bonuses! I strive for those but I’ve learned to accept “ok”. Ok is better than “Please God, kill me now.”

That’s why my repetitive, intrusive thoughts during Candy Crush & Bubblewitch gave me pause.

During Candy Crush, no matter how I was doing, I would find myself ruminating on thoughtless things people had said or left undone. This is not my normal state of being. I tend to let stuff go pretty quickly (to my own detriment, some say), but while playing Candy Crush my mind would immediately go to some slight or inconsiderate behaviour I hadn’t given weight in ages. Or ever. It also seemed to heighten my social anxiety; whenever I’d match 4, I’d find myself afraid of what people would think of me at church, specifically, which is very odd as I feel wonderfully comfortable there.

Where Candy Crush stimulated anxiety & resentment, Bubblewitch seemed to have a big fat meaty finger pressing down squarely on my depression button. I would do a level or two & around the 3rd board, I’d start singing little suicidal chants to the music. At first I thought this was funny; later I realized it was a bit more serious. I turned off the music & the depression seemed to worsen. I found when I played Bubblewitch, I would feel hopeless & numb afterward no matter how well I did.

I’m not going to post my suicide lyrics to the 3 songs in Bubblewitch lest they get stuck in your head. I promise you they were hilarious, kind of like how Morrissey is darkly hilarious but you also want to keep him away from box cutters.

I tried to do some research on this, but there’s nothing about the games affecting, well, affect (aka mood, for you civilians).

Conversely, Pet Rescue makes me happy. Happy. HAPPY. Whether the music is on or not, playing makes me cheerful, even if I can’t rescue the pets in the little cage & they make that sad, dejected face. Every time I play, I am happier. I shrug off pain. I have weaker cravings for dumb foods. I sometimes even exercise between rounds.

Is King conducting some kind of experiment? Is my brain super weird? Do my neurons respond with chemical reactions to a series of pixels mathematically arranged to produce slot-machine-esque reward responses in normal brains?

Do any of you experience mood changes with these or any other games? I have zero cognitive or mood changes with Kingdoms of MiddleEarth or Simpsons Tapped Out.

Oh, I also deleted Words With Friends, but that was because it was actually giving me repetitive stress pain in two digits.

Wow, when I talk about this it makes me sound like I’m 97, with dementia. Which, you know, fine, would be a fair assessment. BUT INCORRECT.

Anyhow my lives on Pet Rescue have respawned, so…

Don’t Learn to Drive in LA

Hi, John.

I promised I would think about your piece on driving & provide a thoughtful response. I’m not sure this fulfills that promise on all counts, but I will try. It will be easier to follow than an in-person cafe rant where I would also insert analogies featuring Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, & Dune if I thought I was losing you.

I’m not gonna lie to you: driving in LA does in fact suck. You are in no way wrong about that. I have imagined blowing my own brains out on the 5 more times than a cognitive behavioural therapist would consider prudent. It is this very point on which we agree that I will build my premise that you can be taught to enjoy driving, but I concede it will never happen here. Ever.

I will argue with your 7th graph down (if you count the one liners): trains did not tame the frontier. Neither did four door sedans.

One day, you, me, Sara & the dog should drive to Reno. We’ll act like we’re going to Vegas, so we can stop by this tin roof shack called The Still that serves hamburgers the size of actual steering wheels, & then head up to Reno. You will see the West was never tamed. By anything. Except the Air Force, kinda, if we drive between Vegas & Tonopah at night. Even going 85, we will see a light show & displays of military force for at least two hours out the passenger side.

You will, after Tonopah, be allowed to take the wheel. After we’ve had a meal served to us by a delightful meth addled teenager, taken pics outside the signs for the Clown Inn, & peed, you can have the wheel. I will put in the Dune soundtrack & you can drive the whole length of Walker Lake. I will not make fun of you if you yell “Father? The sleeper has awakened!” I’ll be rather disappointed if you don’t, truth be told.

You will fall in love with driving, unless we get stuck behind a caravan. Wait, you guys don’t call them that. What are they? Campers? RVs? Anyhow, you’ll get bold enough to pass that asshole going 90. Really.

Upon returning to LA, you will hate driving again, but you will have the memory.

I don’t judge you for not learning to drive until you were 38. You’re a New Yorker. At no point did you ever have any reason to operate a vehicle in NYC, just like my mum & I never needed one to get around London. Both of those cities were founded before the advent of cars, so they made do, building along old carriage lines.

LA cannot fathom a time before cars. Sadly, it never really planned for them, either. We’re dumped upon a desert/shoreline/mountain range which scoffs at travelers & mocks our desire to see shows on Sunset when we live in the Valley. “You pathetic bastards! I shall squeeze you into a bottleneck so tight you’ll wish steel had never been tempered & the Mongols had conquered the Earth because then you’d have a horse!” My own beloved church has mountains & Franklin between me & it. No one would wish that upon their worst enemy.

Don’t use the carbon footprint excuse, btw. Half of your friends won’t think you’re doing enough, & the other half will point out that you use an iPhone & a flush toilet, etc.

People do walk in LA. Another reason I hate driving here is the yoga/Pilates people who run across Ventura randomly when I am trying to get to work. It is more accurate to say people jaywalk in LA.

Your sister’s heinous car accident is a completely understandable reason to fear cars, period. I hated being a passenger. My father, a man of many flaws, had as one of them the propensity to truly believe he was the only person on the road. He made left turns on red, did 80 on streets with 40 clearly signposted, & made every freeway experience feel like that scene from Matrix: Reloaded. Yeah, that. How we never died is a mystery. This is partly why I believe in God.

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother gasping & saying “JOHN! We have plenty of time to get there. Oh, Jesus.”

So I have a hard time being a passenger. When I was 15, I relished getting my permit. It meant I didn’t have to be his passenger. It meant I could leave That House. And then I had a driving instructor from hell who made me flip a bitch in the middle of a Nevada highway embankment.

I tried to get my mum to cancel the driving classes. “Why? You were so excited.” Then her brow furrowed. “What did he do?” She called & gave em what for. Eventually she took me out to a dry lake bed & the Sam Boyd Silverdome parking lot to learn the driving basics. That helped a lot. Learning to drive in Nevada is fairly simple. I wish you could go back & have that experience, sans Taylor Swift & racism.

Pay no attention to an LA horn. They are usually deployed against someone obeying the law & hence preventing them from getting to their mani/pedi only 30 minutes late. The only time I deploy my horn is when someone is texting & fails to see the green light. I swerve around all the other disasters.

I loved driving for a long time. I could blast music & drive circles around town in college & deal with all my very dark feelings. To me the car was just a large, mobile stereo.

Now I have full blown fibromyalgia, & every trip costs me a little something of my life force. Navigating the curves & hills & morons of LA, the stop & go freeway traffic, & the endless search for parking withers me like a fly swatter to a faerie. If I had any money, I’d use BLS, like, all the time.

Maybe we can take turns going to Trader Joe’s. But honestly it’s just better to park at my place & walk. I’m a block from one, & sometimes a dude in the apartment complex next to TJ’s hangs a bag of donuts from a tree. It’s like he’s trying to catch Homer Simpson.

One of You! One of You! Or “How I learned to Stop Worrying & Loathe the Crush”

Yes, you stupid, spiteful, hateful “friends”…I am now playing Candy Crush. You probably sorted this out all on your own after receiving 97 pitiful pleas to help me open Chocolate Mountain or Fudge Ravine or whateverthehell it is.

“You elitist prig!” you laugh/scream like a drunk Wicked Witch of the West. “You said you’d never play. Not in a million years. Not after 4000 Facebook requests, not after every game on Earth had died & gone to Game Purgatory like so much Sega Genesis.” And now you swirl your bourbon in your glass & sneer at me over your smoking jacket or ACDC t-shirt or whatever, because you’re a prick.

Fine, you told me so, I broke down, “One of us,” all that jazz. But why? I imagine you asking, because I’m naive enough to think you care.

I’ve been very sick. As y’all know, I have fibromyalgia…even wrote a meandering journal booky thing about it (which can be purchased here (yes that was totally subtle! You nailed it, KJ!). Weather changes are super bad. October is hard on me & April or May are, too. Coupled with some mild food poisoning that sent me into major flare & I was susceptible to my friend Quan’s Candy Crush invite.

Why Quan? Why Quan, indeed. Probably he is Satan. But also there’s this thing with Quan–a churning competitiveness unmatched by Southern pageant mums or astronauts qualifying for space walks. It’s like if Quan is doing anything, I have to do it better, & I know the reverse is true, isn’t it, Quan?! You are Q to my Picard, Moriarty to my Holmes, Hordak to my She Ra. I must best you!!!

*cough*

Anyhow I was sick & I started playing.

I imagine we all have the same reaction to The Crush, at first. “THIS IS BEJEWELED. DOES NO ONE ELSE SEE THIS? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!” You are also off put by the old-timey turn-of-the-century salad-days look & electronic soundtrack.

Then that freakin scary voice says “Sweet!” “Tasty.” “DELICIOUS.” I’m pretty sure the MC in Hell sounds like this. Equal parts child molester & Top 40 DJ, this voice sounds whenever you do something that scores a lot of points.

Additionally, the game crashes (at least for me) randomly and then the bastard takes one of your five lives you only get regenerated every 2 hours. If I try to send lives to my FB friends, CRASH. If someone sends me an email during play, CRASH. If a Romanian orphan sneezes in a cave half a mile beneath the earth, CRASH. Lives lost, never to be returned.

Yet an hour later I was still playing, cos I was on a roll.

Hating every minute of it.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I see hard candies glistening in layer after layer upon fucking jelly. The game never makes me hungry, because I find hard candy repulsive.

But I live for the click.

You know what I mean.

It’s kinda more of a cluck. Cluck.

I’m only writing this cos I’m waiting for lives to regenerate. Also I’m pretty sure it’s preparing us for Chinese communism.

HEY DON’T YOU JUDGE ME. I saw you, back in the day, playing Farmville like farming is fun or something. How is that a game? Farming. Geez.

Anyhow shut up.

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