Wednesday, April 30, 2014

California as a Stop on the Road to Hawaii

California was almost like a test run for the next part of the upcoming excitement, which was Hawaii. The only down side was the Midwestern cold seemed hellbent on keeping me in its clutches, and during the trip the entire state was having the coolest week in months. Of course. Chicago, in the meantime, had a sudden warm spell, which ended as soon as the plane from California landed at O’Hare.

I’ve really started to anthropomorphize the constant cold of the Chicago winter. As I had one weekend left before the trip to Hawaii, I thought I would like to do some shopping. This was sort of where I hit a wall with America. I wanted to shop the way I liked to go out shopping in Korea: I wanted to go out, look at store fronts, sit and people watch, and when I got tired see if there was a movie playing, and if not hop over and hit a bar and have a drink or two before heading home.

Sadly, the big blustering markets of Korea were six thousand miles away. The ajjumas who knew me by appearance (if not by name) were not accessible. The bustling downtown scenes with a thousand coffee shops, movie theaters, and millions of people, were all far away. And the longer I thought about it the more I came to realize that the only way I was going to be able to do what I wanted to dorambling eye-shopping with food, maybe a movie, and most certainly with a drinkwas to go to the mall.

In all honesty, I really disliked mall shopping, but if I wanted to walk, see as many stores as possible, and meet all my other random requirements, I was stuck with the mall. So I bit the bullet and informed my love that I’d like to be dropped off at the mall for most of Saturday afternoon, which he was happy to do since he was going to be very busy.

I arrived around noon, found the food court, and managed to find something without carbs that I could eat. Sitting in a high chair in the food court felt stupid and strange and exposed, for some reasons. However, I’ve been in more tightly packed food courts in China, with just the same kind of menagerie of people. At that point I decided I needed to get over the constant comparison of Mall vs Asia, and just try to enjoy myself. With that thought, I wandered off for a clothing store, listening to my music, taking in the many sights. The colors were as expected, with teenagers and unwilling parents walking about, or gangs of teenagers with no parents. I didn’t grow up living near a mall so I never understood the fascination of hanging out in mall spaces with friends. I preferred hanging out in my own room reading a book. However, I suppose if the point was to be free to walk, talk, eat, and drink with an adult, the mall made a good destination.

The walking was nice and I got lost only once. I found a few clothing shops, spent far too much time in one trying on things and vetting clothes for my Hawaiian trip and beyond. I found a pretty dress that appeared to be the only one of its kind in the store. I argued about prices of clothes with people in English, which may or may not have been rude. I hit a bookstore and checked movie showtimes, realizing as I checked the clock that the only movie I might want to see was going to be packed with children and families at that hour and I would have more fun in a bar, which is where I eventually wound up, having a few glasses of wine and an espresso martini. I sent out smoke signals to my love that my time was slowly finishing and that I wouldn’t mind coming home soon.

By the time he got around to nabbing me from my day of walking and looking and shopping, the air had changed and the weather was balmy and warm, practically summer like, and suddenly I did not feel so bad about either the mall or America or Chicago or the weather. It may have been the espresso martini.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Intimacy is in the Details

We begin that night's discussion focused very much on the Project, as we had been dancing around him for three nights, but tonight was the last chance the three of us had and, whether or not the Project was aware of it, we were going to flay him alive. We got a more thorough description from the Balance of some of the problems the Project was causing the The Balance’s Home for Wayward Boys. Mostly, he just seemed terribly unaware that people existed at all and that any his actions might upset someone. One example given was, when watching a YouTube video, he was asked by the Balance to do something, and, upon ignoring the Balance, the screen was turned off. The project then merely turned around, without comment, and continue to watch the video on another available screen. It’s the sort of thing that would send me into a fit of rage.

“It’s like he doesn’t realize that I am GOD in this house.”

He really didn't. The discussion turned inevitably to his strengths and weaknesses.

“I know this is a problem,” he explained the Bard, who had been recounting how every decision he made was about avoiding risk.

“I mean, I know it is a problem.”

“What you have to understand is that your top strength is also your greatest weakness. You are almost incapable of making a decision. You are incapacitated by making decisions, unless you have passed it through several others, and always, your decision is going to be to avoid any serious risk. And everything is  a risk, including connecting with people, which is why you avoid connection.”

“That’s true.” He was interrupted by his phone again. While we knew that this would happen, I pulled out my most domineering bitch-goddess card and played it anyway.

“Do you want to go through life being disconnected from everything?” I asked.

He turned back to his phone.

“Put your phone away for a few moments and listen.”

“But you knew I had to be on my phone.”

“Not the point.”

“Ms. Deville, this is something we have all tried before.”

I just smiled. The Project put his phone away.

“Why are you always seeking attention?” I asked the Project.

The Balance inhaled a breath, “I didn’t see it. Of course. I didn’t see it.”

The Project, for once, actually looked confused. The Balance filled it in.

“It’s about intimacy. You can’t create intimacy. You can’t connect with people, and you can’t make the choice to do so because of the risk, so everything, everything you do is about getting attention, creating intimacy through direct action if not otherwise.”

We followed this thread for awhile. We considered how we all connected to each other in our lives, how we created intimacy in different ways, whether healthy or unhealthy. The Balance’s Home for Wayward Boys provided an intimate connection that allowed him to balance his desire to be around people that are filled with youth and potential. My variety of lovers and adventures allowed me to reflect on who I am. The Bard and the Electrician and their hour-long discussions that peeled back the layers reality until, underneath, they found the kernels of real truth hidden by the Wizard’s curtain was their intimacy. We all had intimacy in some form or another, while the Project was so far from it that one wondered if he could ever get there.

Wine flowed, and Sugar was happy to bring us more on request; we three talked and talked as rain fell down on California. It was a moment in time where we examined our own nature through the nature of someone unmindful.

I wondered to myself as we exited if the Project would succeed or fail. Then I thought that was not the point; he provided a good mirror for the person none of us wanted to be ever again: unmindful, unrealized, unfulfilled.

The air was warm and moist as we descended from the restaurant and got into the car. We were all quiet as we rode back to the hotel.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sugar, Oh, Honey Honey

The next day passed much as days at conferences do. Aside from the damnable cold that is California in the “winter”, which meant temperatures stayed in the low fifties and really, much chillier than I had packed for because I was anticipating something else. Theoretically I can’t blame California for this; however, I will blame California just fine.

After doing the things we were supposed to do we pinged the Balance and took some time to get his car and head down the road to a restaurant high atop a cliff overlooking the bay. The view was stunning, to say the least, and we all settled in and worked to order food.

“What do you want to eat?” asked the Balance as we sat at a table looking at menus.

A blonde perky waitress slid up to us and said, “My name is Sugar.”

I thought, Aren’t you just? “Give us a minute, won’t you?” I said out loud.

“Can I get you something to drink?”

“Oh, I’m very sure.”

After a moment of negotiating with the Balance, we ordered a bottle of pinot and Sugar sauntered away.

“Ms. Deville, you filthy whore.”

“What?!”

“Sugar.”

“It’s not like I did that on purpose.”

“No; I think by your mere presence here, you caused it to happen.” The Balance smiled.

I couldn't really argue with that.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ritual Interaction

This lead into the more fascinating details of exactly what was going on with the Project. He was young (all of 20), had recently moved out of his parent's house, and was currently living in the House for Wayward Gamersrun by the Balance—and not integrating well. He wasn't autistic, but he was also not socially aware, and basically was good at pushing the buttons of everyone around him without intention, and after having done so, not either realizing or seeming to demonstrate any other interest about what had been done. It was almost as if the fact that actions could have equal and opposite reactions was not so much a mystery as a non-event. And consequence of an action was not interesting in real-time as it simply did not enter his purview of the world. And, the world, for the Project, was almost entirely virtual.

This lead the Bard, the Balance, and I into an examination of action. Because truly, the three of us are far more interesting than the Project on his best day.

“It’s the unexamined aspect. Action without thought.” The Bard sat back and took in the Project.

“Yes, that just fucking annoys me,” said the Balance.

“It’s interaction ritual.” The Bard said, causing the Balance to slap the table.

“Yes, yes, I fucking hate that. I hate that we have to participate in interaction ritual.”

The Project looked back and forth between all of is. I wish I could say he was confused, or looked confused, but he just seemed to be taking it all in.

“Interaction ritual,” explained the Balance, “is the unconscious interaction that is prompted by a situation. Generally done so one does not lose face. For example, if I were to walk in on a stranger in the bathroom I might pull away and say ‘I’m sorry, excuse me’ etc, but the reality is that I don’t mean it so much as that it is required by the situation. I don’t want to make the other person uncomfortable and I want to allow them to save face. Also, it’s fucking stupid. I’m not sorry, I have no reason to apologize, there is no purpose in it. Why can’t we just confront it? If you feel shock, or shame, why not just talk about it? Interaction ritual is bullshit.”

“And it lacks authenticity. There is no real interaction but a prearranged series of actions that are not reflected upon.” The Bard continued.

“This is who we are.” I picked up the thread. “Talking about life, reality. It doesn’t bother me when the Balance calls me a filthy whore, because, it’s true, but it’s also real and authentic. It flies in the face what might be acceptable in polite conversation, but then again so does talking about pussy over dinner. This is just who we are: present, real.”

The Project continued to look between us. He had little to add to the conversation, for any number of reasons. We talked a bit more before deciding that we should all probably go sleep since we had an early morning tomorrow, each of us promised to talk to each other on the morrow as much as possible.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Project Limits

We talked for a bit more, peppering the Project here and there with questions, mostly about his own tediously boring sex life. 

“I tried it once; I didn’t really see what the big deal was.”

“You’re doing it wrong,” I quipped. 

This caused the Bard to ask more of a key question, so we could ponder the exact makeup of the Project. 

“What are his strengths?” This had been something going about in our circle for awhile, which, like other personality assessments was a test to determine how people's personalities specifically break down. Most of the people in this circle had taken this particular test to determine exactly where they fell in specific places, and most of us had at least one crossover point, though we didn't conform in other ways. There are a number of strengths and knowing what they are can be useful in determining the process by which people make decisions. 

While at least three were known to us, one, the top, was not, and this occupied the rest of the conversation. During which I ate the first real meal I’d had since landing in California, because apparently while California believes in vegetarians and serving beef, cheese and chicken are hard to come by. Although there had been a “dinner” presented earlier, before we met for this particular dinner, it was being catered by none other than In-N-Out burger. While the hoity-toity conference attendees were pleased, I felt like I had been starving since I got off the plane. Dinner at a nice local circular seaside place while telling the amusing stories that pass for my life seemed like just the thing. 

“The thing is, this is the Project's last chance. If he can’t get it together, he’s going to be out because Doomhammer will kick him out.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Seriously, A Panda

We did not dissect the Project over lunch. We saved that for dinner. The three of us together are very skilled in assailing a target though, so through both lunch and dinner we were slowly pulling out information and gathering data points about the Project. My initial impression of him as bland was not unfair, but he wasn't skittish.

“He most likely has Asperger’s,” the Balance had explained during the first dinner. We watched as the Project managed and coordinated specific things for the company on the phone. Aside from being a project, he also was immersed in work for the Balance.

“He doesn’t like conflict, but then he has to manage this conflict.” the Bard and I filed this information away gathering facts and beginning to put together a more complete tapestry.

“So, Ms. Deville, what have you been up to since I last saw you?” asked the Balance. I recapped my exodus from Korea and my current working situation. My break-up with Korea being the more emotionally palpable I did not linger over long, as there were more interesting things to talk about. Somehow during all of this I mentioned spending New Year's with my girlfriend in Florida.

“And your girlfriend is from here?”

“No, I met her in Korea.”

“And she is still in Korea?”

“Yes, but we will see each other in Hawaii soon.”

“And how long have you been together?”

This was beautiful misdirection, as the real intent in me sharing my stories was to eventually use it to further pry apart the Project and this amused me.

“I do believe I met her during Pussy Storm Twenty-Eleven.”

“Oh, come now, Ms. Deville, really?”

“Really.”

“You can’t possibly name something Pussy Storm.”

“That is what it was.”

And so it was that I re-told a story that involved among other things blondes, a beautiful woman, a rescue from a troll, rope bondage, an untimely fucking in an available bathroom, a more unseemly fucking of a Panda in front of a crowd of Koreans, being lost, being found, being in the rain, and finally the sordid details of people passing out during a half-started affair being discovered by others before I finally managed to make it back to crash. It was a long tiring night. Someday the entire details of that affair will be spilled onto the page, but I enjoyed telling the story, and really, the bit about the Panda made it so incredulous that it could be science fiction, though I assure you, it all happened.

“You filthy whore.”

“I do have a reputation to live down to.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Warm Up


“Ms. Deville, I did not expect to see you here,” chimed the Balance in the steakhouse we finally managed to find him in.

“The Bard didn’t tell you?”

“She did not, and I am rather happy to see you. You filthy, filthy woman.”

As is normal in these situations, we ordered some drinks and completely ignored the Project, as we all knew his time would come. Instead, to help get the Project ready for what would most certainly be a rather pointed psychic flaying by the three of us in tandem, we talked about our lives and our past and happily reminisced about how I had successfully managed to defile his bathroom on my last visit to his home.

“I suppose when I bring two people that filthy together I should have expected it.” While telling this story we had the Project read the Cliff Notes, because, well, something that epic most certainly got written down. We amused ourselves in his amazement at key points in the story and the comments, and shared laughter about old times. It was comfortable and friendly: the casual ease of deep friendships that can be picked up simply and put back into place with little effort.

The day had been long, and with a few drinks on top, we made plans to meet the next day for lunch and for dinner, as soon as the two of us could slip away. Then we were off to our respective rooms for some sleep and preparation for the next day.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

California, Conferences, Crappy Comedy

About as soon as I had settled into March I found it passing. Aside from snow, snow, and more snow, the entire month had its usual variety of ups and downs and was for the most part pleasant. More Hubbard Street and John Prine certainly didn’t hurt. The end of the month featured a scheduled trip to California. While mostly for work, there was the upshot of possibly seeing the Balance who I had not seen in close to three years, so I figured I was about due.

Traveling meant airports, and I usually loved airports, although I had not expected to actually be asked to pay a bag fee. I can’t remember when that last happened, so I was amused that, yet again, I was taking a bag with me that contained not only vibrators, but dildos, and of course restraints, because, like any bondage scout, even for work I traveled prepared. The Bardwho I was traveling withexplained to me with patience that once we had actually lugged our bags out to the plane under the power of our own two feet, they would most likely offer to take it off our hands for free and then we could be done with it. Seemed rather stupid to me, as, by charging the fee you are pretty much guaranteeing that people will not check bags until the very last minute, but apparently this was the current game being played on national airlines.

Wonders, cease-not.

Californiawhen we finally landed at John Wayne Airport, which sadly I failed to capture in pictureswas cooler than I had hoped. I’d packed for the edges of summer and as far as I could tell winter was not yet quite done with us, Chicago or not. The first night we sat on a patio at the hotel, ordering food and being cold enough that I ran back to my room to get coats and stole a blanket from a table that had just left. All I wanted, after all these long months of winter was to just be warm outside for ten seconds.

I swear, when summer hits this city the first thing I am going to do is find a bar with an outdoor patio and build camp there for ten days or until my liver gives out.

The next day we had a dinner that was both hoity and toity, but had free booze, which was our main reason for going. The Bard had a pre-event meeting, so I was left to sit at a bar on my own and lamented the fact that a simple thing like a cheese plate was not to be had on the fancy menus of most expensive bar restaurants. I mean, really, you want to charge 24 dollars for a glass, GLASS, of wine; I should be able to get a cheese plate. Sadly, no. As I was waiting I heard a rather familiar voice drifting up the stairs as the Bard had pointed me out as sitting at the bar. In walked the Balance.

“Ms. Deville,” he drawled and I'll admit it was good to see him. He was traveling for this conference with a young man who, at that moment seemed to be blandly taking it all in, and who it became almost immediately clear, was The Project.

“Ms. Deville, you filthy, filthy, woman; what have you been up to?”

“Oh, you know me.”

“We’ll see you tonight after the dinner.”

And so it was arranged that we would all of us find each other again after the dinner. There is not much to say about the dinner: people were dressed in frippery, drinking, making conversation, saying hellos, being self-congratulatory, etc. It was corporate without being corporate and was hosted by a comic that managed to offend almost everyone in the room simply because he didn’t know who to make fun of his audience so tried instead for general humor. Sad that: it’s very easy to find humor in the lives of those who are in professional education, and I mean that quite seriously. Have you ever met a student? It takes a context though, and there isn’t a big market, nor a lot of money, in making light of the trials and tribulations of education, so he can’t be faulted entirely for that.

After dinner, it was time to meet the Balance with the Bard, and this, indeed, was always the more interesting way to spend any time at such a conference.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Up and Down Again

Just got back from California and am insanely tired. I wish there could have been more rock concerts there, is my immediate thought. However, overall, the trip was mostly just work. Is there an exciting story to tease out?

Yes.

Of course there is.

You know me.

Besides, you toss the Bard, the Balance, and the Devil in any space and there are almost certainly going to be stories to tell.

Aside from that I had too much wine because I couldn't find food to eat. What the hell does California have against cheese? It's going to be nothing but cheese food porn for days. Stay tuned.