thehefner: (Default)
I think that one of the reasons I became a writer (as if it was an actual choice and not an ingrained compulsion) was due to a lifetime of feeling like I'm unable to communicate with people. Even now, I'm struggling to explain how I've struggled to explain for as long as I can recall. It's like having writer's block in your everyday life.

When you're a kid, you don't have the perspective to really convey how you're terrified by things which seem inconsequential to others. Adults can't read your mind, and others kids are little sociopaths who don't give a shit anyway, so you struggle and fumble and feel utterly impotent to get them to understand what you simply cannot put into words. In some ways, I feel like I haven't grown out of that.

I've gotten better, sure, but I had to go through alternate outlets. Being a withdrawn child who was extroverted only to those interested enough to offer their attention, I think that I pretty much gained the entirety of my socialization through movies, comics, and The Simpsons. I don't think I'm the only one to work this way. Geeks have a hidden language all our own, where we can hold whole conversations with other people's quotes.

Like many geeks, that still meant that I was still socially lopsided with everyone else in the world. That part still hasn't changed. Put me in a room with non-geeks, and I'll still gravitate towards some corner or find a way to vanish entirely, even if it's within myself. I've always identified with the song "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago, and there are often times when I feel like that's not such a bad thing.

Maybe it just happened out of necessity, but I came to enjoy my solitude. I mean, as long as I had the internet, where I can lurk and hide and then choose to make myself visible on my own terms. But that's been getting harder and harder of late. The geek landscape is changing into something that's as socially alien and unwelcoming to me as any neighborhood block party or distant-family reunion. For months now, I've been trying to explain the sense of loss and detachment I feel from comics and geek communities, how I increasingly don't recognize those who should be my kind, how my safe space has been renovated and redecorated when I wasn't looking, and co-opted by people who are only superficially my peers. Maybe it's always been like this. Maybe I've only noticed it now that I have the courage to reach out and try to mingle, rather than keeping to my own corner of geekdom.

...Damn, that's what I've been doing, isn't it? Keeping to my corner again. Dash it all, I liked my corner! It was safe, it was fun, it was a place to put all my issues (ha-ha, pun)! But I can't go back. I've gotten too big for it.

So I tried to go out and make a new corner, but this one would be in real life (well, theatre life, so only halfway real), and might actually make me money. Fringe Festivals have been amazing experiences which have forced me to interact with people, to summon up the courage to face a machine-gun blast of rejection whenever I hand out fliers for my solo comedy to a group of people lined up for an experimental dance show, with the hope that maybe one person might be interested and then I could afford dinner. It's been great, and I'm dedicated to doing it as long as I can.

But I still haven't quite learned how to turn off the invisibility switch. Four years in, and I'm still struggling to get audiences. It's not because my shows are bad, as I've gotten way more positive than negative reviews. Every festival seems to have another handful of audience members who love my shows and do everything in their power to talk me up to others. So yes, I'm very well-liked... when people actually see me. The problem is getting the interest in the first place. Four years, and I'm still flying under the radar. Lately, I'm just feeling weighed down by the utter lack of interest in anything I have to offer, and I don't know how to market myself better. I've learned so much, and yet it seems like Mr. Cellophane is too ingrained.

But I still perform. I have to. Garrison Keillor said it best: "If you're lucky enough to stay in it for a while, you realize that [storytelling is] a performance art in which the purpose is to gain intimacy with people whom you will never, ever know. To become intimate with strangers." To me, those words felt like an uppercut of truth. Thing is, Keillor meant it for older people like himself, saying that intimacy was "easier" for young bucks like me. God, I hope not. Don't tell me that this gets harder.

And it is hard, harder than I can get anybody to fully understand. Like, I so need to communicate what I've been going through over the past year, to cleanse myself of all these events with words, preferably funny words. But to do so, I'd need a book's worth of words to describe the whole picture. I've been trying for months now to explain how tired I've been, and the exact WAYS I've been tired. Trying and failing. It's not just the pregnancy thing, and even that alone hasn't been your typical experience for impending parenthood. There's the traveling, the RV situation, the moving, the writing, the not-writing, the death of a pet, all these things which most people have some experience, but not ours. Not mine. And if I can't get them to understand, I feel like I have no one to blame but myself.

... Oh, duh. God, I'm so stupid. Of course this is yet another thing that goes back to being the child of an alcoholic and mentally ill parent, isn't it? The inability to get people to understand something in which they have no basis of comparison. The desperate, burning need to communicate with a language that no one speaks. Not unless you've been in the area.

So thank god for Henchgirl. She gets it. She gets it better than I ever thought anyone else could get it. And I mean, all of it, everything from the parental stuff to the geek passion and all the invisible, intangible things that fly under my own radar, but are still there, still present, still represented. She gets it. Regular geeks speak the same language, but Henchgirl and I speak the same dialect.

We're the sole survivors of the same neighborhood in the same city in the same country of the same planet. And over two years, we've experienced the same way, suffered the same way, laughed the same way, complained the same way, been bored the same way, freaked out the same way, gone delightfully BONKERS the same way, and loved the same way. We've carved out our own little corner, but now--against all odds and reason--we're trying/having to make room for a third.

Don't get me wrong, it's fucking scary to bring someone else into our corner just when it seemed like we get everything just the way we wanted it. It's terrifying, and sometimes don't even seem fair. But even corners aren't meant to be static. Even if you try to keep everything as it was, you just end up like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Your corners change with you and they change around you. And you can have more than one corner, like I have at least one for comics thanks to [ profile] about_faces, and like I shall continue to cultivate at Fringe Festivals for as long as possible. And eventually, you find someone else to share your corner, someone who likes the decor and digs the atmosphere enough to stick around. Then, if you're really lucky (at least I think it's luck), you can create your own corner together.

So that's what we'll do. That's what we're doing. That's the only way I can really describe it without photos, pie charts, PowerPoint, a few hundred thousand words, and probably Smell-O-Vision. So we'll continue to develop our corner and try keeping up with how it develops around us. And in the meantime, I'll keep trying to learn the language of strangers.
thehefner: (Iron Man: Life is Empty w/o GIN)
So apparently at one point I guided a small search party down to the basement to show them my Dad In A Box and the dead cat in the freezer topped with hamburger buns.


If that makes no sense, I'd say, "You had to be there." But that's the thing: I don't really remember being there either. Thank god for the memories of slightly less-drunk Henchgirls.

Y'know, I honestly thought the biggest fiasco with the grog would be that the home-made falernum would taste awful, or that I would screw up the proportions of light rum, gold rum, and dark rum, or hell, just use too much triple sec. Heck, I thought the fact that the falernum wouldn't be ready until midnight meant that it would be too late for anyone to want grog, if anyone would be left at the party.

No, no, the falernum was amazing, holy shit. Wow. And the resulting grog was goddamned perfect, better than even the grog at Piratz Tavern. The fiasco, rather, came from the fact that I was actually damn fool enough to *drink* the stuff.

When you are drinking a full mug of three different kinds of rum, triple sec, and a spiced syrup derived from overproof rum--the kind that has a label on front that reads "Warning: Flammable"--know this: it's a sometimes food. The sort of thing you want to drink only when you're not drinking anything else.

I've never gotten so drunk that I've actually lost time before. At least, as far as I know (which is suddenly far less comforting a thought as before). Henchgirl is recounting a couple things that I have absolutely zero recollection doing. That shit's kind of scary, especially for me, for whom the validation of memory is a very tender personal issue. So yeah, never doing that again. In fact, my liver and brain cells would probably appreciate me laying off the booze for a bit, even though I totally just scored some new bitters I'm dying to try out.

I don't know *where* I will be able to use rhubarb bitters, but god damn if I ain't interested in finding out!... ooh, maybe a strawberry daiquiri?

The party--what I remember of it, anyway, which I dare say is 98%--was magnificent. I'd particularly like to give a special shout-out to [ profile] frumple and K. bringing a home-made apple pie, with half of it sprinkled with cinnamon, Two-Face style! They know me so well.

Hopefully everyone had a great time, and to all those who missed it, well, you stink but I still love you. Maybe I'll see you at my next party, where I use you all as guinea pigs for my various experiments with bitters in drink and food alike! Because lord knows I'm not gonna be fool enough to subject my body to that kind of abuse again. Tony Stark I am clearly not.

Hmm... I wonder what the rhubarb bitters would taste like *in* the grog...? NO! BAD HEFFIE! NO DRINKIE!
thehefner: (Iron Man: Life is Empty w/o GIN)
After a year and of a month of acquiring my late father's unopened bottle of Martell V.S.O.P M├ędaillon cognac--which was already aged over ten years when my father acquired it over twenty years ago--I finally busted open the motherfucker.

I kept putting it off and putting it off, waiting for a proper occasion that never came, never feeling special enough, or maybe having someone along with a palate that could appreciate it better than I and give me an educated, refined opinion that I lack. But after getting through the past few months, not to mention the past year, and heck, with everything revolving around THE DARK KNIGHT and finally returning to the joyous (no irony) task of the Harvey Dent novel, it seemed like as good a time as any.

But it wasn't easy, especially as the cork was all gunky and crumbling. Once I dug out the cork and decanted the bottle, using a tea strainer to get out all the bits I could, I rebottled the cognac and poured a spit's worth into a shot glass.* Just for a taste.

Much like the 20-year-old half-consumed bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey that I found at the same time, the initial taste was so smooth to almost be flavorless, little more than heavy water. That said, I gave it to Mom and she reported a pained gasp of, "GAH, ROCKET FUEL!" but while that certainly points toward her being an even more sensitive soul than I, it's yet another reminder that I'm starting to lose my own sensitivity towards tastes.

But when I inhaled and exhaled... ohhhh, then I could taste it. Yes I could. My goodness gracious. I may not know cognacs, but that... is fine stuff.

I'm not gonna plow through the rest, don't worry. I've recorked the bottle and will definitely save the rest for special occasions, whenever they happen to pop up.

I read somewhere that it goes well with a fine cigar. I've never smoked one aside from taking the odd puff, but who knows? Perhaps it might be worth considering taking that for a special treat one of these days. Maybe once I finally get surgery on my deviated septum and therefore will hopefully be able to smell and taste things better.

Not to mention breathe; I haven't been able to breathe through both nostrils at the same time for about four years. Let's rectify that, shall we?

*Not just any shot glass, but my father's. The one he used repeatedly daily to apply Seagram's gin to his Canada Dry tonic water. The really nutty part? It was an official Frank Miller's SIN CITY Kadie's Club Pecos shot glass that I bought at my comic shop when I was thirteen, but gave to him because I knew he'd get more use out of it.

Now that it's mine again and I actually drink, the glass is permanently stained and worn, and no amount of scrubbing will make it look new and not... well-used.
thehefner: (Two-Face: Coin Flip)
Consider this a rough first draft.

It's long, but there's some very interesting stuff in here.

Yesterday, Mom and I went to Dad's house to start going through the stuff we want to keep... )
thehefner: (Default)
Big thanks to [ profile] spacechild, Holly, [ profile] themadhatter26, Vangie, and [ profile] fishymcb for coming over here and keeping this boy company.

And a special big thanks to [ profile] bloo_mountain for calling me up, and offering her phone line open at all times. That really means a lot, coming from her. And so, by way of thanks, I offer you this, Bloo:


Also, big thanks to [ profile] fiveseconddelay, who came over for movies. He brought THE SHOOTIST (John Wayne gets cancer and has an existential crisis) and even bought THE FOUNTAIN (Rachel Weitz gets cancer and Hugh Jackman has an existential crisis), knowing that it's one of my favorite films and the film I most wanted to see that night. But my stupid old DVD player was screwing up with it, so we couldn't watch it after all. That really upset me.

So instead we watched BUBBA HO-TEP (Elvis gets cancer and has an existential crisis... also, a mummy is involved). He'd never seen it before. A good time was had by all.

And trust me, guys... I needed the lift, especially yesterday.

You see, I went to the funeral home to sign the authorization for cremation. While there, the director informed me that, legally, the body still had to be identified. He said that Nita said that she'd be willing to do it, if I didn't want to. I had no idea this would have to be done at all, much less asked of me, and I had just a few seconds to make my decision.

So I said yes. I'll do it. )

But don't worry, folks. I'll end this particularly grim chapter on an amusing note.

Mere minutes after I got the news on Friday, I told Mom, and we held each other, crying. In came Gordon, my stepfather, who asked, in his stern, authoritarian way, "Hey, what's going on here?"

I said, "Dad died."

Seriously now, he said, "Oh?"

Mom said, "I've lost a husband."

Gordon thought about this for a second, then said, "Well, won't be the last time," and walked out.

We burst out laughing. Good ol' Gordon.
thehefner: (Bill the Butcher: Reflective)
I've heard about dogs who are old or sick, that just before they die, have one last burst of energy. They become lively, excited. They become puppies again. Mom said this happens to people too.

Last night, Nita visited him just before I did, and said he felt like he was getting better, that he was much brighter than usual. The past few days I've seen him, as I've been visiting him daily since last Friday, his looks started to change. It was like his lips had shrunk back on his face, his jagged, crooked teeth exposed, as his mouth hung open like an incomplete mummy.

I could barely look at him, couldn't even manage to give him the standard rundown of what's going on in my life. I just dove right in and read him some Dave Barry or "Jeeves and Wooster," as he liked. At least, I thought he liked it, but he stopped reacting some time ago. I'm not certain he even understood me half the time, between the machines and--let's face it-- my own jumbled, slurring, stuttering, rapid-fire speech. I guess he just liked having me there, talking to him. But he didn't look it.

Last night, his lips were back to normal, the teeth no longer bared. But regardless of what Nita saw or thought she saw, I couldn't detect any improvement. I just went ahead, reading Dave Barry and getting more uncomfortable as good ol' Dave mentioned things "gin and tonic" and "cancer" and "old dying people" and "tumor the size of an eggplant." I really should have pre-screened what I was going to read to him. But again, he barely seemed to be paying attention. His lids half-closed, his eyes almost rolling back. The only time he showed any life or interest was when I told him that my car was running okay. He's obsessed with the welfare of my car, always has been.

A month ago, and for the first time in years, I told Dad that I loved him. I am extremely fortunate that the very last thing we said to one another, back when he could say anything, was "I love you." Problem was, he wanted me to say it again every time I left from one of my visits, and it wasn't as genuine since. It felt forced, called on cue, "kay, thx, luv you!" With Dad, I never wanted to say it unless I really meant it, unless I was moved to say it. And while that love is always in my heart (try as I might to deny it, at times), there's a reason why I hadn't been able to tell him for years.

I just thought it was more examples of behavior from a man who didn't care if I sat in my room all day, playing Sega CD (yes, I was that guy) or watching movies alone. All that mattered was that I was there. I was in his presence. I was in his possession.

This is a man who had an absolutely gorgeous antique piano in his living room. The piano's been covered by a faded yellow sheet for over twelve years, with a little index card on top that reads, "DO NOT PLACE ANYTHING ON PIANO!!!" Mom was perhaps the last person to play it, and even then, I can't imagine he was too happy about that. All that mattered was that he had the piano. Playing it, or even seeing it, didn't matter to him so much as owning it and protecting it.

And so I thought that's what his insistence at the "I love you"s at every parting was: just another example of control, another example of his favorite game of Love Upon Command. And maybe it still was.

But now, I can't help but think that, if I were in that situation, bitter and scared and grasping at hope--never mind that this is a man who's locked himself in a house and passively aggressively waited to die for years now-- you'd want the last words from your son to be "I Love You," even said in rote, because they might be the last words we'd ever get.

Last night, he made the effort to tell me that he loved me first. He mouthed the words, wheezing through the tracheotomy, but I understood. I told him I loved him, and the words came out more sincerely and more heartfelt than they had in a month. And then I was gone.

Not long after that, he was too.
thehefner: (Bill the Butcher: Reflective)
There's one thing I fear I hadn't made totally clear over this whole ordeal with my father. Or maybe I had, but reading over several of the comments to me from the last few days, I feel that-- for all our sakes-- I should isolate this particular issue.

Y'see, I just visited him in the hospital for the second time, whereupon I realized what's going to be the hardest thing of all; the factor that's going to make this whole ordeal be just that, an ordeal. And it's not the cancer itself. See, in the past few days, with all the crying and the fear and the "I love you, Dad, god, I love you,"s out there, there was one factor I had overlooked. It's a factor I brought up when I wrote that whole entry about him recently.

And that factor is the man himself. )
thehefner: (Bill the Butcher: Reflective)
This post serves a few purposes. For one, it's an exploration of thoughts that I will flesh out in a future Hefner Monologues book. For another, it's to vent something that's seriously bothering me today, on more than one level. There may or may not be a coherent point here. Bear with me, skim, or read at your leisure. Thanks.

They've found a large mass on my father's neck, finally locating the source of his terrible pain and sickness for the past month... )

September 2012

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