Oh fuck. I’m already overthinking my last two Advanced Open Water dives – Wreck and Deep, nervousness growing. I am nervous not because of going underwater – I am now very comfortable underwater – but because I have never had a dive buddy I did not know and I have never been diving with a group. Granted, I didn’t know my folks from Raleigh my first dive trip in Curaçao but I never got off the boat! I couldn’t do it. So, I am spoiled – I love diving one-on-one with my instructors – I have confidence and comfort with them. But I never had just a regular dive buddy I do not know. I…don’t like this idea. But I know I must make the transition sometime and I must quit being a baby about all this. I must grow up if I am to master this hobby. And so. Into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of N.C. with sharks I go. Angela will become an adult this weekend. I am excited but, yes, I am scared. And I am finishing Enriched Air this week before I dive. 3 new things on me. Maybe I am trying to do too much too soon? What is this fire that has been lit in me? I cannot control it…it feels so good…stay tuned for how these dives go.
This morning I found my dive journal from June, my 1st time in the quarry, my first Open Water checkout dive. It seems nuts now as I get closer to finishing AOW: “I keep reliving the feeling of dying, of drowning. I’ve been obsessed with diving for months. I just spent over $2000 on my own equipment before even getting in the water. Another $5000 on a 2-week trip to Curaçao and part of that to dive. I guess I will like Curaçao but I do NOT want to go. Because I am afraid of diving. I no longer need to move to the Caribbean for diving. I am cured of that need. I absolutely do NOT want to dive ever. Being underwater is a misery. The pressure is too much. I will not do it. But I had to try though. I will never return to that hellscape that is the rock quarry – Fantasy Lake my ASS. My God, thinking of being under that water, I cannot breathe. I am sweating, heart racing. No, diving is not for Angela.”
I also share this for folks who think they cannot dive. #nevergiveup
Sept. 28, 2019. I must confess. I was nervous diving into the dark, mucky quarry today in 5-foot visibility. The water had all the visibility of swimming in a chocolate milkshake. But, here’s the thing. Once I got down there under the water, it didn’t matter to me that I could barely see my instructor or my dive buddy. I had lots of tasks to do so I didn’t care if I could see. And I realized when I am focused on several tasks, my awareness around me expands. I feel my body floating and I enjoy the sheer act of being in the water. And much to my utter happiness, I always felt so comfortable and calm throughout the tasks – though I still take FOREVER to equalize. So, today I finished Peak Performance Buoyancy, Search & Recovery, and Underwater Navigation. And I completed everything on the first try (well, no, not true – some of the knot tying tripped me up). Next week, I will do Deep Dive & Wreck – off the coast of South Carolina – with SHARKS! Again, I am nervous because I am so worried because it takes me so long to equalize that I will hold everyone up. But I cannot wait to see my first deep wreck dive. Tonight, after we finished up the dives, we walked over to the dive shop bonfire on the other side of the quarry – a few of us sat around in the dark, drinking beer and talking about…well…diving and then dating and then love…but mostly diving. I like diving better than dating right now (that has its own stories coming up). I genuinely love the path I am on…I have found happiness and joy in this sport. And there is such an amazing support group and community around me. Little did I know how walking into my dive shop back in April to sign up for OW and the trip to Curaçao would change the path of my life. I believe there are no coincidences in life. Or maybe they are all coincidences. But this chain of events from then to now took me out of my comfort zone and a life I was settling for. These experiences reminded me of how adventurous and brave and wild and free I truly am at heart. I found myself again. I lost her somewhere…but never ever again. Ever.
So, I am already jumping into AOW this weekend – Peak Performance Buoyancy and Underwater Nav. I bought a sweet Suunto compass for this. I’m going to be in a dank quarry with no visibility. Though my dive instructor buddy tells me this low viz is good for underwater nav because I can’t cheat – I have to be precise. I’m nervous because I am used to the crystal clear warm waters of Curaçao. Will I get it done?? Stay tuned.
I’ve become a total dork – my perfect night in is with this smelly dog and my brand new, shiny, beautiful AOW manual and taking notes in my hot pink spiral notebook. Also, I deleted all those stupid dating apps. Who needs boys when you have diving? What is happening to me?
3 years ago today marks the 1st time I ever visited the Caribbean. I was staying at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas, USVI. That same day, I tried out snorkeling for the 1st time ever right there in that bay. I LOST it trying to float and wear a mask and was sure I was would die in 5 feet of water (little did I know I would have the same panic learning to dive just 3 years later). But that same day I got the hang of and from then on found myself heading all over the Caribbean about 3 times a year.
I knew from day 1 in the Virgin Islands I would live in the Caribbean and for 3 years I searched for which island was my soul mate. And then I landed in Curaçao this summer and we clicked and it was on. I loved the scruffiness, the everyday rawness of it, the desert, the European, Dutch precision and logic juxtaposed with the magical realism of the Caribbean. And I loved the clarity of the water, the diversity of the island, the fact there weren’t a lot of Americans swarming around yelling about sports (like in Aruba, which i visited once and I feel ambivalent about). The fact that folks in Curaçao are serious about diving, the arts and vibrant cultural scene and that it is big enough not to feel too confining (though, it’s small enough that everyone is only 2 or 3 people removed from having banged one another LOL – you gotta limit the sex or you will run through eligible partners real fast). Funny, this memory of my 1st time with the Caribbean pops up today because I…well, I’ll tell you later.
Well, gang, as of this morning – I have lost 25 POUNDS since my 1st trip to Curaçao this summer. It’s wild, it’s like the combo of 6 days a week working out and healthy eating has kicked my metabolism into some crazy overdrive. This is happening way faster than I ever expected – and I know the weight loss will slow down. But for now, I am doing this and committed to digging way down deep to achieve my goals. There’s a lot of dark, unresolved shit down there in the deep dark places I gotta go to dig deep, but this is how you clear out the soul and spirit. And as you know – I want to get to the point I have nearly no weight on that BCD.
First, I’ll tell you I am documenting my dive journey so that one day I can look back at the PROCESS of learning to dive. If I ever get to professional instructor level, I want to be able to recall the heavy psychology behind learning to breathe and move under water. Got it? Good.
So. Over the weekend, I signed up for AOW. Still in the fever and warm and fuzzy feeling of finishing up OW in Curacao last week, I could not wait to get back into the water. Back in Raleigh, I headed straight to my dive shop and signed up (not just for that but for a wreck dive in South Carolina and for a trip to diving trip Bonaire that is coming up soon). When I got home with my new AOW manual in hand, I flipped through it, wondering what all this cert would require of me. And I found that I have choices in what I want to pursue and specialize in – it felt like CHRISTMAS! Oh my God, I thought, I’m going down a rabbit hole and I don’t care. I’m going in with everything I have (and, it appears, with all of my hard earned money – pursuing this sport at full speed ahead requires, I have discovered, a serious outlay of cash. But the thing is, I don’t want to spend my money on anything else BUT diving. So this all works out. Also, I want to get as far as I can with diving BEFORE I move to Curacao so that I hit the sand running.
So what are my choices? I know for sure I want Fish I.D., Underwater Nav, Boat Diving, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Digital Underwater Imaging, Wreck Diving, and, yes, I want Search and Recovery. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but I want to set myself up for eventual professional level. I know, I know, Angela, slow down, enjoy the ride. But I will tell you this – I’ve engaged in a lot of things in my life and I have never felt this passionately about anything in my life. I want to define it, reign it in, control the desire and passion. But I can’t. So I am just going to roll with it and dive deep deep into my soul, heart, and the blue, blue sea. I want this more than anything I’ve wanted in a long time. And I aim to get it all and take everything I can from this journey. And I will have some failures and anxiety and panic along the way. But that’s okay. That’s how we grow – by pushing our limits and blowing through the things that scare us.
[Diary from before I went to finish OW – I was diving to gain confidence in the water.] Sept. 3 – I DID IT! Today I had my very first full dive just for fun my lovely divemaster Laura at Coral Estates in Curaçao. At this point I have the Scuba cert. Afterwards, she said I was so calm and comfortable in the water – that I did an amazing job. Though, I keep going a bit vertical which is making me kick harder. I felt so calm. And I will tell you why – 1) she frequently swam backwards and beside me to let me know her eyes were always on me 2) she had me review basic skills before we went out – I realized I was very comfortable with my basic skills which made me confident 3)she asked me to do something just for fun that will help later with Open Water – take off my mask and breathe with the reg while floating. It was so easy – I didn’t know I could do it. She then said – we don’t even need this today for having fun – but now you know you can do more than you need. I felt like a master when she said that. Again, she built my confidence. Before I knew it, we were at the reef and over the wall. I was able to completely relax and focus on the sea life. I saw a massive flounder undulating and dancing a full ballet in the water AND baby trunk fish and other stuff I don’t know what because I need a Fish ID course…I had so much fun and pure joy and I am at a new level of progress. I have never been so happy in my life. I cannot stop smiling. I sat at the beach bar after by the dive shop and sipped a gin and tonic, watching the sun set and feeling like a million dollars. One thing I have learned about diving for myself –I must build confidence at my pace – and that this whole process is one of building and scaffolding. Oh, Curaçao, I love you.
Angela’s Diving Diary, 1st week of September: couldn’t dive today. I spent so much money coming from the U.S. to Curacao to dive and scope out real estate to move here. But I came mostly to dive. And I learned a lesson – a valuable one – about the respiratory system. As some of you know, I quit smoking a few years ago. But a few nights ago I went out here in Curaçao and ended up smoking WAY too many menthol cigarettes. When I get a few gin drinks in me, the desire to smoke a cigarette comes on strong. Way strong. Drinking and smoking always used to go hand in hand for me. So I started smoking cigarettes that night like I needed them to live.
And all of that smoking fucked up my throat – I wasn’t used to it. That combined with 2 days of breathing compressed air from diving led to extreme irritation. I called the DAN medline today to ask if I should dive and received quite a lecture on how very bad it is for a diver to smoke and to not do it anymore. I was told all of the biological effects on the lungs and how that didn’t jive with being underwater. She said I may even end up with a respiratory infection and to not dive until it is checked out.
I’ve worked too hard and spent too much time and money to be a diver to mess it up with something this stupid. I do not want to ever smoke again – ever. It is NOT worth it and not part of who I am anymore.
I think I thought I could incorporate some of my old lifestyle into my new one, but it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – the 2 do not go together anymore. I am not the same person I was – I used to love to party and be out all night and smoke all the cigarettes. But I don’t know, I ain’t feeling it anymore. Partying like I am 35 just sounds exhausting to me. And no good for my diving goals.
I have learned so much about who I am by being on this island and by diving. And those cigarettes must go FOREVER! I cannot believe I went there and I am kicking myself – these stupid things screwed up my Open Water certification plan today. I am really pissed at myself. #dontdostupidstuff #ilovecuracao #nevergiveup #girlgetyourprioritiesstraight [Editor’s Note: I did finish OW the next day, but still lost a day of diving in paradise because of smoking.]
Earlier this morning, a co-worker asked me how was my trip to Curaçao. I told him about finally getting Open Water and how this has inspired me to further immerse myself into the world of diving and ocean conservation. He told me about how much he used to love diving and that he got into it from a good buddy of his.
Jim: Yeah, my friend loved diving. He was obsessed with it. We worked in IT together at Verizon. He got sick of working in an office. So he decided to quit it all at 50 years old.
Angela: No shit, that’s awesome. To do what, be a dive instructor?
Jim: Well, to be part of a dive crew on a boat in the Caribbean.
Angela: At 50 years old? That’s some tough grunt work. Damn.
Jim: Exactly, he found out real quick that being on a dive crew is a young person’s game. Even though he was really fit and super healthy. He said he just couldn’t keep up the daily hustle.
Angela: So what did he do? Seems like the best thing to do when you get older is become a boat captain or maybe maybe run a dive shop. He could still have been an instructor.
Jim: Nope, he gave it all up and moved to Texas and became a cattle rancher. He’s still doing it. Loved it.
Angela: WOW. Well, the thing is, he tried out his dream for diving. Found out that wasn’t for him long term. At least he went for it. And then he went for another dream. Sounds like your friend knew one thing for sure – he was never going back into an office.
Jim: Exactly. I wish I could do what he did.
Angela (laughing): Jim, what the fuck are we doing here? Let’s just walk out right now. Let’s do it.
Jim: God, I wish we could. But, money, Angela. Money. Bills. Mortgages. Cars. Health insurance. RETIREMENT PLANS. That’s real life, Angela. Not scuba diving and cattle ranching.
And so ended my conversation with Jim. I’ll take diving and cattle ranching over life in an office any ole’ time. It’s ALL real life. But Jim has some legitimate points and concerns about making big life changes when you are older and feel you have more to lose. Stay tuned.
#nevergiveup #ilovecuracao #girlsthatscuba
by Angela Perez
Let’s not quibble about the dude’s gear setup in the picture. You get what I’m doing here, right?
While out drinking in Curaçao one night, a friend of mine told me that part of the fun in being a dive instructor on the island is that he gets a lot of pussy out of the gig. That women who come to the shop always want to bang the hot dive instructor who taught them how to overcome their fear and do something fun and little bit dangerous.
When I got back to the States, while sitting around one afternoon drinking beer with a couple of American dive buddies (who happen to be instructors), I’ll call them Jerry and Dave (though they both said they don’t care if I name them – but I won’t do that). I relayed the island instructor’s epiphany that the job title “Divemaster” is a pussy magnet. Dave laughed and snorted out beer through his nose, “Fuck no, nope. I don’t get laid from teaching diving. Never happened. Damn, I’m teaching in the wrong place. What the fuck?”
Jerry agreed, “No way, Angela, I never got offered pussy for tips on how remove your mask without drowning. That dude is full of shit. Or he was probably trying to fuck you.”
I said, “Wait, though. Maybe he’s telling the truth. It’s not just the divemaster, student relationship that leads to sex, it’s the location. Dude, it’s because these women are on vacation. It’s vacation sex. It’s part of a whole island fling fantasy. Bored single women or even married women go to a tropical island and get their groove back courtesy of salty, oceanic, teacher cock.”
I thought about the nature of this fantasy while Dave went to go urinate (or maybe he went to jerk off thinking about the dive fantasy I just described) and Jerry went to get us more beer. The island fling scenario is so cliché, so played, so…wait, though, that’s part of the appeal, right?
When Jerry and Dave got back to the table, they both pressed me for more explanation on the island fantasy.
Jerry said, “Okay, okay. I want to know more about how a woman thinks about this divemaster thing. Maybe I’ve been playing this all wrong.”
I laughed. I said, “No, you’ve played it as well as you can in a dirty quarry on the outskirts of a boring assed city like Raleigh. That dank cold quarry will never prime a chick for the fantasy. Pussy comes out of the quarry cold and ready to just get that fucking 5 mm wetsuit off. Not sexual AT ALL. A Caribbean island for single women is NOT reality and the dive dicks that are offered to you are attached to men who are living some sort of tropical-themed Groundhog Day – every day they encounter new half-naked women who come in with the same heightened expectations, the same dream, the same desire to let go, to feel everything and care about nothing, and then the sun goes down, some drinking and fucking occurs, chick flies back to her home, and the dive instructor goes back to work, repeats the same scenario over and over again, day in and day out, until his dick falls off or he goes to a different island and starts the same day all over again.”
Jerry put his beer down and said, “I want to live this Groundhog Day, just for a few weeks. I swear to God. Take me with you when you move to Curacao and I’ll live with you and work at a dive shop.”
I laughed, “Okay, but you can’t bring these women to my house. I’m not down with that. No Fantasy Island at my new place. But it would be nice to have a roommate who can take me diving whenever I feel like it. You see, I want to use you for your diving ability, not your dick.”
Jerry said, “But you can have both. That’s how I’ll pay my rent.”
I said, “I’m liking this plan more and more.”
We all laughed and decided on tequila shots next. Dave said, “So, what about your island fantasy, Angela? What is it?”
I said, “Well, I already lived out a couple of them.”
Jerry said, “Details, please. ALL the details. Right now.”
I said…well…if you want to know what I told the fellas, stay tuned for my next blog – coming out this week…Also, some tips on whether or not to rent or buy on your sexy Caribbean island of choice. P.S. I did NOT tell them about my actual personal experiences and I’m not telling you. Some things are only for me. And my best girlfriends.
FITNESS UPDATE ANOMALY: I gotta tell you about the craziest thing this week. I came back from Curaçao doubly inspired. I put in extra time this week at the gym and had no appetite. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t want food. So I made myself eat raw fruits and veggies. No alcohol and never again with the smokes. And I accidentally lost 3 pounds this week. Total lost so far: 20 pounds in 2 months. From working out and eating mostly right. I will be back in Curacao soon and cannot wait to figure out how much weight I WON’T need in my BCD. #divinggoals #nevergiveup #ilovecuracao
Gurl, WHAT? FITNESS GOALS UPDATE: sorry, gang, for not updating while in Curaçao on fitness. As most of you know, since I did my first dive in Curacao back in June, I realized I wanted to get into much better shape to improve my efficiency in the water. That led me on a fitness journey over the past two months of working out 6 days a week, doing both weight lifting and cardio. And eating lots of raw fruits of veggies and cutting out carbs and down to nearly no alcohol.
So, back to the update since my recent return from Curacao a week ago. I lost weight and gained muscle. Somehow, despite a few nights of overindulging in gin and stroopwafles, I still lost 2 pounds while I was there. How? a lot of diving, I worked out at the hotel gym a few times, a lot of swimming, and maybe a couple other activities I won’t detail here. All that is to say, I am still right on track for my fitness goals. AND – the main thing was that after 2 months of working out, I got OW with 4-6 pounds less weight in my BCD (thank you to my wonderful dive instructor there for ALL that pain-in-the-ass adjustment) and I felt so much stronger in the water than before. And after all, better diving is what kicked all of this off. My head and heart are still in Curaçao (from the 1st day I ever visited). BUT MY ASS IS IN RALEIGH – and I gotta get back in the gym hard. #nevergiveup #divinggoals #ilovecuracao Because I have a lot more diving to do and I aim to use nearly no air
This last time I was in Curaçao (at the end of this summer), I decided to sign up for the dating app, Tinder. I thought it would be an easy way to meet cute boys on the island (not necessarily for my island fling fantasy – see my related post on island flings and diving instructors from a couple of days ago). I actually did meet a couple of cute, interesting, smart guys through Tinder and have kept up contact with them since returning home. So, when I got back to Raleigh, NC, I figured I would see how meeting men on Tinder would fare here in the Triangle.
OH. MY. GOD. 90% of the matches I get end up deteriorating rapidly into the dude saying things like: “So do you want to know how big my dick is? It’s huge” or “Hey, send me a picture of those tits” or they message me pictures of their naked abs and underwear crotch shots. I’ve received several likes from married couples who want me to join them in a down and dirty threesome. Endless likes from dudes who list their university experience as “The School of Hard Knocks.”
After asking one university professor of economics that I matched with where he last traveled overseas, he asked me if I was down to use a strap-on dildo to, and I quote, “pound his ass vagina.”
On Tinder there are endless pictures of guys leaning on sports cars or bathroom selfies of them lifting up their shirts to show their abs. Here’s the thing guys, most women do not give a damn about your abs or a muscular body or your fucking car. If you can make us laugh and you are thoughtful and attentive, you are 90% of the way there. Sure, there are bodies I am purely physically attracted to, but they don’t mean a damn thing if those sacks of skin are attached to a dull, self-centered, unfocused brain.
Guys, I will give you a secret. Be funny, demonstrate ambition, kindness and intellect, be happy in your dad bod, shower us with attention while you do what you say you are going to do and don’t tell me about your cock (I’m old school – if I am interested, I will find out the hard way – pun intended). Love dogs. And that’s it. You got us.
So, enough with the Tindering in Raleigh. I deleted the app yesterday. I reserve that experience for my overseas adventures. Adios for now, fellas.
P.S. You can never make me laugh hard enough that I will be okay to pound your ass vagina.
Editor’s Note: One of my girlfriends posted here some brilliant insight as to why guys post these bizarre body shots: “Love this! Yes, bodies mean nothing when there is no intelligence, humor, or chemistry. I can only fathom the reason guys send pics of themselves is because they are visual when it comes to us so they think we are the same way. We are not.”
Exactly. Boys are all about the body shot. We are not.
I am in a state of limbo since I left Curacao. The last clear memory I have of anything is of a slow-motion stingray that could not be touched through the turquoise sea where, all afternoon, zippy parrot fish eyeballed me in a very desultory fashion. Ah!
I mean, this means I’ve lost my soul to the sea, correct?
Back at it. I LOVE LOVE my dive shop in Raleigh – but it’s dangerous. Came in a couple of hours ago to get an adjustment on my regulator – and left with new equipment, put down a deposit on a boat dive trip to Bonaire coming up, signed up for the Advanced Open Water cert, signed up for the Night Dive campout at the quarry in a couple of weeks, and a boat dive in South Carolina. I am officially hooked, line and sinker.
I’d better leave the dive shop before I sign up for the Honduras dive. I have developed an addiction and I got it bad. But I want to get AOW before I move to Curacao. I want to be full-on ready to take advantage of all of the diving possibilities this island has to offer.
When I lived in DC and worked from home now and again, I’d get stir crazy and miss human interaction – then after a few days in the office I found I couldn’t handle the Dilbertesqueness and day-to-day horrors of office politics. I left the larger corporate world – sure, the money was wonderful, but there was no joy in it.
When I was finally making over six-figures, I believed I had truly arrived in life. That the salary was the culmation of all of my dreams, hard work and, yes, graduate shcool debt. But none of that turned out to be true. I realized that my happiest days were when I was living off of $20,000 a year, traveling the world and immersing myself in other cultures. Learning to understand who Angela was in a global context. Moving from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism.
Lately, I’ve been reading one Princeton professor’s work as to what makes for work-related /career happiness and ultimately general happiness. Before I started reading up on living a life of effective altruism and normative ethics, I already understood I am obligated to give of my time and money to make a difference in the world. If I am in a position to do that, then ethically I am obligated to do so. Once you figure that out, the rest falls into place.
There are lots of sociological & exhaustive psychological studies offering stats on what makes for a satisfying career. In my career and in my voluteer/side pursuits I’ve learned to follow these tenets (and push myself even more on the volunteer side to live these) and it’s what drives me now. For number 6, I had to do some altering of that personal life – for me, it was to quit drinking, smoking and surrounding myself with negative, needy, dark and draining people and people engaged in their own forms of self-destruction (ah, is that altruistic behavior? Yes, if those kinds of people are keeping you from achieving and being all that you can.) Once I did that, my God, it was shocking how much clearer the path became. I also used to believe that my cynicism and dark side were the things that kept me honest – the fact is, acknowledging that I have both of those and looking them square in the face and not being enslaved to them is the most honest pursuit I’ve ever embarked upon. [Editor’s note: about 3 and a half years later, I discovered that I could drink again and do so in moderation and not let it lead me down the dark path – though, when I get tipsy, the desire to light up a cigarette is STRONG in me. But I have scuba diving goals and smoking fucks that up. So, note to Angela – NO SMOKING DAMMIT.]
So without some meme saying trite things like “Follow your passion” (I have a passion for Chinese opera but I won’t find happiness by trying to make a career out of it because I would suck at it on numerous levels – but I CAN support Chinese opera and feel just as fine about that), here is the prof’s simple premise – remember though, these are edicts for people in a position to make choices and who have options – part of fulfilling obligations to helping those in the world who need it or devoting yourself to particular causes:
“Here are the six key ingredients of a dream job:
- Work you’re good at
- Work that helps others
- Engaging work that lets you enter a state of flow (freedom, variety, clear tasks, feedback)
- Supportive colleagues
- A job that meets your basic needs, like fair pay, short commute and reasonable hours
- A job that fits your personal life
- Most importantly, focus on getting good at something that helps others.”
I swear to God, people, it works.
Gerald was shirtless, wearing only a pair of cut-off jean shorts and those scuffed-up blue suede Pumas he never got around to throwing out.
“What dude wears cut-off jean shorts?” said his roommate Bobby, shaking his head and wrinkling his nose in semi-distaste. “Dude, that look cannot be pulled off, even ironically. It just outs you as the closet fag you’ve always been. Like James Franco.” He hunched over the kitchen table, moving closer to his Cheerios, but not eating them. He lit a cigarette instead.
“Hand me my smokes,” said Gerald brushing past him. He moved closer to the kitchen window, peering through the stained, twisted metal blinds. His right eye twitched. “Where IS Judd? He said he’d be here in twenty. I ain’t got all day. He’s such a little fucking liar.” He let go of one of the slats, accidentally popping it back into perfect alignment. It had not been straight in years.
The thing is, Judd dropped dead 10 minutes earlier from a heart-attack just as he was walking out the front door of his condo, little bags of shitty ineffectual cocaine in hand. The drugs, intended for Gerald, were clenched in his quickly cooling right fist. Hundreds of muscles loosened all over his body and carbon dioxide began building up in millions of cells that would, in a short while, split wide open and begin to devour themselves.
At the very moment Judd’s pinkish skin went loose and was fading to blue, Gerald reflected on the pattern of his life: moments of stultifying boredom and self-loathing peppered with bits of great anticipation only to have nothing much transpire.
Why should today be any different?
by Angela Perez
One Sunday in September of 1979, the wind blew hard all day and I sat rather uncomfortably in the parking lot next to the Church of God in the small Southern town of Plymouth, North Carolina. Here in this swampy little town the geese congregate for a spell in the fall and the air year-round smells like sulfur thanks to the smokestacks on the pulp mill down the road. This morning, I heard Sister Dale tell Sister Overton as they were setting up the tables outside for this afternoon’s church homecoming luncheon that the stinky smell put out by the pulp mill is the smell of money. Most of the church congregation is employed there and it’s pulp mill money what paid for all these pretty pink cotton dresses and white vinyl pumps from Rose’s.
All afternoon, old ladies with stiff grey beehive hairdos have been cutting into me, into my moistness, and exclaiming “Sister Braswell has done it again! Good Lord, I’ll have to take twice as many sugar pills tonight! Praise the Lord!” I will admit, I had some competition from Sister Overton’s collard greens with fatback and homemade cornmeal dumplings (you can still see where her nimble fingers made impressions in the dough). But at the end of the church day, it’s dessert that finishes everyone off and that’s what they taste on their lips as they drive home to watch football and vacuum the floor and crochet a little colorful lopsided afghan destined for the back of the couch. My creamy frosting is what they will remember as they doze off in the La-Z-Boy recliner, wearily dreaming of those long ago days when afternoon sex was a sure thing on the weekend.
Ah, but I digress! Back to church!
There among the wooden benches pulled from the vestibule into the parking lot, people moaned in ecstasy over my creamy coconut frosting and then rolled their eyes into the back of their heads (I promise I am not a sex-obsessed cake. I just call the world as I view it.) As Brother Braswell stuck a fork in me, I heard him whisper to the Korean mail-order bride (who was married at the time to Brother Chester, a 65-year old man who always sat through Sunday service cleaning his filthy fingernails with a rusty pocketknife) that he wanted one more go ’cause she had such a sweet-ass cooter.
The Korean woman raised her eyebrows and primly directed him to try her kimchi salad, which was an unusual dish to see on a table at a church homecoming in a small town in the South in the 70s. “Be careful when you eat it, Brother Braswell,” said the Korean lady, “it’s real spicy, like my cooter.” He laughed and licked some frosting off his fork in a suggestive way. I saw his toupee was flapping in the wind just a bit and wondered if the Korean lady noticed too.
I was a pineapple coconut cake for most of an entire day, but I never let all of the compliments make me cocky. And then, as you know, by about two o’clock that afternoon, after about 100 people had stuck a knife into my gentle sides or, in the case of some of the really old people, stuck a pissy smelling finger into my top to scoop up a dab of frosting, I was reduced to mostly fluffy golden crumbs. Life sure is odd. Just as you receive all the accolades and compliments and recognition that you need to go out and be confident in the world, you just up and disappear. Doomed to a toilet bowl or an adult diaper in just a few hours.
What else can I say? Did the folks at that homecoming in Plymouth really find joy in me that day? Could I have behaved differently there amidst the giant cast iron pots of collard greens and cabbage and brightly colored Tupperware bowls of coleslaw, and mac and cheese and potato salad? Well, I mean, sure, it doesn’t matter now, but I want to know because there will be many more cakes after me at future church homecomings. I mean, these little kids who were digging their spoons into me all afternoon will grow up and bake their own cakes on hundreds of Saturday nights to be ready for Sunday homecoming. This little town will grow and flourish because the ever-deepening stench of sulfur tells us so. That pulp mill will make paper forever and little families from West Virginia will continue to move down here to find work and they’ll keep building white and yellow shot-gun houses and buying dresses and shoes from that little Rose’s department store downtown. The world will always need paper!
Aw, sure, I was a delicious cake for just a day but I’ll tell you this: at least I wasn’t Sister Smithwick’s broccoli casserole, that one covered in French-fried onions. That dish always makes Reverend Dean so gassy and his farts stink up the parsonage for days after homecoming because he loves the way Sister Smithwick sautees her broccoli in lard first. But, oh, what wonderful explosions emanate from the rolls of onion-flavored turds in his butt! What yells of disgust Brother Dean makes while he sits on the toilet! So, kids of the South, listen to me carefully. Keep your mind on the future and find a good husband or wife and have two children, a boy and a girl, and go to church and figure out what dish you make best and bring it to homecoming. For this is the way of the world.
*Editor’s note: thanks be to Istvan Orkeny, a Hungarian writer who went to the movies and hasn’t been seen since
by Angela Perez
Dear reader, I’m going to share with you a conversation I overheard yesterday whilst dining in one of my favorite country-cooking cafés. As I feasted upon cucumber & onions in apple cider vinegar, hushpuppies, slaw and fried flounder, a rough-looking, ruggedly handsome, middle-aged fella, about 50, and his buddy, a wiry, white-haired, elderly man in a John Deere cap, sat in the booth behind me. I know what they looked like because I checked them out when I got up to pay my bill. Here’s what I heard (names have been changed):
Younger fella: [in a thick, Southern accent where one-syllable words are spoken in two syllables – like “cah-aHd” for “card”]: I’ll tell ya’, that ole gal’s running that card game in [tiny town in rural Franklin County] three days a week now. All ‘dem boys is gettin’ in on that game. 7-card game.
Older fella: Nah. Nah. Count me out. I ain’t gettin’ in trouble with the old lady. No cards for me. Not anymore.
Younger fella: That Tommy is a crazy sumbitch when he’s drunk. And he always loses when he gets to drinking. I won $3,000 last Thursday night ‘cause he was hitting that bottle. Had been all week. I don’t know when he ain’t drunk lately. [Pauses, looking at the menu]. I’ll be damned if they ain’t added some new things on the menu. Chicken-fried steak…clam strips…Nah, I want my usual, them chicken livers.
Older fella: I’m getting the chicken and dumplings. That’s always good.
Waitress comes over to their table. She’s tall and scrawny, a very weathered-looking 21 or 22, chewing gum, white-frosted, stringy, mouse-brown hair pulled up in a bun, and quite possibly, hidden under her purple t-shirt, a tattoo sprawled across her lower-back consisting of a shaky galaxy of stars, hearts and/or butterflies or maybe the word “Slipknot” or “Carolina Panthers” with the team logo.
Waitress: Whatch’all boys having to eat today? Tommy [Editor’s note: This Tommy is not to be confused with the drunken Tommy, you know – the one who turns into a sumbitch when he gets drunk] I know you. You want them chicken livers.
Tommy [to the old man]: What did I tell you, Ed? This little gal knows what I like. [guffaws in a suggestive way] I like a gal who knows what I want.
Ed: I want the chicken and dumplings….ummm….no….get me that catfish with fries and hushpuppies.
Waitress: I gotcha. It’ll be out in a little while. [she walks away]
Tommy: That lil’ gal is ripe for it. Just like her momma used to always be. And I gave it to her more than a couple times. Her mamma, I mean.
Ed: What’s her name, our waitress?
Tommy: I can’t remember, known her since she was little. But her momma, now, you know her. Donna. Used to be Donna Jackson.
Ed: Oh yeah. I remember her. Well, I remember hearing about her. She married that Phelps boy.
Tommy: Yep, Jimmy Phelps. He plays cards with us, too. You know, I read in the paper today that that ole’ boy ain’t paid his taxes. But he’s up at that trailer every week playing cards like he’s got money to spend. I feel bad for him though. He had to put his momma in that nursing home and it’s costing him an arm and a leg. But three people stopped by my store today and told me they saw Jimmy’s name in the paper for not paying his taxes.
Ed: People love to tell you bad news when it ain’t about them, don’t they?
Tommy: You damn right. You know, I saw Jimmy kick his dog one night. He had brought that dog of his, a yellow retriever, up to the card game and Jimmy was drunk as hell and he was losing all his money. And that dog kept whining at his feet and he kicked that dog so hard I thought he’d killed him. I’m gone tell you one thing you don’t do around me and that’s hurt a dog. Jimmy nearly got his ass beat that night. We made him go home after that. Kick no dog around me.
Ed: Nah, ain’t no call for hurting a dog. That’s unconditional love right there. Cain’t expect that kinda loyalty from people, I’ll tell ya’ that much.
Tommy: You know, Lou Ray won $2,200 that same night and he don’t never win. I still think he was cheatin’ somehow. You cain’t trust a single one of them in that whole family.
Ed: His daddy won’t no good. And none of his boys are. They’re all trying to find a way to make a dollar off you, whether it’s to your good or not. And it’s never to another man’s good, I can tell you that much.
By this point, I had eaten all of my food and needed to go ahead and go the counter and pay the check. As I stood up, I accidentally pushed the booth seat back into Tommy’s booth seat behind me. I apologized to him and he smiled.
Tommy: Aw, purdy girl, I thought you was just getting fresh with me.
Angela: I never get fresh before 5 p.m.
Tommy: Whoo, girl [he gives a low whistle] call me at 5:01 then.
Angela: [laughs out loud]
As I walked outside, I thought about going back inside and asking Tommy if I could go to a card game at the trailer with him some time. But I figured he’d think I was ripe for it. So I let it go and went back to work.
by Angela Perez
Ah, what ARE women like me (who are obsessed with scuba diving) looking for in a man other than him possessing a working penis, all of his teeth, a job, and a strong stroke?
Well, I’ll tell you.
This conversation happened between me and a co-worker at some half-assed Mexican restaurant (you know the kind, where they feature $5.99 specials called Speedy Gonzalez 1, 2, 3 and so on. And each dish tastes exactly the same but satisfies a craving so you go and eat half a pound of two day-old chips and shell out 8 bucks total plus tip for the waiter who is wearing too much Drakkar Noir and wonder why you put yourself through this mediocrity every 3 or 4 weeks.)
My co-worker, who is in her mid-30s and has been married for 10 years and has 2 children, asked me this, “So Angela, do you think you’ll find the one any time soon?”
“Find the one what?” I asked, reaching for one of the stale chips.
“You know,” she said, “the man you’ll marry.”
“You know that I believe marriage is for the weak,” I said. “You and your husband excluded.” (I just said that to pacify her. I actually count her in that bunch.)
“Oh, Angela, there’s a wonderful man out there who will make you want to run down the aisle.”
“Maybe,” I replied. I tried the guacamole. “Good Lord,” I exclaimed, “I think they put shredded jicama in this. It’s incredible!” I dipped my spoon in for another try. They had indeed put jicama in guacamole. A revelation.
“You’re avoiding the topic,” she said. “So, how about this. Tell me who your ideal man is.”
“I honestly don’t know,” I said. The waiter came back to ask us how everything was even though we hadn’t gotten our food yet. The acrid smell of his cologne was actually clinging to the back of my throat, ruining the joy of jicama. Suddenly I recalled that the first time I ever had sex was with a boy wearing Drakkar and we were listening to a Metallica cassette on his boom box.
“Okay,” she said, not giving up, “let’s do this. Tell me what you absolutely don’t want in a man.”
“Hmmm…okay, that I can come up with,” I said, dipping a chip in the salsa.
“Yayyy!” she squealed, daintily clapping her hands. “Finally. So name five things quick – without even thinking about it. Aaaaand…GO!”
“So. One. I could never date a man who suggested that for a first date we eat at Olive Garden. Or any chain restaurant. I could never date a man who regularly wears golf shirts and khaki pants with pleats in them. Men should never wear pants with pleats in them. Flat front only. Wait – do those two items of clothing count as two reasons? He’s got to love to get in the ocean – swim, snorkel, dive, I don’t care. But he has to want the water as much as I do. Hmmm…also, I could never date a man who wears Y-front white underwear. Gotta wear boxer shorts or even just let your balls and dick swing in the wind. Oh, and I like nice, solid forearms. My favorite part of a man’s body. Oh and one more, I could never date a man who thinks getting a group together to get on one of those Trolley Pubs in downtown Raleigh would be a fun thing to do.”
[Trolley Pubs are found in larger cities across the U.S. They are these rolling pubs (like a giant bicycle) where up to 14 people get on and sit around a bar-in-the-round and each person pedals as they troll through the streets of downtown, drinking beer and going from pub to pub. Their revelry combined with the flashing light decorations make it the most annoying sight and sound imaginable.]
“Oh my God,” she said, frowning. She let out a sigh. “I was thinking more along the lines of you naming certain qualities like if he was a Republican or is obsessed with sports. Which I know neither of those is okay with you.”
“Those are two good ones to add to the list actually,” I said. Wow, I didn’t know she knew me that well.
She shook her head. “You are going to die alone. You can’t be so specific. One guy isn’t going to have everything.”
“I know that,” I said. “Okay, I can maybe let go of most of those except for the ocean part. It’s fundamental to what I think about, how I look at the world. I cannot get around someone not wanting to be in or near the ocean.”
“What if he doesn’t like the ocean but had a lot of money and treated you like a queen?”
“I’d rather die than concede,” I said. “Power never concedes without a demand.
“What does that even mean?” she asked.
“I don’t actually know.” I looked around, weary of the conversation and of, particularly, myself. “Where the hell is my Speedy Gonzalez number 12?”
“Do you really even truly know what you want?”
“Yes,” I answered carefully, “I want a man muscled in flame and who sweats kindness and intellect and who is funny and who will burn me to the ground causing me the exact opposite of harm.”
She rolled her eyes at me and nodded towards the approaching waiter. “Okay. Whatever. Our food is here.”
“Good,” I said. “Great.” And I threw down on that Speedy Gonzales like the good little single Mexican gal I am.
If you’re wondering where to dine “authentically” while visiting the Outer Banks, you gotta eat at Darrell’s in Manteo, a simple place that’s been serving up simple fried, baked, or broiled seafood to the locals since the 1960s. The place is always packed with leather-faced islanders and a paler, softer species of landlubber from the mainland, all wolfing down fried shrimp, hush puppies, and slaw. Just now, as I pretend to read a William Faulkner book, I overhear one salty old fella waxing poetic in a “Hoi Toider” accent, that beautiful bizarre bastardized British accent still prevalent in parts of northeastern North Carolina. The old man leaned in across the table towards the young man in front of him, a 20-something year-old whose strong able back faces me. “Moi woif droives here from Stumpy Point oivery dai,” he says. Stumpy Point is about 25 miles south of Roanoke Island, in mainland Hyde County. It’s a long, desolate road from there to here, people. I ain’t kidding neither.
Old man says to the waitress:”Oi want froied oi-sters. Puddem’ in that hot grease for two minutes. And that’s it. I want them oi-sters squealing. And I want slaw and froid okra.”
The waitress grabs the menus from their hands. She looks to be in her 50s, the kind of weathered ole’ island gal who can balance a baby on her hip, a cigarette on her lips, and give a fisherman a hand job. The old man informs the young man as to where to find good BBQ. “There’s none down here on the oi-land. Gotta go to Wilson.” He is, I would venture to guess, referring to Parker’s BBQ.
He tells a joke: “I met a sailor from Siberia. At making love he was inferior. He met a nun, and gave her some that was good enough to make her a Mother Superior.” He roars with laughter.
All the folks in the restaurant seem to know one another and talk across the tables. All have the unique accent, so preserved from a couple hundred years of isolation and hard toil in this country of half-land, half-water. Hard living crabbers and fisherman, these people are a dying breed. But you can still find it in northeastern NC if you stay off the actual beaches of the Outer Banks where hundreds of overweight tourists roll around in the sand while their yapping and miserable terriers burn up in the sun.
The old man’s now discussing the wonders of collard greens as he pops fried okra into his mouth with his fingers. He says, “My buddy Joe swallows collard greens and fat back like a damn hoingry hog. You got to en-joi collard greens slow. It’s a sight to see, that man eating collard greens.” They eat in silence for a minute or two.
He adds nonchalantly, “His kin folks are that mortician who was cutting people’s heads off.”
“Oh, yeah, I heard about that,” mumbled the son-in-law, giving up on eating his burger in peace and quiet. I just now glance directly at the old man and we make eye-contact over his lunch partner’s shoulder. His eyes are full and blue and set deeply in a million leathered wrinkles and he smiles at me. He then glances down at his okra and says, “That Joe eats collard greens like a vacuum cleaner.” He pauses. “Stonewall Jackson was one of the best confederate generals we ever had. I just got a book about him for Christmas from my daughter. Your wife.”
The younger man doesn’t respond, but holds up his empty beer bottle to the waitress, “Hey, get another Bud for the stud.” She laughs. It’s the laugh of a life-long smoker.
I finish my iced tea and prepare to leave, feeling sad in the sedate knowledge that I will never hear of Joe the Collard Eater or the murderous mortician again.
As I’m putting on my coat, the pair is asked by the waitress to give one of the dishwashers for some help. “His car battery is dead. Needs a jump.”
“Well. Woi not,” says the old salty dawg, “Sure thing. He’s a good enough fella. Come on son. Finish that beer quick-like.”
“Yes sir,” he says, guzzling down the beer.
The old man stops in front of me and taps me on the shoulder and says, “You are one purdy woman. I mean it.”
And just like that, he walked out of my life forever.
Black folks, those illegal Mexicans you hate and the rural Christian academies of eastern N.C.: Long live the U.S.of A.!
by Angela Perez
There are no race problems in eastern North Carolina! Who told you there were? Those fanatics were pulling your leg, my friend, because black, white and Mexicans living Down East do indeed all still eat at the same Chinese buffet and cash their checks at the same banks. Though, some are cashing welfare checks but, hell, somebody always is abusing the system, ain’t they?
But let’s just pretend, for a moment, the rumours WERE true. That the rabble-rousing nay-sayers had a point. If we go down that road, well, I suppose you could say that in the sometimes tense racial environment characterizing much of life in rural eastern North Carolina, there is a phenomenon that endlessly yet subtly fuels tension: it is called the private rural “Christian academy”. But, like I said, those glum and laughable tales are way off the mark.
Those little Christian academies are an important part of rural life! These tin-roofed meccas of private kindergarten-through-high school education are typically funded and sponsored by the wealthy white farmers working the land around places like Buzzard’s Cross and Todd’s Crossroads and Jernigan’s Ridge and their families have worked that rich land and killed hogs for generations. The schools usually support about 50 – 150 students tops and there is a delightful Christian element to daily learning that ensures not only will the children not have to be exposed to the shenanigans and general immoral attitude of black folks and Mexicans, but also the Lord Jesus will live in their hearts until they are called home to heaven.
These hearty, salt-of-the-earth folks and their kids don’t generally know many black folks since they live in the rural parts of N.C., areas most of the the black people fled right after these farmers’ great-great grandfathers freed them from those happy-go-lucky days of slavery. The wealthy male farmers, unfortunately, are still exposed to Mexicans since they employ many hundreds of them under the table to work the land, but the farmers make sure that the lewd and over-sexed Mexicans never come up to the big house for supper or lay eyes on their plump and delicious pale-skinned wives or the gentle blonde curls of their daughters. Luckily, on the weekends, when Mexicans are swarming the rural countryside, the farmers’ wives and daughters are over at the mall in Raleigh, shopping for cute tops and nice bedding at Macy’s. Such a fancy store and there’s always a 60% off sale on something!
Nowadays the only negroes they have to abide are those two they show on the Fox Network news channel all the time, that Obama and his uppity wife, I think they call her Flotus or something (black people name their children the craziest names and it’s been proven that those African names like Flotus can keep those children from being successful later in life). If you look into the sky over eastern North Carolina, you can see all the wisps and clouds of earnest prayer, billowing up to the heavens, entreating Jesus and his father, God, to hurry up with the day they get those communists of color out of office and return to the good ole’ days when black people knew their place and Mexicans who did slip over the border were sent back home packing, that is, unless they worked in the fields for low wages or learned English and could make good tamales and salsa.
So back to the phenomenon of “Christian academies” that pepper the landscape in eastern N.C. These bastions of pure and higher learning cost a few thousand a year and they are a wonderful enclave of white happiness and erudition where darker skin colors and sin don’t interfere with the 21st century like it does elsewhere. No ebonics or baggy pants here! No Mexican boys trying to kick those hideous soccer balls around on our pretty baseball field! No Mexican girls with coconut oil in their hair and short Old Navy skirts trying to rape our freckled boys! Once in a while, a wealthy family falls on hard times and the child or children must leave the sweet confines of the academy and attend public school. Public school kids, those irascible hoodlums, often take great joy in the misfortune of these once-pampered white folks, but, having good Southern manners, they don’t say much about it to their faces.
Here on these Christian campuses, white doves are released every morning after prayer time and the girls still wear pink Espirit sweaters and Izod turtlenecks and the boys still wear white Don Johnson blazers, with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows. When the women graduate, they are gifted 50 pounds of fat, which adheres to their middle-sections and thighs and they are granted a short haircut that’s full on the top and adorned with lovely white frosted tips. They then have 2 white babies and attend a nearby church. They still have rarely seen black people or Mexicans except at the grocery stores, which, for some reason, even in this day and time, are neither private nor overseered by wealthy local farmers.
Ah! These elite academies prepare some of the the farmers’ kids for college! Many, alas, are not ready for their exposure to knuckleheads from India and China and Africa once they hit the university grounds. So, many will go to local universities, like East Carolina University or UNC-Wilmington, or Pitt Community College, mainly so they can rush home on the weekends and get away from the liberal, hawkish sinners of the world, especially the gay ones who walk around campus holding hands. “It’s hell on Earth, mamma!” sob the farmers’ daughters who, alas, haven’t found husbands on campus because those gay men keep sticking their cocks where they don’t belong! So, they rush back to the farm on Friday evenings after their last class and eat homemade fried chicken, collard greens, and biscuits and swill sweet tea, each lovely girl dreaming of that rosy-cheeked, well-to-do rural boy who will sweep her in his strong arms, make love to her, and whisper sweet promises that she will never, ever have to hold down a job or career of her own. Or, at the very most, she’ll have to keep the accounting books for the local church, but only part-time.
The wealthy farmers’ kids who don’t get swept up in worldly desires and liberal values while away at college, usually, finally return home, or at least end up living in the “big city” that is closest to the farm, in places called Plymouth or Williamston, or New Bern or Rocky Mount. Armed with their college degree, they become the heads of local banks or pharmacists or open a car dealership. Since some of their biggest customers are, in fact, black people and Mexicans, they develop an easy camaraderie with them (as long as they don’t rob their stores!), but they still don’t want their children commingling with poor folks of any color, because poor folks are always up to no good. So they continue to send their children to the elite country academy, even though nowadays that sometimes means having to drive an extra 30 – 45 minutes to get to the school instead of back in the day when attendees lived within a five-mile radius. But sometimes, my friends, you have to use up a lot of gas and have patience if you want to preserve those sweet, good old days!
That’s about it for now folks. So, here’s to the private Christian academy and the good work they do to keep our Southern values afloat and alive. Somebody has to do the hard work, and they know it mustn’t be those lazy black folks or illegal aliens who, for the love of Christ, don’t even bother to learn to speak English and are always driving drunk with no license. No, this work must be done by God-fearing white people in big strong trucks, because that’s what made America what it is today! Viva la U.S.A.! Ooops – I’ve got to speak English if I’m going to be living on this glorious soil. Long live the U.S.A.!
What I use Facebook for, people who get upset with other peoples’ posts, and your reasons for being on social media
Recently, a friend of mine was “scolded” by her morally upright friends and family for some of her “wild” Facebook posts – photos of her drinking and smoking. They warned her that the world would think terribly of her and that she must stick to posting photos of her latest bowl of pho and of the autumn leaves changing. That she was being perceived as a wild slut. Also, I’ve seen a lot of posts from friends lately who are so upset by Facebook that they are going to have to check out for a while. Here’s what I’m thinking about all of this:
I view social media as a form of self-expression – a way for me to be completely open, honest, and transparent. And at the same time, I am able to mold and shape that self-expression in an artistic and thoughtful way that is still honest. My posts are a way to combine reality and art in a public forum. It’s a grand thing really, to be able to do this. Social media is catharsis for me. That’s why I am careful about who I friend – I don’t friend co-workers or family or people I think would not understand the extremes of my personality or self-expression. They will easily misconstrue my posts. The people who respond to my posts negatively or judgementally or argumentatively, I delete them.
I see people, and this happens to me sometimes too, getting frustrated and upset their experience with Facebook or the responses to their posts. Anything you see from me on social media is a true expression of me and where my head is at that moment – or I wouldn’t have posted it. I’ve had phases where I eschewed selfies and I’ve had phases where I posted a lot of selfies. And I am sure there have been some who have been irritated by my “selfie” phase. I post a lot of photos of my dog. (If you are ever irritated by dog photos we weren’t meant to be friends anyway.)
There are a lot of posts of me going to shows and of me out on the town with friends and a lot of posts of me drinking gin and and about sex and men and even sometimes smoking and partying. Of me traveling the world to snorkel, swim, and scuba dive. Because that’s my lifestyle. If I posted something else, it wouldn’t be honest. It wouldn’t be me. My posts aren’t to celebrate self-destruction or self-glorification. Jesus Christ, I ain’t 12 years old. No my posts are part of my free and single lifestyle – the way I am currently choosing to live my life.
My posts reflect what is happening in my life – the good, the bad and the ugly. If I was always knitting and baking cookies or had a baby, well, you’d see endless photos and posts about that. But I don’t do those things. No, I go to shows. I love heavy metal. I drink gin. I swim and dive. I read a lot. I love Russian literature and Japanese and Chinese film. I am in the dating scene right now. I am getting laid now and again. I like to write. I have the sense of humor of a perverted 15-year-old boy sometimes. This is who I am. And my social media activity reflects that and is a lens for those activities and ideologies.
I love my family. And I love my friends. But at the end of the day, it’s my fucking life. And I cannot and will never let anyone dictate what I do or how I do it. In fact, unlike my girl friend, I cannot even fathom what I express about myself on social media being an issue. If one of my family members or friends told me that my posts were too “wild” or “immoral,” well, once I stopped laughing I would tell them to go fuck themselves. Period. Then don’t look at my posts. Delete me. Unfollow me.
I’m going to express myself however the fuck I want to. And the type of people I am friends with, for the most part, are eccentric, creative, wild, free, artistic, have similar interests, etc. and understand what I am doing with social media. Those people do similar things, and many of you fascinate and entertain me on a daily basis. (Also, I need social media to keep track of the shows I want to see and where I want to dive next.) So many of you have similar lifestyles. Or, maybe you have settled down, but HAD a similar lifestyle and you understand what I am expressing. It’s funny, when I go out, most nights, there’s always someone who comes up to me and mentions how much they enjoy the things I share and express on Facebook. And although in no way do I need validation for any fucking thing I do, it makes me feel good that somehow my self-expression meant something to someone else – high brow or low brow. I like knowing that what I put out in the world makes someone else feel good. Or better. And, okay, at the end of the day, social media is a purely self-indulgent, selfish, giving, and sharing exercise for me – and I am fascinated by how words and photos manifest those states of being, of thinking. The process of the ego and the id in the world.
What is social media for if it’s not to be a true expression of who you are? No, no, no – it can never be a full expression. But what is? It’s not possible. I’ve thought long and hard about this. We’re in a new era of sharing and understanding ourselves in relation to one another – now through this bizarre lens that isn’t going away. You may say, but we’re not supposed to KNOW that much about one another.
Social media may evolve or morph, but it’s not going away. If you don’t use it to parse out and create something that is utterly true to who you are, what’s the fucking point? Social media is indeed, in 2019, an extension of ourselves. Deny it all you want. But it is. It’s a new way to connect and communicate with the folks around us and friends far away. People we’ve never met or didn’t know before. In fact, there are people in Raleigh I’ve known through going out for over 10 years and I’ve learned more about them through Facebook than I ever did before and cultivated deeper friendships based on some of the information I found out which piqued my interest.
I use social media to express my psyche – insight for myself and those around me. And the psyche is not a clean, ordered, moral place. It is the opposite of that. And people who claim to constantly live in a clean, ordered and moral place or who care about how perfect their lives look to other people, well, I don’t want or need those people in my life. It’s not honest. It’s not genuine. And I want to live genuinely. The noble and the cowardly. The high brow and the low brow. The cool and the absolute idiocy. The wise decisions and the really stupid, dumbass shit. And everything in between. And I want to express it through this incredible medium – through articulation I come to understand myself and the world around me better. If you construct your life in a way that leaves the worst out, then I’m not being honest. And that is not a life that I am going to live. Ever.
By Angela Perez
Me and my dog Tater are in the back woods of Tyrrell County near historic Somerset Plantation, slicing through that ancient silence along the Scuppernong River, the morning sunlight glinting like diamonds on the black velvet waters. I slam on brakes and the car jerks to a stop, flinging Tater into the dashboard. There in front of the car is a mangy brown dog staring down a giant turkey buzzard, both angling to devour the carcass of a squashed snapping turtle there in the middle of the road.
I roll down my windows and listen to the starving dog growl and edge closer to the dead body. The buzzard stands his ground, flexing the broad expanse of his wings ever so often. I hear a voice to the left of me.
“Now that’s a fight right there,” said a withered old black man sidling up to my window. I looked around me trying to see from what nearby house he must have emerged from. I saw nothing around me but miles of plowed fields dissected by black water canals. “You know slaves dug those canals to connect that river to that plantation down the road,” he said. “They worked them men ’til they wore clean out and if they died while they was diggin’ they got left right where they died. Ain’t even bury ’em.” He whistled at the stray dog. “You better come away from that buzzard Mr. Dog,” he said, “he’s gonna tear your ass up when he finally gets mad.” He looked at me. “You know there’s slave bones in them ditches. They come up some nights and talk to me. Tell me things.”
He patted the side of my Jeep, “Watch out for that ole’ buzzard.” He turned around and walked back down the road behind us. I looked ahead and the dog was chewing on the turtle’s head and the bird had flown away. I looked in the rear view mirror. The old man was nowhere to be seen.
by Angela Perez
After a late afternoon meeting yesterday, I found myself in the aspiring-to-be-well-heeled neighborhood of Five Points in Raleigh. The poor denizens of this neighborhood actually are only playing at being well-heeled and dream of power. The actual truly well-heeled old-school money part of Raleigh is further west, past Oberlin Road. Over there in that pristine and quiet neighborhood are massive old homes that look stately but not in that cloying drafty Southern mansion kind of way. And the homes don’t look expensive in that depressing pre-fab, recently built, 5,000-square foot cookie-cutter bullshit kind of way (people who came from nothing tend to think the new development homes near new golf courses are the pinnacle of class. But the middle-class is not known for their sense of aesthetics, are they? That class tends to spawn unimaginative women who think Dooney & Bourke, Coach, and Michael Kors pocketbooks are the epitome of style. These women like to go to outlet malls so they can live a little fancier than their pocketbook actually allows.)
A lot of the still-active elderly men of power in Raleigh live in these homes with their wives, women who have never had to work but who have expended a lot of effort in book clubs, cooking for the Episcopal Church bake sales, and on near-by tennis courts. Many of these women enrolled in the English department at the private all-women Meredith College in the 1960s and 1970s, not really to study Hemingway but mostly to land a soon-to-be wealthy husband from across the street at N.C. State or maybe as far afield as Carolina. Even into the 90s, many of these Meredith women would quit school once they had achieved their ultimate dream, to be engaged.
These clever gray-haired Southern couples often entertain their visiting adult sons who arrive from northern Virginia or Maryland each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas in shiny Lexus SUVs with shiny wives who inevitably sport J. Crew puffy vests and Ralph Lauren riding boots. The grandchildren are usually enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill, Georgetown, or the University of Virginia (but not Duke University since no Southerners actually go there).
Ah, but enough about the fine neighborhood near my afternoon meeting!
It was after 5 o’clock and I didn’t want to brave the mind-numbing traffic crawl up Capital Boulevard to go home so I decided to have dinner at a restaurant that is a favorite among the well-heeled elderly crowd – Bloomsbury Bistro. A lot of my hip foodie friends in Raleigh call this a fancy restaurant for old geezers. And, yes, there is some truth to that. I arrived just as the restaurant opened at 5:30 and already there were nicely dressed couples and groups of 4 arriving, the majority somewhere in the vicinity of 70 years of age.
These people were happy when they arrived, laughing and smiling and joking with the waiters, bar tenders and host staff. Because they all know one another well. They and their friends eat here regularly and the food is good, fairly expensive, and comfortable. This is the kind of restaurant where elderly regulars think nothing of coming in two or three times during the week to have salmon or a N.Y. Strip and a good bottle of wine and a drop of whisky and dropping around $120 per meal.
Here’s the thing though. A restaurant like this will never go out of business. These people are fiercly loyal and the food is solid. These people will never defect to the zillions of hip, foodie-culture restaurants opening up downtown (and trust me, the competition in Raleigh is stiff – this town is home to an incredible and varied food scene that’s evolving every day).
But enough about food and old people. Let’s get to what you came here for: what I overheard some younger married couples discussing while I ate my own dinner. Yes, there were some younger couples in their 30s and 40s also in attendance. And, lucky for me, they were nearby.
There is nothing more depressing than the conversation between a married couple as they decide what they want for dinner.
Scene: Couple is seated in front of me. I am majorly eavesdropping, pretending to be deeply engrossed in my New York Review of Books which I actually can’t even read because the light is too dim.
30-something husband: Oh, man, wow. Look at this for an appetizer. (he reads aloud slowly): “Damascus style spiced lamb confit pie in puff pastry with hummus coulis, crispy chick peas, Greek yogurt and mint tabbouleh.” God, that sounds good, don’t you think?
30-something wife: No, it sounds heavy. Puff pastry and lamb. That’s a meal. That’s not an appetizer.
Husband: Yeah, but it sound delicious.
Wife: Yes, but not as an appetizer. If you get that, you don’t need an entrée.
Husband. Why don’t I get that as my entrée then?
Wife: Because I don’t want the lamb and I wanted to try whatever you got for an entrée.
[Waiter arrives and asks if they’d had time to look at the wine menu. They had not. So they open up the wine menu. Waiter leaves.]
Husband: Do I want wine or whisky?
Wife: Let’s get wine. Something red.
Husband: Oh, this looks good. This one from Chile.
Wife: No, I’ve had that one. I want to try something new.
Husband: But did you like the one from Chile?
Wife: Yes, but I want something new.
Husband: Buy why not get something you know you’ll like?
Wife: [Wife sighs VERY deeply. Within that sigh was contained all of her disappointment in the man sitting across from her. The sigh was deepened because he probably failed to get her off last night so she had to fake an orgasm or at least fake how much she enjoyed their 20 minutes of love making. She also may be sighing over the fact that his penis is only about 5 inches long and she once had a one-night stand with a guy in a shitty band who had a 10-inch dick and she knows she’ll never get to see or feel anything like that ever again. No, she is stuck with this 5-inch penis forever.]
Husband: Never mind. Get what you want. I’ll drink anything.
Wife: Let’s get this Lang & Reed.
Husband: That’s $59!
Wife: So? If it’s good, it’s worth it.
Husband: Why get a wine we don’t know if we’ll like that costs so much? Let’s just do it by the glass.
Wife: Why don’t we just get a bottle? I really need it. I’ve had long day today.
Husband: Okay. But it better be good.
Wife: I still don’t know what I want for my entrée. I wonder what’s gluten-free.
Husband: Don’t ask the waiter that.
Wife: Why? Why not?
Husband: Because this is a nice restaurant. They don’t do gluten-free. Do you see that adjective anywhere on the menu?
Wife: He won’t care. Lots of people eat gluten-free. I’m sure he’s used to being asked.
Husband: Oh, man, listen to this. (he reads from the menu) “Chicken and dumplings: Skillet roasted breast of organic chicken over Southern style pastry noodles with pulled thigh meat gravy, grilled asparagus and Cherrywood smoked bacon.” Sounds good for $24.95.
Wife: Ugh. It sounds heavy. Why don’t you try the pork tenderloin? That sounds delicious.
Husband: I don’t want that. I’m not in the mood for pork.
Wife: But you’re in the mood for lamb?
Husband: They aren’t the same meat.
Wife: How about this, the Scottish salmon?
Husband: I don’t want fish.
[Waiter comes back to take the wine order. They get the Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc 2010, a delightful wine from Napa Valley, California. Wife is happy. Husband is irritated by price tag and lack of knowledge of how much joy it actually brings. Also, he is still plagued by a vague suspicion that his wife was faking it last night. But then again, who cares? He got off and slept soundly. A good night, all in all.]
Husband: What about the calves liver?
Wife: It comes with bitter greens. You hate greens.
Husband: I do? Yeah, I guess I do.
Wife: I feel like such an adult. We made reservations tonight. We never make reservations at a restaurant.
Husband: We didn’t need to make reservations. Nobody is here. It’s not even 6 o’clock on a Thursday night.
Wife: Yeah, but don’t you think it makes eating out more exciting when you make reservations?
Husband: I guess. So I’ve decided. I’m definitely getting the chicken and pastry.
Wife: Well, I ‘m not trying it then. THAT is definitely NOT gluten-free.
Husband: Good. More for me. I’ll get a dessert you like.
Wife: Oooo…I wonder what’s on the dessert menu? Should we go ahead and look?
Husband: You do know that nothing on the dessert menu is gluten-free, don’t you?
Wife: Who cares? I need something sweet. I told you. I had a bad day at work.
Husband: Seems like a bad day at work makes it convenient for you to not be gluten-free.
Wife: [wife sighs deeply again]
[Waiter comes. Husband orders chicken and pastry and wife orders the pork tenderloin. They then spend the rest of the meal each regaling the other with tales about their jobs and the people at those jobs who are annoying. The annoying people from their jobs were infinitely more interesting than this couple.]
I think to myself at the moment they order that right now, everywhere across Raleigh, across America in fact, husbands are reading aloud menu items and then unnecessarily reading aloud the full descriptions and wives are telling them why that’s not a good choice. And these conversations all occur in monotone voices, though the wives’ responses are oft tinged with minor irritation. I still think some of that irritation is directly related to the husband’s penis size, though even large penises get old when attached to the same man year in and year out.
Ah! But all was not lost…something wonderful happened as I started in on my [Angela is reading aloud to you]: “Short rib Les Halles: Boneless Black Angus beef ribs over caramelized French onion broth with asparagus, cave-aged Gruyere cheese, buttered croutons and a splash of Oloroso Sherry $26.95.”
by Angela Perez
Bored of listening in on the youngish couple’s private and dreary dinner conversation, I leaned in to the tiny print of my New York Review of Books. It was an article about the soulless Putin and his damaging impact on the European economy. Dammit! The light in the restaurant was simply too dim to allow for reading. With nothing else to distract me, I was going to be forced to listen to these two knuckleheads for the rest of meal. I held up one of the tiny votive candles and moved it in close to the page. The yellow flickering gave me a headache but less of a headache than hearing a moderately attractive woman emasculate a rather handsome man by trying to force him into a meat choice.
“I am not going to listen in on other people’s private conversations,” I thought. “It’s just plain wrong. People should feel safe and secure in their stultifyingly boring tête-à-têtes. This is America! I am not Putin! I am not the KGB of bloggers!”
Alas, my dubious resolve to honor privacy in order to gather material for my blog was dissolved when right there next to me, almost on top of me, was seated an elderly couple, the two looked to be in their late 70s. The old man had on a cream sweater vest and brown corduroy suit jacket with blue suede elbow patches. He had been quite tall once, but was now slightly stooped over and wobbly on his feet. She had on her finest cashmere Christmas sweater, a baggy red number dotted with white wool snowflakes. The host had obviously met the pair many times. “So good to have you both back! Merry Christmas,” he said, clasping his well-manicured hands together. Though rather stiff and snooty in that fancy-restaurant host kind of way, he seemed genuinely pleased to see these adorable old folks. He scurried away to an anxious party of eight huddled in the foyer.
“Honey,” she said matter-of-factly, “you’d better go to the bathroom before we get started.”
“That’s true,” he said, “while I’m gone, you know what to do, my dear.”
“You could say that,” she said.
After a while, a waiter came over to take her drink order. “I’d like a Ballantine’s. 12. Neat. And, oh, any ole’ merlot will do.”
By the time her husband came back to the table, the drinks were in place. “Scotch, you shouldn’t have,” he said, taking forever to actually connect his rear end to the chair. “Well, Emily, let’s get started.”
“Well, John, that sounds nice,” she said.
From out of his blazer her produced a present, wrapped in red paper. No bow. “Here you are. To 47 incredible years. We probably won’t get 47 more but that’s how life is.”
She slowly unwrapped the present. Very slowly. It was driving me nuts. I wanted to know what he’d given her. I was eavesdropping harder than I ever had in my life. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “a book. A journal. You made this!”
“I did,” he said proudly, “I made the cover, the paper, and bound it myself. Now you can write every day about what a wonderful husband and lover I am.” He held up his Scotch and winked at her. I could see him because he was sitting diagonally from me. She was sitting next to me so I didn’t know what her facial expression was.
“Oh, John, don’t be foolish,” she said. “It’s lovely. Just lovely.”
“And one more thing,” he said. “For one full year, I will pay for any books you order from Amazon. No matter how many.”
“That will come out to be a princely sum. You sure about that?”
“As sure as I was the day I married you,” he said. They clinked glasses.
“How sure were you the day after you married me?” she asked.
By God, these two, rounding 80 years of age and flirting shamelessly. Wonderful.
She pulled his present from her purse. It was wrapped in the same red paper. Though he had a touch of the tremors in his arthritic hands, he ripped off the paper quickly. “Frank Sinatra CDs! You know what I like!”
“I ought to after all this time.” They clinked glasses again. “That’s all you get,” she said. “And you’re paying for dinner. I love you.”
“Sounds about right. Order my usual.” The waiter arrived as though on cue.
“He’ll have the steak. Rare. I’ll have the salmon. Thanks.”
I finished off my coffee. I’d finished my meal ages ago and had already paid the bill.
“Happy anniversary,” I said to the couple as I stood to go.
“Why thank you,” they both said at the same time.
“I have to ask,” I said, picking up my purse, “how many books a year do you order from Amazon?”
She beamed. “Two or three a week. I can’t live without books.”
“She’s an expensive broad to keep,” he chimed in.
As I walked to my car, I wondered how one could go about getting married, skip the first 20 or 30 yeas and just get to the good stuff there at the end. My marriage notions got a lot of clarification that night at Bloomsbury Bistro. And I figured maybe it ain’t all that bad all the time. Wait, what am I saying? Sure it is. Damn those charming old folks.
I needed hot fried chicken last night. Real bad. So, while I was at the Bojangles drive-thru waiting on my order and I could hear the two stoned-as-fuck guys behind me ordering (they were on the loud speaker):
Stoned driver ordering: Rice. Gimme rice.
Bojangles worker: Sprite?
BW: Fries? …
Driver: Rice!! RICE! Gimme all your dirty rice.
Stoned passenger to driver: Man, I’m the highest I have ever been at a Bojangles.
Driver: Shut the FUCK up, I’m ordering.
Passenger: Get me some mac and cheese.
Driver: No way man. Last time you got that shit all over my fucking truck. You’re getting fries.
Passenger: I’m high and I know what I want. End of story. There’s a big difference in fries and macaroni and cheese.
Driver: Not when you’re wasted as fuck and riding in MY truck.
Alas, dear reader, my order came all too soon and I had to pull away. So much wonderfulness all around us if we just pay attention while getting hot fried chicken.
Yesterday marked 45 days without cigarettes or alcohol. It’s hard for me to believe I’m saying this, but I don’t miss it. Even gin’s bright juniper-mist voice falls on deaf ears. It’s like when you finally get rid of a boyfriend you knew was bad for you but you thought you couldn’t live without so you kept at that same tired old ruinous rusted busted emptied-out bone-weary relationship, but once you finally cut the ties and enact a strict no-contact rule, after a while, you wonder why you ever thought you couldn’t live without that person. You shake your head, perplexed, when you examine that disfigured bloody corpse of a horse you both beat into the ground. How did we let our once glorious communion come to such a state as this?
And I’m not saying alcohol and cigarettes are inherently bad. Lord no. They were just bad for ME. And in my new found clarity of soul and unmuffled head, I remembered something that I will advise you to remember:
As one of America’s truest masters of poetry, Galway Kinnell, wrote: