Category Archives: Rage, Death, and Sadness

Sex with idiots, drinking, dark bars, and drugs: why I was wrong to think I could start partying again

Most folks who know me know I quit drinking cold turkey about three and a half years ago.  Back then, my life was one big insane, rollicking, rock and roll party.  And although I was no longer in my 20s and had even left my 30s behind, I was still out in downtown Raleigh most nights trying to carouse like I did back in the day.  The thing was, I wasn’t enjoying the partying any more, not really.  In fact, I was sick of it.  But at that point in my life, I was trying to prove to myself that I still COULD party if I wanted to.  That I had not become some stick-in-the-mud adult, aging out of fun, turning into some lame-ass, follow-the-rules working stiff.  My life surely was still all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Surely.

Jesus, when I look back to that time, my frame of mind about what constituted a good time seems ridiculous now.  I was a hungover shell of myself: waking up sick and nauseous, hooking up with drunk guys I wouldn’t otherwise have given the time of day to if I was sober, overwhelming feelings of depression at the emptiness of the entire lifestyle, scouring through all of the bar tab receipts in my purse to find out how much I spent the night before and exactly what bars we blew through (or wondering which bar I’d left my credit card in or, all too often, walking out without remembering I hadn’t paid my tab).  Looking over at the dude in my bed and thinking, “Oh, Jesus, why did I fuck this moron? I don’t even like him.”  Too many times, the day after partying, I’d be texting and calling friends trying to piece together how the night ended (and often being so damn embarrassed by some of the more wild and ridiculous shenanigans).  The list goes on and on as to why the bar scene and drinking did not work for me.

This summer, while on vacation in the Curacao, I thought I might try to incorporate drinking back into my life.  In small doses.  And, when I got back to Raleigh, to go back to those same bars I used to frequent.  But what I found from that test run is that these places and that drinking made me feel just as empty and sick as before.  More so.  I was trying on a lifestyle that I knew didn’t fit and wasn’t my style, but I was going to try to make it work anyway.  Because, hell, why not?  Maybe I could do it differently this time and just do things in moderation and with some semblance of sense and sanity.  But the alcohol made me more depressed than ever before.  And I went right back to hooking up with idiots and acting like an idiot in the process.  Having conversations I didn’t want to have, talking to people I didn’t even like, being nice to people I didn’t want to be around.  But, dammit, I love the taste of gin.  And I adore wine with good food.  But the fact is, alcohol does not agree with me.  Spirits destroy my spirit.  Alcohol immediately alters my brain and taps into some of my worst impulses or even creates new impulses that serve no purpose but to create negative and dark energy.  For me, alcohol and drugs distort my reason in ways that cause me to make skewed and wrong decisions.  I want to go through life clear headed and with clarity.  And, fuck, achieving either of those is hard enough with out liquor, dope, and negative-energy people mucking up the process. Sure, I can be around people drinking.  But I learned one thing from dabbling with going back to bars:  I do not like being in bars.  I just don’t.  These spaces are not spaces for me and I do not want to go back in them unless I am there specifically to see a show – because I do still love live music.  But no drinking with the rock and roll. So, once again, bar scene, adios and vaya con dios.

Dating, sex, hooking up, whatever, and drinking

I have a lot of demons and a lot of emotional baggage from family experiences, childhood, and certain relationships.  I’ve spent many years of introspection and writing to come out on the other side of all of that trauma to find success in my career and work and to live a life I can be proud of and feel good about.  I absolutely don’t want any kind of drug or liquor altering my thought processes.  And this summer, after hooking up with a few fellas and trying out dating again after a very long hiatus, I was struck by a revelation – I don’t want to date anyone who uses drugs of any kind and I don’t want to date anyone who drinks a lot or who wants to hang out in bars.  I certainly don’t want to be with men my age who are still trying to roll at the club like they are 30.  Hell, I don’t want to date anyone who smokes cigarettes.  I quit and I cannot be around it or I want to light up.  And I absolutely hate the smell of it – smelling it on a dude used to be kind of sexy to me.  Now the smell just makes me nauseous.  I feel terrible even saying that – it feels hypocritical to do so given my history.  But, my journey, however convoluted, has been one towards positive energy and light. Also, I was reminded this summer to listen to my instincts – I hooked up with fellas full of darkness and rage who were masquerading as a good time.  Ladies, don’t blow through the red flags – if a dude seems shady and damaged to you, he is and it ain’t your job to fix him.  And if he hasn’t actively acknowledged how fucked up he is or that he is wallowing in darkness – steer clear.  You cannot and will not save him.  You’ll just go down into the darkness with him.  And if you are drawn to that type of darkness, then you have your own demons to wrestle with.  Don’t let his and your demons join forces – together you both produce a relationship that is the sulfur-spewing spawn of Satan.  Not fun.  Steer clear, baby.  Steer clear.

I have worked hard to leave that old, dark lifestyle behind – and there are too many trigger points lurking in bars and clubs that take me right back to those destructive forces.  This summer, I fell right back into some of that same stupid shit I was doing before that left me so empty and soul-sick.  So, for me, no more bars, no more drunken stupid pointless hookups, no more people who are still rolling in that lifestyle.  I just can’t.  I had to learn the hard way – thinking I could temper my relationship with all that “stuff” – but I can’t.  So, after a bit of dark dabbling these past few months, I am looking back to the light, back to wholeness and healthiness, back to love and positivity.  Finding your happiness is different for everyone, and maybe you find all of this in a bar or club or in your weed and coke or in your pills.  I don’t.  So if you want to hang with me, it’ll be over coffee or roasted oysters or a hot bowl of ramen at a Japanese noodle house or on a back deck sipping lemonade.

The party ain’t over folks.  Far from it.  I’ve just changed the venue, refreshments menu, guest list, and theme.

Leaving behind the dark side of life (and the people who inhabit that place)

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:

  1. Work you’re good at
  2. Work that helps others
  3. Engaging work that lets you enter a state of flow (freedom, variety, clear tasks, feedback)
  4. Supportive colleagues
  5. A job that meets your basic needs, like fair pay, short commute and reasonable hours
  6. A job that fits your personal life
  7. Most importantly, focus on getting good at something that helps others.”

I swear to God, people, it works.

7-card stud, fried catfish, and girls who are ripe for Southern dick

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.

That mortician who chopped a man’s head off: one afternoon at Darrell’s on Roanoke Island

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.

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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.

I disagree.

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.

 

On slaves’ bones and turkey buzzards

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.

Destroying What You Love: on quitting liquor and smokes for 45 days

by Angela Perez
When I’m fucked up on something, I am masterful at destroying what I love.  So I had to stop all that shit.  This blog was written on April 15, 2016.

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:

 find those people who feed you intellectually, who make you grow as a person in thought and deed. Surround yourself with non-lazy, ambitious folks making interesting things happen. Who, when you talk with them, the world and all of its possibilities seem to open up before you. Divest yourself of the rest, while still communing with all. Don’t abandon the ones reeling in darkness and hurt.  But don’t live there with them, clawing at mouldering dust, moaning in a pitch-black tongue you used to speak oh-so-fucking fluently.
These broad edicts are impossible things to do when you aren’t ready. Easy as pie and bluebirds when you are. It’s the getting to the ready point that’s the real son of a bitch.

As one of America’s truest masters of poetry, Galway Kinnell, wrote:

Walking toward the cliff overhanging
the river, I call out to the stone,
and the stone
calls back, its voice searching among the rubble
for my ears.
Stop.
As you approach an echoing
cliffside, you sense the line
where the voice calling from stone
no longer answers,
turns into stone, and nothing comes back.
1_HeadofaDeadMan_l

Working is for suckers: cocaine dealers I have known

by Angela Perez

I once knew a drug dealer in Raleigh who, after many years of being a moderately successful coke slinger, abruptly decided to go the straight and narrow. He felt avoiding jail was in his best interest and recently he’d made some bad decisions that were about to land him there.

And while he truly enjoyed snorting coke off the titties of a constant bevy of eager strippers; being the center of attention at wild parties;  receiving the red carpet treatment at certain clubs and restaurants; and cruising around nightly in rental limos stocked with liquor, well, he supposed it was time to give all that up.  “I’m done,” he told me one night on the phone.  “I’m out.”  And he hung up.

So one of his closest friends got him a job in a downtown furniture-making shop and he went to work eight-to-five pulling in just above minimum wage.  He abandoned his nice rental house in the Raleigh historic district and moved into a dilapidated 2nd floor walk-up with a buddy of his who delivered pizzas.  The apartment was a dump that reeked vaguely of rotten oranges but it was cheap and he could manage his half of the rent.

Every morning, he got up at 7, got to work by 8 and worked until quitting time.  During this uneventful period of manual labor in his life, he ate lots of Oodles of Noodles and Big Macs and drank Food Lion brand soda.  Every night, he watched t.v., usually wrestling, until he fell asleep.  Or played video games on a very large, top-of-the line t.v. he’d acquired during his drug dealing days.  Few people called and, unlike the old days, strippers stopped dropping by at all hours of the night for a visit.

Every Friday at lunchtime, he’d pick up his paycheck, cash it, and have just enough money left for a week’s worth of groceries, a cheap bottle of bourbon, and to pay his part of the bills.  He went through these motions for about 6 months and found that he was more depressed than he’d ever been in his life even though he no longer suffered from the fear or pressure of being arrested or robbed (I don’t know if he ever worried about actually being killed.  He never said so.)  Although he came to realize who his true friends were and that the number had diminished greatly since he’d become a working stiff, he missed the company of dilettante acquaintances and the easy thrill of superficial good times and weary fucked-up sex with chicks who probably had some sort of venereal disease.

One Tuesday night, I was bored and went over to visit him.  I knocked on the sagging screen door and he yelled for me come on in.  He didn’t ask who it was.  I don’t think he cared.  Odd thing, a screen door on a 2nd floor apartment.  Never seen that before.  Through the screen, I could see him sitting in the Lazy Boy there in front of the door and past him I could see the tiny kitchen table covered in dirty dishes and over-flowing trash bags.  I walked into the tight apartment and he motioned towards the flatscreen,

“Oh, hey, you’re just in time for wrestling.”

I shoved several empty pizza boxes and wadded-up McDonald’s bags off the torn leather sofa, a once-glorious piece of furniture that originally cost $5,000, and sat down on something sticky that soaked through my pants.  “What the fuck?!” I yelled, leaping up,  “Why don’t you clean this hell hole up??”

He didn’t look away from the t.v. and shrugged.  “What’s the point?” he said.  “What’s the point?”

I decided to keep my mouth shut and picked up a rancid, faded beach towel off the floor and gingerly spread it across the couch cushion.  I sat down and stared at him.  He turned off the t.v. and closed his eyes, leaned his head back and said,  “Working is for suckers, Angela.  It’s for fucking chumps.”

The next day, he didn’t show up for his job.  And he didn’t show up any other day after that.  He went back to selling coke.  I don’t know how successful he was at it that time around.

I only know that he was dead 4 years later.  He was my brother.  And every morning these days, I wake up and wearily haul myself onto the metro to head for the office.  And most mornings his words seep into my muddled thinking,

“Working is for suckers. It’s for fucking chumps.”

My corporate job is in a grey building in Washington D.C.  Sometimes, on my way to work,  I nod off while sitting on the crowded subway train thinking about what he said.  And I miss my stop and have to take the next train going back.  None of the other people packed into the car know that I think they are suckers.  I think they are chumps.

Author’s note: This little story might be true but then again it might not be.

Your day job vs. gardening – when your wife will only suck the tip

by Angela Perez

When the Life Path Genie appeared before the man in his dull grey cubicle there on the 39th floor of the office building, it really was quite a shock. He had never complained about his work.  And while pushing cyber paper and assisting Vice Presidents with important needs and gentle egos wasn’t what he’d dreamed of being when he grew up (he’d planned to be a sexy astronaut or a real pussy magnet in a loud and famous heavy metal band), well, he was never the type to complain.

And while his job wasn’t necessarily as fulfilling as his hobby of raising 20 varieties of daffodils in a tiny hothouse he’d built in the backyard, his job paid the bills and provided decent health insurance for both him and his wife of 10 years.

Although he was middle-aged and in full health, he knew it was just a matter of time before he needed pills of all sorts and regular rectal exams.  “That’s the aging process love!” his mother told him before she died last year.

The man often found work fulfillment by sometimes attending a monthly whiskey club some of the lower-level employees on his floor had put together.  But he wasn’t much of a drinker so he didn’t always go.

The Life Path Genie showed up the moment he clicked on the third job listing on LinkedIn.  POOF! The genie appeared next to his computer. Only 10 inches tall. The man was startled but he didn’t cry out.

“Since you’re in a cubicle, I’ll have to whisper,” whispered the genie. “I see you have been looking for jobs while you’re at work.  You know, you could get fired for that.”

“You aren’t wearing little shiny pants,” said the man.  “Or a little turban. Where’d you get such a tiny business suit?”

The genie tapped the computer screen impatiently.  “These things are of no importance.  What is important is that you looked for jobs three times three days in a row from a work computer. Such actions immediately summon me, your personal Life Path Genie.”

“Wait, are you from human resources?” asked the man, looking around nervously.  “Are you here to fire me?”

“No, no, no,” said the genie, laughing just a bit.  “I’m here to help you find your true life path.  Obviously this isn’t it, or you wouldn’t be looking for jobs.  At work.  That’s really taking a risk you know.  IT and human resources could find out and then it’s the axe.”

“Well, it’s not so much that I want to quit. I mean, I have great benefits, the pay is decent.  Higher than average really! I’m low-level so I’m not really on the radar of the really super important people in the top levels of management who ensure the continued success of this operation.”  The man paused for a second and continued.  “Oh, and there was this one woman who was only about 30 years old working in the cubicle next to me and one of the new managers really liked her blonde hair and cute pants and noticed her talents and raised her several pay grades.   She was moved up, not for looks, but for talent.  It shows that you can get ahead around here if you have talent and combine that with the right pants!”

“Sir,” said the genie, “you’ve been here six years. The flowers of your labor are in full bloom. You come to work early so that the important managers can see you and you stay late, laughing loudly at co-workers’ jokes that aren’t funny, so the managers know you are working late. When, in fact, you are playing solitaire, updating your Facebook page, reading the New York Times online and talking about sports.  Is this how you want to spend your life?”

“Well, genie, there ARE worse things to do with yourself,” replied the man.  “Like working for the state or with people who don’t speak English.”

“I also know that your wife doesn’t have sex with you anymore because she also isn’t happy in her office job,” said the genie.

“Well, she gives me hand jobs some mornings,” said the man sheepishly.  “Sometimes she gives the tip of my dick a right good sucking.  What business is that of yours?”

“Good sex is important to finding your life path,” said the genie matter-of-factly. “Well, sir, I think I know all I need to know about you.  Get ready, my friend.  Your life is about to happen!”  And with that, the genie disappeared with a poof that was no louder than an unobtrusive fart.

The man had no time to figure out what had just happened because he had an important meeting to attend that was actually really very unimportant.

That night after arriving home and tending to his tender daffodils, he walked out of the hot-house and stood very still in the quiet of his backyard.  It was dark already and the stars were clear and bright.  He looked over into the neighbor’s yard and there was the pretty 24-year old school teacher who had moved in only 3 months earlier.

She was naked and looking directly at him. He walked over to her.

“What are you doing?” he asked, feeling blood rushing into the tip of his rather unused penis.

“I’m going to fuck you right here in my backyard,” she said, wrapping her lithe young limbs around his body. “And then I’m going to kill you.”

The man turned to see if his wife was peeking out the window.  She was not. He turned back to face the school teacher.

“That’s fine,” he said. “I very much want to stick my cock into you and see where this goes.  But please don’t kill me.”

“We shall see,” she uttered softly. “We shall see.”

The next morning, the man’s wife found her husband dead in his hot-house, stabbed in the stomach presumably by the clipping shears protruding from his belly. He was sprawled across the Hoop Petticoat variety of daffodil.

The police speculated that this was most certainly a suicide. When they questioned his wife and the neighbors, including the school teacher, no one knew of any reason that the man had to kill himself.

“We loved each other,” sobbed his wife. “We went to the movies regularly and ate out at lovely restaurants once a week.” When asked about how he felt about his job she replied, “He’d just gotten a 3 percent cost of living raise at work. They allow him access to social media. It was all going so perfectly.”

“He couldn’t have suffered from any kind of despair or disillusionment. Why, why throw our life together away?” she wailed. The wife was inconsolable but comforted by all of the gluten-free and free-range gourmet duck fat casseroles that friends and family had started to bring over to express their sorrow at her loss.

Later that week, at the man’s office, as his department’s administrative assistant cleaned out his desk (there were mostly clip binders and soy sauce packets in the drawer), she found a sticky note addressed to the VP of Human Resources.

“Dear important sir. I did not attend the three meetings I had on my Outlook calendar for tomorrow. I didn’t want to work here anymore.”

“Tsk tsk,” said the administrative assistant. “What could he have wanted to be, poor dear?  A VP perhaps!” She was going to give the message to human resources but remembered she had to put out coffee in the conference room because four very important managers were scheduled for a meeting in 10 minutes.

Just let well enough alone: a one-minute tale of weight loss and gain and loss

by Angela Perez

Sometimes, you just need to take a compliment with a simple “Thank you” and let well enough alone.  Especially when you’re weight has gone up and down and all over in the last year and a half.  This happened last night:

Friend (who hasn’t seen me in 5 months):  Whoo, girl, you look good!  You look skinny!
Angela:  Skinny?
Friend:  Skinny.
Angela:  As compared to what?
Friend:  Uh…as compared to last time I saw you.
Angela:  Skinny?
Friend:  Well, I mean…skinnier.
Angela:  But use of that word implies a degree of svelteness.
Friend.  Okay, why don’t you just shut the fuck up?  How ’bout this – you ain’t as big as you were. You look so good so please shut the fuck up.
Angela: Let’s start over.

Note:  This is still way better than how some of my Southern friends and family back home greet you when you visit for the holidays: 

My 300-hundred pound diabetic cousin donning a muumuu:  “Whoo, Lord, you have really packed on the pounds since I saw you.  Lookin’ just like your big Aunt So-and-So.”
Angela:  You haven’t seen me in a quarter of a century.  Since I was in high school and weighed 100 pounds.
Cousin: I know. Girl, ain’t no slim folks in your family. Wasn’t never meant to last no ways. Seen this comin’. Weight Watchers, girl. Weight Watchers. We got to stay on it in this family. (She says she eats the top off of a red velvet cake.)
Angela: Hand me that whole tomato.
Cousin: Girl, is that all you’re eating?
Angela: No, I am about to shove it in your mouth so you’ll shut the fuck up. Pass me the mac and cheese.

Hey, Angela, sorry to hear your cousin killed his wife and shot himself. It’s Christmas-time in Hollis.

I had just finished pumping gas into my car and was screwing on the gas cap when I heard someone yell out, “Oh my God!  Angela, is that you? You’re home for Thanksgiving, I see.”

It was a former classmate of mine, one I hadn’t seen since we graduated high school 25 years ago, back in 1989.  I recognized him vaguely but couldn’t remember his name.  I did notice he’d lost a substantial amount of hair over the past couple of decades.  His camouflage jacket was zipped up to his chin and he had on red gloves, which struck me as rather unpractical for staying hidden while stalking deer.  Camouflage is the standard mode of men’s dress in eastern North Carolina.  I stood there, smiling but squinting as I tried to recall his name.

“It’s me Larry.  Larry Perry [editor’s note:  name changed].  We’re friends on Facebook,” he said, hugging me.  I hugged back and immediately recalled I had never really been friends with him back in high school and didn’t even know we were Facebook friends.   Larry used to be part of the woodshop crowd, a low-key, quiet group of boys who mostly smoked cigarettes behind the lunchroom and dated plain girls who were destined for motherhood and not much else.   As a member of the drama club, I rarely had time for boys who listened to country music and made overly-shellacked shelves for their mothers and those boys weren’t interested in a girl who listened to the Grateful Dead with vaguely gay miscreants obsessed with amateur dramatics and Boone’s Farm “Tickle Pink” fortified wine.

“How are you?” he asked.  “When did you come home?  I know you live in Raleigh.  I read your Facebook posts.  They are always so crazy and interesting.  And I always read your blog, that “Muumuu” thing you do. I like the way you write.  I don’t really like to read usually but I like to read your stuff.”

“Wow, thanks, Larry, I appreciate that,” I said, feeling myself warming up to Larry immediately.   I am imminently susceptible to flattery of all kinds.  “Yeah, I’m just here for the day visiting my dad.   I’m about to head back.  How are you?”

“You know, gotta keep on keeping on,” he said.  “Just working for the tax man.”  He paused and shook his head.  “That was rough news, about your cousin.”

“What cousin?”  I asked.  I am not close with my extended family and hear little to no news about them.  Most of my mother’s side of the family has remained in this part of the state for centuries (yeah, that’s right centuries – as in since the late 1600s.)  This clan of dozens is thick as thieves, spending weekends together, going to church together, calling each other daily, and staying very in tune with the minutiae of one another’s lives.   The narrative of their blissful existence reads like a John Cougar Mellencamp song:

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me

Well I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in this small town
And that’s prob’ly where they’ll bury me 

Ah!  There’s something seemingly pleasant and charming about such an innocent existence but, in fact, the dark, gossipy, judgmental, racist underbelly of that small town existence becomes apparent about five minutes after you roll into the county.  I wondered what dark gossip Larry had for me.

“Your cousin, Mike Waters, your first cousin,” he said.  “I saw him.”

Mike.  Mike.  Oh yeah, Mike Waters.  I hadn’t seen him since I was 15 years old.  Quiet guy, about 10 years older than me.  “Oh man, Mike.  He’s been in the Air Force for years.  Where did you see him?”

He looked at me incredulously.  “At my work.”

“Where do you work?” I asked, getting annoyed with how drawn out the conversation was becoming.

“At the funeral home,” he said. “I work there part-time.  Didn’t you notice my job on my Facebook page?”

I had never seen Larry’s Facebook page in my life.  “What was Mike doing at the funeral home?  Who died?”  I figured it must be my Aunt Mary, Mike’s mother.  She must be near 85 by now, so she’d probably moved on to the next life and was somewhere up in heaven, possibly still on Weight Watchers.  All of my aunts have been on Weight Watchers since the 1970s and have probably lost about 10 pounds total among them in four decades.  Ours is a meaty, ever-hungry family.

“Mike’s dead.  He shot himself,” said Larry matter-of-factly.  “He gunned down his wife, shot her several times in the back, and then shot himself in the head.  Over in Corpus Christi, Texas where they were living for the past few years. They flew his body back here to be buried at home.”

I was stunned.  “Are you sure?”  I asked.

“Of course, I’m sure,” said Larry.  “I saw his body.  It was terrible.  It’s a terrible thing.  No funeral, though, just a graveside service.  You know, given the circumstances.”

“Jeez,” I said.  “I didn’t hear a thing about this.”

“Not even on Facebook?” asked Larry, pursing his lips in surprise.

“I’m not friends with any family members on Facebook,” I said.  “I don’t like to see my aunts’ and cousins’ endless tripe and trollop about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  They’re too obsessed with one another’s lives.”  I was sure this explanation was a bit too detailed and bitter for Larry, who probably had plenty of photos of his own children, dressed in tiny camouflage outfits, posted all over social media.  As a single, childless, highly-educated and uncannily enlightened person devoted to the pursuit of freedom from family constraints, I was probably rapidly moving outside the tenuous barriers of meaningfulness contained in this bizarre conversation.

“Yeah,” said Larry, ignoring my last comment, “evidently the wife had a restraining order put out on your cousin and said in the police records that she was sure that he was capable of killing her and was seeking protection.  But before they could go to court, he beat her up a few times and then finally shot her.  In the back.  He shot himself in the head.  Oh wait, I already said that.  It’s online on some news sites if you want to Google it.  It happened about two or three months ago.  Back in September.”

“Two months ago?!? And I’m just now hearing about this?  Thanks, I…I guess I’ll look it up.  Good Lord,” I said, still trying to wrap my mind around the news.  “It was good to see you.  I need to get back to Raleigh.  I’m on my way back just now.”

“It’s so good to see you,” he said, grinning widely.  “Man, you look good.  I always thought you were really cute in high school.  I asked you out once, do you remember that?”

I didn’t.  But his words rang sweet and I felt a funny little high-schoolish boy crazy tingle like I used to get often back then.  I hugged him.  He smelled warm and musky and soapy.  It made me sad.  More sad than the news about my cousin.

“I do remember you asking me out,” I lied.  “It was so good to see you, Larry.  I’ll write to you.  On Facebook.”  For some reason, instead of saying “good-bye” I blurted out “ciao for now!”  The words were silly and pretentious and I jumped into the car.  My dog Tater was sitting in the passenger’s seat, staring at me intently.

I rubbed his head.  “All right, boy, we’re heading out now.  We’ll be back home soon.”  Tater licked the spot where his balls used to be.

I sat there behind the wheel for a few minutes, staring across the street at the tiny hospital where I was born.  I wondered if my cousin Mike had been born in that hospital.  I figured most of my family members were born there.   And a lot died there.   As I stuck the key in the ignition, I saw a smallish black bear trundling across the hospital grounds, away towards the edge of the woods surrounding the east side.

“What the fuck?”  I mumbled, surprised.  Bears should be hibernating already, shouldn’t they?  It looked like the bear had a giant white bird hanging limply in its jowls.

I turned the key and Run DMC’s song “Christmas in Hollis” was blasting:

It’s Christmas time in Hollis, Queens
Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees
Decorate the house with lights at night
Snow’s on the ground, snow white so bright
In the fireplace is the yule log
Beneath the mistletoe as we drink egg nog
The rhymes you hear are the rhymes of Darryl’s
But each and every year we bust Christmas carols.

I looked over at Tater.  He’d already curled up and was asleep and snoring, happy in the knowledge we were leaving.  “Ciao, little town,” I said.  “I’ll see you at Christmas.”  I needed to get back to Raleigh and Google my cousin Mike’s name to find out what exactly had happened in Corpus Christi.  I wondered if the bear across the street was having one last meal before it was time to go down in his den.  I wondered if bears dream.

*Some of the names and the facts in this vignette have been changed. 

I looked over at Tater.  He’d already curled up and was asleep and snoring, happy in the knowledge we were leaving.  “Ciao, little town,” I said.  “I’ll see you at Christmas.”  I needed to get back to Raleigh and Google my cousin Mike’s name to find out what exactly had happened in Corpus Christi.  I wondered if the bear across the street was having one last meal before it was time to go down in his den.  I wondered if bears dream.

*Some of the names and the facts in this vignette have been changed. 

Brother and tomato

Today is Thursday. My pretty, blonde co-worker brought a blue grocery bag full of tomatoes in to work today. She’d picked them in her garden this morning. She left them on the counter by the coffee pot in the break room, inviting us to take as many as we wanted.
When everyone left the break room I picked up the smallest one. Deep red, perfectly ripe. I held the cool fruit to my cheek and then balanced it on the back of my hand and let it roll from my fingertips onto the floor.
“Smart girl,” sang my lips as I thought of that moment in the hospital when my little brother stopped breathing and I let go of his hand and asked the nurse if he was dead and she said,
“Yes.”
I picked up the tomato. That touch of the sun. Washed it in the sink and bit into it, pale juice dribbling down my chin.
Eyes sparkling, I wonder if there is still black curly hair clinging to his lonely skull.  Me and him, our private signals are a dead language like this tomato.
 – Angela Perez

Memories: From Peckers in Raleigh to Pirozhki in Moscow (with collard greens with fatback on the brain)

by Angela Perez

My body takes issue with my intellectual pursuits.  In particular, with my adventures with food.  That’s right!  I consider food not a just a nagging means for survival or even some kind of guilty pleasure.

Cheese-laden grits and creamy coconut paletas unlock the meaning of universe, wrap my prune brain around the tragedy of man.

Musing on why all those super-jazzed always-nearly-jizzing young white guys with beards and tattoos sling craft beer and bake bread with ancient grains of Mesopotamia and wax poetic on authentic heritage hog bbq stimulates my mind.  Awwww, but fuck all that.  I haven’t felt like spinning yarns and navigating facts related to the intersections of food, race, class, and gender for a few hours now.

I’ll quit boring you about my foray into raising meat goats (as opposed to the kinder and more lovable pursuit of raising dairy goats – see, I want to roast these babies to make goat tacos and sell them.  …goddammit, I’m doing it again…I ought to apologize…).

Thing is, though, I’ve got no secret greetings.  No inane uplifting game plan.  Just a dusty hide stretched out and sagging from not spending enough time with just me.

People who can’t be alone scare the ever-loving shit out of me.  ‘Dem homosapien fumes and skin flakes all cloggin’ up my chi.   Endlessly making deals with myself to be happy, to achieve Nirvana…all wearing me slam the fuck out.

Angelita, that young woman of the people, vanished.   Endless fine distinctions regarding my expanding middle-aged body and mind are blue-veined and clear to me.   In all my years in Raleigh, I’ve observed a nightmare of eager peckers and shared living arrangements and over-priced fried chicken.  That foie gras torchon was the bomb though.

Finally, alert, I humbly request you hurl your attention at the bittersweet victories of Southern women.

pork

That time I was the only girl at BBQ camp.

That new car smell: on seeing someone’s death

by Angela Perez

I saw someone’s death today.  I’m sure of it.

Earlier today, my insurance agent called me and said the company was ready to settle and I should go ahead and get everything out of my old car and take the tags off.  At lunchtime, I drove over to the salvage yard where my wrecked car had been towed after my accident last week.   As I pulled up in the rental car behind my old Nissan Versa, I started to feel emotional.  That old car was the first new car I ever bought and I bought it around the time my brother, Big Tony, died.  I bought that car when I was dating a man I almost married but, thank God, had the sense to run far, far away from. That car had taken me to my new home in eastern Oregon and then brought me (with my new dog Tater in tow) back to the East coast to Washington DC and finally back to Raleigh, where I recently decided to finally settle my wild, unruly ass down and buy a house.  To commit.
I realized as I was sorting through winter coats and all sorts of books stuffed in the hatchback that somehow, I needed this accident to happen.  To get rid of this old car and buy a new one to go with my new house and my newfound adulthood.  I mean, that’s part of what being an adult is, being able to commit, right?
Despite my lovely revelations, as I sorted through expensive art magazines I had forgotten I even had, I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself.  “Jesus,” I said aloud.  “this new car is going to blow all the money I was going to save from my mortgage.”  You see, my mortgage is exactly HALF of the rent I was paying.  I had been imagining all of the dollars building up in my bank account (namely so I can put in a salt water swimming pool in my back yard.)  As I was mumbling and wallowing in self-pity,  I chanced to look at the wrecked car directly in front of me.  The black Subaru Outback had been brutally smashed in the front and was was crumpled up to the windshield, the hood had somehow popped up and sheared through the windshield.  My God, I thought, shuddering, whoever was in that accident is probably dead.  Probably never even knew what happened.  Or if he or she did, I could only imagine the bloody hell of that scene.
I then looked around me at all of the other wrecked cars spanning the salvage yard, sullenly staring at me, all representing various tragedies, losses, and heartaches.  There were endless horrific mangled hunks of metal that once were gleaming brand new showroom cars.  I felt my heart catch in my chest and I began to cry.   I cried for all of the people who weren’t lucky like I was last week.   I thought back to that moment as my car smashed into the back of a truck and how in those miliseconds all I had time to think of was “OH SHIT”  and how that was probably the last thought that ever ran through the heads of so many of the people who had once driven these cars and then they only knew darkness or worse.
I walked around the yard and looked at each car.  As I came back to my car, one of the men who worked in the garage came out and asked me if I wanted any help getting some of the heavier items out of my car.  I told him no and thanked him.  And then I said, “I’ve just started to realize how hard it must be to work here.  Everything out here, every car that comes in represents new pain, a new tragedy.”
He nodded his head in grim agreement.  “I’ve been here a year,” he said, “and it’s always hard.  No one who comes to this place has had a good day.  And seeing some of these wrecked cars and knowing how awful some of these accidents must have been, well, it does, it gets to me. There’s a lot of blood in some of these cars.”
I felt my insides restrict and shudder.  “I’m sorry to even bring that up,” I said.
“No, no need to apologize,” he said, “you’re right.  There’s a lot of bad energy here.”  He turned to head back to the garage.  “Holler if you need me,” he said and sauntered away, looking not at the cars around him but directly at the ground in front of him.
I gathered up the last of mostly junk left in that old Nissan Versa, stashed it all in the trunk of the rental car and hauled ass out of there, holding back more tears, and feeling more grateful for being alive than I have in a long, long time.