As They Have Done For Me (A commitment to myself.)

I had left phone messages, sent handwritten letters & cards, and still hadn’t heard anything back from her. For the first few months I wasn’t concerned. With the exception of a brief time shortly after we met, she’s always been inconsistent in getting back to me, and is a complete Luddite when it comes to anything beyond phone or cards. It’s frustrating, but something I’ve learned to tolerate. It’s just who she is, and I don’t have much of a choice but to accept it.

I had spent 25 years of my life searching for my Birth Mother, not knowing if she was even alive, and with each year that passed growing more anxious. I would vividly imagine the first time we met only being able to lay flowers on her grave – so this, this was small.

Only a couple years before there were times she would call me out of the blue, just to check in, say hi – and eventually would always return a phone message. My first birthday after we had met, she sent five cards, each addressed & in their own envelope, and even though the frequency of our communication got less & less after that, she never failed to at least send a beautiful card for my birthday. In these she would fill me in on the latest in her life, and it was always the same thing. She worked in a hospital lab, came home, watched TV for a bit before bed, & on Sundays, usually went to a local restaurant, a place called Lauren’s in Boonville. She frequently closed the notes saying “I need to get a life!” Helpless to do anything about it, reading that always hurt.

It had been months since I’d heard anything from her. When my birthday came & went without a card, I started to get worried. The messages I left & cards I sent increasingly got more desperate, eventually flat out asking if she wanted me in her life anymore. Maybe this was all a mistake. Maybe she decided that she didn’t want to be reminded of that time in her life, being shipped from Colorado to San Diego to have me, away from the humiliation that a pregnant & unwed child would have brought to her family in the ‘60’s. Maybe… hell, I didn’t know what to think. I was terrified that after over half my life searching for & finding my Mother, I had again lost her.

Still no reply.

All I had were letters and phone messages to send, and nothing came of those. I thought about taking the train up there, but the station was much too far away. Bus, same thing. If she didn’t want me in her life anymore, I could somehow learn to live with that – but I needed to hear it from HER, I needed to know why before I could begin to accept it, to heal as well as I could. With each day that passed, each letter or card that went unanswered, my heart collapsed a little more. Did she leave me again? What’s wrong with me, why can’t I fix it, why can’t I see it? What did I do wrong this time? I just needed to know. I needed answers. Maybe with answers I could work on what’s wrong with me.

I had been journaling, trying to make sense of it. I posted some of what I wrote just to get it away from my mind, and people were nice, reached out in words of concern. They were appreciated, but words didn’t help anything.

Then, on one of my posts, a friend offered a ride. I figured it was a nice gesture, but more than likely wouldn’t happen. People say a lot of things, promise the world, but at the end of the day, seldom come through. I didn’t let myself get excited, but figured I’d at least play along.

If this happened, he would have to drive down from Sacramento, pick me up, and then drive the 2.5 hours to my Mother’s house so we could catch her after she got home from work at around 5:30 – then after surprising her by knocking on her door and figuring out what the HELL was going on, would have to do the whole trip back to Sac. I saw how absurd that was, and although I needed answers, him doing this – for *me* – was just ridiculous, and far too much to ask or hope for. It was constantly on my mind to cancel just for his sake – but Kitty never faltered, never gave a hint of reluctance. It was going to be more than a 400 mile round trip for him, and all he wanted was for me to get the answers I needed from my mother. He also said he liked the idea of “sand-bagging” her for answers, and even if it was a last-stand, at least what needed to be done could be done.

When he showed up at my door that Saturday after our planning, I decided that maybe it was time for me to accept that he was serious. This was happening.
OhShitOhShitOhShit.

With all the apprehension and anxiety I put myself through, it turned out to be surprisingly unapocalyptic. As I walked up to her door I could see her through the large living-room window, sitting in her chair & watching TV. I watch her as she walks over to the door, unable to see me yet.
“Hi mom.”
“Ohhh, HI, Casey! What a surprise!”
She motions for me to come in.
“What the hell is going on? Have you gotten my letters? Messages?”
“Yes, I’m so sorry…”
“But you didn’t even take a minute to answer them? ANY of them? Not one?”
“I meant to, but…”
“But what, you couldn’t be bothered? Do you have the slightest idea what I’ve been going through? I think I made it pretty fucking clear in the letters.”
“I know, I kept meaning to, but it just got harder as time went on and…”

Looking at my Mother’s face, seeing *my* face in hers & seeing the regret and apology, the anger starts to subside but I’m not letting her off that easy. I still don’t know what I need to know.
“DO you want me in your life anymore? If not, I need to know why – what I’ve done or if it’s just your trip, if this is too much for you, do you still want me?”
“Of course I do. I’m so sorry, I… I’m just bad at it, bad at staying in contact. I promise I’ll try to get better Casey, I *do* love you and want you in my life, and I’m sorry I put you through that, I didn’t mean to…”

We’re both sitting now, the anger & dread nearly all washed from me, and I’m explaining to her like she’s a three year old what it did to me, what she did, how she made me feel. I know she understands, but I don’t want her to forget. I don’t want her to take this lightly, and especially don’t want her to ever do it again. Hoping I got my point across well enough, the conversation moves into seeing how she’s doing, how the hips that have both recently been replaced are feeling, and knowing Kitty & I need to get back on the road soon. I go outside & invite him in, and shortly after we’re back on the road, leaving my Mother to her grey, empty life & TV.

As we walk the short distance to his car I turn to see her sitting again, and vow to myself that somehow, I’ll figure out a way to get a car, get up here at least a couple times a month to either take her on small adventures or just stay the weekend and help her clean up the weeds in her back yard. I think of planting a garden for her, how nice that would be. She’s mentioned that she would really like to get a dog someday. So many things I could do for her, if only I could get up here.

What Kitty did for me that day, I will never forget.
I do what I can for people to try and help, but it’s frustrating being so limited. I can only do small things: take dog food down to the homeless kids & their dogs around Civic Center, give a few dollars here & there when I have it, drape coats that I don’t wear anymore over people trying to sleep on cold San Francisco nights – but it’s never enough. I know there is so much more I could do – but it requires a car. There’s no way around it.

That was a year and seven months ago. I haven’t been able to get up and see my Mother since.
A few months ago she ordered somey jewelry from me, and I still haven’t seen them on her. Small things like that…

 

On September 5th is my 50th birthday, and right now my greatest dream is to be able to go pick My Mother up and bring her back down to the City so I can spend it with her. Have a small gathering of friends so they can finally meet her, this beautiful and amazing woman, and she could meet them – get out of her house and finally enjoy life a little bit. She deserves to.

I have a campaign on GoFundMe to help me get a car, which would not only allow me to get a little adventure and excitement into my mother’s life but help me get to shows & events to vend my jewelry & grow my business – as well increase the quality of my life in every way I can imagine. I could help so many more people…

http://www.gofundme.com/magickbus

If you can, please donate to it, share it to your friends on Facebook, Twitter, emails, and anywhere you can think of. Click on the link below, and please – give what you can. I would appreciate it with all my heart – and if, with your help, I am able to get a car – if you ever need a ride somewhere, *anywhere* – you got it.
THANK YOU!!!

http://www.gofundme.com/magickbus

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Wherever The Roads Take Me

“You’ve never been to Burning Man? Darlin’, you belong there. I wasn’t sure if I was going this year, wasn’t even planning on it – but now, I guess I am. I’ll give you a ride.”

New Orleans, 2006. I had recently moved there about five months before, the first time I had ever stepped foot in the city. Though I had seen it on the news a lot recently, nothing prepared me for what I was in person, stepping on the ground, smelling the decay and rot – but still, underneath that, there was something else it took me a while to put my finger on, a feeling… and then I realized what it was. There was a strength to the city, a spirit that even The Storm couldn’t take away. I fell in love with it instantly.

It was a strange path that led me there. My work with The Dresden Dolls had ended in Colorado, and with it the move to Boston. In thinking back all of these years later, I think it may have been a combination of a couple of things that prompted the email from Amanda. The first two were that The DD were going a slightly different direction, and also – I think The Brigade – what we called, and still call ourselves, were perhaps getting too big, too strong, especially the Boston chapter. Hell, we were even working on making it into its own entity, looking into becoming a 501(c)(3) performance group, renting a building where we could inspire & teach others.
And without question, one was my drinking. Though my work with them had never faltered for it, I was again trying to escape something dark & wrong inside of me by numbing it however I could. Still, I helped inspire hundreds of young people across the world to reach beyond themselves, to walk through their fears, to realize how beautiful they are. It was the first time I had ever, in my life, actually felt needed, felt appreciated. The first time I had ever felt loved.
Then everything I loved was ripped away from me.
Such is life. The Universe had other plans. I needed to pick myself up, to try to find the strength to keep moving forward.
In Colorado I found a good place to busk, saving up money I would need for gas. I would listen to the radio in my van at night, stretching out as much as I could in the back seat with Bean, my beautiful dog, caressing her as she rested her head on my chest and hoping sleep would come soon. It was then that I heard about Katrina and the devastation it left in its wake. It was September 5th, my birthday. I was alone with Bean, in our van, crying.

The next morning I started emailing people, and I connected with an old lover who was now living in New Orleans with her family, asking if there was anything I could do to help them. They were fine; she was safe with her family and out of the city. I asked if there was anywhere or anyone she knew of that needed help, and she gave me the contact information to a place in Austin.
“We need people. Show up anytime.”
I smiled for the first time in a week. Within the hour Bean and I were back on The Road.

Going through Kansas & Oklahoma, driving hard, Bean asleep on the throne I had built for her in the back seat. In the black of night there was nothing but the hypnotizing dashed lines on the highway, as if nothing else existed after the reach of my headlights. No signs, no horizon, no hills or turns. Only every few hours would another vehicle pass going the opposite way. 80mph and I would close my eyes, seeing how long I could keep them shut before opening them again in sheer panic. The rapid pumping of my heart helped keep me awake. I knew how stupid I was being, but only when I thought of Bean did I decide to pull over to the side of the road and rest for a bit. The morning brought sunshine and a beautiful view that stretched for an eternity.

19 hours later I was finally in Austin.

It was an amazing place. The “Austin Enchanted Forest”, a private 3 acre wild forest in the middle of Austin, art everywhere. They had set it up with donated tents, blankets, and everything else people who had to leave their home with next to nothing might need. I was “in charge” of welcoming people, showing them around, making sure they had everything they needed.
Bean was in absolute heaven. She had an entire forest to run around in and sniff, other dogs to play with, and every night she would sleep just outside of my tent. In the morning she would poke her head inside the flap if she thought I was sleeping too late and do this kind of “rrrroooowwrr?” thing, a cross between a growl, bark, and asking me to get the hell out of bed because it was time to play, to go on our morning walk in The Forest.

I lived there for four months in a 10’x10’ tent, going from volunteering for a couple months to helping set up and performing for their yearly “Austin Haunted Forest” through the month of October. The time I spent in Austin is another story, though.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I’ll give you a ride.”

Burning Man was coming up fast. Raven, the kickass woman I had promised a ride to and I started preparing. We bought our tickets, figured out the route – there was just one thing we needed.
A van.
The van I drove there in had only made it that far because I needed it to, and it had done its job. Shortly after I got to NOLA when I needed to move it for parking and found that it had a flat tire and no spare, I decided it was time to let it go to the city. Considering that it was breathing its dying breaths, I wouldn’t have felt right selling her to someone who might depend on it. The next day it was gone.

My work was busking, doing street performance as a Living Statue. I was making good money, saving every penny I could for a van to get Raven & I the 2,200 miles to the Black Rock Desert. Once I had saved $800, I started looking…

Coming from the West Coast where vans & large vehicles are plentiful and cheap, I was surprised at how few there were for sale here, and how expensive even the crappy ones were. I couldn’t figure it out – and then it hit me. I understood.
This is hurricane country. People here need to regularly throw everything they can grab into a car and bug-out, and the bigger the vehicle, the more space for family & things.
I hadn’t thought of that. Time was getting close to our planned departure.

Shit.

I worked extra hours, every day forcing my body to the limits of what it could stand, standing perfectly still. I took the suggestion that a nurse whispered to me one day and started taking aspirin to hopefully prevent blood clots from forming. At night I would look on craigslist for a van, widening the search, increasing the amount I could pay by working the extra hours.

It was grueling, painful, exhausting, but I had given her my word. I wasn’t going to let her down. Far too many people are so full of empty fucking promises, and I won’t be one of them. Hell, if I couldn’t find a van I was ready to buy her a flight to Reno – but hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.

Every night as I laid in bed and every morning, I would do a manifestation meditation. I would picture Raven & I driving up the road to the front gate of Burning Man, blasting music and singing along in a plain white van. In the visualization my window would be down all the way, arm resting on the door as we laughed triumphantly.

The days continued. Still no van. I refused to worry, and just *know* that it would work out.
Well, maybe I worried a little bit. I mean, c’mon, I’m at least *somewhat* human.

Then, finally. Less than a week before we were planning to leave, I found a van for sale in Baton Rouge, at just a tiny bit under what I had saved – and get this: It was the exact van I saw in my mind; white, plain, even a Ford. And it didn’t have a driver’s side window at all. I guess that when I saw it in my mind, every time with the window all the way down – maybe I should have visualized at least a little of the window there. Still, the Universe had given me *exactly* what I was asking for. It likes having fun with me, I’ve found over the years.

The van wouldn’t idle, the driver’s seat felt like it was one of those things in kids’ playgrounds – the animals with the big springs under then that you sat on and leaned every which way, then sprung back up headed in the opposite direction. It felt like the seat was trying to throw me out the window with every right turn I took.
I managed, with the help of a friend following me, to limp the thing home, then spent the next three days making it not only stay running, but idle smooth and strong. I ripped out the driver’s seat and fixed the base of it, checked lights, brakes, tires, fluids, everything. It would get us there. We had a van. It didn’t have a license plate, so I made one out of cardboard that looked almost real, if you didn’t look *too* close.

Then, something unexpected. An email from the seller, a nice lady when I met her. She told me of her uncle – Conrad, or “Uncle Connie”. He had lived as a homeless drunk in New Orleans, and after most of his life spent that way had finally gotten sober. He had bought the van to fulfill a dream he had – of driving West to see the ocean for the first time. Unfortunately, he had died before he could make the trip. Before he could make this dream of his – his only dream – come true.

In her email, she said that when we were talking and I was telling her my plans with the van, she felt something in me that reminded her of her Uncle Connie. She said he had a wonderful heart, a warmth and kindness to him – and she told me how much she had adored him, feeling so fortunate that they at least had a little time to spend together after he got sober. He would have loved something like Burning Man, she said, after I explained it as best as I could to her.

“This is going to sound really strange, but… would you mind helping him realize his dream? Would you take his ashes with you? Take him to the Ocean?”

As Raven & I made our way across the country, we took the time to enjoy it, pulling off to sit in silence and look out over beautiful, expansive views – and I would leave some of Connie there. In kitschy tourist spots, I would leave Connie. Native American craft shops, roadside diners, places that felt, in their way, sacred. Connie was on the road with us, living his dream.

Well, not really “living” it, being as dehydrated as he was – but at least doing it.

That year at the Temple of Hope, I left two silk bags of ashes – and then finally, on a cold overcast afternoon in San Francisco, I again poured two different piles of ashes on the sand, just a little bit below the tide line.

One, of course, was Uncle Connie’s. The other ashes were of the best friend I have ever had.

I stood there for a while, alone and holding my coat tight around me and silently crying, as I watched Bean’s ashes being taken out into the heart of the Sea.
She had always loved running in the ocean.

Somehow, 50

I felt the blood drain from my face, my mind. It’s a strange feeling, like submersing your head in a pool of nearly frozen water, but not as cold.

“What?”

Now I was finding it difficult to stand. There wasn’t anything to sit on so I leaned against the racks of VHS videos behind the counter.
The voice on the other end of the line repeated what it said, a little slower, each point a sentence like he was trying to teach a five year old quantum physics.

“This is Dr. Thomas. Your test results have come back. You have tested positive. For the HIV antibody. The virus that causes AIDS.

  1. I was 19 years old, and a single two minute call was all it took rip away everything I thought I knew.

I had run away from home at 17 for the third and final time, and after living with my meth dealer for a while, *not* sleeping in his unfurnished living room on the floor, I decided to leave, go somewhere besides San Diego. I didn’t know a single person in the Bay Area. It seemed like good a place as any to try and figure out who I was.

When I was finally able to think, I realized that I must have been tested on a recent trip to visit my adopted parents. They asked if I wanted a physical while I was there, and I agreed. I wanted to show them I was fine, healthy. That there was no reason to worry about me. That I didn’t need them. I figured out that they had also requested an HIV test from the doctor, and getting my approval wasn’t important. The call on that day was kind of a shock.

I had never used needles, had slept with maybe five men. I was exempt from AIDS, I was mostly straight and I was safe. I guess all it took was one of those men being positive, and everything working just right to infect me. Talk about rotten luck.

But that didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered. Across the Bay the City was dying, the plague was killing people and no one had any answers. I’d heard the treatments they had weren’t that much better than the disease.
That’s all I knew. That’s all I chose to know.

I figured I had about 18 months, maybe two years left to live if I was lucky, but much of that time would be spent in horrible pain, my body shutting down, my own shit and blood and fluids pouring out of me. All the sudden my self-imposed rule of never using needles for recreational drugs and never using heroin went to shit. When I started to get sick, I would handle it my own way. I wasn’t going to be a burden on anyone – just slide away and disappear.

Time passed. A year, two, five, and the sickness never came. Still, bordering the line between conscious and subconscious, I kept waiting for the day everything turned around. I knew it was coming.

As much as I wanted to go back to school, to learn something I could use, I couldn’t commit to the time. I didn’t have a future.

 

 

I destroyed the best relationships & deepest loves I have ever known, selfishly afraid to ever force anyone to feel like they needed to be loyal, faithful, as they stood by, helpless, watching me die. For the same reason I never allowed myself to have what I perhaps wanted more than anything in life – a child.

I took each day as it came, tried to make the best out of it. I studied myself and my beliefs, did all I could to learn about me and what life was. I taught myself to see the beauty in everything, every day. I tried to help, I learned from others, I read & continue to read feverishly, so at least I might have some wisdom, some inspiration, something to offer another. Maybe something clever & profound to say in my final breath. Only up until the past 15 or so years, every moment of my life has been spent expecting to die. It’s the only thing I’ve known.

It sure did fuck up my credit score.

Now, somehow, I’m only a few weeks away from 50 years old, and wondering how it is that I got here. I’ve spent years looking for an answer as to why. Why, of all people, me?

I’ve only been able to come up with one answer that makes any sense at all.
 

 

To Go.

To live each day as if it has been stolen from death. To wake up every morning knowing that the possibilities are infinite, to release myself from the burden of “how” & the anguish that I encounter every day. To grab Ruby & drive to the Sea, to the mountains, to my mother. To raise my voice and shout at the sky “I am alive, I am wonderful, I am free. I AM.

To feel again the roads underneath me, always looking forward at what I can be, not what I was. The past always takes from the present. To again realize the physicality of the world has its boundaries only if my will is weak, only if I am afraid. To again accomplish the things that the normal person would think impossible.

To go. The wheel lightly held in my hands, the windows down & wind cleansing away the past. To wonder in anticipation and excitement what lies around the next corner, over the next crest. To keep going and discover where I end up. Always forward. For a driver, a wanderer, a dreamer, not having these things takes away part of the soul.

I wake up every morning and say “I wish.” I wish I could take myself and Ruby to the Sea, to the mountains. I wish I could get to events & trade shows to show people the things I can make when my hands meet my heart. I wish I could help people get to where they need to go, visit others who can’t go anywhere. I wish I could visit my Birth Mother, and finally get to know the woman who gave me this life. I wish I could make hers better. I wish I could get in my car and just go, leaving the unforgiving brutality of the sidewalks behind me and again follow the wind. Again follow my dreams.

I wish.

I will.

The Pain Game

As far as when it started, all I know for certain is that it was Sunday. This drives my doctor crazy.
“This week? Last week?”
“…yes. I think.”
Over the years pain has become something I’m well able to ignore to a certain point, and just go about my day, doing what I need to do as if nothing was different, like the way I’ve gotten so accustomed to the occasional siren or that sticky spot on my kitchen floor that never seems to be un-sticky for any given length of time. I think I’ve even become more tolerable of pain than dog hair – at least the pain usually reduces to a completely ignore-able level without me having to do anything about it.

Usually.

Though it occasionally pops up in other peripheral parts of my body, such as a deep bruise on my arm that leaves me wondering how it got there (usually blamed on playing with Ruby), it usually prefers to center in my legs and abdomen, and while the legs are nearly always just surface pain, over time I’ve become quite impressed with the seemingly endless areas & levels of pain that the abdomen has in its arsenal.
From the umbilical hernia, a steady sharp pain on the surface that occasionally has momentary flashes which reflexively cause me to drop what I’m doing to put pressure on it so I don’t come flying out of myself like one of those streamer-poppers, to the deeper, milder liver pain that has become as natural of a feeling as wearing socks. They’ve basically become old friends, and I can’t even imagine, after all this time, what it would be like *not* to have them. It’s like my body is a beautiful old beat-up car – a classic eyesore, dented, scratched & long-faded paint with an engine that takes some finesse to get going, but has it’s own personality & charm – even if it’s only in my eyes.

I think it was early evening Sunday when I began noticing that this pain was something different. It wasn’t really any single place in my abdomen – it was the entire damn thing, and it wouldn’t go away or be appeased, regardless of any attempts to do so. It was determined.

I tried to sit down, take my attention away from it by making maille, but all I could focus on was the pain – which seemed to realize that I was trying to ignore it, so like a spoiled only child, just started screaming louder. Going down the mental checklist of similar times I’ve felt this in the past, I decided it was gastrointestinal – something was just being stubborn inside of me, and only laying down – and time – could help it. By this time it was nearing around 11pm, so I decided to call it a day, crawl into bed & read myself to sleep, feeling certain that it would be gone in the morning. I remembered this happening on other rare occasions, and felt confident a good stretch of unconsciousness would make things right as rain, & I could continue with all the things I needed to do the next day.

Apparently, it wanted to stay up and play a game that seemed to be called “Sleep through THIS!” – which I’m guessing it probably got the idea from one of those strange & brutal Japanese game shows. It *definitely* wasn’t “Jeopardy!”, which I would have much preferred.

The morning brought the same pain, not increasing enough to cause alarm but not decreasing either, and though the pain was tolerable, the energy it took to not focus on it so I could do what I needed to do wasn’t. I fought through each hour, doing what I could but not being able to do what I most *needed* to do. Hanging on my wall, sitting on my desk, draped over displays are about 40 necklaces, bracelets, cuffs, pendants & earrings, sitting there, mocking my inability to gather the energy & enthusiasm to remind people about them, to sell them, to be able to afford the herbs that could prevent this pain from coming back.

The less energy I had the more morose I became, the less I was able to do the more downhearted. I had to do something to try to change this, to reverse the pessimistic energy that I felt growing thicker around me, the increasing feeling that this whole jewelry business was just another something that I failed in making work. Thought of all I *had* accomplished didn’t help; now was the only thing that mattered. The only thing that ever matters – and I felt like shit in that “now”.

It was early afternoon when I finally moved my laptop & book, holding my stomach as I got out of bed. Holding my arm around it didn’t help the pain, but it seemed like something that I was supposed to do, pretending that it comforted the alien that was *obviously* digging around in there, eating its way up to my chest.

Filling five plastic shopping bags about half way with dog food & putting them in a Trader Joe’s bag, Ruby & I slowly walked down to Civic Center, where I usually see the people with their homeless dogs. I tried to enjoy the walk – sunshine warming my face, a light cool breeze, Ruby bouncing back & forth like a Chinese ping-pong ball on the sidewalk trying her best not to leave any exotic stench unsniffed.
It *was* a truly beautiful day, and even through the pain I had moments I was able to enjoy it, but mostly I just wanted to help feed some hungry dogs & then crawl back into bed. I went straight down to where I usually see the homeless people with their dogs, and found… no one. A couple homeless people, no dogs. I kept walking.

We went through the Civic Center park, around the side I sometimes see others with their dogs sitting in the shade, then back down Larkin again, getting further & further from home & bed. A left on Market, looking, getting frustrated I contemplated just leaving the food somewhere they would hopefully find it – but at this point I realized that wouldn’t do. I needed to see their faces, to hopefully inspire a smile & maybe even a ‘thanks!’. I needed it for me as much as I wanted to do it for them.

About 5 extra blocks & 10 minutes later, I turned a corner & finally saw one girl who looked homeless enough, and she had a dog! She was walking away from me, about 30 yards ahead, but I wasn’t losing her. No fucking way. I hooked up Ruby to her leash so she would keep up, and as much as I could, gave “chase”. Walking as smoothly as I can to prevent any unnecessary jostling of my abdomen, I think the only thing that let me catch up to her were my longer legs and her lack of any apparent need to walk at anything more than a leisurely gate. And Ruby, who helped pull me along when she saw the girl’s dog.

“Hey!” She turns around. I’m trying to look like I just happened to notice her and realized I have a bunch of bags of dog food in my hand.
“yeah?”
“I have a bunch of dog food. You want it? It’s apparently good – she likes it!” I say as I glance down at Ruby, now engaged in trying to inhale the other dog through her nose.
“Really? Yeah, I *totally* need some dog food.”
“Yeah? Okay – it’s yours. Hope it helps.”
“It totally does, I really needed do food. Thanks!”
“No problem, happy to. Entirely my pleasure!”

She looks in the bag, looks up at me, and then it happens. A smile.
“Thanks man, thanks a lot!”
“No worries. I like being able to help when I can, especially dogs!”

With that we part ways, her standing there turning to talk to someone else & me, a small smile on my face but a HUGE one in my heart, start heading home.
I don’t know if it’s my imagination or real or if there is any difference in the two, but I think the pain may have diminished, just a tiny bit. Maybe there wasn’t enough room for it all with the happiness I felt.

“See Ruby, see how she smiled? Now she’s a little happier, her pup will be able to eat for a few days, and I am *really* happy. See how amazing that is? Ruby ignores me for a really interesting smelling mailbox, and we keep walking – back home, and back to bed.

Last night I noticed that the worst of the abdominal pain had finally left, but not without leaving me a souvenir. I’m only slowly recovering from the amount of energy it sucked from me, the weariness & fatigue still preventing the enthusiasm & hope needed to promote my jewelry, letting people know it’s still here, still for sale, and I would still love to sell it.

At least I had enough energy to start a couple pieces last night, as well as begin learning an incredibly beautiful & intricate new weave – called “Dragonscale”.

As much as I love making maille & will probably never entirely stop, it’s frustratingly difficult to maintain the enthusiasm to keep pushing & trying to encourage people to buy when nothing is selling. Only a part of it has to do with the money. Perhaps nearly equally important is the satisfaction I feel, the excitement clients show, the happiness these bring them.

It’s even almost tempting just to give it all away –
just so I could see the smiles.

To Find A Thief

I find the empty Amazon box when I opened the old & squeaky gate o the elevator in my apartment building. Only about 15 minutes before I had gotten a text saying that my package was delivered, so when it wasn’t in the foyer I knew without looking that this was mine. A quick check confirmed it – my name, my apartment number on the box that someone else had gutted, calling the desk lamp that I had ordered for better light to make chainmaille by their own. They stole my goddamn light.

Packages meant for myself and others who live here have disappeared on occasion, but I’d never actually found the empty box before, and never having proof that it wasn’t just a lazy delivery person (usually made clear by the delivery note – like a desk chair or 40lb bag of dog food that was “left in mailbox” Really?) – but for the first time, I had proof. Someone fucking stole from me, someone in the building, and while I could suspect all I want, usually I just let it go and called Amazon, who rock at making things right – but finding the box it came in triggered something that I didn’t expect to find inside of me. And I wanted that damn light.

Carrying the box I dropped Ruby off in my apartment and went upstairs. There are two apartments that the people who *don’t* rip people off & I suspect when we cross paths & talk, and one is apartment 46 – directly above me. While usually I loathe confrontation and with the exception of someone fucking with a friend of mine, will do most anything to avoid it, I realized that all I would do is sit in my apartment and seethe with what I *should* have done. At least, that’s what I’ve usually done in the past – but things are changing in my life, and this needed to be one of them.

I knocked on the door & when Rick answered – a meek looking guy with a bad leg, maybe a few years older than me with thinning hair and a few inches shorter,  I held out the empty box. “Know anything about this?”
In a voice with feigned surprise ‘well gosh, how on earth did *that* happen?’  he says “No, I don’t.”
“You sure?” The look in my eyes and accusatory note in my voice obviously not believing him.
“I swear. I don’t know anything about it. Really. I’m sorry that it happened to you, that sucks.”

Really? Bullshit. Anyone else would have asked what I meant, would have asked what I was talking about when all I showed them was an empty box – but not having much recourse I turned and didn’t say a word as I walked back down the hall with him continuing to apologize.

Then it was to the other of the two suspected apartments. No answer when I knocked on the door, no sound from behind it. Maybe they just aren’t answering. I went down to the gate buzzer & punched his code in, waiting for someone to answer. It was still ringing as I shut the gate behind me and walked back inside. For the second time, I went up to Rick’s. I wasn’t letting this go. I knew it would eat away at me if I did, without doing everything I could within reason to settle it. As he answered the door again I told him that he wouldn’t mind if I took just a quick look around to set my mind at ease – at which point he turned to his guest and started apologizing profusely, saying that he swore he didn’t know anything about it and he’ll give it back right now, sorry, sorry, sorry etc. – and his guest handed me my lamp, still in its box.

Conjuring up what I’ve seen in movies, I told him “Don’t be under the impression that this is in any way resolved with something so trivial as a pathetic little apology. You fucking STOLE from me, and even if it wasn’t you, it was your guest, your responsibility, and the blame comes down on you for every package that has gone missing or will in the future, so if I were you I would make an extra effort to make absolutely certain that this never. Fucking. Happens. Again. Your thieving, piece of shit guest stole from me in my home, and you better fucking believe that I’m taking it personally. This is far from over.”

Or at least that’s what I should have said, and will when I see him again – I swear – but I was kind of amazed at myself right then, and ecstatic that I had actually taken action and gotten my lamp back, so – I said something,  I know I did, but it definitely wasn’t as good as that. I think I said something about “While I’m here, keep it down. The floors are thin & I can hear everything above a normal footstep downstairs.” – which doesn’t really carry the weight of the other. Hell, I’ve always been better at writing than talking anyway, and I swear, if I could have just had him wait while I wrote something, man, that would have REALLY ripped him apart.

I’ll save that perfect response for the next time I see him, as inevitably I will, and then, summoning the perfect movie line make it excruciatingly clear to him – but in the meantime, I *have* noticed that there’s much less noise coming through the ceiling in the past couple of days.

Life, Death, Dogs. A Rooftop Contemplation

The occasional whisper of tires as a car drives by below, an unintelligible shout, the scattered songs of birds. The only sounds at this hour. Only the crackheads & I seem to be awake. Even the sirens are quiet, sleeping.

It’s 4am & I’m up on the roof of my apartment building with a fresh cup of coffee, a cigarette, & Ruby. The clouds above reflect the city lights giving a faint glow, just enough to see by. A cool breeze plays with my hair, blowing it in my face then away. I wrap my robe a little tighter around me.

I sit on the short wall of my building, look down at the weeds growing in our forbidden & neglected back yard. Near the far right corner calla lily’s bloom, defying the otherwise abandoned and unloved desolation. With their beauty inevitably comes a warm sorrow as I’m reminded of when Striggy brought a gift of bone-white lily’s to my tent in Austin. With love & reverence I placed them on top of the pale blonde box I had picked up earlier that day, already made into an altar surrounded with candles, a picture of Bean propped up against the box that now held the ashes of the most amazing dog & companion I’ve ever known. She was killed by a freight train a few days before, found by friends lying between the tracks, her favorite stuffed toy a few inches from her head. Nearly 13 years later & the tears still fall for her.

I turn back facing the roof top, close my eyes, take in a few deep breaths as I find a strange comfort in this sadness. Now, it’s filled with love and warm memories instead of the anguish I carried inside for years, holding it tight, afraid that if the pain wasn’t there I would somehow be betraying her memory.

I know better now. I understand death better now.

I think of how exquisite this life is, how fortunate I am. Occasionally I still let the weight of it all get to me and forget these things, but not now. Not today.

I open my eyes and catch Ruby briefly chasing her tail. I chuckle silently to myself and somehow love her even more.

I think of the time I spent in Hospice. Months on end so close to giving up, so desperately wanting to stop being strong, and each morning having to somehow find just one reason to keep fighting. One reason to stay alive.

As impossible it seemed to be able to imagine at times, I needed to believe that I would somehow get better.

I had to know, with as little doubt as possible, that there would be mornings like this one to look forward to.