Bone and blood

Today I was talking on the phone with a friend about how I am usually absolutely convinced that almost every person I have interacted with has actively hated me, including this particular friend. He said “well, that’s therapy-worthy!” I felt thrilled to be deemed worthy of something. I confess I had taken it a little personally when my therapist had told me to hold off on scheduling future sessions. I had so much more to say to him! (Yes, he probably hated me too).

But I am really in a fine place, vastly improved since July; I finally bought a couch, I’m still single, and I don’t particularly care to not be. I go up and down still, but have kept too busy to really lose my sense of perspective. There are people with genuinely, truly terrible things to deal with in their lives. Like my co-worker, who just found her boyfriend shot to death in a field by his house last week. Or almost every other person living in this violent, mood-disordered city. I still like living here, and yes, I remain a little frightened of it.

I am writing again, somewhere other than here. An improv friend (yes all my friends are through this hobby) reached out to me and asked me if I would write a column for his pop culture website. I am notoriously bad at knowing about movies and television shows, even the ones I have actually seen (I am mostly good at fulfilling the role of “cheerleader” and “most-drinker” at trivia teams). He said that was no matter, that I should think on what subjects I’d actually be able to say things about. I eventually settled on a column about viscera, butchery and weird gross things, because I am a weird gross weirdo. If such things strike your fancy, read it over at Hobo Trash Can.

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Snap Judgment

Michael Brown never had a chance to receive a trial, but in many ways the Ferguson case turned him into a defendant, post-mortem. Here are two competing images of the victim:

michael brown
One image of Michael Brown, according to those who knew him: a sweet, angel-faced big boy, who occasionally smoked weed and always played video games, like most teenage boys growing up in America. He got along with everybody. He was visiting his grandmother the day he was shot six times. He wrote fairly amateurish rap songs instead of doing his homework on time. Sometimes he did dumb things, as again, most teenage boys hopped up on testosterone and peer pressure are wont to do. But he was never known to be a fighter, despite – or maybe because of – his size: he typically “tended to use his size to scare away potential trouble.”

Unfortunately, this tendency may have contributed to Michael’s death. Here’s the image of him from Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony:

…Brown looked up at him “and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.”

via NPR

Officer Wilson knew none of the context of Michael Brown’s abbreviated life. All he came armed with was a lifetime of images of angry black men, negative reinforcement from interactions with previous suspects, high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Oh, and a loaded gun.

It is during rapid-fire moments like these, when prejudice becomes fatal.

I don’t know what to do about institutional racism. It’s a problem far beyond me, or the scope of my generation, a problem that has been brewing ever since the first slave ships arrived on the shores of this fledging country. Time heals most wounds, but not these – a dark and shameful past reechoes itself in modern-day iterations of Jim Crow.

What time can do is potentially save lives. In their official statement to the press after the verdict, the family of Michael Brown called for a “campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.” One of the many reasons for this being that police, feeling the extra layer of supervision and accountability from being filmed, will think twice before deploying what might constitute excessive force. Cameras alone cannot solve the problem of black men being disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. But they have been shown to deescalate situations on both sides of a law enforcement interaction (reality TV notwithstanding, people tend to be on their best behavior when cameras are rolling).

On that hot, fateful August day, the presence of a camera might have slowed things down enough to spare Michael Brown his life. It looks as though prevailing sentiment is on board with body cameras, with police departments around the country in process of adopting them into their routines. More studies should be done to definitively assess their effects. And no camera, no matter how Google-advanced, could capture all subtleties and nuances brought to the table in a hostile police encounter.

But if the widespread adoption of these cameras can avert needless deaths, simply by virtue of psychological effect, then perhaps the death of this young man will not have been totally in vain. There is currently a police body camera bill set to become law in Baltimore City — unless Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issues a veto, which she is likely to do. Time to hit the streets?

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Who is this mopey Debbie Downer who has taken over my blog and rendered it into a platter of whine and cheese? How dreadful. I apologize for anyone who looked at their feedreader notifications, came back and saw this.

Here are my not-quite-next year resolutions:
1. Post when good things have happened, because LOTS has happened that is bright and shiny and wonderful in my life, I just get too lazy to document as such.
2. Let myself feel feelings instead of quashing them down, only to explode at moments of utmost inconvenience.
3. Not to let those feelings consume me – feel them, burn them out, dust myself off and go back to business as usual.

Here are improv-related resolutions:
1. Listen, listen, listen. (And I will concentrate on actually listening, vs just mentally screaming at myself to listen so loud I can’t hear what the other person is saying)
2. Break myself of this idea that I have to force some kind of weird character; try playing myself.

Above this post you’ll see nothing but kittens, sunshine and dancing pigs. A lot of pig-related posts, actually.

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Rejection Rodeo

Let me dust off the pages of this blog to update you on the latest micro-tragedy of my life. Ahem.

So for the last year and some change, I have been taking improv classes and workshops, and basically plunging myself into this hobby as a way of getting over a devastating breakup. Improv was therapeutic for awhile, and then as it became the focus of my social group and most of my free time, I began to develop anxieties about it. Nothing too out of the ordinary, just the usual sophomore slump.

Last month, all of a sudden, everything started clicking for me and falling into place rapidly. I was invited to an upper level performance class that involved five shows (a lot for a month!); as soon as class wrapped, we formed an independent troupe and were able to get a practice space, two shows booked, and a coach within the matter of days. I was also invited to play with another indie troupe in the area, this one quite established and with a good reputation. I started to feel like, hey, maybe I am good at this.

And then yesterday, I auditioned for the major improv company in town.

I did this last year as well. I (obviously) failed to get in, but strangely felt good about myself afterwards. At least I got out there! I tried! I wasn’t called back then, but afterwards one of my instructors told me that there had been “positive chatter” about my performance. I walked in this year thinking that if I didn’t get in, I would be just fine – I’m in two indie troupes that I would hate to leave anyways, so why worry?

Oh, but this year it felt SO much more personal. After waiting outside in the cold for what seemed an eternity, we were let inside and the director called out the list of names for the call-back. I listened and clapped loudly as each and every person present, with whom I’d been in troupes or classes or workshops, was announced. And then…”that’s all, folks.”

I bailed very quickly, not before enduring a few pitied glances cast my way, and ran over to the nearby diner with the one friend I knew who also hadn’t been called back. Had it not been for her, I probably would have walked off a bridge.

It’s the morning after, and I am trying as hard as I can to rally. After some supportive phone calls and messages from friends and troupe-mates, I am resolved to continue improv, even though at this point I feel like the universe has finally exposed me for fraud. I am James Frey-ing it, at this point. A lot of my friends ended up making the final cut, and I am very happy for them – or will be, once I get my head out of my own ass and stop feeling so sad for myself.

I don’t know what to do. Universe says, maybe I should stop this hobby, and maybe take up another one that doesn’t cause me so much emotional angst? This feeling echoes very much the breakup that caused me to delve into improv in the first place. But then — a lot of my social life revolves around improv. And I am unlikely to get any better if I just take my (red) ball and go home.

2014 in general has been a year of rough turbulence for me. I guess this makes up for a long stretch of years in which I was too happy and carefree to feel or express any real grownup feelings.

Vicki, the girl robot from "Small Wonder." (Also, incidentally, the inspiration for one of the best scenes I have ever played).

Vicki, the girl robot from “Small Wonder.” (Also, incidentally, the inspiration for one of the best scenes I have ever played).

Now, thanks to improv, I feel all of the feelings – glad and sad. (Mad? Afrad?)

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From my fingertips, to your eyes: