Are Fortune Cookie’s Starting to Jerk Us Around, Or Am I Alone?

“You are kind and loved.”
I demand my money back
That ain’t no fortune

I’ve never believed in them; let’s make that totally clear.  I don’t like anything telling me what to do, which includes cookies, self-help books, or parents.  I hold any “Wisdom From the Beyond”, be it astrological, numerological, tarot, or confectionery, all with the same disdain.  Jupiter is in Leo, with Mercury rising?  My fifth chakra is out of line?  Gag unto me with a spoon.  I understand the appeal, though, and this stuff can be fun.  I read my horoscope sometimes, even if it’s just to see how wrong they are.

But these cookies.  These cookies are screwing with us.  I remember once when I was a child cracking open a fortune cookie and reading “You will find a ruby buried in the sand.”  I spent the next year surveying every beach, sandbox, and miscellaneous piles of dirt for a hint of a gem, even the tiniest little scrap.  When I grew up and stopped being as gullible as, well, a seven year old, I couldn’t get angry at a tiny scrap of paper; I hadn’t found a ruby, but I had found a $10 bill, a bird skull, a pocket knife, three pogs (which were in vogue at the time), and a fair share of bouncy balls.  All of that may not of been worth much, but what a treasure!

Something has changed though.  These cookies nowadays don’t give fortunes.  I started noticing about a decade ago, when fortunes such as “A long lost uncle will die and leave his entire estate to you”, or “Your wife is sleeping with your brother” were replaced by more vague premonitions.  “Your future is bright” and “Your work situation will improve”.  I’m okay with these, I guess, but none of them are going to go make a kid sifting through an entire playground.  It’s like trading a homemade cookie that was made with real molasses, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and is the shape of a duck, with a national brand cookie that is a regular shape and has a standard taste – it’s still good, but it’s not as much fun.

All the fortunes have been replaced by affirming platitudes.  “You are an insightful individual” and “You are cherished and adored by your friends”.  What sort of bullshit is that?  I did not buy $30 worth of over salted noodles and dumplings that I am sure are filled with more raccoon meat than chicken to be told I’m happy and pleasant person.  I WANT EXTREMES, DAMMIT!  Give me my family’s weight in gold!  Tell me if I climb a mountain, I’ll be able to read people’s minds!  It doesn’t even have to be positive!  “You will get lupus within three years.”  AWESOME!  BRING IT!

To make-up for their lack of creativity, these people print lotto numbers below these trite affirmations, as if saying randomly generated computer numbers hold all of our luck.  I can do that at home.  Hell, 14 03 63 22 05.  See?!  (If anyone wins with those numbers, please let me know; I may have a future in the psychic industry.)  What I can’t do at home is be surprised by a sweet crunchy sugary treat foretelling that my grandmother is going to buy me a horse named Sprinkles.

I believe there is more to be seen in this slow degradation of our Chinese-themed, American-invented dessert: instead of dealing with the prospect of opening the cookie and being told our future may not be all that we had planned, we merely wish to be placated and told that we are worthwhile human beings who deserve to be happy simply for ordering delivery.  If you need to be told you’re okay by a cookie, then you may need more help than a dessert can offer.

It might also be that in this time of recession and what may be the beginnings of some civil unrest, people simply don’t want to think about the future even if it’s all for fun.  Yet there’s something depressing about cracking open a fortune cookie and finding nothing, so they fill it with happy descriptions . . . but it’s hard to write a funny article with that one.

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

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Am I An Alcoholic (And If So, Is That Okay?)

We were trying to decide what to do next.  Tired from the morning’s frivolities, our conversation had started to lull.  No movie peaked our interest.  I didn’t get cable.  The Wii was broken.  We had already eaten and were already drinking.  After weighing our options and ten minutes of silence, we decided to get the Wii fixed.  As I stood up to get my car keys, I lifted the glass of Seagram’s and 7-Up to my lips.  “I have learned nothing,” I thought to myself as I took one final sip before leaving,

In the summer of 2009, I attended a party where emotions had started to run high and I had started to drink heavier than usual.  I blacked out around 12:30am, stopped drinking around 1:00, and I left the house around 3:00.  I fell asleep at the wheel and ran into a lamppost on an empty street going about 30mph at 6:00am.  The police arrived, administered a field sobriety test, and arrested me for driving under the influence.  We arrived at the police station at 7:00am, where I blew a .19 on the breathalyzer.  Having a blood alcohol content of .19 means I had lost gross motor control, had poor reflexes and reaction times, and was at risk of having alcohol poisoning; and this was six hours after I had stopped drinking.  At the height of my drunkenness, I wouldn’t be surprised if my BAC was closer to .30, which is when you are at risk of, you know, death.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about my drinking habits and what led me to do something so incredibly stupid and reckless.  I can’t deny I had abused alcohol that night, but was I an alcoholic?  My gut reaction, anyone’s gut reaction really, was to say hell no I’m not an alcoholic, I just love to drink.  No matter how many different ways you say that, it’s always bullshit, particularly in my case.  I was in a bar drinking the night after I got out of jail.  Instead of taking my totaled-beyond-repair car as a sign that I had a problem, I looked at the reality of my friends having to drive me everywhere as an invitation to drink more.  I was walking everywhere: to work, to the grocery store, to the courthouse, and especially to one of the eight liquor stores in my neighborhood, where I discovered that alcohol comes in tinier, easy-to-finish-in-one-night bottles.  I drank myself to sleep every night for seven months.

Despite all the evidence in favor of the idea, I never felt like an alcoholic (although to be fair I don’t know what being an alcoholic should feel like), and yet something was going on.  I liked drinking a lot, but other than the DUI and almost killing myself, it was hard to see the negatives of my lifestyle.  Hangovers?  A mere nuisance, nothing more.  The opinions of others?  If I had really cared about those I doubt I would have been drinking so heavily in the first place.  Impact on my health?  Shit, I was just glad to be alive.  I assured myself I was doing all right and slammed back Gin & Tonics like I would win something if I kept at it.  The upsides always outweighed the downs and I probably would have continued drinking in this manner if I wasn’t so goddamn pedantic.

I am a person who likes control, but if life has taught me anything it’s that we have no control over most of the crazy crap that happens to us.  What we do have control over is ourselves and our actions, and that is extremely important to me.  When I would drink too much and blackout (where you are no longer in control of what you say or do but continue to say and do things), it was extremely disconcerting.  While it was not unusual for me to pass out in the chair at my desk at home, when I woke up one morning and found that the glass I had distinctly remembered leaving at my computer was instead on my nightstand, I started to panic.  Most likely I had the glass in my hand when I moved from the chair to my bed, but I didn’t recall doing it.  What else had I done?  What else had I done during those seven months I did nothing but drink?  What else could I have done the night that I crashed into a light pole?  The possibilities were vaster than I felt comfortable with.  I stopped drinking that very moment until I figured out what the hell was going on.

Once I started to go to bed because I was actually tired instead of drunk, I began to realize that my substance abuse was caused by my deep-seeded fear and anger at post-college life.  I was no where near where I wanted to be and considered myself a complete failure at the decrepit age of 24.  I blamed myself for it all and believed that I deserved nothing but hardship.   It’s easy to see how I could lose control with that mindset; if you never give yourself a break, you’ll end up breaking yourself.  I delved head first into the hellish introspection that one has to go through to discover that they are actually worth a damn, what Douglas Adams’ called the “long dark tea-time of the soul”.  I started to lose weight and get fit.  I got myself an awesome new car.  I got into a relationship that made me feel attractive and wanted (although the relationship ended after three months because she was straight up bananas).  I still drank, but never on a weekday and never ever in the quantities that I used to.  I had walked to the brink, dangled over the edge, and walked away with only a few scars.

I never answered the question though.  Am I an alcoholic?  I had been to many court-assigned AA meetings and had seen people who were not just dangling on the brink but in the process of falling off.  I knew for certain I wasn’t one of them, and yet I couldn’t answer the question with a definite no.  A sober person would never have done the things that I had done and lived the way that I did.  But being an alcoholic is a black and white issue, isn’t it?  You either are or you aren’t, right?

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has a twenty question Alcohol Abuse Self-Test, with questions like, “Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink?” and, “Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of your drinking?”  Answer “Yes” to a question and you add one point to your score.  If, at the end of the test you have two or more points, you are at greater risk of being an alcoholic.  A score between two and eight, and you “should consider arranging a personal meeting with a professional who has experience in the evaluation of alcohol problems.”  Anything above an eight, and you’re an alcoholic.  The NCADD does state that the test is educational and not medical in nature, and the results should not be considered as a diagnosis of alcoholism, but if you answer yes to “Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time?“ it’d be hard to not be labeled as a booze hound.  After taking the test just now I scored a six, so obviously I still have some issues.

But I don’t think it’s that obvious.  I have a steady job.  I’m involved in a healthy romantic relationship of two years and going.  I exercise, eat right, and (other than a few extra pounds) am pretty healthy.  I never feel an unexplainable lust for alcohol.  I have consulted with AA sponsors and counselors just to make sure, and none of them said they felt like I had an abuse problem.  So why do I still feel like an alcoholic?

Because I am an alcoholic.  The issue is a black and white one, and if you are, you are for the rest of your life; and yet I am okay with being an alcoholic.

There are the people that are labeled alcoholics because they enjoy drinking, go on binge about once a year, don’t mind drinking alone (and prefer it in many cases), and they are never ashamed that they do so.  For these people, alcohol is a hobby, one they love to practice whenever possible.  They are social alcoholics, deemed somewhat less than because they admit that it feels good to drink.  Everything comes with a price, however, for when you dance on the edge of the precipice, there is always a risk of falling off.  Social alcoholics are always in danger of becoming the big alcoholics and at one point in their lives, they usually do.  I did.

There are those who demonize all substance-use as substance-abuse and consider anyone who indulges in drugs or liquor as people with a problem.  They hold nothing but disdain and pity in their hearts for drinkers.  The feeling is mutual.  The author James Crumley once wrote, “Son, never trust a man who doesn’t drink because he’s probably a self-righteous sort, a man who thinks he knows right from wrong all the time.  And, son, never trust a man who drinks but refuses to get drunk. They’re usually afraid of something deep down inside, either that they’re a coward or a fool or mean and violent. You can’t trust a man who’s afraid of himself.”  For me, it’s hard to trust a person who has never made a mistake or gone too far.  You learn something significant about yourself when you hit bottom, and it’s a testament to your strength and fortitude if you can pick yourself up and go on.  I’m not advocating that people should go out on a bender to truly explore every facet of life, but the people who have never had a drink, or who have the occasional eggnog at the Christmas party, and look down on others for their habits are nothing but snobs who only want to feel superior.

Drinking, or not drinking, doesn’t make you a good or bad person.  Using a substance doesn’t make you a bad person.  Being a judgmental asshole makes you a bad person.

So yeah, I’m an alcoholic.  I like to drink more often than the normal joe on the street, and I usually do . . . and I’m absolutely fine with that.

If you think you may have a problem, or would like to talk to someone, you can find information at the NCADD website, or call 1-800-622-2255 for immediate assistance.  Times can get tough, so please remember that you’re not alone and there are people who want to help.

365

I started this blog seemingly, having just become unemployed and with loads of free time on my hands, out of sheer boredom. I didn’t have any one particular subject I felt strongly enough about nor had enough knowledge on to devote an entire blog to, so I opted to showcase all of the creative works I had come up with in the four hellish years I worked at my last job. (Side note: ACTORS + LAWYERS = BAD.  REALLY BAD.  PEPSI CLEAR BAD.)

But what started out as a simple copy n’ paste sort of hobby quickly became a quest to test my creative abilities, and it was not long after I started this blog that I set forth to create a tiny piece of art everyday.  There was not a single point when I told myself this; no particular moment in time when I decided that I was going to spend an entire year posting.  But after three months of continuous blogging, where else was there to take the idea of The Eternal Loop but to blog everyday for an entire year?

No where, really, since as of this post I have blogged 365 straight days in a row.

No. Stop. The applause is . . . it’s too much.

It’s been fun and awesome and goddamn exhausting.  My friends and family stopped talking to me because my blog would end up being the only topic of conversation (“Your uncle jumped out a window and is in the hospital?  That reminds me of a cartoon I created for my blog last week!”).  At least, I think that’s why they stopped talking to me . . . there may have been other factors.

But now that a year has gone by, it’s time for me to take a little vacation from blogging.  Go to the beach, travel, meet new people, try new things, and rejoin society.

. . .

Actually, I will probably do none of those things.  But I will catch up on reading everyone else’s blogs that I have been ignoring, as well as catch up on all the things in my Netflix cue.

Now don’t fear, dear readers (all three of you, whom I adore)!  This isn’t the end, and I won’t be gone forever; I just need to take a break for a spell.  And when I do come back (in about a month or so), I won’t go back to posting everyday.  It’s too much work, and it’d be nice to have a life away from my computer.  Instead, I want to change gears and put quality over quantity.  This entire year I’ve pretty much pulled every post straight outta my butt, and I’d like to dedicate myself to making longer, more engaging, and better works; specifically with regards to short stories, short films and readings.

Before I go I would like to hand out some bullshit (but not completely meaningless) awards:

INSPIRATION AWARD – Two of my closest friend started their own blogs, A Man Chasin’ His Hat and The Hypermodern.  Without them, I would never have been inspired to start my own.

FIRST COMMENTATOR/BLOG FRIEND AWARD – Hyperactive Inefficiency was the first person to leave a positive comment on one of my posts, and was the first “Blog Friend” I made.

“THANKS FOR AWARDING ME” AWARD – Funny or Tragic gave me one of those Versatile Blog Awards, and thus gets one in return.  And for being awesome.

BECAUSE SHE’S MY GIRLFRIEND AND HAS HAD TO PUT UP WITH ME TALKING ABOUT THIS BLOG THE MOST AWARD – Die Umlaut.  Award self-explanatory.

THE MOST LIKES AWARDThe Nerdybaker has liked more of my posts than anyone else, and as I also enjoy cooking and am a big nerd, I feel a kinship there.

All of these are wonderful, so check them out if you have a chance.

In general, I want to thank everyone who has ever read/liked/shared/commented on this blog.  I hope I have been able to entertain most of you; it’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do.

Toodles!

A Search For An Answer That Isn’t There

“Nic, what the hell are you doing?”

I stopped spinning in the chair and looked for the source of the question.  My friend was standing in the doorway to her living room, her eyes droopy, still tired.  At least I assume they were, I couldn’t actually tell at the time.  Not only was the room still quite dark (it was 4:30 in the morning), but my head was still reeling from the swivel chair, in which I had been spinning for the past twenty minutes or so, and I could not focus on her face.

“I got up early and decided,” I said, pausing to give my mind some time to come up with a clever answer, “to go for a little spin.”

My friend stared at me (once again, I assume she was) in horror.  “Yes.  But for heaven’s sake, why?”

I stared at her.  I tried to think of an answer, truly.  Even taking into account my dizziness, I still had nothing to offer.  I merely started to spin in the chair again, gently chuckling as I did so.

Sometimes, there are no viable answers to the queries of life.

 

Long Lost Love

18 years ago my mother brought it home – a wedge of some sort of confectionery, light and resembling brown marble, that she kept in her sock draw.  She told me the name of it but I was only nine years old and spent whatever free memory I had in my head dedicated to memorizing every line of the Power Rangers.  But I remember that taste; chalky, sweet without being over imposing, and a distinct flavor that I have never been able to accurately describe.  I use this taste to describe other ones . . . although the fact that I could not remember the name of the confectionery made that difficult.  “This tastes like that thing I had that one time when I was a kid,” does not a useful description make.

Years later, I tried to get my mother to remember what it was, all to no avail.  It was not her fault since all the information I could give her was –

  • You brought it home.
  • It was like cheesecake, except not cold, or creamy, or made with milk.  It was nothing like cheesecake, but that’s as close as I can come.
  • You kept it in your sock drawer.

Alas, she said she had no idea what I was talking about, and went on to discuss something or other that I paid no attention to because I was researching this candy online.  And thus my life went, with an urge to taste this mystery food that had entered my life, and urge that I would never be able to sate.  I would lie in my bed and lament over my plight, to curse the gods for making me want something I had no name for.

Scoff if you must, but you can not imagine the true despair that would envelop me when this yearning began.  I lived to deal with it, a day at a time, until that lust was just a tickle at the back of my mind.  But I was never rid of it either, for that tickle was always there, reminding me that there was a candy out there that had stolen my heart.

Years later, again, and in the present, I was walking out of a deli late at night.  Whether I was on a diet or no, I had wanted pastrami and thus the pastrami had been gotten.  While at the cash register, I saw little candy bars in white and red wrappers, saying Halvah on the front.  I had seen these many time at this deli, and this time I felt a sort of pull towards –

Look, I’m not going to draw this out.  You know what it was, you can read the writing on the wall.  Or the web page.  Was it the candy I had been searching for?  Yes.  Was I elated to be reunited with it?  Of course.  Did my girlfriend like?  No, she spit it out immediately, after which I smacked her for disrespecting my soulmate-candy in such a manner.  Was it exactly how I remembered it, exactly what I had always wanted?

You’re darn-fucking-tootin’.

My lover.

A Short Word About My Mother

My mother got a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  After that, she passed the bar and became a lawyer in California.  After that, she went into army intelligence and became an interrogator, which she now trains up and coming soldiers to do.  It was a very, very, very long time before I was able to argue with my mother.

That is not quite true, as we have always argued in the way parents do with children (e.g. “Yes you will.”  “No I won’t.” sorta thing).  However, it was a very long time before I could win an argument with my mother.  She could walk up to me, tell me that she was wrong and that I was right, and then we would argue and I would still lose.  Later, as I was sitting in the corner or banished to my room, I would wonder how I could have ended up in trouble when she admitted her wrongdoing at the very beginning.  I just chocked it up to her being some sort of witch (I searched endlessly for a cauldron), but I have come to realize it was simply her training.

We don’t really argue anymore, and I have gotten better at keeping my ground, but I still think back to those times with a sort of reverence.  Even when she was forcing me to do the dishes or take out the trash and my young and selfish mind would focus on the “unfairness” of it all, I would still have to stand back in awe with her abilities.  My mother has never ceased to amaze me.On a separate note, to get back at her for twisting my words into weapons, I would rearrange all the furniture and stack all of her shoes in a big pile at the front door.  This battle still goes on today.

And Now You Always Will, Too

I was helping to hide Easter eggs for my nieces and nephews (technically they are my second cousins, but everyone in the family gets really confused with the different ranks of cousins, so I’m an uncle) when I remembered a little bunny that briefly lived in my apartment a year or two ago.

My roommate, despite it being stated in the lease that we were not allowed pets, had bought a bunny from some street corner in the fashion district of Los Angeles.  It was white and light gray and could fit in the palm of your hand.  Very cute and very tiny, Rosie (which is what my roommate named the bunny) grew on the entire apartment.

For about three weeks during the beginning of summer, all of my roommates were away and I was left with taking care of the bunny.  Feeling wrong to keep it locked up in a cage in a hot apartment all day, I would let her roam free to find a nice cool shady spot under the couch.  This worked fine, except I started to find piles of her droppings in every nook and cranny of the house.  Small, dark and hard, they were easily swept up or vacuumed.

What surprised me was that the piles of tiny pellets were so large.  How could such a tiny creature create so much waste?  It was barely big enough to finish a sprig of lettuce, but by the looks of her droppings you could have sworn she had the “Moon Over My Hammy” special at Denny’s, with extra bacon on the side.

This image suddenly popped into my head as I was hiding some chocolate eggs in the bushes next to my grandparents’ house, where we were all gathering for an Easter lunch.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the idea that these chocolate eggs were really just the droppings of the Easter Bunny, who purposefully does his “business” with delicious results in the bushes so no one would find it.

My gift for Easter this year was that I would never be able to look at a chocolate Easter egg without thinking that a large bunny had just defecated on my property.