Odds and Ends

I had an odd week. There’s lots on my mind, and it’s coming to me in a bunch of little stories, a bunch of odds and ends like the Abbey Road album or an anthology of shorts. I can’t say these are traumas so much as they are irksome incidents to rankle with in the wee hours of a restless night. Nothing worth testifying to the dirty old men in congress about, thankfully, and it feels a little selfish in a woe-is-me kind of way.

First thing is that I had my iPad stolen in a brazen way. I set my backpack down at a table in a little Starbucks inside a Target. While my back was turned ordering a drink ten feet away, a guy grabbed it and ran out of the store. It’s on video. No big loss; I got everything back but my iPad. I replaced it with a new one and restored from back up, but it serves as footnote to my odd week.

I’ve been doing some ride-share driving, not a bad gig to make ends meet as a writer down on his employment luck. I can take it or leave it as I wish. I was feeling kind of good about myself because the pink ride-share platform congratulated me with a fleece jacket (I can use 3 days a year in Tucson) for hitting 1000 rides last week. Then I bumped one of those pesky poles in a parking lot at less than 5 mph with a passenger in my car. The damage was one slight blemish on the bumper cover. If I took it to a body shop, they’d say go get some putty and touchup paint from an auto store. I told the young college student passenger it was nothing to worry about. She contacted Pink and reported an accident. Pink deactivated my account and started a claim without my knowledge or consent. I told them the car was mine, not there’s. Only I can start a claim. No more job? We’ll see.

Another passenger that day (before deactivation) said they were a pink ride-share driver and their car was in the shop because someone had rear ended them with passengers in the car. The bumper got knocked off causing $650 worth of damage. She convinced the passengers not to tell the pink company and got the young woman who wrecked into her (and her daddy) to agree to pay $1000 to keep it off of her insurance. I see these two stories as a sign (lol, it’s a sign!) that my luck is running out with this driving thing, and maybe it’s time to end this little side gig.

I cashed a little check from ‘family’ that can hold me over for a while and help get me on a different track. It’s been strange communicating with family more this last year over the passing of my mother. I’ve written a little about this before—the gaslighting by family, the false narratives about me. It’s the kind of thing writers joke about—I’m just back from the asylum! But I must admit it’s a bit hurtful to hear someone I grew up with actually say, ‘I thought you did have schizophrenia. Meanwhile my ride share deactivation got referred to as ‘losing my livelihood’. I’ve lost jobs in academia and tech writing, and I’ve pursued other writing endeavors, even moved to Hollywood once—but all of that and my Master’s level education seems like a dirty little secret. Never mentioned.

And with this I go hurtling back into some other stories from years past that seem to make more sense now in light of this idea that having a master’s means having a mental disorder (rather than having greater mental order). I’ve noticed that I tend to lose jobs whenever I interact with family more. Often this happens in bizarre ways that seem like bad Irish luck. But I come from a family that believes in the power of prayer or of sending out vibes, so I wonder if them harboring ill thoughts might be tweaking the universe against me.

There’s been a couple of jobs I lost before they even started. I got a good job with an internet startup in their corporate communications department. I showed up for work on my first day, introductions were started and I got pointed toward a desk. Before I could sit down, some bigwigs showed up telling me I didn’t have a job there. Puzzled, I asked to speak to the person who hired me. “He no longer works here.” No job for me.

Years later, a similar circumstance. I talked to a friend of a friend in academic television looking to hire me. We had a great talk, two people on the same page professionally. A week later, he couldn’t look me in the eye, literally shunning me. He finally brushed me off and never offered me any work. I talked to an old friend who knew the guy and he told me that my family had been saying to people for years that I had ‘schizophrenia’. Yes, that’s me, just back from the asylum.

Not long ago, I got a box of stuff that included old post cards of my Grand Canyon photos from many years ago. I had started a website back then to sell these along with other photos, making them available for wall hangings in the big suburban homes of my siblings and maybe their friends. A modest endeavor to get a little cash while working in academia and pursuing writing goals. I never sold anything to anyone, as I recall. No one seemed to care or get it. I remember I also received an unusual email from a family member—high resolution photos of the Grand Canyon—other people’s photos. I wasn’t sure how to take that. Did they think I was sharing my photos for look-sees and they responded in kind? Or were they implying they found better photos and that’s why no one bought mine?

Then there’s my dad’s brother, an optometrist, who wrote a few articles for a small town newspaper in the 1960s. Someone sent some clippings in an email and asked, “Did you know he was a writer?” (Only since age 11.) “It runs in the family.” (My pen name honours the maternal Irish side of my family. My mom was an English major; her mother a poet.) My dad’s brother failed World War Two boot camp and got a Section 8 discharge he could never live down. I’m much more like my Mom than my dad’s brother, although he wasn’t a bad guy. He redeemed himself in Korea as a doctor and maybe even served in a M*A*S*H. (My dad forbid his children from watching M*A*S*H while living in his house.)

It’s a long strange trip to realize that the most educated person in my family (me), a soft-spoken, mister-cool kind of guy as many who know him describe him, has a horrible mental disorder that just can’t be discussed. A whole life wasted on waiting for ‘family’ to come around, to take a step forward and lose the shackles of a misunderstood history, only to realize they’re looking backwards and are never going to know me.

Family? It’s a bunch of odds and ends that don’t amount to anything.

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