I've just recently completed my third involuntary move this year, and it had fine well better be the last one for a good long while. It was the first time since 2012 that I had to call around to a bunch of apartments which, to recap, is slightly below "stabbing myself in the groin with an ice pick" on my list of favorite activities. So I'm very, very grateful to my friend Terrah for volunteering to make all the actual calls for me, helping me move, and giving me food after I had to spend most of the contents of my bank account on this contract. I feel as though I should grovel at her feet or follow her around like in those TV show episodes where Character A saves Character B's life and Character B tries to repay Character A by following them around and being a nuisance. She says, however, that my friendship is payment enough. Most peculiar.
I somehow ended up in a highly coveted spot that's pretty cheap but not a total craphole, in the same complex where I used to chill on the porch with the infamous Debbie. And her neighbor used to chill with us and we both liked her and were jealous of each other at the same time without knowing it, but she's long gone and he still lives here and we're friends and when I found this contract for sale, I thought that was really cool and snatched it right up without remembering to clarifiy once and for all that it was a private room. The complex has both shared and private rooms but I was specifically looking for a private room because I'd rather sleep in a dumpster than a shared room. So I got to stress about that for a couple weeks but I tried to relax and remember that whatever abuse God sees fit to subject me to is for my own good. Come to find out, it is a private room and I only have one roommate because there are only two bedrooms because the laundry room takes up the space where a third bedroom would otherwise be. I will praise and adore my God forever.
It's well worth the tradeoff of being able to hear every footstep my upstairs neighbors make, and having the view outside the living room and bedroom windows blocked by recycle and garbage bins, respectively. And I'm only a little bit upset that the second time I used the dryer, the coin slot got stuck so that I'm out fifty cents but neither I nor anyone else can actually dry clothes with it for the foreseeable future. And I do mean stuck. I mean I literally pulled on the slot with both hands while propping my feet up against the dryer door. My next thought was to whack it with a hammer, which would be therapeutic whether or not it worked, but I restrained myself. I'm only a little bit upset about that. If it never ever happens again I'll be fine.
I love this place, but it's bittersweet at the same time to leave the stake, let alone the ward, that I've been in for seven years. I wanted to leave but also I didn't want to leave. I have a lot of good memories and a lot of horrific memories associated with the Logan YSA 36th Ward and I guess what it comes down to is that I needed a change and a fresh start, for psychological reasons if nothing else. Everyone who was there when I showed up is long gone and now so am I. The vicinity I lived in was ideal for other reasons, and almost everywhere I go on a regular basis is a bit farther away now, but taking different routes to get there is nice. I've been walking to Utah State University's campus the same two ways for seven years. The first time I walked to it from this place was nothing short of exhilirating. That feeling alone convinced me, rationally or not, that better things are yet to come.
I'm even ridiculously excited about the new school year that I'm not a part of. I love the atmosphere on campus when it bustles with people and activity, and I've missed that over the summer. I like being able to go to campus when I want to be around people, and go home when I want to be alone. I'm excited for all the incoming freshmen with their whole lives ahead of them, and I hope they'll make better choices than I did and have a better experience than I did. And I love the campus itself, the trees and the grass and the buildings, even for all the painful memories I have with it and the changes it's undergone and the fact that it's not a living thing. I love it deeply just like I love this town. They've both become a part of me, and I'm sorry if I sound high or something but nostalgia really hits me hard. Maybe I do need a change and a fresh start, but there are worse places to be stuck.
I've been on a Rammstein kick lately, listening to their albums "Sehnsucht", "Mutter", and "Reise, Reise" probably half a dozen times each over the last couple weeks, consecutively or shuffled in with everything else. And they're a perfect example of the amateurity of my love of music. Allegedly their music is a German metal subgenre known as "Neue Deutsche Härte", but all I know or care about is that they have guitars and frequently sound too epic for German or English words to describe. And nicely enough, even though I thought I only remembered a couple dozen German words from both times I took the introductory course, I keep picking out additional words and phrases with further listenings. But recently I was very quietly singing along with "Keine Lust" on my headphones, trying to match Till Lindemann's voice, when Mackenzie gave me a weird look and asked "Are you okay?" And I said I was fine but she kept giving me the weird look, so I asked for clarification and she clarified, "You sound like you're whispering something evil."
That was when we were waiting for people to show up to go to a campfire, but no one had shown up except for us and another friend of hers who doesn't like me, so I was letting them talk and tuning out into my own little world of Neue Deutsche Härte. She tried to think of other people she could invite but several people were out of town and no one else knew who she was because she's always gone. I mentioned that the ward just wasn't as cohesive and didn't do so much stuff together since Debbie left. Then Mackenzie dropped a bombshell: "I don't actually love Debbie."
"What?" I said. "How -"
"Oh, I have nothing against her as a person," she said. "It's just I'm always hearing 'Debbie is so nice -'"
"Maybe if you were nice, people would say that about you too."
"Oh, I'm not jealous, I'm just tired of it."
All this drama simmering under the surface for who knows how long, and I had no idea. Wow. But anyway, no one else showed up so it was just the three of us going. On the way there, she predictably blared Taylor Swift from the car speakers loudly enough to cause hearing damage and I had to turn my own music up as high as it went to keep hearing it because as much as I like Taylor Swift, that wasn't the mood I was in. Then we got there and I took my headphones off and acted sociable, but she wouldn't let it go. Every time I said something under my breath she thought I was singing Rammstein again. For example, she said something that reminded me of a bit from the BBC's talking animal sketches, so I started quoting it under my breath and she gave me another weird look and said, "Maybe you shouldn't listen to that."
She kept getting annoyed at me (as she often does) for speaking too quietly like that. "I feel like your voice is just this frail, weak wispy thing," she said, "that could just be blown away in a moment by... anything." That's just the voice I was born with and she can't accept it.
But anyway, when we got there Mackenzie and her friend set about setting up the fire, rejoicing that there were no boys around to tell them they were doing it wrong, and Mackenzie went off gathering up little sticks and I wanted to be helpful so I went off gathering up little sticks too. But she got back first and she said she had enough sticks and mine weren't needed. Dejected, I tossed them in a little pile by the fire anyway, feeling that they were an apt metaphor for my entire life's work. But karma was swift in its execution for a change, as the fire died down not long afterward and she was forced to start putting those exact sticks on it. "Wow," I said, "it looks like my sticks are coming in handy after all."
"Thank you, Christopher," she said through gritted teeth and a forced smile.
I watched her put some more on and then couldn't resist adding for good measure, "It sure is convenient that these sticks were already lying here."
She looked me in the eyes across the fire and said, "I'm going to murder you."
But I'm still here, because underneath her mean callous heartless exterior, she is kind, loyal, fun-loving, phenomenally intelligent, and so on. And being afraid of her isn't even a big deal because really, it's just the same kind of high that normal people get from roller coasters and horror movies. Everyone needs a bit of fear in their lives or they feel unnatural. But anyway, a couple days later after ward prayer she and some other friend were lying in the grass talking about intellectual stuff and I invited myself to sit nearby and listen, and at one point he was like, "When things say 'Names have been changed', do you think they really change the names or just use the real names and say that to throw you off? Because who would know?"
And Mackenzie turned and flashed me an enormous grin and said, "Yeah, who changes names??"
(It was funny because I change her name on my blog. For all the good that did me.)
Rammstein - Amerika (Again)
I've posted this before, but what better way could there be to celebrate Independence Day than with this immensely patriotic and flattering song? More patriotic and flattering than "Born in the USA", anyway. I could literally listen to it eighteen times in a row.
A couple weeks ago Mackenzie was back from California where she spends most of her weekends for some reason, and I was sitting by her in church and she was wearing a funky skirt with two rings of pom-poms around it. The top leftmost pom-pom, closest to me, was badly disfigured by (I assume) all the people who had played with it. I tried to manipulate it back into its proper shape, touching only the pom-pom and that's all, but she huffed, loudly enough for the strangers in front of us to turn around, "Could you maybe not touch my skirt?"
"I was just trying to fix the pom-pom..." I said. The strangers turned back around, their interest already dissipated.
"It's not fixable," she said. And then she gave me a quizzical look. "Are you afraid of me?"
"Kind of," I said.
"Sometimes I think maybe," she said, "but then I think no, he couldn't be..."
I mumbled something. Probably "sorry". I don't remember.
"Can you understand," she continued, "how it might be kind of awkward to talk to someone who's afraid of you?"
"Yeah," I said. (Of course, the context would be completely different. As Margaret Atwood is often paraphrased, "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." And Mackenzie, being an ardent feminist, must be acutely aware of this.)
"What if you were afraid of them and they were afraid of you?" she went on. "Would that be easier, or would that make it worse?"
"I don't know, I guess it would depend... When I talk to awkward people, it's just twice as awkward."
"I sat by someone in Relief Society that you should talk to."
"How do you know she would be scared of me?"
"I can just tell. Let's see... that's her, in the blue dress. You don't need to like date her or anything, but I just think it would be good for you to talk to her."
"Go up to her and say, 'I like your dress.' And if she doesn't respond much to that, say something like 'Did you make it yourself?' And if she doesn't respond much to that, you're off the hook."
Alas, she slipped away before we could say anything to her. "I don't see her anywhere," Mackenzie said as she scanned the crowd. I did, but I opted not to mention it.
Later that day, at ward prayer, I said, "Do you want to know why I'm scared of you?"
"Because I'm a girl?" she guessed without missing a beat.
"No," I said. "I mean, yes, that's part of it, but not the primary part."
"It's so strange that you're scared of girls but you feel more comfortable hanging out with them than guys," she said.
"Normally, by this point, having known you for so long, I would be relaxed with you, like with Debbie -"
"You aren't scared of Debbie?"
"No. Did I seem like it?"
"When was that? Was it like at the beginning of last summer, before we hung out all the time, or?"
"I don't remember, it's been so long since we were all in one spot."
"Well, anyway, the main reason I'm scared of you is that I feel like I always have to walk on eggshells to -"
"Oh, yeah," she said, waving me to not continue, "you told me about that."
"And then, yes, the other reasons are that you're a girl, that you're pretty, that you're - never mind."
"I just was going to say that you're 'powerful' and stuff, for lack of a better word, but then you would think it was sexist of me to be intimidated by -"
"No, i's only sexist if you - never mind."
"How come you get to change your mind and not say things, but I have to say them anyway?"
She smiled. "Because I have the power in this relationship." ("Relationship" in the generic sense, obviously.)
"And if I tried to seize more power, and be assertive and stuff, would you push back?"
"Of course," she said. "That's how relationships work. They're a power struggle until someone comes out on top."
In the car afterward, Mackenzie asked, "Would it be all right if I criticized you?"
"You do that all the time," I said.
"No, it's more of just that we disagree," she said. (I feel like we actually agree 95% of the time, but she fixates on the other 5% instead and badgers me about it, and then as a result sometimes I play stupid and pretend to disagree just to mess with her.) "I mean, are you one of those people who would rather be told you have spinach in your teeth, or just find out on your own later?"
"I believe it's important to know the truth, even if it sucks beyond belief. If you break me into a thousand pieces, I will rebuild myself into a better me." (Not really. Broken things don't rebuild themselves.)
She laughed nervously. And we went on like that until in a very roundabout way she managed to convey what she had in mind. But that's none of your business.
Mike Rees, aka the coolest guy in Utah according to me, sometimes throws parties in his backyard less than a block from my house and just makes it a public Facebook event so anyone who feels like it can show up. And he had one last week, which I figured I'd show up to just a few minutes late after I got off work at eight, so I came to work wearing my fancy tie-dyed dress shirt and with one thing each of lemonade, strawberry lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and limeade to keep in the fridge and then take with me. But Jaycee, who usually gives me a ride home on Fridays, wasn't there, so I had to jog the seven blocks or so to the bus stop with those lemonades in double-layered grocery bags digging into my arms. After I made it I was very pleased that I had been able to do this hard thing that I never want to do again. And then I wasn't able to get to the party until eight thirty-fiveish when I ran into several friendly neighbor girls going too and it was just about to start the beginning stages of getting underway, so that worked out nicely. I collapsed on one of the couches and rested instead of talking to people I didn't know, so that worked out nicely too.
I lounged on the couch for most of the evening except when I got up to get food and drink. I had mostly filled up on hot dogs already when they started grilling hamburgers that were even better. I had one. That was really good, I thought. I want another one. But I also don't want to move, so I have a bit of a dilemma here. Ah, first-world problems. I did muster up the stamina for two more. At one point I used their bathroom and took the liberty of weighing myself and discovered that I've gained seventeen pounds since the last time I weighed myself, which I think was in 2013.
On Sunday I ran into one of the high councilor guys who used to be Debbie's bishop. I first met him when she was giving me a ride home and brought me with her on a detour to his house for hot chocolate along with several other members of her ward. So he introduced himself and welcomed me into his home and it was kind of awkward because I'm awkward and he was too so there was a lot of silences and smiling and nodding. He has said on more than one occasion, "I used to be so shy I wouldn't talk to myself." But he's a stellar guy and has done quite well for himself now so that gives me some hope. I watched General Conference in his home last year and frequently see him around church doing his high council stuff and he always talks to me if he sees me. Last Sunday, after the usual checking up on my job and life he asked, "Do you have a place to eat today?" And I tried to remember if there was some kind of holiday going on, but Memorial Day was over and there wasn't anything else, was there? But he was just inviting me over out of friendliness, I guess.
One of their teenage daughters answered the door when I showed up, and I didn't recognize her because I have dementia with names and faces and she was holding a baby, so I hesitated as to whether this was the correct address, but it was and she let me in. I sat down in the living room where a toddler was watching "Sofia the First". I've seen a few Sofia the First books at work, so it was nice to finally get some clue what it actually is. The toddler started talking to me profusely and pointed out the different colors on the screen and on the little egg lip balm things she was holding. I wondered where she and the baby had come from. I didn't remember them and in any case, the heads of this household seemed just a bit chronologically advanced to have children so young. But that mystery was solved when their oldest daughter whom I'd never met came in the room and claimed them as her own. From now on I shall refer to the parties involved as Host, Hostess, Daughter 1, Daughter 2, Daughter 3, Granddaughter 1, and Granddaughter 2.
I sat at the head of the table between Daughter 2 and Daughter 3. I feel that I sort of gypped my hosts by not saying much the entire time, but I don't usually have much to say. Granddaughter 1 kept talking and engaged me in conversation the most, followed by Daughter 1 and Hostess. At one point the latter asked seemingly out of nowhere, "Are both your parents still living?" I thought she was going to end that sentence with "in New York?" or "in Indiana?" but she just ended it with a question mark. I said yes. She followed up, "Are they still married to each other?" I said yes, wondering where this was going. She said, "You just have to ask these days because you can't assume anything."
When I mentioned not being in school, Daughter 2 asked, "Do you have a job?" That was one of the few things she said to me. More notably, thrice she belched very deeply and loudly, keeping her mouth closed so that she sounded like a sando aqua monster and showing no concern about it afterward. After lunch was over and I went into the backyard she did it again with her mouth open, and now I couldn't any longer resist commenting, "You're very impressive!" Finally she seemed a little sheepish as she mumbled back, "Thank you. Sorry." Really, I'm not like a huge belching fan but anything done that well deserves recognition. I was also impressed, though I shouldn't have been, when Host and Hostess related the story (while she was sitting right there) of her leaving Relief Society early to take their van and go joyriding, and they thought it had been stolen and then they thought she had been kidnapped. I shouldn't admire that kind of irresponsible and reckless behavior, but I do. As far as I know my sisters have never done anything cool like that.
It came out at one point that Daughter 3 is a writer, so we talked about that for a couple minutes. She said she posted a book she wrote on some website and it had been read 20,000+ times. She said someone else once posted a Twilight fan-fiction there and it was so popular that she changed the names and published it and became a millionaire. Now this story sounded kind of familiar and I couldn't imagine it happening twice, so I inquired, with some hesitation as to whether it was even okay to speak these words at the dinner table, "Was that, ah, Fifty Shades of Grey?" Yes, it was. "Which you will not be reading," Hostess interjected. Good parenting. You know, I've seen a few passages from that book and they looked like they were written by a third-grader, albeit a strangely perverted one. Few things better illustrate H. L. Mencken's observation that "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public." And that's my backup plan if all else fails.
Kids Say the Darndest Things
I tried to remember Granddaughter 1's lines that I found particularly amusing, though she was so totes adorbs that almost anything she said could provoke a smile.
Can someone say the prayer that's me?
I just burped, but I said 'scuse me, so you still love me, right?
Sometimes I be a good girl, and sometimes my people mess me up.
Already blaming society for her misbehavior. I'm so proud.
There used to be two dogs, but now there's only one dog because the other dog died. Guess what? Sometimes dogs die.
At this point her mom said, "I kind of just want to all be quiet and see what she says to you."
After Granddaughter 2 loudly soiled herself
You did it!
When she wanted to go out and play on the tire swing
I want someone besides you to push me.
While Host and I were pushing her in circles on the tire swing
"I can't see you guys anymore. I can only see your colors. And your eyes. And your faces. And your hands. And your feet."
"Sometimes, every day, I do whatever I do."
When the tire swing hit me as it was spinning
A: Hahaha! I got you!
Me: You stinker.
A: I only stink when I need to poop.
Me: Does that happen a lot?
A: It helps a lot.
When I got home, the neighbor's similarly aged daughter was out playing in the weird alleyway that divides our house in half, and I smiled and waved like usual, and then I went inside and a moment later there was a tapping on my door so faint that I wasn't sure at first if I'd heard anything. But it came again, so I opened it and she was there and she said hi. So then her mom was all "Is she knocking on your door? I'm so sorry" and I was all "It's no problem" and really it wasn't because I wish my grown-up friends were that friendly. I actually really love children when they aren't being insufferable brats.
EMF - Children
The opening track of the album "Schubert Dip" whence also came the much more famous "Unbelievable". I may like this one a bit more. I'm not sure.
USU graduation last year came on the heels of the first week at my terrible call center job, so now that this milestone has come around again with unreal speed I can look back and feel very good about how far I've come even though I haven't come very far. The weather has been cloudy today, keeping the heat down to a reasonable level, with just a bit of rain for a while that didn't disrupt the proceedings. Debbie has her Master of Social Work now and I'm very proud of all the hard work she put into it while still prioritizing and making time for people. Fortunately she's sticking around Logan and I pray we'll get to hang out all summer like we did all last summer. I wanted to write all about how great she is and what an incalculably profound influence she's had on my life and the kind of person I want to become, but that was a daunting task far beyond my skills so I gave up before I started. Many of the coworkers I have grown to know and love are, alas, going home for the summer. The conclusion I've drawn from this is don't care about people because then they'll always hurt you somehow even if they don't try. I'm kidding, but not really.
Now it is very difficult to find an unbiased source, and I'm not a doctor or anything, but as far as I can tell, Trumpcare is little more than Obamacare with a couple of the bad parts and all of the good parts removed. In any case, it's a testament to the Republican Party's pettiness and hypocrisy. They are not proponents of limited government - just limited Democrat government. And they don't give a crap about the gullible voters who for seven years have supported them and counted on them to get government out of healthcare. In fairness, they are trying to restore much of the insurance companies' unfettered freedom to screw their customers whenever they get a chance, so there's that. Corruption in government = bad; corruption in corporations = fine. Oh, but I'm not shedding any tears over their attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, even thought this could potentially force women to go to any of the thousands of other women's health centers that are available in the US. So there's that.
In last week's post I quoted Bill Nye as saying that "Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans", and this wasn't the main point so I just tacked it on to the end with little context. The context, in case you were wondering and/or objecting, was that many fertilized eggs never implant and continue to develop, and for political or arbitrary reasons he and some other people don't consider them part of the human species despite being fully comprised of human DNA. He made this argument in an effort to persuade pro-lifers that they're hypocritical and wrong. In contrast, as I made sure to point out, this time around I made no effort to persuade anyone of anything as far as abortion is concerned. In asserting that these fertilized eggs are human, I was not saying they can think or feel or are entitled to the full rights and protections of a grown adult, and I don't think they are, but I was rejecting Nye's political and moral assertions based on a scientific facade. (Also, someone pointed out that different cultures have had varying ideas on when life begins, but there's a scientific definition of that and they're not entitled to their own facts.)
We are all well aware of the ongoing violence in Syria, largely because of the refugee crisis and the tens of thousands of men, women and children who remain in dire need of whatever help we can offer them. You've probably heard a lot less about the ongoing violence in Central African Republic and South Sudan. The battles and atrocities in these two nations are unrelated to each other, but they're both awful and tragic and the biggest crises going on in Africa right now. Every once in a while I Google these nations in the hope of some happy news, but despite occasional positive developments there just is no end in sight. So that's what I'm fasting and praying for this weekend and I just felt like bringing it up since they don't get nearly as much attention as Syria.
Palette-Swap Ninja - Princess Leia's Stolen Death Star Plans
So, this is one of the most creative and interesting things ever - the entire "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album parodied as the story of "A New Hope" with great faithfulness to the original instrumentation, lyrics, and cadence. I am thoroughly impressed and don't understand why it doesn't have ten million views already.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.