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Cowboy R and the Descent into Madness

Once I was crazy and my ace in the hole
Was that I knew that I was crazy
So I never lost my self-control.

--Paul Simon, "Ace in the Hole," One Trick Pony

I've lost my self control.

I've known for a long time that I am not sane. I suffer from various psychological ailments, which now apparently include chronic anxiety.

I mean, I've always been a worrier. I'm aware of that. My mind, confronted with the unknown, goes to dark places. Riding the subway in New York, I'd find myself thinking: if the power goes out can I get myself out of the train? Out of the tunnel? Can I get anyone else out with me? Can I turn the poles in the subway car into stretchers, if I use people's jackets? What if the sea is rushing into the tunnel? These cars aren't watertight. How many people in a car? How many cars on the train? What's the survival rate for collisions?

But Monday, I stood in the hallway in my mother's house, terrified out of my mind, and not having any idea why. There was something sinister about the light, about the shape made by the window over the kitchen sink, but those are just justifications, things my mind grabbed onto to try and explain something that had no explanation.

I managed to turn away, and walk downstairs, and hide in my bed. The crippling terror passed. But even Tuesday, I was scared. I got myself together and went out to run errands with my mother. We had lunch at a local fast-food chain, and I was scared the whole time we were there.

Today, I've just hidden away in the basement.

But soon I have to go out. I don't have any money, and life costs money. I don't know how I'm going to make money. I've failed at another profession. I keep spiraling down. I was a computer guy, and I was going to be a doctor. But then I compromised, and decided to be a nurse practitioner, only I couldn't make it through nursing school. And I'd lost any computer credentials chasing health care credentials I didn't get. And I couldn't drive a truck.

I have high-five figures of debt, and I can't figure out how to make money.

I'm terrified of the world. I'm terrified of failing again. I'm terrified of ending up in prison for debt. I'm terrified of being institutionalized for mental illness. I know that inaction makes everything worse, but I'm too scared to do anything constructive.

I've lost my self-control.

Cowboy R's Latest Failure

I was in truck driving school.

I hated it. I felt like I was drinking from a firehose, while keeping a plate balanced on a stick. Only it wasn't a plate, it was an anvil, which could crush anyone standing under it when it fell. And people kept insisting on standing under it and laughing at the danger.

Yesterday, we got evaluated on our ability to perform the skills they had introduced us to, so far. I failed the evaluations. I could not perform the simplest task, pulling the truck straight forward and then backing it straight back between two lines the size of a freeway lane, without touching either line with the tires or the sides of the truck.

If I had failed to do this task properly in the real world, it would have meant that I hit something with my trailer, causing potentially thousands of dollars of damage, or even killing someone.

I couldn't do it. The simplest task in the school, and I couldn't do it after a week's instruction. I'd have the instructors literally right there beside me telling me what to do, and I couldn't do it.

If, after a week of practice, I couldn't do this simplest of tasks, truck driving is not for me. I can't be responsible for a forty-ton murder weapon that I can't control.

So I'm back to being part of the unneccessariat. I'll go back to applying for jobs where I can't kill someone, and hope my luck changes soon.

Cowboy R and the Ongoing Idleness

Still job hunting. I haven't heard back from Greyhound. As long as it's been, I suspect they've decided they're not interested in having me drive for them. Since I have a place to stay out there, I've been applying for other positions in the Puget Sound area as well.

Otherwise, it's business as usual: driving my mother's friend's kid about, doing some writing, playing Final Fantasy X|V. It's life, Jim... exactly as we know it.

Cowboy R and the Collision

They say that the average person is involved in one motor vehicle accident per decade. I'd been below average in that sense for a while; the last accident I was involved in was in Raleigh, when my friend Joseph inadvertently totaled my car on I-40... and that was while I was still dating Trish, so, what... at least twenty years ago. Until Monday.

I've mentioned that I'm giving a kid a lift home from school most everyday, and that this driving is my only source of income at the moment. So Monday evening, I left the house to go get the kid. It was raining a little, and I wryly thought that I needed to be careful, because rain brings out the worst drivers, even here where it rains so much.

So, there I was, drivin' along, minding my own business. The light changed, and people started slowing down to stop at the light. And, smack... I got hit from behind by a guy driving a penis truck.

I pulled off into the nearest parking lot, and fortunately, he followed me. We each got out of our vehicles, and made sure the other person was okay. I called the police, and while we were waiting for the police, we exchanged insurance information. The policeman showed up, took our licenses and insurance cards, and disappeared into his car for a while.

I called my insurance company. I called his insurance company. I called my mother, let her know I was alright. The policeman came back, gave me a card with a number on it, and let me know that I could pick up his report at the station "later this week."

The guy with the penis truck drove away. I was having post-adrenaline shakes, and went to the grocery to get a soda. Then I drove home. The people at the insurance company had told me that I could expect a call from the local agent that night or the next morning. In fact, it was almost noon the next day before he called me, and he conferenced in my mother, as it is actually her car, not mine.

He tried to give her a polite-blow off about getting an adjuster to look at the car immediately, and she wasn't having any. I sometimes joke that my mother is secretly Mrs. Kim, and she had the guy literally stuttering at one point because he didn't know how to respond to her direct assertion that he was not doing his job properly.

Anyway, Progressive doesn't send adjusters out to view wrecks; you've got to go to them. So Wednesday morning, I took the car to the place and saw the guy. He had an intern with him, and they spent half an hour examining the car. Then he spent another ten minutes writing up the estimate. It looks like the repairs will run four and a half or five thousand.

But the guy who hit me? Hasn't contacted his insurance company. Isn't responding, apparently, to their calls. And the police report hasn't arrived at the insurance office. So the insurance company isn't ready to authorize the repair they estimated, or any other. And, since they can't be sure their guy was actually at fault, they won't authorize a rental car in the interim, either.

So... here we are. With a smooshed car, and no idea how long it's going to take to get fixed.


My mother was talking to her niece, and her niece's nephew (who would be... my first cousin once removed? I think?) had recently gotten a job driving for Greyhound, despite his criminal record. And so I looked at the website, and they're not hiring for drivers in Knoxville. They're hiring in Nashville, and Memphis, and in Charlotte, but not Knoxville. Actually, looking at where they have driver positions, I suspect that they have hubs, and Knoxville isn't one. There's a station here, but I don't think any routes originate or terminate here; they just stop on the way to someplace else.

But... two of the places they do have driver positions available are two places I've been thinking about moving to for a while: Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington. Now, I don't know that I know anyone in Portland, but I have friends in the vicinity of Seattle, witchofnovember and kit_ping, and of course, Kit's husband nicodemusrat.

So... I'm applying to Greyhound, and hoping they'll hire me to drive out of Seattle.

So nothing is settled, anywhere in my life right now. But maybe soon.

Cowboy R and the Bigotry

It's taken me a while to sort through and organize my thoughts about North Carolina's HB2.

I should start by explaining why what North Carolina does is important to me. I first entered North Carolina while I was in the Navy, stationed in Norfolk. A friend and I used to drive down to Hatteras to go surfing, and I fell in love with the outer banks. After I got out of the Navy, I went to NCSU. I got married and divorced in the Triangle area. In fact, I've spent half of my adult life living in either the Triangle or Charlotte. I've surfed North Carolina's beaches, and gone white water paddling in the mountains. I've enjoyed Shakespeare at a festival in Greensboro.

I am ashamed to admit that I voted for Pat McCrory for Governor. I had just moved back to the state after a ten year absence, and Summer, who had been living in Charlotte for longer than I had, felt that he would be the better choice for the state. Though I had reservations, I followed her guidance. Of course, this is also the woman who said that her new, co-religional friends would have to "bend" on the issue of LGBT rights. Who said that anyone who was going to be her friend would have to be cool with me, and with our relationship. Who then proceeded to actively hide me from said new co-religional friends, and deny our relationship. So I guess her judgement wasn't as good as I thought it was.

Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand. I am deeply saddened by HB2. It has no positive features; it exists solely to deny people rights and protections that individual municipalities in North Carolina had voted into being. One state legislator, giving testimony before the bill was voted on, literally said, "I will be a homophobic bigot until the day that I die!"

There doesn't seem to be much to say in response to that. Except, of course, that I hope he hurries up and dies. Which is a sad thing to think about another human being, but if that's what it takes to enable change, let's have it. On the other hand, he's probably raising his kids to be homophobic bigots, too, so what's left?I can't forget that North Carolina is also the state where a pastor advocated rounding up gays and lesbians and putting us in camps to die out.

The LGBT community achieved some big wins the last couple of years. But now the other side is pushing back. The people who believe that their vision, their version of morality allows them to dictate to other people how to live their lives. The people who have always had power, and who now, seeing that power start to slip away from them, are reacting by angrily trying to grab it back. They point to "political correctness" as a sign of what's wrong with the country, meaning by that, "I have to be nice to people? Ain't nobody got time for that!"

And I'm left feeling that Anne Sexton was right; there is no safe place.

Cowboy R and the Second Draft

So let's try this pitch letter thing again.

    Flowers of Luna is thirty-five kilowords of sapphic romance in a hard science fiction setting. Winchell Chung has reviewed the manuscript and given it the coveted "Atomic Rocket Seal of Approval."

    Growing up on a mining ship in deep space was lonely, but now Ran Gray has come to the moon to make a name for herself in fashion. When a chance encounter on Valentina bridge leads to cross words and crossed swords, Ran wonders... will she ever escape her family's reputation? Did her opponent really just ask her out on a date? And if she did, what will Ran wear?

    The author, Jennifer Linsky, was born in Japan, which was somewhat surprising for her, as she expected to be born in Arizona. However, this condition was quickly rectified, and she grew to adulthood in Southern Arizona before taking off on a series of hair-raising (and often hair-brained) exploits around the world. She’s hoping to make Flowers of Luna her first professional sale.

    As Paul McCartney wrote, “if you must return it, you can send it here, but I really need a break, and I want to be a paperback writer." To that end, ten sample pages follow.


Also, oloriel, now that you've read the whole thing, your overall thoughts and feelings?

Answer for question 4586.

Have you or will you buy tickets for tonight's Powerball drawing (currently estimated at $475 million for the jackpot)? What's the first thing you'd do if you checked your numbers and saw that you'd hit "the big one"?
You just reminded me to go out and purchase a ticket, so thanks.

I keep a list, actually, of things I would do if lots of money abruptly came my way. A scholarship fund at Pima College and / or Northern Arizona University for men going into nursing, with preference to veterans. A library of sustainable technologies and the skills required to use them. A multi-discipline school of the sword. College funds for the red-headed cousins and their little brother.

But I think the import of this question is, what's the impulse thing, the "Woo, I have money!" thing that I'd do? The nature of the word "impulse" suggests that I don't know, and it could very well end up being hookers and blow... but knowing me, it would probably be an Indian Scout motorcycle, or something equally on the edge of practicality.

Cowboy R and the Journey into Darkness

First of all, I have not yet seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I would therefore appreciate the holding of spoilers clear of me for a few more days.

About 1977, I was living in Northern Arizona, in a town so small, it didn't even have its own grocery store. Groceries were a half hour drive away; movies, an hour. But my mother wanted to take a trip to do some research in Salt Lake City, so off we went to The Big City. While we were there, we stopped to see a film called Star Wars, because we were both big Science Fiction fans (and still are, though we have a small disagreement about how good a writer Isaac Asimov was). After we saw the film, my mother drove all over the City, to different Burger King restaurants, so that I could have all the promotional posters they offered... a full set of four.

On Monday, my mother and I will be going to see the sixth sequel to that little film. While I don't anticipate driving around to Burger Kings (mostly because I haven't heard that they're offering a poster series for this one), I am happy to be seeing the film with the same person who enjoyed that first one with me, lo those many moons ago.

I'm still unemployed. I talked to the lady from Knox 911 the other day... when I handed in my application packet to her a couple of months ago, she mentioned that she'd just hired a group, but she was still a few dispatchers down, and might be hiring again when these completed training. Well, as I say, I talked to her, and she was very brusque, and basically slammed the door on my hopes there.

I was talking to an old friend of mine (possibly my oldest friend, actually), dorinda2212's little sister, the other day. She's working emergency dispatch in Houston and moving up... she was talking about how she needs to take a class in Spanish, and then she's going to apply to move into a training position. She says they're nine dispatchers down, and hiring.

There's a part of me that's strongly tempted to put in an application, (and, always presuming I get hired) toss some clothes in a duffle, and go crash on her couch until I can afford to get my stuff from mom's house. But:
  1. I don't currently even have a functional vehicle.
  2. I really don't want to do another "jump in the car and move with the stuff that fits in the car" style move, even if I had a functional vehicle, which see point the first.
  3. If I were going to put in an application and move in said fashion, I think it would be to somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), not to Texas. I don't think I want to live in Texas.
So. I'm sending applications / resumes out to things here in K'ville, and hoping someone decides I'm what they're looking for. In the meantime, I'm watching TV, and sleeping strange hours, and occasionally spending some of my small stash of money doing something like buying unfiltered apple juice and then accidentally smashing the jug and spilling the juice all over the garage. Because that's so much fun.

Cowboy R and the Fictional Girls

I'm at the phase of unemployment where I'm awake at strange hours of the day. I thought about watching some anime, but I am fed up with things set in high schools, or about the joy of first love, or... yeah. I'm kind of anime'd out. Last night, I watched Jenny's Wedding, which is that rarest of all things, a lesbian love story with a happy ending. Alexis Bledel plays the love interest, though she's barely seen... it's really about Jenny's coming out to her family and the drama that causes.

But Alexis Bledel always makes me think of Gilmore Girls. I discovered the show in its second season, and have loved it deeply ever since. But... I tried to share it with Summer, and we watched the first season together, and she really liked it, and that... flavored my feelings about the first season. So tonight I decided that I need to reclaim the series for myself. I loved it before Summer, and I need not to let her take that away from me, no matter how much I miss what I thought we had.

I once tried to base a prominent NPC in one of my cooperative Star Trek fanfic games on Suki St. James, Lorelei's best friend and chef. She's not the kind of character I'm good at writing, though, and she soon migrated mostly off-screen and became much less scatter-brained. And I don't know where I'm going with that, other than illustrating my love for the show.

In time, I'm sure I'll remember things other than snuggling up with Summer on the sofa to watch episodes. I'm working on it.

Cowboy R and the Long, Dark Tea-Time

In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn't cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you've had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o'clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.

This is the thing I forgot about being unemployed. Oh, it's great for a few days, when you still have money in your bank account and you have books to read, or video games to play, or naps to catch up on. But then... when you're bored with the video games, and you're tired of the books, and you're sick of your own company... there comes the long, dark tea-time of the soul. And if you're lucky, you can find a good Oolong and maybe some honey, and you get through it.

I know that there are things I should be doing. I should be spending time with a sketchbook and some of the many art instruction books I have, improving my art skills. I should work on one of the numerous novels that I've abandoned over the last decade, or start something entirely new. I should dig out that list of LGBT publishers and try to get "Synthetic" placed somewhere where more than the six people who have read it so far will see it.

But I spend a lot of time watching anime. And LGBT cinema. And pondering the future, and if it can possibly live up to my hopes.