Prodigal sons. Or something.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted here.  Like many labors, it started with the best of intentions, and somehow — indulge me on the cliche — life got in the way.  I’m hoping to rectify that.  Writing for me is half-organizing, half-clarifying, and half-catharthic.  Three halves, you say?  That was entirely intentional.  It’s bigger than a sum of its parts.

I was away for many reasons, but primarily because I’ve been grappling with severe depression; severe depression that eventually put me into the hospital a few weeks ago.  It wasn’t a pleasant experience getting there, obviously, but it was a helpful one.  I enjoyed the hospitality there for ten nights.  While I’ve alluded to my depression and wrote about it before ages ago, I never wanted this space to be the writings of yet another guy suffering from depression.  Of course, the space eventually withered from lack of use, but now that I’ve come back, I think it is an important issue for me to write about.  It is a major part of my life, what makes me who I am, and if only one person reads this, says “yeah, that’s me, too” and feels slightly better, or not alone, then I think I’ve done the world a better service than endless musing about politics, popular culture, or whatever else pours from my fevered brain.  While this is not going to be my depression blog, I’m not going to avoid it.  If because of something I wrote one less person finds themselves on a bridge alone at night, staring down into the abyss, then all of this will be worth it.

One more thing.  There’s not just a mental cost to suffering depression: there is a very real financial cost, measuring in lost work hours, days in the hospital, and bills from clinics.  My hospitalization — in one of the best facilities in the country — did not come cheap.  My resources are limited and I’m not quite sure how I am going to pay for it, even if it was something that I required very much to survive.  So occasionally I am going to post this link — — which is a site that I’ve set up to help me with my medical bills.  If I write something that strikes you closely, moves you, or if you just want to help, you can click there to find out how.  If you can help, thank you.  If you cannot, I’m still happy you’re here.  I hope to make your time here worthwhile.




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Edward McClain, “the Real Change guy” dies at 69

Perhaps this is why he handed me that wad of bills a few weeks ago.  I suppose I’ll never know.  It was the last time I spoke with him.  Requiescat in pace.

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Vacated and climate-controlled.

This morning I finished locking up the physical traces of my life.  It’s all there, in a 10 x 10 storage unit, among a sea of white metal doors, above a QFC here in Seattle.

There’s a reason why I haven’t written here much over the past month: because of a difficult situation, I was forced to move from the apartment that I’d been residing in here in Seattle for almost the past four years.  I’d been searching and searching for a new place via the failscape that is craigslist, but when the day of reckoning arrived yesterday, I still had not be able to acquire a space.  So, everything went into storage.  I’m writing this from a local hotel room, fresh from chasing leads, and know that I’ll have to start couch surfing tomorrow.

It’s a strange thing, packing up the content of your life and placing it in such alienating place as a storage complex.  There’s a certain maze-like hive quality to this one, on the top floor over a local supermarket.  The repeating sequence of doors is almost hyponotic.  It’s hard not to wonder about each one: who it represents, what lives and memories are there, and if they are partially empty, or stuffed like mine is, resembling the interior chambers of Tutankhamen’s tomb.  Storage units really are historical depositories, when you think about it.

I didn’t finish unloading my stuff until this morning.  Last night, as I was placing the last miscellaneous items in my rented truck, I lingered there in the space that I’d been living in for successive years.  There’s always something melancholy about leaving a place where you’ve resided, where so many memories lie.  That basement apartment was home to me: the only home I’ve known in Seattle.  Now, until I can line up another space, I am literally homeless.  And that is terrifying.  And depressing.

Because in the end, you wonder about the roads that brought you to your location.

Mine just happens to be a Travelodge.

I went to see a promising new place today.  They told me that they’d let me know tonight.  Here’s hoping.  I feel uprooted and twisting.  Earlier today, I was in University Village, wandering about outside the shops, watching people walk by, wondering if any of them had ever felt that insecure sensation that I am experiencing.  I sat at Starbucks with my laptop, and chased leads, among dozens of animated people.  But I felt alone.

Of course, this is merely temporary.  I’m not really a refugee.  I’m not really homeless.  I can couch surf for a few days, and it won’t kill me.  But when I don’t have that address, that place nailed down, a space to call my own, I cannot relax.  It gnaws at me, and I wonder about the people who don’t have the solutions I have.  Hopefully this experience will leave me with a little more empathy.

But in the meantime, I need to find a place to live.  I cannot help but think that I’ve done something terribly, terribly wrong with my life to even be typing this.

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The news from Boston is heart-breaking.  I may have moved away from there years ago, but heart has always remained.

To the city of Boston: you resisted, then ejected the British; you broke the back of secession.  You are the toughest city in America.  Be strong, and remain unbowed.

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So leaving Safeway today, I bought a copy of Real Change from the old black guy that I always talk to — seriously, he’s the sharpest guy in the U District — and he looks up and me and asks: “Do you go to church?”
Me: “What?”
Him: “Do you go to church?”
Me: “You taking an informal poll?”
Him: “No, I was just wondering if you went to church.”
Me: “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Blessed Sacrament just a few blocks from here.”
He pulls out a wad of bills and hands them to me.
Him: “Go put this in their donation box.”

True story.

There’s a ultra-rare thunderstorm going on in Seattle right now.  Baby hail is falling in my yard.  It’s like an Ozarks storm with training wheels.  I want to pinch its little cheeks.

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Roger Ebert, RIP.

siske and ebert

Since the news broke earlier today of Roger Ebert’s passing, I’ve been reading various reminisces of people touched by his life and work in one way or another.  Film critics who first encountered movies through watching his show with Gene Siskel; people who interacted with him online via his blog and twitter after cancer robbed him of his jaw and his speaking voice; and people who just crossed paths with him in the world and whose lives seemed brightened by the encounter.  It seems a tall order to me to add to this, but he was one of my intellectual heroes, a champion of simple human empathy, so I am compelled to try.

While I loved movies from an early age as a child, I learned to actually engage with them through watching Ebert and his one-time rival and best friend Siskel debate them — sometimes loudly, always passionately, and often passive-aggressively — on their PBS show in the 80s.  PBS was one of the default stations in my household during those formative preteen (and later teen) years, and I would watch as these two grown men would repeatedly challenge one another over whatever film they were reviewing.  I was spellbound; it made for good television.  Only later did I realize it was challenging me to think about the films they were debating.  Neither men were comfortable with passively watching a film — they sought to engage with it, and with one another afterwards.  Looking back, it remains amazing: two men on PBS were loudly debating what was art, and viewers were tuning in to watch it.

They certainly informed the ways I viewed movies, even inspiring me to write little reviews of my own.  When I was writing for my junior high newspaper at the tender age of 13, Ebert in particular served as a model — a poorly followed model — for my little columns.  I remember winning a city-wide journalism award that my English teacher nominated me for on the sly, for the review I wrote of Dune.  I remember tearing the movie apart — most likely unjustly, for all its flaws there were worse films out there — in a tsunami of angst and teen snark which probably would carry better these days on the internet.  My inspiration may have been Ebert, but my execution was certainly not.  At one point I almost sent him a copy, to ask his advice, but ended up deciding not to.  Now I know he likely would have replied, and kindly offered suggestions.  By all accounts, it was just the sort of man he was.  I wish now that I had.

I religiously watched Ebert, and then later read him, ever since.  There was a joy that he brought to his reviews, a powerful love of the medium, and a willingness to not only watch every film with curious, new eyes that made his life work so compelling.  He was a man who was unafraid to learn, and unafraid to admit it.  And hisscathing, negative reviews were just as much a joy to read as his positive ones.  He was something lacking in this age — a true wordsmith.  It was a joy to read the sentences he crafted.

Now we are left with a void that was once occupied by a giant of American culture.  While my parents may have introduced me to the movies, you (and your friend Gene) were the ones who made me love them, Roger, and more importantly, think about them.  The world is a lesser place in your absence.  As Keith Olbermann tweeted this afternoon, now “the world is a safer place for mediocrity.”

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It’s almost midnight here on the west coast.  The house that I live in in silent, with just the occasional creaks one comes to expect from a 80 year old building.  I’m in the basement — where my apartment is — tucked in my bed, with a small dim reading light casting shadows across the room, contrasting sharply with the bright whiteness of the glowing screen of my laptop.

Today my landlady — who is getting divorced — informed me that she wanted to rent the entire house out, and move into the apartment I have currently occupied since 2009.  We’ve had an otherwise amicable relationship, but as one could imagine, the news served to spike my blood pressure not by a small amount, and generate a mood swing that is stacking on top of the darkness I am already grappling with.  I’m a poor graduate student at the moment — there are not a lot of options for me when it comes to moving.  This situation has to be sorted soon, as need to be out of here by May 1.

As I lay here, it is hard not to take note of the calm stillness that is slowly pressing in on me, and the little light that weakly, yet valiantly tries to ward away the dark.  I had not noticed it in this house before.  It is peaceful.  I will miss it.

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