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The Curses Are Not What They Seem

“May I never be complete.
May I never be content.
May I never be perfect.” 
– Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Part of the challenge about keeping a blog upon repatriation and subsequent re-integration into the new old normal is that the things that reassert themselves as familiar do not seem worthy to write about. I believe I’ve said this before: they can’t all be trips to Cambodia, or even to the local supermarket. While I’ve described the complications of the last few years and even the rules I’ve followed when I’ve been writing on the regular, one other complication contributed with the hesitation is one I constantly battled through Rose City Transplants; my then traveling companion plays it quite close to the vest.

I, on the other hand, do not1shocking nobody.

Now, freed from the relationship-based stipulation that I rein it in a little about the personal details of the day-to-day, I was shocked when I started to write the first entry in this chapter to find a hell of a lot of self-censorship. I wrote about this just two weeks ago. You’d think then, baring the first rule, that so freed, I would begin to allow the words to flow freely, but the habit of a decade is not so easily shaken. But that’s lazy and we both know it. Writing is about pushing your limits, using the definitions and conventions of language2to which, we, as English speakers, give nary a fuck about and grammar to, as I’ve just said in the aside, give nary a fuck about3see? and mold and mash to suit our twisted little purposes.

Forgive me, I’ve been watching Mindhunter with my new roommate.

Oh did I fail to mention this development? Have I not been as forthcoming as I just wrote I should be? Well, excuuuuuuse me, Princess, but didn’t I just say habits are hard to break?

Lazy. Lazy. Sorry. I’ll be better.

Yes, I have a new roommate. Two, if you count the bundle of fur and adorableness that came along as a package deal with the roommate. Which, no aside here, I do. I love being a doggy uncle. M4pseudonym, yes, but we call her this irl is one of my best friend’s girlfriends and while that might be in general principle not the smartest idea to take in a couple — G moves in two months when her lease is up — the three of us have been as thick as thieves lately, and what can I say? I love these two crazy people who have come into my life.

It’s also given me something to look back on over the last year, my friendship with G and how she’s been there during some rather difficult moments, and yes I am talking about bottles of Fireball.

The other thing that has filled my head has been a comic book I’ve loved for the last twenty years. This one is going to take some explaining.

So it’s 1997, I am a month shy of my 21st birthday and I am, for the first time in the my life, moving in to my own place, a small one bedroom on Osos Street in San Luis Obispo. It’s a converted schoolhouse, still in the victorian style of the late 19th century, with picture railings and everything, and I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS PLACE. In less than two month’s time, I’ll be free of my fraternity5okay that’s a longer story but fuck it, one at a time here folks and free of the fraternity house, and of dorms, and holy effing crap, I’m telling myself, this is really happening. But I’m excited and that excitement6and the fact that I’m going to live next to Gus’ Grocery, home of some truly outstanding sammiches is overriding the fear and the worry and the anxiety and my neighbors are hella cute, and what. is. that. poster!?

There, in my new neighbors’ apartment as I’m chatting with them, is this quirky — whimsical, even — comic-book poster of two women, one in a sheer nightgown, ribbons tied around her arms and legs, the other in a black leather jacket and long blonde hair, and they are falling off a building with blissful smiles on their faces, and I have, for the first time in my life seen Terry Moore’s art and his greatest work: Strangers in Paradise.

Strangers in Paradise is copyrighted by Terry Moore.

SiP became an obsession of mine for the next several years as I collected issues as soon as I got the money to do so. Katchoo, Francine and David became people in my life; I delighted to see their successes and frustrated to see Katchoo and Francine miss each other time and time again, never quite being able to live like they belonged. Though I doubt many people in my life catch it, I often crib quotes of Terry’s from the series in my speech7my favorite being, “that’s not a <insert large food item here>, it’s a commitment!. I loved his writing, loved his style of art, and I adored how Strangers never felt like a comic book, per se, but a story told with pictures.

But I also loved the triangle between David, Francine and Katchoo. Not just the love triangle, though it was a constant theme and source of conflict in the series, but the moments when the three of them just existed, moments in the story where there was no conflict, no drama, no jilted mafia-don ex-lovers, or badass hitwomen or sleaze ball lawyer ex-boyfriends, this rare moment in comic books when the best moments were three friends staring a painting.

Powerful stuff.

And trust me, this isn’t life imitating art. This is the real world and parallels are thin, fleeting things8at least, I hope so. Spoilers, but SiP doesn’t end well for David.. But sitting on the floor New Year’s Eve night, drunk and back from a party which I didn’t really care for9long story and it’s solid first rule stuff, there we were, three of us, eating cake and drinking bubbly and ya know what?

Powerful stuff.

The other day I filled out one of those weird Facebook things wherein the combination of your birth month, the color of your eyes, your mother’s maiden name’s third-to-last-letter and the last digit of your social security number give you some pre-assembled “fact” about your life. In this case, these combinations, nearly arranged in a compact image that no doubt is laced with the very finest in tracking codes, suggested a dire warning that one should take heed.

The curses are not what they seem. Prepare: they too have teeth. Indeed, I weighed such a profound and ominous prophecy and did what any rational person would do.

I took it as a writing prompt.

Besides being completely fucking metal, I rather liked the rather labored subtext I found in the nonsense sentence. Because, sure. I could look at the sudden stop and say, “Wow, Josh. My life sure took a turn towards shit didn’t it? Some serious fuckin’ country-song bullshit here, huh? Divorced, dog died, ex-wife took my Traeger, fuckin’-a, man.”

Fuckin. A.

But I didn’t. I haven’t. I won’t10because I hate country songs, that’s for one. The sudden stop wasn’t a curse, either. Which really means the writing prompt is for shit. Also probably tells you that I was stretching for something to write about this week. But while I’m having fun with this new chapter, and getting all melodramatic11perish the… well, you know the rest with my shit12honestly though, I can’t say the new new new new new normal, can I?, what I really mean to say is this;

Shit keeps happening, man. It does. And really amazing things happen. And god-awful Jesus-jackhammering-Christ type stuff happens, and happens, and it just happens and it never happens the way you’re going to think it does.

I met someone on OKCupid13okay, I’ve met a lot of people on OKCupid, but that’s. not. the. point. early on in the whole online dating thing who said to me this: “No expectations.” She was talking about online dating but as I was moving into my apartment, looking at the west hills, wondering about that next chapter and the one after and the one after that, I said that to myself again.

No expectations.

Now… this doesn’t mean I’ve actually listened to that advice all the time. I’m not perfect, never claimed to be14not seriously, at least. But I don’t always listen to carpe churro, either. But I come back to it, a phrase to re-center myself around. And I smile when I do.

Fuckin’ a, man, maybe some day I’ll get it right.

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