Here's the story: you are stuck in a crevasse of grief, a glacier of loss looming over you. Cold like a night in the desert. No end in sight, no rescue party dispatched. Numb.

One day someone presses a pill into your hand. Sleep-drugged and annoyed you swallow. You go back to sleep. You stay there for a lot of hours.

You get up at odd hours for water and cold cereal, the only food that doesn't make you feel sick to your stomach. You smoke. A lot. You do not look at yourself in the mirror, ever. You can tell by your own smell that you need a shower but you do not care.

Every morning a person comes into your room and coaxes you to take a pill. A tiny pill, blue as a cloudless sky, blue as the eyes of your absent husband.

After a few days, several days (you don't know how many days), you wake up and the sun is still in the sky. This surprises you. Also surprising is your desire for actual food - for bacon, for meat, for something to chew that is not styrofoam-crunchy. You eat, you go back to bed. You sleep.

The difference is that you dream. You haven't dreamed in weeks, months. You don't trust the dreams, exactly, but something about them being there in your head is satisfying. It's the same feeling you get when furniture that's been out of place is returned to its proper position. As though someone got into your brain and did some cleaning - under the cushions, rugs, windowsills of your subconscious. Pushed things aside, scrubbed, moved them back to order.

You aren't sleeping so much now, and you don't cry every day. That's the other thing - you have days again. You wake up in the mornings and sleep when it's dark, almost as though you are a normal person.

You start to want showers. You aren't smoking a pack a day anymore. You're going outside sometimes, blinking in the sunlight like a released hostage. And you are. You are a released hostage. The past wasn't able to detain, to behead you after all.

It's such a tiny pill. Some mornings you look at it hard as if by looking hard you can figure out where it hides its magic. It's so small to be a life preserver. You are amazed that it can hold you up, keep you floating, bring you to shore.

You think, Fuck you, Tom Cruise. You and your capped teeth and fake grin and Scientology. You think, Fuck you, ex-husband. You think I can do this, I can have a life, I can do things with actual people, normal people, and I can do these things with something that approximates happy.

It isn't sexy to be happy. Sexy is turmoil and wounded eyes and, let's face it, depression is the new deep. It isn't sexy, this happy, but it's comfortable, like vanilla ice cream or watching Casablanca. You surrender with great gladness to mediocrity, you leave the scarred carapace of grief behind you. You choose to smile at strangers.

You remember how to dance and you do so often, clumsy and laughing and knowing how beautiful you still are when you are flushed and laughing and silly. You paint your toenails for the shock of fuschia when you look down in the showers that you are taking again. You are amused that fuschia thrills you. You are amused to be thrilled by anything again. You look in the mirror and touch your face gently. You are your own lover.

You start to trust yourself again. You thank whatever god is out there for the tiny life preserver.

Sometimes things hurt, but it's the kind of hurt you get when you warm frostbitten fingers under hot running water. It's the hurt of things coming back to life.

You start to move again. There is life at the end of the tunnel. You want it.

Shave and a nodermeet, one bit

Half (well, a little more) of the the meet is over. And... well, for the parts I was there for, it was very interesting. eien_meru and I drove up on friday morning, but we had to stop by ada, ohio first. Which is two hours from where we came from (middletown, ohio). Columbus is 1.5 hours. From both places.


What was even worse was what Eien went up to Ada for. He went there in order to attend a sort of little math thingy (Crazy math major)... which he said would take an hour. "Fine," I said. "I'll wait in the car and read Breakfast of Champions."

So.. two and a half hours later, eien_meru returns. Do not leave small children, dogs, or cats unattended in a car with the windows down in the heat.

Anyway, we manage to get to ccunning and karma debt's place. Swap was there already, as well as Cletus the foetus... and some other people... Walter, I think. Maybe. After that it's all a blur. Wiccanpiper showed up, and proceeded to prove that he is both crazy and awesome. Izubachi died of dysentery. Um... There was a pie made not of pie, but of meat. Jurph was kept away from fire.

The NY crew showed up somewhere around 1:30AM, and Zack and I went to Kroger's to find applesauce. Then there was sleeping.

Next morning was hot, and avalyn didn't help by making VERY SPICY ranchos neuavos (or whatever the hell they were). Then a good game of munchkin was played, involving rogue_poet, Andrew Aguecheek, and two sheds. Anyway, I attained the title of "highest bonus ever" at a whopping +52... but I lost.

More info once I get back to Middletown. Bye.

So, I'm in Ohio.

I don't like Ohio - last time I was here I was eighteen and on a college audition. Got the worst case of food poisoning in my life; haven't looked at a chicken tender the same way since.

This time, I'm surrounded by awesome people, awesome food, sunshine, sunburn, sun stroke and who knows what else. It's infinitely better this time through.

I arrived with the NYNVB late friday night after spending nine hours squeezed in a van with tons of people who, oddly, didn't come from New York at all - one from Spain, one from England, one from Canada and three from Jersey. It was like the UN on wheels and the duelling accents managed to kill a few possibly diabolically boring hours.

Upon arriving, I drank some. In the morning, I drank some more and now, on Sunday and after a huuuuuuge breakfast in a restaurant we totally owned for a few hours of utter Cuban bliss, I intend to drink some more.

Holy hell, I needed a vacation.

And can I just say, Ohio or no...I really, truly love you guys, 'specially the ones who couldn't make it - we're talking about you. All of you. You know who you are, so stop slouching and spit out that gum.

The spotlight's on you, so smile. When we reach critical mass and start to bend the laws of physics (s'possible, you know - Jurph's here and he ain't kidding around, and Dann's talking about the possibilities of the eleventh dimension), we'll get in touch.

I'm rambling. Point is: Thanks, y'all.

Yesterday, as many people know, was Live 8. I have vague memories of Live Aid; I was 7 years old and lived about 10 minutes outside of Philly, and while we didn't go to the concert, we did have it on all day and taped the whole thing.

Anyway, yesterday, I tried to watch Live 8. I say "tried" because MTV/VH1 did everything they could do to NOT show it. Honestly, they couldn't have screwed this up any more if they had tried. They had decided at some point that the music was secondary to their VJs. I don't think they showed a complete set from ANY artist. There were commercials every 5 minutes. They frequently cut into the middle of a song to show us VJs yammering about how awesome it is that is on stage, instead of SHOWING the group on stage.

They show MC Lyte saying something like, "I'm really affected by this. I'm happy, because it's so cool to have all these bands and all these people out to see them. But then I'm sad, because we have to do this in the first place. If I get choked up or start crying, you know why." Only she's talking in the most unaffected monotone I've ever heard, and she sounds like she's reading from the phone book or giving an office lunch order to the local sub shop. Shut up, MC Lyte. And it's Keith URBAN, not Keith HERMAN.

They talked over Stevie Wonder, and then cut away from him performing live to show a taped performance of Destiny's Child from earlier.

They cut to VJs in the middle of The Who playing "Won't Get Fooled Again".

They cut to VJs while Pink Floyd was playing "Comfortably Numb".

Now, I'm not even a huge Pink Floyd fan like some folks are, but even I know how stupid that was. This is the first time in how long that they've been on stage together? And MTV/VH1 CUTS AWAY from them?

I already hated MTV, and I tolerate VH1 because of things like "I Love the 80s". But now? If you can't cover something like this correctly, give it to someone else. The fact that you show music videos at 4 AM no longer means that you're a music channel.

AOL will apparently have their feeds available for about 6 weeks, so I'll probably go through those over the next few days to see everything that I missed.

MTV sucks.

Sitting in the van before the trip down to Columbus, our driver asks us if anyone in the van smokes. We all give the same response, or at least the same meaning.

"Maybe it's time you quit!" the girl on my right says jokingly. That's got to piss off smokers every time someone says it. How many times do you hear that in a day, anyway? It either came off very well or the driver took it very well. Maybe I'm just wrong.

"Yeah, or maybe it's just time for you guys to pick up a new habit?" he replies. It's halfway phrased as a question. It's not just me using a question mark incorrectly.

I laugh. I start thinking about all my friends that smoke. I had this discussion with Bill before.

I never understood why people smoke. . .

Wait. Not quite. I know why they smoke. It's addictive. We know this. There's a a node floating around somewhere about that. It says that people smoke because of the primal connection to fire. That every time you light up, you're like a little prometheus, stealing fire from the gods. That makes sense, too. In a Fight Club kind of way.

Sorry for stealing your metaphor. It's good. If I ever get votes you'll get paid. I think it explains where I'm actually trying to go with this as well as it does where I've already been.

So I had a while to think about it. I forgot in about 5 minutes.

Later, and now we're into the party. A couple days in, actually. I've been sitting around moping and ignoring for most of the rest of it. I don't do well in a crowd. Sitting around the firepit, I see that someone has brought one of my favorite brands of liquid courage -- Ketel One Citroen. I turn into a herd animal for a minute. Follow, consume. It'll be a while yet before I return to humanity by adding regret to that list. Right now I'm tired of the way things have been going. I figure some chemical induced social prowess is just what I need right now.

It takes a a few minutes for that neural turbocharger to kick in. The fuzziness comes; The caring goes away. I can talk now. I can interact again. The group fades away into the periphery of my vision. Individuals become glowing targets locked in with an almost scary hyper-focus. The fear or whatever that terrible feeling is goes away, and all can do now is go with it. We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

Move. Introduce. Converse. Move. Introduce. Apologize.

One girl in particular lights up now. She's sitting at the table on the deck. I know there are other people around, but right now I don't even see them. Everyone else is gone, already beyond that little event horizon of awareness. She glows. X-Rays from the black hole.

I sit down and talk. She was from one of the other Michigan crews. The driver for them, I think. I can't even remember what was said now, but somehow I did it. That thing I can never do. I started the conversation. I stayed in it. Kept it going, even. It was glorious.

As we danced through the dialogue my mind started to drift elsewhere. She was still there, but I saw a new glow now. The cigarette, half burned away. Smoldering in her hand. Beautiful.

X-rays from a black hole, maybe. Maybe infrared and the visible spectrum from the sun. Pure, powerful, life-giving light. The ether itself.

I don't even want a cigarette now. I still don't really understand it. I did for those moments though. There were millions of them in those seconds that seemed like days. All I wanted to do was ask for that cigarette. Just a single drag. I wanted to suck down the essence of life itself and just hold it inside and keep it for myself. Fire and light and smoke and heat. Everything that life requires, all wrapped up in a piece of paper. Man had tapped his creator and distilled his essence into that tube. I wanted to hold life in my lungs. I wanted to breathe smoke. I wanted to be god in that moment.

If I could fix myself I'd. . .

And then the human part of the equation came. Not covering the rest of it, but becoming one with it. That cigarette wasn't just the key to becoming god, it was the key to embracing the very best of humanity. To embrace myself and the girl holding it all at once. To breathe that stick full of life was to be connected with another human being in a way that nothing else can give. And she was beautiful. And I wanted it. I had to have it. It was mine for the taking goddamnit, and it was right there in front of me.

Perhaps the saddest part is that I actually thought about it. Not the smoking itself, but about all of this. In the midst of god I decided to analyze instead of act. And like always, the thoughts last just a little to long, and then the moment is gone. The magic dissipates back into the air, and that smoke is just smoke again, no longer the swirling fibonacci embodiment of the hammer of god itself. I let it go. Let it slide up into the atmosphere past me. At least I had a taste.

And I just let it pass. Let it go. It faded away and the girl came back. It was a wonderful time and a beautiful conversation. And while it lasted I knew. I understood exactly why people start, and at least I feel like I understood something else that I'll probably never get again.

This would probably be a better story if I had started smoking now. It would certainly be consistent, and it would have all those neat little relationships and self-references of Nathaniel Hawthorne. It would certainly ring truer, right? But I didn't, and life is like that. Even something that's perfect ends in flaw. After all, you can only expect perfection for a moment, right? I'm happy that I had it, however fleeting.

I skipped the names, but I'm sure everyone involved will know what I'm talking about.

No shit, there I was. . .

He spends the day on the lake, bare chest and sandal feet soaking up the UVs, steel pot helmet and Foo Man Chu scaring away the jet-skiers that come too close to the PPB.

The PPB is an old 1960ish boat that he and The DJ have sprayed flat gray and mounted a mock .30 caliber machine-gun to. It looks like a Viet Nam era patrol boat hence the name 'Pussy Patrol Boat 069'. Decals of an open mouth with sharp teeth reminiscent of a World War Two fighter plane adorn the bow, along the port and starboard sides, in eight inch stenciled block is 'PPB 069', and on the aft 'Charlie Don't Surf'.

He cruises close to the No Wake Zone, admiring the million dollar homes nestled close together as if fighting for a spot on the shore of the deep mountain lake. On the left is the summer home of the owners of McDonald's($6.5 million), on the right, the guy who convinced them to sell french fries($4 million).

Big money showing off in the middle of nowhere.

Done with boating he moors at the dock that bobs up and down behind the only bar in town worth drinking at. His friend's band is playing tonight and he plans on returning and tieing on a drunk. He drives back to the storage unit he lives in and gets changed into jeans and a light pink, button up shirt that pisses off the tough guys and makes the panties damp. He slaps on the wide brimmed shit-kicker hat with the braided, gator-hide band and tops the look off with a liberal blast of body spray.

The line to get into the club snakes out of the long hallway entrance and down a block and a half, he squeezes by, tipping his hat at a few of the better looking women, bright smile flashing from underneath the fuzzy caterpillar of a mustache. Pretty Boy, the new bouncer, nods to him as he slips past the other patrons who whine and complain "that guy didn't have to pay to get in", he just smiles and winks at them. He walks towards the bar, slapping a few locals on the shoulder and throwing a wave to the spouses of the band members, the neon lights make his pink shirt orange, then purple, then green. The people that recognize him stop him to ask why he isn't working tonight and he tells them that he resigned his position as the head of security, which isn't completely true but is less time consuming than going into the whole story about why he was fired.

At the bar he orders club soda with lime and and gets an apprehensive look from the brunette bartender with the killer blue baby-doll eyes and a stoic stare from the fat bartender with glasses. Somebody on the other side of the bar motions him to come over, and he does, leaning up against the bar and fishing a Newport out of his shirt pocket.

"You don't work here anymore?" the guy asks, and he is a trouble-maker. Jared is his name, 86ed for fighting- but those were the old rules and since he doesn't work there anymore, it seems that everyone's sins have been forgiven.

"Nah, got let go,"

"Because you were being a dick to everybody,"

"You think I was being a dick to you?" Eyebrows raise in a mixed expression of amazement and disbelief.

"Yeah, you kicked me out for no reason," Jared's buggy eyes narrow down and he turns his shoulders to square off with him, body language for "You and I are about to engage." He smiles at Jared and pops a cigarette between his lips.

"I kicked you out because you're a shit-head when you're drunk and you always want to fight someone, no matter who they are." They stare at each other for a few moments and finally Jared shakes his head, full eye-contact.

"Well, I'm not going to do anything here, but I'm gonna see you on the street and you're gonna be runnin'."

"Is that so?" He just shakes his head and starts to light the cigarette, suddenly, Jared strikes out to snatch the cigarette from his mouth, he jerks back and points a finger at Jared's face, a fistful of Bic lighter ready to be used as a fistload if necessary. "Knock that shit off,"

"Get the fuck out of here, just turn around and walk away," Jared says, testosterone vapors swirling around him like an aura. He finishes lighting his cigarette and turns around to talk to Amber, one elbow still on the bar, a broad smile on his face. Eventually he moves out of Jared's territory and finds himself the recipient of multiple free drinks from the band spouses and Dennis, whose birthday it is.

At one point during the night a tall blonde woman approaches him and asks him if he is a bouncer, he tells her that he resigned and she sticks out a pouty lip.

"That's too bad. I don't know if you remember me but a few months ago we had a bachelorette party here and you stopped me and asked me if I was the ring-leader of the group,"

"Yeah, that sounds like something I would say," he notices the huge rock on her left ring finger, she was 'smuggling diamonds'.

"Well, you told us that we were going to get hit on and messed with and that if any drunk, nasty guys were bothering us that we could come get you, and one of them did and you said that you were my husband,"

"Oh yeah?"

"And I just wanted to say thank you so much, we had such a great time and you made us feel safe."

"Well thank you, that makes me feel like I did a good job." It was too bad she was married, she was awfully good looking.

The blonde buys him a shot and they chat for a while before she gets sucked out onto the dance floor. He smokes his cigarettes and buys himself a few beers, the music makes the time fly and he finds himself having quite a good time despite the unpleasantness with Jared.

Around 1:30 AM he sets his hat on his seat and makes his way to the men's room.

"This is where the dicks hang out," he alerts the other guys at the urinals, they laugh, that one always gets a laugh from them. Washing his hands at the sink he sees Jared walk into the restroom and the next thing he knows he is on his back, looking up at his cheap-shot attacker.

Now this is a serious position for him to be in. Jared is not a tiny guy and he has a reputation for having quite a powerful punch. He's knocked four or five guys out cold with one solid hit and when he is drunk there is practically no stopping him. At 1:30 AM Jared is shit-faced.

Ft. Bragg comes back to him with stunning clarity through the alcohol haze and stinging pain in his jaw. Lines training, hand-to-hand, dirty fighting, and violence of action emerge from his subconcious and take over all rational thought.

He lashes out, grabs a handful of Jared's testicles and pulls himself up to his knees, his other hand dealing charlie-horse knuckle-punches to the front of Jared's thigh. Jared forgets about throwing punches and immediately tries to free his balls from the crushing grip. He pulls himself to his feet, releasing his hold on the crotch and receiving two or three devastating blows to his ribs in return before he is able to sink his thumbs into both of Jared's eyes, fingers digging into his temples to gain purchase. Jared screams and claws at the hands of his would be victim but the thumbs sink deeper, up to the second knuckle. He starts to throw his right knee up into Jared's left thigh, two, three, four times and Jared is on his way to his knees desperately trying to get the invading thumbs from his sockets. Taking advantage of his opponent's position, he pulls Jared's shirt up over his face and starts dropping bombs on his head. Left fist, right fist, right, right, right. Jared drops to both knees and tries to wrap his arms around the other man's legs, he succeeds and lifts him an inch or two off of the floor but the blows have started to land against the back of his head and neck. The 4th and 5th vertebrae are his target and he unleashes on them, no sound comes from his curling lips.

Someone grabs him from behind and tells him that what he was doing wasn't fair. He breaks contact and turns around, stepping out of the restroom calmly, The DJ is at the door and they nearly collide.

"What's going on in there?" he asks, trying to look inside.

"There's a fight in the bathroom," he says grinning and steps over to the table to grab his hat.

"FUCKING PUSSY FIGHTER! HE SCRATCHED MY EYES!" Pretty Boy drags a screaming, shirtless Jared from the bathroom. Both of his eyes are bleeding and so is his nose."I'M GONNA KICK HIS FUCKIN' ASS!". Not tonight you're not, the new bouncer tells him, just before he pushes Jared out the door and tells him to go home.

The married blonde comes back up to him, grabs a handful of pink shirt and gives him a kiss full on the mouth as if it was New Year's.

"Happy 4th of July!" she tells him.

"Happy 4th of July." He replies.

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