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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: May 28-August 18, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008:

Replacement apartment acquired! Moving to commence tomorrow!

I won't have Internet in my apartment in Michigan, so I probably won't be updating this journal or the review site through the end of August. I'll try my best to still respond to e-mails, though. Have a great summer, both of you reading this!

Horns down. If we go quiet, it won't be permanent.


Monday, June 16, 2008:

20 years ago or so, television dealt me one of many images that would completely fuck me up.

I have since forgiven television, mostly. But here's the story:

I was seven. My family stopped at an Ohio Red Roof Inn on one of our pre-Thanksgiving drives down to Louisville. After whatever shows we'd wanted to watch had finished and we'd gone to bed, Dad continued to flip through channels long after he thought everyone was asleep. Never a quick sleeper, I silently watched through half-open eyelids. At one point, he lit upon a film sequence in which a ponytailed assassin strapped on a rifle and scaled a tree for a vantage point from which to watch a young girl and her father exit their abode. The viewer then observed through the gunman's scope as he shot the girl in the throat. The girl gasped horribly and clutched her neck as my dad then changed the channel.

Though I never mentioned to my parents that I'd been traumatized by the clip, I was terrified to go outside for at least a few months, and would anxiously glance up in all nearby trees when I was forced to do so. Slowly, it migrated to the back of my brain, lying dormant along with any number of other inexplicably cruel images that comprise the baggage I carry around.

Back to present day: the other night, Bev and I watched Firestarter. Turns out the image that haunted me as a kid was Academy Award renouncer and Man Getting Hit by Football star George C. Scott shooting Drew Barrymore with a tranq dart. Drew turned out okay. In fact, she wound up killing Scott with her pyrokinetic powers. And when she did, it unshackled ages-old demons that then bolted from my mind like malnourished fireflies from a shattered mason jar.

Then Bev and I watched X-Men. I now have different baggage. The kind that comes from sitting through X-Men.

*     *     *

I no longer have a place to live when I move to Ann Arbor. Yesterday, Marianne left a voicemail telling me that her job or housing or whatever fell through, so she's going to have to remain in her apartment and not sublet it to me. She was very apologetic--she must have said, "I feel horrible" five times in her two-minute voicemail--and I can't be upset with her, really, since it sounds like her plans are lying in 10-car road wrecks too, but it's not a happy development. And I feel stupid for not predicting that something like this would happen.

I'm pretty sure Paul Erdös ruined the possibility of crashing in the Math Reviews offices for everyone, too.

CURRENT MUSIC: Diamond Hoo Ha by Supergrass.
Feeling sorry for myself/panic mode.
A porpoise. Saw one on an oceanside picnic with Bev and her parents yesterday. It was nice.
10:34 a.m.

Doot? | |

Thursday, June 12, 2008:

A few weeks ago, my friend Tracy, copy editing supervisor from Mathematical Reviews, contacted me, asking whether I'd be interested in moving back to Michigan for the summer to help my former colleagues copy edit their way through a bit of a backlog. After much thought, discussion with Bev, excited chair-dancing, and weaseling out of my Maine AIRS duties, my answer was an enthusiastic "Yes, please get me out of Maine!" So come June 23, I'll be digging out my old "Copy editors do it till your participles are no longer dangling" novelty T-shirt and reliving my glory days at my all-time favorite job for two months, with all my much-missed Math Reviews friends! And I hope to be able to get in lots of visiting with Adrienne, Tim, Jess, Steve Knowlton, whichever independent record stores still exist around there and, time permitting, my family.

My ambitious plan is to pack my car only with the essential toiletries, clothing, and my musical instruments and recording equipment. Not allowing myself the distractions of cable TV or Internet, the theory goes, will force me to direct my energy into recording, which I've unconscionably neglected since I finished The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss five years ago. I have a lot of half-songs and snippets recorded, but I'm hoping to be able to bang out a full new album over the two months in Michigan.

However, this necessitated finding a private, one-bedroom or studio apartment in Ann Arbor (i.e., not merely a room in a larger suite or house). For one thing, even if I weren't planning on becoming a studio recluse, I would not feel comfortable sharing an apartment with a stranger for any length of time, let alone being the 28-year-old weirdo in a house full of undergrads. But on top of that, a shared living space would both make me feel self-conscious about singing into my computer and be kind of inconsiderate to a roommate who may just want some peace and quiet. Not that I'm necessarily planning to fill the night air with Yamatsuka Eye-esque squealing, but my clumsy attempts at playing even a quiet guitar riff 80 times in a row until I get it right all the way through could quickly become annoying to anyone in close proximity. But mostly, I just need my own personal space to feel at ease. Not unlike Francis from Stripes.

Luckily, long after I'd resigned myself to complete failure and a summer of huddling for warmth in some dank, overlooked corner of the Borders parking deck because a couple renters hadn't acknowledged my responses to their Craigslist ads, Bev found a charming little efficiency that was up for grabs (and, more importantly, that had been posted only 15 minutes earlier, so I had a good shot at calling dibs), and encouraged me to try for it. "What the hell. E-mail's free and I won't have access to it while I'm homeless," I thought, and fired off a "please house me" e-mail. A couple hours later, I got a phone call from a friendly girl named Marianne who agreed to sublet the place to me! I think I'll make her a mix CD as a thank-you. My recall of Ann Arbor's geography has faded, so I can't quite picture the intersection where my new place is located, but Adrienne tells me, "It's right in the student district, but since there aren't any students, it will be great."

I called T-Bone to tell him, and as we spoke, we each pulled up the Google street view of the building. We giggled at some guy on the sidewalk who happened to be caught by the Google cameras in the middle of a particularly unflattering, John Cleese-esque silly walk. T-Bone told me about the street view of some Chicago locale where some kid is pulling a gat on some other kid in the picture. Then T-Bone sent me this clip of a sloshed Mike Ilitch at the Red Wings' Stanley Cup victory parade: "I don't want somebody to forget. I don't want North America, I don't want Canada, America, South America, Europe, the whole world to recognize, because there was a little bit of this and that going on, we are the Hockeytown! BLARGGH!" T-Bone is an excellent Internet resource.

(Also, while I'm on this tack, Jess sent me this great clip of some old New Testament epic, featuring an unsmiling, aloof-looking Jesus, that has been hilariously redubbed, What's Up, Tiger Lily?-style, to depict a savior who is alternately completely petty and completely exasperated with everyone He has to deal with. The best line, as Jesus is running down a list of everything His disciples have done wrong lately: "John, you drank too much wine the other night. Not way too much; just enough to make me angry.")

So yeah, actual news from here, amid a flurry of activity! I'm going to miss Bev, the birds, and Cora mightily, but I'm predicting a fun and productive couple of months, which I don't often do!

CURRENT MUSIC: Skylarking by XTC and Velocifero by Ladytron. One old favorite, one brand-new favorite.
Something around here smells like a Reese's NutRageous bar.
4:27 p.m.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, June 3, 2008:

My grandpa is getting sued for divorce by his wife's adopted son. Yes, it is more than a little silly!

I'm going to try to get through the backstory quickly, because my experience with most of it is secondhand, pieced together from what my parents tell me, and it's actually not the point of this entry: My grandma died in 1998. Not terribly long after, Grandpa started seeing Margaret, an old biddy whose moods, as far as I ever saw, range from snide to flat-out nasty. Over protests from my dad and his sisters that amounted to a sustained, months-long shriek, Grandpa wound up marrying her. Since then, Margaret has developed Parkinson's and, by last year, had reached the point of being unable to take care of herself, falling frequently, and lapsing into hallucinations and dementia.

Margaret has an adopted son named Jeffersen [sic]. If I understand correctly, he's actually her grandson, but Margaret legally adopted him as her son after her biological son--Jeffersen's father--went to prison and/or died. Jeffersen is a scuzz. After she married Grandpa and until Margaret required constant care and supervision, Jeffersen would appear only when he wanted to ask Margaret for money. As a result, they saw him pretty often. (Thankfully, Grandpa's finances are completely separate from Margaret's.)

As Margaret's condition deteriorated, Jeffersen's mooching pretty clearly--to my mind--entered the realm of elder abuse and financial exploitation. He would show up at the apartment, write sizeable checks to himself from Margaret's checkbook, and get her to sign them even though she was clearly not of sound mind. (My family attempted to report him to elder services and were told that such acts don't constitute abuse. That is not true.) However, at this point, Jeffersen was occasionally tapped to look after Margaret when Grandpa needed or wanted to get out of the house for a bit. Jeffersen wasn't so crazy about that part of his relationship with Margaret, and he'd often just not show up or leave before Grandpa got back home. Eventually, Grandpa simply told Jeffersen he wasn't welcome in the apartment anymore.

Around last Christmas, Grandpa wound up in the hospital and then a rehab facility for a period of time, and so Jeffersen was summoned to take care of Margaret for awhile. He protested quite a bit, but eventually collected her. This sparked a long drama where Jeffersen refused to let Grandpa speak with Margaret, refused to tell Grandpa where he'd stuck Margaret, kept texting my dad demanding access to Grandpa's apartment, etc.

So last month, Grandpa was served with divorce papers by Jeffersen. Jeffersen has Margaret's power of attorney, so this is something he just decided to do because he doesn't like Grandpa, and also to see if maybe he can squeeze some money out of Grandpa in the process. (In the divorce papers, Jeffersen alleges that Grandpa "abandoned" Margaret when Grandpa was in the hospital, but he himself seems to have abandoned this tactic.)

A week or two ago, Jeffersen, his attorney, and Grandpa, Dad, Aunt Marcy, and Grandpa's attorney all went before Judge Martha Anderson. To hear my parents tell it, the discussion between Jeffersen's Barry Zuckerkorn-level attorney and the judge went something like this:

"On what grounds are you suing for divorce?" the judge asked.

"My client has power of attorney," Jeffersen's lawyer replied.

"But on what grounds are you suing for divorce?"

"Power of attorney."

Once the judge understood that there was no basis for the divorce beyond Jeffersen stamping his foot and saying, "I wannit!" she said she'd never heard of such a case and wanted to take a few weeks to think about it or search for precedent or whatever. So everyone has to go back to court on the 18th.

To feel less antsy and helpless in the interim, Dad did some sleuthing about Judge Anderson, to see if he could get a bead on her ruling habits. He dug up the following YouTube video, in which Judge Anderson presides over a motion filed by plaintiff Karen Stephens against defendant Paul Nicoletti:

Dad thought the video was pretty funny, and it is, inasmuch as everybody's kind of a jerk. But the comments posted below that video on YouTube, apparently by an involved party who won't let double-posting etiquette stop her from futilely attempting to post a link, eventually led me to this fascinating Metro Times article about a Shelby Township family driven to financial ruin by an unscrupulous contractor. Both Stephens and Nicoletti play supporting roles in the piece, and theirs is a complicated B-story within an odyssey already millipedian with tentacles. I'll try to simplify the incidents leading up to the above clip, as I understand them:

Nicoletti, the defendant, used to be Stephens's lawyer. He also used to be the lawyer of Marie Dreilich, who is a friend of Stephens. Dreilich wound up suing Nicoletti for malpractice, and Stephens was planning to be Dreilich's key witness because of her own problems with Nicoletti's law-talkin' abilities.

However, before that suit went to trial, Nicoletti went in front of Judge Anderson and got a personal protection order against Dreilich (again, not the woman in the video), claiming she was harassing him. It sounds from the story like she probably was, actually. Strangely enough, though, the PPO that Judge Anderson signed prohibited Dreilich from coming into any contact with any of Nicoletti's former clients. Which includes Stephens.

So that meant not only that these two women could not testify on each other's behalf in lawsuits against Nicoletti (they tried it and Dreilich wound up arrested for violating the PPO), but they couldn't even legally hang out together even though they're very close friends! Like, they couldn't go to church together anymore. Nicoletti effectively took out a restraining order between two grown adults who are completely unrelated to him and who really didn't want to be prevented from seeing one another! It's kind of brilliant, if you think about it.

Now, Nicoletti did threaten to take out a PPO against Stephens as well, but never did it... because he didn't need to! He already kept these two women away from each other and thus weakened Dreilich's lawsuit against him! So even though, in the video, Stephens admits that there was technically no PPO signed by Judge Anderson against her, there kind of was. And Judge Anderson knows it, because she rejected a couple motions by Dreilich to get the PPO rescinded so she and her friend could be in contact with each other.

I'm sure Judge Anderson was sick of hearing about it by the time this video takes place, because these two women do sound like they've made quite a nuisance of themselves (and the video shows that Stephens, at least, isn't doing herself any favors by mouthing off), but it's kind of a dick move on the judge's part to fine her the $500 since she knows the whole story. I assume Judge Anderson knows she overstepped her bounds in signing that PPO in the first place and is pretty defensive about it, which I bet has something to do with her freak-out in the video.

So at any rate, I hope sanity prevails when Grandpa goes before her later this month. I thought the Metro Times story was very interesting, though, which is why I thought I'd share.

As a reward for reading all this, here's the funniest Judge Judy segment I've ever seen. Even if you typically (justifiably) scoff at my television-viewing habits, trust me when I tell you that it's worth 10 minutes out of your day to watch the entire thing. The defendant lets fly with some of the most quotable non-sequiturs daytime TV has to offer, and there's even some impressive physical comedy for you lowbrows. Enjoy!

CURRENT MUSIC: Sea Lion by Ruby Suns.
Detoxing. Psychiatrist's office is still closed.
The Wit and Wisdom of Jessica Porridge. Jessica Porridge is a nutbar who frequently posts nigh-illegible but hilariously fervent comments in response to articles on the Waterville Morning Sentinel's website, and this guy David has been collecting her comments in LiveJournal form. Reading all her published thoughts on topics ranging from a senior who donated $6,500 to the town of Thorndike ("the town will only use you're money for non sense you don;t need like that crumbaly ashphalt that dosen't really fix the pot-holes and makes it hurt to go out across to your mailbox with barefoot, or more stupid WALLGREENS that are as bad a dump as Right Aid with low life stockboy's!I bet it's not to late to stop paymennt on yourcheck and use it for a RESPONSABL: Chairty like Olimpya Snowe!!!") to the National Day of Prayer ("I hope no one flew off off the handle, like Pastor OBamma and started praying about thing's that aren;t there place to pray about!!") is a lot like watching Idiocracy. It's a collection of derangement so pervasive that it starts to make its own otherworldly sort of sense after awhile.
5:46 p.m.

Doot? | |

Wednesday, May 28, 2008:

I had an appointment this afternoon with Cathy, my brain doctor, who is helping me figure out exactly what pills will best stanch the flood of blackness that threatens to overtake my mind at any moment, like those old propaganda films showing communism instantly inundating all parts of the globe in which the US does not maintain a military presence. When I arrived at the medical suite, though, a handwritten sign on the door read, "This office is CLOSED. We are having a billing inspection--unplanned. I would have called but the inspectors can't let us have access to our records. Thank you for understanding." The clinic isn't answering its phone right now either.

Can they do that? I mean, I'm sure they can (probably thanks to Reagan), and I'm admittedly not sure who "they" is in this case, but it seems inappropriate for auditors to have the power to lock down a mental health office whose scheduled patients need their meds. Just judging from the demeanor of people with whom I've shared the waiting room, I am by no means the worst off of the practice's clientele, and I certainly wouldn't want to be the one responsible for their potential detachment from reality just so I could check the office's ledgers. Myself, I'm going to be doing without Cymbalta for at least the next couple days, until this gets sorted out. So this should be interesting.

Over the weekend, the old Home Depot in Bangor was having a 90% off liquidation sale. (They've moved to a new location less than one mile up the road, but for some reason didn't want to transport their existing stock, so they've been selling it at increasing discounts throughout the month. I can't imagine the cost of shipping everything a couple blocks would be greater than the losses they sustained on an emergency liquidation, but really, what do I care?) Sunday was their very last day, so Bev wanted to go and see what she could find. The answer was "not much good." Most of the shelves had been picked clean and the marrow was being efficiently sucked by shoppers like ourselves, leaving us little to choose from. I think the entire gardening section, for instance, had been reduced to a couple bags of mulch and sand. Nevertheless, Bev rummaged through the detritus while I patiently seethed that these kind of sales never happen at fun places like Guitar Center. At least not while I'm around, which is identical to "never happening" as far as I'm concerned.

While we were there, though, the management finally got tired of seeing lines stretching halfway down shopping aisles and had an "Aw, screw it" moment. The PA system clicked on and a spree was officially declared: Every single cartload of whatever crap you could stuff in there was going to be $25 flat. One especially savvy woman who'd seen more than her share of Supermarket Sweep piled at least a dozen whole-house humidifiers into her cart. A gristly old vet toting a load of ceramic tile was barking into his cell phone as he passed me, "Get your ass down here and buy some shit!" If Home Depot ever abandons their unintimidating-to-the-point-of-condescension "You can do it. We can help" brand and decides to go a more aggressive, Slim Jim-styled route, I think "Get your ass down here and buy some shit!" would be an excellent new slogan.

So Bev set about filling our cart while I guarded it from poachers. We wound up with several boxes full of implements for a fence that may eventually be built around our yard (at which time I will begin referring to it as "our compound"). Bev also bought a bucket full of adhesive house letters and numbers. It's mostly Ds and Qs, in fact, so those saps at Brazier are going to have to pay through the nose if they don't want their mailbox to read "AIRY UEEN," I tell you what.

At a yard sale, Bev also dropped 50 cents on a Clapper-esque device that is supposed to turn a lamp on and off when you command, "Lights!" We stuck it on the light that hangs over our couch.

SOUNDS THE DEVICE RECOGNIZES AS "LIGHTS": "Cora, stop that!"; Gina Torres's voice; the phrase "music of the spheres"; two plates clanking together; the word "mongoose"; my Senor Cardgage impression.


CURRENT MUSIC: Singing Bones by The Handsome Family.
Seems I've been keeping this journal for five years as of May 3. Huh.
3:48 p.m.

Doot? | |

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