Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Little of This, A Little of That

Well, I guess I left that last post at the top for quite long enough. I haven't had much more exciting to say, so I figured I'd let it bask in the sun for a while. But I had some time on my hands today, so I thought I'd check in with you-all.

Work continues at the financial services giant, and I'm beginning to really love it there... I could see working there for years (though not doing what I'm doing, it's too dull). The people are so nice, there is no tension of interoffice politics, the colors of the walls and carpets are so soothing. And I've gotten used to my work in such a way that I don't really have to think about it too hard, I can just cruise through my tasks while thinking about something else.

The something else I think about most is getting back to work on Worst Luck. See, I have all this time on my hands just now, we had this big project that got put off because the printers made a huge mistake on one of the elements of the state-specific annuity contract kits (they printed fill-ins on both sides of non-carbon-repro paper... duh-hoy) that we were supposed to be assembling and sending out; so until the reprinted pieces come in, my choices have become to either A) go around to other departments and beg for work, or B) sit in my cubicle and pretend to work... without, I might add, the benefit of full internet access; all I can access is news and other such.

I tried Option A once, and it was very disturbing, going around asking strangers if they had any spare filing or copying to do, so I stick to Option B and work on Worst Luck during quiet moments. I'm writing a scene with the medical examiner and his assistant going over the victim's apartment in search of further clues; it's going fairly well, I'm averaging a page and half a day. The mystery part of the story is developing nicely, and hopefully I'll have something to post in a few days.

But in the meantime, I figured I'd share with you some of the wierd and amusing things I've found on the net lately, and then give you a little meme that I liked... followed, of course, by the obligatory beefcake coda.

I did this one search on Yahoo Video trying to find a video that I discovered somewhere, I knew not where, and was trying to link to as an illustration in a board-post where someone was asking how male strippers strip; the video was about these straight boys who buy one of their straight friends a male stripper for his birthday. I did not find it by typing in "male stripper" in the search window, but I did find these two:

This commercial is, I think, from some Slavic country, and is so cute!

I don't know what this commercial is for, but it's Australian and a hoot!

I did eventually find the original video by searching through my IE History, and it is very funny... I mean, a straight male stripper dancing the freaky-cooch on a straight boy in front of all his straight friends (plus there's somebody in the room with an incredibly infectious hyena-laugh).

And though this is only vaguely relatable to male strippers, it was found in the same forum at Just Us Boys wherein I found the one with the male stripper at the straight boy's birthday party. Not only is it cute as hell, but I think the kid on the right goes to my church. I stared at him every chance I got this morning, and am fairly convinced it's him... but should I ask him? I don't know... it seems creepy, for a pudgy thirty-eight-year-old queen to go up to a gorgeous teenage boy in church and ask him if he's "the one I saw in that video online." Anyway, here it is, give it a look.

But going back to YouTube, somewhere in my travels I was directed there to view Pink's new video. I don't know if you know this, but I love Pink! She's on my short list of girls I'd want to have sex with. And this video is clever as well as fun, it has a good beat and you can dance to it! Click here to watch a grainy little upload of Pink's "Stupid Girl".

I can't remember where I found this, either, though I suspect that unless I found it a Just Us Boys, perhaps Dana Marie may have had a hand in it. If you feel the desperate need to have the sound "Aaaawwww!" forced out of you, go visit the adorable cuddly creatures at Cute Overload.

If, however, you seek a mental challenge, go check out these games at Fasco; the Crimson Room took me forever, and I was so thrilled when I finally got out; the White Chamber was even cooler and more challenging, and even more satisfying to solve; the Viridian Room I had to hunt for a cheat to get out of, there were two clue items that I simply could not figure out on my own (though one could figure them out, they were so obvious when I found out what they were). The Blue Room still has me completely mystified, but I can't just give up on it yet. It's a brilliant time-waster, this site.

And now, finally, I will leave you with this very smart and tidy meme I lifted from the loverly Jeffrey at Gatsby's Ghost.


• Coffee-house counterperson (this was before Starbuck's invented the term "barista," but that is essentially what I did... except that of course I made espresso drinks correctly)
• Security Guard (shut up)
• Office Manager (simply because they wouldn't call me a "General Factotum")
• Marketing Materials Fulfilment Specialist (that's what I do now... it's a fancy term for "envelope-stuffer")

Auntie Mame (I literally wore out my VHS version and had to buy the DVD)
The Sound of Music (every time it comes on TV, plus I have it on DVD too... and I know the words to all the songs, even "The Lonely Goatherd.")
Grease (I don't really care that much about the movie, I mean I like it OK but I don't care; yet for some reason I've seen it hundreds of times)
Big Guns (it's my favorite porn, though most of the "guns" aren't all that big)

• Fort Ord, CA
• Twain Harte, CA
• Concord, CA
• Oakland, CA (I don't get around much, do I?)

Phil of the Future
Gilmore Girls

• Hawaii (two different times, three different islands)
• Disneyland
• Victoria, BC
• The Jersey Shore

4 WEBSITES I VISIT DAILY(I omit the "Daily Reads" column contents as being too obvious)
• My Yahoo (wherein I get my Horoscopes, Odd News, TV Listings, several RSS feeds, and Comics)
• Just Us Boys (home away from home)
• Webshots (for fresh wallpaper every day)
• eBay (well, lately, not every day...I'm trying to reform my shopping habits)

• Mint chocolate chip ice cream
• Meatloaf
• Pastry
• Cheese

• In Hawaii
• In a dogpile of Bel Ami models
• In Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry closet
• In his pants:

Monday, January 16, 2006

So, You Wanna Be a Drag Queen...

Often in my travels, people will ask me questions about drag... why is it done, what is the process, how do you learn to do it? Recently someone posted a thread on my Home Away From Home, Just Us Boys, asking if anybody did drag, and wondering how to get started or just how to go about experimenting with it... and as the resident expert I decided to give a lengthy disquisition on the topic.

And since I spent so much time thinking about it and writing about it, I decided that I should use it here at Mannersism and let a different audience know about it. But of course I am not going to steal the threads from the discussion board, so I edited the following to exclude sentences addressed directly to the person who asked the question in the first place, addressing them instead to the Universe and you, my lovely loyal reader.


How To Be A Drag Queen

Part I: Theory

Where do you start? How do you begin? Do I have to be nelly as a paper hat from birth in order to be a drag queen? Do I have to be a bottom? Do I have to wish I was a girl? What makes it all happen? In short, should I and how shall I be more like you, divine and oh-so-wise Marlénè?

I have three words for you: study, practice, commit.

You cannot do drag successfully unless you have studied either women or other drag queens for quite some time, and come up with a working theory on how and why they do what they do. And by "women" I don't mean your mother or your sister or your girlfriends (though these will no doubt be inspirational, they will not be useful for the theatricality drag requires)... I mean iconic women like actresses or models or opera-singers or ballerinas.

You have to study old glamour-goddess films from the thirties and forties; you have to also study the drag queens of more current drag classics like To Wong Foo and Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Girls Will Be Girls and Die Mommie Die! and Stonewall and Wigstock. You have to flip through issue after issue of Vogue and W and Bazaar. You have to go into fabulous boutiques and fondle the dainties.

And as you are studying the icons and artifacts of Glamorous Iconic Femininity, observe what turns you on in a woman or a drag-queen (not "turned on" like what makes your dick hard, because drag is not about hard dicks... I mean what lights you up inside like a showgirl's dressing-room mirror), and start mimicking for all you're worth. If you mimic bits and pieces of fabulousness picked up from your seniors for long enough, you will develop your own style.

Next, you must practice-practice-practice! You have to practice the mannerisms, you have to practice walking in heels, you have to practice putting on makeup; and if you're going to perform, you have to practice lip-synch (even if you sing live or do comedy, you have to know how to lip-synch in order to put the proper physical contribution into your act... anybody can sing and joke, but not everybody can sing and joke in drag and really sell it).

When you're practicing movement, this is where the studying comes in. I mean, you aren't going to be moving around the way real women move around... you're acting, essentially, adopting a body-language that conveys femininity. See, women don't have to convey femininity when they move, the way they're built does it for them... for a man to do it, there has to be an exaggeration. There is a put-on delicacy to your hand-movements that are meant to make your hands seem smaller and more pointed as women's are, you stretch your head high to make the neck slimmer like a woman's, there's an exaggerated swing to the hips that is meant to approximate the lower center of gravity that a woman's body has.

It's all about fluidity: remember that water is a universal symbol of female nature.

And finally, you have to make a commitment to the project. There are some short-cuts available, but for the most part the full drag experience takes a lot of time and energy... and money, too (this shit ain't cheap)! If all you want to do is experiment with some genderbending, play with some makeup and throw on a dress to see how it feels, then you can do so (but please do it in private). But if you want to be a drag-queen, however temporarily, you must commit your resources to it.

Here are some tips to getting started in your commitment.

1) Find the drag-queens in your area first, go to the shows, get involved in your local Imperial Court scene. I mean, you can read my advice all you want, but drag is a visual art and cannot be learned on the internet... you have to learn it in person. (Plus, if you can manage to befriend a drag-queen about your size, you might be able to borrow some of her stuff.)

2) Have a venue. Just putting on drag and walking around your daily life is weird and boring; doing it for Halloween is tired and trite. If you don't have a purpose for the drag, you'll have no focus in putting yourself together. Are you going to perform on stage, or as a character, or what? Getting involved with a group of drags will give you the necessary opportunities and venues, that's why I made that the first step.

3) Most importantly, decide what kind of queen you want to be. Are you going to be a tacky but fun drag-goon? Do you want to be RG (look like an actual woman)? Do you want to be avant-garde or traditional? Do you want to be sexy or untouchable? These are the bases of the character you create when you put on drag, and you cannot make any decisions until you make this one... unless you want to keep trying different kinds, but that's going to get pretty time-consuming.

Now, having done all of that, you're ready to get down to brass tacks.

Part II: Face, Girl!

I learned to do makeup by reading women's magazines all my life, and picked up bits and tips from other drag queens and from the published works of various makeup gurus like the late great Kevin Aucoin. When I was little, my Grandmother (who was an Avon Lady for a while) ran through her entire spiel for me, to practice; when my mother got dressed up, I watched her closely, fascinated by the little rituals of eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. I learned it by osmosis, is what I'm saying... but you can also learn through practice.

Regarding makeup, in general, I find most of what I need at the drug-store. When you get more comfortable with painting and powdering, you might want to graduate up to professional products. Do not get your makeup in a department store or chi-chi boutique, though... while these are generally very good products, they are not only prohibitively expensive but are usually too refined and delicate, too weak and light for drag. Christian Dior and MAC are the exceptions, they have dramatic colors and fantastic packaging (MAC in particular makes great eyeshadows, and their shaving-cream can't be beat), but the rest of their stuff is no better than Max Factor or L'Oreal or Revlon, and don't provide any better coverage... and when you're talking about drag makeup, coverage is the key factor.

So let's start with foundation. You may need to do some prosthetic work first, depending on the kind of face you have. I have a rather blank face, no features jump out at you as being especially masculine, so this isn't something I know a lot about. But I do know a bit.

If you have very thick or pronounced eyebrows, for example, you'll have to do something about that... but you won't want to pluck or wax, unless you're planning on looking feminine all the time. Instead, go to your local theatrical costume supply for prosthetic wax and cover them up! Cover the mound of wax with foundation, contour it lightly to reduce the appearance of projection, and shade it in (for an example of excellent drawn-on eyebrows, check out old movie stars of the thirties and forties; specific tips will also be in the following paragraph about eye-makeup).

For the base makeup, I always recommend Dermablend if it's available; it's expensive, but it really stays on and comes in a vast array of colors. Otherwise, the next-best thing is Max Factor Pan-Stik. Don't be stingy with it, either... slather the shit on and smooth it out! You want your face to be a blank canvas.

Set the foundation with a loose powder, patted on thickly with a puff and then left to set for at least five minutes; brush off the excess with the fattest sable brush you can find; it is preferable to use the same brand as your foundation so that the colors match, but in a pinch Coty Airspun Translucent Extra-Coverage works with everything (smells nifty, too).

And speaking of foundation color, don't try to match the color of your face... try to match the color of your neck or chest, or perhaps the underside of your arm. Paler is prettier, and it tends to bleach out the more masculine characteristics of a face.

Next comes contouring. Contouring is probably the most important part of the process, as it gives you the opportunity to create the necessary illusions. However, unlike standard stage-makeup contouring, your makeup has to look good from up-close as well as from a distance... so blend blend blend! Subtlety is the most important factor of a character illusion.

The standard contours you'll need for drag are the nose-bridge (narrow the bridge to make the face more delicate), the ridge of the brow (minimize this almost strictly masculine feature), the corners of the mouth (another feature of masculine musculature that must be minimized), and of course the cheekbones. I also like to contour the edges of the face (under the jaw, in front of the ears, over the temples) to give more attention to the face, like the frame of a picture.

Don't confuse contouring with blusher... these are entirely different things. You will most likely use a medium brownish blusher for contouring (I use warm brick tones), though depending on your coloring and the palette you choose, you might want something more taupe or orchid. Blush, on the other hand, is used to highlight certain areas and lend a healthy, realistic color to your makeup. Something bright and warm is needed for this (I like coral shades dusted lightly under the cheekbones and a tiny daub on the forehead, nose-tip and chin).

I always work on the eyes next. First the eyebrows, then the eyeshadow, then the eyeliner, then the mascara. If you're really into it, you can use false eyelashes; but I never learned how to put them on, since I have long enough eyelashes to do without. But this is where you really need to know other drag queens... because if you have short lashes or particularly small eyes or a particularly pronounced browbone, false lashes might be an imperative, and you will probably need help getting them on at first.

When grooming your eyebrows or putting on a new brow (especially if you've covered it up with wax), try to keep it natural. Put the brow just above your actual eyebrow, starting in the same place as your own eyebrows; eyebrows should arch at a point determined by taking a ruler (or use a long makeup brush) and placing one end at the outside corner of your nostril, line it up with the pupil of your eye; the end of the eyebrow is ruled from the nose to the outside corner of your eye, and end the line at the rule. Use pencil for this, and feather it out a little so that it looks more like hair. Coordinate the brow color to the color of your wig, this lends more to the illusion.

For the shadow, you want to do something really dramatic... some people go for stagy primary colors, which can look good... but I prefer more natural-looking neutral shades, and am quite fond of those prematched four-shade suites. Do a very dark shadow in the crease, fanning it out at the ends to blend with the eyebrow line; do a medium-dark color at the inside edge of the eye-area, defining the area away from the nose; then a medium-light color over above and below the crease; finally do the lightest color at the "points" of the eye, which are found the same way as the arch of your eyebrow... rule a line from the side of your nostril through the pupil of the eye.

The eyeliner is difficult... it takes a steady hand. I use a liquid pen eyeliner, Almay Amazing I to be exact (though I would recommend Maybelline Eye Express for beginners), it gives me the most control. But only use liquid on the upper lid, and only use the darkest black; start from a tiny point at the inner corner of the eye and swelling out to the "point" of the eye, then taper back into a tiny (preferably up-curved) tip pointing to the end of the eyebrow.

Use pencil or powder on the lower lid, and a light natural color (I use taupe, just dark enough for definition but not an obvious mark), for a soft thin suggestion of a line... too thick a line on the lower lid makes you look coarse and stoned. For extra drama, use a soft black pencil on the inner upper lid, just under the eyelashes... but this is advanced makeup, and you're liable to put out an eye if you don't have a gentle touch.

Mascara takes a bit of practice, too. Brands don't really matter, they're pretty much all alike, in my experience. Remember to apply it to the top of your upper lashes as well as the underside, wiggling the wand back-and-forth as you sweep from the root to the tip to fill in the sides as well. The lower lashes just take the merest little touch, only at the outside end of the eye, otherwise you might smear and look like a raccoon. Comb out the clumps with a lash-comb. You might want to use a lash-curler, too, to give that starry-eyed look... but I don't like them.

Now you're ready to put on the lips. Use a pencil lipliner in a dark red color for the best outline. Follow the outline of your own lips, coloring just outside the line to make your lips bigger; if your own lips don't look quite feminine enough, play with the shape a little... but don't go too far away from your own lipline, or you'll end up with flat space that looks like clown-paint. Finally gloss over with a nice shiny dramatic color. Basic red works for most people, but that all depends on your coloring, the color of your wig, and color of your clothes, your teeth, etc. I like L'Oreal best for lipsticks, most brands are too flimsy, and Revlon tends to soak into the skin of the lip so you look bruised the next day.

Hey, you're done! Just go over the surface with a light translucent pressed powder, tuck it and a spare lipstick and a mascara for touch-ups in your purse, and you're ready to go! De-Gorgeous!

Part III: The Rest of You

Wigs are the crossover between your makeup and your outfit... it's neither, and it's both, if you see what I mean. The wig you choose will have a major impact on your face's look, as well as on your outfit's success, so you want to pay special attention to it. And choosing your wig will bring you back to Commitment #3: What kind of drag-queen are you? I am the RG type, so I go for very natural-looking shake-and-go wigs. But you might want something loftier, or something more artificial, or something more costumey... it all depends on you.

Whatever kind of wig you choose, go for a natural look. Even if you're going for one of those towering creations, or a not-found-in-nature color, you want to blend the edges softly around your face as much as possible and muss the outside surface of the wig just enough that it doesn't look plastic. It's all about illusion, remember. If you naturally have dark hair, do not wear blond wigs (unless you really know what you're doing)... stick to brown, black, and auburn. And finally, go big... not just high, but wide as well, front and back and sides. It makes your head and shoulders look smaller and more feminine if your hair is huge.

When I'm getting dressed, I always leave the wig until the very last, after getting dressed and getting my jewelry on. The wig is my second-least-favorite aspect of drag, worse than the heels but not as bad as the corset. I have found through trial-and-error that the best way to keep your wig on while you're moving around is to tie your own hair into little tufts all over your head, creating a sort of field of knobs for the mesh of the wig to cling to.

Some people swear by wig-caps, but I always thought they just make things slipperier. I know bald or shaven-headed men who use two-sided tape. A few well-placed bobby-pins are good, too, but don't get all wrapped up in pinning the thing so firmly in place that you can't get it off easily; some people sew tiny combs into the edges of the wig to keep it in place. But in general, wigs don't come off as easily as you think they will, so don't get in a panic about it.

Re clothing... go for coverage if you can, that way you don't have to shave anything you don't want to. Long sleeves and high necks cover a multitude of masculinity. I shave my upper body because I have very slopey shoulders and undefined arms, and can get away with strapless gowns. But even if you have a feminine form, for the first time around, you might want to be more covered up.

When choosing a dress, keep in mind your figure. If you are trying to carry off an illusion of femininity, but you have a particularly masculine shape, you are going to have to make special efforts. I'm pretty much shaped like a woman, my hips are wider than my ribcage and I am fairly well undefined, so I can wear just about anything. But you might be different!

This is another place where studying women's magazines is very helpful... they are always giving advice on how to minimize "figure flaws"... a thick waist, short legs, big shoulders, whatever. The late great designer Adrian created the big shoulder-pad to make Joan Crawford's square frame look more waspish; thick-ankled Mae West always wore full-length gowns. There are a multitude of little tricks of costume to get around your figure.

Be realistic about your bosom. So many boys start off with these impossibly vast knockers! But unless you're doing a burlesque character, the false bosom needs only be big enough to balance out your shoulders and make the dress hang correctly. A B-cup with a flat-folded sock in it is usually quite enough. Some queens will tell you to use birdseed or some equally ridiculous substance in a tied-off stocking, which will make the boob more realistic... but really, who the hell is going to impressed with a realistic boob? Any woman can tell you that weight and movement are a curse.

Your undergarments are very important. Even if you're thin enough to get away with very little construction, I find that lingerie is part of the character. A nice satin corset just feels more feminine. I like Maidenform Flex-Eez (which you can get at Sears) for undergarments: a backless bra, a waist-cincher, and a panty-girdle worn together are fairly comfortable and go under just about anything you might want to wear. For more construction, a Frederick's of Hollywood Dream Corset is great (I have a bunch of those); and if you're getting a little doughy around the middle or have a muscular waist, you might have to go for something stronger and steel-boned; you can find such things on eBay or any fetish store.

When buying bras or corsets, use an accurate chest measurement... a 38B means that your chest is 38 inches around under the B-sized boob. Never ever ever wear anything too tight around your chest, in inhibits your breathing and can lead to pneumonia and other nasty pulmonary infections if you keep it on for very long. With girdles, you will want to use your accurate hip measurement... if that's too tight, it will press on your testes, and you definitely don't want that!

As far as your jock goes, wear tight men's underwear (briefs or a jockstrap) underneath your panty-hose and girdle... women's undergarments won't cup your goodies and keep them in place. Some will suggest "tucking" (lifting the testicles into the pubic bone and tucking the penis tightly underneath the perineum) or wearing a dance-belt, but it's hideously uncomfortable, so I don't do it... I just wear dresses that are loose around the hips so I don't have to.

Wear tights rather than sheer hose, even if you do shave your legs or have naturally hairless legs... they smooth out the knee and ankles, which are naturally knobbier on men than on women. I like to wear one layer of dark brown tights under a layer of cream-color tights, then a pair of sheer pantyhose over the top; you might find flesh-color dance-tights that could do it in one layer. And do not under any circumstances wear fishnets! I think they're tacky, but more importantly they accentuate every knob and cut in your legs, which are simply not feminine. They don't do the soles of your feet any good either. I have never understood the allure of fishnet stockings.

Be realistic when starting off in heels. I started walking around in Grandmother's old 50s stiletto heels when I was six, and got so good at it that I taught my sister and step-sisters how to walk in them when they got to the prom-going age. But even though I know how to walk in really high heels, it's dangerous and pointless... three inches of heel is really quite enough to be starting with, and two is a lot more comfy. Now, if you have really big feet or short lets, you might want to try to work your way up to platform stilettos, which are amazingly uncomfortable but which do feminize your leg; but avoid it if you can.

Hands are often an illusion-killer. Opera gloves are a good expedient, but they constrain what else you can wear... you can't wear opera-gloves with a day dress, you know. False fingernails are also good, if your hands are small enough to fit them; or if you're willing to make even more of a commitment, you can have custom acrylics installed. If, however, you have flat nail-beds, don't bother with fake nails... long flat nails just look weird. Either stick to gloves or learn to make more feminized gestures.

Let's see, what else? I guess the rest really is a matter of personal taste. It all depends on what kind of a drag-queen you've decided to be. But in general, go for sparkle rather than flash, softness and drape, and stick to small-waisted things (unconstructed dresses look very blockish on men, just look at Bea Arthur).

Part IV: Final Thoughts

This really relates to the first section of studying women, but I want to express this again because it's really important: your feelings for women will show through your drag character. If you don't have an immense respect for women, you will not be successful as a drag queen... or at least not the kind of drag queen who appeals to a large audience that might include women. I have huge respect for women, and that makes my illusion hold better... but I'm also a little afraid of female sexuality, which is why Marlénè is a largely sexless creature, more matronly than nubile, a nurturer rather than a seductress.

Any issues you have with the women in your life, any problem you have with femininity, will be writ large on the character you create. So if you don't love and respect women, just don't do drag.


So anyway, if you've made it this far, you're ready to be a drag queen! I hope that was interesting to you, and if you'd like more specific advice, send along pictures of yourself and we can discuss some options. Maybe I can someday work this into a business, mentoring amateurs of drag... though I fear that all I'd do is make little clones of Marlénè to run rampant in the world. And then I would no longer be the only me!


Friday, January 6, 2006

Snnzzzzz...*Yawn!*...Is It Spring Yet?

Now that real Winter is here, and the holidays past, I seem to have slipped into hibernation mode. I mean, I've spent more time asleep this week than I would have thought possible without having a major illness or final exams to blame it on. Of course, I was worn out from the exertions of the holidays, and the unaccustomed extra exertion of working during the holiday week (I haven't had to do that since I was working counter-service in delis fifteen years ago), and a couple of unexpectedly wearying non-work days... but this is ridiculous!

New Year's Eve day, I felt like I weighed five hundred pounds and was swimming through gelatine. Caroline and I went to see The Chronicles of Narnia (which was pretty damned good, I quite liked it, though it was no LOTR or Harry Potter, kind of preachy and predictable... but Tilda Swinton was hot, and the two boys were pretty enough to turn anyone pedophile), and then went walking about the Bay Street shopping center; but other than that, I spent most of the day lolling around in bed or slouched in my desk chair catching up on my blog-reading. I went to a party later on in the evening, a very low-key affair that was nevertheless a lot of fun, sixteen good sober friends (most of whom were couples) in a house out in Pleasant Hill, we played board games and ate and laughed and talked, and went home pretty early.

I spent most of New Year's Day in bed, I got home from the party around two (I drove a friend home who lives at some distance) and slept through until noon, then got up for about an hour to eat a little and check on my email, went back to sleep for three hours, got up and ate something, slept for another four hours... after that it gets hazy, the waking and the sleeping, but I figure I spent about sixteen out of twenty-four hours asleep. I don't think I've slept that much since... well, I don't think I've ever slept that much at once without having the flu.

Monday I had an emotional family crisis, and to work off the anxiety I attacked the physical manifestations of Christmas in my house... stripped the tree, schlepped it outside, rearranged the furniture, brought the boxes down out of the attic, unpacked the stuff I'd packed away to make room for the Christmas stuff, repacked all the Christmas stuff, hauled the boxes back into the attic, vacuumed and dusted everything, and applied sufficient air-freshener to obliterate the smell of that damned tannenbaum. Which was all rather tiring.

The family crisis itself is something I'm not sure how much I should talk about here... I mean, it's not really my story to tell, it's my father's. But it affected me strongly, so it kind of is mine to tell. But now I'm sounding all mysterious and cryptic, which isn't really the point of an online diary, is it? Okay, I'll just lay it out for you, and if I decide later that I'm breaking someone's anonymity, I'll edit it for content.

On New Year's Day evening, Daddy went out to a twelve-step meeting and didn't come back. We spent all that night and the following morning worrying about him, has he been in an accident, was he carjacked, was he kidnapped... and, considering his history, we also had to worry had he been using drugs, had he been arrested, had he overdosed? There was no way of knowing, and the possibilities were endless. The worst part was hearing Grandmother cry, but I wasn't exactly easy in my heart, either.

Later in the day, around noon, he finally called the house in response to the increasingly frantic messages we'd been leaving on his cell-phone... he told me he'd met a "lady friend" and had spent the night with her, and he'd be home in a couple of hours. I was immensely relieved that he wasn't hurt or dead, and he assured me he wasn't using, he was just enjoying some time with his "lady friend." Grandmother was furious, in exact ratio to how worried she'd been (which would best be described as "monumentally"), and I was furious on her behalf as well as my own. I mean, to make us worry like that just so he could get a piece of ass? The irresponsibility of it was staggering.

On top of that, he didn't come home that day, or even that night. I took out my anxieties on the Christmas decorations and putting the house to rights, and I can assure you that if you've never cleaned while angry, it's exhausting. Another fretful night passed, and another worried morning with no sign of Daddy. But every hour he didn't come back was another hour of tension and strain in the house.

Then he did come back. Stoned. Filthy. Sorry. The "lady friend" was a prostitute he'd picked up on 98th and MacArthur (better known as Crack-Whore Alley), who introduced him to her dealer, and he spent the next thirty-six hours in a sleazy motel smoking crack with the whore. Then the whore chiseled more money than she could possibly have been worth, stole his car, his keys, his checkbook, and left him in the motel room. So in his crack-hazed brain he figured he'd better get home now, but how? He asked the dealer to take him home, who agreed... for the sum of $320, which was all Daddy could get out of the ATM at once. So now here he is stoned out of his gourd after eleven years clean, poorer by almost a thousand dollars and missing his brand-new sixteen-thousand-dollar car, a crack-dealer knows where we live, and a crack-whore has the keys to our house.

If I thought I had been angry before, I just didn't know what anger could be. I mean, there are pretty much two kinds of anger: frustration-anger and fear-anger. Frustration anger is where I don't get what I want and I get pissed off; fear-anger is my invariable reaction to any kind of fear... so first I had the frustration anger of what Daddy had done, how he'd made us worry and what he'd done to himself; but I also had some serious fear anger, the fear inspired by these lowlife strangers who had our housekeys and knew where we lived, and the fear that even after eleven years of working the steps, the drugs can still get you... and my ten years in the program are no guarantee I won't go the same way.

On top of the fear and anger, I felt guilty. I had been noticing things that Daddy said over the last week or so that made me wonder if he was going to relapse. But I didn't want it to be so, I didn't want to deal with such a seemingly outlandish possibility (I mean, everything I could see told me that Daddy was working a good program these last eleven years), so I just told myself I was being silly and put it out of my mind. But when he didn't come home, I knew in my heart what had happened; yet I still didn't want to believe it, so when he called and said he hadn't been using, I chose to accept the lie. So when he came home and I saw that he'd lied, I was just crushed... no more room at the Denial Inn.

I know on a logical level that I couldn't have stopped him from using if he was intent on it... and I do think that this relapse has been brewing in the back of his mind ever since he sold his house and got hold of all that cash... I nevertheless feel viscerally that I should have tried, that I should have discussed my fears with him instead of pooh-poohing myself into silence, that maybe I could have got through to him in time and prevented this happening. And that emotion is soooo tiring.

So anyway, there were mechanical tasks that needed to be dealt with... I took Daddy to the bank and closed his checking account, my uncle came and helped him with his missing car (first seeing if they could find it out on the street, and when they couldn't, filing a stolen car report), and we had the locks changed. And I dealt with my fear and anger by talking to my sponsor and going to a meeting. And of course I was anxious, so I did a lot of housework, tackling my laundry so vehemently that I got it all picked up and sorted and half of it washed by nightfall. But all of it, the tasks on top of the emotion, was very tiring.

So on Wednesday and Thursday I was pretty much immobile. I had intended to do some chores around the house... my assignment at the elevator company was cut short when they got clearance from Corporate to hire the position permanently, and they'd promised the permanent position (if any) to the temp who came before me; and then I got another assignment, but it didn't start until today... so I thought I'd make use of the time to work off some of the money I'd been borrowing from Grandmother by doing some of the more loathesome chores, like cleaning and polishing the kitchen cabinets or washing the windows or cleaning the garage.

But it didn't happen... I just couldn't make myself get up and move. What's worse is that I couldn't really sleep, either. I told Grandmother I felt like one of those dolls with weighted eyes, but my eyes were in backward: every time I stood up they'd start to close, and every time I laid down they popped open. So I sort of hovered in between, sitting here at the desk and posting obsessively at Just Us Boys or watching television in the (wildly pristine) living room.

I did get to sleep at night, though, both nights; and when I woke up this morning to go to my new assignment, I felt very nearly peppy! And it's a good thing, too... the new assignment came with an absolutely dizzying amount of information on the first day.

So now I'm working in finance! My new company is the independent arm of a large national bank, which sells various personal financial services through the bank's branches across the country. We do the administrative work of this "arm" (the sales work is done in the branches, and God only knows where the actual financial work takes place); we take up a quarter of this huge and rather frighteningly grand building out in San Leandro, sharing space with the bank's West Coast operations center, and my workspace is one of perhaps three hundred or so cubicles in this one cavernous room surrounded by little offices and conference rooms. There's a lunchroom with a full cafeteria, various patios and two breakrooms with sofas, the bathrooms are unspeakably luxe, there are boring but somehow soothingly corporate art prints on the walls, and you have to have an electronic badge to get through most of the doors.

Which is all very exciting... except for the task I perform: I organize and send out marketing materials requested by the salespeople stationed in the bank branches across the country. First thing in the morning, I send out little greeting-cards requested by the salespeople that thank new customers for buying our services, remind old customers to come review their portfolios, and offer financial counseling to customers who have experienced a major lifechange like retirement or widowhood. Then I assemble requested packages of information to send to new customers explaining their new accounts. Then I transcribe the phoned-in requests for paper materials onto the Material Request Forms, collate them, and then have my lunch break.

Next I go into the documentation room and get the documents and materials requested, loading them into a sort of big shopping cart, and return to my cubicle to separate the materials into packages, which are then put into great big envelopes and addressed to the salesperson at the branch using the Intracorporate Courier code. Then I do the same thing for salespeople who are having seminars and customer appreciation days. Then I schlepp all of these envelopes, separated by US Mail letters, US Mail flats, in-state Intracorporate Courier, and out-of-state Intracorporate Courier, to the mailroom on the other side of the huge building, which is at the end of the most sinister corridor I have ever seen in my whole life... it looks like it belongs to a secret government agency that's up to no good.

And that's my day: collating and mailing, with a few emails to explain why I'm not mailing exactly what was requested and faxes from seminar-giving salespeople in between. Yippee! But the work is easy and not too terribly menial, and I really like the atmosphere of the big cubicled room (there are even plants every ten or fifteen feet, each one exactly the same size). And the big intimidatingly grand building is quite nice, it centers on a domed atrium with a really dramatic staircase that I enjoy walking up and down on the way to and from lunch.

But I'm still really sleepy... though I managed to stay alert enough to memorize all of the facts and processes I'll need to use in the coming month, I kept yawning and stretching and wanting to crawl under my desk and take a little nap. But as soon as the sun went down, I perked up a little, and now that I'm home I had the energy to write all of the above.

Having done so, though, I am now incredibly sleepy again! And though it's still too early to go right to sleep, I think I'm going to change into my jammies and get in bed anyway, with a pot of herbal tea and my current book (Blinded by the Right by David Brock, the first piece of nonfiction I've delved into since college, but which my friend JB lent to me with glowing recommendation).

So off to beddie-byes I go. Thanks, as always, for listening to me drivelling on about my sordid little affairs. I don't think I'd have any idea what was really going on in my life if I wasn't writing it down somewhere... I was thinking that I had no real reason to be so tired until I reread what I just wrote! And you know, all those months in Fall when I was only posting every five weeks or so? No idea what I was doing all that time, how I felt, what I was thinking about. Kind of sad, losing all of that time to myself. Oh, well, no use crying over spilt milk. There are so many better things to cry about.

G'Night, John-Boy!