I went to a spiritual dance party on Saturday. It was cool to be in a space where I could reasonably assume that most of the people I interacted with were on drugs, and that they reasonably assumed the same of me, though I was in fact a sober cypher. Meant that it felt ok to interact with strangers, dance wildly, laugh madly, and draw lions autistically by myself in the easy chair in the corner, which is what I was doing when Not-Neal approached.
“Hello,” he said.
I beamed. “Hello Neeee ... oh! You're not Neal. I thought you were Neal, from corporate.”
“What would I get if I were Neal? A kiss?”
Talked some more with Not-Neal about our day jobs. He inquired about trading his spiritual healing services in exchange for web design and offered a healing preview as proof of concept.
“You said you're in therapy because you're looking for spiritual growth. Let me tell you something: just be the joy, and the love, and the spirit. You don't have to look for it, because it's already inside you.”
“Fuck you!” I thought, and did not say.
What I said was, “this speech: do you find it usually goes over better?”
That passed right through Not-Neal. He repeated his ruby slippers insight. The woman beside us said, “amen to that!”
“I'd rather not bring Amen-ra into it,” said Not-Neal, and he smiled, and backed off. I made a note. This was the correct line of code to break the program. Amen. Awomen.
There's something ... thin and gruelish about Buddhism, and you just *will* yourself to perceive it as the richest food. And then it becomes the richest food, and then you're Enlightened. Buddhism is like a Magic Eye poster, and you stare at it and stare at it and the person next to you is not trying to be smug, but, “you see it? you get it? you see it?”
I believe that I will one day come to know that the love and the peace were always inside me, and Not-Neal was right, and I will be Enlightened and laugh with the joy of it. And Buddha will say, “don't you see? You were always Enlightened! Ha ha! Slap my belly!” and I would be annoyed, except I'm Enlightened, and I oblige him happily. Later, we eat ice cream by the sea and careen over hills in a van with no seatbelts. We visit France and stay with friends we met on the Internet, and correspond with authors of mystery novels.
We divide labor thusly: Vlad does all the work, I sit around with the crossword puzzle and build morale, occasionally hold a tool or start the engine and observe the meter.
“It's like the air conditioning broke at Orange Julius,” said Marcel.
This year I've taken on short-term corporate gigs via a temp agency. It doesn't call itself a temp agency but it's basically a temp agency.
The corporate gigs make my soul gag but they pay soooooo well. If I work one of these gigs five days it pays my bills for a month. If I work another five days then it pays for groceries and for taking my sweetie out to brunch on weekends. If I work another five days then I can sock away cash for retirement and a trip to Japan. And then aNOTHer five days and there goes the month and see that's where they getcha.
Since yesterday I've been playing a dangerous game with a spreadsheet. Here is the dangerous formula
“dangerous” because it encourages me to think of work as indenturement. Assuming this plan starts January 1st, 2014, x yields the number of weeks I'd need to work a corporate gig in order to be free for the rest of the year.
I've been running this formula with “bare-bones” weekly expenses (date of freedom: May 14th, 2014). Been running it with “real-ultimate-fantasy” weekly expenses: new bike, new computer, and a trip to France for me and my mom for her 60th birthday (free: August 13th, 2014). Been running it with my hourly rate jacked up 50% (free: June 9th, 2014).
Gratifyingly: several line items in quote-unquote “bare-bones” expenses are quality of life factors like therapy, a NYTimes crossword puzzle subscription, travel to visit family, Halloween costume, holiday cards, etc.
I think of each of these as extravagances, and of myself as indulgent for insisting on them, but without them I buy my freedom only like a week or two earlier. On closer inspection, these special items only account for 5% of my annual budget. But they're like 80% of annual fun and satisfaction. A little butter on your toast. A little smile with your coffee.
Maybe corporate isn't the right fit (cf gag). But the mid-term elections are coming up. Maybe there's a contract out there to help some well-meaning Green or Democrat or even Libertarian build their web presence. Sock away that cash. Purchase my freedom.
From my notes the other day.
INT. VLAD'S ROOM - NIGHT
ERICA and VLAD chill out.
Do you think “team” and “teeming” are related?
No, I think they're false cognates.
Like “pep” and “Dr. Pepper”? Who's not a real doctor, by the way.
No matter what he says, don't let him touch you.
My new business cards arrived today.
INT. BREAKFAST NOOK - MORNING
ERICA and VLAD enjoy eggs and coffee and discuss their visiting friend, KYLE LISKE.
I hope I get to see Kyle before he goes. Cuz otherwise it might be a while. I hope his travels are without trial.
I hope his journey is brisk.
Yes. That he gets through security without
Yes, and passes right through the turnstile. Or else they'll lay him down on the tile. And add it to his FBI file.
Ooh. You're going to a dark place with this one.
I didn't know that Kyle poses a flight risk.
Erica SNORTS with laughter. Vlad gives her a smile.
So I'm in the market for a new spiritual boyfriend. Marcel introduced me to his own spiritual boyfriend Jesse Thorn, and since then we've been spiritually dating, especially via the Jordan, Jesse, GO! podcast. If it continues to go well I'm going to ask him to go spiritually steady.
Mike Doughty and I had a long beautiful spiritual relationship starting in 2006, when I saw him play solo at the Independent in San Francisco. You know those rare exquisite moments of, “oh. My life is going to be different, now.” When it's just so clear? Like love at first sight, or like Bill Cosby making an audience laugh for the first time? I had one of those.
A month later I saw him again he opened for the Bare Naked Ladies. Here's where he signed my arm:
I considered having it tattooed there, because I felt such a strong power surge every time I looked at it.
What followed was an extensive devouring of the Mike Doughty canon, and there is much to devour. He allows taping of his shows, and the archives on archive.org run vast and deep. He is prolific and prolix: blogs, interviews, banter. And the music! His music rang the good bell inside. I listened to St Louise is Listening on repeat from 2006 - 2009. The playcount record in iTunes will corroborate.
But Mike Doughty and I had to break up in 2010 when yet another new album didn't resonate, and his public bitterness toward his old bandmates in Soul Coughing and toward Soul Coughing's music (the music! his old music!) got too intense.
Luckily, he stepped aside just in time for my brother Tommy to introduce me to the WTF podcast.
I'm going to refer to this man as “Smarc Smaron.”
Smarc and I had a beautiful relationship. In 2011, after the podcast with Andrew Dice Clay opened my heart to Andrew Dice Clay, twas as if I knew the capacity of love in my heart and yet, Smarc Smaron had introduced me to new rooms, new capacity for love, and I was deeply moved. I wrote him a short sweet email. I wrote it in the style of Smaron. I sent it like a Death Star beam of love, and if it blew his planet up, I would know the Force is real. He wrote back half an hour later. His email was eight words long. It said,
“I love you. Email made my day. Smaron.”
The Force is real.
Every time I fantasized about being on WTF, I imagined telling him, “this interview begins with 'I love you.' We've already said that to each other. That's our starting point.”
But Smarc and I had a really bad breakup this summer, because he was mean to a close friend in a way that was vicious and personal.
My friend interviewed Smarc as part of a piece about podcasting. After the piece aired, Smarc wrote an email to my friend, personally. It was in the characteristic eight word style, but this one was a shitty little email about how much he thought the piece sucked. My friend, who was a HOOOOGE Smaron fan, asked for clarification. Smaron gave a list of complaints, and when my friend offered a reasonable explanation and even apology, Smaron wrote one, final, shitty little email about how, oh, he got it, the piece was meant to cover ground that other, better reporters had covered two years ago.
And suddenly the hostile attitudes of Michael Ian Black, and Michael Showalter, and Mike Birbiglia on their respective interviews on WTF all made sense. All that baggage, all that hurt history. I had fallen in love with Smarc and the podcast because I believed I was listening to a person walking the lonely bracing path of enlightenment. I believed that the hostility of the Michaels was rightly meant for the old Smarc, a Smarc who no longer existed. But, no. That Smarc is right here, ready to turn on anyone who dare tread on a whisper-thin hair trigger ego. He keeps a Google alert on his name, which is why this sclever snaming stuff.
So. That's it. We're done. I recycled the poster. I tossed out the page he'd signed in my notebook. He'd signed it, “We good?” No. We are not good. I gave away the t-shirt. I unsubscribed from the newsletter and the podcast. I unfollowed him on Twitter. I use his book to prop up my air conditioner. It was rough. But time has passed. I think I could love again, Jesse Thorn.
Interesting notes: Doughty and Smaron have both had serious substance abuse problems, and I came to love them during their sobriety. Something about having looked so deeply into the darkness, and pulled out of it. I had thought Jesse might be my first spiritual boyfriend who could casually kick back with a beer, but then it came up in the podcast that he doesn't drink (!). Still not sure of the reason why, but I feel all the more confident in the spiritual attraction.
Also, Doughty and Smaron are friends, dating back to Smaron's Air America days, and Smaron and Jesse Thorn are friends, prossibly just by virtue of being fellow podcasters in the same part of LA. So there's a disorienting feeling in all of this that that I'm making my way through a friend group.
To clarify: Jesse Thorn's wife Theresa, nor his other wife Jordan Morris, nor Marcel's prior claim on him: none of these interfere with the spiritual relationship. If anything, they enhance it. I love knowing that my spiritual boyfriend is well-loved! My inner ethically polyamorous self runs free. (side note: I have a friend who gets annoyed every time I self-identify as a slut. “You are not a slut! You are a serial monogamist!” she says. She's correct. I am not a practicing slut. I'm a spiritual slut. It's like being a spiritual surgeon)
My spiritual boyfriend also does not interfere with my real-life lovely boyfriend and partner Vlad, nor my other boyfriend, the Cuisinart food processor.
EDIT: Vlad would like to add that he's pleased he was at least mentioned in this post.
Looking through old emails, found this gem from my SEO blogging days:
link via archive.org
By ericaricardo, eHow Member
Have something to say? Say it with a passive aggressive note!
We've all been in situations that have inflamed our senses of injustice, but it can be difficult and messy to address problems head-on. If you or those you know need to express themselves, but are anxious about actually talking to those involved, a passive aggressive note can be the perfect solution.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Things You'll Need:
Write your note without identifying the actual or suspected offender. Do this even if you are certain of the offender's identity, such as if filthy dishes have repeatedly been left unwashed in the sink when you live with only one roommate. This will avoid making anyone feel specially accused or threatened.
Your note can be short and sweet ("Your mother doesn't live here" "WASH ME"), but for more nuanced situations feel free to dive into the details. Treat the problem like a story with a complicated history that must be fully explained in order to be appreciated, just like a Russian novel or soap opera. Insert literary or technical words when possible to add a depersonalized, professional tone.
Use different colors of ink or crayon to help your note stand out. Add pictures or funny cartoons to mask aggression with whimsy. Clip art is especially helpful here, as are hand-drawn hearts and smilies. The reader will be both charmed and impressed by your effort.
Use the first person plural frequently ("we" and "our") to give your note added weight and speak with reason and authority.
Leave your note unsigned and anonymous, but feel free to add a personal touch about how your own health and/or happiness have been impacted. Explain how you have been denied what you are rightfully due, like a parking spot or clean break room. If appropriate, use actual figures to back up your claims, such as how much of your own money or tax dollars have been spent addressing the problem.
Show compassion by including a potential explanation for the offense. This will help show how reasonable you are. Be sure to note that whatever the explanation, it is no excuse for the behavior. For example: "I know that being unemployed can be stressful, but this doesn't mean you can steal cheese right out of the refrigerator like a common felon."
Imagine the situation through to its most extreme possible conclusion, no matter how unlikely it is. Note that with appropriate action the crisis may be averted, but that if not then the consequences could be dire. If no suitable consequences come to mind, then "the downfall of human decency and Western society" is an excellent standby.
Post your note with several pieces of tape in an area with high foot traffic. If you are posting at the office, then the refrigerator, bathroom door, or Xerox machine are all excellent choices. If you are posting at home, doorknobs and car windshields are also great locations.
Don't bother checking your note for spelling or grammar errors. This will save time and allow your note to be posted as quickly as possible to prevent future offenses. It will also illustrate how upset you are at the injustice and add to your note's impact.
Monitor the situation and respond with follow-up notes as needed. If you neglected some of the steps above in your first note, be sure to use all of them in later notes. Multiply your efforts with notes posted in more than one location if necessary.
Send this article to someone who may need tips for their own passive aggressive notes. You may be confronted by those involved about whether you're the one who posted the note, or asked to resolve the issue face-to-face. If so, bow your head and mumble until your accusers go away. They are certainly allowed to leave their own notes.
Getting ready for Halloween.
For the uninitiated: there's a cartoon show called Adventure Time that Vlad got me into. It's about Finn the Human and his companion Jake the Dog in the magical world of Ooo, which is a post-apocalyptic Earth many years after the devastating Mushroom War.
Well. To clarify: the show doesn't say explicitly that humans destroyed the planet in a nuclear holocaust. It just leaves hints. But such hints pointing to the darkness are what make Adventure Time so transcendent. Mm!
Unrelated to the compelling nuclear holocaust aspect, but maybe even like more compelling, in this one episode of Adventure Time, with no explanation, all the characters present as reverse gender. Finn is Fionna. Jake is Cake the cat. Princess Bubblegum is Prince Gumball, kai, ta, loipa. Delightfully, the gender-swapped characters are nearly unchanged in personality. The episode doesn't milk gender stereotypes for humor. Fionna is the same hardcore bitchin warrior Finn is. Just with, like, more bodacious legs.
So it's a pretty regular episode about foiling one of the Ice Queen's wicked plots. And then, right at the very end, it smash cuts to the Ice King's lair, and we see Finn and Jake trapped in some ice, and the Ice King says, “so, what did you think of the fan fiction I wrote about you guys?”
This episode aired and the Internet lost. its mind. I, also, lost my mind. Just think how you would react if one of your favorite shows had a gender swap episode! Whitney White, partnered with Jessie Pinkman, hoping her husband Sky won't figure out about the meth. Sky fears what Whitney's become, and Whitney with a wicked fire in her eyes tells him, “*I* am the one who knocks!”
Donna Draper smoking, drinking, seducing. Young Pauly Olson whines, “you never say thank you!” and Donna roars back, “that's what the money's for!”
Janey McNulty of the Bal'more City Police, always giving a fuck when it's not her turn to give a fuck. (Spoiler alert, Janey: it's never your turn to give a fuck)
I could do this all day! One more: Buddy the vampire slayer's stereotypically airheaded looks are balanced with snarky humor, supernatural judo, and a fundamental alienation from his high school classmates softened by his loyal friends: shallow but popular Chas, dopey Amazonian Alexa, wizardly Will, and refined British mentor Gillian.
So this Halloween, my costume will be recognized by a rare few. But the few who do will be very, very happy. Oh, and Vlad will be going as Marshall Lee, the Vampire King. Minimal costume will be required.