For anyone in the retail industry, Black Friday is the retail version of the short story “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”. This taint of the winter holiday season is pure torture to retail workers and we can do nothing about it except munch on the sugary holiday treats management leaves in the breakroom to alleviate the mental anguish.
I started working retail back when Black Friday was still actually on Friday. It slowly creeped into Thanksgiving before the pandemic resulted in the store being closed on Thanksgiving and smaller sales staggered throughout the whole month of November while still having a bigger sale on the actual day. Besides the definition of Black Friday becoming more questionable every year, it largely remains unchanged. For the last 12 years, I’ve seen my store sell the same exact shit every year for Black Friday—the same art supply boxes, cheaply made pajamas that rip in the crotch after the first time wearing them, 30-piece Tupperware sets, glass baking ware sets, off brand TVs, board games, old movies, Disney Princess dolls, towels, fleece blankets, toolsets, etc. Yet people eat up this crap every year as if we didn’t sell it last year.
On top of the Black Friday shoppers buying up all the deals on the same crap we sell every year, I still have to deal with my regular customers who either shop like they’re down to their last five bucks or like they’re a toddler that was given a hundred dollar bill before being let loose in a gas station to buy snacks for a road trip. There’s no in-between—it’s either a couple items or a fucking cartload.
I’m pretty sure I caught Covid from the re-useable bags this customer gave me to bag their groceries. They looked like they haven’t been washed since the day they were bought years ago and had soda explode in them at some point.
For a brief moment here and there, I have no customers and I finally get some respite only for the peaceful lull to be spoiled by a customer. It’s not just that they’re coming into my line, but it’s the stupid quip they have to make as they come into my empty line. “Oh, you were waiting just for me!” “Oh I’m so glad to see an actual person.” “You thought you were getting a break! Lololololol.” I suddenly remember I forgot to take my anxiety meds that helps filter out the irritation I feel towards these snarky customers and my own existence. It doesn’t help that between the lack of sleep and the stress, my eye has been uncontrollably twitching again.
Forgetting my meds becomes more apparent when my card reader decides to stop working as I have a line full of customers waiting to have their carts of Black Friday deals checked out. Then my entire register slows down to a snail’s pace and I have to reboot the entire thing.
I desperately waited for the moment where I could shut my light off so I could go to lunch to cry into a BK original chicken sandwich…and they sent me to lunch late. Thankfully my spouse drove me to the Burger King because I probably would have not come back if I had drove my own car.
I have four hours left of my shift and I must scream.
Upon finding out that my old manager had begged my current manager for me to come back, I thought my situation with my former cake decorating position had come full circle by biting my former manager in the ass. It should have been the end of it, but the Billie Mays of life went “But wait! There’s more!”
I didn’t think there could possibly be any more to this until about last week when I noticed my old manager’s position was listed on the open positions board outside of the HR office. I eventually found out that he had demoted himself after he threw a tantrum when he was pulled into the office.
This week, I was cashiering when one of the other managers tells me I have to go to bakery to help out with cake decorating. I had vowed never to go over there again, but cashiering was starting to overwhelm me off with the influx of customers prepping for Thanksgiving and hunting weekend so instead of complaining, I sighed, “Fine. You owe me.”
When I got to bakery, there was a half sheet cake on the counter with a piece missing. I didn’t get the entire story, but from what I could gather the customer was told we could do funfetti cake—a flavor we never had to my knowledge—and was pissed to find white instead. Though from the looks of the cake, I initially thought the problem was due to it being decorated sloppily. For such a simple cake, it had so many things wrong with it: the beaded border was uneven, the balloons were not piped smoothly, and the shaky handwriting was uneven and written over the balloon strings. I was originally informed there was another cake I had to redo, but then was told that one didn’t need to redone. I asked, “You sure this one doesn’t need to be redone?” It sounded like I was asking for confirmation that I didn’t need to do it when actually I was referring to how poorly decorated it was—the main issue being that it was obvious to me that the cake decorator spread wet frosting on the backs of the poorly cut out edible images and then slapped them onto a cake with slightly dried out frosting instead of the proper way of putting them on the cake immediately after frosting it while the buttercream was still fully wet.
Setting up was a nightmare. Most of the frosting wasn’t dated, which was something I would have gotten my ass reamed if I did. None of the opened whipped frosting was properly sealed. At first, I could only find one cake scraper only to find later they were in the box where all the instruction cards explaining how each cake design is decorated were supposed to be. The counter space was cluttered with cake turntables and other cake decorating supplies. What the Hell happened in the year and a half since I was booted out?
I haven’t decorated anything in almost a year, but I found that even with my rusty decorating my cake was still better than the cake decorated by someone who actually works in the department.
While I was decorating the cake, a customer came up wanting to order a cake for two days from then. I awkwardly went through the cake ordering process with a customer who changed their mind on what they wanted every few seconds and I had a ton of extra decorating notes on the order. I thought I was going to have to leave this slightly complicated order with whoever was going to be decorating the cakes the next day, but somehow I got roped into doing that as well.
And it came out so beautiful.
I must admit the whole experience made me feel pretty smug. I felt like that gorgeous cake I made was a reminder of how much my old manager fucked up when he set me up to have me thrown from my position–one last “Fuck you” to a department that severely undervalued my worth.
The next day, I was back to my regular job of cashiering when an older woman asked me if I used to do the “beautiful cupcakes”. When I confirmed I did, she turned to her friend and gushed how what an amazing cake decorator I used to be and how I made these gorgeous cupcakes for her.
“You were so good! What made you stop doing it?” she asked.
November 6th marked the ten year anniversary of leaving home for good and going no contact with my mother.
I never intended on going no contact permanently. It was supposed to be temporary. It was only supposed to be until I got an apology from her. “She’s not invited to the wedding until she says she’s sorry,” I thought to myself. Then I started living in my own space where I wasn’t obligated to walk on eggshells to keep a fragile peace with a parent that exploded over the tiniest of infractions—I could finally breathe. I also talked with people who ended up revealing unflattering information about her that wasn’t aware of. While many of these new pieces of information were initially shocking to hear, it was also strangely unsurprising as I was well aware of the darker side to her having lived with it for years. I ultimately came to the conclusion that I was better off without her having realized just how much she had impacted me negatively and learned what an awful human being she is. Besides, I was never going to get any sort of genuine apology from her because that would mean she would have to admit she was wrong without having to over explain her actions.
My line in the sand ended up becoming a wall to protect myself from a monster.
I thought the day of the ten year anniversary wasn’t going to be as hard as it was, but I was assaulted with emotions from the moment I woke up that day and it drained me. A decade later and I still haven’t put a pin in on how I’m supposed to feel about it. Anger? Melancholy? Relief? Happiness? Is it okay to feel all of these feelings at once? Is it okay to feel conflicted—sad that I have no relationship with the person who gave birth to me, but happy that I no longer deal with the toxicity the relationship with her brought and have managed to stick with a boundary I set with her? Is it fucked up to wish she would just die already so she doesn’t continue to haunt my life?
The only thing I was for sure on about the day was that it was much sunnier than it was ten years ago on that dreary day moving the rest of my things out for the new apartment while my mother and her boyfriend sulked like a couple of toddlers because they were losing their meal ticket—yet another thing I wasn’t previously aware of. No matter how I may feel, I know that I made the right decision even if it’s the hardest one I’ll ever have live with.
Spoiler alert for Halloween (1979), Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends.
“Was it the boogeyman?” Laurie Strode infamously said after surviving her first encounter with Michael Myers in the first Halloween film.
With the release of Halloween Ends, the trilogy that served as a direct sequel to the first Halloween film came to a close. Having seen the other two films as someone who dabbles in the horror genre, I was expecting a good old fashioned slasher movie that would ultimately end this version of Michael Myers. Instead I was met with surprisingly complex film with themes of trauma that ended up triggering my reoccurring nightmares.
The movie picks up four years later after Michael’s escape from the hands of the panicked townsfolk and mainly follows three characters struggling to live normal lives following a horrific event they’ve experienced.
Laurie Strode, having spent the 40 years living in survival mode after her first encounter with Michael, finally learns to accept what happened to her and she copes with her pain through a creative outlet. Unfortunately, many people in Haddonfield wrongly blame Laurie for Michael’s actions and still view her as the reclusive freak she once was.
Allyson, Laurie’s granddaughter, bottles her feelings up and is reluctant to socialize. She expresses resentment that people in town act like they understand what she went through and view her as little more than a victim that survived Michael Myers reign of terror that took the lives of her family and friends.
Cory’s involvement with the tragic death of a child the year after the murders ruined his promising future and is ostracized by Haddonfield, which became increasingly paranoid following Michael’s massacre. His mother explains to Laurie that the town would have understood it was an accident and helped her son to heal, but instead turned on Cory because they needed a new boogeyman to focus on because Michael disappeared. The years of constant mistreatment finally takes his toll on his mental health, bringing him down a dark path that cumulates in a series of revenge murders against the people that hurt him.
Michael Myers was barely physically present in the film, but he didn’t need to be because his lack of screen time perfectly demonstrates how trauma can have an effect on people long after the event occurred and/or the person that caused it disappeared. The film is less about a psychotic serial killer terrorizing a small town and more about people living with trauma after a horrific experience.
Due to my own experiences with an abusive parent, I saw comparisons between my own life and what was shown on screen. At my lowest, I let my pain consume me and thought there was no way out. I still have a bad habit of bottling things up and have a hard time with being labeled as a survivor. Like Laurie, I’ve managed to build a fairly good life for myself where I’m not walking on eggshells all the time and worked through this lingering pain through writing, but there are still times where I’m reminded of my own boogeyman—my own mother—and for brief moment I’m put back into that state of fear and stress.
Only when Michael is killed and his dead body is paraded through town before being thrown into a car crusher in front of the entire town are people able to heal. They needed to see him dead and destroyed to kill any paranoid thoughts that he’ll come back to terrorize the town.
And I have long wondered if I’ll only be truly free once my own boogeyman that hides behind a mask is dead and gone.
Last year, I was booted from the cake decorating position I had been in for seven years supposedly due to a poor job performance. I wrote about not having any sympathy for the problems my old department had in the month or so following my forced departure.
Soon after writing that post, I kept getting called over back to bakery to help out with cake orders when the cake decorator called in or they didn’t have anybody to cover a lunch in deli. I found it incredibly degrading and insulting that the department that thought I wasn’t good enough to keep around thought I was good enough to save their asses, but felt I had no say in the matter. I eventually told a manager my feelings and they agreed it was inappropriate of the department to expect me to help them out when they didn’t want me there. It got to a point where the department had to be told I would go to HR if they tried pulling me again.
About six months after I had been forced out of my cake decorating position, I discovered a bombshell: Management had been completely unaware of the fact that my department manager never had a conversation with me about the supposed stocking issues prior to being pulled into the office for my demotion. They were under the assumption that a conversation happened and then the issues continued. When I was in the office I felt like I was being set up and I should have filed something with HR, but I had figured it wasn’t worth it with three managers feeling like it was best to demote me. Now that I know that two of the managers weren’t aware that the third manager (the department manager) didn’t have the decency to inform me that there were issues before being pulled into the office, I wish I had gone to HR. I’m not sure if there were actually stocking issues or I was the one who took the fall for issues that weren’t previously addressed to me.
Regardless of what actually happened, my former department manager’s decision to boot me from the bakery would bite him in the ass. They ended up losing a few regular customers because I had established long relationships with my work. People who are not aware of the circumstances of my transfer to front end have personally told me that ever since I “left” the quality of the cake decorating has drastically gone down. There were three cake decorators at one point and none of them could decorate as well as I could. Being on the front end means that occasionally I have had to direct customer complaints about cakes that they ordered that were decorated so poorly that they were either heavily discounted or given away for free. We did have to discount cakes from time to time when I was back there, but normally it was because someone wrote the order completely wrong and there wasn’t enough time to make another one rather than a shoddy decorating job. I was appalled when a customer brought up a cake she was unhappy with because it was not only poorly decorated, but the edible image didn’t cover the whole half sheet and they told her they could only do quarter sheet sized images—which was complete bullshit since the computer program can print out larger sizes across multiple sheets.
One of the worst offenders happened shortly after my transfer with one of my replacements who actually did have better skills than the others. She thought it was appropriate to take an order from a friend of hers for a dick shaped cake—yes, a dick cake. I was still largely doing Covid-related door duty and a couple coworkers who weren’t aware I recently left bakery asked me about it. Apparently, customers saw this supposedly realistic looking dick cake (with veins and cupcakes for the balls) being carted around the store. I’m pretty sure she got fired over the fiasco it caused.
I only write any of this because I found out a few days ago that my old department manager—the one that was instrumental in my demotion—had asked one of my managers if he could have me back. My manager said “It would be up to her” knowing full well that I’d rather scoop my eyes out with a melon baller than to go back to bakery, which I suspect my old manager also knows considering he didn’t ask me personally.
I cackled when I learned this. If he hadn’t plotted to get rid of me, he’d still have a cake decorator who knows what they are doing because I would have likely stayed in that miserable department with only the occasional allowance of cake creativity to keep me going. Instead he’s stuck with several cake decorators who just get by at best and constantly make mistakes that cost the department profits at worst. I was satisfied just knowing that everything in cake decorating went to shit ever since I was transferred out and the person I trained that was good at it left. Knowing that my old manager tried to ask for me back is the biggest indication that he knows he fucked up.
I wrote about how listening to music from my childhood has helped me remember forgotten memories. So it was a little surprising to have memories pop up because of someone who can’t hear it.
We recently got a cashier who is deaf. As none of us are fluent in ASL and she can’t talk, communication was a bit of a learning curve, but we were able to nail it down through some basic hand signs, voice to text apps, lip reading, and typing on the phone.
Out of the other cashiers, I probably knew the most ASL despite the fact I sign like an uncertain toddler.
The reason I know any ASL is because I started learning it in my childhood. The doctor thought I was deaf as I wouldn’t react to noise and was making “weird” sounds. I still have scarring in my ears from when the doctor put tubes in them to drain fluid he thought was blocking my hearing. The tubes drained the fluid, but didn’t solve my hearing issues.
A breakthrough in my care occurred during a doctor visit when one of the nurses noticed something about the garbled sounds I was making and decided to record my voice with a device that could slow or speed up the tape. When the tape was slowed down enough, anyone that was listening could clearly hear singing:
Old Mc-Don-ald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.
Long story short, I wasn’t deaf. I had autism. I did learn to speak with the help of speech therapy and eventually lost most of ASL signs I learned.
When we got this co-worker, I tried to think if I remembered any full sentences to be able to communicate better with her. Hi, my name is (insert name) and Nice to meet you were useless to me at that point since we were already introduced. I love you was also useless to me in this situation. I remembered a fourth sentence that was also useless, but triggered a childhood memory.
I don’t actually remember the moment itself because I was really little—only the story of the incident that Kim repeated throughout my childhood. We had found a stray/lost dog. The low-income townhouses I lived in until my pre-teens didn’t allow pets so we couldn’t keep it for more than a night. I got on the bus for pre-school and came back home to find the dog gone, which made me upset. I kept looking for the dog. My parents told me the dog went home so I signed:
I want the dog, please.
The fact that our new coworker has a sense of humor and has found ways to be funny despite the language barriers brought up more buried childhood memories.
There was a family that was heavily involved with the services at the church I attended regularly on Wednesday nights, particularly with the music. I had a huge crush on their oldest, Amber, who was a couple years older than me.
Our church did this challenge every week where they would ask any willing kids to come up front and the goal was to see who could go the longest without laughing. With Amber’s father leading, the congregation would sing “The Booster Song” repeatedly until there was one kid left or we got tired of it.
Booster, booster, be a boo-ster!
Don’t be grouchy like a roo-ster!
Booster, booster, be a boo-ster!
And boost our Bi-ble school!
The other kids could get each other to laugh by suddenly shouting the words obnoxiously in each other’s ear or making chicken noises. Well, this didn’t work on Amber because she was deaf. I’m fairly certain she volunteered herself every week to be funny because she couldn’t hear anything that was going on. Her mom or dad would say and sign things like, “Cmon! Smile!” and she’d slowly shake her head from side to side with that stone faced pout.
I saw Amber at the county fair and something possessed me to buy a necklace from one of the vendors hawking cheap souvenirs. I think it was a metal arrowhead with a heat sensitive color-changing stone that hung from a black cord. I presented the necklace to her, but I couldn’t communicate my feelings as I forgotten most of the ASL I learned as a toddler and I didn’t have paper to write it down. I think I might have slowly said something along the lines of “This is for you. Bye!” so she could lip read and ran off. I do remember she looked rightfully confused about this bizarre encounter.
Lately, it has felt like I’ve been opening up a Pandora’s Box of awful shit from my childhood in regards to trying to remember things from my past that I’ve blocked out and processing it. So it was nice to be able to remember some things that weren’t terrible.
If you had told me the highlight of my 2020 would be seeing Bowser in titty tassles, I would have said “Fuck you! I have MCR tickets!” Alas, that was the case as the whole country was officially labeled in a pandemic the weekend after I went to the video game convention featuring a Mario/Godfather themed burlesque act.
I had been holding onto this highly coveted My Chemical Romance ticket for almost three years. A friend I made the same weekend as the music convention over the bizarre experience that is Cheesecake Factory said, “I’ve had it for so long I no longer feel the emptiness in my wallet for buying it.” Personally, I had it for so long that I completely forgot that by some miracle I managed to get a floor ticket. There was this horrifying moment of realization about a week before the show that I would not be in a seat, but on the ground level inside the swarm of MCR fans that have waited almost three years for this show just days after the Goo Goo Dolls meet and greet.
“Ah shit. I’m either going to die from a heart attack meeting the Goo Goo Dolls or from getting trampled by Killjoys.”
Neither prediction occurred, but there were a few times where I thought I was going to die. I probably would have been squashed to death if it weren’t for Gerard Way politely telling the first few rows to take a step back a couple times throughout their set and the crowd calmed down a little for a bit. Despite earplugs, I managed to become temporarily deaf in my left ear and it has made a very slight buzzing sound ever since.
Like most concerts lately, I recalled forgotten memories because of the music. It wasn’t surprising at all this time knowing that I listened to the band a lot when I was a teenager going through a lot of shit.
My friend had burned me a copy of the Three Cheers for Revenge album for my birthday after showing me the music video for “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”, which was a faux movie trailer for a movie we all wished existed. The friend in question was someone I liked. She later confessed that she was bi-curious and it got my hopes up. By the time I actually got the courage to tell her I liked her, she had figured out she wasn’t bisexual and privately I did not take it too well. Now I didn’t think that she had to like me or should like me, but that rejection still hurt.
Months earlier, I had been forcibly committed for a few days and given anti-depressants. The pills certainly didn’t fix all the bullshit happening at home and I felt worse while on them. Nobody properly explained to me that if I felt suicidal on them that I wasn’t going to get in trouble and be committed again if I admitted they weren’t working. With the horrid combination of incredibly aggressive suicidal thoughts no one knew about and all the shit happening in my life at the time, it was only a matter of time that something would break me. My state of mind was fragile so it probably could have been anything. Unfortunately and embarrassingly, the thing that sent me over the edge was my friend telling me that she realized she wasn’t bisexual so she didn’t like me more than a friend.
I tried killing myself one night with my medication in my darkened bedroom while listening to Garbage’s “Bleed Like Me”, but couldn’t bring myself to down more than eight pills. The next day, I secretly popped the pills I had left over in the bottle over the course of lunch period. Someone found me sitting in the hallway crying and I was taken to the counselor’s office. My counselor wasn’t aware of what was happening to me as I refused to talk so she pulled my friend out of class thinking I’d talk to her and left us alone in her office. My friend asked what was going on. I had begun to feel the effects of the overdose and I panicked by throwing the empty pill bottle on the floor. She immediately understood what happened and rushed to get the counselor outside the door. They both came back to find me lying on the floor as I had fallen out of my chair and struggled to get back up. I was conscious the entire time—I just couldn’t move my body properly. I remember my friend propping me upright until the paramedics came because I couldn’t sit up, the oxygen mask they put on me because they thought I was struggling to breathe, being wheeled out on the stretcher and seeing my art teacher’s horrified face as I rolled by, the dizzying ambulance ride to the hospital, puking a lot into a bin in the ER (which is likely why they didn’t pump my stomach), the catheter for a urine sample (I was unable to go with a room full of nurses staring at me), another ambulance ride to a different hospital with a mental healthcare unit once it was confirmed I was stable, the saline drip to flush the meds out of my system, the dimly lit room I slept in…it now feels like a weird fever dream rather than something that actually happened.
I always remember the things that happened afterwards: walking around like a drunken sailor the next day because the meds weren’t completely out of my system, learning that I would have had permanent brain damage if I had taken more than the 40-something pills, being shocked that the doctor wanted to prescribe me another medication not even 24 hours after I tried killing myself with the last prescription he gave me, and deciding not to go on any more medication because it felt like it was a gamble, which turned out to be correct when I finally did decide to try a medication regimen years later and many of the meds I tried reacted horribly with my body. But I always tend to forget the events leading up to it. Unlike some other experiences that my brain has seemingly locked away as a coping mechanism, I kind of wish I didn’t remember the suicide attempt. Whereas other memories have involved my childhood or my mother’s abuse, this one involved people I cared about and how I scared the shit out of them because of my stupidity. I felt guilty because I (more or less) committed suicide because of a girl (even if there were other factors involved) and it wasn’t her fault this happened—it was mine.
The suicide attempt was indeed traumatizing to make me think twice about attempting it again and limiting my access to prescriptions I could kill myself with, but it wasn’t enough to stop the suicidal thoughts from creeping back into my head. A couple months after the suicide attempt, I started a morning ritual of heating a butter knife over a candle and touching the hot metal to my arm to feel the pain, which lead to another hospital stay when I left the knife on the flame too long and it left a scab that I kept picking at during lunch. I would go about my day thinking of all the “what-if” things that could kill me: jumping off the bridge over the river during my walk, being hit by a car in the crosswalk, an active shooting in the store I was shopping at, etc. Sometimes I wondered if anyone would miss me or if it made little difference if I was around or not. My brain was constantly thinking about my own demise and hurting myself.
I refused access to antidepressants, but I could still buy things over the counter. For years, I kept a bottle of aspirin by my bedside. It was weirdly both a potential suicide method and a deterrent. There was the idea that I would reach a point where I could no longer handle life and down the fucking bottle to end it all yet it was a reminder of what I had done and how it awful it was for most involved. I say “most” because Kim was apathetic about the whole thing and was more concerned about how it affected her than she was about her daughter wanting to die, which was partially why I hardly ever told anyone what was happening inside my head. There was also this fear that it could go the opposite way and I’d end up worrying people who wouldn’t know what to do for me to the point I’d be institutionalized again. Without medication, therapy, or a true support system, I dealt with much of it on my own. Music like My Chemical Romance helped keep the suicidal thoughts at bay, but it could only go so far. It didn’t help living in a household where the matriarch could explode at any moment for any little thing she considered a slight to her and everyday felt like delicately walking on eggshells.
My friends did suspect something was wrong, but I reassured them by saying things like “I’m fine”, “I’m okay”, “I’m just tired.” I’m not sure how much they bought it. All I know is like the MCR song, I was definitely not o-fucking-kay at all.
Nobody ever knew the true extent of what was happening inside my head because I mostly didn’t tell anyone and what little I did tell was incredibly filtered. On top of the suicidal ideation, I often thought of my own funeral. At the height of My Chemical Romance’s fame, Hot Topic sold a replica of the dress the dead girl in the “Helena” video wore and I often thought about buying it for the funeral I imagined I would have. Since I frequently thought of my own death, I often thought about what happens when we die. With the release of the Black Parade album, I was given Gerard Way’s perspective of death coming to us in the form of our strongest, happiest memory rather than a menacing, skeletal God of Death with a huge scythe. What was my happiest memory at the time? Eating ramen noodles with my dad by the wooden coffee table while watching MTV, going to the movies or the café with my mother, playing horror games in the dark on the Dreamcast with my brother, listening to music on my Walkman by the stream behind our house—things that had become an impossibility at that point because I was estranged from my dad following the divorce, my mother became a monster to me when she didn’t have Dad to push around anymore, and I lost the Dreamcast and backyard stream when the bank foreclosed on the house.
I don’t think the more depressing music like My Chemical Romance generally amplified these thoughts I had, but rather made me feel like someone in this shitty world understood what I was going through and that was a comforting thing to have when you have nothing else.
The Goo Goo Dolls were propelled into the mainstream with their six studio album Dizzy Up The Girl mostly thanks to its inclusion of “Iris”, which was originally written for the movie City of Angels and stayed at the top of the music charts for almost five months.
I do not recall the circumstances of how I acquired this album in my youth. Was it an album specifically bought for me because I had some interest in the band or did I claim ownership of one of Kim’s music CDs like I did with Everclear’s So Much for the Afterglow album? I have no clue. What I do know is that it would play a huge role in my earliest attempts at using music as a form of therapy.
When I was on the bus to school, I would listen to music on my portable CD player through foam covered headphones and imagined music videos while watching the scenery zip by as I stared out the window. When I was at home, I would listen to music while playing video games or chilling by the little stream by the dirt trail behind out house. Once the divorce was underway, music was an escape from the seemingly endless reminders that I was a disappointing third wheel and a failure in my family—at least according to the woman that gave birth to me.
“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
“There’s too much estrogen in this house.”
“There will be consequences.”
Dizzy Up The Girl, which I had got around the divorce,was frequently in my CD player. It didn’t hold the same emotionally relatable lyrics as other albums in my collection at the time I had acquired it. For me, it was mostly the music itself that carried the emotional weight. “Black Balloon” is incredibly depressing and hopeless both lyrically and musically, but I did not relate to the themes of drug addiction at all while I felt the tone of the song in my soul. It did have its moments lyrically, particularly with the song “Acoustic #3”.
While everyone else seemed to be swooning over John Rzeznik, I adored the gravely, raw energy vocals of bassist Robby Takac on the few tracks he sings on. Years later, I was happy to discover GGD’s old punk rock stuff when Robby was the lead singer.
Then John Rzeznik wrote a song called “I’m Still Here” for Treasure Planet. The song was written about a misunderstood teenage character with an absent father and a mother who kind of didn’t know what to do with him because he was always getting into trouble, but Rzeznik had written it in such a way that he could have written it for anyone who was still trying to figure out who they were. It felt like Rzeznik reached into my soul, pulled out my most vulnerable feelings, and turned them into words. I’m positive the opening lyric “I am a question to the world; not an answer to be heard or a moment that’s held in your arms” hit me like a bag of bricks the first time I heard it and even twenty years later it’s hard not to cry whenever I hear John quietly sing it. I remember I had a copy of the Treasure Planet DVD—at the time DVDs were putting more special features on how they made the movie and that appealed to my love of the animation process. If I wasn’t watching the special feature of how they computer animated John Silver’s robotic arm on 2D animation, I was watching the scene “I’m Still Here” is on and griping that one of the lyrics on the subtitles was wrong (“And I’ll never be what you want, made of pain” instead of “And I’ll never be what you want me to be”).
For Christmas last year, my husband went all out for me. He bought me a replica of the leather vest Claire Redfield wore in Resident Evil: CODE Veronica, a complete copy of the rare PS2 game Rule of Rose, and a ticket to see the Goo Goo Dolls the following September. A ticket for a second row seat.
There was just the physical ticket so I didn’t realize it also included a meet and greet with the Goo Goo Dolls until my husband told me. He showed me all the stuff this meet and greet was supposed to come with: an autographed poster, an autographed drumhead, a picnic set, a clear bag, and a tour jacket—a freaking tour jacket! I’ve met a bunch of bands and done a few paid meet and greets and none of them ever came with a jacket.
“HOW much did this cost?” I asked.
My husband says his classic “Don’t worry about it” line.
The day of the show we get to the gate a good two hours before the official check in time. While my husband took me out of for sushi, we had realized that all the emails had been in my husband’s name and we suddenly became worried that this might mean I might not be able to go to a meet and greet meant for me because everything was in my husband’s name. We checked with the box office and they confirmed the ticket was in my husband’s name. There was already a table with all the VIP goodies set up outside the gate so we figured that maybe a VIP rep would come out earlier than the check in time.
The rep didn’t come until just before the check-in time. We thought you had to check-in by 4:30pm when actually check-in started at 4:30pm and you had to back by 5pm. But I’m glad we got there early: the venue is outdoors so we could hear the sound check while we were waiting. I have a video clip on my Instagram of hearing them play “Yeah, I Like You” during their sound check. They also sound checked a bunch of other songs. At some point they were playing a song I didn’t recognize—I admittedly am not familiar with a lot of their material after the Let Love In album, but I’m 99% positive it was “Free Of Me”—and John was on the microphone making suggestions of how they should play an instrumental part live. He said something like “Instead of playing it like this (strums guitar four times while humming the notes simultaneously…like they usually do I guess) we should play it like this (two long played out guitar strums while humming the four notes). I kind of like this better.” I thought it was pleasantly amusing that a band could still edit the way they play a song they already recorded (and if I got the right song, one they released nine years ago).
Besides being the only VIP member with blue hair and blue fox ears, I was probably the youngest person there. Most of the other people were closer to the band’s age. I felt like a young kid who just discovered this old band when really I had been listening to them for almost two decades. It also seemed like I was the only one who wanted to meet them because they had an impact of my life. A lot of the other people I talked to were there because they love the music purely for its sound and thought it would be cool to meet the band. They seemed like these older, retired types who pay extra for these VIP experiences with the extra perks just because it is fun and they have the disposable income to do so. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that—it just felt strange to me because I’m used to meet and greets where there are at least a couple people who want to meet the band because they listened to the music when they were struggling. But the people I talked to were super excited for me knowing how much the music meant to me.
Our VIP rep finally rounds up from the meeting place at the time listed on our schedules and takes us to the back where we wait for John and Robby to come out. He goes over the rules: we’re not allowed to take photos (he will be taking a photo with the band for us and it will be posted within a day or so), we can give a fist bump or high five but unfortunately no hugs due to Covid (obviously don’t want the band getting sick), we’ll be standing on opposite ends of the amp they have set up, and we have to leave any drinks on a table away from the band because it’s a sober tour (likely because John is a recovering alcoholic and has been sober since 2014).
“Don’t be shy! Ask them that question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to! Chat with them! And have fun! Now…are you guys ready to meet the Goo Goo Dolls?!”
Fuck no, but this was as ready as I was ever going to be.
I never thought I was going to have the opportunity to meet them. Hell, I thought I would have been dead by now let alone meet one of the bands that helped me keep going. I felt woefully unprepared even though I had been thinking about what I would say to them for the past two weeks. I wanted to write it down and give it to them in case I fucked up, but we weren’t allowed to bring personal items for the band to sign because of Covid and I figured this also extended to giving personal gifts to the band. My only option was to practice all the things I would say in my head and hope for the best when the actual moment came.
I was internally freaking out. Every time the door would open I would panic and then felt a weird sense of relief when it turned out to be a crew member.
Then John and Robby came out.
While the others were shouting in excitement as they took their position by the amp, I quietly said to myself, “Aaaaaaaaaaahshit!”
There were about three people ahead of me so I hoped that would buy me a little more time, but of course they rushed right through it without barely saying a word to the band. Dammit. They could have spent a little more time with them!
I sheepishly walk up to the amp. I’m trying not to be nervous, but I feel like my heart is going to drop out of the bottom of me. There they were in all their rock star glory: John’s chiseled facial features… Robby’s brightly colored hair… both bursting with confidence that only music legends have.
Admittedly, it was a bit of a blur and it felt so surreal. Both of them were grinning politely at me and they thanked me for coming. We did fist bumps. Robby told me he liked my ears and John kindly agreed. I’ve always heard they were kind and nothing about my interaction with them suggests otherwise.
Against all odds, I somehow got everything I wanted to tell them out of my mouth. It went something like:
“Sorry…I’m nervous…I, uh, I’ve been listening to you guys since I was 11…my parents divorced and my mom became abusive towards me not too long after I got Dizzy Up The Girl… it was one of the first albums I listened to as self-therapy…so…thank you! Also, Robby, I love your singing so I like your guy’s earlier punk rock stuff!”
If I came off as a fucking weirdo, they didn’t tell me. I remember they smiled and thanked me and I said we should take the photo before I start getting too emotional. We get the photos taken. I figured they probably look amazing because they’ve been getting their photo taken for literal decades while I probably look like a smiling goofball because I never fucking know how to pose for pictures. (And I was right).
I head outside and stop to put my hands on my knees to bend over and try to breathe.
“You okay?” one of the others that went before me asked. Two other people join in.
“I’m okay. Holy shit…my heart pooped its pants.”
“What did you say to them?”
“Well…everything I wanted to say to them!” I explained what I told the band and what they said to me.
“Wow! That’s amazing! Good job!” the other lady and her friend told me like a couple of encouraging moms.
“Shoot!” the first guy said. “Had I known you were going to say stuff to them I would have snuck in a recording!”
We talked some more and I started relaxing some more.
“Dave Grohl said something like ‘concerts bring music into 3D’. When you met the band did it feel like they…became real for you?”
Holy shit. I understood that sentiment completely. I know what the band looks like from seeing them on TV or printed media and I know what they sound like from listening to their music and interviews, but the moment John and Robby walked into the room it was like watching the sketch from a-ha’s “Take On Me” music video becoming a real person. There was something different and exhilarating about being able to touch and talk with the band for that brief moment as opposed to decades of viewing them on a brightly lit screen or printed on a piece of paper. David Grohl had a point when he said “It’s the most life-affirming experience, to see your favorite performer onstage, in the flesh, rather than as a one-dimensional image glowing in your lap as your spiral down a midnight YouTube wormhole. Even our most beloved superheroes become human in person.”
Now that I think about it, one of the lyrics John Rzeznik wrote actually came true the moment I met the band:
And I want a moment to be real
Want to touch things I don’t feel
It almost feels like a dream, but I have the tour jacket and the picture where I look like a goofball standing next to the band to prove it was real.
My retail job would be so much easier on my anxiety if I didn’t have to deal with incredibly rude, entitled, out-of-touch assholes. These are the type of people that make me question my pay grade and life.
The Saturday before Labor Day, I got screamed at by two different men within five to ten minutes of each other during the first half hour of my shift. The first was brought up to my service counter because his card wasn’t working. He kept swiping it despite the fact my register kept saying he needed to use the chip reader. “There’s no chip! I had the bank take it out!” he yelled at me showing his card that clearly had a gold chip in it. Finally he angrily walked off saying he’d shop someplace else. The other customer wanted to cash a check, but his ID was expired. I explained I cannot take an expired ID and asked if he had a second form of identification. He demanded his stuff back, told me to fuck off, and said this store is fucking stupid.
Gotta love holiday weekend.
Last week was weird about batteries. While working customer service a week ago, an old man walked up and plopped down eight loose lithium batteries on my counter wanting a return with no receipt or packaging. I politely explained I needed a receipt or the packaging to be able to process a return. He said he shouldn’t have to keep the receipt or the packaging and just kept telling me to return his batteries. “I drove 23 miles to get here!” I had to get a manager to explain what I just had told him and he gave her an attitude as well. We finally just had his son go grab an 8-pack of batteries and we used the barcode from that to process the return to give him store credit. The following day I overheard a lady who was yelling at my manager over the batteries not having expiration dates like it was our fault that they didn’t have any on the actual packaging. “Well, everything should have expiration dates!”
The theme of the week before Labor Day weekend was about services we didn’t offer anymore:
One lady wanted a shelf she bought assembled and whoever she talked to wasn’t aware that we don’t offer free assembly at the store anymore. She came back in the next day and someone else had to inform her that it’s not a service we offer in store. She kept saying “I’ve gotten stuff put together before!” Eventually after back and forth, she finally just got the damn shelf returned.
Another lady wanted an item we carried, but in a different color so she asked us to order it. She said we had stuff ordered for her before. We used to be able to order things for customers or have them delivered from another store, but we no longer offer those services and my manager explained that she would have to order them online. She had a complete crying meltdown because she needed the item in white as she was blind and needed to be able to see it. We offered help her set up an account, help her order the item, and get a gift card so she could pay for it since she only had cash, but she outright refused every suggestion we had. The part that irked me was when her friend called her phone and she told her friend that we were giving her the run around, that we wouldn’t help her, and that we “don’t help disabled people”. No, you wanted us to do something outside of our capabilities—we couldn’t do it even if we wanted to—and you shot down every alternative we gave to try and accommodate your situation.
The self-checkout is often a breeding ground for entitlement and audacity. Many people straight up refuse to use them. Some believe that the items should be cheaper if they have to use self-checkout. Some joke about waiting for their W-2 for “cashiering”. I had a guy tell me a joke about how a customer went to the break room claiming to be a worker because he checked himself out on a self-checkout—he thought he was so hilarious when I actually found it quite insulting. One time, a customer had me scan all his items for him in self-checkout because he thought he was doing me a favor by giving me job security. “I want you to have a job!” Sir, I do have a job and sometimes that involves watching multiple self-checkouts at once instead of running a singular register. I’ve also had customers come to my register with a single item that costs less than five dollars with the same “I’m helping!” attitude of Ralph Wiggum when in actuality they’re just holding up my line.
My “favorite” self-checkout incident occurred sometime last year. We were so short-handed that day that we only had enough people upfront to watch the self-checkouts and there weren’t any registers open. Being that it was after 5pm when most of the staff was gone for the day, we did have any extra hands to come up and help us. This made one middle-aged woman extremely irate. She was screaming the entire time she was checking out her groceries about how she had to use self-checkout. “Fuck this place! I’m never fucking shopping here again!” I remember her asparagus wouldn’t scan and she just threw it aside when I offered to help scan it for her. “No! Fuck it! I don’t want it now!” Somehow by some miracle I didn’t have a full blown panic attack. I learned later that my grandma, who also works at the store, was on sanitizing cart duty and saw the whole thing. She had the balls to go up to this woman and politely ask, “Excuse me, were you yelling at my granddaughter just now? The one with the blue hair in the self-checkout?” The woman was so embarrassed that she was apologizing profusely. “I didn’t know she was your granddaughter! I’m sorry! Tell her not to take it personally! I was only venting!” She should have apologized to me personally instead of to my grandma, but I’m glad she was put in her place.
Some other customer stories off the top of my head include:
*The lady who bought a BB gun for Christmas for her grandson and got pissed that our policy wouldn’t allow her to return it. “There should have been something telling me I couldn’t return it!” There were signs posted in Sporting Goods near the product that explained they were non-refundable.
*A guy came up asking if we had free Wi-Fi because he needed to download an anti-virus program to his phone. I gladly showed him what network to use and he got huffy because the network was unsecure. Dude, you’re using free WiFi in a retail store. He then paced around the front end while talking on the phone with a customer service rep of the program he was trying to download and chewing them out.
*An older woman in her own motorized cart refused to bag the groceries she checked out herself, which resulted in two employees checking to see if she had actually purchased the items. I only know about it because she had me call a taxi for her and then proceeded to chew me out about how two separate coworkers “gave me the 9th degree” about not putting her groceries in a bag. “I’m allowed to not put anything in bags if I don’t want to!” She’s not wrong, but our training requires us to deter shoplifters and walking out of the self-checkout with a whole basket of groceries not in bags looks kind of sus. More importantly, she was taking it out on me when I had absolutely nothing to do with her being stopped by two coworkers. She came back to my counter about 20 minutes later pissed off because the taxi I was told would be there in “about 20 minutes” wasn’t there yet and demanded I call them back. They said they were on their way.
It’s not like this all the time or even throughout my entire shift, but interactions like these occur often enough that its understandable why there there are suggestions calling for forcing people to work retail or food service for an X-amount of time to learn how to be a kind and decent human being. Having worked retail and food service, I understand the sentiment.
My husband and I recently saw Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time. It was an amazing show: The Strokes opened for them, they had a very cool stage set up, RHCP had a solid set list with a lot of their best known songs.
One moment in particular blew me away and it was probably the most subtle part of the show. The stage goes dark and a stage light shines down on Flea, who is alone on center stage. He starts playing a bass line that sounds so familiar yet I can’t put my finger on it. And he sings…
I’m a little pea
I love the sky and the trees…
It took me a good couple of seconds to realize he was playing “Pea”. The moment I figured it out I recalled some things I had forgotten as well as gained a little insight.
When I was a kid, I saw the music video for “Aeroplane”. The band was playing shirtless on Green Hill Zone-like checkered platforms next to a pool of synchronized dancers. There were also girls in gold sequined body suits that I always thought were wearing devil horns, but only recently discovered that the pouf from their hairstyles hid the middle point of the tiaras they were wearing and, perhaps unintentionally, gave the appearance of horns. I’m pretty sure Anthony Kiedis is the reason why I’m attracted to thin framed men with waist long hair, which might somewhat explain my love for Duo Maxwell from Gundam Wing.
The music video was enough for me to want the album it came off of—the criminally underrated, underappreciated, and overlooked One Hot Minute album. Like Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill, I was too young to initially understand the album’s mature themes and I just really liked the sound, which is mostly upbeat and funky in contrast to its darker lyrical content of drug addiction, battling personal demons, and loss. It was an album that was in heavy rotation growing up, especially after my biological mother started becoming abusive, but unlike a lot of other music I listened to it wasn’t because the lyrics spoke to the depth of my soul. Although I would eventually relate to the more depressing, struggling lyrical content as I got older, I mostly listened to the album because the actual music was just so damn good and I felt happy listening to it. I would play the album while playing my Super Nintendo—I specifically remember playing “Coffee Shop” during the coffee shop level of the terrible Wayne’s World game.
The song that convinced me to get the album is also a song that can describe my own relationship with music depending on how it’s interpreted. To be fair, at least parts of “Aeroplane” is referencing drug addiction as Kiedis was dropping lyrical hints throughout the album that he had slipped from sobriety, but it could also have a double meaning if taken literally and describe how music can be pleasurable and painful, particularly from a lyricist’s perspective where ideas for songs may come from memories and experiences.
As a listener of music, I also find music enjoyable, but at times it can be distressing because it has helped me remember painful memories I have forgotten. I used to listen to music all the time so a lot of these lost memories are connected to music, notably the shittier times I’d listen to music to soothe my worries. Unfortunately, I’ve even forgotten some of the music I’ve listened to and therefore sometimes I’ll suddenly remember things when I go to see bands I listened to during my childhood, which is what happened at the Red Hot Chili Peppers show. This time is brought good memories, but it can be traumatic depending on what I’ve recalled.
Yet I don’t believe its bad.
As alarming as recalling some of the more traumatic memories can be, it’s worse not being able to remember them. I hate not remembering. It bothers me that there are seemingly huge gaps in my memory and sometimes the memories are so vague that I wonder if they are false memories or if I can only recall a sliver of what happened. It’s weird how I can remember small details from minor moments that happened in the last decade, but I can barely recall things from my own childhood because my brain buried it as a defense mechanism.
The worst thing about the memory blocks is I cannot seem to remember a lot of the things Kim ever did. If I didn’t have a bunch of core memories about the abuse, if my fiancé/husband hadn’t pointed out that her behavior was abusive, or if I didn’t have writings describing incidents hidden somewhere in my closet, maybe I’d wonder if it really happened.
I feel like if I can recall more of those memories, no matter how awful, then maybe I can heal and maybe I won’t be in such pain…and maybe music might be a key in remembering some of those memories.
Anthony Kiedis was onto something when he said music was his aeroplane as music has been something that’s helped me rise above my own pain. It’s just a shame that the band doesn’t acknowledge the existence of One Hot Minute.