Optimist or Pessimist? Take it to the cloud.

Just yesterday I was thinking about optimism, pessimism, and the in-between. I wondered what I might tell a gymnasium full of high school graduates about life, and the slogan, “Enough is Possible” chanted in my mind. It was a slogan that was visually displayed in the window of an art gallery I passed by every day to and from work. Yesterday, the painting was gone. The entire windowed space was whitewashed, and I never found out the artist.

Optimism, the notion that anything is achievable. It is, truly, but if you spend enough time with an optimist you find they aren’t as grounded in the fundamental concept of reality. They visit failure, but bounce back up off that trampoline aiming for the sky; never stuck in the mud with realists for very long. Over-achievers viewing life through rose-colored glasses hoping you too see the sunlight.

Pessimist, the curmudgeons of life. Afraid of disappointment, this person doesn’t feel inclined to live among the clouds. After all, clouds are nothing more than condensation and you can’t very well stand on one without falling through, so what’s the point in trying? They’re right, but mostly miserable because deep down they want the optimist’s trampoline.

I live in the middle space where “Enough is Possible.” It’s nice watching clouds change shape in the sky from where I stand.

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I Wish I Could Take This Back

If I could somehow take back something I did to someone, what would it be? Wow, talk about a loaded question. Two things come to mind rather quickly, holding their hands up saying “oh oh oh pick me” so I suppose I’ll focus my attention there.

They both occured in the same year, coincidentally. The year was 2001 and the world had not yet got involved.

It was January of 2001 and my brother, Jeffrey (whom I’ve talked about non-stop on my blog so you know who he is), started calling me in succession at all hours. In hindsight, as it always seems to be where I do my most logical thinking, he was alone and needed someone. I should have felt so privileged to be there for someone so incredible, but it felt more like a nuisance of a little brother taking up my precious selfish time. He needed me then, but life was so narrow and crowded at the time. Life had overwhelmed me into agoraphobic proportion and while I couldn’t call any of my actions sane at the time, I certainly never expected someone would truly need me. Alas, he did. The simple act of pressing ignore on his incoming call shouldn’t be so prominent, and under usual circumstances I suppose those moments would be forgotten. However, the very last call of his life – or at least on his cell phone bill – was to me and I distinctly remember ignoring it. I thought, “I’ll call him back” the first time it rang. By the second, I didn’t hesitate to press ignore as I walked out my door for class. The third and final call of his life I rolled my eyes, annoyed. If I could take back that day, I would have skipped my class and answered his call and talked to him for the rest of his life.

Fast Forward to 9/11 and beyond…the year of hell was nearly over. There was a friend, someone I had gotten to know more intimately than anyone will ever know. She was special and to this day the impact she had upon my life is unforgettable. She was there for me when I didn’t know who I was and pretending who I ought to be tested her very being. Nonetheless, her love never waivered and brought forth the unconditional. Yet, I was unformed and unresolved in life. I could have been true to my heart, but such things were foreign and compassion had not yet knocked at my numbly closed door. I should have wished her a happy birthday. I could have told her I loved her, truly I did. She should have known I felt the same, but I abandoned her just as easy as I abandoned my brother that year in 2001. I guess she may never know how she taught me to breathe when the entire world disappeared.

I may change the choices I made, but the regret I only feel through hoping they both know how instrumental they both were in teaching me the fundamental of love – compassion.

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My weirdest pet peeve…

Cloth scratchers really know how to make me cringe. Their fingernails dragging across their clothing trying to get through the skin…makes my teeth feel a metallic shock. It grates my flesh, piercing through to the vein and slinging through them like a bad hangover. That sound is my nails-to-chalkboard without a doubt. In fact, cloth scratching existed far before the loud crunching pet-peeve and the leaving drawers or cabinets open pet-peeve. I would venture to say that cloth scratchers inhabited the pet-peeve list prior to over-the-shoulder computer lurkers, name mis-pronouncers, meeting ruminators, dis-chivalrous male commuters, and never-ending automated prompts.

The first time I was crippled by cloth scratching was around 1985 when my then three-year old brother lifted his arms to the red-drooping fabric of mom’s Mercury Cougar and slid his fingernails across it. His little maniacal laughter didn’t come near searing my eardrums like the sound of the cloth beneath his nails…it caused my nerves to ball up into the fetal position and beg for mercy.

This cloth-scratching pet peeve could very well be my weirdest pet peeve…could even be the weirdest pet peeve in the world.

scratching skin sound

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Overheard at My Own Funeral

I’m not sure why my mind puts my mom there unless it somehow thinks life will cut my life shorter than hers, or I’m afraid of her and death in the same sentence at all. Regardless, for the sake of this morbid question and for plain good storytelling let’s assume she is there. Assuming my body arrived safely in Oklahoma (pun intended) and if they do carry out my final wishes for cremation, I would probably laugh (can a fly laugh?) at the sight of these people – family, friends from all walks of life, business associates, and people that hate me there just to make sure I actually did die – sitting there in emotional trance staring at this silly little urn. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but my mother is so I will stress that my little beady fly eyes better not see a single pew. The officiant (who better not be a pastor of any sort) reads off a Buddhist passage from Thich Nhat Hanh on death and once he finishes the music starts. I spend a lot of time floating around in my mind and visiting people that have passed through, experiences that affixed itself to my mental postcards, and seeing what I may have missed the first time around, so since my journey is over I hope that someone else begins to float.

Sitting there as my soundtrack begins with Oasis’ “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, Carolyn comments on the selection and then mentions how she’ll miss Rhoda (me) so I land on her shoulder and buzz “I’m the Mary.”

A few of the Antlers guys including my ex-step father David, true to discriminatory form, mention what a loss it was (of course they aren’t referring to my actual death but my sexuality).

After the first song, the Buddhist-slanting officiant opens the floor for sharing. Stormi steps up first and tells stories that make people laugh because that is who I used to be. She talks about us being so broke when we lived together that we ate bologna sandwiches every day. How we drove the 3-hour stretch from Stillwater to home penniless and with the gas light flashing for 80% of it (you would be surprised at how many times it will come on before your car sputters at all), and when we were forced to get gas we filled it up and sped out of the gas station without paying. See, in New Jersey that is impossible because it’s never self-serve. She’ll then mention how it unleashed a crookedness in us we never knew we had and lead us into Pizza Hut and we fed and ran, fast, hopped in our car with the stolen gas and went home.

My friend Lance would read a poem because he told me there was too much poetry in my soul to get my MBA. I love poetry, and I hope there are several more that read some prose at my permanent going away party.

More music, Khalil Gibran reading, and at the end a reference to my favorite author – Milan Kundera – when the officiant says “Please join me on Jeffrey’s mountain where Alisa will be thrown to the winds – the last symbol of eternal lightness.”

It’s there that all this comes out: Alisa was…fearless, creative, quirky, hard to comfort, funny, thought she was witty but she wasn’t, forgiving and perhaps too forgiving, strong, a wordsmith, a good communicator of the abstract, batshit crazy, not shy, loyal, clumsy, the most outgoing introvert, what you see is what you get, moody, good at keeping secrets but never having any, silly, fascinating to rapidly boring, and then someone will say what a great playlist.

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My misadventures at Jackson Diner (Which is actually Indian food)

Manhattan snob dodges Salmonella in Queens by moving back to Manhattan…

A friend and I decided to try out Jackson Diner in the Little India section of Jackson Heights (Queens, NY) after much prodding from my then roommate, Liz. She, among the many others, relentlessly commented on the best part of living in Jackson Heights was the Indian food. I scoffed at these comments due to my Manhattan snobbery, and knew – despite their efforts to make me feel less like a loser for moving out of the city – that Jackson Diner could have shattered my taste buds but it was not in the East Village’s Indian Row.

After a couple of weeks of misery of living in Queens, I caved and went to eat at Indian Row’s Jackson Diner. The comedic relief of the night went to our waitress for the below dialog.

Me: I’ll take the Chicken Tikka Masala.

Waitress: Okay, how would you like your chicken?

Me (confused): Um, cooked, please.

The Most Confusing Part of Life Is…

Tests. Admittedly, I’ve never been that great of a test taker. I can excel in any subject, but once I’m tested on it I can’t seem to remember anything I learned. I freeze, mentally, and everything else around me begins to float in and out of my mind like the drag queens of the NYC Pride Parade – loud and larger than life. The clock’s tick-tock shaking the floor like an earthquake, and anxiety the bully not letting me off the merry-go round. The only decision that can be made, at that point, is whether or not to stay on and vomit or jump and break a bone.

Life paces along and hard work is churned out just to get those rations of advancement the world doles out for good behavior. Nothing extreme – good or bad – just the monotony of the every day that moves you along from day-to-day. Then without fail, life pops a quiz on you just when you thought you were done with being tested. You smile when you’ve passed the short-answered tests, and return to your nondescript routine thinking you know who you are. You didn’t stray from the straight-and-narrow, and you’ve somehow beaten life. You see the signs leading up to it, but ignore that sooner or later you’ll be faced with a colossal test that will challenge you to bend in ways you never thought possible but you will, bend. You’ll have no choice.

As expected (but you’ll act like it’s out of nowhere, after all you ignored the little signs), life test you something of Mensa caliber. It seems like a new language developed just to trip you up. The questions don’t even make sense, and you’ll go about methods of learning you never suspected you could learn. Maybe you’ll cheat. Maybe you won’t. Then, like the rainbow to the rain, you’ll make a little sense out of a whole lot of nonsense. The question turns to English, and the answer spelled out right in front of you. By the time you’re done with the test you’re no longer the same person holding a number 2 and hoping “c” is the correct answer. Instead, you’re either an idiot or a genius depending on how you studied.

Every day, I Espresso, Make Bed, Pop Allergy Pill, & Curse NJ Transit

I’m addicted to caffeine. I did a clean-eating diet (no caffeine, sugar, or processed foods) once for a mere week and had such severe headaches that I nearly killed myself by way of wall head-banging. Needless to say, caffeine keeps me alive. Therefore, the first thing I do in the morning – without fail – is make espresso.

Make Bed
For as long as I can remember I made my bed in the mornings. This mere morning task meant, initially, keeping my mother at the door rather than in my room. Not that I had much to hide from her, but you never knew (back then) what would be a bad teenager red flag. She was right, though, it only took a few minutes out of the morning to make your evening more enjoyable. To this very OCD day I make my bed in the mornings, and when I come home from work there is less weight on my shoulders and more time to do something like watch Real Housewives. And, as my mom says, “Making the bed is just plain good housekeeping.”

Pop Allergy Pill
Since I’m basically allergic to everything from grass, pollen, bees, most insect bites, dairy, dust, seasons, mold, honey, feathers, and my own damn cat and dogs, I must take a rather large dosage of Allegra in the mornings (180mg) just to have every day experiences. According to google health, An allergy is an exaggerated immune response or reaction to substances that are generally not harmful. Google makes it sound more like another psychiatric issue, huh?

Curse NJ Transit
A $48 fare hike a couple months ago, but yet no train is ever on time. I pay $208 a month ($416 total with my wife’s pass) to catch a train that can never keep to a schedule. From the above ‘things’ you can tell that schedules and routine are pretty much who I am. NJ Transit, I curse the day I met you.

What I Lost and Want Back


My childhood mornings seemed so much more pleasant than the adult ones now do. I woke up wide-eyed and ready to explore the world. Bright were the rainbows that reflected on the wood-paneled hallway created by the bright sun hitting the diamond-shaped windows on the front door. My own personal kaleidoscope had me looking deeply into wood grains at an early age. My brother, Jeffrey, sat less than five inches from the television with the sound screaming loudly into my soul. What I remember about that particular moment is how awake I was back then, and how impressions moved me. Something as small as colored light reflected from the sun onto the wall kept me in awe, imprinted in my memory, and conjured up happiness. I haven’t seen the little prisms of inspiration that echoed so loudly in my youth for quite some time, and I want it back.

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