Scare tactics

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Did you know that excessive stress can make your hormones to go off the rails, causing you to PMS for a whole month at a time , complete with aggression and bleeding and the obligatory teary-eyed question, “WHY AM I ACTING LIKE THIS?” According to my doctor, that’s what happened to me last month. At first I was relieved at the news. I was, after all, sitting half naked on a gynecologist’s table having just opened my legs for an emergency check up after spending the whole day in the fetal position from cramp pain. “Stress” was probably the tamest in the long list of horrifying answers I could have received as to why this was happening smack in the middle of a menstrual cycle. But then I was confused.

“I don’t feel particularly stressed,” I said to her. “or rather, any more stressed than usual.” Even though I’d been circling the drain in an identity crisis I figured that crisis had been going on long enough to not necessarily warrant a body apocalypse.

“Have you had any major changes in your life recently?”

“Well, I did lose my job.”

“That’s so stressful!”

Not really, I thought. I mean, I’ve been spending most of my days sleeping until ten, working out, writing, running errands and watching reality shows. I go to sketch class on Mondays and a few days a week maybe I’ll do some freelance work. Technically I should feel pretty relaxed. But she was a little bit right. There was this underlying fear in me that I wasn’t going to figure things out and I was at the beginning of a lifelong disappointment to myself and my family and everyone I know. I had even started taking some of those insecurities out on James.

“Hey babe! What did you do today?”

“What did I do today? Why? Because I’m unemployed? Are you calling me lazy?

I’ll just blame that on the hormones. That’s what they’re there for, right? Is that anti-feminist? Shh…

So maybe I was stressed. Maybe somehow pounding the treadmill and doing kickboxing workouts every day after months of using my Planet Fitness keychain as nothing more than an accessory was making my body do crazy shit. Maybe watching all those seasons of Flipping Out in succession on Hulu was giving me vicarious anger problems and OCD. And if  TV can cause you stress, then certainly all the horror movies and murder shows weren’t helping either.

I’m not just a sucker for a theme. It goes far beyond that. I live for a theme.I base my life around themes. So when Fall rolled around this year James and I decided to spend the entire month of October terrifying ourselves without any breaks. Like many people our age group, we are limited to what’s streaming and what we can get away with buying On Demand at our parent’s houses. In three weeks we watched You’re NextHouse of the Devil, The Blair Witch Project, The Pact, Insidious 2, V/H/S, Eraserhead, Silent HouseMama, American Psycho, and Single White Female (which is more of a thriller but spoiler alert: she kills the dog so we were horrified). Even though some of those totally sucked, it didn’t make all the murder/torture/abuse imagery any less disturbing. We also watched the documentaries Cropsey (about a child murder who lives in the woods on Staten Island), Crazy Love (a man throws acid in his girlfriend’s face so no one else will ever love her and it works), I Escaped a Cult (religious fervor is scarier than the devil) and of course, the classic Forensic Files, 40 episodes of which are streaming on Netflix. We’re still watching it almost every night and every night I have a nightmare that I’m being chased down by a stalker with a knife. But I’m not stressed.

Mama was the one we watched at James’ parents’ place in Long Island. We spent the night there one Friday because we had plans to borrow the car the next morning to drive to Six Flags. I’d always wanted to go, especially for Fright Fest. I guess I fancied myself a thrill seeker, even knowing full well I hadn’t been on a roller coaster in over 10 years and my fear of heights was growing with age. After the movie at about 1 AM I burst into tears – I was overcome with all these different types of terror. To my credit, I’d had two beers and I’d finished a movie that was just as much about love and motherhood as it was about ghosts, so I was feeling very sensitive. We were also home alone, and if I’d learned a single thing from any of these movies, it’s that “home alone in the suburbs” equals certain death. So I was anxious. I had left my cats at the apartment in Queens (with my good friend and roommate Austin, but still) – what if something happened to them? What’s more, I was suddenly feeling very nervous about this whole roller coaster thing. The craziest theme park I’d ever been to was Busch Gardens. They have lederhosen at Busch Gardens. I was going to die, and it was going to be in New Jersey.

The next day, I didn’t die. But I was pretty  much right about everything – Busch Gardens is to Six Flags as The Muppet Show is to Jurassic Park. I nutted up before my first coaster and was entirely unprepared for just how much of my life was about to flash before my eyes. I later found out that Nitro, the first roller coaster I went on that day, is about 60 feet higher than the tallest roller coaster I’d ever been on which, by the way, was in 2003. I quickly realized by the second ride that the people in charge of operating these machines were my age or younger, and that everyone in line with me must have some sort of invincibility complex (which I assume is a function of being a teenager, or being from New Jersey, or both). Suffering from a hyper-perception of my own mortality, I was very unsettled almost the entire time, made worse by the fact that it was one of the most popular days in Six Flags history and the lines were excruciatingly long. I think we went on almost every ride once, and by about 5 pm I was ready to go. We just had one more thing to cross off our list – Kingda Ka.

The roller coaster Kingda Ka is problematic for multiple reasons. The first is that is plays on an ambiguous jungle theme that I’m sure is offensive to people of certain ethnicities. The decor of that section of the park is described by Wikipedia as being Nepalese, but one of the rides, a free fall directly under Kingda Ka is called Zumanjaro which I guess is supposed to be African inspired. It’s basically a mishmash of cultural appropriation, but like I said, I’ve been to Busch Gardens. I expected this sort of thing. They even have wild animals on zoo-like display, which I abhorred with my entire being. No animal should have to deal with that many screaming Americans hopped up on sugar and, well, animal fat.

But the worst part of Kingda Ka, of course, is Kingda Ka itself. At 456 feet tall and with hydraulics that shoot you from zero to 128 MPH in 3.5 seconds, it’s the tallest and the second fastest roller coaster in the world. It looks like this.
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That doesn’t even look real. It looks like a photoshop prank. The guy who designed Kingda Ka probably did it as a joke and then passed it around the office and got so many laughs they eventually decided, fuck it, why shouldn’t we do this? Why not give people the option to torture themselves in such a way? The best part is, sometimes it doesn’t go fast enough to get over the crest, so it ROLLS ALL THE WAY BACK DOWN to the starting point. I was overcome with a feeling of  “Nah.”

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I pretty much only went on the thing for street cred. I figured there was no point in spending all that money on a Six Flags ticket (they cost more than I care to admit) if I was going to let fear get the best of me. So we waited in line…and we waited…and after an hour and half we figured we might as well keep waiting. I must have watched the ride at least 50 times while waiting in that line, all the while sweating bullets and contemplating the best funeral arrangements for my soon to be mangled remains. By the time we got up to the loading area it had been three hours and it was pitch dark out. My heart was beating in my throat. James, who’d been on it before, was laughing at me. This was a metaphor, I told myself, for being brave in life and going for things that you want (even though I didn’t even want this). We rolled out to the launching area and I tried not to puke. Before I knew it my back was pushed against the seat and we were shooting up into the stars, and then shooting back down again, face first into the fucking parking lot. By the time it was over, in not more than fifteen seconds, I was completely in tears. I had cried the whole time, yet somehow I was smiling in the photo they took. Maybe it’s one of those phenomenons, like why people laugh when they’re being tickled, or maybe I was just so relieved to be alive by the time I got to the photo portion of the ride.

Afterwards, we pushed our way through the crowd of bored 20-year-old part-time zombies and drove home. That was the only thrill I needed for a while.

By the time actual Halloween came around, we decided to do something unrelated to horror entirely and go the cosplay route instead, dressing up as Sterling Archer and Lana Kane.IMG_1343When I was little, I used to love when the power would cut out or the fire alarm would ring or a hurricane would ravage the neighborhood. I considered the flu a luxury. At that age I would take anything that got me out of going to school. I guess that’s sort of the appeal of thrill seeking, that a momentary fear for your actual life is a welcome change from dealing with the mundanity of the every day. I get that. I had an invincibility complex once. I did drugs. I dated a guy with a motorcycle. But things are a little bit different now. I wear my seatbelt, I read the ingredients on the back of the box, and I don’t think I’ll be going skydiving any time soon. I’m too busy trying to make a safe, comfortable life for myself while kind of, maybe trying to be successful someday. Isn’t that scary enough?

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Dead at ’13

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You all know I love to complain. It’s partly because I am a loud, bratty perfectionist incapable of being satisfied and partly because I enjoy finding the humor in my misfortune and sharing that humor with you people. So it should come as no surprise that even though I have reunited with nearly every one of my closest friends in the past four weeks I can only think about how being with said friends exhausted me completely and how I’ve since become physically ill.

When I returned to Brooklyn after Christmas I spent a few days working and trying to relax. When I unsurprisingly failed at that, I focused my efforts on frantic attempts to stave off the illness I’d been trying to avoid since November (swallowing 9 whole cloves of garlic per day, mainlining packets of emergen-c, spraying the homeless with Scrubbing Bubbles, etc). Sometimes I have to remind my body that I have shit to do, and a good handful of the most important people in my life were to arrive in mere hours. I primped and dustbusted every corner of my apartment in anticipation of everyone’s arrival, which was expected to be sometime around 7 am New Years Eve. Although I only had two guests staying with me that night, pieces of my crew were to be scattered all over the city for the next week or so. I even planned a dinner for that night at Chimu, the restaurant next to my building, to bring us all together in grand adult fashion. Of course, not one individual arrived at my house before the sun was down, and only about half the reservation showed up to the restaurant.

Y do I even try?

Never mind the epic of reasonable alibis each absent member provided. I suddenly knew just how my mother felt when I showed up at her house this (and every) Christmas hung over and two days late. When I got over the minimal ego bruise of the situation and realized the food was just as delicious as I knew it would be, it was time to change into the New Years outfit I’d had planned for a month and pop no less than three bottles of champagne. No need to start off the year with any drama. Although, in a way, that was exactly what were were about to do.

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One by one they started filing in. Lil Kim, Tall Pat, Katy, Patrick, Matt, Kam and Connor joined Brad, Winston, Hannah, Coby, Peter and myself to briefly “pre-game” (something I’ve really got to find another name for) before heading to the drag show at Secret Project Robot…an event that boasted all any event need boast: free champagne and a Bushwick address.

I decided not to drink much to leave room for other activities. I was not about to have a repeat of Last New Years. 2012 was merely the beginning of my comeback. In 2013 I aim for perfection, beginning with my alcohol-to-drug ratio.

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After we arrived, the ten dollar cover–five more dollars than we had expected—tore our crew into smaller, albeit much more manageable pieces. Those of us that made it through the door were served an ample supply of teased-wig realness, a good two hours of free champagne and all your favorite crowd-pleasing hits from the 2000s. Hannah and Winston were acting like total love bugs spreading PLUR all over the place despite the fact that Hannah could barely stand up after 11:30. At one point I was on Hannah-duty and kept having to sit her down on the bench outside while I went to get drinks or go pee. By the time we finally counted down to midnight everyone around me was totally loopy, either lip syncing for their dear lives across the dance floor or caught in a tear-filled heart to heart by the pinball machines. But all I could think about was how much my god damn feet were hurting, so before we went to the next party I stopped by my house to change my shoes.

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Our next venue was oddly enough a Lutheran church in the heart of Bushwick. We entered through a dimly lit dirt basement where we checked our coats and spiraled up to the stairs to the main hall. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. What used to be a “house of God” was now a playground for heathens and insomniacs (that could afford the $60 entry fee). By this point I was so out of my mind all I could think was that it made sense. Finally a church had made itself useful to me. After I successfully over-vibed with everyone I was with to the point of toplessness, security started yelling at everyone to get out, presumably due to the rising sun. We waited for a cab in the freezing winds, checked our email and went to the second location. Inside the warehouse, the address of which remains unclear to me, we danced until our raggedy faces had fully drooped to the concrete floor (sometime around 10 am).

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That day I slept as well as I could with the afternoon sun beaming through the curtain and into my eyes.

The few nights that followed were certified flops as I had to work and was otherwise useless, until that Thursday when Patrick and I decided to hoof it in Williamsburg and have just enough drinks to say rude things to people. We left just in time to eat all of the pizza, and I fell asleep with ranch in my lap watching Reno 911.

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The next morning Patrick went to court to deal with that ticket we both got last summer (remember that time we trespassed like 6 months ago? Well I had pretty much forgotten about it too). I stayed home to fail at sleeping until Austin arrived and I skipped off to work. Afterward, in typical fashion, Patrick, Kim, Austin and I went to the Metropolitan, had some laughs, took some photos and left. And as usual, most of the fun was had on the train. But before going back to my apartment I made sure to stop by a nutritionally unsafe taqueria that was basically located in a trashcan under some stairs. I ordered a burrito situation that I drowned in 12 ounces of different hot sauces and immediately came down with a disturbing case of GUT ROT that lasted through the next day at work. I didn’t want to go out that night, but Bill had finally arrived and I couldn’t pussy out. On my way to the party I projectile vomited mid sentence on the sidewalk. I later continued to throw up in the toilet, and followed that up by drinking liquor and performing more than my share of 2009 antics, ie. runway walks back and forth in my brother’s apartment, things just flying up our noses, etc. For a minute I completely forgot we weren’t in my college living room. When we were finally heading to the bar, two of my friends got tickets for doubling in the subway turnstile before realizing the train wasn’t coming for another hour. We ended up just going to a bar in my neighborhood instead, and when we ultimately separated I decided to sleep out. This decision later left my friends stuck in the snow, desperately trying to get in touch with me (asleep, naked, fetal positioned me with a stomach ache in a boy’s bed). They ended up having to take a $50 cab to our friend’s house in Park Slope. Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of flopping lately. Perhaps I’m getting too old for this.

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Sunday night, Austin and Bill were the only two visitors left standing. Refusing to stay in for even just one of our nights together, we dragged ourselves around Brooklyn aimlessly for hours looking for bars and restaurants that may have not even existed, before settling on Greek takeout and going home to watch Archer.

Could I fucking sleep now?

Like clockwork, I was immediately overtaken by the paralyzing cold that had been stalking me for weeks. I can’t breathe, I have chills, and I’m forced to work because I just spent my last five bucks on kitty litter. As I write this, snot is pouring onto my upper lip and I miss my friends terribly. But now that they’re gone, I have the freedom to sit here alone, removing my nail polish with Burger King napkins and watching all 7 seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in succession. And believe me, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
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