Aiming Straight For Your Back

You may or may not recall that I’ve worked for the unnamed university a really long time. Tomorrow, that really long time becomes 33 years. In an intriguing coincidence, last week there was a meeting in which my department was reorganized and suddenly I didn’t work for Gianna after 21 years. I’m not a crying-in-the-meeting kind of woman, but this was fucking rough.

Prank french toast is still a complete breakfast.

My sister Corinne left a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk at my place. Guess what she got back?

Welp, funny thing: for about five years, I was bored and asking to learn about particular things, and Gianna granted my requests. Oddly enough, when the department was divided in thirds, I ended up in a purchasing group because I understood how certain kinds of orders functioned. Although I’m like 900 years old, I am actually a toddler in cool shoes, and my being there is practically child labor, so it’s startling anyone lets me play with money.

Note: I do not play with money. I’m too pretty for prison.

This is all to say that though my life with Pete is reasonably stable and happy, the rest of my life is in flux. My mentally ill mother has turned into a racist granny who isn’t sure I should have access to her family’s genealogy information because her paranoia hasn’t reckoned on publicly held information being on My father-in-law hasn’t spent much time with Pete and me because his cancer treatment has made the long drives between our houses difficult. It’s just about time to harvest the last of the summer vegetables from the garden and empty most of the small planters and boxes. Even without the influence of political events, I can feel change coming.

Seriously, what is this guy wearing?

You never know what this local guy will be wearing.

I’m having a Be careful what you wish for moment, since I got that, but the finance people also got me. I wonder what they wished for. Was it a co-worker who shows up in pajamas and makes them go outdoors even when it’s raining? Because they are about to get that.

Alabama’s Trying For None

In about another 11 days, the daylight hours will begin to be longer and the nighttime will begin to feel shorter and that’s important because right now, 6 p.m. feels like the middle of the night. That was kind of groovy when I lived the vampire lifestyle, dressed in black all the time and super-pale from the lack of daylight-enhanced Vitamin D coursing through me, but times change. I changed. I want freaking sunlight.


Last week, friend of Poor Impulse Control Paulie Gonzalez renewed the domain name for another year. Thanks, Paulie! I’ll send a decent bottle of wine the new address in the wilds of Asbury Park.

In other news, Panky is a little too smart and quirky for the adults in his new school, so I’m thinking he should hang out with other supersmart kids this summer. Panky’s had a rough go for the last few years with a couple of schools going so far as to try illegally tossing him out. Education policy in the U.S. has gone crazy, and kids need us to do better. For my part, I can’t do much, but I can find some money to send that kid to a place where he’ll meet other smart and quirky kids just like him, I hope. And they will make robots who I also hope will not use us for spare parts.

I’m winding up my year in fiber arts projects and stitching as fast as my fingers can manage. Do not think I am ignoring you because I am not! Until I am genius enough to be able to crochet and blog at the same time, I will continue to have conflicts. Do I blog? Do I stitch a thing? I feel exqueezed! But I am here, and I will be here, for PIC’s fourteenth year.






Things That Make You Say

This stitch might make a nice - wait, what did you call it?

This stitch might make a nice – wait, what did you call it?

During some bingy YouTube-watching, I came across a series of videos for this interesting pattern called the Catherine Wheel stitch. It is a very pretty pattern, in the hands of someone who knows what she is doing, which I do not. As I was watching videos of very pleasant instructors very pleasantly talking about the wheels of the wagon and the balance of the stitches, I wondered over and over again, ‘Are we speaking in code here? Did no one think to look up the meaning of the Catherine Wheel?

You're thinking the Funny Thoughts. I can tell.

You’re thinking the Funny Thoughts. I can tell.

Of the World Looking Over the Edge

About twenty-two years ago, I was standing in my kitchen first thing in the morning with an eerie feeling, when I turned around and saw Sam standing in the doorway, pale as a sheet. His hand was bandaged. Sam had spent the night at the hospital. He asked if I could pay the cab driver.

This is Sam. I did not take this picture.

This is Sam. I did not take this picture.

I grabbed my wallet and ran outside. When I came back to the kitchen, he told me he’d put his hand into a saw and nearly cut off his fingers. In the days that followed, he couldn’t even look at his injuries. I cleaned and bandaged them. He recovered. We had a four- or five-month disastrous relationship and an agonizing breakup that burned a hole through me I try not to remember in any great detail. We both behaved very badly; we could not be friends.

Why did he have this? Why did he give it to me?

Why did he have this? Why did he give it to me?

Sam was whip-smart, funny and genuinely interesting to talk to. We’d gone to art shows, music shows, poetry readings. He introduced me to great music and made me a wooden cassette case to get all my tapes off my bedroom floor. Knowing him changed the way I viewed myself as an artist. He could be a complete bastard or a patient best friend. We took pictures of ourselves and each other. Later, when I got this roll of film developed, I had someone else look at the pictures. It was too painful to see him. The pictures languished in a cigar box. In some of the others, I look so young to me. After I finish this blog post, I’ll put these pictures away. I may never look at them again.

Thursday night, one of my old housemates emailed that Sam was dead, died late last year. A little googling revealed that Sam went missing in November, 2013. A month later, his body was found. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.

Samuel P. Hoyt, 46, according to his stepfather, is believed by investigators to have jumped from the Lee Bridge in Richmond on Nov. 22 after being seen at the Virginia War Memorial by a guard there.

Most of his personal belongings, including a recently issued prescription for high blood pressure [Note: no one gets a prescription for high blood pressure, idiot.], were found at the memorial on South Belvidere Street, where witnesses described him as “disconsolate and troubled,” said stepfather Bruce Littman.

An autopsy showed that Hoyt drowned and suffered internal injuries consistent with a fall, Littman said. Hoyt’s body was spotted by a tugboat crew below the Osborne Boat Landing in Henrico County on Dec. 31 and was recovered by county water rescue units.

Hoyt’s mother, Catherine, and Littman said a cousin in Ashland visited by Hoyt was concerned about his well-being after the self-employed, unmarried carpenter expressed paranoid thoughts and was having difficulty separating reality from bursts of delusional thinking.

An aunt and uncle in Richmond also feared for Hoyt’s safety when they saw him take a knife from their kitchen. They took him to an area hospital, where he was assessed by a psychiatric social worker, Littman said.

And now I’m angry.

Littman said a psychiatrist was not consulted, nor were other family members contacted who had more knowledge of Hoyt’s past. Hoyt, though, had seemed rational for much of his life and worked as a carpenter and Web designer, needing help with finances only in recent years.

“He kept his secret (of delusional thoughts) well,” Littman said. Hoyt was a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School and Virginia Commonwealth University and had attended graduate school at Rutgers University on scholarship, Littman and his wife, Catherine, said.

The morning after being released from the hospital with no finding of mental issues that warranted detention, Hoyt threw furniture in the uncle’s home through a window and left.
Littman said that when he was found in the river weeks later, Hoyt was identified from the hospital bracelet on his wrist, from documents left at the war memorial, and a DNA sample from his mother.

“We are very sad about what had happened and are concerned that this is happening at a time when Virginia is considering important changes to its laws dealing with the rights of mentally ill people,” Littman said last night.

Littman stressed that procedures need to be tightened that mandate more thorough assessments of a person’s mental condition, especially people without insurance such as Hoyt.

The stigma of mental illness is deeply ingrained in us. The half-assed article’s author struggled with language throughout, but most obviously here:

A man found dead in the James River on New Year’s Eve had been missing for more than a month and was feared by family members to be suffering from a mental condition.

What is that, I ask you? His family knew well that Sam was ill. Sam joked that bipolar disorder was “the family bug.” I accepted this without judgment because mental illness hasn’t visited my family so much as moved in and ordered pay per view. My father’s grandmother spent much of her adult life in institutions and died under suspicious circumstances in a notorious asylum. Many members of my family have mental illnesses, both treated and untreated, and I was seeing a therapist at the time, so Sam’s problems didn’t feel unfamiliar or threatening. At times, he was very far away and negative. His mood would spiral and he would be unreachable. Kindness didn’t help; he could not accept it. He needed treatment, but I see now he didn’t get it. He didn’t even get evaluated by a doctor on his way to committing suicide.

Knitting Factory, NYC, 1.1.93 with Robert for my poetry reading and remarkably expensive beer.

Knitting Factory, NYC, 1.1.93 with Robert for my poetry reading and remarkably expensive beer.

This is the system we live with now. Unless the patient is cooperative and wealthy, we can’t find help – and almost no patients are wealthy and cooperative. In New Jersey, family members can seek court-monitored outpatient treatment for violent patients in denial, but without a history of violence, the courts don’t get involved. Even the expanded program can’t order patients to take their medication. Those programs can be effective for patients with documented problems, but people like Sam aren’t violent and have no documented medical history. You can know that your family member is very ill, but you may be unable to demonstrate that illness to medical or legal professionals, as Sam’s family was not.

Sam in our backyard

Sam in our backyard, inventing the selfie stick.

This problem may be more common than our society is willing to acknowledge. My mother’s first cousin suffered a breakdown and became homeless; we do not know if he’s dead or alive. My extended family faces a similar ordeal: a family member who at one time sought medical attention in Utah, was diagnosed borderline schizophrenic and prescribed medication. He soon stopped taking the medication and has for some time been living with a girlfriend, but he hears voices and files lawsuits and calls the police to report his hallucinations. I talked to his local, rural police, who were well aware that our family member – let’s call him Tommy – was mentally ill and not trying to make trouble. The police agreed that he was no danger to them, but Tommy’s delusions were eating up police time and resources. We believe they charged him with something small. Next thing we knew, Tommy drove across country and turned up at his father’s house. It did not go well there. Tommy’s father wanted him to stop doing all that stuff, meaning hearing voices and talking to them. They argued and Tommy came to New Jersey. During the day, Tommy looks fine. At night, his symptoms are much worse. He is staying with a friend. We expect that situation will break down fairly quickly and have been searching for what to do next.

While he is in New Jersey, we will look for help here. Tommy does not have a job or insurance or a fixed address. We don’t know if he’s going back to Utah. He may be homeless. He says he’s thinking about going to Florida, but doesn’t know anyone there. He is looking at apartments here in the small town. I suspect I’m going to spend a lot of time on the phone and Pete is going to work hard to protect Tommy from the police. We cannot expect the police here to be understanding. We can’t prove Tommy needs help before something happens, and that is where we as a society fail our mentally ill cohort. Seeing a therapist is fucking expensive and treatment has not advanced a whole lot. Medications don’t work on everyone and work differently on different people. The whole thing is a crapshoot and try getting insurance with this pre-existing condition. Even so: treatment is better than no treatment, and maybe if Sam had been treated and his illness taken seriously, he might still be alive.

It has taken me days to write this. When I mentioned I was having trouble putting all this into words, a mutual friend wrote me:

I remember helping him mount a piece once. It consisted of two huge counter-rotating sheet metal cylinders one inside the other with openings arranged so that as the cylinders spun they would only occasionally line up. Once you’d gotten inside you had to wait inside that barren metal space till the openings lined up again and you could get out. I remember asking Sam why while we were wrestling the metal into place and he said he wanted to ‘force’ people to be inside their heads, to be alone.

I can’t help but think of that now.

It’s cliché but I can’t think of a time when I saw him without a smile. I really can’t. the only time maybe was when we were at the barracks breaking up radiators for metal casting. My sledgehammer bounced back and hit me on the shin and I had a piece of iron in my leg (still have the scar and a divot in my bone). I don’t know who was yelling louder, Sam or me. He was so upset. He gave me all the money he had on him at the time for the hospital because I had no health insurance. Fuck you Virginia.

You say he loved to say his name, it gave him pleasure. You say he always smiled, that he helped, that he gave a shit. You say he was a good sweet guy who drew people to him like a candle draws moths. You say no fucking more. No more senseless waste of such beautiful life, no more because we can’t take responsibility as a society to help those in need, no more shit heel politicians trying to slip out from the blood and misery on their hands, no more people alone and staring down a world gone completely sidewise and strange, afraid and desperate and doing stupid things. No more. No more.

Let us say all that and one more thing.

Sam, a little blurry around the edges. I took this picture.

Sam, a little blurry around the edges. I took this picture.

In the winter of 1992-1993, we had snow storm after snow storm. My car was frozen into a bank of plowed snow. During one blizzard, Sam and I suited up in our winter warmest and made an Arctic expedition down our street. Where the road stopped, we made a tricky descent where we knew a path into the park lay. The ferocity of the wind made breathing arduous and visibility was limited to a few feet. We trudged through the thigh-high snow across the park. Sam was very strong and not afraid of pushing through the seemingly endless snowy hills and mountains. At one point, we took refuge behind a building to catch our breath. All familiar landmarks were obscured by the vast whiteness, so we climbed a steep hill and emerged from the park in a place between some trees. Triumphant and exhausted, we found our street and made the climb up the hill to our house. A bunch of people were snowed in at our house. When we realized they would be hungry, we made a second Arctic expedition to the grocery store four blocks away. This is how I wish to remember him: smiling, capable, strong. If we were a just people, he might have grown old that way.

Roll All Night Long

This form of advertising must be very effective. Sometimes they don't even wait for snow to thaw before they send planes over concerts and minor league games where, one assumes, parking lots are full of insured drivers operating oversize grills with open flames. So, no. No disasters there.

This form of advertising must be very effective. Sometimes they don’t even wait for snow to thaw before they send planes over concerts and minor league games where, one assumes, parking lots are full of insured drivers operating oversize grills with open flames. So, no. No disasters there.

Looking Nice With A Ribbon

Chef John Besh has a relatively new show on PBS called Chef John Besh’s Family Table, in a bright, spacious kitchen that’s a step up from his last teevee show Chef John Besh’s New Orleans, where the set was cozier, even a little claustrophobic. I enjoy listening to Mr. Besh talk, though I admit my mind wanders. Over the holidays, my brilliant stepmommy Darla and I were staring at our monitors while Chef Besh narrated from safety of the living room flat screen. Suddenly, we were both confused.

Chef Besh seems like a nice man and his food looks deeeelicious.

Chef Besh seems like a nice man and his food looks deeeelicious.

The new show is sponsored by BP and features an unusually desperate tagline asking you, person not from the Gulf Region, to visit the Gulf Region and eat its fine seafood. Though my memory is hazy, it isn’t a complete fog, so I remember an oil rig explosion, Corexit contamination, massive wildlife poisoning and mutation, ruined marshlands and, more recently, BP kicking up a big stink about settling with its victims. If BP asked me nicely to please eat some free-range sponge cake I wouldn’t touch that and – I am sorry – but neither should anyone else. That BP seeks to rehabilitate its and the Gulf’s images is exactly what we expect in this cynical time of spin and bullshit. So I looked up from my laptop when I heard their name at the end of a New Orleans-based PBS cooking show. There were two other foundations sponsoring the show, which I, a frequent PBS viewer, had not heard of until then. Darla scoured the Great Gazoogle for the who/what and found the L.E. Phillips Family Foundation, Inc. and Melvin S. Cohen Foundation, Inc. are both registered in Delaware and neither issues an annual report about revenue or donations. During my own Gazoogling, I found obituaries for a whole mess o’ Melvin S. Cohens, but our candidate for Most Likely To Have His Own Foundation was the Melvin S. Cohen who chaired Presto, whom you may remember as the pressure cooker and Frybaby folks. One surmises there would be interest in food prep in the wilds of Wisconsin, which is also where we find the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, the L.E. Phillips Senior Center, the L.E. Phillips Career Development Center, the L. E. Phillips Planetarium at the University of Wisconsin, and the L E Phillips Libertas Center for the treatment of alcoholism. Not a lot of interest in food prep and how could there be no annual report for a foundation engaged in that level of donating?

How did these Wisconsin foundations get involved with BP in this retooling of the Gulf’s image? I don’t know, but it seems like that should mean something.

Who’s To Blame?

(With apologies to the B-52s)

Surprise! Party!


Yeah, we just thought we’d drop in!

drop in

Where’s your icebox?


Where’s the punch?


Eww, House-a-tosis!


Who’s to blame when parties really get out of hand?

party gone out of bounds

Who’s to blame when they get poorly planned?

poorly planned

Crashers get bombed


Slobs make a mess

actual villain

Ya know sometimes they’ll even ruin your wife’s dress

George And Laura Bush Attend Groundbreaking For Bush Presidential Center

Crashers gettin’ bombed. (Who’s to blame?)

who's to

Can you pull it back in line?
Can you salvage it in time?

out of bounds

What can you do to save a party?

a party gone





A spur-of-the-moment scavenger hunt,

scavenger hunt

Or Queen of the Nile?

queen of the nile

Who turned out the lights?

turn out the lights


bombed - 1

Crashers gettin’ bombed,

bombed - 2

Crashers gettin’ bombed,



bombed - 4


bombed - 5


bombed - 6

Well, who’s to blame?

to blame

Who’s to blame when situations degenerate?

blame 1

Disgusting things you’d never anticipate

People get sick, they play the wrong games

the wrong games

Ya know, it can ruin your name!

Crashers gettin’ bombed. (Who’s to blame?)

who's to blame 3

Can you pull it back in line?

in line

Can you salvage it in time?

it in time

It shouldn’t be difficult!

Try not to condemn!


O.K. who ordered pizza?

I’ll be tactful when making the rounds

Be tactful when making the rounds

tactful when

And maybe you can save a party…

Debt Showdown

Party gone out of bounds!

completely out of bounds

Gone out of bounds!

disastrous and stupid

Images and videos courtesy of the Intertubes. Thank you, Intertubes.