Don’t Be Like Walter

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Am I supposed to like “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White? Because, I don’t. In fact, I hate him with a venom, to the point of distraction.

I hate people like him. The nice guy facade hiding the bully, the self-serving con artist who thinks nothing of relentlessly hounding you into submission and stepping over your body to get to the goods, who expects everyone to fall at his feet, do his bidding, reveal every detail of their every thought, word, and deed, yet “I don’t owe you or anybody any explanation!”

Most of the time when I’m watching this award-winning AMC series — and well into the fourth season — I’m screaming at the top of my lungs for Walter to go fuck himself, or praying that Jesse wises up and lets the dick get what’s coming to him — preferably with a public humiliation and a beating that lasts several weeks, from head to toe.

Bryan Cranston is an amazing actor to pull me in and pull this detestable character off so convincingly. He sure taps into the archetype from hell for me, personally.

I didn’t realize how much I detested this kind of person and how many of them are in my life until I watched Walter in living color on my TV screen.

What bugs me the most about Walter is not necessarily the lying, but the mild-mannered, pleasant, nice family guy act he puts on like a cheap suit, like everyone else does on Facebook and in other manufactured social situations.

It’s a kind of hypocrisy I’ve lived with all my life, and something I really could do without. It’s why I shy away from large groups of people, choose to be by myself, and wait for relationships to end. It’s why I can’t, for my own survival and well-being, take you at your verbose, flowery word.

In my experience, those who talked a good game were the biggest liars once you got past their white picket fences. The nicest ones are almost always colossal assholes. Look at my parents and my brother; they had so many people fooled.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hypocrisy as “a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not :  behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel His hypocrisy was finally revealed with the publication of his private letters.especially :  the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion”

Do you have any idea how much hypocrisy repulses me? The minute I see a person’s mask slip, I’m halfway out the door.

This happens to me all the time, which probably means I’m some sort of sick magnet for Narcissists. (Consider the alternative, right?) I went to therapy about my co-dependency, and believe me, I continue to work on myself and my bug repellant.

Recently, I’ve decided to cut more Walters out of my life.

These are very well-liked, popular people, mind you. They give off the vibe that they’re super-compassionate, understanding, able to be stoic in the face of crises — but only when it comes to them, as I’ve learned repeatedly.

I’ve no problem offering my own compassion and understanding. I’ve even dropped what I was doing to do things for them, offer to do more, even orchestrate financial help. I’ve been there 24/7 if they needed someone to talk to. They’ve never needed me.

When it was my turn, radio silence. They’re suddenly too busy, and we all have to die sometime, Are you right by the Lord?

You know what? Fuck them.

The supply is gone, assholes. Go somewhere else.

 

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

We didn’t think of Spain until the cooking show. Then, Elton John’s song came back to me, as if in a dream. I thought of you gently placing three sugar cubes in my saucer before a sudden gust of wind took several pages of our book into the epilogue before the acknowledgements and the references.

Who are you, really? A stranger made up of favorite songs, a few childhood memories with father, the cabin in the woods I think I misplaced from an old movie somewhere between my first boyfriend and our last good-bye (when he turned anorexia into a revenge fantasy). Attachments that I will never know.

I stitch my love into a blanket — in my underwear on a friend’s Barcalounger, pretending I am out under the stars with my bad knees and my handful of wishes. You will miss me when I’m gone, caressing the holes in my favorite stitches, wishing you’d said more.

As the people in the neutral-colored suits trot out the tired eulogies (“I can’t say anything bad about him, he was a saint”) in another terror-driven hit parade, I watch lone gunmen eviscerate their carefully constructed fiction by chasing cheap thrills across state lines.

So long.

#Goals

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You, me, and the stars. Let’s go.  Photo by Eugene Quek on Unsplash

I’ve had enough of the race wars, haven’t you?

Let’s go to a happier place. Like, Scotland or Deep Cove, Vancouver. Below are my #lifegoals or #ifwisheswerehorses. See if they match yours.

  1. Get rid of all my worldly possessions, sell the house, and go traveling in an RV. I come from humble means. I’ve lived in a trailer park, apartment complexes, Army barracks, townhouses, and nice two-story homes. I’ve moved around more than most people from the day I was born until my father retired from the Army in 1977, when I was on the edge of 13. I’m used to moving around, the planes, the car rides, hotels, a gypsy’s life. I’d rather not get boxed in one place.
  2. Ever since I harbored a huge crush on the Bay City Rollers, I’ve been interested in visiting Scotland and Ireland. After I fell in love with Ian Mitchell, I looked up Ireland in the encyclopedia. So much green! Those cliffs! Reading Victorian novels, majoring in English sealed the deal for the rest of the United Kingdom. To have high tea in London, visit the historic, literary, religious landmarks of all my writer heroes… that would be the life.
  3. Bury me at sea. I don’t care which one. The sea is where I believe everyone I ever cared about returns to. It’s one of the first images that came into my mind in my dreams before I read that my childhood friend Bobby died in the Pentagon on 9/11. I saw the cliffs of Dover, gray-blue glass stretched into the sky on the right, his spirit embedded in the rocks underneath and over the surface of the sun shine, the way I always remembered him.
  4. I wish I could look like you, tall, slim, a boy’s ballerina body, running like the wind, trekking through forests and up the sides of the mountain, the farms of the Heartland, everywhere my heart can reach. One day, I would very much like to run again. Run until my legs give out. Run the way I used to when I used to go all the way to Waikiki along the Ala Wai Canal from my mom’s apartment in Makiki, past tourists and their babies squinting in the blinding sun, back when my 21-year-old legs held me up without pain.
  5. There are a handful of friends I’d like very much to hang with. They’re spread out all over the country. One works in Nashville, the other’s helping the forgotten north of L.A., another’s holding the fort down in D.C., a survivor of a heart attack at a young age. Let me come see you. We can break bread, talk story, watch the stars come out together. I can listen to your voice wash over me, a lyrical lullaby. Maybe Jon can play bass on a friend’s backyard deck over Carolina BBQ.
  6. Do I have a book in me? I have words. “More words than I ever heard…” But a book with characters and a plot that weaves in and out of 1,000 pages or more? I’m not sure. What would that book be? The love story I never had? A revenge series? The time this woman named Eve tried to take my only child away from me, based on words, and another woman named Joanna saved my life with one acronym — a modern-day witchhunt? Total fiction in the land of time travel? We shall see.
  7. I joke that I don’t have many years left. Whether it’s really a joke or not, I would like to live long enough to see my son graduate from high school and make a life for himself, with or without the traditional family. Then, I think I’m okay with living in his pocket, my soul close to his heart forever.
  8. Finish that goddamn “Dark Tower” series!
  9. One day, I will tell you why I stopped loving you, and …
  10. why I still do.

 

Breaking into ‘Breaking Bad’

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As soon as I saw the pants flying in the desert, I was in all the way. My first “Breaking Bad” episode, not my last, as I’m now into the third day of a binge-fest.

Friends singled me out for that show for years. “You have got to watch. It’s so… you.” “I know you’ll love ‘Breaking Bad.’ It’s exactly your style.”

When I read the show summary, I didn’t know whether to be flattered or offended. So, my friends think I’m a boring chemistry teacher type who turns into some crystal meth kingpin? I’m as straight an arrow as you can get, and as scientifically illiterate as they come.

The subject of drugs and drug addicts does not interest me in the least — unless there’s some serious mental illness involved, triggering these characters into a killing rampage.

Oh, wait.

For once, my friends were right about me. I do love this award-winning series. Lead actor Bryan Cranston deserved all of his for portraying a milquetoast of a family man gradually turning to the dark side with very little virtue signaling typical of TV shows nowadays.

I worried that the acting would be mimicry, the dialogue a little too clever to be believed, the plot overtaking the characters, or any two characters taking over the show into supercouple Tiger Beat territory (remember “The Office!”).

Not to worry. This show is as real as it gets, brutally and relentlessly honest about its characters who are both flawed and virtuous.

Well into the second season, I began to get a taste of just how awful these characters could be. To the credit of the actors and the writers, “Breaking Bad” really delves into multi-dimensional character development, with Cliff Note efficiency — one of the hardest things to pull off for any storyteller.

I began hating Cranston’s character, Walter, something awful. After his family and friends toast to his cancer remission, he inexplicably forces his 14-/15-year-old son *Walter Jr./Flynn into drinking what looks like too much scotch.

Dean Norris, who plays Walter’s racist brother-in-law DEA agent Hank, tries to intervene. But that only results in a nasty confrontation, where Walter rewards his family’s devotion with self-serving cruelty.

Walter’s display of ego, pride, and mean-spiritedness thoroughly turned me off. I guess he’s turning into the drug kingpin he once kowtowed to.

Aaron Paul is Walter’s drug-addicted partner Jesse, the kid who already knows the scene and botches every move disastrously with his hapless stupidity. Blessed with natural good looks, charm, and a nice, suburban lifestyle, Jesse never really had to work on his thinking skills other than bare minimal street smarts. (Except for the good-looking part, he reminded me a little of my brother during his wild high school days, ahem.)

Jesse’s innocence paired with Walter’s growing savvy and cutthroat selfishness serves as the heart of this series — even when the kid goes off the deep end, taking his next-door girlfriend with him.

Overall, I surprised myself with how much I’m hanging on with every new episode. Even the slower parts — as the characters go about their day, apart from the rolling crystal meth lab excitement — engage me, because they offer an almost real-time, real-life glimpse into how long it takes for relationships to form before the next thrill ride tests them.

I’ve been watching “Breaking Bad” on Netflix well into the next morning while crocheting two different afghans for two different friends, nursing my bad knee, and trying not to think about my mortality.

Somehow, I re-injured another ligament walking/running last week. I see my doctor Sat. Hopefully I won’t need an MRI, or surgery.

In the meantime, “Breaking Bad” is effectively taking me out of my own anxiety-ridden head and losing me in two fictional characters’ harrowing adventures that are a million times worse than mine.

I’ll take it, especially if I get to see that hottie *RJ Mitte (Walter Jr.) again. He was so my type when I was a little girl… Swoon.

Bella Italia, 1977

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Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

It started with Better Than Ezra and Lisa’s prom. I saw beauty pageant queens lining up inside Princess Kaiulani for their group picture, a snapshot of the maid of honor I would never become, this woman in an oversized version of her mom’s black velvet rhinestone make-up on another lonely Saturday at the University of Hawaii press gala.

This all happened before the cancer.

I wake up to Hall & Oates in the middle of a printing press on King St., rolling out the latest issue of “Ka Leo.” Bobby’s moving on, Monmouth a digital slab decades short of 9/11. He still has a chance.

Let me take you to Bella Italia, where the daily special’s always Puttanesca.

Million Dollar Spaghetti

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Photo by Elisabetta Foco on Unsplash

A talk with my 15-year-old son the other day led me to think about friendship, real friendship — the kind I’ve always longed for but could never recognize when it was staring me in the face.

What were we talking about? It started off with me asking if he knew what he wanted to do after a year with this new soccer team. Did he want to continue on, try out for another club, go rec?

This turned into quite a sad tale, as my son began to detail the limited options for him. He did so without any self-pity. It was all matter-of-fact, as if dissecting a verbal frog.

Most likely, James will continue with the team he’s on.

James love his teammates, trusts his coach — flaws and all, and believes in their chances at State in Feb. He really has fun too; that’s the most important thing.

So far, since joining in May, they’ve made it to the finals of the Sounders FC Cup and ranked third in their group in the recent Eastside FC Cup, both at Seattle Sounders’ Starfire Sports Complex.

When I pressed him about other possible options, James seemed less confident. He had firmly closed the door on two previous clubs geographically closer. Even if he tried hard to make the higher age division team, he told me there wouldn’t be room for him. “I’m not good enough.”

The rosters of all the competitive teams in all the competitive leagues nearby are already way past capacity. He’d have to play like Dempsey from the get-go, and even then, he couldn’t fight his way through the intricate socio-political game expertly played by parents and league coaches/directors. (Or so I’ve heard.)

He takes plenty of ribbing from his current teammates about the long drive to and from practice. We’re the only family outside the league district of Bellevue. Other parents have expressed a mixture of admiration and shock that I would agree to drive him that far. That’s okay. I’ve driven farther for baseball tournaments and to other people’s games, games my son wasn’t even a part of.

This Friday, I’m going with my best friend to watch her youngest play the third tournament this month down at 60 Acres in Redmond. After battling several heartbreaking defeats, Koll’s team finally won a tournament this past weekend when the game went down to PKs.

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Koll’s Crossfire team wins finals through sheer grit.

Why go on a perfectly good Friday afternoon? Because I love hanging around her, even when we’re waiting in the doctor’s office or volunteering at a high school concession stand, spilling cups of coffee. Her son is one amazing soccer player, too. He may very well be on TV one day playing for Real Madrid, he’s that good.

And, that’s what friends do. At least, that’s what I do.

My best friend always knows what to say to me when I’m feeling down. The talk with my son Sunday left me a little sad and depressed, and lonely. I felt badly for him, even though he’s long since moved on from those disappointments. To hear him say that no coach would want him on the team anyway, no matter what he did, is a disheartening thing to hear for any mom. To hear it from a kid who has come so far since his surprising asthma diagnosis (2014), surprising so many in previous games with previous teams… is devastating.

Even if coaches were only results-oriented, couldn’t they see that my tall, powerful, coachable son was an asset?

According to my best friend, bullshit like that happens all the time. Good players who deserve to be on the top teams get overlooked, in favor of the kid with connections. For a lot of the leagues, it’s about money and the path of least resistance. They go with the teams they know and stack them based on myriad factors, the least of which is the potential to go far.

My best friend gets me when no one else does. She has no excuses, either. She has four kids and a busy schedule 24/7. Yet, she finds time to support and comfort me. She makes me laugh when I feel like crying. She gives me these big, reassuring hugs without touching me.

She came through for me in flying colors last night with this bit of wisdom: “James is every bit good enough to be on any A team. It’s all the politics and bs. Every club has its issues and a pecking order.  It’s incredibly frustrating at times… It’s not just about being good enough or working hard enough. Sometimes it’s about a dill weed coach and their priorities.”

Facts and affirmation, ah! What a concept.

I don’t think she realizes that she’s one of the rare few who lives her compassion, who turns her bad experiences into caring moments, and who — despite everything she has to go through — extends herself to others anyway, when they’re hurting. She is everything a friend should be. She is the friend I’d always dreamed of, and can’t believe exists for real.

There isn’t enough birthday cakes in the world I could bake her that could make up for what she’s given me, freely.

 

After the talk Sunday, I reminded my son to live his compassion, too. Remember those bad times, try to help others, not help himself to more.

“I know you’ve been betrayed before, more times than you’ve told me. It can be hard to deal with. Turn those experiences into opportunities to be the kind of person you wished someone was for you.”

Last week at practice during the last of the hazy days, one of the newer players began suffering from a tightness in the chest. My son showed him how to slow his breathing, calm down, and rest a little. Then, he shared that the symptom is part of asthma, and that he had it too.

When their coach gets a little insane about winning, James is the one to advise the newer players — on the down-low — to take a lot of the ranting and raving with a grain of salt. He’s been there. He knows.

The next time he runs into a good player who gets rejected because of politics, or gets the runaround after a major sports injury, he can be the kind of person my best friend is for me.

The Show

“The award for the best liar goes to you.” —Rihanna

“There’s something very wrong with this family. Stay away from them. They hate everything you are.” —mall psychic

These are wonderful, true words. And I’m sure at that point in time she meant it.” —nobody

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I could just leave, and never come back. And so I did. Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

Here, my everything. A battered shoebox of my earthly riches: jacks and a ball, your heart in a sleeve, the book I thought would help. Nothing reaches the boy in a box, save for the gleam in the woods, his savior and his light. Bathed in the promise of salvation, he returns to the fold, a knife in his back, an empty bank account, the tendrils of her manufactured make-up. But maybe I made all that up.

I’m a sucker for a kind word, whether I give it to someone down on his luck, or whether I receive it myself, like a desperate desperado.

People like me are ripe for con artists, the twisted and sick, sad souls who see opportunity in weakness. The times they’ve conned me…

I keep coming back for more because I’m fucking weak, and — little-known secret — I’m good at following the script. There’s a sick, sad part of me that is playing along, playing the role of the Savior. I suppose that’s a bit of Narcissism. I’ll own it.

I gave so much to this tribe of church folk. They will never know just how much.

When I arrived in Seattle, I had nothing. I was standing at the crossroads. To the left, an affair and possible second marriage far far away. To the right, a white-picket-fence suburban life trying to make lemonade out of lemons, to man who could only love halfway, Depend diapers, and 200 pounds, a well-worn, but dirty groove.

Facing a handicapped life, I took the easy road, the only one I ever knew.

The slick shortcut led me to these pillars of society with their Pottery Barn homes and their pointless potlucks. They enjoyed my musician husband, for all he was worth, and let me tag along, the fat, dumpy project.

In hindsight, I wasted so much time with them when I could’ve gone back to work as a reporter, editor, maybe worked on that novel my English professor felt sure I had in me, maybe dropped the baby weight, got back on track running, eating clean.

So much fucking time.

Now, I see on Facebook that one of them is making a huge deal about her physical and emotional transformation (selling a new and improved makeover program from the inside out). Every one of her adoring fans, including the ex-husband she abandoned (or so I’ve heard), is up her formerly fat ass in worship.

Let the social media service commence.

I extended myself toward that ex-, naively thinking we were now in the same boat. Hurting over her and because of her. Survivors in our own special hell.

What the hell was I thinking?

In the back of my mind, the cynical side that my father cultivated, I worried that this was an elaborate act, one I wasn’t a part of.

He probably fell back in line. Like they all do. She’s just too beautiful, charming, and keenly intelligent to resist even after the lives she ripped through. She wins, I lose. She always wins. Always.

Or, maybe all that’s my imagination.

Remember, I’m the playwright in this forgotten role.