More than a decade has passed since I embraced social media with open arms. It feels like it has been a part of my life forever, but of course it has not. Earlier, as I opened a browser on my computer, I realized that I really did not have a website in particular I wanted to visit.
I gave up on Facebook (FB) long before it became the ruler of Algorithmia- the land of the lulled, content feeding masses. I disliked it solely on the fact that it required users to conform through abject banality. There were absolutely zero modifications allowed to the profile, thereby creating a false sense of inclusion. Fucking fake as fuck in my eyes, but whatever. It came, it saw, it manipulated users into believing they were a part of a larger, global community. When really everyone’s been mostly talking shit to the people they never liked in high school, because hey, we’re all old now, right?
As FB became the dominate online destination, I noticed the subtle manipulations in the feeds. I went so far as to conduct the research for an academic-style article to address how transparently evil FB was. The numerous FB sanctioned experiments conducted on users were never secret, not really. There were cookie crumbs that individuals could have followed to find the truth, but as the oft quoted movie line goes, “you can’t handle the truth!” This was during the early days of the 2016 American presidential campaigns. Early 2014 would be my best estimation, although I could refer to the creation dates on the original outlines, but I digress.
I came back to this article outline every time there was a ridiculous headline regarding the erosion of privacy, or a blip about the collection of behavioral data, or massive data breach. But I could never bring myself to finish the piece because it was glaringly obvious that the average user had no interest in the numerous ways they were being tracked and manipulated online. In fact, they were totally cool with it as long as the echo chambers they’d safely secured themselves in stayed full of the sweet, sweet smell of confirmation bias.
The election cycle came and went, a reality TV star became the 45th president of the United States, and the echo chambers have remained. Hell, they not only remain, they have become the norm. Thanks to algorithms, users are guaranteed to feed their favorite biases daily! No contrary or transgressive thoughts will ever pollute their online shopping experiences. Because that’s what social media has become: The planet’s largest collection of shit you don’t need, served up on ADHD satiating platters of click-bait.
As the rock stars on the social media global brand management teams continue to quantify the amount of clicks a rousing hashtag can bring, I’ve decided that there is not much I want to view on a computer anymore. When it comes to social media, mobile content is key. I don’t want to think, I just want to be fed content. Let the algorithms amuse me, I don’t need to think for myself.
I had a conflicted relationship with my grandmother. Growing up the dark-eyed, dark-haired one in a family of Germanic blondes was somewhat difficult. Add to this the fact that she was a hardcore nuclear housewife and believed all women were destined for lives of domestic servitude; it can be easy to understand where the friction came from. Since I did not fit the California Blonde ideal that my cousins did, I would have to learn other skills to find and keep a man. And grandma felt it was her duty to reinforce this into my thick skull.
Grandmother was also of diminished capacity from several “head injuries”, or so the adults in my life told me. There had been a nasty interaction between my maternal family and the father of cousin. One of their California Blondes had gotten knocked up at 17 and been forced to marry the guy, which was common in the late-60s. Within a few years this shotgun union had soured and he attempted to kidnap the kid. During commission of this crime, he ran both of my grandparents down with his car in the street in front of their suburban home. And thus began the lifelong story of not taking what either grandparent said to heart because they were both physically damaged. Funny what stories adults will tell to make sense of their dysfunction to children, but I digress.
Oddly it was my mother and I who always ended up caring for grandma whenever she needed it. The California Blonde, Orange County relations were always too busy to assist, in spite of their positions as grandma’s favorites. After her aneurysm in the late-80s, I was the one who moved into the guesthouse in Burbank and cared for her. In her later years she moved in with my mother, who served as her primary caregiver until her death. She spent more time around my son than any of the other great-grands. The other side of the family had been completely unable to deal with the stress and proved to be utterly useless. Occasional phone calls, rare visits and gifts in the mail were all grandma got in the end from her favorites. And she was mean and batshit crazy until the very end. And I was there until that end, still able to perform feats no one else could.
One morning when I walked into their house to drop off my young son with my mother, I was struck by the realization that I was going to find my grandmother dead on the floor someday. It was a profoundly creepy feeling, but I left and went on my way to work. Later in the day my mother informed me that my grandmother had been admitted into the hospital during the early morning hours. Having been found unresponsive in bed by mother just after midnight. My mother indicated that grandma was somewhat out of it, but able to communicate. I was filled with a sense of knowing that my grandmother had already left and that was what I had felt when I entered the house that morning.
Things did not improve; in fact, the prognosis became dire within the first day of the hospital stay. Grandma had suffered a major brain hemorrhage and would likely never recover. My grandmother had been very aware of her health in her latter years and had refused dialysis for at least two years prior to this catastrophic event. My mother had discussed with her the implications of her decision to forego medical intervention. “Eventually something will quit working, you will likely fall into a coma and then be placed in hospice until you die.” Grandma was totally cool with this, ever the progressive Californian she had signed all the right documents to prevent heroic measures.
When they transferred grandma to hospice I decided to make a visit. I had not seen my aunt or cousin in several years at this point because as an adult I did not have to interact with toxic people. It was a hardcore move, but one that my mother respected because there was no denying the dysfunction that had always existed within her family. To have a reunion of three generations of women in a hospice room was poetic. My cousin had traveled from her east coast life where she is essentially a housewife having married well. My aunt is a bitter, toxic person having been traded-in by her successful husband for a younger, newer model before she was 40-years-old. The first words my aunt said to me were regarding my body. Always the one for noting appearances, I guess it astounded her to compare me side-by-side to her trophy daughter, who had acquired the middle-age spread that can accompany the housewife lifestyle.
There was tense small talk between the others and myself. All of which was conducted over the death rattle coming from my grandmother. I had been in this situation several times before this, but it was all new to my cousin and aunt, who are control freaks. My cousin was most visibly affected by how my grandmother looked. Gone was the dyed hair and well-kept appearance. “Yeah, she didn’t want to go to the hairdresser anymore,” I had quipped. The cousin had not visited in several years, and grandma’s decline during this time had been drastic. Dying is not always a quick process. I had been at the side of several of my ex-husband’s relatives during their deaths. It’s not an easy cycle to watch, but you do get accustomed to the stages of it. Grandma was said to suffer from dementia during her last years. I believe her true, ugly self was showing thru the façade, but that’s just my opinion. And the sound of grandma’s death rattle was unnerving me because my cousin kept asking what was wrong, why was she making that sound. My mother and I were the only ones aware that grandma was dying.
The hospice grandma was in was a nice facility. Thankfully she had not been admitted to the location with a children’s ward because who-the-fuck wants to see the ugly reality of dying children. In fact I had never considered that this type of service was necessary before. I spoke briefly with my cousin, who was obviously shaken by this entire situation. She had kept an image of her grandmother in her head and had not had to face the reality for quite a few years now. The grandmother in her head could not be reconciled with the one that now lay dying in the other room. When we went back into the room, our mothers were silently staring at their mother and the sound of the death rattle was deafening. I requested a radio, which a nurse quickly provided. I tuned it to a 40’s swing music station because I knew this was grandma’s favorite. Grandma’s hands were now very claw-like and my cousin was attempting to put lotion on them, but it upset her too much. As we four congregated in a corner and discussed the inevitable in hushed tones, grandma started to choke.
The panic in the room was palpable. Especially with my aunt and cousin. They were still coming to terms with the fact that no one was feeding grandma or giving her water. They had provided sponges that we could use to moisten her lips and tongue, but that was it. Everyone rushed to the bedside and the chatter revolved around what to do, should they do anything because it simply delayed the end and why was no one coming to assist. My mother reminded them that there was a medical directive to deny intervention. But my aunt and cousin looked sickened by this realization, so I stepped up and asked them to hand me one of the sponges on a stick. I opened my grandmother’s mouth, stuck the sponge deep into the back of her throat and swabbed out the contents. As I removed the sponge every other person in the room reacted with revulsion. My aunt gagged and had to turn away. My cousin did the same, except she turned green and walked away. My mom was able to hand me a plastic cup before she too had to leave the room. So it was just my grandma and I and a cup full of sickly phlegm and I had just given her a bit more life to appease others.
Afterward all women present joked with me about how they had reacted to my actions. The also lauded by ability to stay calm and intervene when they had all choked and been unable to act. I mostly thought about how this would now be added to our family lore. I would forever be known as the only one who helped the grandmother I had never been very fond of. I left shortly after this event and grandmother passed away peacefully the next morning. I visited with my cousin once before she left. She seemed disgusted that there would be no memorial service, but we are all California natives and have no relations in our current states. Grandma had a few siblings who were alive, but none had indicated any desire to travel for a funeral or memorial. So this was all there would ever be to commemorate her passing. The cousin stated she would likely never return once she left, which made sense to me. Not like I’d miss her.
Several months later my mother and I delivered grandma’s ashes back to Southern California. We visited her mother’s grave at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills and placed some of her ashes there. A graveside, I might add, that had not been visited in probably two decades or more. I broke the law, but fuck it, my grandparents were pioneers in the area. We also placed some of her ashes behind the family home, which has been torn down and replaced with a McMansion. I had gathered up a carload of my friends and we went on a covert mission down the alleyways of Burbank. Due to the overbuilding in the area, we were initially unable to find the family home and placed the ashes along the wrong fence. But we went back and made it right an hour later after realizing our mistake. We then took some of the ashes to the beach and tossed them off a pier. Once again breaking a law or some city ordinance. But we’ve a saying that has always applied, cop didn’t see it, I didn’t do it.
In the end I am left with the only legacy my grandmother left me and it is this: we are not women who outsource the end-of-life tasks to others. She tended to her mother until her death, my mother tended to her mother until her death, and I am set to tend to my mother until her end. This is simply what the women in my family do and I am no different. I have included the scan that clearly shows the hemorrhage that finally killed my grandmother. I keep it as reminder that life can be over in an instant and the bitches in my family are prone to bursting blood vessels in their brains. 🙂
It was recently brought to my attention that I have not published anything since February. The reasons for this lag are mostly due to the amount of extracurricular activities that I have undertaken in the past year. And thanks to the person who reminded me some people do still read.
Those of you who follow me perhaps know that one year ago I graduated with a business degree and got into beekeeping. After five years of school, and the constant academic writing that it required, I guess I was just plum out of shit to write about. But I need to pick up the writing pace again, in spite of the fact that the bees have been keeping me busy as, well, a bee.
Back in the day there was a 7-11 near the intersection of Yucca Street and Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood. A Google map search confirmed that it still exists as of December 2014. This was back in the 1990, when Lalaland was a-flutter with raves and underground parties. I believe that the group I was with had just left Bourgeois Pig when we stopped at the convenience store. We were en route to a party and had stopped off at the coffee shop to score drugs. Not sure if it’s still a big drug haven, but designer drugs were everywhere back then. So were coffee shops.
As I walked inside to purchase something, probably cigarettes, I somehow managed to drop several ecstasy tablets on the ground by the front counter. What’s a gal to do when she loses drugs that are not hers? Well, I can tell you what I did next. I threw my hands in the air and shouted, “Nobody move! I dropped drugs!” Not sure what would happen in modern day Los Angeles, but back then my fellow customers stopped what they were doing and joined me on my hands and knees and helped me locate the missing drugs.
Safely back in the car, my group had no idea that I had just caused a completely illegal scene in a convenience store. I did not have the heart to tell anyone that the drugs had just been on the gross floors of downtown 7-11. Not like the shit hadn’t been stepped on before we ever saw it anyway, right?
Time to get my creativity flowing again. I have been busy with academic writing, which has its own rewards, but can be less than satisfying. So, let’s talk about beer runs. You remember those, right? You’re at a party and suddenly there is no more beer, and that simply has to be corrected as quickly as humanly possible?
This was a common occurrence during my formative years, and because I had a car, I was often the one called upon to assist in these emergency situations. Of course being female also meant I was often times a necessary implement in procuring the alcohol. We called it ‘pimping beer’, which essentially meant I had to stand around outside and ask adults, usually males, to purchase it on our behalf. This particular evening though being female was not part of the equation, only the car.
I have accepted that my main role within the crew of guys I hung out with was as their designated get-away driver. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I can see that is what I did. I believe that the statutes of limitations have expired for most all our juvenile delinquent activities, at least I hope that they have.
To say that I ran with a rowdy crowd is a polite way of admitting that I was a borderline hoodlum. This particular evening a group of skinheads had shown up to the party we were at. At some point during the festivities I was called upon to assist with a beer run. I didn’t see this as unusual because as I have mentioned, it was one of my regular duties. After we had all loaded into my car, I noticed that it was too late to purchase alcohol, and I mentioned this to my passengers. There were two guys from my normal crew, and two from the one that had shown up. One of the bald guys told me not worry about it because he knew of a place that he could still get beer from. I followed the directions he gave from the back seat as we drove along the deserted streets.
Eventually we pulled up in front of a closed liquor store. I was somewhat confused as the two bald guys told us to wait in the car, and got out. They casually approached the front of the store, picked up a huge cement ashtray by the entrance, and threw it through the glass double-doors. Of course I immediately went into shock because it was apparent I was now a part of something that was more than just a beer run. As my friends and I sat in my car in a stunned silence, listening to the sound of the alarm going off, we didn’t say a word to each other. As quickly as the bald ones had entered the store, they came back out the door, throwing a keg through the doors to make more room for their exit; however, one of them got cut by the glass on their way out.
The sight of blood in my car was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, I had grown accustomed to it and the smell barely bothered me anymore. I immediately took off once they had loaded their booty into the back of my hatchback. The boys were all chattering, the bald ones laughing, but my pals were a bit more vocal with their ‘what-the-fuck-just-happened’ thoughts. I stared straight ahead, completely silent, and drove. Making sure to obey the speed limit, use turn signals, and not miss a single stop sign.
I don’t remember how the evening ended, I believe someone needed stitches, but I cannot be sure. Several of my crew came out to assist me in cleaning up the blood that was throughout my car. I believe they realized that I was rather upset with what had happened, but did their best to console me. We all had a good laugh over the fact that no one had a tap for the keg that had come flying through the front doors.
I learned a very important lesson that evening, and it is one that I have never forgotten: Whenever someone says they need to make a beer run, always make sure that they can still legally do so before offering to drive them anywhere.