Story Kore -Visions of Serbia in 2003 – Part 1

I lived in Belgrade, Serbia in the summer of 2003.  My parents were living there, stationed for their tour at the time through the US Dept. of State in Foreign Service.  My dad was the Regional Medical Officer at the embassy and my mom was the Central Liaison Officer (fancy).  I was a recent college graduate chump pursuing an acting career.  One year out of my degree at this point, I had gained 40 lbs of stress-induced chuckery.  At 22 years old, this is not the look that would be getting me gigs.  That following winter I would be moving to New York City to start a graduate degree, so for the summer my parents suggested I come to Belgrade, intern with state, have some fun, loose some weight! Why the fuck not?!?

I do not remember landing in Belgrade, what it felt like, what it smelled like…I do not remember when I first met up with my mom, who was taking me to the embassy to meet up with my dad.  I DO remember the cab.  It was a small, red, old car that I think was a Yugo (*for those who do not know, Yugos were the one and only Yugoslavian car, manufactured up until maybe the 90s when the war broke out and the country started to disintegrate).  The driver seemed nice enough, I don’t quite remember what he was like, but my mother and I were sitting in the back.  We pulled up to the embassy.  I noticed my window was down maybe a few inches, and being the well-raised girl I am, I wanted to roll it up for him, so that’s what I did – cranked the roll up.  All of a sudden there was a loud POP and the window shatters.  My mom grabs me and pulls me down to the seat.  I yelled out, “I did it! I was rolling up the window and it broke!”

See, my mom thought we were bring shot at.  Welcome to Belgrade circa 2003.

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Look Back in Anger

As of late I have been extremely reflective, more so than ever.  I know that it’s because the last 3 years have been incredibly taxing and I’m trying to remember who I really am. To that end, I’ve been going through various archives, be it photo collections or old writings.
I was recently reminded of when I wrote an angry letter to the McLaughlin Group (for those of you who don’t know, a political “think tank” show on PBS), so I just looked it up in my email. Take yourself back to mid October, 2008 (the heat of the financial crisis) for a dose of classic Lila.  Here it is:

I am 28 years old and I want to make an appeal to the middle aged and older of America, which includes your panelists: We in our 20’s have had the pleasure of spending this decade of our lives when we transition into adulthood exclusively with the punishment of the Bush Administration.  We need to be freed of this punishment and when you all make outrageous, unfounded, personally-loaded statements like you do in your panels, you are further pushing myself and my friends and other young people into the fear of having to spend our next decade in similar doldrums.  We are already damned because the financial burdens are ours to solve, i.e., ours to pay.  It is our backs which you all have thrown the tons of fiscal mistakes for the next 20 years, squandering our youth in borderline poverty, or full-blown.  It must have been nice to live in circumstances were you had a living piggy bank in the young.  Calling Barak Obama’s plan “typical Democratic Socialism” as Robin Hood “stealing from the rich to give to the poor?”  A more appropriate delineation is stealing from the young to pay the excesses of the old.  How could you use such propagandized statements as Socialism?  Who do you think you ARE?!?

Pat Buchanan just said the top 5% pay 60%of the taxes…Warren Buffet himself said on Charlie Rose that that is a misleading number and that the main burden is upon the bottom of the middle class.  That is another point-blank example of what I mean by outrageous statement.

Please, PLEASE start thinking before you speak.  Remember the Iroquois credo of thinking of everything you do affecting the next seven generations.  You have all already let us down and put us down and out to flap in the wind.  Everyone wonders why the youth of America aren’t organizing like in the 60’s…. it’s because we have had 8 years to see that no one cares about how we feel and what we need.  It’s screaming into the void of laughing faces, a garbage waste of time.  You now have the gift of a full generation of jaded, disaffected, apathetic youth.  Congratulations.

YOU all have a moral obligation to free us young people of a lifetime imprisoned in other peoples debts.  McCain has traditionally been an exciting politician, but he no longer adheres to the politics that made him famous and successful: he has been pandering to the base for the last 3 years merely to win the presidency and that it completely untrustable behavior.  I nor anyone I know can have an untrustable president.

But how could I be so naiive to ask for a moral obligation?  Lack of morals is exactly what brought us here.  The press, the media, have been pulverized into compliant participants in the problems that we now have, and I wouldn’t classify it as “the liberal media” by any means, more like “the corporate media.”  You have all been frightened into behaving so well and it’s scandalous and shameful.  Do one good thing before you leave the planet: thinking with your brain and heart at the same time, not one separated from the other.  This country is not your restaurant where the elders are the customer and the youth are the waiter, the busboy, and the dishwasher.

I started a joke…and it’s called THIS BLOG!

“[There is] nothing more futile than wanting to be anything other than what I am by nature.” Tchaikovsky

Ever since I first learned how to write, I have been writing my thoughts down for an audience of one: ME.  In fact, I still have my diary from 1st grade. In one entry, I complained about a girl saying she made me feel like Dimetapp, which is an inappropriate insult, because Diametapp tastes good.  Nonetheless, audience of one.

When I was in high school, my then-boyfriend’s friends and I passed a notebook to each other weekly where we would basically write journal entries for each other to read.  This was a proto-blog (we could have made millions had we thought more dynamically). It was to discuss those things we wanted each other to know but could not stand to say.  It was, however, for this incredibly small minority of people.

Cut to just before modern day, when web journals and blogs first made their appearance.  I came across a couple that literally floored me based on the quality of the writing and the content.  This was before people were monetizing blogs and the writing was so raw and intense; I was mesmerized.  These folks wanted an anonymous, public audience to speak to, because with this interface of anonymity, they felt safe to be honest, and they desperately needed someone else to know what they were feeling.  I felt the same way, sort of: I wanted to share what I was feeling, but I was highly skeptical of stranger’s ability to be compassionate and I was too critical of what I was writing.  So over the years, I have strewn the internet with a few unfinished blogs started at various times in my life, and since I do not know the names of the blogs or the passwords to get in, they will forever be preserved in the detritus of the internet garbage. And I’ve never told anyone about them.

Throughout my life I have also been commended as being a good writer, by both people who celebrate my existence and lament it. So I figure if it is “universally” accepted by both friend and foe that this is something I can do, perhaps it is, dare I say, true?

What is motivating me to do this now, some may ask? Well, most of my life, I have always said whatever the hell crosses my mind.  Don’t get me wrong: I was raised right, and I know when to shut my mouth, or rather I can shut it when it really is important.  I am, however, “what I am by nature,” and I have definitely stuck my foot in my mouth when I thought it would be received differently. That, in fact, is what my first story is going to be about: a really excellent example of when I stuck my foot in my mouth without meaning to. But before I get to that, I’m doing this now, and committing to it in a way that I haven’t in the past, because of two reasons:

  1. Sitting for long periods of time has NEVER been something I am good at.  I’m still not, but since I work with a computer now all day long, I have grown way more comfortable with being in front of one for a long period of time.  And since I have a son who takes naps on the weekends and I have to be inside the house while he is sleeping, well, it’s another possible reason to write.
  2. The last 3 years of my life have been amongst the most silent of my life.  They were very tough and I didn’t want anyone to know, so I barely had anything to say.  Now I feel better, and it’s like someone broke the fucking Hoover Dam  it’s pouring out like crazy.  I have to have somewhere to have all of these raging waters to go.

A warning to the reader – I rarely write in short-form.  I was that person who, when we got a pop quiz in history class, I would write a 10-page answer to the essay question.  By hand.  I don’t know – it’s just the way I am.

I’m inspired by  a multitude of writers, but I intend on story telling, with the occasional Emerson/Susan Sontag – like essayist writings. Oh, and you need to know now: the inspiration of George Carlin will be seen in my work big time. Deal with it.

These entries will come in no particular order, ever.  Some will be stories from the past, some will be stories of the now, some will be essays on things that interest me, and may be interesting to you, or may be so motherfucking boring you want to pull your eyes out. This is my incubator, my petrie dish.  I’m merely experimenting.  But thanks for being interested.

Ok, story number 1.

When I was 24, I left my fiance for a guy who would become my husband, but at the time he was just an extremely handsome guy that was wild as hell and took me over the edge. After I left my then-fiance, he embarked on a revenge campaign to get everyone in my life to hate me and side with him.  In most cases it did not work, but in some cases he made mild headway.  Strangely enough, one of those couples he made headway with were none other than my brother and sister-in-law.  I remember the first time my brother met my then-fiance he said he was a wimp, and over time, he never really grew to like him.  Cut to me breaking up with the guy, in mere days my brother and sister-in-law were singing his praises. Talk about a master manipulator – can you begin to see PERHAPS why I left the guy?

Anyways, my sister-in-law became pregnant with their first child shortly after I left this guy for the new guy.  Her mother planned a baby shower at her and my brother’s apartment, to which I was invited, and so was my ex. I dreaded going; I was poor as hell since my ex was no gentleman and he kicked me out of our apartment with nothing; we co-owned just about everything. In fact, our bed at the time had been a birthday gift for me, but nonetheless, he kept it.  He was a real asshole, ok?

Here comes the baby shower.  I’ve literally never been to one in my life at the time this is happening.  Because I was so poor, all I bought was a stuffed animal for the baby at Target for I think 7 dollars.  Remember: I’m 24 and the youngest and I have no interest in children so I know literally nothing about what I’m supposed to do.  I show up with this little yellow bear and the place is full of beautiful, huge gifts.  Oh and my ex is there already.  And it’s not a huge group of people and it’s a small apartment.  I immediately go for a beer.

I park myself next to my brother’s best friend.  He is a military guy with the same demented sense of humor as my brother.  We talk and drink and talk.  All the while, I’m profoundly aware my stupid fucking ex is there, ruining my life.  Then presents begin.

They are all horribly boring.  I had never been so bored.  I didn’t care about babies, I didn’t care about baby stuff.  They get to the gift from my ex and it’s a huge, round stuffed animal from a Japanese cartoon as well as some big amount of money.  Then my brother says something to him like, “Future baby-sitter!”  I think I pounded a full beer in 30 seconds after that exchange. I started to feel like I was in hell.  But in classic me-parlance, “Things are bad now, and they’re only gonna get worse.”

My sister-in-law opens a card and reads it out loud, “Here is a gift to keep your baby safe.”  I was by no means drunk, not even close.  But I was at my brother and sister in law’s apartment; a place I had been frequently.  In fact, just prior to this party, i was living with them when I first separated from my ex.  This being noted, it is a place I felt very comfortable.  I also, in that moment, only thought about the faces I recognized – my family and a few of my brother’s friends.  In that moment I forgot the room was crawling with female friends of my sister in law’s mom.  So, I’ll remind you, she read the card: “Here is a gift to keep your baby safe.”

And I answered back, “Yea – a GUN!.”

I honestly thought for that split second in time people would think what I said was funny, as that was the intention.  In fact, if it had just been the core people I was thinking of when I said it, we all would have died.  But no – no no no.  That wasn’t what happened. An already horribly awkward and painful situation just got worse.  Like a cartoon, almost every face in the room turned to me with the kind of drama reserved for telanovellas, and gasped. Horror gasped.  Including my sister in law, who under different circumstances would have totally laughed. I can’t remember what my brother did initially, but he did do a super awesome point-and-smile combo that was like, “THAT’S my sister!”  I remember thinking in those milliseconds following everyone’s shocked response to my, in my humble opinion, pretty excellent  peanut-gallery comment, that everyone in the room must think I am “the drunk relative,” which was a humiliating thought.  I also did whatever I could not to meet eyes or meet anything with my ex, as I knew that he must be deriving extreme pleasure in the schadenfreude sense out of everything that has transpired.

I was at the height of public embarrassment and shame. And right when I thought I’d give in to feeling categorically as pathetic as I had ever felt, my brother’s best friend leaned over and whispered to me, “I was gonna say it, but you said it first.”

It’s the little things….