Top “me changing” things that happened in Austin…

Top “me changing” things that happened in Austin…

These life-changing items are ranked by importance. When I say “by importance,” I mean the impact that they had on shaping the me of today. They are all character-building experiences. Unfortunately, as a man manque in Austin, the negative and the tragic ones impressed me more than the positive and beautiful ones. I hope things will be different the rest of my life, but who knows? They aren’t always in Austin, but they all took place during this era of my life that I called Austin my home.

1. Quitting the state job and returning to Ahmis.
This is by far the stupidest decision I ever made. It wasn’t a bad choice due to being poorly informed about my options, being naive, being myopic about the future. I don’t waste my time anymore with hindsight-is-20/20 kinds of woulda shoulda couldas, but this isn’t one of those. It was a bad choice to the point of being perverted. I had just spent an entire year detesting my job, Karen Winthrop, and the other people I worked with. To decide to go back there, take a pay cut, and work part time because I was too scared to tell Guillermo, the loser at the state job the higher ups didn’t want to deal with themselves, where he could stick it. To this day, few people know this as my real reason for having left the state job.

2. Jamaica.
Not exactly in Austin, but a three day, two night experience with two of the long-term Austin characters in this saga, Dennis my future roommate, and Karen Winthrop. It was planned during the months of non-stop happy hours and lunches loaded with pitchers of beer, and the execution of the experience began and ended in Austin. Jamaica, was for my personal purpose, a life-changing Austin experience.

3. Lucy kicking me out of her life the first time.
This was Lucy’s first lesson in getting me to grow a set. You can’t kick a man in the nads if he has none to kick. I grew some in the month that followed, became that much less of the mama’s boy I still was, and got the confidence to convince Ahmis to give me a 25% raise and let me do sales.

4. Mama dies of cancer.
It is ranked so far from the top (relative to where it will probably end up on a similar, overall life list) because, as I write this, I’ve still successfully managed to repress much of the grief and not really deal with how this might be affecting me. It’s also simply still too soon to say how this sort of thing will guide the rest of my life choices. Suffice to say, I haven’t worked like a drone at the IAH for the past year and two months just because I love working at the IAH. Karen Winthrop and Deidre insisting on attending her funeral–I have yet to really sit down and process the meaning of that.

5. Losing Olivia.
Olivia is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a girlfriend I would seriously consider marrying were she to pop into my life today, with me knowing everything I now know about myself and the world. At the time, there were going to be a large solid mass of female options pulsating in downtown Austin, begging for a guy like me to weigh those options on a monthly basis. I didn’t even realize how much grief I had over the loss of the relationship until a Muse song started playing in my car one day–“Falling away with you…” and, this was three and a half years after we broke up–and I discovered I’d successfully kept the grief buried under booze, Karen Winthrop and Vera.

6. The bicycle accident.
This really will require more extensive examination of everything surrounding it. Suffice to say here, I started at the top of a hill–the physical one was unexceptional, the metaphorical one my ego peaking like it never had before–the final week of the political campaign and my supreme confidence that I would win the second Russian at Ahmis for a wife–and I ended up at the bottom of the hill in a heap of battered man and bike, thanks to a motorist crossing in front of me, totally blind to me. I went from thinking I was someone very special and important, being among the top of the pile at Ahmis and holding a top position on a political campaign, to thinking I was weak and fragile, thanks to someone who just didn’t see me.

7. The first trip to San Francisco.
The trip that really got the whole ego ball rolling. Lucy and I had just gotten back together. It was spring. I’d fallen in love with Lucy again for the third time, and I proceeded to fall in love with a city for the first time.

8. The political campaign.
The other side of the coin to the bicycle accident. I went from reading lots of magazines full of commentary about how much Bush sucks, and reading most of My Life, to being involved full-time in politics, albeit as a volunteer–all in the course of one summer. By the time Obama first came to town, I was less interested in politics than any time in my life since high school. The bicycle accident wasn’t the only moment of my ego getting smashed, just the most visible–the knockout blow. But, all throughout the campaign, it was surely to be death by a million little cuts, if the accident hadn’t gotten to me first.

9. The old dog dies/the puppy arrives.
All within the timeframe of a few days–Anastasia finally succumbs to cancer on the floor of the apt right before work, and dies in my arms. Three days later, the puppy Buffy is dumped at Barton Springs and nobody wants to take her home. She seems especially interested in me, and especially scared of most everyone else. I hadn’t seen a stray dog in Austin with no collar or tags in years. The timing was impeccable.

10. The college reunion road trip to Missouri.
This took place in between Lucy kicking me out the first time, and her coming back in the spring for us to touch hearts and live together. On a whim, after getting lonely and talking more to my friend Jerry from college, I decided to drive up to Missouri, taking up cigarettes again, drinking lots of Mountain Dew just like the old days, traveling the familiar way Olivia and I took a half dozen times when we were together and my parents still lived in Missouri. I paused at the old boyhood home to see it was nothing like it had become in my nightmares where I still pop in to this day, and drove out to Roy’s and Nama’s graves, out in Nirvana, an unincorporated town near Murphy’s Falls. I was full of sorrow, and hardly wanted to go on to Columbia and see Jerry and the old gang and party, but I did. It was a necessary trip, but not one I ever wish to take again. I had to exorcise some demons–to see and remember my college years for what they were–wasted time in experimenting with seeing how long I could stay a boy.

11. Becoming a homeowner.

12. The Ahmis curse is lifted, then Ramsey Ahmis dies in the same building my mama did.

13. Christmas 2000.
Money spent to drive Olivia to see her family over Thanksgiving, but we are too much in a hurry to see mine. My parents, having just bought their home in Bastrop, come to spend our little Christmas, the second without Roy, at their new place. I buy them a live tree and decorate the place by myself. Olivia comes by, but she is in a hurry to get back to Austin to spend time with her coworkers. She was going to break up with me in two weeks, anyway. Christmas night spent at Deidre’s. Karen Winthrop behaves badly, talking to me like I’m a chump while we play spades, and is mean to my dog.

14. Purchasing the Mustang.
This changed my life in many ways. I was four payments away from owning my little Mirage. I really couldn’t afford the Mustang at the level of financing and payments they offered, but the pushy finance guy, coupled with my insistence on having control over something in my life, brought about this rather foolish purchase. Used to driving a tiny little four-banger that required you to turn of the a/c when going up hills or merging into freeway traffic, I was scared to death by the power of the Mustang, in spite of the fact that you generally see college girls around town driving this type of vehicle, because it is a cheap v6 that can take a lot of abuse and not make you feel bad later for having abused it–so lots of daddies get them for their little girls so that they can feel like they are driving something more special than the family sedan. To think I was so intimidated by it the day I drove it home, but I was. Lucy came into my life a month or two after, and everyone said that she’d become my girlfriend because of the Mustang, and I’d gotten a Mustang to attract a girl like Lucy (who could by hot and skinny and blonde when she wanted to). People were wrong, though. I bought the Mustang because everything else about my life was not going my way, so when some finance guy told me I could have one, I bought it, in spite of the fact that I really couldn’t afford it and would have to spend another five years in Austin working to pay it off.

15. The night Lucy’s heart and my heart touched and forged a bond almost impossible to break.

16. Lucy leaves/returns X 6 + leaves for good.
Was there a definitive, life-changing moment in all of that? Maybe the first time, and so it ranks as number 3. The other six times, plus the last time she left for good, all add up to the shaping of a man’s character–for better or worse, I have a little bit more manhood in me from all of it than I otherwise would have. I am much less prone to think like some whiny little liberal fanboy who still hides behind his beard and reads comic books.

18. The night of the Ray Charles concert, with Karen Winthrop.

19. The conversation where Olivia told me that I meant no more or less to her than any other guy she ever dated, as I stood there in the rec room of the house we’d just bought together, after recently adopting a dog together, and moving hundreds of miles to a new state to start a new life together.

20. The morning after Olivia’s first day on the job in Austin, waking up next to her in my Aunt and Uncle’s guest bedroom, and discovering the fun-loving girl I’d fallen madly in love with up in Kansas City would never quite return. The Icequeen cometh.

21. The drunken e-mail I sent Olivia following Jamaica, almost a year after we’d broken up, and all of the anger it left in my heart for years to come.

22. Waking up next to Deidre following  the second try at sex.

23. Waking up next to Karen Winthrop–the third and final time she would lure me there.

24. The night at the Hole in the Wall, including the asshole doorman, and the jackass friends I was with.

25. The night I hit rock bottom at the end of the year of endless happy hours, trying to get two older girls to dance with me in a sad little hotel bar, and feeling like ass when they didn’t say yes, and sneaking out from the group, and walking all the way home drunk at 3 am in the morning, seriously considering the possibility of getting in my car and leaving for California that night.

26. Karaoke, first Ahmis Christmas party.

27. Realizing at the IAH that my mad skills are no fluke.

28. The day I woke up at Vera’s and realized I was in way too far with someone (who in my mind at the time was many ways inferior to Olivia) to make an easy exit.

29. Jury duty for a murder trial.

30. One of the last lucid moments my mama had.
This is separate from Mama dying, because it was a glimpse at my Dad having reached the maximum capacity of how much he really could deal with the cancer stuff, having dealt with it really since 1995, seeing two of his sons (the one he hardly cared about and the one he cared about more than the world itself) die on him–you never saw him so small and scared like he was that day in the Northwest Austin hospital where I came by to take over for him so he could go home and feed the cats and get some alone time. At that moment, he stood about five-three, and any lingering anger that was left in me toward him disappeared for good.

31. Realizing that meeting and dating (reasonably good-looking) women using a personals service isn’t for me.

32. The Ahmis temper tantrum where Wanda almost fired me. How it was brought on by me trying to give up all vices and go vegan and start a new workout regime and shave my head and get religion all in the course of one week.

33. Teaching ESL.

34. Bastrop visits to mom and dad.

35. Visitation rights for Anastasia–being a stranger in my own home.

36. The Lucy camping trip.
Right before Lucy moved back in with me and started screwing the first guy after having moved out. I was waiting for any kind of sign that we could be more than friends, and it didn’t happen. We got along so well, too, when we were forced to do something out of our ordinary routine. Lucy would have made an excellent wife for when the world starts to go to complete shit. But, alas, in the meantime when all is well, she’s just a basket case and possibly a psychopath.

37. The night Vera’s security bar fell on her door while we were on her porch, and the shouting and crying that ensued.
This was the moment I realized that I could never marry Vera, or someone like her. A woman who loses her cool over something like that (and causes me to lose my cool), then cries over it, had better be a gloriously delicate little flower, beautiful and mostly way out of my league. A five-nine, 165 lb woman with average looks crying like a little girl about getting locked out on her second story porch would not make for a good wife when the world starts to go to complete shit.

38. The Olivia camping trip.
Once the sun went down, the misery started. Trying to sleep out on the beach in her Isuzu Trooper, burning up hot with sand and salt in every pore and crevice–this wasn’t working, so I slept out on the ground, watching the headlights of SUVs driven by drunken locals come directly at me all night, then veer off at the last minute. We never went camping together again, and mostly, Olivia proved to me that she would not make for a good wife when the world starts to go to complete shit.

39. The Gavi Ashkenazi experience.
Gavi and Roy share the same birthday. I overheard Gavi, who’d started working at Ahmis right before me, talking about his mother’s death. I still believed in the time that certain coincidences like shared tragic experiences and dates meant something, and talked my way over to his house one night to smoke pot. He put something deep into my head that night, rambling incoherently to Olivia’s ears but making sense to me while I was stoned. Gavi had some kind of access to the spirit world that I decided I didn’t want to know about. The next day at Ahmis, he started bullying me in a weird sort of way, making me feel rather uncomfortable. And, as I’d done with my perverted return to Ahmis to work again with Karen Winthrop for less money, I agreed to work on a movie with Gavi that went nowhere. This probably should be much higher up the list, but I worked pretty hard to forget about Gavi and his cult leader-like behavior once I’d stopped talking to him for good.

40. New Year’s weekend right before Lucy kicked me out the first time.
I make this separate from Lucy kicking me out, because it is primarily about how my parents hovered over me sweetly, seeing how miserably broken my heart was, and how much I hated their hovering at the time.

41. Karen Winthrop completely abnegates all responsibility on a project, continues to “work at home,” and gets promoted.

42. Karen Winthrop chews me out over the phone for sleeping through half the day after I’d stayed up all night on mushrooms, driving Perry Webber, one of the happy hour gang home.

43. Vera and I take a road trip to Ft. Worth.

44. Olivia leaves me completely alone for the first time since Roy’s death.

45. Fourth of July during the summer of the endless happy hour.

46. Vera adopts one of my parents’ kittens.

47. The Willie Nelson 10K, doing better than Vern Trotter.

48. The day we found the first litter of Bastrop kittens.

49. The night Olivia and I went to see her future husband’s band play. She’d been raving about him for months. The way their eyes met with love. The way he eyed me with cold indifference.

50. Olivia tells me she’s getting married.

51. The one time Olivia walked around Town Lake with me.

52. The Book People/Whole Foods experience–escapist activity from Ahmis, and the places where Olivia and I would meet on our lunches and after work. The last walk over to Book People while I worked at Ahmis.

53. My mom walks all the way around my block, about a mile, with my dad and dog and me, two and a half months before she dies. A powerful memory of her strength. After it was all said and done for the years I knew my parents while they were both alive, it turned out my mom was the tougher one. You couldn’t move her faith with all the world militaries combined.

54. I get my own place where I can keep Anastasia. This effectively ends the relationship with Vera, as I no longer feel all that compelled to spend nights at her place because mine is nicer–and, she refuses to integrate with me and my dog, now that I have my dog back.

55. Realizing that the people at the IAH are not going to become my new Austin circle of friends, as the ones who care to socialize amongst each other gravitate toward new guys in IT.

56. Dad’s obsessive pursuit with ladies on personals sites, beginning less than three months after Mom dies, and the “kill two birds with one stone” first Christmas dinner following her death, where he wants to take one of the new lady friends to lunch while visiting me in Austin.

57. Reba, the first time I ever met her was right after I found the puppy, and I ran into her the day Lucy moved out. How she seemed surprised and pleased to learn Lucy and I weren’t an item, and how we started hanging out, then she moved to Chicago. If this wasn’t a sign that my days in Austin were numbered, I don’t know what was.

58. My roommate Dennis’ going-away happy hour, seeing many of the old Ahmis crew again, including Ekaterina, the second Russian–about a year after I left there. The perspective I got, and how I still longed to be Ekaterina’s lover.

59. The last SF trip, and what it meant to me. Yes, another experience outside of Austin–but perspective on the city you call home is always gained this way

Chronology

April 1999
20. The morning after Olivia’s first day on the job in Austin, waking up next to her in my Aunt and Uncle’s guest bedroom, and discovering the fun-loving girl I’d fallen madly in love with up in Kansas City would never quite return. The Icequeen cometh.

June 1999
44. Olivia leaves me completely alone for the first time since Roy’s death.

July 1999
51. The one time Olivia walked around Town Lake with me.

August 1999
38. The Olivia camping trip.
Once the sun went down, the misery started. Trying to sleep out on the beach in her Isuzu Trooper, burning up hot with sand and salt in every pore and crevice–this wasn’t working, so I slept out on the ground, watching the headlights of SUVs driven by drunken locals come directly at me all night, then veer off at the last minute. We never went camping together again, and mostly, Olivia proved to me that she would not make for a good wife when the world starts to go to complete shit.

September 1999
39. The Gavi Ashkenazi experience.
Gavi and Roy share the same birthday. I overheard Gavi, who’d started working at Ahmis right before me, talking about his mother’s death. I still believed in the time that certain coincidences like shared tragic experiences and dates meant something, and talked my way over to his house one night to smoke pot. He put something deep into my head that night, rambling incoherently to Olivia’s ears but making sense to me while I was stoned. Gavi had some kind of access to the spirit world that I decided I didn’t want to know about. The next day at Ahmis, he started bullying me in a weird sort of way, making me feel rather uncomfortable. And, as I’d done with my perverted return to Ahmis to work again with Karen Winthrop for less money, I agreed to work on a movie with Gavi that went nowhere. This probably should be much higher up the list, but I worked pretty hard to forget about Gavi and his cult leader-like behavior once I’d stopped talking to him for good.

October 1999
52. The Book People/Whole Foods experience–escapist activity from Ahmis, and the places where Olivia and I would meet on our lunches and after work. The last walk over to Book People while I worked at Ahmis.

December 1999
26. Karaoke, first Ahmis Christmas party.

February 2000
11. Becoming a homeowner.

July 2000
1. Quitting the state job and returning to Ahmis.
This is by far the stupidest decision I ever made. It wasn’t a bad choice due to being poorly informed about my options, being naive, being myopic about the future. I don’t waste my time anymore with hindsight-is-20/20 kinds of woulda shoulda couldas, but this isn’t one of those. It was a bad choice to the point of being perverted. I had just spent an entire year detesting my job, Karen Winthrop, and the other people I worked with. To decide to go back there, take a pay cut, and work part time because I was too scared to tell Guillermo, the loser at the state job the higher ups didn’t want to deal with themselves, where he could stick it. To this day, few people know this as my real reason for having left the state job.

August 2000
19. The conversation where Olivia told me that I meant no more or less to her than any other guy she ever dated, as I stood there in the rec room of the house we’d just bought together, after recently adopting a dog together, and moving hundreds of miles to a new state to start a new life together.

November 2000
49. The night Olivia and I went to see her future husband’s band play. She’d been raving about him for months. The way their eyes met with love. The way he eyed me with cold indifference.

December 2000
13. Christmas 2000.
Money spent to drive Olivia to see her family over Thanksgiving, but we are too much in a hurry to see mine. My parents, having just bought their home in Bastrop, come to spend our little Christmas, the second without Roy, at their new place. I buy them a live tree and decorate the place by myself. Olivia comes by, but she is in a hurry to get back to Austin to spend time with her coworkers. She was going to break up with me in two weeks, anyway. Christmas night spent at Deidre’s. Karen Winthrop behaves badly, talking to me like I’m a chump while we play spades, and is mean to my dog.

March 2001
5. Losing Olivia.
Olivia is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a girlfriend I would seriously consider marrying were she to pop into my life today, with me knowing everything I now know about myself and the world. At the time, there were going to be a large solid mass of female options pulsating in downtown Austin, begging for a guy like me to weigh those options on a monthly basis. I didn’t even realize how much grief I had over the loss of the relationship until a Muse song started playing in my car one day–”Falling away with you…” and, this was three and a half years after we broke up–and I discovered I’d successfully kept the grief buried under booze, Karen Winthrop and Vera.

April 2001
22. Waking up next to Deidre following  the second try at sex.

May 2001
18. The night of the Ray Charles concert, with Karen Winthrop. How I’d just recently slept with Deidre for the second time, and this went nowhere, and this was the real event to suck me back into a life of drinking and smoking cigarettes after giving everything up completely for a month.

June 2001
48. The day we found the first litter of Bastrop kittens.

July 2001
45. Fourth of July during the summer of the endless happy hour.

August 2001
28. The day I woke up at Vera’s and realized I was in way too far with someone (who in my mind at the time was many ways inferior to Olivia) to make an easy exit.

September 2001
2. Jamaica.
Not exactly in Austin, but a three day, two night experience with two of the long-term Austin characters in this saga, Dennis my future roommate, and Karen Winthrop. It was planned during the months of non-stop happy hours and lunches loaded with pitchers of beer, and the execution of the experience began and ended in Austin. Jamaica, was for my personal purpose, a life-changing Austin experience.

October 2001
21. The drunken e-mail I sent Olivia following Jamaica, almost a year after we’d broken up, and all of the anger it left in my heart for years to come.

November 2001
24. The night at the Hole in the Wall, including the asshole doorman, and the jackass friends I was with.

December 2001
25. The night I hit rock bottom at the end of the year of endless happy hours, trying to get two older girls to dance with me in a sad little hotel bar, and feeling like ass when they didn’t say yes, and sneaking out from the group, and walking all the way home drunk at 3 am in the morning, seriously considering the possibility of getting in my car and leaving for California that night.

January 2002
23. Waking up next to Karen Winthrop–the third and final time she would lure me there.

March 2002
41. Karen Winthrop completely abnegates all responsibility on a project, continues to “work at home,” and gets promoted.

May 2002
34. Bastrop visits to mom and dad.

July 2002
35. Visitation rights for Anastasia–being a stranger in my own home.

August 2002
47. The Willie Nelson 10K, doing better than Vern Trotter.

November 2002
42. Karen Winthrop chews me out over the phone for sleeping through half the day after I’d stayed up all night on mushrooms, driving Perry Webber, one of the happy hour gang home.

March 2003
46. Vera adopts one of my parents’ kittens.

April 2003
43. Vera and I take a road trip to Ft. Worth.

May 2003
37. The night Vera’s security bar fell on her door while we were on her porch, and the shouting and crying that ensued.
This was the moment I realized that I could never marry Vera, or someone like her. A woman who loses her cool over something like that (and causes me to lose my cool), then cries over it, had better be a gloriously delicate little flower, beautiful and mostly way out of my league. A five-nine, 165 lb woman with average looks crying like a little girl about getting locked out on her second story porch would not make for a good wife when the world starts to go to complete shit.

July 2003
54. I get my own place where I can keep Anastasia. This effectively ends the relationship with Vera, as I no longer feel all that compelled to spend nights at her place because mine is nicer–and, she refuses to integrate with me and my dog, now that I have my dog back.

May 2004
50. Olivia tells me she’s getting married.

July 2004
32. The Ahmis temper tantrum where Wanda almost fired me. How it was brought on by me trying to give up all vices and go vegan and start a new workout regime and shave my head and get religion all in the course of one week.

August 2004
14. Purchasing the Mustang.
This changed my life in many ways. I was four payments away from owning my little Mirage. I really couldn’t afford the Mustang at the level of financing and payments they offered, but the pushy finance guy, coupled with my insistence on having control over something in my life, brought about this rather foolish purchase. Used to driving a tiny little four-banger that required you to turn of the a/c when going up hills or merging into freeway traffic, I was scared to death by the power of the Mustang, in spite of the fact that you generally see college girls around town driving this type of vehicle, because it is a cheap v6 that can take a lot of abuse and not make you feel bad later for having abused it–so lots of daddies get them for their little girls so that they can feel like they are driving something more special than the family sedan. To think I was so intimidated by it the day I drove it home, but I was. Lucy came into my life a month or two after, and everyone said that she’d become my girlfriend because of the Mustang, and I’d gotten a Mustang to attract a girl like Lucy (who could by hot and skinny and blonde when she wanted to). People were wrong, though. I bought the Mustang because everything else about my life was not going my way, so when some finance guy told me I could have one, I bought it, in spite of the fact that I really couldn’t afford it and would have to spend another five years in Austin working to pay it off.

January 2005
40. New Year’s weekend right before Lucy kicked me out the first time.
I make this separate from Lucy kicking me out, because it is primarily about how my parents hovered over me sweetly, seeing how miserably broken my heart was, and how much I hated their hovering at the time.

January 2005
3. Lucy kicking me out of her life the first time.
This was Lucy’s first lesson in getting me to grow a set. You can’t kick a man in the nads if he has none to kick. I grew some in the month that followed, became that much less of the mama’s boy I still was, and got the confidence to convince Ahmis to give me a 25% raise and let me do sales.

March 2005
10. The college reunion road trip to Missouri.
This took place in between Lucy kicking me out the first time, and her coming back in the spring for us to touch hearts and live together. On a whim, after getting lonely and talking more to my friend Jerry from college, I decided to drive up to Missouri, taking up cigarettes again, drinking lots of Mountain Dew just like the old days, traveling the familiar way Olivia and I took a half dozen times when we were together and my parents still lived in Missouri. I paused at the old boyhood home to see it was nothing like it had become in my nightmares where I still pop in to this day, and drove out to Roy’s and Nama’s graves, out in Nirvana, an unincorporated town near Murphy’s Falls. I was full of sorrow, and hardly wanted to go on to Columbia and see Jerry and the old gang and party, but I did. It was a necessary trip, but not one I ever wish to take again. I had to exorcise some demons–to see and remember my college years for what they were–wasted time in experimenting with seeing how long I could stay a boy.

April 2005
7. The first trip to San Francisco.
The trip that really got the whole ego ball rolling. Lucy and I had just gotten back together. It was spring. I’d fallen in love with Lucy again for the third time, and I proceeded to fall in love with a city for the first time.

May 2005
15. The night Lucy’s heart and my heart touched and forged a bond almost impossible to break.

September 2005, December 2005 — talk about Korean girl
16. Lucy leaves/returns X 1,2 + leaves for good.

March 2006
9. The old dog dies/the puppy arrives.
All within the timeframe of a few days–Anastasia finally succumbs to cancer on the floor of the apt right before work, and dies in my arms. Three days later, the puppy Buffy is dumped at Barton Springs and nobody wants to take her home. She seems especially interested in me, and especially scared of most everyone else. I hadn’t seen a stray dog in Austin with no collar or tags in years. The timing was impeccable.

July 2006
36. The Lucy camping trip.
Right before Lucy moved back in with me and started screwing the first guy after having moved out. I was waiting for any kind of sign that we could be more than friends, and it didn’t happen. We got along so well, too, when we were forced to do something out of our ordinary routine. Lucy would have made an excellent wife for when the world starts to go to complete shit. But, alas, in the meantime when all is well, she’s just a basket case and possibly a psychopath.

July – November 2006
8. The political campaign.
The other side of the coin to the bicycle accident. I went from reading lots of magazines full of commentary about how much Bush sucks, and reading most of My Life, to being involved full-time in politics, albeit as a volunteer–all in the course of one summer. By the time Obama first came to town, I was less interested in politics than any time in my life since high school. The bicycle accident wasn’t the only moment of my ego getting smashed, just the most visible–the knockout blow. But, all throughout the campaign, it was surely to be death by a million little cuts, if the accident hadn’t gotten to me first.

October 2006
6. The bicycle accident.
This really will require more extensive examination of everything surrounding it. Suffice to say here, I started at the top of a hill–the physical one was unexceptional, the metaphorical one my ego peaking like it never had before–the final week of the political campaign and my supreme confidence that I would win the second Russian at Ahmis for a wife–and I ended up at the bottom of the hill in a heap of battered man and bike, thanks to a motorist crossing in front of me, totally blind to me. I went from thinking I was someone very special and important, being among the top of the pile at Ahmis and holding a top position on a political campaign, to thinking I was weak and fragile, thanks to someone who just didn’t see me.

January 2006, May 2006, August 2006, January 2007 — talk about Neanderthal, Reba
16. Lucy leaves/returns X 3,4,5 + leaves for good.

January 2007
57. Reba, the first time I ever met her was right after I found the puppy, and I ran into her the day Lucy moved out. How she seemed surprised and pleased to learn Lucy and I weren’t an item, and how we started hanging out, then she moved to Chicago. If this wasn’t a sign that my days in Austin were numbered, I don’t know what was.

March 2007
53. My mom walks all the way around my block, about a mile, with my dad and dog and me, two and a half months before she dies. A powerful memory of her strength. After it was all said and done for the years I knew my parents while they were both alive, it turned out my mom was the tougher one. You couldn’t move her faith with all the world militaries combined.

May 2007
30. One of the last lucid moments my mama had.
This is separate from Mama dying, because it was a glimpse at my Dad having reached the maximum capacity of how much he really could deal with the cancer stuff, having dealt with it really since 1995, seeing two of his sons (the one he hardly cared about and the one he cared about more than the world itself) die on him–you never saw him so small and scared like he was that day in the Northwest Austin hospital where I came by to take over for him so he could go home and feed the cats and get some alone time. At that moment, he stood about five-three, and any lingering anger that was left in me toward him disappeared for good.

June 2007
4. Mama dies of cancer.
It is ranked so far from the top (relative to where it will probably end up on a similar, overall life list) because, as I write this, I’ve still successfully managed to repress much of the grief and not really deal with how this might be affecting me. It’s also simply still too soon to say how this sort of thing will guide the rest of my life choices. Suffice to say, I haven’t worked like a drone at the IAH for the past year and two months just because I love working at the IAH. Karen Winthrop and Deidre insisting on attending her funeral–I have yet to really sit down and process the meaning of that.

July 2007
12. The Ahmis curse is lifted, then Ramsey Ahmis dies in the same building my mama did.

October 2007
29. Jury duty for a murder trial.

November 2007
27. Realizing at the IAH that my mad skills are no fluke. Regaining all the confidence lost from Jimbo and Wanda and everyone at Ahmis bringing me down a notch or two.

December 2007
56. Dad’s obsessive pursuit with ladies on personals sites, beginning less than three months after Mom dies, and the “kill two birds with one stone” first Christmas dinner following her death, where he wants to take one of the new lady friends to lunch while visiting me in Austin.

March 2008
55. Realizing that the people at the IAH are not going to become my new Austin circle of friends, as the ones who care to socialize amongst each other gravitate toward new guys in IT.

April 2008
31. Realizing that meeting and dating (reasonably good-looking) women using a personals service isn’t for me. (Right before Lucy re-appears and disappears for the last time)

May 2008 — talk about final KO
16. Lucy leaves/returns X 6 + leaves for good.
Was there a definitive, life-changing moment in all of that? Maybe the first time, and so it ranks as number 3. The other six times, plus the last time she left for good, all add up to the shaping of a man’s character–for better or worse, I have a little bit more manhood in me from all of it than I otherwise would have. I am much less prone to think like some whiny little liberal fanboy who still hides behind his beard and reads comic books.

June 2008
33. Teaching ESL.

July 2008
59. The last SF trip, and what it meant to me. Yes, another experience outside of Austin–but perspective on the city you call home is always gained this way

November 2008
58. My roommate Dennis’ going-away happy hour, seeing many of the old Ahmis crew again, including Ekaterina, the second Russian–about a year after I left there. The perspective I got, and how I still longed to be Ekaterina’s lover.

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