Five hundred twenty-five thousand…

How do you measure a year in the life? First I thought I’d send stuff out in the mail, but that’s neither me nor cost effective. So, it gets posted here. The year was one of change, tears, and conquering fears.

Favorite items of the year:
TV: CSI’s Quentin Tarantino episode had to be the creepiest thing on TV I’ve seen in years
Book: The Kite Runner
Music: Rob Thomas, Soundtrack to RENT, John Legend (thank you Denise F)
Movie: It’s a tie between Batman Begins and RENT
Video Game: World of Warcraft

I started the year with a staggering change: I quit smoking!!! No patch, no gum, not even hypnosis… just a little prayer to God. That’s it… is all it took for me. Thank God for understanding friends, co-workers and family.

At my place of employment: Our kind and loving boss was replaced with a monster that knows only to tow the line. Thus started the downward spiral of that program. At that point REALLY missed my boss, at this point still do. The newsletter I had created reached it’s one year anniversary. And people started to find new places to work, live and be.

Only one trip of any consequences: to Cleveland to visit Julie, Chris, Sam and Hannah (save the best for last). Had a great time, you can read about it on this site in the June archives, the title of the story is Fish Pride.

I made a decision in June to return to school, to prove I could, to get away from my job, and to get an education. Sent in my application for student aid, the college, and started to look for a place to live. College is going well, see the posts in December.

Change was all around as friends found new jobs: Zelda, Kristi (or Christy), Julie, Robert, Donna, Erin, Veronica…. the list goes on. Found new homes: Mark and Robert, Chris and Donna, Peter and Christy (or Kristi damn personality disorders).

I left Washington, DC my home of 7 years in August/September with the cats (they still have not forgiven me) to the small town: Chesapeake. Truthfully, its a sprawling area filled with people of all races and ages.

Ran in my first marathon in October, bought a bike and still rode it up until December 7th when it broke.

When I left DC, I didn’t leave one single friend… I left family. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Gary, Chen, Ann, Courtney, Phyllis, Donna, Michelle, Denise, Mark, Robert, Jeri, Keetra, Kim…

I truly miss my family, my home, my life.

The Spirit of Christmas II

Have they all been bad? No. Has it changed since you have gotten sober? a little

My second year of sobriety, and Christmas was fast approaching, I actually had a job and money which were both rare at the time. I actually wanted to buy gifts for my two best friends, but it was very hard. They both had really good jobs and I could not afford to buy them anything that would compare to what they would buy me. I found myself in tears (making it a true holiday) in a department stores jewelry department, just trying to figure out what to do. They each got a pendant with three leaves, a leaf to represent each one of us… kinda lame think? Then on my 3 year AA birthday they gave me a gold watch with 2 leaves and a diamond on the face and said: we are the leaves, you are the true gem!

So, no not all bad.

Or, my second year in DC, finally a really good job, lots of money and time to buy gifts for my family in Wisconsin without actually having to go there. My siblings are unemployed, my mother unemployed standard fare for the family. Having a job and money, I told the siblings that I would pay for Mom’s gift from all of us. I bought her a nice heart shaped diamond pendant and a ring to match and shipped them to WI. The siblings teased her and teased her for 3 weeks straight about what the gift would be; toilet paper, dirty socks or any number of silly items. Come the day of X-mas eve they had her do the dishes before she could open her gift, in all of my life the one thing I cannot remember seeing is my mother doing dishes. They kept the torture up and waited for the VERY LAST GIFT, and taking so very many pictures before she could open it up… tears and tears and tears some more (making it a true holiday). Mom loved it, and the ring fit right there on the spot. Course, then the siblings got mad cause I was showing off, and claimed the gift was just from me.

Happy Phqn Holiday!

The Spirit of Christmas

A cold December morning, a car filled with packages, people and pain. So little room that there is a pie between my feet in the back seat. All four of us kids are in the back seat, Dad and Mom sit in the front, the smell of last nights alcohol still seeping through their pores.

The car travels slowly up Grandpa’s ice covered mile and a half drive, as we approach the house we see the other relatives cars already having arrived. The car comes to a stop and we all start to exit the car, I bend to grab the pie and turn to shut the door. My footing is not secure and I slip precariously on the ice, the pie is lost from my grip and I watch as it falls to the ground as if in slow motion, my hands grasp to catch it just to save this one pie, but I fail.

“You’ve ruined my Christmas,” my mother wails “can’t you do anything right!” and she turns and walks up the sidewalk, never turning to see the despair in my eyes.

Happy Phqn X-Mas

A Novel Idea

How do you write a novel? How do you put together stray thoughts and ideas into a seamless series of events?

First I have to be rid of old ideas:
a novel is –> this big <– or a paragraph this long. These ideas are stuck in my head, and the idea that I have to have the killer opening line. Like Billy Crystal from Throw Momma From the Train constantly writing and rewriting the same line “the night was dark… the night was misty, it was a dark and stormy night…” and wanting to kill when someone comes up with the perfect line… in this case it was: “The night was sultry…”

A story, an idea, a biography, all of these things can be a book… provided you just take that one step at a time and make it happen. Sitting and staring at a blank sheet of paper, or in my case a blank computer screen doesn’t accomplish anything….

JUST WRITE!

Publishing

OK, so technically, I’ve already had one story published, a story called: You Kept Your Promise was published in the Grapevine (a 12 step magazine) in 1998.

Now I’ll have 2 or 3 more stories published in TCC’s (Tidewater Community College) Channel Marker Annual publication. I say 2 or three as the letter list three stories, but only two of them are mine…. so I’m hoping for three, but we can live with 2. The stories are:

…and it sold comics

and

A Race Worth Winning

Both to be found here on this site, so you read them before they were published anywhere of note!!! Woot!!! hoorah for u.

Virtual Addiction (ENG 111 last essay) Grade A

In 1981 Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia sat down to write a song expressing how the nation felt about a virtual character that had captured the hearts and quarters of America.

‘Cause I’ve got Pac-Man Fever, Pac-Man Fever.

It’s driving me crazy, driving me crazy.

I’ve got Pac-Man Fever, Pac-Man Fever.

I’m going out of my mind, going out of my mind.

I’ve got Pac-Man Fever, Pac-Man Fever.

I’m going out of my mind, going out of my mind. (BucknerGarcia.com)

Pac-Man Fever was a one hit wonder, one of those songs that everybody could relate to and was stuck in your head for days and days. Long gone are the days of Pac-Man, but the virus has mutated into a more terrible beast than the ghosts themselves, in today’s world, we have true video game addiction.

Added to the ranks of drunks, druggies, and dope fiends—the dreaded video game player, so grab a pitchfork and torch, and join the morally righteous in their attempt to stop video games from gaining further ground in personal entertainment. Millions are suffering each day, trapped in worlds of MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) living in fantasy of violence, romance and adventure; or lost behind PSPs (Play Station Portable) and Gameboy screens experiencing the same thing. Do video games seriously pose a threat to society at large?

Are we about to see an explosion of Video Game addiction treatment centers springing up around the world—the answer is overwhelmingly no. Patrick Isenberger, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, says video games can be seen as “problematic if they become someone’s whole life.” He also says that video games are more likely to become an issue to “people who have addictive personalities.” Like the alcoholic who substitutes alcohol with drugs or pornography, replacing one addiction for the other does not change behaviors, the habits just rearrange themselves to the new substance, or in this case activity. Hospitals are not in danger, at present or the foreseeable future, of being overrun with video game addicts seeking or needing help.

Uproar about violence in video games is nothing new, first reported in 1976 with the game Death Race 2000 where you earned “points by running over stick figures. Public outcry against video game violence gains national attention, and the game is taken off the market.” (Herman et al… 6) Violent video games have not been shown to make non-violent people violent; however, to those already in such an environment the violence of a video game, television show or movie can add fuel to an already out of control fire. In other words, normal people are not suspect to become more violent when playing video games.

In today’s world it is not uncommon for a player to spend 5 to 6 hours or more online in a virtual gaming community or even one hooked up to the TV. Blizzard, the current leader in online video game entertainment, has recently introduced parental controls allowing limits to the amount of time a child spends playing. After only one year, the game World of Warcraft (a Blizzard product) has jumped to the head of the pack in sales and subscriptions, boasting over 4 million active subscribers—with the average subscription cost of $15.99 approximately $63,960,000 a month and yet compared to the amount of alcohol sold in the world this is a single drop in the ocean. (Blizzard.com) “In 2002, 54.9% of U.S adults (18 years and older) reported drinking at least one drink in the past month.” (CDC), clearly this is more of a danger to society at large than a game or two.

Educators, health experts and parents are concerned when a child spends hours playing a single video game; nevertheless children are allowed to spend hours watching television programming. Violence in video games is also the target of many parents and experts, and yet violence and sexual content run rampant in television and movies. “If playing too much, it short changes them in other areas, but the same can be said of television or other activities”, says Donna Marschall, PhD with Washington, DC’s Children’s National Medical Center. In children it is a parenting issue, not addiction, parents “need to set appropriate limits”. Dr. Marschall also points out that some games help children learn to interact, communicate and build effective teams to accomplish tasks and meet goals, these are good tools for some children.

Video games are played by people of all ages as seen in a recent Washington Post article even senior citizens are into the game; Barbara St. Hilaire is a video game aficionado.

Like many gamers, she owns a PlayStation 2, a GameCube and an Xbox, and subscribes to Electronic Gaming Monthly, Computer Gaming World and Game Informer. She drives her red 1997 Pontiac Grand Am to a nearby GameStop, where she buys and exchanges her games, and also to Hollywood Video, where she rents them. But unlike many gamers, she’s been gaming since the early 1970s. Even with her hearing aids, she turns up the volume on games so loud that, one of her grandkids says, “her room literally starts to shake.” Her treasured strategy guides — the Cliffs Notes of tough-to-beat games — are tucked next to her equally treasured cookbooks. (Vargas A01)

Alcoholism, drug addiction, and gambling have been proven to disrupt lives, lead to bankruptcy, destroy families and can even lead to death. A physiological withdrawal is clearly seen in abstinence from alcohol, drugs and cigarettes; however, not so with the cessation of video games—there is no physiological response. “Almost anything could be an addiction,” says Chris Sarampote, PhD with the National Institutes of Mental Health. “There have been no studies to suggest a clear path to addiction from video games. While not as defined as standard addictions—alcoholism, drug addiction or gambling—the compulsion is so high addiction cannot be ruled out completely.”

Too much of anything can be a bad thing. There is no empirical evidence to stating video games are an addiction, it is all just virtual hype.

Works Cited

Blizzard Entertainment. Company profile page, http://www.blizzard.com/inblizz/profile.shtml

BucknerGarcia.com, Pacman Fever Story, http://www.bucknergarcia.com

CDC “Alcohol Facts”, http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/factsheets/general_information.htm

Herman, Leonard, Horwitz, Jer, Kent, Steve and Miller, Skyler “The History of Video Games.” Game Spot.com

Isenberger, Patrick, Telephone Interview, December 2, 2005

Marschall, Donna, Telephone Interview, December 2, 2005

Sarampote, Chris, Telephone Interview, December 2, 2005

Vargas, Jose Antonio, “Grandma Gets Her Game On.” Washington Post, 3 Dec. 2005: A01

Fall Semester Grades

Here you go folks, my grades for the first semester of collegs. I think I did pretty well, the “S” is for a remedial course which does not actualy count for or against my GPA, but the “S” is pass so technically I got an 83% in Math.

2005 Fall Semester James Appel Credit Tidewater Community College

English: ENG 111 Graded A 3.00
Computers: ITE 115 Graded A 4.00
Algebra: MTH 3 Developmental S 5.00
Psychology: PSY 201 Graded B 3.00
Student Development: SDV 100 Graded A 1.00

Current GPA 3.727
Cumulative GPA 3.727

The Crash

It was 37 degrees outside, I was bundled up riding my bike home from school. Tucked under my red hat, my ear buds send the sounds of the Dixie Chicks to my ears. I am about a mile from school, crossing a busy intersection when….

the left pedal snaps off… my foot slams into the pavement and my body twists sending waves of pain over all of it.

“Damn, what the hell happened?” I say to myself, a small part of me relieved that I didn’t fall completely and bang myself all to hell (mostly worried that I would have looked the fool).

I pull the bike over to the side, prop it up on the kickstand… the wind blows the bike precariously so I reposition it on the sidewalk. The bolt part of the pedal is filled with grease, and I see some shavings on the bolt… I make an attempt to reattach the bolt, to no avail.

I know 2 people really in Virginia Beach, I know one of them is up toward DC working and the other is self-employed. I call the one here… but he’s “busy” and suggests I walk home until he can get away. So, I walk for three miles, building on a resentment of a @%*#! that wouldn’t come and get me… I’m trying to get over it.

Now, I have to try to fix the bike. My legs hurt, my arm hurts and my side hurts a little.

Well, at least I’m alive, guys got to be grateful about something!

Warm Nights

I’m awake at 3:04 a.m. I wanted to go to sleep around 12:00 a.m.
The heat, for some reason, wont shut off… just keeps blowing. I flipped the off button, I turned the AC on… nothing.

First thought is: holy batwings, batman… that’s gonna cost a bundle.
Second thought: where the hell are those important phone numbers from when I signed the lease?

It says on that very important sheet of paper:

situations [that] are considered an emergency:

  • fire
  • gas leak
  • no heat
  • toilet backed
  • flood
  • broken window
  • no A/C

No where does it say too much heat… so I’m not gonna call at 12:00 a.m. or at 3:07

But, I’m not gonna have it keep blasting heat at me. So, I flipped the fuse for it. Now I have no heat, but it’s my own fault… do I call them now? “Yeah, I have no heat… ah, duh, cause I flipped the fuse.” yeah, that sounds real smart.

I’m about to run the heat for just a little bit, and then go to sleep, cause I’m tired… I get sleepy when it’s warm. I’d just let it run and charge the leasing company, but I have irrational fears of the thing blowing up and killing the cats… which would be bad… No, really it would be.

Old, Gray, and Gay.

I’m 35 today. Old, gray, and gay.

I’m a far cry from what I had expected to be at 15, 20 or 25… I’m alive.

I keep thinking back to when I was a teen; the music, the trouble the lies.

Looking back at all I have seen, all I have done that have changed my very life.

Now it is not a destination, but a journey of a spiritual life.

A journey of prayer, love and hope. A destination found in His direction and might.

All that has changed, all that remains the same, all that is new exciting and bright.

If I could wish a gift for you, for all, this day I wish for an adventure as grand as my life.