The Ubiquitous 2016 Wrap-Up / Navel-Gazing New Year’s Post

The ‘net runs rampant with posts about how 2016 is the most terrible year ever to be had. No, not the years of the Bubonic Plague outbreaks. Not the years of the Holocaust. Not the years of Genghis Khan’s hordes. It was 2016: the year we lost certain celebrities, the year of yet more unfortunate film adaptations and remakes, and then the year Trump became President Elect of the United States. Tragic? The latter, for sure. The former happens all the time. It’s called life. Sucks, yeah. Any loss of life is tragic for the individual and his families. But come on. The loss of my dear Leonard Cohen and isn’t enough for me to call 2016 the worst year on record.

Fine, I glossed over the Trump bit. That was intentional. I don’t wanna talk politics, but if you wanna know how I feel about him, specifically – I’ll just say – fuck that guy. And not in a fun – I wanna do you all night long kinda way. But with like a mile long, herpes-infested cucumber-up-the-ass kinda way. That opinion has nothing to do with politics, by the way. (Okay, that’s not 100% true.) But it tends to spring forth from a woman when a man tries to grab her by the pussy because he’s a slimy-ass rich celebrity who thinks he can get away with it, because he can. And is my little STD-ridden cucumber fantasy hypocritical? Yes, I’m aware. That is all.

~

So. That’s the Internet’s 2016. My 2016 was far less focused on celebrities, and actually far less focused on Trump that my little rantlet makes it sound. A couple of Very Important People encouraged me about how well I’d done this past year, not to mention all the encouragement I received here from the WordPress fam. But the thing is, the saying, “I’m my own worst critic” is an adage for a reason. Upon reflection, I’m thinking they were right. It was messy (isn’t life supposed to be?), but I did make progress. Sure I want it to happen faster, cleaner…Right. Fucking. Now. But that’s not how shit goes down. In my typical random fashion, here’s some shit that did go down in my 2016.

Divorce – Yep. Let’s get that one out of the way. Surprised? “Regulars” probably are. Thing is, I was separated for somewhere between 4 and 5 years. But he refused divorce, and I didn’t pursue legal channels to enforce it. So I was stuck. In so many ways, I was stuck. 2016 was the year I finally asserted myself, broke the toxic patterns that had ended our marriage and stood up for myself. It took roughly five years, but it’s now official. Now…one never marries intending for things to go down that way. We’d been a couple since I was fifteen. But if things do go sour (and they did), it’s fucking toxic to be held in limbo for so long. With the support and urging of a couple of very strong and important friends, oh and some strong doses of anxiety meds, I finally asserted myself and ended that limbo.

Therapy – I finally caved and tried therapy, after at least twenty years of decrying it as a scam. I’ve tried talk therapy as well as meds, but with all that I had going on concurrently – in addition to limited financial means – I haven’t found the right combination yet. But. I do intend to try this out again. I’m still taking Lexapro, at least until my refills from Louisiana run out (soon), and I have a handful of Xanax left. But I haven’t been able to afford new doctors yet. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get that sorted soon. So 2016 was the year I finally really began addressing my mental health.

Masturdating and Social Interaction – Along with my therapy, I also pushed myself to move beyond my boundaries. At least a bit. I took myself out to a couple of movies (Deadpool, yeah! And something with Bill Murray, because Bill Murray!). I took myself to a concert. I took myself to a poetry slam (which I haven’t told y’all about!). I took myself to Happy Hour (more than once). And I even took coworkers up on invitations a few times. I mean, this chick drank IN PUBLIC. She did not dance. She did not karaoke. (How many times does she have to say HARD LIMIT for people to get it?) But how she laughed. Oh how she laughed. 2016 was the year Stephanie hid a little less.

Quitting a Toxic – But Solid – Job & Moving Across Country – For the town I lived in, I had it made at my job. Aside from Queen Bitch, that is. But the direction things were moving in the last month or so would have had me in a new department under a brand new director with a brand new title and brand new salary. Yeah. There was no pressure at all at work. They didn’t beg me to stay or make my decision increasingly harder and more panicky each and every day. No. Not a chance. (I hope your sarcasm detectors are on and working.) Point is: Stephanie took shittons of Xanax in the last month and especially in the last two weeks in Louisiana. I met with a brand new therapist on the proverbial eve of my departure, and after an extended session, he agreed with all of my decisions. Except: he disapproved of the job I intended to accept in Oregon. It would have sapped me of my all and left me wrung out and an even greater emotional danger to myself than I already was. In the end, I agreed with him (though I had a tough time with the decision), but that has me still unemployed at the moment. I have made the move, though, and I’ve been in the Greater Portland Area since September. Newsflash: I Fucking Love Oregon. And, as yet, I have no regrets. 2016 was the year I gambled everything, turned my back on “everything I’ve ever known,” and risked staid stability to chase a dream in spite of everyone breathing down my neck what a fool I was. And I’m damn fucking proud I did.

Dispensary – Fucking right. I visited a dispensary for the first time. I’m in Oregon, dudes. What did you expect? So yeah, I got a J and a lollipot. I still have half the j left. (I may have a piss test in my near future. Yeah. Even in Oregon.) And I’m totally having the lolli if I land the job. Or at least part of the lolli, in celebration. Hm. Or maybe the other half of the j. Oh yeah! Pretty sure I’m gonna smoke it up with someone over Skype. I’ll toke over here. He’ll toke over there. It’ll be neato. Except I’ll have to find somewhere to do it, because of my “roommates.” Yeah. Remind me to tell you about them. I’m in a…weird situation. But one I’m grateful for. It’s just…fucking weird and uncomfortable sometimes. A lot of times. Anyway. Yeah. Old Stephanie never would have been brave enough to just stroll into one of those places, even though I’d have smoked whatever my friends brought out of there. I don’t see why people still think it’s such a big fucking deal. I’ve been smoking pot since…11 or so and I turned out. I still wouldn’t have gone in there. 2016 Stephanie? Dispensary-bound!

~

There’s probably more shit. I mean, it was a whole fucking year. But I need to get my shit ready for tomorrow. I don’t have a real job yet, but I do have a little side gig in the afternoons. Tutoring some kids on algebra and science. It’s not much, but at least it’s something for now.

I don’t do resolutions, so I ain’t making promises about writing. But when I come back, I’ll maybe tell ya about Oregon stuff. Oh! Oh! And I’ll leave you with a lovely piccy taken right here in Oregon, this very day.

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Accidental Penis: A Counter Stain
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Much Ado About Everything (AKA Damned if You Do(n’t))

I…

…don’t know what to write.

I have yet to read a book this year. I keep trying, but nothing holds my focus or interest. I keep trying to read blogs. Articles. Even the rare thought-provoking Facebook post. I can’t. Fucking. Do it. Same with writing. I can’t think of anything to write about. Part of me wants to write. (The part of me that’s here writing this.) The other part of me couldn’t care less. (The part of me that cannot come up with anything to talk about right now.) It’s maddening. On slow days at work – I shit you not – so many times I’m just staring at the monitor or wall. Just fucking staring. I want to read. I want to write. It’s like I can’t.

Is it the medication?

Maybe.

Possibly.

Probably.

Speaking of (psychiatric) drugs, I’m only on Lexapro and Seroquel now. I’ve been through three anti-psychotics so far…Geodon and two others I’ve already forgotten. All three fucked me up in a major way. I’m not having major negative (discernible) side-effects from Seroquel, but…but I feel even more numb than I did before I was on it. I smile and laugh and crack the occasional snarky remark. But, for the most part, it doesn’t reach beyond the surface.

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At one point, I was on at least 12 scrips at once (that I can recall) and felt worse than I ever have. Against doctors’ orders, I’m down to five plus an OTC antacid. And I still think I can do without Seroquel.
I am still taking the sleepytime drug (Clonidine), but I’ve ceased the anti-anxiety drugs (Vistaril and Klonopin). First, I was just too fucking tired and sleepy all the time. I’m already tired all the time – I certainly didn’t need drugs that exacerbate that. Second, and most importantly, at least one of them was causing panic attacks. I’m the girl that has maybe three or four full-blown panic attacks a year. Maybe. The rest of them are milder anxiety attacks. Like can’t get out of the car to go into the grocery store. While I was taking the anti-anxiety drugs (at 50 mg Vistaril 3x daily and 1 mg Klonopin 3x daily), I began having them daily. Daily. Sometimes more than once per day. If I was at work, I had to scurry off to the bathroom to hide in a stall until it passed. If I was at home, I exercised less control but would eventually tuck myself in the closet. The closeness and darkness helped soothe and calm me down.

I knew something was fucked. And it had to be the drugs, because nothing else had changed. Granted, I’m going through some life changes right now – and they aren’t minor. But I’ve been easing my way into those for several months now. There was no brand new catalyst aside from the steady increase in anti-anxiety drugs and doses.

All that to say, I’ve ceased those – though the psychiatrist doesn’t know. When I tried to share my observations, she insisted I was better off with the meds than without – to the point where she brought up hospitalization again, as though holding that over my head if I didn’t take the pills. So I lie and tell her I’m still on everything except the ones where I have pictorial evidence of bad side-effects (like the big, burny rashes). I even asked her at one point if she wanted pics of vomit. (While I am a smartass, I don’t often use it with willfully mean intent. But she was basically accusing me of lying to her and being treatment resistant – hence my offer.) So now I really am lying to her, and I fucking hate it. It pains me so to admit it, because I hate lying. I hate liars. I used to say liars and thieves, but really they’re the same thing. A lie is theft of truth. So to tell a lie is to become both a liar and a thief. Next time I see her, I’m going to tell her. Just flat out tell her, and by then I will be able to tell her that I’ve been off of them long enough to know for damn sure they were doing more harm than good. Hell, they were doing no good and only harm.

But what about publife?

Once I took myself off of the anti-anxieties, I was strangely able to appreciate my anxiety. I’d gone weeks with severe daily panic attacks. So now that things had calmed back down to being too nervous to go into the grocery store, rather than pulling my hair and rage-screaming, I was less concerned.

So much so that I was finally able to push myself far outside my comfort zone and go to a pub – not once, but three times. And one of them was alone! I even took myself to the movies and to a concert – solo!

But here’s the thing…the Saturday and Sunday immediately subsequent to two of those pubnights?

In bed. Crying. Sleeping. Contemplating. Crying. Sleeping.

You get the idea.

It’s important to me that I share this here, because for anyone else going through what I’m going through, I don’t want to give the impression that this depressed introvert was “healed” after a few nights of bravery. I wasn’t. I’m not. Though I am proud of myself for pushing outside my comfort zone and even doing something I’d never done before, I also realize that wellness is an ongoing process. That goes for mental and physical health and wellness.

Last time, I only talked about the good shit. But it’s important to show the other side. What happened after the Happy Hour High.

The extreme highs of forced extroversion (that was honestly quite fun and liberating – errr aside from pubnight #3 which was an epic fucking disaster), followed by quiet solitude…well, let’s say that combination resulted in major emotional backlash for me. So. On this journey of mental wellness, I have to eventually discover a way to at least minimize the extroversion hangover caused by going from being ON to being alone and exhausted.

I haven’t been back out since the failed third Happy Hellish Hour, and I’ve had a negative urge to. Until Friday. I could have done Happy Hour after work. But..I kinda didn’t wanna. Because while I now know that I can do it, I also found it far more fun when I was with people than when I went alone. Frankly, it’s depressing. It was awesome in a lot of ways, and I was so fucking proud of myself. But. It’s also me. Sitting alone. At a bar. Alone. On a Friday night. Out. In public. Did I mention alone? Yeah. So while I kinda wanted to go, I didn’t. 

Then again, maybe that’s the drugs, too. Fucked if I know. What I do know is that my slowass pace doesn’t mean I’ve stopped progressing.

I’m trending upward. That’s right. Slowly but surely, I’m trending upward. Speaking of which…

Inching along the Oregonton Trail

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I continue to make progress (albeit slow) toward getting myself up to Oregon or Washington.

The yard is landscaped just along the front of the house. Azaleas, some fast growing lantanas, and some gorgeous annuals in window boxes. The house looks adorable. Fucking adorable. It went from ghetto to adorable in a flash. It’s amazing the effect flowers have on a house’s appeal.

As far as the house goes, there are still some hurdles before it can be put on the market. The driveway has to be re-graveled. The laundry room floor has to be painted (the previous owner painted it, and it looks ridiculous). The kitchen floor needs some tiles replaced. Other than that, it’s down to scrubbing and little things like window blinds and light bulbs here and there.

Strongly considering figuring out how to do it For Sale by Owner. It’s the legal shit that concerns me, not the showing. My boss is flexible, so I could show it on evenings, weekends and the occasional midday during the week. I’ve learned that hiring a realtor will take all of the little equity I’ve got in the house. I can’t afford to lose that, so I have to find another way. Enter FSBO.

I’ll do my research and give it a go. 

On the job front, I’ve stopped applying for now. I’ve had several interviews, but I have a solid lead thanks to a VIP at work. When he found out about my plans, he asked for my resume and sent it to another VIP in Vancouver, Washington. He tells me it’s solid and to bide my time while I sell my house. So I’m gonna let that simmer for a while and pour all my focus into the sale. 

~

This post took three days to write. That’s how bad my “block” is. I know this is an abrupt conclusion, but I don’t really know what else to say.

Until next time, y’all are the best. I’m not neglecting you on purpose.  This “block” is maddening! Hope everyone is well and happy!

Parks & Recreaction ft. Stephanie and the Spiky Caterpillar of Doom (AKA Parks and Masturdation: Buddha and Books)

So. About that four-day weekend. I kinda went crazy, y’all. I did a lot of masturdation. And you know something? I’m a damn good date.

Mkay. Let’s see. (I’m putting dates on these, because this was actually the weekend before last. And I did more shit this past weekend!)

Thursday, April 14: Sassy and Pensive

I’ve already told you about the sassy new haircut I got last Thursday. That was on the 14th. So last last Thursday. And then later, I went to the bookstore, too! And bought books!


Friday, April 15: Date with Deadpool

I’ve also already told you about the Deadpool masturdate  last last Friday, so let’s move right along.

The end credits had such cute (and vulgar) graphics. This was one of the only clear snaps I could get.

Saturday, April 16: Please sir, may I have some more…books?

I found myself lying in bed. All. Fucking. Day. Around 7 P.M., I had had enough. I was angry and disappointed with myself. So I got up, took a shower, and went to the bookstore. I didn’t know what else to do or where else to go, but I knew I needed to get my pathetic ass out of the bed and move. Also. It’s always fun checking out the cute geeks in the sci-fi/fantasy/comics section. Sometimes they’re so deliciously yummy, I want to kidnap them (don’t worry; they’re adults) and do things to them. So uhm. I bought more books. Quelle surprise!

Added three more to the TBR stack!

Looking forward to reading this when time allows. Speaking of time, that’s a “pocket watch” on a chain. I wear it around my neck to remind me that time our time on this earth is finite; it is precious and I must Carpe the fucking Diem. “There’s only lifetime. GO!”

Yes, I spent too much money. This is rare for me. But when I do decide to spend on myself, it usually happens in a splurgy burst. But I at least had coupons for books! So I didn’t do so bad at the bookstore.

I also justified it by using “spending money” I had set aside for the trip that wasn’t. I wanted to treat myself after some personal shit went down. And y’all, I ain’t even done. I’m tired of being in the backseat of my life (unless, of course, someone is back there with me) (even then, maybe I want to drive for a while, damnit).

No, I didn’t buy this. But seriously? Trigger Warning? Sex Inside? There’s sex ON THE COVER. But “trigger warning”? Good fucking grief. Overuse of “trigger” shit drives me nuts. And sex? This is Cosmo, people. It’s gonna be like, “10 things to make your husband less likely to fall asleep after cumming in 3 seconds flat.” or “5 tips on how to bedazzle your vajazzle.”

Anyway. Let’s get to the park, shall we?

Sunday, April 17: Parks & Masturdation, or One if by Land, Buddha if by Trees

This dude has been driving me batshit about getting the fuck outside. I make excuses. He tells me to piss off. I make more excuses. He says so the fuck what. I say, but I hate it here. I want to be in the Pacific Northwest! He says, but you’re not in the fucking Northwest. Get out and live now. I say my foot is broken; he says piss off and go hobble.

So you know what? I fucking hobbled my ass to the park last last Sunday. And unfortunately, I have to admit that the smug fucker was right. I couldn’t do much walking. My foot is legit still broken (had new x-rays and it’s finally and slowly healing, though – NO SURGERY! NO PINS!)

Anyhoodles. Park. I got my ass up. At oh…1 in the afternoon or some shit. But I did good. I went straight to the shower then straight to the park (with an intermission for getting dressed – it’s not that kinda park).

I grabbed my book, Buddha in a Teacup (which is bullshit so far – more later), and did a little wandering. Not much, mind you. My foot wouldn’t let me forget it’s broken. I went first through the greenhouse. It was always my favorite part of the park, though they’ve let it go to shit.

Lemme share some lovelies from that day:

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One of the few pretties in the greenhouse.
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Went down here to read first. Until hornets ran me off.
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Somebody wanted to fuck with Buddha. How dare.

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Hornets drove me to this spot. Much lovelier anyway, once I got away from the noisy geese-feeding hordes.
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Met this little fella, too. Don’t worry. I didn’t let that venomous fucker touch me. But we chatted for a while. He’s converting to Buddhism and came to warn me that this book would likely be shite.

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More lovelies.

That was park day numberus oneicus.

Monday, April 18: Parks & Masturdation, or Making Friends and Influencing People, or A Writing Assignment

Because some little shit couldn’t be satisfied, I went to the park two days in a row. (He also says go listen to High Pass Filter right now!) And I mentioned it to someone else…all like I know I should, but I don’t wanna and he was all but you must go! And you must write something while there! No reading! Must write! These demanding asshats, I’m telling you. I did go, and I did write. But I can’t share the writing yet, as it’s to be part of a collaborative something.

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Lemme share a gratuitous amount of flower piccies, and then I’ll tell you about someone I met. It was one of those moments in life when you just know. You just fucking know. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

But first. Flower porn. GASP! New word! FLORN!

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Ahhhh isn’t spring glorious? I fucking love flowers. Can you tell? No? Lemme show you some more.

KIDDING. Just kidding.

Lemme tell you about Anthony now. I had been watching him, you see, crafting the beginnings of a short story based on him. He had no idea, of course. I just saw him and was inspired. I caught a glimpse of him from my table. He was down fishing off this little covered pier thingy. It showed up in the picture up there with my notepad.

I actually snuck an excellent shot of him re-baiting his hook. It was the perfect shot of him in his element, but I won’t even show my face on the blog. Not my place to show his.

Anyway, the more I wrote, the more I felt compelled to meet the real man. Not the one I was making up.

This. What I’m about to tell you about is well and truly outside of even the remotest of my comfort zones. But I felt compelled, in the truest sense. I had to meet this man.

So, for what seemed ages, I gathered my courage.
And then I gathered my things.
And then I walked down that pier.
And then, heart pounding, I spoke,

Hi! Mind if I keep you company for a bit?

It’s a public pier in a public park, but he was alone. Serene. And compared to the weekend chaos at that peer, with all the kids and geese, I figured he was probably enjoying his solitude. His communion with nature.

But he turned to me and grinned, telling me “Sure!”

So I put my things down, and he said he’d seen me writing. Asked if I was in school. Hehe. I said no; I was just writing a story. So he told me about his granddaughter. She writes children’s books, but is having fits getting published.

We chatted for a while. He asked questions about me; I answered. He told me about himself. Turns out we work for the same company. He had been retired, but grew bored after a long relationship busted up and went back to work. In his sixties now, he expressed that sometimes he grows weary of having been in the same place all his life.

Only so many times you can see the same ole thing and not wonder what else is out there that you’re missin’ out on. Ain’t much time left, and I’m past retirement age. Got a brother in Minnesota, though. Sure do love it up there. Why not, right? But it’s a scary thing, so I don’t know if I have it in me.

Why not, indeed.

So I shared a bit of my story with him, and my desire to move to the Pacific Northwest. He asked why there, and I told him how I’d been in love with Oregon ever since watching The Goonies as a kid. And then once I visited the region, I fell even harder and knew a life change was in order.

He told me I’m young and should go for it.

So I pointed at the “pocket” watch on the chain around my neck. Held it up for him to see.

Do you know what this is?

He shook his head, “Naw. Reckon you gon’ tell me, though.”

I popped it open and showed him the watch. “And do you know why I wear it?,” I asked. He just looked at me, expectantly waiting.

I wear it to remind me that life is short. I wear it to remind me that our time on this earth is finite. I wear it to remind me that there’s no time like the present time. I wear it to remind me that there’s never a right time. There’s only right now. I wear it to remind me that as long as I continue ticking along with it, it’s not too late. So I’m moving to Oregon. And you’re moving to Minnesota. And we’re going to make it count.

He smiled a winsome smile, tilted his head and cast his line back into the water.

You know somethin’, young lady? I’m gon’ call my brother tonight. See what we can see.

He looked hopeful now, wistful. I smiled and gathered my things.

Then I shook his grimy bait hand, told him it was a pleasure to meet him and to have good luck with his fishing.

And hey, Anthony? Make it count. Let’s make it count.

He grinned back at me and said, “Never too late.”

~

This post brought to you by:

Serendipity.

Synchronicity.

~

Tomàs, for encouraging me to write even when, especially when, I doubt my ability to write anything worth anything at all. For making me feel worthy, writing aside.

~

Stupidityhole for relentlessly pushing me to get the fuck out of bed and the fuck out of the house. Many. Many. Many times now. I am eternally grateful.

~

Dedicated to Anthony and everyone else who thinks it’s too fucking late. Grab life. Pluck it when it’s ripe; carpe the fucking diem.

~

Coming SoonMasturdating at Happy Hour last Friday, complete with photos of old men flexing in their tighty-whities. Perhaps a recap of tomorrow night’s concert – yes, another masturdate, and then my group Happy Hour this coming Friday night!  Oh. Oh yes. And allergic reactions and moronic recruiters and the relocation conundrum. Stay tuned! You know me. I’ll fill you in in a month or so. (Winky Face, bitches.)

Masturdation Take 2: Date Night with Deadpool

First, for my writing and your reading pleasure:

Friday the 15th, I took myself out for a date. A masturdate, that is. Since I was already scheduled to be off work that day, I decided to make the best of it. There was an afternoon showing of Deadpool, which was good…because my anxiety levels are nowhere near low enough to masturdate on a Friday night when the place is packed with touchy-feely couples.

Unlike my Date Night with Bill Murray, my Date Night with Deadpool had a few people in the theater aside from myself. So. Let’s see. There was me – the only solo chick there to watch Deadpool. Then there were about eight or so solo dudes there. And there were two couples: one young teenage couple, and one couple with what looked to be a seven or eight year old little boy. Y’all. This is Deadpool we’re talking about, not TMNT. It took them until halfway through to realize they’d made a mistake…in spite of the fact that it was obvious on the opening credits.

Anyway.

Deadpool.

Deadpool

I’ve never really gotten the appeal of Ryan Reynolds, as either an actor or as a hot piece of ass. But uhm. Yeah. Deadpool changed my mind. I’m not into Ryan Reynolds, but I definitely would fuck Deadpool to death. TO DEATH. That filthy mouth, the irreverence, the silliness, and yes the ass.

This isn’t going to be a review, because I’d rather talk to y’all about parks and shit. Not shit. I mean parks and shit. Not parks and poop. You know? Yeah, you know.

I laughed my ass off during the flick. It was interesting, because no one was laughing. So I felt self-conscious and tried to will myself not to laugh. Then I said fuck it. This shit is funny.

And you know what happened?

When I started laughing at funny shit, so did others. It’s as though we all had the same anxiety. The same reservation.

So me and this one dude in particular laughed at pretty much the exact same shit all throughout the movie.

The flick was filthy, vulgar, bloody, laden with sexual innuendo and overt sexual references. In other words, I wanted to marry it. Deadpool was so fucking funny I wanted to marry it.

I needed the humor. The filth. The irreverence. It made it worth striking out on my own. I didn’t even wear my hoodie, y’all. I laughed and had a blast and realized that when someone tries to tear you down, it’s best to realize it’s not about you. It really isn’t. So go out, masturdate and be like Deadpool.

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P.S. Guess what?! I totally wrote this from work. So if the site is working up here tomorrow, I’ll get to the one about my little park visits and share some piccies!

Date Night with Bill Murray

Every now and then, for the past year or so, I’ve gotten an urge to go to the theater for a movie. It’s usually because something comes out that I really wanna see. I’ve ignored the urge, until now.

Friday, I ditched work early and went to see the afternoon matinee showing of Rock the Kasbah. By myself. Yeah, yeah, I know the movie bombed. Like hardcore bombed, only outperforming a shitty take on a shitty old cartoon. But I’ve been interested to see Rock the Kasbah since I first heard about it. Because Bill Murray. What more reason could one possibly need?

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Breakin’ it Down

The IMDb synopsis of the film reads: A down-on-his-luck music manager discovers a teenage girl with an extraordinary voice while on a music tour in Afghanistan and takes her to Kabul to compete on the popular television show, Afghan Star.

I usually try to avoid reading IMDb synopses as well as movie trailers; I find them rather spoilery. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m highly sensitive to spoilers. And if you are as well – and have any interest in Rock the Kasbah – please refrain from reading any more of this post, because I am not going to avoid spoilers. I’m not a professional reviewer, and I intend to just speak my mind about the movie.

Bill Murray’s character, Richie Lanz, is a washed up music manager. I mean, seriously washed up – both his professional and personal lives are a shambles. The movie opens to Richie listening to a horrendous audition – performed by actress Sarah Baker – as the girl, Maureen, sings her heart out. We learn right away just how hard-up and possibly shady Richie’s character is when he signs shakes hands with the girl (he doesn’t do paperwork – handshakes are his thing) and accepts a check to represent her, a retainer of sorts.

His only other singer is cover-singer Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel), and she’s pretty fucking terrible at what she does. She can’t sing for shit, and she’s completely aimless when performing on stage – and those performances are limited to one-off bar gigs. Even the drunk audience won’t stick around to listen to her.

Richie meets some USO dude during one of Ronnie’s performances, and this is how they wind up in Afghanistan. For me, things didn’t get interesting until Afghanistan. I like Zooey Deschanel and all, New Girl anyone? But I wasn’t drawn in by the plot until the culture-shocked and wasted Ronnie ditched Richie in Kabul, absconding with his cash and passport.

Yes, that's Bruce Willis' lap she's on. Uh. What the hell was his character's name? John McClane. No. Wrong movie. Oh who cares. It's Bruce Willis.
Yes, that’s Bruce Willis’ lap she’s on. Uh. What the hell was his character’s name? John McClane. No. Wrong movie. Oh who cares. It’s Bruce Willis.

This is when Richie’s sad and pathetic life turns into a weird and pathetic life. But, ever the optimist, he doesn’t give up. Even though that means becoming a gun runner to drum up some cash, selling faulty American ammo to a Pashtun tribe. And it’s while visiting the Pashtuns that Richie takes a fateful piss in the desert of Afghanistan.

During his (midnight?) piss, he hears the voice of a young girl singing and playing his guitar. Richie’s Pashtun guide and interpreter warns him that it is haram – forbidden by Islamic law – for a Pashtun female to sing or perform music. But Richie and the girl, Salima, are undeterred, though violation of the law could have them both honor-killed. Salima is the daughter of the tribe’s leader, Tariq (Fahim Fazli), and though he forbids it – Salima runs away with Richie to perform on Afghan Star – think an Afghani American Idol.

Salima & Richie
Salima & Richie

It is unclear to me whether Richie even needed the money at this point, because of the gun-running, but it looks like this is his chance at redemption. He’s constantly lying to people, saying he repped big stars – such as Madonna – but he’s really never had any success in the entertainment industry. This is his chance, and as you may guess, it has a happy ending. Richie refuses to give up on Salima, even when she is taken back to her village compound. And he is spared death by helping save the village against an internal uprising by Tariq’s rival.

Jonas Khan -
Jonas Khan – “Nizar” in the film. Just gonna put this here because yum. I’m writing this on Halloween, and this is my candy.

That is the movie in a nutshell, though I didn’t mention Bruce Willis’ strange uber-soldier / mercenary memoir writing / Danielle Steel fan character, Bombay Brian. Bombay Brian had that permanent semi-grin that Willis always seems to wear. But it worked for the character. He was weird, quirky, angry, and emotional. The interactions between Bombay Brian and Richie provided some of the funnier moments.

I also haven’t mentioned Kate Hudson’s character, Merci. Look, I’m not gonna mince words here. I don’t like Kate Hudson. I don’t think she’s a good actress, and I don’t get the appeal other than her body – which I’m not interested in. But I know plenty of people think she’s hot and don’t wanna watch a movie without a “hot chick” parading around in her underwear at some point. Cue Kate Hudson’s “Merci.” She’s the friendly “heart of gold” prostitute that helps Richie save the day, first by “merci/mercy fucking” him and then by harboring Salima while she’s in Kabul for the singing competition. Her fake-ass Texas/southern accent is ridiculous and off-putting. It distracts the hell out of me when I hear put-on southern accents. Just stop it already, Hollywood. Unless you’re poking fun on purpose, stop trying to pull off southern accents. Most of your people can’t do it believably. This is a huge pet peeve for me, FYI. So yeah. If Bill Murray isn’t your thing, but Kate Hudson doing poor mimicry of a drawl in her underwear is your thing, then this movie is still your jam.

The Final Takeaway (plus some things that struck me)

Though this movie was billed as a comedy, I didn’t really laugh much. But it was fun to laugh out loud, uninhibited, when it struck me. Empty theater for the win! Seriously, I was the only one in there…which I loved.

Richie tokin' it out during a drive in Kabul
Richie tokin’ it out during a drive in Kabul. Note the empty house.

This wasn’t a great comedy. And for roughly the first half of the movie, I was unimpressed and had a hard time relaxing and getting into it. Part of that could have been because I was way way way outside my comfort zone. Being out and about and alone in a theater. It was weird and unsettling but also cool and thrilling. I don’t know how much of that contributed to my initial impressions of the flick. But it’s worth noting.

Once the movie found its purpose in Afghanistan, it felt like the plot flowed better. Though it was still a bit plodding at times, I kind of expected that from a quirky Bill Murray film. I did expect it to be funnier. But, to me, it was more drama than comedy. Maybe a subtle blend into dramedy.

Bill Murray was Bill Murray, but a bit more serious than I’m used to seeing. Bruce Willis was Bruce Willis. Zooey Deschanel was a muted Zooey Deschanel. Kate Hudson was an annoying Kate Hudson. Leem Lubany (Salima) wasn’t very good, really. I found her stoic, never looking afraid or emotional, but she’s young and inexperienced and I’m okay with that. Side note: I kept thinking of a young Jami Gertz, circa The Lost Boys, when I looked at Salima. Is it just me?

Leem Lubany (Salima)
Leem Lubany (Salima)
Jami Gertz (blurry crap)
Jami Gertz (blurry crap)

I inexplicably began crying while Selima sang on Afghan Star. I couldn’t figure out why, and it made me uncomfortable. Sometimes I start crying like that, during movies or shows, and I don’t know why. I tried to figure this one out, and the closest I could come to a legit reason to weep was the fact that I was watching someone literally risking her life in pursuit of a passion.

When’s the last time we truly risked our lives for something? When’s the last time anything was even worth that to us? And what does that say about our existence if we can’t come up with something that we’re willing to risk being stoned to death in pursuit of?

There were some overt references to the U.S.’ interference and double-dealings, funding and arming any side of any conflict so long as the cash keeps flowing. The double-timing arms dealers have so much money, they literally throw it at Richie in one scene. And they make some comment that there’s always plenty of cash just there for the taking, so long as the U.S. is in some declared state of war – because war is lucrative. And, of course, tribal infighting results in a gun battle (though super short) at the end of the movie because Afghanistan. Personally, I appreciated the jabs.

Salima RTKB

Through it all Richie perseveres and Salima sings. Dressed in white, angelic and innocent, singing “Peace Train” to win the competition. It’s beautiful and poetic, and we are shown images of people across Afghanistan glued to television sets or radio, watching and listening to this forbidden performance. Tentative smiles on the faces of little girls, filled to the brim with hope for a brighter future. Awareness and acceptance dawning on the faces of strict and hardened men. The peace train rolls through and touches them, hearts and minds opening to a brighter future of acceptance and equality. It’s beautiful and idealistic and optimistic.

For Bill Murray and for the message of the movie, it was worth watching in spite of its weaker moments and Kate Hudson’s lameass accent and underwear.

Salima quotes Rumi to Richie at a decisive point in the film, and I loved it. I love Rumi, and it’s perfect to finish this post out:

There is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?

The beauty and simplicity of Rock the Kasbah made it worth the watch. And I think it suffered from marketing misfires – it shouldn’t have been sold as a comedy. It’s more of a touching “come together, never give up, fight against all odds, can’t we all just get along” kinda movie with moments of awkward and subtle hilarity. I liked the film, and I think it’s kinda important.

P.S. I didn’t write about the soundtrack, but I thought this article summed it up succinctly if you’re interested in soundtracks like I am. And for those of you that like trailers, here ya go: