Change of Oil

  • Reading time:3 mins read

I talk a lot about this dividing line, and how I am not the same person as the previous caretaker for this body, but seriously, all my memories prior to maybe a year ago feel so unreal. It’s getting harder and harder to remember specifics, like grasping at a dream.

Just as well.

It sure doesn’t help the continuity of self that all my tastes and preferences and some deeply-held understandings seem to now be up in the air and need to be caught and relaid from scratch. What foods do i like? What do emotions feel like? What do i think of body modification?

I may have mentioned that my taste for food has been shifting since my transition. This is pretty normal, of course. Change your body chemistry, your body is gonna start bothering your brain for different complementary materials. In practice it still feels so odd.

It’s hard to navigate. I’m autistic, right, and I’m very particular about what kinds of sensory input I can deal with. It’s taken decades for me to explore and branch out and work through what’s acceptable to me. Since my tastes calcified somewhere in adolescence, they haven’t really changed; they’ve just expanded. I’ve managed to tack things on, break through barriers, develop things further. But it’s all hooked into the same architecture, same basic assumptions that have never shifted. Now I can’t safely fall back on any of that.

I used to be all about sugar and carbohydrates. Whether it’s my metabolism or my neurology, I dunno, but I couldn’t function without a constant input of quick, easy energy. (Even then, functioning was a philosophical matter.)

Now the things I naturally assume I’ll want, I kind of shrug at. They’ll sit there, and I can’t really imagine eating them. In their place, I don’t always know how to read the new signals. It took so long to figure out the old ones. But definitely acids and oils and fats. It’s all about savory things now, which… really weren’t a major concern before. I’m super into stinky cheese and fermented things. I find myself drawn to just, raw vegetables in a way I wasn’t overly. Stereotypical as it may be, I seem to crave as I never have. I was always into, like, gummy and hard candy, right? All sugar, no fat. This is almost the flip of that.

All of this is comprehensible, right. I know what my body is doing and why. It’s just, there’s a lot of identity in this.

As I say, Azure is not the same person as that shell she stomped around inside, or that stomped around on autopilot as she largely slept. If you could even call them a person.

I hadn’t factored how much of my prior sense of self, such as it was, had been scrubbed by that last decade. by this total breakdown of my humanity. Which… in hindsight was weirdly helpful for finding the person buried beneath all that and clearing the room for her to finally grow properly.

But she still inherits all these memories and notions and understandings, and many of them no longer apply, or are fading in ways that are hard to predict. And it’s… really confusing. I’m starting from zero on so many things. This life is just so completely new.

I still like liquorice, though.

That’s how you know I’m trans.

The signs were always there.

Ew, I swear to god if this winds up with me liking cheesecake at the end of it all, I’m gonna kill a bitch.

Ding

  • Reading time:6 mins read

Food, when I was growing up, amounted to, “I don’t know; don’t bother me. Make yourself a bagel if you’re hungry.” My school lunch was perhaps a Fruit Roll-Up and a Kudos bar, in a brown paper bag. If there was nothing readily available, I just didn’t eat.

I think I never really got in the habit of food. Even four decades in, I remain vague on the idea of Eating Things. Even when food is available, it’s this abstraction. Yes, ideally I would consume it on occasion. Mostly, I forget—and mostly, I don’t.

When I was a little older, the same friend who helped me to escape from my most recent abuse scenario and set me up where I’m living now—his parents sent me a sort of care package; just, all this food, to eat. Since they knew there was never anything at home.

I stored that in my room for a few months, until I worked through it. Saved me having to enter the same air as my parents.

The two of them, they had their own specific things they ate, which were always, uh. One of them was just liver and onions, all the time! The other, I hope you like boiled rhubarb. If not, tough. And if so… well, it was theirs, right. So they did them, and then went their way. And I had to figure things out on my own.

When I was a little older my paternal grandmother, who was a horrible person in every respect (I won’t approach the racism), regaled me with a story of when I was perhaps two, and she saw me trying to make a bologna sandwich with green luncheon meat. Which… tracks, yes.

Come to it, when I was really young they did that thing of, if you’re bad you don’t get to eat, right. And I was “bad” all the time because I was a weeper. It seemed like everything made me cry. So I just got used to self-punishing and keeping out of the way.

I’m 6’5″ now. I wonder how tall I’d be if I weren’t malnourished most of my life. I wonder if this has anything to do with how late puberty hit me.

Every so often my father would scream at me that I was anorexic. And, then, well, that was the end of it. He just needed to scream that at me, so that I knew it. It wasn’t technically true; I was just scrawny, as I remain. But let’s just say that I was. Do a little math. Why does one imagine I might be that way?

Both my parents were… shall we say, deficient, as people. It’s not my job to sort through or apologize for what damage may have brought them to the point that I entered the story; they were who they were, and they were the kind of people Roald Dahl served to illustrate. Of the two I think my father took a little pity on me, inasmuch as when he happened to be stuck with me and we were out of the house he would always take me for fast food. Often my choice. So there was that. When he had to be there and see that I existed in front of him, occasionally I received the bare minimum of care.

Too much contact, though, made him uncomfortable. If he could get rid of me he would. I’ve already talked about the mall thing, where he’d dump me all afternoon, evening, and night until closing, because he didn’t want me to burn down the house, as he put it every time, but if I chanced to burn down the mall then that was out of his hands. If he remembered he’d give me five dollars for pizza. But with my training, I could easily not-eat—especially if there was a new game in the arcade. Something that introduced new ideas, like Rolling Thunder or OutRun or Double Dragon or Rastan. Or one of a few favorites that happened to cycle back in somehow, like Vs. The Goonies.

As I unpack the tangle of disasters that has brought me to my current situation, I gain more and more perspective on the complicated intersection of ways in which I was set up to fail in life.

My whole response to any scenario, I was taught: go away; don’t remind anyone that you exist; keep quiet, don’t show any emotion; don’t give them reason to punish you. I was taught to be a non-entity, to want nothing, not to attend to my own needs if I even knew them. I’m a bad student, but eventually I learned.

If I make myself invisible enough, I an rewarded with neglect instead of active abuse. So, I can stay quiet. I can make myself sit still. I can just not ask for anything. Ignore my bodily functions. Remove myself from the equation, remove myself from myself. 

Maybe I should eat something.

Between all this and my lack of romantic or sexual attraction, such that every relationship I’ve been in has been a matter of other people inveigling themselves into my life, telling me they’re my best friend until I rely on them, then handing me this ultimatum where for the friendship to continue it must do so on their terms, to which I have replied, “no, don’t go; I’ll do what you say; I’ll be good,” I can recognize a few central mechanics to the manner in which my life has, historically, sucked.

Of course now, as I approach my 42nd birthday, I have begun to learn my own systems—as opposed to the whims of narcissism that have shaped my my every fear and expectation for the first two score of my knowledge. So we’re not great, but we are at a turning point. Had I the capacity to cope with everyday life, and could I support myself financially, I would be well on the path to hunky-dory, and could begin to address some bigger structural issues. For now… I have a quesadilla in the oven.

Got to eat, Azure.

Bean there; done that

  • Reading time:1 mins read

Every time I open the microwave to put in a frozen burrito, I look around for the little plates I use and can only find one of them. I wash the plate if needed, position the burrito on it, and open the microwave.

And there’s the other plate, with a half-cooked burrito on it.

This has happened three times since the weekend.

Incidentally, it’s out today.

  • Reading time:2 mins read

I was invited to the launch party for Star Soldier R, a couple of days ago, in an informal capacity. It was pretty great, actually. I sat and chatted with the new president of Hudson USA, whose name escapes me, for quite a while. And the game is pretty good, for what it is — which is a sort of score attack thing, not unlike Pac-Man CE. I asked, in all fatuousness, if it came with one of those Takahashi Meijin tap-timing controllers — and… it sort of does, in that there’s a special game mode for that.

Eventually there was a competition for the highest score in 2-minute mode — and I came in second place! That’s out of the few-dozen people there. Maybe thirty, forty, fifty people? The guy ahead of me chose, as his prize, a six-month supply of beef. Which I’m sure he will enjoy! I chose six months of coffee, and the third-place winner (whom I sort of know) was left with a supply of barbecue sauce.

It’s a good thing that I recently began to drink coffee — if irregularly.

As we left, everyone was expected to take a gift bag; as many did not, I found an extra one ceremoniously shoved into my hand, meaning that I also wound up with an extensive cache of wine, cookies, and chocolate.

All in all, a profitable evening.

The Cosmopolis

  • Reading time:1 mins read

I got some amazing strawberry jam the other day. It’s made with just strawberries and grape juice. And good junipers, I feel like eating it out of the jar.

It always weirds me out when people eat condiment or filling material on its own. Many women seem to just eat peanut butter, with a spoon; something about that just feels revolting. I’ve also known people to eat ketchup or mustard. Or to drink maple syrup. Even eating luncheon meat on its own strikes me as a little bizarre; it’s like eating a fetal sandwich. By eating it on its own, you are preventing a proper sandwich from being made down the line.

But this… this is beauty and love. Which makes everything gross desirable, and excuses all awkwardness.

There’s a big, normal mainstream grocery store on the other side of the lake. I’m gonna go there tomorrow if I get enough written, and see if they have some Ovaltine already. I don’t get this. In San Francisco you can find Ovaltine in any corner shop. In Oakland, zilch. Is it that cosmopolitan a beverage?

Crulling Horror

  • Reading time:1 mins read

Since I’ve been out West, it seems that Dunkin’ Donuts has STOPPED SELLING CRULLERS.

What is wrong with this world?

Sweat Meats

  • Reading time:2 mins read

Okay, so white chocolate is chocolate made without the cocoa solids. Because of the lack of cocoa powder, it’s not considered chocolate as-such by the FDA (and other such organizations). Because of this in turn, it can be made with other materials in place of (the relatively healthful) cocoa butter — like, say, hydrogenated vegetable oil — and still be labeled “white chocolate”.

This deal with cocoa butter is also a major differentiation between chocolate and fudge. Fudge is actually kind of a variant of caramel (the candy, not the burned sugar). To make caramel, you boil milk and sugar together — otherwise also important ingredients in milk chocolate — to what is known in confectionary circles as the “soft ball” stage. To make fudge, you then beat the mixture while it cools. So fudge is basically beaten caramel that tends to (though need not) be flavored with cocoa powder. In contrast, to call something “chocolate”, it needs to be based entirely on chocolate products — mainly, cocoa powder and cocoa butter.* Considering that fudge need not contain any chocolate product, this does not describe fudge. Actually they’re pretty far apart, as far as confections go.

While we’re here, the difference between toffee and taffy basically comes down to one minor detail of production; they tend to be made from the same recipe (basically a caramel one, with butter), and by the same process. The only thing is, taffy is pulled as it cools, aerating it and making it chewy. Salt water taffy was invented (or at least popularized) in Atlantic City. I guess that explains why it’s so much more common on the east coast than over here. And why it’s all over the place when you go to the Jersey boardwalks. It doesn’t really contain salt water. Or even any more salt than other candy contains.

*: Chocolate liquor is the natural result of grinding cocoa beans to a smooth state; it consists of what would otherwise be extracted separately as powder and butter.

Tragedy

  • Reading time:1 mins read

From tender cradle,
Blueberry bagel
Why do you leap
From knifey slaughter to
Damp dishwater
For besotted food I weep.

The timing explains the cowboys.

  • Reading time:1 mins read

The story of Root Beer.

Did you note the bit about the carcinogenic qualities of sassafras? Here’s more on the matter!

SPECIAL QUOTE:

Oil of Sassafras is chiefly used for flavouring purposes, particularly to conceal the flavour of opium when given to children. In the United States of America it is employed for flavouring effervescing drinks.

Because you know how hard it is to get the kids to take their opium!

Damned kids.

And yet, tomorrow… more movies!

  • Reading time:5 mins read

There is such a thing as Pez-flavored popcorn? Pez? All its charm is in the packaging and delivery. The candy itself can be downright vile. Even if Pez were a flavour sensation, why popcorn?

I just attended the final night of the MIFF. It’s amazing how exhausting it can be just to watch movies, granted back-to-back over a ten-day stretch. Anyway, it was entirely worth the experience.

So. Today, we had one silent movie by F.W. Murnau (of Nosferatu fame). As with the (highly expressionistic) golem film from last year, the soundtrack was composed, and performed live, by a pianist from the coast. He’ll be sending a CD of it here, by request.

Next up, I spent some time poking around Marden’s during a three-hour gap. I managed to dig up a bunch of useless doodads such as a copy of Sewer Shark for the Sega CD (about two dollars) and an RF adapter for the Dreamcast (just in case I happen to run into a TV old enough that it’d be required) — marked down from an absurd eighteen dollars to about three or four. There were copies of Anarchy Online sitting around for under five dollars, but Edgar’s too old to run anything like that. It was just amusing to see them there, next to the cheese graters and fishing tackle and giant Tootsie Rolls and Gundam Wing figurines.

Marden’s is an interesting place.

I also adopted the most handsome duck in the world. He’d been calling to me all week.

Then there was an interesting Japanese film which no one except for me seemed to understand at all. (From the literature, it’s apparently inspired in part by Philip K. Dick. I suppose I can see that.) I’m not going to go into too much detail, but toward the end it occurred to me that the film was almost Shakespearian in composition, with the character of Keechie playing much the same role as the fool — or whatever other foil was often used as a tool of fate — to illuminate the faults of the main characters and to help pull the plot forward. Also, the movie started in some ways to become, toward the end, much like what I’d expect from a traditional Samurai drama. It seems there’s little in the film which is best to take at face value; it’s all a modern fable of sorts. It’s hard to tell at first, by how intentionally Western everything seems. But that begins to get stripped away, as things move along…

The second showing of Body Drop Asphalt was just one slot too late; too few people saw it the first time, and the voting for best film of the show closed just as the movie’s slot began. A shame, but it at least got my vote…

But that’s mostly because they saved the best film for last. I can’t find it in the IMDB, but it’s a Swedish film by the English title of “Deadline”. (Jonne, might you be any good here?) It’s obvious why the movie in question was reserved for the closing ceremonies; I probably would have voted for BDA anyway, simply to give it the much-needed support, but… I don’t believe I’ve seen a movie as well-made as this in — decades, really.

(There are, incidentally, too many movies with the name “Deadline”. I didn’t catch the Swedish title, but I can’t imagine it being this lame. This is something which has irritated me greatly, over the past few weeks; it seems nearly every foreign film has had its title not merely translated but, rather, altered into the most boring, forgettable spun-off Hollywood marketeer claptrap imaginable. “Merci Pour Le Chocolat” somehow becomes “Nightcap”; “L’ Emploi du temps” is mangled into “Time Out” — and so on. Gr, I say.)

The mid-’70s were really the last bastion of serious moviemaking in Hollywood. Then Star Wars came around, and nothing’s been the same since. The thing about indie and foreign pictures, is that while they’re great in the sense that they fill the void of experimentation that Hollywood could never provide, they generally just don’t have the financial backing that the teenage barf factory has to offer. So you have the potential for a lot of really interesting and difficult pictures which you’d not get otherwise, but there are generally some compromises.

My point is — well. It’s not a visionary film. It’s not anything which hasn’t been done before in some way. It doesn’t dazzle the viewer with creativity. It’s simply more solid a film than I’m at all used to seeing. Its characters are well-drawn, and the acting is impeccable across the board. The direction is just right. The pacing is perfect; the way things are gradually established, beginning with the way the paper is run, moving onto the main character’s (realistic) life at home, and office politics; then gradually onto the real plot of the movie. And it ends at just the right place, and in just the right way. There’s a particular confidence and sheer competence at work here which I’m not accustomed to seeing. Not out of today’s cinema, anyway. Again, perhaps a few decades ago.

So that was today. Here again is an adjusted list of what I’ve seen, with links where I can find ’em.

So. There.

Otakon is only a few days away now. Not sure what I’m doing yet. I thought I was going to be more prepared than this.

Fishies.

  • Reading time:1 mins read

I’d wondered for a while why Swedish Fish now just said “Swedish” on them rather than the “Malaco” to which I’d become accustomed since youth. Upon further study, it ends up that Malaco is a Swedish company which holds the rights to Swedish fish and a boatload of other common gummi candies. Any which are produced and sold under other brands — and there are several I’ve seen in my time — are done so under license from Malaco.

I guess they decided to switch the fish mold so as not to annoy the other companies who produced the things; why have some other company name on your candies? Also, I guess having “Swedish” so pically inscribed makes a bit more sense just in terms of brand recognition, or inner coherence of the product.

So — now I now. And so do you. We match!

Same light taste

  • Reading time:1 mins read

Bottled Orange Juice — for that great airplane flavor!

Bergamot

  • Reading time:1 mins read

Earl Grey tastes like its leaves are rinsed with turpentine.