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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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People Are Strange, When You're A Stranger...

I have just finished dealing with, perhaps, the strangest, most unsettling internet exchange of my life. And I've initiated and been on the receiving end of some weird shit. It comes with the territory, I suppose. Expose your thoughts and feelings on the net and you're likely to bump up against some peculiar folks.

What's sent my mind for a loop is how easily the internet can distort your perception of someone. People hide behind words, sliding on personas like a pair of slippers or a comfy robe. That can be nice. That can be terrifying. Which means, no matter what you think, you will never, ever really know someone through the internet. Perhaps that's true in real life as well.

I mention the above because I have chosen to come clean with you all. I am actually a 67 year old man, recently retired from a life of crime. For entertainment in my twilight years, I've been paying Monica Biel***o $5,000 U.S. dollars a month for pictures of her life. Ever see that episode of Seinfeld where J. Peterman pays Kramer for his life stories? That's similar to the arrangement Monica and I have agreed to.

Monica Biel***o is actually an intensely private person and has never written a day in her life. She prefers to spend her time either snorting lines of coke in her bathroom or slinking around her local ale house in lingerie, hovering near the jukebox continuously playing sad Jeff Buckley songs whilst chain smoking Virginia Slims.
Ahem.. As I was saying. Monica Biel***o is a junkie. She is completely delusional and I am finally taking credit where credit is due.
Consider this a word of warning. You never know who is really on the other end.

You Can't Take It Back

When I was young, silly arguments were a regular occurrance between girlfriends and family members alike. I didn't discriminate. I was nine. It's just the way it was. Many of these disputes would transpire in the following fashion:
You're a big (insert insult du jour here)!
Yeah, well you're just a stupid (insert insult du jour here)!
That's not truuuue! Take it back!
No, you take it back!
You first!
Okay. I take it back.
Me too. Let's go jump on the trampoline.

It's not that easy anymore, is it? The insults intensify with age, with marriage. Spending significant amounts of time with someone affords you the Superman-like ability to read their mind. You know their faults. You know their weaknesses. You know how to pour lemon juice in the cut with such precision not a drop misses the mark.

Speaking of liquid, ever pour liquor on a fire? In the heat of battle, when the showdown is at hand and your opponent reaches for his gun first, you have a choice. Stand there and take it and likely end up seriously wounded. Or follow your instinct, draw your own gun and fire at will.

Sometimes I manage to dodge the bullet and keep my own weapon holstered. Those are good days. Other times, particularly with the assistance of alcohol, I stoke the fire like a professional camper. Fucking alcohol. It's an accelerant of the worst kind. Or best kind, if you're stuck in the wilds of Alaska with only matches and Vodka at your disposal. Although I'd opt for drinking the Vodka as opposed to lighting a fire. But that's me.

Thing is, fighting as an adult, although it's almost always childish, has morphed into something unrecognizable from those carefree days of youth. Your spouse knows how to hit where it hurts. These ain't no generic insults flung about willy nilly. And unlike those days, when fights were forgotten in moments, like your virginity, You Can't Take It Back. I don't care what those born agains say... Oh, you can say you take it back. You can say you didn't mean it. You can blame the alcohol and you can make nice and say you're forgiving and forgetting.

Which words carry more weight? The good ones or the bad ones? The bad ones do, don't they? So you can forgive and attempt to forget, but those words are engraved in your brain, tattooed on your heart. And will likely be ammunition in the next battle.

On Turning 29...

I don't wish to impart the impression that I am fighting aging. I love the wisdom that inevitably accompanies age. But it IS alarming how quickly Father Time sneaks up on you and delivers a rapid fire succession of jabs to your kidneys... your eyes... your knees... your aching back. Luckily I'm only afflicted with the shitty eyesight, but still.

Just yesterday I was the youngest news producer in Salt Lake City. I reveled in my status, having clawed my way to a job usually reserved for older, more experienced journalists. But I'm no longer the youngest person in the newsroom. The simple fact that I'm working in a newsroom doesn't hold the same acclaim at 29 as it did at 22... I used to sneak into the studio after my writerly duties were complete and watch - filled to the brim with awe - as the news anchors did their thang.. I'd get a little zing when 45 year old anchors seriously read the words I drummed up in my humble 22 year old brain. I'd marvel that millions of people were watching and listening.. I realized the zing had died the day I produced a newscast here in Manhattan featuring none other then Barbara Fucking Walters. I didn't care in the least. Babs What? WaWa Who? I don't care.. She just better fucking shut up when I give her a 30 second warning. I quickly realized my dream career had lost it's luster. Even sneaking in to watch Regis and Kelly do their business bores me.

I have a journal entry from August of '96, nearly ten years ago, that says:

"I need to travel. To get out of this sheltered town. I want to report the truth in politics, wars, all the lying that goes on in this world we live in. I don't want to live in passivity and ignore it all and let someone else make decisions that impact America. I want to be a part of those decisions, or at least be able to inform the public."

Sheesh... What an optimist. Bus as we all know, it isn't that simple is it? Although there are some bright spots and some amazingly talented people, the news industry in turns bores me, appalls me and never inspires me. I'm not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, excited to be at the center of all the folks that are "in the know" before the rest of America. I feel like another working stiff teetering on the brink of my thirties.

So today I'm taking stock. Affixing gold stars to my fridge for past accomplishments and setting my sights on loftier goals. I want to get my book published. I want a book with my name on it in the bookstore so bad I can already smell the delicious New Book Smell. The scent of fresh paper and ink and promise and cozy couch reading sessions, diving head first into the world another writer has created.

Two things are on my mind as I am dragged into the last year of my twenties. I want to start my second book (can I call it a "book" if it's still only a bunch of pages?). I also want to start jogging again. I did already. Jogged today, I mean. Thundering down the sidewalk, ass thump-thumping with the beat of my sneakers, wheezing like a dying old man. I was wheezing, I mean - not my ass. Although if asses could wheeze, mine would have today. It's been a while. It was tough. I almost puked. Almost. Instead, I unwisely ignored an old adage and spat in the wind. Luckily, no one was around to witness the aftermath of that unfortunate decision.

At 29, my mom was divorced with four children. Wow. That puts my life in freakish perspective. It's strange how swapping the environs of Utah for this crazy Brooklyn life has changed me. I feel free. More alive. Thoughts I never woulda thunk behind the Zion Curtain have taken seed in the dark corners of my brain. Were I turning 29 in the high altitudes of the Utah suburbs right now I think I would be treating myself to a long, luxurious bath... with my toaster.

It's been one year since I've been "home". It's been the best year of my life. It's been the hardest year of my life. I don't know if I would have made it without this blog.. It has given me my voice back. Allowed me to say what I wanna say without funneling my words through some news story using industry jargon.

Thanks everyone, for being a part of this journey with me. Your comments, your awesome emails and your willingness to share pieces of yourself have sometimes been the only light on some very dark days. It's not so easy to move to a new city (New York Fucking City at that!) have your husband be gone nearly all of the time, start a new job in the biggest news market in the world and not lose it once in a while.

Is THAT Me!????

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my mama used to record us on a silver, portable cassette player. My big brother and I would belt out church songs, and little ditties we'd been taught.
"I'm Popeye the sailor man
I live in a garbage can
I eat all the junk
and smell like a skunk

Strangely, my three year old voice was much lower and huskier than my six year old brothers. My mom still has the tape. I can be heard shrieking "I WANT TO HEAR THE GIRL. MAKE THE GIRL COME BACK!" I'm referring to myself. Mom would play back the audio and I'd delight in hearing my own voice.

When it came to recording my voice, I had about has much patience as a cop in a doughnut shop. I wanted to hear the girl. Now. "But Monica", Mom would say, "you have to talk first to make the girl come." Not understanding the mechanics of recording THEN playing, the whole tape is full of me shouting for "THE GIRL."

The recording incidents must have traumatized me.. for I can't stomach hearing my recorded voice. It's on par with accidentally farting in public. Except instead of bellowing "It wasn't me!" I'm shouting incredulously "Is that me?" I sound normal in my own head.. but when my voice is played back to me I hate "THE GIRL." She's so annoying. How can my husband make it through the day without backhanding that annoying bitch?

So you can imagine my panic when The Surge decided I was to sing a ditty on his Christmas album. I flap my lips around the apartment all day long.. I have a number of made-up tunes involving Max, The Surge and various other strange word creations. But when those Bielanko brothers stuck that microphone in front of my face I could hear the tremors in my voice. My mouth went on strike, turning Sahara on me and my throat clicked when I swallowed. My top lip even began twitching! No, not in a cool Elvis-like way.. in a freak-girl-that-needs-medication kind of way. Nonetheless, we recorded the sucker.. You can hear the results for yourself on Marah's A CHRISTMAS KIND OF TOWN. I skip the song every time I listen to the CD, of course. I'd rather listen to nails on a chalkboard.

Point is, today my "Is That Me" syndrome morphed into something new and hideously improved. A friend of mine sent me a link to her SXSW pictures from last weekend. I'm happily perusing the pics... and then IT happened. For your benefit, I'll re-live the excruciating thought process for you as I clicked through the photos.

"Cute pic... Another good one.. Cute.. Artsy.. Cool pic! Oh that's a good one of Dave... Awww, look how cute Julie looks.. There's The Surge! Oh, that one's hot. Who's that schlumpy girl with the big forehead standing next to my husband? Why, THAT'S ME! No, it can't be! Is that me? What the fuck? Why are my tits resting on the waistband of my jeans? Do I slouch THAT much? Mother of god that giant, shining forehead rivals Tyra Banks endless noggin. Must. Cut. Bangs. Immediately. Why hasn't anyone said anything? I HATE that girl! Look at her! She's so annoying. She thinks she's so cute and she's a big chubby fucker! I am filled with more shock and awe then Iraq in the early days.

And here I am closing in on 29. My Myspace profile already says I'm 29, those fuckers. Can't I live out the last of my year without that website jumping the gun? I've got two more days dammit! I've got to go now. It's time for another Crying Game shower session where I clutch fistfuls of thigh flesh and sink slowly into the tub, tears mingling with water.

Please Pass The Bread

I'm passing the bread, but it isn't dinner time. Which can only mean one thing: sacrament in the church. The Mormon church. The tray of bread the teenage boys who hold the Priesthood prepared before uttering the usual prayer is now headed straight for me via the hands of other god fearing Mormons.

"Oh god the eternal father..."

My best friend Lisa's mom is taking her turn.. First she daintily plucks the morsel of bread from the silver tray, then she places the white fluff of yeast into her mouth. Now she passes the tray to her husband who does the same. Next comes Lisa's big brother Jimmy and her sister Laura. Now bullets of sweat are slipping down my back. After Laura comes Lisa and after Lisa it's my turn.

"...we ask thee in the name of thy son, Jesus Christ..."

The bread and the tiny, thimble-sized cup of water that is to follow is supposed to represent the flesh and blood of Christ, the dude that everyone tells me died for my sins. The doctrine of the Church is that Holy Communion is morally necessary for salvation.. That is to say, without the graces of this sacrament it would be very difficult to resist grave temptations and avoid grievous sin.

" bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake..."

Probem is, I've already sinned. Last weekend I let my boyfriend Matt stick his hand up my shirt. I haven't told my bishop yet. So I don't deserve the sacrament. But it's coming my way and if I don't take my turn everyone will know I'm a sinner!

"...that they eat in remembrance..."

That's when one of the boys who pass the sacrament parks his size 10 Kenneth Coles next to my pew. He's waiting for the bread tray. Since I'm sitting at the end of the row it will be me that hands it to him. It also means he will be watching every move I make. But so is god, watching every move I make. The Lord sternly warns church members to refrain from giving the sacrament to those who are unworthy. If I take the sacrament in my sinning state I'll surely be in bigger trouble than I already am. It says so right in The Book of Mormon:

3Nephi, chapter 18 (verses 28-29): "… this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him."

The tray clinks noisily against Lisa's watch as she takes her turn, but my heart sounds like it's pounding louder than the brief collision of metal. I can't take the sacrament, I just can't! It wold be wrong. I risk a peek at Laura who is still chewing her bit of bread. Behind me, someone coughs discreetly. Off to my left one of dozens of babies in the congregation begins to wail before it's mother deftly swoops it out of the chapel and into the lobby.

"...that they may always have his spirit be with them..."

Lisa passed the tray of bread to me and I promptly pop a piece in my mouth. It's what we all do.