Pop Goes the Polish Remover

A friend of mine recently asked if I’d like to work a few hours a week at his fetishwear shop. I’ve still got my property management job and pick up the occasional mobile notary gig, but to be honest, I’ve always missed working in retail. Evil customers and low wages aside, I like being behind a counter, especially in mom-and-pop (or in this case, daddy) establishments. It makes me feel like I’m in a sit-com.

The shop itself has two locations: The first is a freestanding building next to Ripcord, Ye Olde Townne Leather & Levis Bar, and the other takes up a large corner inside the bar itself. I’ve been patronizing Ripcord since I was a wee little baby gay, and when I got sober, I mourned all the misadventures I’d had there. However, a little over a year into my recovery, I agreed to meet a date there and found myself surprisingly comfortable in the environment. I was neither triggered nor overcome with the urge to drink, which threw me off a little, until I realized that for as raging an alcoholic as I was, I never actually drank very much at Ripcord — I just showed up there drunk.

That epiphany, coupled with Ripcord being the Misfits‘ home bar, resulted in me spending an inordinate amount of time there, much to the withering judgment concern of a number of sober acquaintances. “If you hang out at the barbershop, you’re going to get a shave,” they chanted while placing bets on how long it would take me to slink into a meeting and collect a new desire chip. But despite their hopes the odds, I’ve done remarkably well at the Rip. Everyone from the owner to the barback knows I’m sober, and it’s become an unexpected safe space for me, where I can sip club soda and get merrily groped by strangers without incident.

With all that in mind, I agreed to come aboard as a sales clerk, although I changed my work status on Facebook to read, “Notary Public at the Montrose Forge,” because I think I’m hilarious. And of course, within 30 minutes of me clocking in for my first shift, one of the Misfits texted me all, “Where are you?! I need something notarized yesterday,” so I took that as a favorable career omen and added a notary rate chart and that repellent sign to the shop’s décor, which amused the owner to no end. Especially after I told him he could charge $30 to have me schlep in from across town and notarize shit for walk-in clients.

The Forge
Best. Office. Ever.

Caught up as I was in the joy of getting back into retail and becoming the official notary for drunk leatherdudes everywhere, I managed to overlook one little glitch in the system: The store sells what are commonly referred to as “solvents,” or “polish removers,” or, back in the heyday of adult arcades, “video head cleaners.” And I say “commonly referred to,” because it is illegal in the great state of Texas to sell amyl nitrate or any of its derivatives for recreational purposes.

In other words, we don’t carry poppers. Poppers are bad. We would never promote nor encourage the purchase or use of poppers.

Which is good, because Drunk Me was a right proper fool for poppers.

For my 2.5 straight readers, poppers are an inhalant, which cause a brief but intense sense of euphoria. Along with the enjoyable head rush, poppers also lower blood pressure and relax muscles, which means they allow you to fit pretty much anything in your butt, hence their popularity in the gay community. I personally have not used poppers for any reason since before I quit drinking, but their acrid odor brings back fond semi-memories of drunken shenanigans, and in early sobriety, I found myself craving them more than cheap whiskey. I held firm and eventually lost all attraction to them, but I’ve also just put myself in a situation where I spend 12 hours a week with a display case of NOT POPPERS/POLISH REMOVERS a foot from my face. And that doesn’t strike me as 100% brilliant.

The original purpose of this blog was to document my recovery from alcoholism, but as I went from hiding in the rooms of 12-step meetings to functioning successfully in the Real World, writing about recovery seemed less and less relevant. Now, though, I’m starting to see The Second Coming of Bacchus as a tool for accountability. As I once told a roomful of recovering alcoholics who were not at all thrilled with my life choices (see barbershop above), I don’t care what anyone thinks about what I’m doing, so long as they know I’m doing it. It’s when I start keeping secrets that I get myself into trouble.

So. No secrets. I’m coming up on five years sober, and I’m working in a bar, selling video head cleaner to horny men who have never owned VCRs. And I am okay.

Thank you guys in advance for helping me stay that way.

A Scintillating Stamp of Professional Approval

For my third recovery birthday, my brilliant friend Tod gave me a card of one of his paintings, and in gratitude I ran off in search of the perfect picture frame:

tb chairs 2
The upholstery matches the upholstery.

As you can tell from the radioactive, mutant-green wall, the card ended up in my office, where it immediately stole focus, because it was the only innocuously work-approriate piece of art on display. In contrast, everything else looked… not gaudy, exactly, but like it was trying too hard to make a statement when there was really nothing to be said.

It was time, I realized, to start treating my office like an actual workspace, and not like (as my ex used to call it) a “white trash Pagan temple.” Making a valiant attempt at objectivity, I began pulling decorations that felt in any way over the top. The cauldron and the skull pillow were the first to go, followed by the Poseidon bottle and, with sad reluctance, the vagina bird. The place definitely looked a lot more like an office and less like an occult shop from the 1980s, but it also looked (at least to my eyes) a little colorless and drained of personality, even with the giant, affected Mona Lisa that was here long before I was.

I needed replacement ornamentation, but I needed it to be professional. I needed it to say, “I am salaried and keep my religious beliefs to myself.” I needed it to cost next to nothing and come with free shipping.

And I found it:

Click to see life-sized. Totally worth it.

I’ve been trying to get a better picture of it, but I just can’t capture how blinding the lettering is — seriously, it’s like it physically emits concentrated awesomeness. Alan walked into my office right after I’d put it up and was all, “Oh holy God. I can’t look directly at that.” And I was like, “I know! It’s vintage. Isn’t it wonderfully hideous?”

“No,” he replied. “Just hideous.”

Then my boss walked in and shielded her eyes and asked, “Is that… pink? Or… orange? Or… what color is that?”

And that’s how you know you’ve arrived: When your titles and qualifications can literally dazzle your colleagues. I’m sure a diploma or an award or something would have made an impact as well, but this particular plaque sums up my accomplishments perfectly, in that I sent $80 to the State of Texas, and they sent me back a stamp with my name on it.

My next mission is to find a matching sign that reads, “I Got Ordained Online.” But, y’know, I’ll probably keep that one at home.

Frame Job

A couple of months back, I ordered a print from the amazing and fabulous artist Jennifer Cox. Once it arrived, I put it in a frame, and I placed it on my desk:

Office Thoth
“Thoth Likes Extra Foam”

The End.

Right. So that’s basically what happened, just with a few key details edited out. Following is the full story (melodramatically rendered in present tense), which provides an excellent example of how my Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder works:

I find the artwork while browsing around on Etsy and note that it comes in three different sizes. I print out black-and-white copies of each size and tape them to various walls a) to see if the design will go with the rest of the décor around the house, and b) to determine which size will be the most aesthetically pleasing. I also print out two copies of a different illustration by the same artist, because while I’m not buying it right at this moment, I might eventually, and I need to make sure the two pieces will complement each other.

After an epic internal struggle, I settle on the 5 x 7 size and make the purchase.

The print arrives at my office. I open the package and prop the print on my desk to see if I want to keep it here instead of taking it home — after all, Thoth is associated with Hermes, who is associated with Mercury, which is the ruling planet of notaries, and all of my notary stuff is up here. I ultimately decide it would look better in the apartment, where I remember that I have a cool, multicolored picture frame. I locate the frame, take it apart, dust it and rinse it off, wash the glass separately, towel it all off vigorously and let it air-dry overnight (don’t want any errant water droplets ruining everything).

The following morning, I reassemble the frame and insert the print, and then spend forty-five minutes rearranging the knickknacks on my writing desk to properly fit it in. (I want it next to my St. Expedite statue, but then I would have to move a regular jar candle to a space between two seven-day candles, which is unacceptable.) So I finally get everything set exactly, and it looks great! Except…

The yellow and green corners are at the top of the frame, and while the yellow doesn’t look bad, the green clashes with Thoth’s nemes. Granted, this could be easily remedied by turning the frame upside down so that the red and blue corners are up top, but (and here’s the crux of the matter), whoever designed the frame intended for the yellow and green corners to be at the top, and therefore turning it upside down might destroy the entire universe. WE CAN’T TAKE THAT CHANCE.

I make it about a day and a half before I can’t stand it anymore and run to the drugstore down the street to pick up a plain, black frame. So now Thoth is on display again, just with no extra embellishments to distract the eye or drive me insane. All is well. Except…

The new frame is black metal, and all the other frames in my living room are black wood. I try to accept this, guys; I really, really do. But a few days later I cave and take the print and both of the frames to work with me, thinking that this whole situation would be a lot easier to resolve if all I had to do was just find a couple of hobbits to help me get rid of a ring.

So I’m up at the office the next day, and the first thing I notice is that the multicolored frame looks pretty awesome with the David Cowles caricatures across from my desk. I take Thoth out of the metal frame and put him back in the wooden one, and… ye Gods but that green corner is going to give me a seizure.

I know what has to be done.

Gritting my teeth, I pull Thoth out of the frame one final time, rotate the frame so that the red and blue corners are at the top, and put everything back together. The universe in fact does not explode, which is a pleasant surprise, but also, the color combo is now pretty much perfect. You know the relief that overwhelms you when you dislodge a popcorn kernel from between your teeth? It feels just like that, except the popcorn dislodged from my frontal lobe.

There is a brief moment of panic when I realize that the Thoth print plus the Erté Queen of the Night greeting card next to my computer might equal an unbalanced number of framed items, but I only have to spend about fifteen minutes repeatedly removing and replacing each piece individually before I decide both can stay.


So yeah, that’s what it’s like in my head. No-brainer, throw-away tasks become onuses: One second I’m trying to choose a picture frame, and the next I’m in Ancient Greek hell, pushing a boulder up a hill. The upside is that I know OCPD is just a vestige of my treated anxiety, and if the worst thing that happens to me on any given day is that I compulsively move a doodad across a shelf in half-centimeter intervals versus endure sixteen hours of hurricane-force panic attacks, then I’m probably doing okay. I may have to tell myself over and over that I am okay, but the reality is I really am, regardless of anything I can’t control, or that isn’t in order, or that gets reshuffled against my wishes.

I am okay.

PS: A tech guy just walked into my office with a new computer tower (my previous one pulled an Old Yeller and had to be taken out behind the barn), and the first thing he said was, “I’m going to have to move some of this stuff on your desk.” I screamed silently for only the briefest of moments before replying: “Oh, that’s fine, move anything you need to. It’s not a big deal.”

And it’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal.

Say it with me, guys.

It’s not a big deal.

It’s not a big deal.

It’s not a big deal.

Witch. Boozehound. Notary Public.

I was trying to get my office organized this morning, and I opened the top drawer of my filing cabinet to put some stuff away, and then I stopped for a moment and thought, “Wow. This is a painfully honest snapshot of my life.”

So I took a picture.

desk drawer

The stone tile under the notary stamp on the right side of the front compartment reads, I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night. I like how I covered it up so as not to draw attention to my alcoholism, even though, y’know, there’s a copy of Alcoholics Anonymous directly across from it. Hopefully, any snooping co-worker will be too distracted by the mojo bags and the Devil Girl box to worry about whether or not I have a terrible drinking problem.