two white rod pocket curtains

From My Window: Don’t Let Them See The Pain

I live in a tough part of town. It is not quite as challenging as where the shelter was placed, but still the heart of downtown gets antsy when dusk falls. I have my routine, I get up early, usually rudely awakened by the recycle van and trash collection. If they cannot sleep past some unholy hour – 5am-ish, then none of us can. These people work in darkness, they slam the trash cans up and down stairs, shout at each other, and seemingly are intent on creating a cacophony of noise outside my window. I am glad for them, I for one do not want to live in filth, but I wonder if they could do any of it a little more peacefully.

Waking up here is bittersweet. I think looking back I will say these are the happiest days of my life. I wake up, make tea, open my laptop and start working. Sometimes it comes easy, other times I get hung up. I really need to have a schedule of submissions to various publications, step up my pitch-game. The only thing I know how to do is write. The pressure on me to pull the rabbit out of the hat and continue life for me and the kid is immense. I feel as if I am drowning some days.

I have my writing rituals. A particular kind of notebook – they are cheap, but I like the covers and the pages don’t bleed through. I hate writing with sharpies. I need the pens I get from the little Japanese stationery store in Japantown. I rarely write in black or plain bic-blue, preferring brown or or other brightly colored ink. I have a peacock marine pen which is somewhere between blue and green that pleases me immensely.

Hunter S Thompson famously had quite the costly routine to get in the right headspace to write. His day started at 3pm with chivas regal whiskey and the news, by 3.45pm he was on the cocaine, and the rest of the day until he was ready to write at about midnight, was a journal of fortitude of mind, body and spirit. Cocaine and booze, lsd and grass, indulgent eating habits and pornography, Hunter was the kind of beast that requires careful and regular feeding. I often chuckle to myself at the thought of Hunter’s expense bill with habits that rigorous, and wonder how he managed to pull it off with Rolling Stone magazine. I suspect those days are long gone now, the freedom of the 1960s and ’70s has morphed into everything being a pathology, everything needing counselling and everything being controlled, catalogued and bound in rules, both written and codified. Heck they probably have quality control. Hunter, had he been writing nowadays, would have been as vilified as Joe Rogan, held to account by his peers for having unpopular opinions amongst the woke and hip-ly correct, and called various terrible things because he believed in free speech.

Hunter could not have existed within today’s framework. His coke would have been tainted with fentanyl, the lsd have to be purchased on some underground dark internet website and most likely not lsd at all, instead some shitty research chemical with a bad reputation that would throw him into the world of mechanical elves and demonic super-ego type Gods, who would show him terrible things and expect his mind to function. The days of Hunter’s ‘lawyer’ demanding that White Rabbit be played on the boom box, and when the peak was reached, thrown into the bathtub, blowing himself sky high, while Hunter tries to work his way around these debauched and crazy mental sins of Lucy, mental backflips, are impossible nowadays.

I expect there are certain people who have the money and connections to get into a serious drug collection, and watching the Depp trial, I have my suspicions about Hunter’s old friend Johnny. I think that man looks like he is living in 1969, with access to shit that only Keef Richards could dream of. He is also on the stand defending himself against accusations I don’t even want to think about let alone write about or discuss. The most I have to say is “everyone sucks.”…. Perhaps my regime of weed edibles, music and gardening is not so bad. The only plant food I buy is a high nutrient mix for my beloved orchid that sits on my windowsill, being treated like well….a fragile orchid, I don’t think I have even seen mephedrone since 1998.

I have my playlist for writing. I always start with a live version of Lorraine by Jim Carroll and his band, that has the most wicked bassline in history. It is pure heartbeat of the drunken and fucked up universe stuff. It is a shamanic trance inducer. It then follows two patterns, either what I am listening to for the day if I am doing an audiophile piece, or something unobtrusive and lacking in lyrics if I am writing poetry. But Jim always comes first, no matter what.

By this point the traffic is swishing past. If it is hot, there is generally human trouble of some kind of there. Some sadness, anger or overheard personal horrors. If it is cold and raining people’s emotions, fuelled seemingly by the sun, calm down and cool off and I get some peace and quiet. I am not the kind of person that prefers the noise of nature. For those five and a half years I lived outside I got woken by crows, hassled by owls at midnight, terrified by the padding feet of cougar, and fell asleep to the howls of coyote. It sounds idyllic, I suppose, when I write about it like that, but nature as just as noisy as the city is, sometimes more. Weather is horrendously noisy outside, a rain storm is like an audio-attack. Noise is noise, and whilst I am fond of some noise, other noise just gets in the way of sadness.

That is my other kick. I think I am addicted to doom and sadness. It is not that I like these negative things, it is merely that they are old friends that I know well, and that know me too, and let’s face it, writing about happiness is hardly interesting. Interest comes from conflict. My poetry is my therapy. I have given up on human therapists. They never get it, they dismiss and downplay. I am left feeling like screaming that the assholes have no fucking idea….but they don’t. And that is not their fault.

You see, my words can’t convey a teenth of the horror that was those years in Japan and then the terror of what happened after. I tell them, and they either look at me, and my scars all covered by clothes, apart from a faint one on my cheek and an eye that now permanently wanders when I get tired, and all they see is a nice privileged white woman with a somewhat posh educated accent and greying hair. I get called a ‘real go gettter’, a ‘nice’ lady. I am older now, not pretty anymore and don’t care to be. I also do not wear my damage on the outside these days. I am quiet and polite, apologetic almost. Hunter S Thompson never had to be apologetic. He never had to say sorry for his wildness, but mine, oh mine has to be kept firmly under wraps. It makes me want to verbally bite people. It makes me want to sink my teeth into the fluff of my pillow and scream into the wall. Those who are meant to understand, to get it, to help, are left saying how ‘strong’ I am. I am not strong. I am not invulnerble. They are left saying how functional I am.

But if I let my freak flag fly, if I gave full rein to my damage, it would be used against me. If I showed the world my pain in a way that was not packaged within neat little poems and controlled emotions writing blog posts and pieces for publication, it would take me by the scruff of the neck and destroy me. I have to be ok. I have to be restrained and sane, and because I am, I am judged to have ‘not suffered’. This is the conundrum. For other people to accept and understand pain, you have to show it, to prove it, but proving pain is on a hiding to nowhere. If I was to prove how hurt I am, if I was to bite the fucking pillow in public and scream into the ether, like a crackhead on polk, and trust me, sometimes I want to do that very badly indeed, it would not benefit me. Instead I have to control it. I have to ride that damage pony right through town, and dig my heels into it’s sides, lash that whip into it’s quarters and stay on board.

The only way to survive any of this is to grab a hold of myself and ask myself a few questions about what I want from life. I want my son with me. I want to be indoors and sleep in my beloved bed. I want to stay in San Francisco. I want to watch baseball on tv and, being the highly competitive person I am, seek to conquer all other players in my fantasy league, even the kid. He is currently beating me, and I am both tongue in cheek irritated, and also highly amused and proud. He is his mother’s son, and took what proved to be the best pitcher in the league so far this year. 22 points he got yesterday. Mine gave up five runs and limped off looking sorry for himself. He said he would win, and he did, and that is the entirety of the matter. Winning.

You see I don’t want to lose any more. Proving my damage and the extent of my pain means losing and losing big. If I was to prove my pain I would be out there scoring dope and getting high. If I was to prove how much I hurt and how much I care and how hugely devastated I am, then I would go on a tirade, throwing newspapers at pigeons and screaming at the normies, but that does not get me anything I want. I want to be ok for my son. He doesn’t need me to prove my pain, he needs me to show my strength. I want to be ok, because not giving in to pain, in the end, however draining and sad and scary controlling the damage is, it feels better than giving myself a stroke or a heart attack and leaving the kid alone in the world. I am not going to be happy locked up in psych ward, or a jail cell. I don’t have the luxury of proving my pain or damage. I don’t want to make the rest of my life miserable.

In exchange for self control, I get something I need out of life, and that I need to give to others. There are some things I will never forgive, and some hills I will die upon. Non malicious. Attention seeking. Was nothing else I could do, I tried my best. Snippets of phrases that mean so much to me, are not going to mean anything to anyone else. My husband’s psych has told him I am to blame too. That translated in his mind into his innocence and that makes me numb with sadness. I am not even angry. Angry would be easier. No. I am sad. I am sad and I feel hopeless, but in the end, does anyone care? No. And nor should they. This is my pain to deal with alone, but would it fucking hurt those who should know better and deal with me in their capacity as a support towards an abused woman, to at least acknowledge the extent of the abuse I suffered and do so in a way that does not say ‘because you try to be ok, it can’t have been that bad.’ The man tried to kill me, he won’t allow a divorce, and has tortured me for over twenty years. But it is not enough unless I show my pain, and if I do, that will be used as an excuse to destroy me. Fuck that for a game of soldiers.

Fuck those who should have helped and could have should have ensured a better outcome. But as much as I get dismissed on account of appearances, my babies were not so privileged. Judged, judged, judged unfairly. Not given the care nor the kindness, or treated as if they meant nearly as much as others in their peer group, because American organizations and governments and culture is built on racism. But my children were, and no one, I think can say my actions do not bear this out, the entire world to me. But I digress into dangerous territory, and thus you see the problem. In order to stay in control, I have to leave some things alone. In order not to risk being slammed down by others for my opinions and experiences, I have to back away slowly and think about what I am saying. It is not 1975. I am not Hunter S Thompson, however much I want to be, and I can’t just say what is on my mind.

In the end, when all is said and done, how most others see me doesn’t matter. My son matters. It matters if he is proud of me or not, it matters that he feels safe and loved. It matters if he is happy. My adoptive sister of my heart matters to me immensely. I live wanting to show her how much I appreciate her, whilst failing every day to show that enough. I might tut and sniff and roll my eyes in private but you won’t catch me doing that in public. Not nowadays. No, I make like Bridget Fonda in her 1993 movie, Point of No Return, and fix a smile on my face, while the daggers of life run me through and tilt my head to one side, and say, “Oh really? I never did mind about the little things…” Then I walk away, with my head held high and sit down at my desk to write.


  1. Ruth

    I know how much you appreciate me sister, and how hard you have to work to hold it all together. Every single day. My admiration for what you do and who you are is immense. xxx

    1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

      Just for the record, I want to say that I adore you, Ruthie, you are the sister I wish I had always had, and one of the very few people that ‘gets me’ and cares gently. Ruthie is a superlative human being, people, the embodiment of kindness, and has done so very much for me and the Boy. I will never be able to thank her enough.

  2. Alan Conrad

    That idea that Hunter Thompson couldn’t exist today is very interesting. The chaos of the late 60s/early 70s is gone, though the world is more complex. His method of being as outrageous as possible without killing yourself worked for a while, though I’ve often wondered how many people tried to copy him and just went over the cliff. Your approach is a perfectly good one, better I would say – why it is possible to produce a steady supply of A+ writing without a flood of $$$$ following is a mystery to many of us.

    1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

      Hello Alan! Nice to see you again! That mystery is why I am writing a novel. I am starting to freelance and not doing too horribly. It is producing things that people want to read is the problem. The trouble is people want to consume their entertainment in pictures and sound, not words. People have got lazy.
      As for Hunter. If he did a fraction of what he is alleged to have done, he would have been dead many times over I think. A lot went under following the same path, some of them were my friends. The trick is to fuel not to burn out. Nowadays I just have marijuana and am happy with that state of affairs.
      I don’t suit this modern world very well, Alan. I am constantly left feeling resentful at editing myself constantly. It is a fine line that I find hard to work out how to tread.

  3. Alan Conrad

    Novels can be great escapes, especially for the novelist. I think that’s the main reason I write them [it’s certainly not for money] – but getting people to read them is something I’ve yet to learn. Re the modern world, I feel much like you.

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