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Meet Jena

Jena writes:

Whenever you start doing anything online like this, people start wondering what you're like. Even though we, modern society, are familiar enough with technology and how it allows some sort of anonymity, we're not comfortable not knowing who it is that we're talking to or reading about or so on. We assign identities to them even through the anonymity and, after a while, we pretend that we know them because it makes us feel comfortable.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet myself. I figured I'd share it with you so that way you know more about me as a person, etc., rather than a collection of expressions, etc.

In person

Depending on who you are, you'll immediately pick up on a given set of features first. Me, I'm an eyes person. So the first thing I notice are my green eyes, seeming more vivid than green eyes should be. Right now, they're smiling but that's because I imagine I'm smiling, at least inside. They'll tell you different things based on how I feel or, rarely, how I want to seem to feel. But eyes are like that. Eyes are so much more expressive and honest than the face.

If you prefer faces, I don't have much to say about mine. I'd say it looks pretty normal. My skin is fair but not obviously blemished. Luckily, the evil acne fairy never visited me during puberty. I think she didn't bother since the other evil fairies got there first.

From behind, I suppose you'd first notice my hair. I wear it loose in the back and it goes down to about the bottom of my shoulders. In the front, I wear a hairband to keep it neat and out of my eyes. Unless I have to look "professional," the hairband is white and has small kitty ears on it. Wai! Wai! Anyway, back to my hair. It's this neat sort of pale gold color naturally. I've experimented with different colors at different times but I think I prefer my natural color the best. Although I did dye it red once and I looked downright Irish. Imitating the Irish brogue that week was fun too, at least to me. My college roommate minded a little but she never told me until she moved out.

If you're one of those anti-smoking crusaders, guess what? You will notice that I smoke. I started typing out a bunch of stuff here and realized that I was going on a pretty big tangent. I'll do that next separately.

And if you're a guy, I'm fit, I have just enough in the right places, and I'm not looking. And because I know that some of you are pervs or someday a perv will read this, they're pink today.


As I said, I smoke. I've smoked since I was sixteen. I haven't coughed from it for years.

I don't have a preferred brand. I prefer to roll my own but I carry around a pack or two of my brand du jour (currently Vantage) for those times I've used all of the ones in my cigarette case. I'm still trying to make what I consider to be the ideal cigarette, one that actually smells like cured tobacco. Picture, if you will, a cigarette that smells like pipe tobacco. That's what a cig should be like. My hand-rolled cigs currently smell vaguely like clove cigarettes. I'm still working on it.

Smoking itself doesn't do anything for me. Okay, that's not true. Smoking gives me an enormous amount of comfort. I don't know why but it does. I do know that it's psychological rather than something resulting from something in the cigarette itself. I know this because I got the same feeling from candy cigarettes years ago. (Do they still make those?) Even unlit, I get some amount of comfort from having a cigarette in my mouth. And in places I'm not allowed to smoke, I suck on lollipops. My favorite flavor is cherry.

The only times I'm bereft of cigarette or lollipop are when professionalism demands it, when I eat, and when I sleep.

Growing up

Well, I don't talk much about growing up and my childhood. It was long ago in another lifetime. Sometimes I wonder if that time was but a bad dream.

Barring things like divine conception or parthenogenesis (Ha! I managed to work that into an entry. Take that!), everyone has a mother and father. (They may be of the same gender but that's irrelevant.) And I wasn't any different. Trouble is, really, that my family and I never got along. They, my parents and my older sister, kept wanting me to be someone I wasn't.

It's hard to be an overglorified dress up doll, "lady" my ass, when there's such an interesting world out there.

My father never graduated from college. He knocked up my mother when she was a year out of high school and he three. Being the Christian thing to do, they got married very quickly and he went to work wherever he could, an unskilled laborer. Unfortunately for the family, my mother was raised to be a "Southern gentlewoman," which means little to me other than she was raised to look pretty and be some sort of baby factory.

My older sister was raised the same way. However, she had the foresight to know that she'd need to learn how to make money on her own in the future so she took to studying. She was a bookish sort, always ready to be obedient to mom and dad.

I was different and I clashed with everyone.

By the time I came around, the family fortunes were waning. My father had come to realize that all of his dreams were now impossible. He simply couldn't go back to college and keep his family fed and housed. So sometime before I was born or shortly thereafter, he took to alcohol. At first, it wasn't bad but it would get worse.

He despised the neighborhood too. We lived on the outskirt of the slums, lower middle class housing fading into lower class as each family moved out or died. He secretly hated living with "niggers" but never told anyone outside that. In fact, I'm not sure if anyone ever heard that but me because he'd only break down and admit the truth when he was yelling and he was always yelling at me.

"Jena, get down off out of the tree. Jena, put the stick down. Jena, what are you doing playing in the dirt? Jena, what are we going to do with you?" You'd hear that sort of thing from my mother. Except that my name wasn't Jena then.

My mother didn't know what to do with a tomboyish daughter. Tomboys didn't exist in her world. Or, more precisely, they did but she called them gay. Evil. And so on. She was convinced I would turn out to be a flaming lesbian when I hit puberty and that I was sent to her by God to exact some sort of perverse punishment.

So she made extra certain that I would be there in church on Sundays, dressed in my best clothes, sitting on an uncomfortable wooden pew in an uncomfortable old, stuffy building listening to a guy wearing an uncomfortable suit preach things that made me feel more even uncomfortable, claiming to give the word of God but saying things more important to his agenda in the temporal world. (The preacher's agenda, not God's, hence "his" as opposed to "His." God and I may not agree on much but I can at least show the proper reverence.) The only fun part of these services was the singing but, even then, it wasn't all that much fun.

She wanted to send me to a religious school but the only one that the family could afford was a Catholic school and the Catholics were next to Satanists. So in public school I stayed.

When we got to high school, my sister was being harassed by a handful of gang members. She'd always kept to herself and had ignored the gangs that had crept in as our neighboorhood slipped just below the poverty line. Fortunately, all they'd done so far were words but, as she recounted her issues with them each day, I knew that they would sooner or later try something further.

So I joined a gang. I wasn't very good at fighting and didn't really fight all that much. I even got out of the initiation requirement of stealing something. However, it was the only thing I could do to protect my sister, our family, our home. My family didn't see it that way.

Just before I turned sixteen, they kicked me out onto the street. There was a big fuss at the time because turning me out at that age was illegal but no one in my family was willing to accept custody of me. A handful of gang members would put me up for a few nights at a time as I wandered from house to house, apartment to apartment. I picked up smoking as a habit during this time. Some of the gang members made me drink or take stronger drugs. One tried to slip me rohypnol and I spent the rest of the evening heaving into the toilet.

During all of this, I managed somehow to get all of my homework turned in. I suppose things could've been a lot worse. However, I was lucky that the gym showers were open before school was (they liked to suggest that people exercise before the school day officially started) and that I got some amount of money from my fellow gang members so that I never went too hungry.

This went on for a few months until I was picked up by a cop on a cold Friday night in December after curfew. Granted, it was the public safety officer at my high school but he was a cop all the same. At first, he was angry with me and threatened to take me into jail for violating curfew. I just shrugged and said it'd be someplace warm to spend the weekend. He wasn't expecting that.

I spent the next couple nights sleeping on his couch while he tried to figure out a way to get me some sort of semi-permanent residence. However, before he could find something, his wife ran me out of the apartment and back out onto the street. I'm told that this would later lead to their divorce but I wasn't around for that. So I spent that next night in a Waffle House trying desperately to stay awake. The fact that the Waffle House is mostly run by middle-aged women helped since they kept doting over their poor homeless girl.

That Christmas was spent alone in the middle of a park huddled in a blanket.

Before New Years Eve, I was picked up by another cop. He thought I was a runaway and took me home. My father slammed the door shut in his face. Persistent, the cop banged loudly. My father opened the door and pointed a gun at the cop and told him "That is no daughter of mine. I only have one daughter." My father and I both spent that night in jail, him for threatening a cop with a firearm, me because they had nowhere else to put me.

About this time, a gang war had broken out between my gang and a rival one. A major fight broke out between the two and was broken up by police in riot gear that same night I spent in jail. That pretty much ended the existance of my gang.

Social Services was finally involved about this point. They decided they needed to find me a foster home but that it might take a few days to process. So they had me shipped to some sort of dreary shelter with overworked and overtired staff and blah food. But I wasn't in much of a place to complain. It was warm and I had a bed again.

They eventually assigned me to a foster family. They were nice. They'd lost their only child as a teenager to a car wreck with a drunk driver years ago so they took in adolescents for foster care to make up for what they'd never get to experience with their son. Until I went to college, I actually had what seemed the closest to a "normal" family life that I'd ever had.

When I left for college, my foster mother gave me a pendant with an angel made of gold. I still wear that today because that pendant is the symbol of my guardian angel.


I went to college for journalism. I had enough scholarships to get a free ride and enough spare time to get into trouble between partying and reporting.

The school newspaper was the best it had ever been while I was there. Especially after we dug up dirt on the administration, got shut down, fired, and went underground. Several resignations later, we were back in business.

I also changed my name while at college. I wanted a name that was my own.

My name

It's tempting to say that I chose my name out of lasting significance. I had been rereading works by William Blake at the time. I had also been recently introduced, reluctantly I say now ashamedly, to British science-fiction television by an ex-boyfriend, including copies of Doctor Who and Blake's 7 episodes taped off of late-night PBS channels in other states long ago.

So I chose my surname from the poet and my first name among Roj Blake's crew, changing Jenna's name to a single 'n' just because.

So you can call it pretty random.

Of course, so are many things later realized to be very important.

After college

The... fun with the college newspaper made me mostly unhireable.

See, one big difference between commercial media and blogs is that the role of commercial media is to make money while the role of blogs is to be interesting. Commercial media firms measure success based on profit. Blogs measure success based on readership.

Funnily enough, journalists have more in common with blogs than their capitalistic overlords. Journalists yearn for the Big Scoop, the thing that will make them a household name. It is the dark, secret hope of every journalist that there will be another scandal on the level of Watergate and they will be the ones to cover it.

The role of a newspaper is to sell advertisement spots, the thicker the Sunday edition the better. News shows on television are relatively non-existant now, all of their content replaced by fluff with as much meaning as sterile dandelion seeds.

Commercial media likes breakthroughs on its own terms with people who play by the rules. Those of us who were identified as the ringleaders with the college newspaper were noted as not playing by the rules. We were essentially blackballed from the industry.

My first job was working as a reporter for an independent newspaper. It was a weekly paper and couldn't afford to pay that much. But it got me out on the beat. It got me started.

I became a freelance reporter about the time I moved to Georgia. The local newspaper thinks this is for the best since it means they can pick and choose what I find. However, they also know that anything that they don't get print will get printed elsewhere. Jena has thorns of sorts, yes she does.

I also contribute articles to other papers and magazines. Some of them even let me experiment in gonzo journalism, letting me try to emulate His Greatness in Gonzo, Hunter Thompson. However, most of that seems to be left to the blog.


Normally: Black slacks, black shoes, button-down white blouse, trenchcoat, kitty-ears headband, black tie when I must. I wear this even in the summer to look the part. Luckily, my heat tolerance is high and my antiperspirant is not just pH balanced for a woman but also industrial strength.

Sometimes during my downtime, I go clubbing in a plaid mini-skirt, white stockings, and a dressier white blouse. I call it my "Catholic schoolgirl" outfit. I like it. I wear other things when I go out but this is my most common one.

Oh. And the trenchcoat is bulletproof.


On one of my first assignments, I ended up as a first person observer to a firefight. I barely missed getting shot. I decided after this that I would be better off if I had some sort of protection. So the trenchcoat is bulletproof.

I have a concealed weapons permit and put it to good use. Even clubbing, I have a switchblade on my person. I may even have a light pistol concealed too. When I think I'm likely to get into danger, I carry a heavier pistol in a shoulder holster. The only time I'm without personal weaponry is when I'm in a place that forbids weaponry, e.g. government buildings.


I've drank for about as long as I've smoked. The gang favored beer and, sure, I can swill down can after can of... vaguely alcoholic piss with the best of 'em. I prefer stronger drinks, or at least more sophisticated.

My trenchcoat contains two insulated canteens. One contains water. The other contains spiced blackberry brandy.

Sometimes I add a third that contains coffee or hot cocoa for those cold nights/days when I need something more immediate than the dull warm glow of light inebriation.

Hangovers? Haven't had one since college. Water. Lots of water.