“Everyone is a fucking Napoleon,” Jonathan reads to me from his English term paper.  Even though I recognize the song lyric, I still flinch at the f-word because it’s in an English paper, and that’s just not done, generally.


It’s not yet the year 2000, and this I know because I’m sitting in Jonathan’s apartment in my memory, and in my memory, my boyfriend was very angry that I was friends with a man like Jonathan.  I say “man” because, even though he was only a couple years older than me, the years were formative.  My boyfriend at the time was in Baton Rouge, over an hour away.  Jonathan was a man because he was an artist, an actor, and had hair down to his waist, and wore a bucket hat, and didn’t care about other people’s opinions.  He had achieved a state of adulthood that I knew was on my horizon, but still too far away to afford me the right to cuss in term papers.


It’s not yet the year 2000, because I have a beeper, not a cell phone, and in my memory Joey’s paging me incessantly.  I call him from Jonathan’s landline and he immediately asks if Jonathan is with me.  Simultaneously, Jonathan is yelling at me to hang up the phone because, he says, “In five years, that idiot’s not gonna mean anything.”


I didn’t believe him, of course, but, of course, he was right.


It was ludicrous for anyone to think I was involved with Jonathan.  No one thought we were involved except for everyone on campus.  I can swear at this moment, 13 years later, that I have never come into physical contact with him.  We never once hugged each other, shook hands, or fistfought.


Jonathan could size other men up within minutes.  Together, we could tell if a guy was embarrassed when using his own self-imposed nickname in an introduction.  We knew when someone wasn’t sure if they were pulling off their new haircut.  We were aware when girls were feigning lesbianism on the dance floor in order to attract other guys.  We were stuffing our faces with tepid breakfast burritos en route to some meaningless class when, on the televisions in the Student Union, some suit on a live CNN feed nervously announced 9/11.  We didn’t stop chewing, because we weren’t surprised, and we just kept walking to class shoulder to shoulder with silently raised eyebrows.


One afternoon, the campus became infected with a Panhellenic Parade.  There were pickup trucks of fratboys throwing beer instead of beads, and scantily clad sorority girls squealing their way though the quad like it was Prom. I holed myself up in my dorm room with an Alice in Chains album, some Andy Capp hot fries, and a half pack of Marlboro Lights that I knew I wouldn’t smoke.  Not a half a song had passed when I heard kicking at my door, and there was Jonathan with a bottle of crappy wine, a blanket, and three packs of Laughing Cow Cheese, the kind in the tiny foil triangle wrappers.


“What the hell is this.” I said it with no inflection whatsoever.


“We’re going to the parade, idiot.”




He didn’t answer.  He slapped the unlit cigarette from my mouth, hauled me down the rickety fire escape, and tossed the blanket into Audubon Street, directly in the path of the oncoming parade.  Right in the part of the road where, eleven years later, my friend Jake would die in a car wreck.


He sat Indian-style and motioned for me to do the same.  I did, of course.  He filled my glass with three buck chuck, unwrapped a Laughing Cow, smirked at me and said, “We’re having a college experience.  Ignore the parade.”


I ignored the parade even though it was approaching with a drunken quickness.  I saw Casey Talbot leading the procession at the helm of an F-150.  Jonathan didn’t look up, not once, and when the fratboys realized that instead of a game of chicken, this was merely a game of, “You Go Around Us We Are On A Cheese Picnic,” they went around us.


To call it thrilling is an understatement.  That was the moment I learned that the world could fuck off if I wanted to eat a snack in the middle of it.


In front of the Ceramics entrance to Talbot Hall, I wallowed with the other dummies in the art department, wishing I had the guts to tell my parents I wanted to be a painter.  My parents would have supported me, but I couldn’t do it.  Honestly, I went to the Student Stores when I was undeclared, and made my decision to major in Sociology based on the prices of the art supplies.  Jonathan would force me to paint and tell me I was good even though I wasn’t at the time.  It was like teaching myself a foreign language.  Now I paint for a living but it took years to get here, and I realize that my failure to expedite my art education all those years ago was a mistake.


I often acted as a patient makeshift audience while Jonathan practiced his lines at me.  Once, when he was rehearsing for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he asked me to read the part of Nurse Ratchet.  I was so bad at it, so stilted, that after two lines, he ripped the script from my fist and read both parts really badly because he was exasperated with me.  I resisted the urge to ask him for a second chance.


Jonathan brought me to his dad’s house once, and I dressed like a child and I didn’t seem intelligent at all.  Jonathan was the epitome of adulthood to me, and when faced with someone triple his age but identical in genetic makeup, my brain wanted to melt.  I was very busy trying to memorize the smooth curves and stucco arcs and pale Easter paint color of the Forets’ foyer, wishing I hadn’t worn ripped jeans, when suddenly Jonathan started screaming at his father.  I had no idea what the fight was about and I couldn’t hear a thing except the word, “Actor,” several times.


I didn’t see much of Jonathan after that day.  I wasn’t presumptuous enough to think I was related to the fight in any way.  I think he left town.


Three years later, at my college graduation, I sat in my stupid folding chair in the Thibodaux Civic Center and fumed about whatever, because I was 20.  I wore silver platform heels, my sweaty bangs were plastered across my forehead, and I wasn’t graduating With Honors because, despite my otherwise flawless GPA, I failed one class during my entire college career.  The class was Statistics, and I failed it because I hated it.  It was an elective I took because the professor looked exactly like my dead grandpa.  I knew it was a bad idea when I registered for it, but I spent 15 hours a week staring at this man’s face, not listening, pretending he was my murdered grandpa.  That is why I didn’t graduate With Honors, and I’ve never admitted that out loud before.


After the ceremony, I clomped outside in my giant dumb shoes, clutching my cap to my chest.  I didn’t throw my cap in the air with the rest of the losers because I had anthropomorphized the hat and was worried its feelings would be hurt if I wore it for twelve minutes and discarded it in a flurry of ritualistic excitement.  Celebrating my mediocre education didn’t seem like a good enough reason to throw something away.  I’m 32 now, and the hat is currently sitting in my art studio in the bottom drawer of the junk dresser my parents’ adulterous former neighbor gave me when he cleaned out his house a decade ago.


Anyway, I clomped out into the midday sun to collect my congratulations and have some small talk with people I’d never care about again.  I posed for a couple of pictures with my brother and sister and grandma.  I stood next to a tree and stared at it for a minute.  I thanked my parents for whatever.


Then a shadow covered mine from somewhere behind me, and an almost forgotten voice in my ear said, “Congrats, kiddo.  You really showed them.”


I turned around to behold a clean-shaven Jonathan, his eyes the color of a flaming pair of Levis and his suit ironed in the right places.  His hair was very short and he was laughing at something my mom had said to him.  He was telling her he escaped Thibodaux in favor of a traveling acting troupe and my mom was smitten and acting impressed, and I think she really was impressed.  I stood next to her with poor posture, literally holding a useless degree in Sociology and dreading my upcoming shift at the local pizza parlor.


She didn’t act confused by my life choices but I knew she really was.


He didn’t call me a sucker but I knew that’s what he thought.


Now, it’s 13 years later, and Jonathan and I are friends on Facebook, and his hair is still short, and he looks exactly like Anthony Bourdain, which is exactly what he looked like in college, only Anthony Bourdain hadn’t written any books yet so it didn’t matter then.  I wonder sometimes if he knows how much he affected me.  The lessons he taught me probably weren’t intentional on his part, but that’s precisely why I still take them so seriously.  The art of being effortless, and the balance between being selfish and being happy, and the importance of acquiring at least one protégé during your life on this stupid idiotic Earth, Jonathan taught me all that junk.


“Everyone is a fucking Napoleon.”



November 13, 2012 · 2:55 am


For Michelle.

When I’m sitting on my porch, and it’s about to be dark, and I’m staring at my garden which should have little sprouting flowers in it instead of bottle caps, Bic pens, and cigarette wrappers, I feel like I could be really good at basketball.  I start thinking how the net’s not really all that high up, relatively, and no matter where the mysterious three-point shot area might be, it can’t be THAT far away, right?  I could play HORSE with the really tough neighborhood pre-pubescents and they’d think me a mentor, and a real friend. I start thinking I can run around the court for more than three minutes without wheezing, and that I might be graceful this time. 


When I’m taking a shower and singing that one Alana Davis song and surveying the bundle of bones and skin and fat I’m washing or shaving or rinsing that only I am required to look at every day, I feel like it’d be so easy to get in shape.  It’s no one’s fault but mine that my attractiveness has steadily declined and now it’s completed its frantic surge to the floor, where it’s bundled up around my ankles where my cankles will be once I let it get that far.  I’ve got the treadmill that I won in my parents’ divorce, and I’m the proud owner of a Netflix subscription complete with free streaming workout videos, and if I would only walk to my two jobs, because I’m not really that far away, I could do it.  I could tone myself and lose ten, even five pounds, and I’d notice.


When I’m running over to my nephew in attack mode, and he’s about to be crushed by whatever monster or burglar or creature I’m portraying at that moment, and then I catch him and scream and he grabs my face and giggles and emits a bunch of bullshit junk sounds that I decide must be my name, I feel like I could be a mother.  Or maybe not a mother, but a mom.  I have so faithfully documented my entire life in blogs and cell phone pictures and Facebook posts, and I did it all for my non-existent child.  Maybe my kid would be like I was with my mom, memorizing what Clinique compacts she kept in her bathroom drawer, watching her cook with the sinking feeling I would never quite figure it out, hating words like “youngster” for no other reason than that she hated them, feeling a hunger for proof that she was ever a kid, old yearbook photos, college roommates’ testimonials, anything.  There has to be someone in the world for everyone, someone who only responds to your touch, and will only answer to your voice, and will adopt your thoughts and opinions because if YOU said it or thought it, it must be true because no one else exists in the world.


When I’m bartending, and it’s a busy night, and I’m watching invisible walls construct themselves and implode between every interacting person, boys failing to notice endearing sweater removal or what drink she just finished, girls positioning themselves only under the red LEDs and checking their lipstick in the strategically placed mirrors (you’re welcome), and I see what guys’ girlfriends ACTUALLY say when their boyfriends send them an unwelcome text, and I hear what boys ACTUALLY think about the second the perfect girl walks away, I feel like I could be a pretty great wife.  I wouldn’t be snarky or jealous, and whoever I marry would be super proud to show me off because my hair would never be frizzy, I wouldn’t have ten extra pounds, I’ll be a great cook and a great mom, and I am very good at basketball.


When I realize I can no longer distinguish the difference between my lawn and the fourth step up to the porch, and the fifteen-foot trek to my car might again result in the discovery of five socks, a bag of Oreos, the headphones I lost last month, and a fifty dollar bill, and I finally find my car and I’m on the way to Harris Teeter for some more cookies, and I’m stopped at that one red light that forces me to look at the Carrboro Tent City and Community Garden, I feel like I could be a real good lawn-mower.  Even though the gas cap on my mower pops off every time I round a corner and one of the really important screws that holds the handle to the rest of the mower is completely rusted out so that I almost fall into the blades every time I have to mow around a tree, I feel like today will be the day I conquer this stupid machine and figure out how to groom my lawn with it much like men learn to grocery shop after losing a leg or the way women learn to look in the mirror again years after childbirth.


Truth is, I don’t even know how to PLAY basketball, and I’m about as graceful as Robert Smith with no lipstick.


Truth is, I eat like shit and I really like Havarti Cheese and croissants, and I’ll never be small again because I have absolutely zero self-discipline.


Truth is, what haunts me is that at my mom’s funeral, my eulogy will clock in at over four hours long, and everyone will be bored because they won’t understand.  And the truth is, it is a fact that no one will ever sit at a computer and write that sentence about me.


Truth is, no one I know believes in marriage anymore.


Truth is, I’m horrible at mowing the lawn, and I always will be.


But I really like mowing the lawn.  And I do it every single week, even though I know my neighbors laugh at me.  And I admire my handiwork even though there’s always little tufts of grass poking up where they shouldn’t be, and shit, I mowed over the pre-existing azalea again, and yes I know that was the hatchet I hit that caused the mower to shed three pieces of unidentified metal, and why do we even OWN a hatchet?? And it’s one of the most rewarding things I get to do.  And really, I’m pretty sure I’m getting better.


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  The collective clientele at Morning Times in downtown Raleigh is simply stunning. The atmosphere makes them visually arresting and mysterious and, subsequently, worlds cooler than me.
Let’s start with the specimen behind the counter. The first time I saw her, I only made it halfway through the door before I had to walk back outside. She was so pretty, I felt like I’d been punched in the sternum. I’m not generally  attracted to girls (with a couple of very specific exceptions) but this girl transcended sexuality in a manner normally reserved for hand carved arabesque medicine cabinets or the perfect pair of shoes.

The perfect pair of shoes.

My dad asked me what my problem was and when I told him, he marched right on in there and told this chick she was the prettiest girl his daughter had ever seen. By the time he emerged, I was halfway down the block.
I’m sitting here now, almost a year later, in Morning Times, and I can see her gigantic, disheveled mop of brown curls bobbing about behind the register, framed by the chalkboard announcing poetry readings and art openings. Her asian-inspired face looks like in was carved in goddamn alabaster and she is wearing precisely no makeup. She is built like a tiny bird/ten-year-old boy/Natalie Portman and she has the sort of shoulders I covet for myself even more than a set of dimples. I want to know how it feels, what it means to exist in this world with looks like that. I don’t necessarily think she has it easier than me, or more difficult. I just want to know what it’s like to wake up, look in the mirror, and say, “Well, that’s what we’re working with, huh? No shit!” and traipse out the door.
But everyone here, they are all so exotic. Here is what I see:
1. A well-dressed man waving a banana around and dancing in expensive wooden clogs. He just called himself a faggot. His hair is impeccable.
2. A girl in skinny jeans and a ridiculous hat and zippered poncho and leather bag the color of baby shit. She has no upper lip, barely, and I want her to sit at my table and trade scarves with me for the time it takes for us to drink our coffee, because mine is a lovely smart paisley which used to belong to an old rich lady and hers is a bedraggled mustard yellow affair full of holes and I want it. It isn’t until she leaves the cafe that I notice her baby shit bag has a robot and an interrobang embroidered on it, so I mentally decide to trade her scarf back to her in exchange for the bag. She unhooks a beagle-dachshund hybrid from the frozen tree outside but the dog will not go. I can see that she is asking the dog to come with her in the firm, tolerant voice reserved for uncooperative young adults. The dog is unresponsive because dogs, like infants, will never realize when they are being treated with respect. You’re only talking to your dog/baby like that to show other humans that you don’t disrespect ANY forms of life, when in reality, you’re doubling the disrespect with your condescension.
3. A mid fifties dude in a puffy Columbia (“Trying Stuff Since 1932!”) vest and wire framed glasses, the sleeves of his gauzy white buttondown rolled up. He just picked up a few spoons, slammed them down, and knocked over a thing of sugar and yelled, “AND I WANT IT NOW!” The place fell silent and I stopped what I was doing and the owner grabbed his milk steaming pitcher and looked the guy in the face and then burst into laughter. They all laughed, the dude, the owner, my girlfriend with the no makeup.
4. A fat, aging businesswoman with fabulous chunky jewelry, a professional haircut, and a method for applying eyeshadow that could have only come from Glamour magazine or her fifteen year old gay son.
5. A salty, unwashed sea captain man with grey sweatpants, a misbuttoned camouflage jacket, long, stringy hair the color of dirty rice, and a beard for days. He’s hiking his sweatpants up and delicately adding Sugar In The Raw to his medium extra hot chai. He’s adding the sugar one granule at a time. He isn’t insane; I can tell somehow.
6. A poor man’s Christian Slater in a three piece suit just approached me while spit-smoothing his cowlick and gesturing with an iPhone4 and asked me if I was Marianne. I am not, and no one is ever looking for me.
I know it is entirely possible someone is sitting across the room being jealous of my new ShapeUps and the charming way I can’t hold a latte mug properly, but it is more probable that they are not.
But really, do you wonder what people think when they see you? What percentage of people think anything at all? If I know I am inherently lame, then is it that true for all the people I think are so cool? Do they think to themselves, “I am aware that last night I watched On Golden Pond and ate a whole thing of Spam straight out the can but by golly, SOMEONE thinks I’m cool, I’m sure of it! Maybe that red headed jerk in the ShapeUps!”
Who knows? Maybe I’ll start hanging out at Morning Times more often. I could use some pointers. I might even find out where to buy an interrobang appliqué. Maybe I’ll meet Marianne. Maybe I’ll someday even be able to order my coffee from the Porcelain MopTop without feeling my internal organs dissolve like they’re in love potion acid.
Maybe one day I’ll dupe someone into thinking I’m exotic and mysterious, like these people are doing to me right now.
Who knows?

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Pizza Hut or Bust(ed face)

“Real Love is a Sphere,” Jedd Evan texts to me, haiku-style, today.  “The center is everywhere/Circumference, nowhere.”   I’m inclined to agree with him. This is a man who fashioned a bed out of three stacked air mattresses duct-taped to one another and thinks a viable meal is warm Ragu straight out of the saucepot, consumed while huddled over the stove armed with a plastic ladle.  While some girls would insist on a bed frame and some actual dishes, I find him rife with illimitable charm.

We had been planning a trip to the Pizza Hut buffet for several weeks, and we had finally agreed on a date and time.  We were to get up at 9am on Tuesday and run our bank, post office, grocery and hardware store errands in backwards order all the way down Franklin Street. This would put us at Pizza Hut at 1pm, giving us one precious hour to turboload at the Buffet.  Of course, we didn’t actually wake up until 12:45, so we just piled into the car in our pajamas and sped off.   It was raining so hard I couldn’t see ten feet past the windshield.   After a few blocks, I realized I had left my instant coffee on the roof, so in my sleepy rainy brain haze, I slammed on the brakes in the middle of the street and Jedd jumped out to retrieve it.  In his haste to get back into his seat, he opened the door into his face, and a 2-inch gash immediately formed above his right eye.

He produced an old, dusty roll of paper towels from the back seat and used some to stop the bleeding while I drove erratically, hyperventilating with terror and concern.  He clearly needed stitches.  My panic almost propelled me into a tree and several other cars in the vicious storm.

“We HAVE to go home you are BLEEDING,” I gasped.

“NO!! TO PIZZA HUBUFFAY,” he slurred, pressing on the paper towel that was quickly becoming saturated with his blood and what I imagined to be bits of his brilliant brain matter.



“FINE THEN!  SCREW PIZZA HUT, WE ARE GOING to BUY SOME THINGS TO CLEAN YOU,” I said, heading to the store next to the Pizza Hut, and though I tried to slip past it, hoping the rain would shield it from my now-half-blind patient, he saw it anyway.

“THAT IS TH’ PIZZAHUBUFFAY GO THERE IT IS 1:17,” he yelled, demonstrating his unflagging devotion to soggy breadsticks and cheese from a ten gallon bucket.

“NO we are going to the FIRST AID AISLE of the ROSE’S,” yet while I was admonishing him for his inability to prioritize, I was simultaneously turning into the Pizza Hut parking lot because I really just want him to have what he wants at all times.

Before I even removed the key from the ignition, he had exited the vehicle and bounded up to the door of the Pizza Hut, already soaking wet and holding this ridiculous paper towel to his head to keep his brains in.  I thought I was going to cry.  I followed him into the restaurant only to face a cold, empty, decidedly pizza-free stainless steel buffet.

“Where, we. . .um. . .we need the Lunch Buffet?” He said, on the verge of tears.

“Oh we don’t do no buffet no more,” some giant, beleaguered woman nonchalantly offered over her shoulder as she lumbered over to the lone table of patrons in the corner of the grimy dining room.  With my two working eyes, I glared at my retreating archnemesis, and her enormous tent of a uniform shirt whose color exactly matched the burnt orange countertops. With his one working eye, Jedd Evan blinked at the space where the buffet would have been.

I ushered him back to the car and we headed to the Rose’s, which is sort of a poor-man’s discount K-Mart, if the K-Mart was built in a shanty, super-trashy, in a perpetual state of final clearance, staffed with a combination of dubiously-behaving socially-retarded teenagers and middle-aged, divorced, obese women with teased hair, and sold plus-size underwears out of a giant bin for one dollar, tax included.  I love Rose’s and I constantly find excuses to go there, and what’s more, there was a Chic-Fil-A next to it.  Score.

I deposited Jedd Evan in the first aid aisle and went off to the clothing section in search of a hoodie.  I located a gray one for six dollars and headed back to retrieve my patient.  I found him calmly surveying the shampoo situation while he folded his bloody paper towel into eighths and sixteenths and thirtyseconds.  He was manning a basket full of canned soup, Band-Aids, Peroxide, A-1 Sauce, tiny superglue, more canned soup, a pack of t-shirts, an air freshener shaped like a tree, a stack of metal forks, and a small area rug.  This was not supposed to be a shopping trip.  This was supposed to be a hospital proxy.

When we approached the check-out, the cashier immediately identified a problem with Jedd Evan’s face and offered the Rose’s fitting rooms as a substitute triage.  He selected his tools from the pile.  Band-Aids, check.  Peroxide, check.  Superglue, check.  Wait.  WHAT?  But he was already gone.  I really took issue with the inclusion of Superglue in his surgical repertoire, but I was silent as I watched him head for the fitting rooms.

But he did not go to the fitting rooms.  No.  Instead, he plopped down in the middle of the Homewares section and used Rose’s collection of $5 full-length plastic-framed mirrors as a suitable place to fix himself.  Almost immediately, the intercom crackled with a plea for security to tend to “Section E, Area 4, Code Blue,” which I could only interpret as the code for, “A Wet, Bleeding Man is Currently Repairing his Gaping Head Wound with Our Discount Adhesives in Bedroom Décor.”

With a resigned sigh I settled into an armchair, its “Final Sale” tag digging into my forearm, and waited.  He emerged, smiling and bandaged, and we still managed to have a nice lunch at the Chik-Fil-A. It’s amazing how good waffle fries taste after a brush with death.

Though I really did not want his wound to become infected and cause him more, very expensive trouble, I knew it was the only way my panic and alarm would be justified.  But I, too, am wrong every once in a great while.  In under 24 hours, his head looked perfectly fine, the gash reduced to a scab under an inch long.  Apparently Superglue is okay to use in lieu of actual medical attention, and he knew it.  Real love is a sphere, he said, and he’s right.  My instinct to protect him did not allow me to trust his guerilla medicine.  I should just focus on finding other ways to show I care, so I suppose my next move is to track down a Pizza Hut with an actual buffet.

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Taxi Driver.

I am terrified of public transportation.  With three trembling fingers left over, I can count the amount of times I’ve ridden in a taxicab.  It seems as though, in the name of convenience and adulthood, I should be able to overcome my fear of chaufferism, but when I actually think about my past experiences, it doesn’t seem too strange to me that I’ve ousted it as an option.


Cab Ride #1:  I overslept one morning in my Freshman year of high school.  My mom took this as an opportunity to teach me a lesson about responsibility, so instead of driving me to school, she made me call a cab and pay for it myself.  I’ll spare you the details about my stuttering and inability to remember my address while I was on the phone with said cab company.  When the taxi arrived, I stumbled outside, close to tears.  I had a giant guitar with me since my music teacher wanted us to bring random instruments to fill up the space created by her failure to concoct a lesson plan, so I’m sure the cab driver was amused at the juggling act I performed all the way down the sidewalk.  I approached the front passenger door and wriggled my guitar, bookbag, purse, armload of texts, and loose papers full of shitty poems about dragons and medieval wars (a “book” I was “writing”) into the seat.  The cab driver snorted a little and asked me if I wanted to put my shit in the back.  But I did not trust this man, so I told him no.  It wasn’t until halfway down my street that I remembered a movie I saw where a whore flagged a cab and put her spangled, spandexed butt in the front seat.  The driver said, “You know what it means to be in the front seat, honey.”  And she proceeded to give him a blowjob while he drove through the rainy meat-packing district.  I spent the remainder of the ride with my face plastered against the window, my plaid skirt bunched up in my fists and dragged down to cover my knees while the cab driver attempted to hurl pleasantries at me.  Every word out of his mouth, I construed as a proposition.  I still feel bad about this.


Cab Ride #2:  Fast-forward twelve years.  My parents were living in New York, and at the end of one my visits, they accompanied me to the airport via taxi.  It was 4am and we hailed a cab and (thank god) piled into the backseat.  The driver was a very foreign man, and, peering at us in the rearview, said, “VAIR?”  We said, “JFK, please.”  And he looked at us again and said, “VishTirg Nu Plmbbrklq.”  Assuming he was asking us to repeat our destination, we responded in over-enunciated tandem and at a higher decibal, “J. F. K. AIR. PORT.”


What happened next has haunted me for years.  The man looked close to tears as he screamed at us, “YOO STOOPEED FUCKS!  I TRYING TO BE NICE MAN, ASK YOU HOW IS YOUR MORNEENK AND YOU YELL.  NO HALLO, NO GOOT MORNINK.  NO RESPECT, FUCK!”


My dad immediately responded to the man as though I was eight again, and he was protecting me, which I loved.  “STOP THE CAB, SIR, WE WILL NOT BE NEEDING YOUR SERVICES,” he said in the whitest way imaginable.  We exited the cab like a load of sleepy clowns, and the man sped off without asking for payment or even waiting for us to close the door.


The reason it haunts me is I keep getting flashes of the cab driver readying himself in the darkness of 2am, thinking of his family back at home far away and all the dollars he’s going to send them, combing his hair and straightening his collar, and practicing English in the mirror.  “How do you do?” he asks his reflection.  “Goot mornink,” with a little head bow.  And then he gets to work, and the first white family he picks up responds to his salutations by yelling the name of an airport at him.


While I realize that this is simultaneously an unbelievably compassionate and fantastically racist way for me to imagine the situation, I still cannot seem to shake this image, and I’m pretty sure I’ll feel bad about it forever.


Anyway, I feel like I can, in fact, go through the rest of my life without riding in a taxicab again.  Maybe someday I’ll tell you the story behind the reason I will never subject my future child to schoolbus rides.  It’s a really harrowing account, and it involves genitalia and substitute drivers.  I bet you can’t wait.

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Party Girl.

I choose to fancy myself a successful mingler, much like I choose to remember that I’m terrific at bicycle riding.  Since I rarely perform either of those simple tasks, it is not difficult for me to convince myself I am good at them.


The last time I hoisted myself onto a bicycle, it was my old roommate’s, and I quickly realized with horror that the last bike I owned only had two speeds:  However Fast I Can Pedal and Stopped.  And to stop this bike from 1986, I only had stop moving and the training wheels did all the work.  But there were levers and cranks and buttons and baubles on this modern, more threatening bicycle, and since I possessed knowledge of none of their functions, I ate asphalt in under 90 seconds.


Something very similar happened to me at the party I just attended.


I’m going to share a phenomenon I have experienced since buying the bar.  I rarely get invited to parties, and it’s because everyone hilariously assumes I’m already going to other parties.  Every Monday, customers ask me “how the parties were this weekend,” and they look alarmed when I say that I spent my weekend watching reality TV and trying to find the source of the eight fruit flies in my bathroom.  Why are they there?  There’s no food in there.  I don’t keep food in there.


I live on the end of a very short, largely unoccupied, dead end street, and three days ago I realized that four of my bar regulars have lived two doors down from me for five months.  How did we never notice that?  This is an adorable group of young friends whose presence I always appreciate at the bar.  They are intelligent and talented and respectful.   So when they announced on Facebook that they were having a party, and I was invited, because everyone on Facebook is invited, I started a countdown to my evening of social finesse. On the night of the party, after overcoming a minor sartorial crisis, Jedd Evan and I stuffed our coat pockets with leftover beers and headed over.


Minutes later I found myself standing in a room full of Zog’s regulars, and MY turf was nowhere to be found.  Standing in my own bar imparts me with a certain confidence I’m always sure will translate into real life should my participation be required in a social capacity other than hostess, but it never does.


I’m very good at the bar.  I’m quick and funny and I use poly-syllabic words and I treat my friends to good stories and charm dollars easily out of people I don’t know.  I can tell jokes and recount tales and issue advice and do creative things.  But when I’m not on my own turf I forget how to be a functional person.


I parked myself across from the fridge and started talking to two guys I knew and two guys I didn’t know.  Almost immediately, someone opened said fridge and I watched as a full gallon of milk freed itself in slow motion from the top shelf, burst open on the linoleum and spilled onto my flipflopped feet.  I made a couple of jokes about crying over it and silently congratulated myself amid their polite laughter.  Suddenly, the following sentence exited my mouth and I was forced to watch its painful trajectory as it barfed itself into the conversation:  “Hey three of you guys have glasses and guess what my old roommate just moved out and he left three giant bottles of contact solution do any of you guys ever use contacts do you guys want them because I can just go run home and get them.”  And then suddenly, propelled by my good intentions, I was sprinting the fifty yards back home in my milkfeet, wondering WHY THE HELL I just opted to distribute bottles of contact solution like party favors at an ophthalmology mixer, apropos of nothing.


I returned with the contact solution, distributed it to the bespectacled unwilling, and gave Jedd Evan the pre-opened, rejected one, which he employed as a conversational tool by using it to replace random objects around the room.  As in, he’d slyly leave the contact solution in place of the hot sauce in front of ten people chewing things that needed hot sauce.  Everyone laughed because he is funny, and good at parties.


Some guy came up and told me he liked all my earrings, so I immediately slapped my ear a few times in response.  Why did I do that? Then I talked a mile a minute about how you touch your own hair when someone notices you got a haircut, and I hit myself in the head a half dozen more times to illustrate my point.  No one said anything.  Or laughed.  But a few kids did rescue me by launching into a full Q&A about Zog’s, in which I took part for close to twenty minutes.  It was painful, and not because of them.  They were delightful.


It was me.


They asked legitimate questions, such as, “How does someone in their early 20s buy their own bar,” (I’m 30), “Do you feel bad kicking out drunk people,” (no), “Do you ever have to cut off your friends,” (I almost exclusively have to cut off my friends), and, “What does that ___________ tattoo mean?”  About halfway through this exchange, I realized I was being potty-mouthed and very boring and I could sort of see it on their poor faces. They had the look I get when I want to end a conversation I’m having with a social pariah but I don’t know how.  I felt so awful for them.


Abruptly, I released them from my small-talk grip by simply shrugging and saying, “Whatever,” thereby relinquishing my monopoly on the conversation, and instead of asking them questions about themselves, which is what you DO at a party, I just sort of shut up and stood there until they floated away.  I tried to interject witty remarks into other people’s conversations.  Here are some examples of things I ACTUALLY SAID:


“Oh, Elvis is still alive?  Wait.  Costello?”


“Yes, yes, I got all the milk out of my shoe.”


“My parents got divorced and that’s how come there’s a treadmill in my living room.”


After a while I just stopped saying anything.  What was heartbreaking was that no one was being even slightly rude to me.  All the dumb shit I was saying and all the awkwardness I introduced to the room—it all came from me.


But the sore, palpitating crux of shame came when, after being silent for a while while Jedd Evan performed beautifully with the group he was regaling on the other side of the party, I decided to step up to the girl Audrey and take her shoulder and lean in and whisper to her.  I said, “Audrey.  I don’t mean to be a downer but I never get invited to parties and I’m really nervous and I really don’t know how to talk to people.”  I don’t know why I did it.  I guess because I just needed to say it to someone but it’s really not the sort of thing you tell a virtual stranger at a neighborhood cookout.  It was time to go.


I went out on the porch with Jedd Evan and slumped in a chair next to a wool-vested, headless plastic human skeleton, a remnant of a Halloween party I hadn’t been invited to, and I clutched my tepid bottle of Fat Tire and stared into the street and tried to tell Jedd Evan funny stories while I thought about all the nice, welcoming people inside the house and how I’ve not had enough practice at parties and even though (or especially because) I’m almost a decade older than most of them, I’ll probably not get any better at this point, even with practice.


I’m probably just being paranoid.  But, see, the problem is that I’m thinking about it at all.  As Jedd Evan and I trudged home, we passed Rich’s house, and Rich is a bicycle mechanic in Carrboro.  I waved to him and then glanced over at my old roommate’s forgotten bike under my carport.  Maybe I’ll bring it in to Rich for a tune-up tomorrow and see if I can’t get the hang of it again.


Filed under adventure, humor, life, random, relationships, Zog's

Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Sew.

Dear Jedd Evan,

You know I’ve never claimed to have a firm grasp of domesticity.  I own an iron but it’s only used to seal shit that I screenprint.  I am mentally incapable of stocking up on toilet paper so every couple weeks I have a panic-stricken three minutes where I almost pee myself scrambling around in search of any forgotten stack of Christmas-themed dinner disposables or piles of Wendy’s napkins.  Every time I pay a utility bill, it comes laden with a reconnect fee.  And there’s that famous oven-hole in my kitchen, and we all know that holes in the wall don’t bake shit, but at least I have somewhere to store my hundreds of dollars worth of unopened Tupperware Party trappings.


I am very good at laundry.

I love doing laundry.  I love doing my laundry, I love doing other people’s laundry.  I love folding people’s clothes, I love how washing machines are basically magic.  When my dryer broke, I spiraled into a fit of debilitating depression at the thought of having to spend Laundry Time at a laundromat.  I somehow passively finagled my parents’ dryer away from them when they were divvying things up after their separation, and this is very telling because if I had been presented with some other appliance, say, their crockpot or their can opener to store in my house as a constant reminder of the demise of the only relationship I held sacred in my life, I would have rejected it with a fervor.  But a dryer?  There was no question it would be mine.

Since my epic firing from my stupid burrito shop job has left me with only a part-time position at the local ArtsCenter and my very own bar that belongs to me and only needs to be tended to at night, I have plenty of time during the day to play Boz Scaggs as loud as possible while I parade around in my underthings with a fifth of whiskey and several craft projects in progress.  I don’t usually get drunk during the day but as an adult, I’m allowed to say, “Fuck it,” and do what I want, which, last Thursday, was to get smashed and clean the five sets of filthy clothes I’d been collecting on my bedroom floor.

So imagine the thrill I got when I went to go put in the first load and I found the washing machine full of someone else’s shirts and socks.  There was a whole wardrobe in there for me to clean and dry and fold!  On closer inspection it was revealed that you were the one who had unintentionally abandoned your duds and unwittingly left them for me to handle.  This made more sense than if they had been Idaho Billy’s clothes, because Idaho Billy takes all his things to the dry cleaners, which is a mysterious and grown-up place, the inner workings of which I can’t quite fathom.

I got to work immediately, putting your clothes in the dryer, trying to decide what things I was going to fold first when they were done.  “Should I start with socks?  Or work from the biggest to smallest and tackle the hoodies and pants first,” I asked myself in my growing whiskey haze.  My plan was interrupted when I grabbed your favorite slacks, the ones with a rip that starts at the crotch and ends somewhere six inches down so that your naughty bits are constantly threatening to free themselves with every step you take.  I know by now you have no intention of repairing the pants, though you constantly want to discuss the fact that they are unraveling at an alarming rate.  Even though I know you wouldn’t give a flying fuck if the pants propelled you into the realm of indecency in the middle of the grocery store, Jack Daniels insisted that I could save the day by sewing the peep-hole shut.

I ran, RAN into the craft area and started wildly digging through my sewing drawers, holding all different shades of navy embroidery floss up to the ruin to find an appropriate color match.  I pricked myself with four different needles in my haste to find the right one.  I located my teensy, tiny thread scissors and my red plastic thimble.  I found my needle threader, which was quite a feat.  The fervor with which I was tackling this project shot some sort of adrenaline rush into my brain, where it mingled with the alcohol and together, they convinced me that this was the best idea EVER.  I was so ready.  There was only one problem.

I can’t sew worth a SHIT.

Doesn’t matter!  I brought all my treasures onto the front porch and the stray neighbor cat jumped into my lap and started playing with my thread.  Matt was across the street letting his dogs out and plodded over to the porch when he saw me.  Wonderful!  Now I had something ELSE to distract me from the delicate surgical procedure I was about to inflict upon your poor clothes.

Once Matt and I started talking and the cat started rolling around on the pants in my lap, I started sewing with abandon.  I felt good about it.  I felt so confident I even stopped watching what I was doing.  I was creating intricate patterns with the navy floss.  I was pioneering new sewing techniques, namely the one where you sew like a deranged spider weaving a web while on some serious hallucinogenics.  “Whatever!,” I told myself.  “it does not need to be beautiful!  It only has to hold Jedd’s weenis in his pants!”

After about twenty-three minutes I looked down and realized I had been connecting two flaps of fabric that were definitely already connected with a sturdy machine-made overlock in a brilliant angry orange. Okay, so I reinforced it I guess.  I pretended not to panic as I righted myself and started from a different angle.  I swigged some more whiskey and furiously attacked the pants with the jankiest, most retarded-looking whipstitch I could muster.  I sewed the rest of the rip this way, then doubled back on it “just to be sure.”  The result, when I turned the pants right-side-in, was a half-closed hole with a gaping area that would have lined up perfectly with exactly what it should not have once the pants were being worn.  I tried again.

It was during this third attempt that I was struck with a very distinct sinking realization that I had not ever bothered to ask you if you could sew.  Perhaps you preferred your pants this way.  Maybe they lent easier access at times when you only had four seconds to pee.  It was possible that you like your clothes a little beat up.  It was also possible that you are a brilliant seamster, a secret tailor, even, and that my plebeian foray into the world of crotch mending was, while well-intentioned, decidedly ill-advised.  I pushed these thoughts out of my head with another shot of whiskey, finished the job, and surveyed the damage.  The pants actually looked worse than when I started.  I folded them carefully, and discreetly hid them under the detritus of your half-unpacked bedroom.

It has been almost a week and they are still there; I check on them once or twice a day.  I can only hope that when you finally discover them, you will not notice the lack of refreshing breeze traveling past your nether regions, and if you do, please realize that everything I do in the name of domesticity, I do it with a full heart and good intentions, and if there’s a problem, I’ll be waiting in the next room, seam ripper in hand, at the beck-and-call of the pants I accidentally destroyed.




Filed under adventure, humor, life, random, relationships