Monthly Archives: March 2016

Born to Trot

I used to go into my sister’s room and dig through her bookcase. She also had an overflow book storage area that was the top few drawers of a bureau. I’d dig through there, too. She always had something I could borrow and read at least a couple pages. Most of the time, though, whatever she had was too cerebral for me, so I’d paw through stuff and read the synopsis on back covers to see if there was anything about horses in the book, and if not, I’d usually discard it.


Have just realized I never read Born to Trot and am requesting it from the library right now.

I would read literally anything about horses*. Especially if it was written by Marguerite Henry, who wrote about those big ol dumb ponies in a way that made me believe in pony magic, for real. It also made me cut up my horse calendar every year and tape the pages to my wall until there wasn’t room for anything else. I had a boyfriend in junior high for about a week and when I showed him my room, full of horse books and horse statues and horse pictures, he said, “So you like horses, huh?” and I shout-screamed YES. So excited was I to answer the question that I practically barked it at him and he took a step back and handed me a little Valentine bear and rolled away on his skateboard and never came over again. (I buried the bear in the yard and smashed a piece of dog shit into the dirt on top of it with a garden spade, but not until years later and after lots of crying into its synthetic fur. My stepdad was like WHY IS THERE DOG SHIT ON MY SPADE and of course I had no idea. Maybe the dog?)

I loved horses so much that I would beg my mother to buy me Horse Illustrated when I saw copies of it at the grocery store, and when she did cave and buy me one, I’d wear out the glossy pages by flipping through it constantly and reading every article and studying the diagrams of hoof injuries. There was a feature article once about a revolutionary technique to fix broken legs, and I remember being enthralled by the news, as if it would really change everything about the world and my life in general, and I ran downstairs and yelled “MOMMY THEY CAN FIX HORSES’ BROKEN LEGS NOW!” No one was as excited about this as I was. “Think of all the horses that will live now! All for me to riiiiide!”

My sister did not have a lot of horse books, but I checked just in case. I was digging around in there one day during the summer after fourth grade when I found a book called Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas DeQuincey. The front of the book had a skeezy looking guy draped over a bed in some kind of bad shape. I had no idea what opium was but just in case it had something to do with horses I thought I should read the entire back of the book. So I did, and this lead to my very first panic attack!



Thomas De Quincey, it seems, was born in 1785 and died in 1859. Between those years, lots of stuff happened to him, like, uhh, being English, and also ships were invented, and he smoked some of that sweet sticky opey yum yums. Then he wrote a book about it. But what stuck out to me was that he was born in the 1780s. Which was the same decade of a different century in which I was born. The year of his birth within that decade was only three years from the year I was born in my century. So if he died in 1859, I would most likely die three years sooner in 2056. Which would mean I only had a FEW YEARS LEFT TO LIVE OH GOD I WILL DIE SOMEDAY

I spent the rest of the day trying to ignore the terrible realization. This was probably the first day of many days I spent trying to ignore terrible realizations! Nothing’s so bad as long as it’s daylight and you’ve got stuff to play with and people to talk to. At night, though, everyone goes to bed and you’re expected to stop talking and thinking and just go to sleep. Up until that night, this was easy, but the night I realized I would die, I just sat up in bed for hours, shaking and crying and turning lights off and on. I closed the toilet lid and stood on the toilet so I could watch my face swell and contort while I cried into the bathroom mirror, washed with dull yellow from the night light. I was too young and dumb to realize that just because an opium addict in the 18th century didn’t live for more than 74 years, it didn’t mean that I would be resigned to the exact same life span. I was also too scared to realize that 74 years is nothin’ to sneeze at. I was more obsessed with the whole “this is about the span of a normal human life and that’s because death exists.” So I stayed up, night after night, thinking about dying. I remember the house as being empty and creaky, of smelling different and feeling cavernous and lonely.

I can barely remember resisting sleep as a child and not knowing why, or thinking of bedtime as a sad time, something to be avoided as long as possible. But also, being awake after everyone else seemed very sad, too. As an adult who understands more about how a child’s brain works, I’ve spent some time thinking about what was probably going on with me during those first trips to Panic City. First, my family had just moved into a new house. We hadn’t been there for an entire month before I had my first panic attack. I had gone from sharing a room with my sister, our twin beds 4-feet apart, to being in my own huge bedroom, all by myself. Moving is fucking stressful! Sure, I didn’t have all the responsibilities that adults have, but adjusting to something like that is difficult for a child. Second, everyone was busy unpacking and working and I was running around like a crazy person because if anxiety makes me a slobbery mess at night, anxiety and lack of sleep make me a terrifying cokehead during the day. So basically, the response to my behavior during daylight and my inability to cope at nighttime was GO TO YOUR ROOM AND STOP TRYING TO MAKE EVERYONE CRY. YOU CAN COME BACK WHEN YOU ARE DIFFERENT. Everyone was annoyed with me and tired and grouchy and I was dealing with feelings that were way over my head, so my brain thought oh hey, seems like a good time to think about the concept of your IMMINENT AND UNAVOIDABLE DEATH?

I don’t know a lot of kids these days but I certainly don’t know many of them who are obsessed with illnesses. I read books about Hiroshima victims dying of leukemia, and then I had leukemia. I watched part of And the Band Played On and then I had somehow contracted AIDS from a toilet seat or a tiny cut on my hand or from being in the girls’ locker room at a rival school during an away basketball game. Because of a certain camp counselor, I was convinced for fucking years that the sharp pain I often got in my right leg was leg cancer and that I was definitely dying. I’d lie in bed at night, sweating and crying and thinking about how to tell my mom I was going to die of AIDSkemia because sometimes I got dizzy or had weird pains or felt pukey. If they’d had WebMD back then, I’d have straight up died from anxiety.

In college, I went two weeks without sleeping because I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I lost 20 pounds so quickly that it started to hurt to eat food, like my stomach forgot what it was supposed to be doing but had been enjoying its vacation so much it would rather just sit there and churn out gas bubbles and not turn anything into valuable energy. I went to the doctor and she told me I was having panic attacks and severe IBS and that basically all my problems would go away if I would chill out and stop drinking coffee all the time.

Still convinced she was full of shit and that I was dying, I called her every single time I had a heart palpitation. I was really trying to get her to see her error, because while it would have been sweet revenge to die and let her know how wrong she was, I was pretty sure I’d rather be alive to have her apologize for misdiagnosing me. I read internet forums written entirely by people who had been diagnosed with the same thing. They all went like this:


Well just got back form the dr today. He says the heart palps r from diet meds but wants to put me on Lexapro. Are you crazy? I said! If there is one thing I kno its that Lexapro causes stomach cancer!




I have a friend who died from SuperCancer due to similar drugs to lexapro its not a pretty picture. have been off my antianxiety meds for 3 weeks now and definitely feeling more safe from SuperCancer. I am now just dealing with spots on chest that may be some kind of sarcoma or possibly shingles??? Does anyone have pics of shingles they can share thx

And on and on and on, because rational, sane people who have been healed or helped by whatever modern medicine suggested they try don’t go on forums and talk about how awesome life is now. They just go do life. It took me a VERY long time to realize that. A very long and arduous time. It also took me a long time to realize that my doctor was totally right, and she had me figured out, but only because she had tons of other patients who were acting exactly like me. I didn’t really feel too bad for jamming up her voicemail with tons of frantic calls about how I thought maybe I was going to drop dead that afternoon. I only realized that she really knew what she was doing when I called her from a crowded train and had this conversation with her:

Me: I just had a really bad heart palpitation! It was like really fluttery for a few seconds and then it was like BANG like a big gulping feeling!

Her: It’s probably the amount of sugar or caffeine or both that you had today. It’s normal for people with anxiety to have this anyway, but with your diet–

Me: I’ve hardly had any! All I had today was a can of Arizona green tea and that’s just green tea!

Her: Well, if you’re really that concerned, you could come in for an EKG–


There was something about the tone of her voice: a little bit exhausted, maybe from dealing with people who were actually sick and then having to return phone calls from crazy people who had been reading too much Internet and drinking too much caffeine and not dealing with their emotional problems. She scared me by mentioning an actual medical test which, when it really came down to it, we both knew I was too chicken shit to commit to. So I decided to at least pretend I was not sick until I either a) died, or b) felt better?§


All natural! Plus 40 grams of high fructose corn syrup because you drank the whole thing.

There was never a time when anyone sat down with me and talked to me about my feelings when I was a kid, so I wasn’t sure that I had them until they had manifested into Something Else. The Something Else has continued for the rest of my life. Figuring out where and why the pattern began has not helped in putting a stop to it: I still lie in bed and think I’m going to die tomorrow, or The Pants is going to stop breathing. I still lie awake in the dark feeling really lonely and sad and the first thought that comes to mind is You probably feel this way because the dog is going to die someday. So I reach down to the floor to make sure he’s still breathing. Really what I should be doing is reaching under the feeling itself to find out what is hurting or howling or really bothering me. I do that sometimes. Other times, it’s just too difficult to catch the frantic 9-year-old on her 500th revolution around the dining room table at top speed and calm her down and find out what is really scaring her. Sometimes I just don’t want to know. I’d rather just think that maybe I’m possibly dying, a little bit, maybe.

I think it would be really nice to die when I’m very old and there’s nothing much left for me to do. I imagine I’d live in a small house on a hill in a little town out in the middle of nowhere, and that I’d know when I was going to die, so I could invite all the neighborhood children in to my horse library, the world’s largest, and say “Take anything you want.”

Would that be scary? I hope that wouldn’t be scary. I mean it’s not like I’d be saying COME GET MY HORSEY BOOKS I DON’T NEED THEM ANYMOOOORE HAHAHHAHAHHAHAH *hacking cough* *dies on porch* *lifeless body rolls down hill into town*




* Also donkeys! Brighty of the Grand Canyon was about a wild donkey who got attacked by a mountain lion, then saved by a cowboy who earned his trust by putting a pair of overalls on his front legs to keep flies out of his wounds. BRIGHTY!

† They cannot.

‡ It was and is sciatic nerve pain that haunts me to this day. (Or possibly leg cancer.)

§ I did not die, I felt better later.

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God and a Good Time

It’s listening…

The new Apple TV has a new feature that I’m sure lots of normal people would be interested in using but it only makes me more anxious. Or maybe I’m the normal person and all the rest of these freaks are the weird ones for talking to their televisions?

For starters, the whole remote experience is different. Where you once had a choice between three buttons, you now have a totally over-sensitive track pad, which is also a giant button. I’m so serious about this stupid track pad. If you so much as look at it, it pauses your movie or starts running it backwards at a seizure-inducing speed or just smugly turns the whole shebang off and drops you back into normal TV with a shudder, like oh fine are you happy now? Now nobody can watch HBO GO! The other buttons are the old Menu button that gets you in and out of apps, and the play/pause button, without which we’d all be stuck. I don’t have any fucking idea what that button with the little TV icon is for. I also don’t know why I need volume control when I already have it on the TV remote, but okay.



The offending and most confusing button is the one with the microphone. You’re supposed to talk to your Apple TV now, as if that’s just the most normal progression of technology in the world. I feel like a crotchety old lady about this stuff, but I’m going to resist this movement because I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to get caught standing in my kitchen, screaming MAKE TOAST MAKE TOAST at the toaster while it says “Here is what I found for baked roasts.” So now there’s this button smack dab in between the two classic and most oft-used buttons, and I press it accidentally all the time and before I realize what’s happening, the screen has gone black and a terrifying little message comes up that says LISTENING… and I’m just supposed to be okay with that.

You’re supposed to take advantage of this and become even more lazy and thoughtless about your television consumption. Or maybe it’s supposed to streamline your iTunes purchases and Netflix viewing? I don’t know. You’re supposed to say stuff like “Val Kilmer” or “Movies with a strong female lead” or maybe “Movies with Val Kilmer dressed as a female” and it’s supposed to think about it and get back to you and tell you to watch Willow for the 3,000th time. I’d like it to stop listening to snippets of my conversations when I accidentally hit the button and telling me to watch Guy Ritchie movies. So I have made a list of things to ask it.

Things I want to ask the Apple TV:

I like movies. Do you like movies?

Can you find me two things on Netflix that are not total crap?

Find me a movie in which the weather is what it will be like here tomorrow.

Did Steve Jobs tell you any secrets before he died?

Is Steve Jobs telling you secrets now?

Why do you keep suggesting that I watch the movie “Ouija”?

Is the movie “Ouija” about Steve Jobs?

You are listening to me at night, aren’t you?

leg hunt

When I was in junior high, I spent a week out of every summer at the Southern Illinois Christian Service Camp, “Where God and a Good Time Go Together.” As I recall, what we did there really didn’t have much to do with service, but okay. I just remember being super excited about being there because we got to go swimming every day and we stayed up late at night and those things alone were worth putting up with the endless barrage of Jesus crap they made us eat. I mean seriously, it was God o’clock all the tiiiiime in that shit hole. And it was a shit hole, one year I was putting my sister’s New Kids on the Block sheets on my wafer-thin plastic mattress, and when I lifted it up, there was a pile of sand and a calcified white hermit crab claw under it, as if some poor unfortunate crab had been forced to chew its own claw off to escape the place. The bathrooms smelled like sewers and the shower walls were moldy, mold upon mold upon years of mold, so it was like showering in a greasy cave.

The kids there thought I was funny but otherwise did not take me seriously. I never had a Camp Boyfriend and it seemed like everyone else did. I didn’t wear makeup and I didn’t know how to do my hair and my only Cute Outfit was a pink and white striped t-shirt tucked into white drawstring shorts that I pulled up to my neck. I didn’t wear a bra yet because I had no boobs and I was pretty sure you waited until you had tits to strap them down. But according to the girls at camp, you wore one because you were supPOSED to wear one, because how else will anyone know you’re a girl and want to date you? They were so right, with their French braids and Eastland shoes and bras. Having struck out hard core with the dudes at home, who thought I was weird, and then believing I could be totally different with a new group of kids a few hours away but falling flat on my face there, too, I realized that I would just have to deal with the fact that I was perpetually a weirdo and did not fit into any social groups. I was okay with being the funny kid, but I vowed to study what the others did that made them so successful with one another. Boys did sports stuff and said dumb things to make people laugh, and girls were mostly quiet and did their hair really good. I learned this by following around the established couples and taking pictures of them, which I would develop and study later, which was, admittedly, a bit weird, so maybe that’s why most of the kids and adults there thought I was a creep. It could also have something to do with the fact that one summer I found a pair of perfectly good Airwalks that someone had thrown over a power line and spent hours throwing rocks at them until they unraveled and fell, then wore them around even though they were two sizes too big for me because having nice shoes is one of the main things you have to do if you want a junior high boy to hold hands with you. So basically I was a church camp kid (strike 1) shuffling around in gigantic power line shoes (strike 2) taking clandestine photographs of prepubescent lovebirds and studying their hairstyles and mannerisms (I’m out. Fine! Okay.).


OPPORTUNITY: Don’t wait for your shoes to fall. Throw shit at them for a while.

(Now that I’m remembering all of this, I’m realizing I should have been nicer to the fat kid at school who told all of us one day that he had a girlfriend but we’d never meet her because she lived in North Dakota and her horse training job kept her too busy to visit. I should probably have recognized that he and I were mired in the same pit of total middle school despair and been kinder to him, or maybe I could have laughed a bit quieter, or not at all, but really I didn’t want to think that he and I were anywhere near one another on the spectrum. Because he was near the garbage end, in constant threat of being shot out the sphincter and joked about for the rest of his life, and I, having considered the old Fake Boyfriend storyline many times before, was by proxy only a hair’s breadth away from the same fate. I guess that’s why everyone is such a fucking asshole in school, though: everyone identifies with everyone else’s struggles, and it’s just too scary to think about so you say something mean and feel a little better? I’ll never be like you because I’m laughing at you! AHHAHAHAHHAHA cryinnnng.)

OK but anyway, Jesus Camp. It was really just a microcosm of the school experience, but God Was Watching All The Time so everyone had to be nice at least on a phony level. Like the really nice girl who came up to me at the pool and very nicely pointed out that I should start “shaving, you know, down there” because we were at the age where we were starting to get hairy and “you’re a little bit hairy now so you’re only going to get MORE hairy and I’m just letting you know because everyone is laughing” and everyone was laughing because now everyone was specifically looking for my crotch fluff at the most secret edges of my teal one-piece Wal-Mart bathing suit with the scuffed-up butt. Anyway, she said it really loud because she wanted to make sure God could hear her being so nice to me. It was a lot of stuff like this, interrupted every few minutes by a chapel bell ringing, meaning we all had to run to church and watch videos about Jesus or listen to a preacher talk about how touching each other was “Playing with FIYAHHHH” or watch skits about how to be friends with each other. There were these little classes we had to take during the hottest part of the day, where we sat wilting under shitty little awnings, listening to stories about Jesus and doing activities that were supposedly sanctioned by Him but conveniently came out of little workbooks that the camp counselors read from. You were supposed to be part of a giant group prayer about every five minutes. Every night, we suffered through Cabin Devotionals, which were just about the worst thing ever, because the best part about church camp was staying up late in the dark and not having any adults around to tell you what to do. But before you could do that, you had to sit in a circle on the floor and the counselor would tell you God stuff you were supposed to think about.

One year, our cabin counselor was a lady with one leg. Leigh Anne had that crinkly yellow 80’s hair that always looked wet with bangs that looked like some kind of scouring pad stapled to her forehead. She usually wore a prosthetic leg with a white New Balance shoe attached to the bottom of it, walking with a single crutch on that side to help her along. Sometimes, she went without the leg and zoomed across camp on two crutches, the empty flap of her shorts dangling loose on one side. Leigh Anne was nice, but she scared me because she had one leg and I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to talk about it or not.


My, what a nice and also realistic leg.

The leg was nice, I guess, but definitely not a top-of-the-line model, as far as  prostheses go. It looked like it was made out of the same material as those stretchy ankle bandages you wrap around an appendage when it’s sore but not broken. It was the same color of No. 2 pencil eraser, too. It was always a little bit dirty and it smelled kind of bad from the stump sweat and it sometimes had one of those scrunchy ribbed socks on it, the kind that you pull up then push down like some kind of poofy ankle decoration. Sorry to linger on the smell, because I know these things can’t be helped, but the thing definitely counted as a stanky leg.

One night during Cabin Devotionals, Leigh Anne lowered herself to the floor by sitting on a bunk and then scooting herself over to the circle on her butt. Her sweaty stump stuck out from under her nightgown and I was so glad when she sat far away from me, on the other side of the circle. Of course, that treated me to a view of the stump, but it was better than having the stump brush against my arm or being able to smell the dank air coming from her crotch, where the prosthetic had been situated all day in the 100 degree heat. As the leg looked on from its post, leaned up against some poor unfortunate soul’s bunk across the room, Leigh Anne shared with us the sad tale of losing her leg to cancer when she was in high school. She’d done a cheerleading stunt and landed on the leg, breaking it. The doctors found the cancer in her leg bone and amputated the leg and God and Jesus and “now I’m super happy to be here serving Him!” If you had asked me, which no one did, Leigh Anne got a shitty fucking deal. I’m pretty sure everyone else thought that, too, thereby missing the point of the devotional, but most girls were hung up on the whole “I used to be a cheerleader” thing because when you’re in middle school, that’s still a viable life goal and solid career path so the idea that there were such things as former cheerleaders, and through no fault of their own, now that was just too much to handle.

On the last night of camp, there was usually a scavenger hunt. We ran around in the dark with flashlights, screaming at nothing. My team had some clue about getting children to school, so OF COURSE we had to venture out to the old broken down school bus sitting at the edge of the property (doesn’t every church camp have one of those?) and look inside. We drew this creepy moment out longer than we had to by following the suggestion that maybe whatever we were looking for would be outside the bus, in the grass, maybe? So we shined our flashlights all around the bus, behind the flat, cracking tires, in the tamped-down weeds, but realized we’d have to look inside. So we reached up and yanked back the screechy bus door and climbed inside. I remember walking down the aisle of the bus, flashlight beams shooting around in all directions, when one of the girls near the front of the line screamed and ran out, quickly followed by the rest of us, but not before we’d all had a chance to lay eyes on it. There, in the last seat on the bus, by the exit door, was Leigh Anne’s stanky leg, foot on the floor and bent at the knee, as if some legless person had been sitting there when the rapture happened. You’re not going to sit here and tell me that rapture mindfuck wasn’t intentional. You could practically hear one-legged Leigh Anne cackling from some dark room where they’d hidden her during the scavenger hunt.


Get in! Jesus wants you to.

What was my big fear about the rapture anyway? Loneliness? A lake of fire? Maybe I wasn’t afraid of it, after all, because they never scared me bad enough to make me one of the kids who broke down crying and allowed themselves to be baptized in a giant tub in the chapel after dinner. Maybe I realized that earth after all these assholes would be slightly better than the assholey place it was at the time. You could wear whatever you wanted to the pool and have all the blow-up pool toys to yourself. You could break into the canteen and eat all the Whatchamacallits and WHO’S GONNA SAY SHIT? There won’t even be anyone left to punch your canteen card and keep track of what you owed. Boom. Sold! Later, y’all, have fun in heaven.

So, the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen was a prosthetic leg on a broken-down bus in the dark. These are the kinds of horrors reserved for your children at Christian church camps. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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I Am Not Weird.

shitty dress

One time I went to Ireland and saw a lot of amazing things, but I feel absolutely ashamed when I think about the fact that the most amazing thing was the night I stayed in binge watching episodes of the UK’s answer to The Jersey Shore on international Netflix and binge eating a huge sack of tiny gummies in the shape of fried eggs.


Geordie Shore! They’re all dead now.

It was in Connemara in a little b&b that was set up on a hill overlooking the little fishing town of Clifden. I had cramps that felt like Sonic the fucking Hedgehog from Hell was doing his damnedest to collect all the rings from my uterus, while wearing little razor blade boots. I was mad and tired of Looking At Things and also I had this giant bag of gummies and a pile of UK teen magazines and also there was Overseas Netflix and a tub the size of a sarcophagus in our room so BYE GUYS HAVE FUN AT DINNER.

I mean I guess there were other noteworthy things about the trip. Like when I walked around Tollymore Forest Park by myself because everybody else was too hung over to join, and it was like I was the only person in there. Or like the night before when I drank too much and danced around in Belfast’s only gay bar, screaming I LOVE GAYS YOU GUYS ARE ALL SO HOT okay wait maybe actually that was not a good time. Because I threw up an hour later and now realize that gay bar patrons hate it when dumb straight white girls come up in there and turn it into a pandering screech festival, and I bet they hate even more when this is their ONLY gay bar and oh my god, here comes Loudy McStraightgirl to dump a big shit bucket of lame all over everything. So maybe that wasn’t the best time but I remember it really well and at that moment I was having a really good time. There was also a lot of good scenery and shit because that country is green and beautiful and everyone should see it before they die. There’s a photo of me somewhere standing on a cliff while a big wave comes up and I look really shocked because a) it’s cold as shit by the sea and the wind is 500 mph so I had to wear a big puffy down coat that made me look like a charred marshmallow and added enough mass to my body to make it easier for the wind to flatten me instead of just going around me, and b) the wind grabbed my strapless dress from under my coat and yanked it down to my ankles and into a tiny pile of sheep shit. I could not find the photo so I drew it for you guys.


Is that my dress? Tell me that’s not my dress.

But I just want to confess that MOSTLY what I remember is taking a bath in a tub the size of a Range Rover and eating gummies and listening to some of the world’s trashiest people talk about their hair products and underpants. I’m sorry. I should not be allowed to travel. It is wasted on me and I complain a lot anyway.

Mrs. DinoHand

My fifth grade teacher had a birth defect that caused one of her arms to curl up under her massive right tit, and rest there in between her boob and belly. The arm was smaller than the left arm, so not only did it constantly look like she was trying to clandestinely adjust her bra or push up her boob, it looked like she had a little T-Rex arm attached to one side of her body. She couldn’t stretch it out straight in front of herself, or really do anything else with it, as it seemed to have very little range of motion at all. So it sat there, sandwiched between two large portions of flesh. She did have a method for clapping, which is really something that everyone needs to figure out how to do, regardless of physical impairment. You’d think she would take the easy way out and slap her knee when she wanted to show appreciation at a Billy Ray Cyrus concert or bring her class to order, but no, not Mrs. DinoHand.


This is not a Tyrannosaurus Rex arm but it may in fact be a picture of Mrs. DinoHand’s arm.

The arm didn’t budge except for maybe one or two inches toward or away from the body. The hand, however, had been equipped with some kind of mechanical swivel technology that allowed it to turn on an axis, palm up and palm down, like some kind of magical flapping device. She would turn the hand to the Palm Up position, then anchor the arm in place by plopping it down on a hard surface (usually her desk, a hollow metal structure that would go BONGGGG when she’d bang her dead arm down onto it), then slap at the hand on the desk with the hand on the good arm, thereby creating a flat-sounding semblance of a clapping sound.

At our last class party, she was clapping along to “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” while several of the popular girls and one unfortunate boy (who had no idea how this decision would affect the rest of his life) performed the line dance in the middle of the room. We all had to push our desks back so these fools could dance, and dance they did, again and again. We must have listened to that goddamn song 4 or 5 times in a row, so tickled was Mrs. DinoHand, who clapped along into her dead arm the entire time, letting out little Yeahs! and Wooos! every time the dance crew spun around on their heels. I was pissed because I didn’t know the dance and I wanted SOME of the attention that appeared to be up for grabs and I’d brought my R.E.M. Automatic for the People cassette tape with me JUST FOR THIS PARTY. I’d asked for the tape for my birthday because a boy I had a huge crush on randomly came up to me at the Halloween party and recommended it to me. He rolled up to my desk on his Roller Blades and lifted his Richard Nixon mask and said “Have you heard of R.E.M.? My dad listens to them. It’s good.” I think I said AH-BUH BUH BUHHHH and he rolled away but you bet your ass I got my parents to get me that fucking tape.

“Can we listen to my tape nowwww” I kept pleading with Mrs. DinoHand from across the room. “Heyyyy,” I squealed every time Brooks and/or Dunn started to wind down, “Can we listen to a song on this nowww?” I was sure she’d like it, I intended to play “Everybody Hurts” and maybe I’d fucking dance to it, too? Who knows! This is the END OF THE YEAR PARTY, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. I waved the tape in the air, trying to get her to notice me, also glancing over at Crush Boy to be sure he saw that I’d taken his advice. For the love of God, somebody pressed rewind and the twangy twats started up again, tellin’ us all about the sun goin’ down and whiskey git down turn around go to town and it was like she just wasn’t hearing me.

I got up and crept over to Mrs. DinoHand’s desk, the tape clutched in my sweaty hand. “Mrs. DinoHand?” I said, “I brought a tape too! It’s real good, it’s kind of country I guess,” and at this, since she still hadn’t turned to acknowledge my presence, I put my hand on the elbow of her dead arm, where it lay anchored against the desk, thinking if I could only get her to turn around and look at the cover of my tape she’d totally want to hear it. The second I touched her elbow, she jerked it away from me, turning her head sharply, all in one quick, terrifying motion. The look on her face said “sit down and shut the fuck up and don’t ever touch me again” so I went back to my desk without a word and put the tape in my pencil case and watched the boots do some more scootin.

This is probably why she thought I was weird and didn’t like me as much as the normal kids. How dare I touch her and demand to be acknowledged?!? Or maybe she had heard stories about me from earlier teachers. Like maybe my third grade teacher told her that I went out at recess and caught a bunch of bees in my empty sandwich baggie and stored the bee bag in my desk and when she finally traced the source of the incessant buzzing back to my desk, where there was A FUCKING SACK OF BEES, I told her I had absolutely no idea how they had gotten there. Maybe my second grade teacher showed her my confiscated copy of the yearbook, in which I’d drawn green marker arrows pointing at everyone’s butts in the picture of everyone hunkered in the hallway for a tornado drill, and green dribbles of snot pouring from the nose of a beloved former administrator in the “In Memoriam” section in the back. Perhaps she’d heard from the science teacher about the day a student had brought in boiled crawfish for us to eat in some kind of weird nod to her New Orleans roots, and I thought it was some kind of exotic water bug, so instead of eating it, I wrapped it in tissue and put it in my backpack because I was sure my dad had never seen one of these and he would probably think it was cool, then he’d think I was cool. He would say “thank you for showing me this strange spicy crab that I have never seen, you are a great kid and also smart.” But the science teacher found it because by the afternoon it had started to stink up the joint and she made me open my backpack and show her what was rotting in there and when I tearily told her “I wanted to show my dad” she rolled her eyes and made me throw it away. Or maybe a certain classmate told her about when we all went to see the StarLab and the lady running the joint turned off the lights and showed us constellations on the ceiling, then asked if anybody knew what this constellation was? And because I wanted someone to acknowledge my star expertise, I practically screamed SCORPIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! causing my classmate to look at me in the dark and say “Why’d you do that? Why’d you say it so loud? You are weird.”

Whether it was my reputation or just the plain old fact that I was annoying in that moment, here at the end of the year, she could no longer bother hiding it. Mrs. DinoHand did not like me.

She had two sons named Rhett and Ashley because Gone With the Wind was her favorite movie. She was somehow surprised that neither wanted anything to do with her. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel like this kind of person is really the best judge of who is a weird fifth-grader and who is a fucking awesome person in the shell of a fifth-grader in this shitty little town full of dried grass and country music. She didn’t know shit.

That, of course, didn’t occur to me at the time, so I went home and played “Everybody Hurts” on my purple plastic cassette player and dreamed of the day that Richard Nixon would carry me away from here on his Roller Blades.

Goodbye, Dougie!

One time I posted an ad for a ghost dog on Craigslist:

Date:2014-10-31 08:17:14
Title:(pets) Lab/Shepherd mix FREE to good home!!!

Need to find a new home for 9 year old Lab/German Shepherd mix, Dougie. Well trained, housebroken (never has accidents in the house), and great with kids, maybe a little scary at first. Doesn’t eat much. The only thing is that he is a bit of a night owl and likes to roam the halls all night, and the sound of his toenails on the tile is keeping us awake, so it’s time to get Dougie a new home. He would be great company for an insomnia sufferer. He passed away 2 years ago after finding some chocolate in the garbage and has been very low-maintenance ever since, you won’t even know he’s there.

Pick up ONLY. Unfortunately Dougie is not microchipped so it will not be possible to send him through the television, we can’t be responsible for him getting lost in the netherworld or adopted by a poltergeist. Check out pics of this handsome boy, please email if interested.


Location: Logan Square

it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests




Susan Gardner <>
to 7qvxs-41629270.


Is he still available? Thanks




Cupcake Heartbreak <7qvxs-41629270>
to Susan <>

He is still with us. Let me know if you can pick him up this week. You don’t need to worry about a leash or collar but you will need to bring a proton pack and ectoplasmic trap to transport him safely to your house.

Pickup shouldn’t take long, usually we put his favorite chew toy on a Ouija board and call him a few times. He comes out within 5 minutes or so.

Let me know when you’re available and if you’re still interested.



Susan Gardner <>
to Cupcake Heartbreak <7qvxs-41629270>

DO you have a picture of him?



Cupcake Heartbreak <7qvxs-41629270>
to Susan <>

He is in the picture on the ad. Just a little hard to see since he is invisible most of the time. We can try and get another pic tonight if you need it but we will need to borrow my sister’s infrared equipment.



Cupcake Heartbreak <7qvxs-41629270>

to Susan <>

Hi there,

Just found a picture of him I forgot about. Here is my daughter walking him last week.

We have a couple of people interested so let me know if you want to pick him up. You were the first to inquire so I am giving you first dibs on the Dougster.


craigslist – automated message, do not reply <> to Cupcake Heartbreak <7qvxs-41629270>

This posting has been flagged for removal.


Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your understanding.




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Sparkly Batmans

what the fuck am I going to do with one avocado?

Last night I felt like shit, like I’d been dragging through the day carrying my brain under my arm, spilling crap all over it. Like I’d been driving a truck for ten days straight with no sleep, like I’d been actually wrapped around the wheels of the truck. I felt like I’d worked for days and days digging a foundation for a children’s hospital with a garden spade. I felt like I’d been swung by my ankles and beaten against a wall until I went limp and all my bones were broken. I was really fucking tired. All I wanted was a glass of wine and a scalding hot soak in the tub and maybe some cartoons, then I wanted to pass out and wake up 14 hours later.  I feel like that sounds like something a fancy bitch would do but really I just like how wine dulls the light in my brain and makes me feel like I can sleep. It’s like it cuts the power to the television up there in my head that someone’s always watching, keeping me awake. It’s like being slowly submerged, which is even better when you’re actually submerged.

We had no wine except this awful $5 handle of shitty white that God knows who brought to a party  once. I sat there staring at it, contemplating whether the shattering headache the next day would be worth not having to leave the house again. Fuck, if I ever find out who brought that shit to my house and left it like a turd in the middle of a buffet, I’ll kill them. I swear to God.

I contemplated gin and tonic or vodka or any of the other myriad liquors on the shelf but decided that really, it had to be red. Also it probably means you’re not a drunk when you won’t drink just anything, right? Probably. So even though it was dark and cold and I just wanted to be done with the world for the day, out I went again. All the way there I was thinking about how this is possibly the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. At the Mexican grocery store, I bought the best bottle of $8 red wine I could see. I really mean “see” because my vision was starting to fuzz out. Admittedly it was because I was taking really long blinks, and sometimes just standing there with my eyes shut, but still.

I’m always nervous at registers of any kind because I know how shitty it is to be a cashier, and even though I totally get why they’re in a nastyass mood all the time, it still doesn’t make me want to deal with it. This particular cashier’s mouth was twisted into a snarl and outlined with a thick smear of brown eyeliner, so that it looked like a particularly unhappy butthole. I was so tired. Fuck, why did the lights in there have to be so bright? They were practically melting my brain. I could feel the tiny strings connecting my eyeballs to my brain fizzing out, like the filament in a light bulb that’s just about to go. When it was my turn, I politely stepped up to the card reader, ready in position. I said hi to the girl. OK, doing well so far, I thought to myself. Let’s see if we can make it through this human interaction without lying down on the floor for no reason or barfing all over the plastic bags, ok?

That’s when it happened: She said something else that I could not make out. It sounded more like the sound a machine makes when a belt or chain or whatever makes something move slips off and goes flying across the universe. It sounded like SCREEEEEEEEEAHAHAHHAHALALBBOBLLAOALDO??? It sounded like my worst fucking nightmare! If I’d heard that sound in the dark, I’d have shit myself, no problem. What in the actual hell had she just said? Was it even words? Also, was it meant for me? She was doing what angry cashier girls do, which is make as little eye contact as possible. Though eye contact is a cornerstone of KNOWING THAT SOMEONE IS SPEAKING TO YOU, she had decided that looking into the face of this sleepy fuck in front of her was above her pay grade. So what did I do? Probably the most awkward thing that anyone could do in this situation. I just fucking stood there and stared at her like a retarded basset hound. Here’s what my brain had to say about this:




No words were said. I literally could not think of one word, outside of the word “word”, which I at least had the wherewithal to realize was a terrible word to say on its own, especially if you have no idea what someone has just said to you. Example:

Person: My grandma died.

You: WORD.

Person: Are you having a stroke?

You: WORD.

Person: Paper or plastic?

You: WORD.

See? “Word” is only an appropriate response about 4% of the time, and even then it’s still questionable. So I said nothing. That is what happened. One minute someone was talking to me, the next minute I was staring at them, and the next I was walking out of the store with a bottle of wine in my shopping bag.

I was a real dick to myself all the way home. Why hadn’t I said anything? Also, what the fuck had this woman said to me? What actual question could she have possible had for me that sounded like SKEEEEEEELLLLLUUUUURRRRBALBLADO?? Maybe she was talking to someone else? Maybe she had switched to Loud Spanish for some unfathomable reason? I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter, I was just tired, that’s why the whole thing had turned into a clusterfuck.

Back in the house, The Pants asked how the store had gone. He asked because he knows that anytime there is potential for Me to meet Other People, there’s potential for a complete breakdown, and he usually wants to know all about it. “Uh, it went, not good” I said. I told him the whole crazy story about the weird possible question/possible random sound, and my response. As I did this, I pulled the wine out of the bag. “I mean, I just can’t figure out what the hell she could have said” I said, shaking my head. The bag felt…weird. It was still kind of heavy. Well, what is it, asshole? I thought. Look in the bag. I froze. There it was, rolling around in the bottom of the bag.

“Is this your avocado?” had been the question.

“No” had been the answer.

It’s that simple. Now I have one very unhealthy, dented, brown little avocado in the kitchen, reminding me this morning that I didn’t know words yesterday.

big ol’ legs

There’s a little thing at the bottom of the screen in WordPress now that tells you how many words you’ve written. A while ago, for about three hours, it said “0 WORDS.” All right, I fucking get it. You don’t kick someone when they’re down. You don’t have to be such a colossal dick about it.

There’s another screen that shows you your sad little Blog Stats. One of them smugly points out that the last time you wrote something was over a year ago. Yeah? When’s the last time YOU wrote something? Kindly print it out single-sided and crumple it up and shove it up your ass. I hope it gets stuck on a nail up there and never comes out and you can never poop again and you turn into that lady I heard about once who started puking up her own poop. How about that?

Anyfuckingway, here I am. I’m writing something. I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing something. The art they’re featuring this month is portraits of cartoon heroes in full glitter. So I’m staring at a sparkly Batman. I’m mad because I wanted to sit in the window but someone’s shit was all over the only empty window table, and that someone was nowhere to be found. So I sat near the window. After about 45 minutes, a girl came up to me and started talking, and this I only figured out after realizing that someone had been standing in front of me for an awkwardly long amount of time, so I looked up and took out my headphones when I realized their mouth was moving.

Her: Can you watch my stuff while I go to the bathroom?

Me: Uh, sure. But I mean, it’s been there for an hour?

Her: I KNOW that! That’s because I was standing over there watching it!!! Can you just watch it for me please???

Me: Uh. Yeah I mean…yeah.

Her: THANK YOU (leaves in huff).

^^^This is why I don’t leave the house much. Because of this kind of person, and because of myself, and because all of the sparkly Batmans on all of the walls of the world.

But why don’t I write anymore?

Really, I’ve been concerned for a long time that I have nothing to say. That’s why I started reviewing books and movies on here, then just movies. Because I sit in front of the television for about 60% of my life just watching whatever garbage is there for me to eat with my brain. Then I feel really tired, like I put in a long day at the office and I need a break. I am pretty sure that’s not healthy. I mean, I know it’s not, people tell me that all the time! But I bet they do things that aren’t healthy, too! I don’t come into their house and tell them not to put a fork in the toaster! I probably should. But I don’t. Who’s to say what will actually happen? I’m not God.

I had a dream last night that this yoga instructor came up to me and said “Oh my God, aren’t you so happy you’ve got big legs?”

Me: Excuse me?

Yoga Instructor: Big legs. Like big ol’ fat round legs. Aren’t you glad you have big strong wide legs?

Me: Why are you saying this?

Yoga Instructor: Because you’ve got big ol’ legs.

Me: Oh. (Starts crying.)


“I am so glad we’ve got these big ol’ legs.”

I had a dream the other night:

The Pants and I were in a new city, looking for a place to live. We wanted to buy a house and a realtor was taking us on a walking tour of a dark street. The houses were smooshed together, cramped into very little space, and sickly trees behind fences broke up the sidewalk around us. Every house had some kind of damage, either the whole structure had been destroyed or smashed, the top floor deposited where the lower floors had been, or huge cracks stretched from the foundation to the roof.

Inside the houses, lights were on. Glasses of water sat on shelves and tables, half-eaten meals on plates in the kitchen. We stepped over chasms splitting the rooms. We sat in chairs that were still warm with the heat of whomever had lived there so recently. It was like everyone had been there moments ago, then disappeared suddenly, and now we were here. I opened a glass bookcase and pulled out a book I wanted to read. “Go ahead, take it” the realtor said, his face suddenly gone, a black swirl. “Take whatever you want. Here’s a bag for you to carry it.” He handed me a black bag. The Pants inspected a chair in the corner. “We can take that, too, if you want it.”

I couldn’t believe that anyone would leave these homes, these things. Some of the rooms were perfectly intact, but just as abandoned. “Can we live here?” I asked the realtor. He turned to look at me and it was like his dark face turned out all of the lights in the room.

“No,” he said. “You can’t live in these houses. We have to leave. Now.”

We ran, falling down the front steps of the torn house we’d been inside. I threw the bag full of books on the ground as we went. Behind us, the realtor said run run run! and as we ran, a terrible noise like the earth ripping apart filled our ears, a sound like a black hood covering your head, something that no amount of running in any direction would stop.



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Anno Domini 2016

On New Years’ Eve, in the last minutes of 2015, I decided to make 2016 the year of not correcting people over stupid crap that, in the end, doesn’t matter at all. The idea from this came from a friend’s Facebook post that she was going to do that same thing, and the notion sounded interesting, but of course I didn’t see a way to apply it directly to my own behavior until Christmas dinner, 2015.

One of my guests, who knows why??, brought up the birth of Christ, and was talking about when it was, why we use the B.C. and A.D. designations for the years before and after his life. “So if B.C. means ‘before Christ,'” another said, attempting to add to the conversation. “Then A.D. would mean ‘after death.'”

“NO!” two people at the table exclaimed, leaning away from the table, roiling in their own smugness. “That’s not what it means,” one said. “Yeah, it’s not,” the other said. “Lots of people THINK that’s what it means but that’s not what it means.”

“Oh. Okay,” the person who had made the incorrect assumption about the abbreviation said, crestfallen. “What does it mean?”

The two naysayers blinked stupidly. There was a really long pause. “I’m not sure what it means,” one of them finally said. “But it doesn’t mean that.”

Ah. Okay then.

It was a moment that made me feel so stupid, so belittled, merely for not knowing something that nobody else at the table knew, either. Nobody reached for their phones because the whole exchange felt so tense, we all just wanted it to be over. It was a no-win situation, and how could it be otherwise when there’s someone at the table saying NO YOU’RE WRONG BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S RIGHT.

In a lot of ways, I feel like that Christmas Day conversation of 2015 set the tone for 2016. I was trying really hard not to tell people they were just wrong because I said so, when they recited incorrect tidbits about the dates of TV shows, the names of characters, worshiped Joe Biden as if he never did anything wrong or weird, you know–people stuff.

Last week, I went to a dinner where I only barely knew one of the people at the table, and ended up sitting across from a woman I’ve never met, and next to a woman I’ve met once, at my wedding. Her first question to me was: how was married life? Meh, fine, I guess, pretty much like unmarried life, except that now people ask me that question all the time.

The lady across from me tossed her white-blonde mane over her bare shoulders, she was wearing one of those peasant shirts that were in when I was a kid on the cusp of junior high, the kind that bunch around your shoulders and have two baggy pirate sleeves, so it looks like you’ve tied a striped fabric sack around yourself. I had one when I was in fifth grade, but I wasn’t allowed to wear it that way. My mom made me pull the off-the-shoulder parts over my shoulders and look like A TOTAL FUCKING IDIOT AT BRITTNEY’S POOL PARTY but I digress.

So Stripey Pirate smiled and nodded and tilted her head and tossed her pony hair and then both women giddily explained to me that there are three questions people ask you when you are dating someone, and they are: when are you going to get married, when are you going to have a bayyyybeeee, and then when are you going to have a SECOND baaayyyybeeee!!! They cackled and rolled their eyes and put on a really great show of pretending like they weren’t using this false incredulity as a front for the fact that they were about to ask me one of these questions. Which they did, “So when are you guys gonna have baayyyyybeeeeeeesssssssssssss,” then they told me a whole bunch of terrible birth stories, complete with gory details about destruction of womens’ bodies and descriptions of just how much a birth squicked out all the men in the room, and isn’t that so hilarious? And I did the thing where I pretend I’m a robot and my operating system allows me to form the appropriate answers to pacify humans and de-escalate uncomfortable situations while my internal processor scans the long, long, looooong list of other things about me that I think are a thousand times more interesting for people to know about.

So while Robo-Me took over and defended myself against the onslaught of insanely personal questions about my body and my choices, I used the time to update my internal database with a thought that occurred to me. Stripey Pirate, in between tiny bites of salad and wistful remarks about the hostess’s hair (“I want her haiiiiirrrrrr”), mentioned that being a Republican was not a bad thing, that she was a proud Republican, because “I work hard for my money and I don’t wanna have to give it to other people who don’t.”

This, along with the pregnancy questions, confirmed for me that this is how most people go through life. They find a sound bite or a clip of an opinion or a pattern of behavior and latch onto it, forever repeating that pattern and saying that thing that had become tattooed in their brains, ignoring the entire world of possibilities that lay all around them, ripe for the taking. I imagined a giant green tree growing over the dinner table in the crowded restaurant, its fruit hanging low, almost obstructing the diners’ views of each other’s faces, each juicy piece a new opinion, and unconsidered thought, a direction to take that had not yet been taken.

Imagine if someone handed you a script and said, “In order to be a certain type of lady, you have to say these things about pregnancy to other women. Then you have to have white-blonde hair and eat very tiny amounts of food.” Or if they said “In order to be a Republican, you have to say things about your money.” Sometimes I’m so bored with the way everyday conversation goes, I get the urge to shout “BANANA!” just to mix everything up. It’s just so fucking BORING. And it makes me endlessly grateful that I’ve been blessed with the capacity to think about things besides money, hair, and infants.

What I see in this country today is a whole lot of exploitation of the things that frighten people: being poor, being alone in your life decisions, being forgotten. I have to wonder if this isn’t why stupid people like Stripey Pirate settle on those convenient sound bites. Keep your money! Encourage everyone else to have babies, too, whether they want them or not, whether you know them or not! Stay beautiful. These are the things you have to do to be a person.

Stripey Pirate’s husband made several jokes about beating her. He looked down his nose at the plates of duck confit, the Asian chicken salad, and the craft cocktails littering the table, expressed disdain for anything that was not “meat and potatoes.” Stripey Pirate tossed her beautiful hair and gazed down at her phone, at a photo of someone’s children on Facebook. “I didn’t vote because I don’t care,” he said, and Stripey Pirate smiled, nodded, and thought of nothing.

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