The so-called differences between us

The tour bus rolled up I-5 from Bakersfield, CA to Portland, OR and I lounged in the back thinking about when I lived in this part of the country and drove this highway. So many Pacific Northwesterners complained about California drivers while I spent hours fuming at Seattlites for their infuriating timidity behind the wheel.

At the time, I accused my Seattle roommate, Alli Jones, of both driving my car badly and making sweeping generalizations. I didn't realize my own driving skills would plummet after I went back to bike commuting and that I myself would become so fond of gross exaggeration. Sorry, Alli. It's now hard for me not to make fun of the West Coast when I see, for instance, how informal and surfy the Washington Mutual bank machines sound when they can't give their customers money. I've been a Washington Mutual customer in New York and the machines there say, "Out of Service". End of story. But in Seattle?

"Hey there. I'm so sorry I'm not working right now. Catch you later!"

Or this note left on my bed in our Portland hotel:

"Honey, your bed linens are clean but we conserve water by not changing them every day you're here. That's how we do our part to keep Portland beautiful! p.s. for turn down service, just ask nice."

Like I'm going to call housekeeping back, "Hey sweetie pie, can you please turn down my bed? Because my arms are suddenly paralyzed and I can't do it myself. Muah."

I called Jocardo from my Portland hotel. He lives in Washington Heights and teaches in the Bronx and we talked about the divide and mistrust between Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in his school, how people will so often find a difference between themselves and those who are closest to them. This difference matters so greatly to them but maybe not so much to anyone else.

As Jocardo put it, "You know half the world still thinks they're all Mexican."

"Or the west side-east side gap in Cincinnati? There's a big global controversy."

"Or all the jokes Swedes make about Norwegians? You think Kofi Annan's worried about that?"

I told Jocardo about my Norwegian friend in high school, Sofie, who wore a t-shirt illustrated with Norwegian milestones, one of which was the invention of a paperclip. The thought of someone (Johan Vaaler, 1899) having to actually invent the paperclip led us to imagine a world without the clip. Chaos! Papers everywhere!

"Seriously, when was the last time you saw a paperweight? That shit's out of style. It's all about the clip."

Note: During World War II in Norway, buttons with the likeness or initials of the king were banned. In protest people wore paperclips, because the paperclip function was to bind together. This was a protest against the Nazi occupation and wearing a paperclip could have them arrested. This is an example of when regional pride really does make a difference.


Goodbye. Hel-lo.*



*After spending a significant and some might say uncalled for amount of time on the tropical coast of South America, I became virulently opposed to any chill in the air requiring me to wear more than a sarong and briefest of tank tops. In extreme circumstances I put on a blouse.

After that I lived in Seattle and continued to curse northern climates while pining for the south. Then I visited the desert. I was appalled by how scaly and crispy and desiccated I felt after five minutes in Arizona. My ex-best friend - the sun - hurt me no matter how many gallons of water I chugged and layers of 30 spf lotion I applied. It is so hard to just STAY ALIVE in the desert. If you are not a cactus or a javelina or a scorpion, what the heck? I decided that water was very important for location and, even more so, PEOPLE.

So I moved to New York for the people. And then I moved to Chicago for the other people and now believe that no matter how cold it is, if I have water and I have people I like, I'll be good. So while these photos demonstrate some relief at seeing a palm tree outside my window instead of an icicle, I'm really just kidding.


On a journey with a siamese cat and a regular cat

The night before I was to leave Chicago, Shane told me we were going to have a celebration. I didn't know if he meant to celebrate the magical world of High School Musical I was about to enter or the fact that I wouldn't be around for a while to cast him dark looks and make fun of the way he shovels, but I was in.

I was starting to feel bittersweet and conflicted about my sudden departure and it wasn't just the fact that I was uprooting myself almost immediately after I'd told myself to lay down some f'in roots and stay put.

It wasn't just the disruption of the local work I'd found and really like doing. It wasn't just the fact that I wouldn't be able to wear the heavy wool-lined winter boots I'd bought, those which look EXCESSIVELY prepared to stomp down icy sidewalks.

It was the little stuff around the house, the funny stuff mixed in with the everyday moods and schedules and frustrations, that makes living with friends different, and in many ways better, than visiting for a weekend.

For eight weeks, I don't get to see Sunny defile the Reddi-Whip and then try to tell me that it's organic, except for maybe the ingredient "propellant".

I'm not going to hear Shane singing "Po-rk Shoul-der" in honor of the pork shoulder given to him in Memphis, checked in his baggage, flown home, carved up, and sung about in tune to the 1984 hit "Sex Shooter" by the Prince-created 80s trio, Apollonia 6.

Pork Shoulder
Shootin love in your direction.
I'm a pork shoulder
Come on play with my affection.
Come on kiss the gun.

The night before we thought I was leaving, before we knew for sure that a blizzard would cancel flights out of O'Hare, Sunny went to bed early since she's a responsible teacher who knows something about waking up at 6am to face a roomful of 15-year-olds. Shane and I stayed up and made drinks. I got on and off the phone with American Airlines and we talked and made more drinks and put on a movie.

Sunny came out for water at one point - not be confused with the point when she stuck her head out from the bedroom door and asked us to keep our voices down - and asked what we were watching.

"Thank You for Not Smoking," I said.

"Is it good?" she asked.

"We're not really paying attention, but we think it is," I said.

A little later Shane said, "This movie is making me feel like I didn't study."

"Filmmakers are the worst," He added.

"Who's the second worse?" I asked.

"Writers," He said. "Well, writers are the best of the worst."

"Who's the most terrible of everyone?" I wanted to know.

"Girls in LA."

"I think they belong on a different list," I said.

So we began making lists and I transcribed. The next day when Sunny came home from school, I read aloud from my notebook what Shane and I talked about the night before. What we found at the top of the page, free of any explanation and with no context whatsoever, and nowhere near any list was ON A JOURNEY WITH A SIAMESE CAT AND A REGULAR CAT.

And neither of us have any idea what THAT'S all about. I'll miss this place.


What doors?

Shane suspects I sit around all day and blog around him. He thinks that if he hasn't read it, it's because I've written about him secretly on my OTHER blog, the top secret blog I keep from him.

When P-nut comes over to the house and doesn't see me right away, he asks, "Where's Jessica? Blogging?" And if we go out to dinner, Q begs me to tell him what I've said about Shane. WHEN I HAVEN'T SAID SHIT ABOUT SHANE. Except that he hates roommates.

I'm going to end that right now. The saying, not the hating.

When Sunny and Shane asked me in August to move in with them, we struck a few deals. One deal was that we'd start by living together for six months. After six months, we'd decide if I should stay or go because either a) I'd need my own space for temperamental reasons and/or b) they'd realize there's a reason married people don't always let the best friend of one of them move in.

The second deal was that I'd pay rent on October 1 for the little room in the front of the house, off the living room.

The third deal was that Shane would put up doors on the room.

It would be untrue to say that we agreed the doors HAD to be up by when I moved in, but that was maybe implied. Sunny and I cracked prescient jokes about how Shane and I were going to have funny fights about the doors. Or lack thereof.

I got to Chicago on October 9 and knew that Shane had to special order the doors since the space wasn't a standard size. I'm not going to speculate about when Shane actually talked to the door people and told them to start cutting because that doesn't matter. What mattered is I knew doors were on their way.

In the meantime I thought it was cute that Hugo, the brown dog, stuck his head around the curtain every night to check and make sure I was there before he went to bed in the other room.

And I was cool with Lulu, the pit bull, bossing me around and growling menacingly in the middle of the night when I tried to wedge my body out from the space between the mattress and the wall that she had squeezed me into.

A part of me has come to accept that it is, if not Lulu's world, Lulu's bed, and she's just letting me in it.

Eventually the doors arrived but stayed in the garage while Sunny painted them silver and let them dry. I covertly took photos of Shane's to-do lists, written on the biggest post-it notes ever. You can see here the giant post-it notes and lists, posted over his desk, carefully categorized and crossed off.

A couple of weeks later Shane built a header because some instructions said the doors weren't the right size. Then some other instructions said the doors were the right size. Then Shane took down the header and called a contractor.

The contractor was supposed to hang the doors on Friday, THE DAY I WAS TO LEAVE CHICAGO for two months. We all thought that was pretty funny. The contractor's truck couldn't drive through the blizzard, however, the same blizzard my plane couldn't fly through, so I was still home on Saturday and getting ready to go to the airport when the contractor said, "Yeah, I'll do it, but I can't do it right now, I don't have time."

And Sunny and Shane and Lulu and I were all like TELL ME ABOUT IT.

Just say NO

If you are walking at night and a little guy slinks out of a parking lot behind you and asks, "Miss? Can you help me?" and you look back and say, "With what?" and he holds out a keyring and huffs like he's EMBARRASSED to even be ASKING but, "My car just broke down..."

And you notice that he's twitching and blinking like a maniacal weasel who mixed up the last batch of crank reeeeaaaal good, you're just gonna want to cut him off right there with "NO" and keep walking.

You might be aggravated for a few blocks and imagine how you'd like to grab his ropey little neck and slam him up against the side of Walgreen's so that his legs are wiggling in the air like a cartoon and say to him, "Seriously. WHO do you think is gonna fall for that? YOU. TWISTED. LITTLE. IDIOT."


When I don't answer the phone

Anyone reading last winter knows my familiarity with fear and phobia. My phobias came out mostly in childhood and I still wonder how my mom and dad, such upbeat, stable, model-citizen types, churned out a fatalistic little bed wetter like me.

I'm sure everyone in my family was relieved when I grew up enough in junior high to be able to spend the night at friends' houses without freaking out, calling my mom at 3am and begging her to come pick me up. It was at this point that I started to shake off the mantle of mama's girl and catapult myself into independence.

In ninth grade I quit fearing the grim reaper at every turn and my dreams of dying in housefires and plunging elevators started to abate. I was a moody teenager who wore berets and took photography and slammed my bedroom door so I could have some PRIVACY to write my Amnesty International letters and plan my life in the real world where I would FINALLY GET SOME PRIVACY. GOD.

I decided I'd grow up to be a human rights photographer or maybe a librarian as long as the library was in a country where there was a political revolution or a coup. I'd welcome and encourage the opportunity to stare down the barrel of a gun. Fearless had replaced fearful. Except I wasn't actually that gifted in photography and while I truly have valued my travels in violent, revolution-inclined countries, I'm not trying to break up any gunfights.

Now I talk about phobia like it's funny but I'm not laughing when little quirks and cracks reappear. When I can't sleep for days and the idea of not sleeping worries me into an even greater state of insomnia and all I can do is put a pillow over my head and scream or go to the kitchen to eat peanut butter with a spoon and think about how ill I'm going to feel the next day.

I worry that I don't have enough time to myself to read and write and think because this is how I figure things out and if I don't get any time, I'll NEVER FIGURE ANYTHING OUT.

Or I worry that I spend too much time alone. That I'm a loner and will one day be a hunchback and a cat lady and it won't matter if I figure anything out because there won't be anyone to tell it to. Depending on how good my weekend was, I can start AND end the week equally afflicted by opposite emotions.

Probably the best expression of this state is my periodic telephone aversion. There are people I need, people I miss, people I could use a good talking to, if only I could answer the phone or listen to voicemail. The knowledge that nine voices on nine messages want to know how I am and I mean they REALLY want to know, they don't want a sound bite, sometimes overwhelms.

Sometimes I just haven't figured it out and instead of talking through it, I wind myself tightly around my questions. Then, for no reason at all, the flip switches in my brain and I get a rush of energy and I listen to all the messages at once and write them in my notebook. And, hopefully, call back.



I last saw Charlie in New York. I was leaving the East Village for the Bronx and he was leaving for Australia, by way of Brooklyn. The last time we spoke on the phone last summer he said, "Berlin."

"See you there," I replied.

I remembered the day I was down and didn't want to get out of bed. Charlie and I pretended my room was a cabin on a ship that was sailing away and I wasn't supposed to get out to the deck because the sea was too choppy anyway.

"You're one of few people who can make depression kind of fun," I told him.

He said, "I can't wait until the next time I see you and you've exploded." And I understood that this was good, explosions of imagination and energy.

Charlie has high expectations. He believes in talent and imagination and creativity. He always asks WHY. He is sharp and curious and his questions penetrate the surface. But to really know him, you must be curious because he doesn't brag. I wouldn't have known, had I not recently meandered over to MySpace, that Charlie's band, Long Walk Home, released their debut album, Youism, in Australia just days ago. Or that "Androgenous vocalist Charles Canh captivates not only with his haunting counter tenor vocals but his theatrical approach to live music".

And I wouldn't have been completely sure that "Long Walk Home will be touring their debut album Youism throughout Australia in the next few months before re-locating to Berlin due to industry interest in 2007."


Ruby Red Monday

Eight years ago I worked at a pawnshop and I used to name days with the other employee, Tom. Good days were Martini Monday and Leave Early Friday. Boring days were Six Inch Veggie Sub Wednesday. Mean days were Balding Guys Shouldn't Wear Ponytails and/or Rip Off Your Neighbor Thursday.

Once Tom pulled an antique typewriter off the shelf and wrote a short story about how we were enslaved by the owner of the pawnshop and being forced to wash his windows with newspapers and pretend like it was okay for him to wear moccasins - all for minimum wage.

I thought about Tom today when the sun never really materialized and the grey clouds hung heavy over the city. Every single hour, from daybreak on, looked exactly the same, like dingy dusk. Like you should rush through rush hour just to get to the couch and the entire second season of Lost on DVD.

If you're like me and have already popped in the entire second season of Lost on DVD, you might opt to read a thought-provoking work of literature. Unless you find it's difficult to concentrate on anything more complex than the backstories of a fictional group of strangers surviving on a desert island, their jet having plunged into the ocean some 44 fictional days ago.

That's when I realized what it was: Ruby Red Monday.

As in Absolut Ruby Red. As in why did it take the Swedes so long (June 2006) to get this delicious grapefruit-flavored vodka on the shelf? My goodness.

Sunny and I unloaded groceries while taste-testing little glasses of ice and Absolut Ruby Red and I felt absolutely at least a tiny bit better than I did before and I felt SAFE.

In our house we feel safe when Shane comes home from Costco and restocks the bar with giant bottles of whiskey, gin and vodka. Sunny feels safe when the cabinet above the refrigerator is filled to the ceiling with a half dozen 2-liters of seltzer water and 16 rolls of paper towels.

She doesn't sleep well if there aren't several bricks of extra firm tofu waiting to be fried up somewhere and I get a little pit in my stomach if the soups in the cupboard dip into the single digits. I probably don't need to elaborate on the emotions associated with a case of Bud Light.

Where this sinister dependency and Depression-era mentality sprung from, I'm not sure, but I'm in no shape to deny it.


llamas vs. alpacas

Last weekend Sunny and I drove from Chicago to Cincinnati and spent several hours on the Indiana Interstate.

"Not that Illinois is that much better, Sunny said. "But I'm so glad I don't live in Indiana."

"Yeah," I said. "What's the deal with Illinois? I never think about Illinois. Just Chicago. What's with the rest of Illinois?"

"Who knows? I'm surprised whenever I remember Chicago's in Illinois. I always think Chicago's like DC."

"I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever thought about Illinois."

We sped along I-65, quietly considering the mystery of the 21st State, the Land of Lincoln, and thinking uncomplimentary thoughts about the Hoosier State. Until I remembered something nice about Indiana.

"My parents' friends Yasna and Jim have a farm in Sunman, Indiana, I said. "They spend every weekend in the country and swim in a huge pond and have horses and lots of land. AND LLAMAS."

And for some reason this was so funny to us that we almost swerved off the road. We realized that not only are we not sure what llamas are FOR, but we're not even sure what llamas ARE.

We made a list of what we think:

1. Llamas are not camels and llamas are not elephants and llamas do not have feathers.

2. Llamas belong in South America, in the the Andes Mountains.

"And what about ALPACA? What's that?" Sunny asked.

"I think alpaca is what you call the hair after you get it off a llama and make it into a hat."

She didn't believe me, "THAT IS SOME MADE UP SHIT."

"Well, you don't shear wool and go, 'look at my sheep sweater,'" I said.

"Oh. I guess you don't admire silkworm shirts, either," she said.

"No. You don't. DAMMIT. Where is Google when you need it? Maybe we can pick up wireless from one of these barns. Slow down."

Llamas are in the camelid family of the central plains of North America from 40 million years ago. Three million years ago, they left for South America. 25,000 years ago, llamas were common in modern day California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, and Florida, but by the end of the last ice age (10,000-12,000 years ago) they were extinct in North America.

Alpacas are cousins of the llama. The Incas used the llamas for transportation and alpacas for their hair, which is finer and silkier than woolly llama hair.

According to the many llama websites I found, people outside the Andean Range now have pet llamas. Because they're nice. Even though they spit and sometimes wrestle with each other, they're fun to have around. They walk around and hum and don't often jump the fence.


At least I pay the rent

In January 2003, the Illinois Tollway began a Violation Enforcement System to crack down on toll scofflaws in order to remind the 97 percent of law-abiding Tollway customers who pay their fair share that they are BETTER THAN THE REST OF US. Illinois wants to reduce the amount of uncollected tolls and thinks this will happen once scofflaws realize that there are penalties for driving through tolls without paying.

I know this because I TOTALLY NOT ON PURPOSE joined the ranks of the three percent of Illinois drivers who drive through without tossing the required coins into the basket - 30 cents in my case - thereby flouting or "scoffing" the law.

And while I really don't think my inability to scrape together 30 cents from every pants and jacket pocket I could rifle through without getting in an accident makes me exactly public enemy number one, I got all shitty and nervous because I borrowed Shane's car to drive to the Bob Dylan concert and I caught the sign clearly stating that I had to call a certain number within four days, or else.

I suspected that surveillance cameras had already taken photos of me and the Nissan, photos which were being beamed to the state patrol who were typing up a warrant for Shane's arrest - or at least a ticket - to be delivered on day five. And that this would make me a bad roommate.

Especially if you bear in mind that 1) Shane hasn't had a roommate since 1992 because 2) THAT'S HOW MUCH HE HATES ROOMMATES and 3) I just moved in with him and his wife/my oldest friend Sunny and 4) this was the same day that I got locked in the bathroom and, in my panic, threw my weight against the door hard enough to break free, taking all the molding from the left side of the door with me.

You will see in the photo a long vertical crack running the length of the wall. Sunny tried to disguise this evidence of my hulkish nature by propping and nailing the wood back up after she got the note I left on the kitchen table:


I wrote Nissan's license plate number in my notebook and went online to look at maps of I-90 to figure out at which toll plaza I had scoffed the law. After deciding it was westbound Route 59, I identified the car and the time of the incident and put the 30 cents on my debit card. Last night I also tried to kiss up a little bit by drawing hearts on the envelope with my share of the rent.


Hi. My name is Depakote.

I just got this email: a paragraph of nonsense accompanied by a photo of a J.Lo impersonator grinning fetchingly from behind a stethoscope held over her eye with a rubber gloved-sheathed arm. The website advertises where one can order Viagra, Valium, and Cialis at great value.

Fake J.Lo reminds me of porn, pirates, and the opera and a quick Google search on Cialis informs me that it's an erectile dysfunction pill so my guess is that porn is what "Eran McCormick" had in mind when she sent me this awesome piece of spam. What Eran didn't know is that I have a thorny relationship with Depakote, so when this email greeted me politely in my inbox - "Hi. My name is Depakote." - I respond with a little chip on my shoulder.

Hi, Depakote. How are ya, buddy? Remember me? You sat on my kitchen counter in little orange bottles with my brother's name on them for many years. You were supposed to help him not have seizures, but he still had them, a lot, so you didn't do your job too well, did ya? You also hung out at my apartment in New York and my friend took you so he wouldn't be so manic. EXCEPT HE WAS TOTALLY MANIC. And while that's a nice break from depressive, it's still pretty messed up. There was also that time I accidentally swallowed 500 mg of you because I thought you were the antibiotic for my bladder infection and YOU FUCKED ME UP.

Depakote, I drank 28 glasses of water that night and I couldn't sleep a bit and I went to work the next morning buzzed, wired, strung out, and pissed off. That was the week of the inadvertent Depakote Diet when I dropped four pant sizes because you made me so sick I got all tuckered out after nibbling on an apple.

The upside was that I gained a lot of compassion for the mood swings and physical imbalances - AKA side effects - that both my friend and my brother struggled with.


You won't catch me ACCIDENTALLY running a marathon unlike SOME PEOPLE I know

I have a cousin named Lauren. This past Sunday she kinda sorta accidentally ran the Chicago Marathon.

As in 26.2 miles. As in she promised a friend that she'd start the race with her and see how far she got before dropping out. Lauren got her booty downtown at 8am, withstood the wintry temperatures with 40,000 other maniacs, and then just happened to keep running for the next four hours.

If I wanted to get specific about it, which, GUESS WHAT I DO, I would point out that this means Lauren's feet hit the pavement something like 52,400 times in succession. Fifty-two thousand four hundred times. WITHOUT REALLY TRAINING.

I cannot refrain from excessive use of caps because I'm not sure how else to express my outrage. I am beside myself with pride and irritation. I want to brag about her and I want to shoot her a million dirty looks. I want to know what is wrong with her and I want to know how I can be more like her.

Of the blood we share and the gene pool of which we are both a part, I want to ask: What do you have against me? Why does it take me a minimum of three hours everyday to prepare for the journey from my down comforter to the world outside? Why, when Lauren sent me a text message Saturday night asking if I was going to watch the marathon the next morning, did I laugh so hard?

Furthermore, DNA, I cannot have helped but notice over the years that Lauren has an incomparable temperament. She is unflaggingly cheerful and positive. She maintains her sparkling effervescence in the face of the most dire circumstances - things like Christmas and marathons. I was at her house two Christmas seasons ago and personally witnessed Lauren singing carols while vacuuming.


I think it goes without saying that this gave me pause. I admire what I don't understand, what I myself cannot experience.

This is a recent photo of me and Lauren. Notice the exuberance and liveliness in her smile. This is exactly what she looked like when she answered her door on Sunday afternoon. I surprised her at her house because I was in the neighborhood. I didn't know her feet had just been subjected to the ground in excess of 52,000 times. I came over to invite her and her feet to dinner.

I laid on her couch and listened to Lauren tell me happily that she didn't know how she did it, how she felt great, and how her sister-in-law, Miriam, told her on the phone that she never wanted to speak to her again, which I think totally befits the situation.

"Well, I was going to invite you go out to eat with a group of us tonight but I understand if you aren't up to it," I ventured.

"No, I'll go," she replied, and then proceeded to drive us around in her big truck, drink beer, and carry on like the champ that she is.


Oscar, 3rd and B

"Where you been?" He asks when he sees me.

"I don't live in New York anymore. Oscar, right?"

He smiles and nods.

"I'm just visiting and taking photos of the neighborhood for my friend Charlie. Remember him? He used to come in here with me. He lives in Australia."

"So everyone somewhere else. Where you live now?"

"Um. Chicago?"

It's easier than trying to explain what I've been doing for the last year and a half.

I grab a bag of soy chips and say goodbye, "See you next time, Oscar."


the pretty bright pink color of death

Gail and I spent the day in Duluth, Minnesota walking on the beach, sitting on driftwood, and sharing giant pieces of chocolate.

We drove Diana, the dark green huntress Toyota, from Ironton to Duluth in the late morning, timed carefully to coincide with baby naptime in the backseat.

After dinner we headed home along MN-210, a dark narrow tree-lined state highway. Gail told me a story about hitting a deer on her way to school, how the accident tore up her car and made her cry on the side of the road.

We were quiet for a few minutes until we passed three cars pulled off the highway.

'Why do you think those cars are pulled over?' Gail asked me.

'I dunno,' I mumbled right before we saw it and there was no time to slow down and avoid it: a bloody pink and red heap of fleshy carcass in the road. Diana's right side slammed into the animal and jolted us hard two times, one for the front wheel and one for the back, while I yelled, 'FUCK!' and Gail gripped the steering wheel.

'Fuckfuckfuck,' I repeated while pulling my feet off the dashboard and twisting around in the seat to see if the baby was awake.

'Well, I guess the lesson here is slow down when you see a bunch of cars pulled over?' Gail said.

The next morning Dave left us a phone message after he left the house for work: 'Hey guys, uh, you might want to think about getting the car washed, considering one side of it is COVERED IN BLOOD. Yeah, that doesn't look too good. Just a thought.'

I ran outside to inspect the deer remains splashed across the hood and wheels and, on the way, noticed a bush in the front yard whose leaves were turning a striking pink on their way to dying and falling to the ground.


plugging in your electronics costs $1.50/hr

I just assumed the owner of Lalita Java cafe across the street from my old apartment in the East Village was having a slow day. She felt like using up the last piece of scrap paper with a questionable sense of humor and old dried up felt-tip marker she found in her pen jar under the counter.

"Well," I thought, "Every barista is entitled to her sense of what's funny..."

Some make signs for the bathroom (Though we are not suggesting that your hands can be in any way as dirty as the Bush Administration's, please wash them before returning to work) or for the tip jar (karma jar). Seattle-based baristas have a bent towards espresso-dripped signs atop the latte foam (fern leaves, shamrocks, anarchy symbols).

So I ignored the sign, merrily plugged in, and got online.

Half an hour later I looked up to see the owner lady standing in the doorway, staring at me and my computer, whose white cord was rebelliously snaking its way down to the outlet.

"That costs a dollar fifty an hour," owner lady said.

"I thought that was a joke," I offered.

Owner lady's gaze hardened behind her librarian-meets-indie-rocker eyeglasses, "NO. IT'S NOT A JOKE."

Sheesh, who peed in your Grape Nuts?

I paused and countered with the all-time classic comeback of one who is honestly stumped.


Though ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, LADY? would have been appropriate, too.

I turned back to my laptop and ignored her.

I heard her say something to the boy behind the counter, probably something about making sure the chick in the back didn't leave without paying her fraction of the electricity coursing from the wall.

I gathered my things to leave, irritated beyond all bounds of reason. I wondered why I was so outraged SINCE IT WASN'T THE MONEY.

I will throw down for goods and services. I possess the sterling etiquette of a former waitress and bartender. But that devious little piece of paper pushed me right over the edge and I wished only that I had 150 pennies in my bag.


May I Kiss Your Boots?

I flew from New York to Minneapolis/St. Paul and immediately after deplaning got a call from Gail. "I'll be there in about ten minutes. I'll pick you up outside baggage claim."

"What does your car look like?" I asked.

"Dark green Toyota," She said.

"And what is your car's name?"

Gail told me, "Diana. Because she's a hunter. She's killed a couple of deer."

"Cool," I said, "I'll be looking for Diana."

I sat on a bench outside baggage claim and got another call from Gail.

"Jess, I'm sorry, I'm stuck in traffic on 694 and going three miles an hour. I don't know how long this is going to take."

"No problem," I said, "I don't mind sitting here. I've got plenty to do."

I sat and stared into space until a man walked up and wordlessly held up a index card that said:


Instinctively, I shook my head no and he turned to walk away.

Hang on, I'm curious, what the hell. I called out to his retreating back, "Wait, why are you carrying that around?"

He turned around and said, "BECAUSE I'M A SLAVE and this is how I meet mistresses and those are nice boots."

"Thank you," I say.

He sat on the bench next to me and I asked, "Does it work?"

"Sometimes," the slave said. "So can I?"

I hesitated. "Do we have to exchange money?"

"Oh, no!" said the slave and managed to appear shocked by ME.

"Okay, then," I said.

I noticed that he had a handful of index cards and I asked him what they said. "Nothing," he told me and shuffled through them to show that they were blank.

I wonder if he makes cards particular to each potential mistress or if he happened to carry a May I Kiss Your Boots? card on a day when I happened to be wearing F'IN SWEET BOOTS.

Slave handed me a piece of paper and politely said goodbye while lightly touching my shoulder.

I skimmed the letter he gave me and caught the opening -

Superior Mistress, Thank You very much for allowing me to kiss Your boots. i consider it an honor. Certainly, my rightful place is at Your feet. i adore Dominant Females. If this is how i behave in public, imagine what i would do behind closed doors!

- and put it away, laughing about how my visit to Minnesota was more about seeing the leaves change and meeting my friend's 3-month-old daughter than urinating on a stranger in some basement.

The next day, while Gail made soup, I handed the letter to her husband, Dave, to read aloud to us (exerpted here):

i have years of experience serving Dominant Women, and i am thankful for the Mistresses who have trained and abused me. Contact me if You are ANY of the following:

The middle part of the letter outlined how the slave seeks messy, show-off, sadistic, and broke women so that he can clean their houses, work in their yards, give them money, and suffer for them. Once or twice he might have mentioned being tied up or having weights attached to his balls.

And I can't tell you how much I got a kick out of hearing earnest, upstanding, outdoorsy Dave say, "ESPECIALLY WITH SORE BALLS."

"Sore balls!" I shrieked, "Did you make that up?"

"Why would I make that up?" Dave asked.

The slave feels that he is following his destiny:

i have accepted my fate. i am entitled to NO gratification, either sexual or financial. i am serious about the concept of Female Supremacy, and Mistresses are fun to serve and be around. my best friends are Women that i have served. Have fun! Take pictures! Even if you have no experience as a Mistress, i am a good slave to start with. You will find me generous and kind. References available. Submissively, shorty. (Followed by phone and email)

I am not publishing shorty's digits out of respect for the fact that I appreciate his POLITE and THOUGHTFUL approach to slavery: e.g. leaving immediately when I shook my head no, returning only when I spoke to him, NOT ACTUALLY SAYING anything from the letter, and not coming back.

Any of those things would have been creepy but in light of their absence, I deem his style of sadism honest, if not downright mature.


Bitches & hos welcome

According to rapper Big Daddy Kane, PIMPIN' AIN'T EASY, but Andrew and John make it look effortless.

Hosts of a recent party at Bubba's Sulky Lounge in Portland, Maine, these boys who normally come off as innocuous as a couple of fruit flies - if fruit flies wore Hawaiian shirts, Mexican guayaberas, and comfortable sneakers - were pimped out in unrivaled fashion.

I had no problem sitting at a table with a sign welcoming bitches and hos and not once did I feel my integrity compromised.

And I didn't even come close to busting out lyrics from 'Pimpin' Ain't Easy':

If the girlies want my tip they gotta pay a fee - 
I love bonin', and all my friends they will agree - 
that when it comes to pimpin' hoes - it ain't easy -

I wanted to tax that ass like the government!
 Well, it's Friday night, ain't a damn thing funny -
 Bitch better have my money -

YEAH. Maybe because John and Andrew really aren't pimps and while I may be a bitch from time to time, I'm really not a ho. Therefore, ha ha. Good party. Thanks guys.

A week later I got a voice mail from Cathy wherein she asked me, "Why aren't you calling me back, you dirty whore?" Only days before, I'd called someone a cheap whore just for finishing the last bottle of Riesling.


I met Cathy, Jane, Seema, and Chris in New York and the first thing they did was put a tiara on my head. "You get to wear the pretty princess tiara," Jane told me. "until you call someone a dirty whore and then you have to relinquish it to someone else."

Well, that tiara stayed firmly on my head all night, not because I didn't call anyone a dirty whore but because none of our arms had the inhuman strength to pass it around as often as the rule necessitated. In the next three days, we called each other dirty whores no less than, I don't know, SEVERAL THOUSAND times.

They developed a ranking system and told me that I was dirty whore #5 and here I actually did take offense.

"Number FIVE? Out of five?" I protested with indignation. "Hey, I get action!"

I remembered how Jocardo and I used to casually refer to people as crackwhores until we realized a few people we knew actually were into crack and/or whoring and the term suddenly sounded less funny and more sad.

Just like how if Seema stopped being a doctor, Cathy stopped being an economic developer, Chris stopped being a sailor, and Jane stopped being an energy conservationist and turned to prostitution, I would be sad and desperate. Just as sad and desperate as they would have to be to sell their bodies.

Photo credits: Matthew Sperling, Marisa Diaz


Our deadly classic

"Our Deadly Classic" might not be the best choice of words to describe the SPINACH artichoke dip, given that in the last two weeks 92 people have been hospitalized, several deaths are suspected, and 173 people have been sickened due to the E. Coli spinach outbreak.

I know that this Portland, Maine pub, Ri-Ra, wrote their menu long before three counties in California's Salinas Valley started sending contaminated spinach around the country and before 25 states reported infections.

But I'm just saying.


Giddy up

I just spent the last two days working with a Texan runner who had two responses to pretty much just about everything.


Giddy up and/or cool-cool came up when a) I asked him to do something b) I thanked him for doing something c) We passed in the hall d) We made eye contact and e) through z) At the close of every exchange we shared. The only variation from this verbal two-step was the occasional, "You got it, girl".

By day two I honestly felt, when talking to him, that not only did I have it but that things really were cool.

I just wondered two things. 

1) Why hadn't he shot me any pistol-fingered chk-chks and

While I never got a chance to discuss number one with him, I did get some insight when a delivery guy brought us food for the buses at the end of the night. My runner said, "Hey man, thanks for separating the orders. We'll take the bags for the green bus first," and the delivery guy answered back, "Cool-cool."

Ah-ha! People in Grand Prairie, Texas say this.

A few days later I was downloading photos and I laughed when I saw the ones of Geoff with the oxygen tank that the mile-high city of Denver supplies backstage. The tanks are supposed to be for performers, in case they get light-headed before they have to go onstage. In the offices, though, they are in case we get slaphappy before the night is over. The look on Geoff's face, as he's pulling the gas mask off his mouth, is ridiculous. And I knew, even if Geoff didn't, what he was thinking: GIDDY UP.


Heaven on Earth cinnamon rolls

In Portland, Oregon, Dee Dee walked into the office, held out two cinnamon rolls and said, "Here, the truck drivers bought these for you."

One of the cinnamon rolls was a normal, regulation-sized cinnamon roll, the kind found in bakeries and Cinnabons across America. Dense, buttery, and sugary enough to make those inclined towards hypoglycemia, diabetes, or A.D.D. reach for the nearest needle or pill, but a regular old cinnamon roll nonetheless.

The sight of the OTHER cinnamon roll in Dee Dee's hands made me freeze, yelp "Oh my GOD!" and "Jesus!"

It was large, like as large as my computer or small dog. Fittingly, the cinnamon roll on steroids that made me gush religious came from a place called Heaven On Earth. According to their website, "Heaven On Earth began in 1974 as a small cafe along I-5 in Oregon. With only 10lbs of hamburger, sheer faith and determination, Christine Jackson began her incredible journey to success…her devote faith and love of Jesus is why she will tell you her business is so successful today."


Later in the loading dock, I saw two truck drivers, Tommy and Ron.

"Were you guys responsible for that thing sitting on my desk?" I asked.

They smiled in a heavy-lidded doped-up sort of way that indicated they may have been coming out of a couple of considerable sugar comas.

I may have been imagining it but I think there was a slight slur to Tommy's voice, "What d'ya think of it?"

"I think it’s kind of fucked up. But I like it. Thank you."

Heaven On Earth Restaurant & Bakery is located in Southern Oregon along I-5, just north of Grants Pass at exit 86.


Rachel Zoe

West Hollywood, CA

I was flipping through the guest informant book at my Los Angeles hotel when I crashed headfirst into the article "Styling Stars: Clothes Encounters with Top Hollywood Stylist Rachel Zoe" by Vicki Jo Radovsky. I read about Zoe and about how far she's come from her job as fashion assistant at YM magazine 13 years ago. I read about how all four salespeople at Sergio Rossi on Rodeo Drive stood at attention, attentive to her every move, when she turned up searching for shoes for Nicole Richie. I made it through Zoe's italics. 

"I worship these!" ($1,400 black high-heeled suede boots with a jeweled flower at each ankle)

"These...are...beyond!" ($570 apricot metallic heels embellished with paillettes)

and, after the apricot metallic heels are found to be too big for Nicole's wee feet, "You can will it...I've made shoes fit."

Like someone who pokes a bruise to make sure it still hurts, I was ready to suffer though an account of Zoe staring down the pailletted heels, eyes narrowing in menace, when a pair in Nicole's size were found at another Rossi store and, crisis averted, Richie got up to leave, prompting a parting "Love you!" from Zoe.

Then the writer starts kissing ass big time, "Zoe, a tanned blond with perfectly tousled hair tumbling down her back, is in full-on L.A. tart-up mode."

I'm pretty sure that in LA being called a tart is a compliment.

Vicki Jo continues: she's bohemian chic, her black halter top is down-to-there - WHERE, VICKI JO, WHERE - a thick gold chain emphasizes barely-there size-0 hips, matte gold disc earrings tickle her shoulders, and her upper arm is as slim as a child's wrist. She's an ultra-lean styling machine.

Vicki Jo, Vicki Jo, VICKI MOTHERF'ING JO. I'm not 13-years-old and I'm not trying to pore over a Sweet Valley High or Judy Blume book, though you write as if I were. And if I were, that would mean I was still in those vulnerable teen years when self image is impressionable and eating disorders might still seem glamorous or worth it and YOU WOULD NOT BE HELPING.

I don't give a shit that Zoe doesn't have time to eat or take bathroom breaks during her workday. It must suck to be Zoe, all backed up with whatever crumbs she snuck into her starving barely-there body.

I do think it's kind of cool that Zoe has been able to collect vintage Halston, Chloe, Pucci and Yves Saint Laurent since she was 13. That's very fortunate. I'm not anti-style. I'd like to think that we all can, if we want, develop our own style to express ourselves. But that's not necessarily the same thing as fashion.

I'm not going to pretend that it didn't take me three weeks to pack for these three months that I'm living out of a suitcase. I will openly admit that I laid in bed for several nights imagining the perfect combination of shoes to bring. And I actually did lose sleep over the matter of how to best accomplish form AND function.

And I did almost break down when I thought I didn't have the right suitcase to hold my near-fait accompli. My mom suggested I look through the catalog of things to trade in for my credit card points and, not understanding that she meant there were suitcases to choose from, I shrieked, "I don't need a fucking toaster oven!"

Mom, sorry about that.

But I'm not exactly sympathetic to the glories of emaciation or tales of things gone awry during Zoe's long days, things like having to crawl under a model's gown to hold it straight for the photographer since it wasn't hanging right or dressing a red carpet client in sheer white right before a major rainstorm. As I'd say growing up in Ohio, "Big whoop."

Or even more horrific: her traveling so often between New York, London, and the Bahamas that she can't remember what coast she's on or remember to take a vacation for herself. The tears I shed are not tears for Zoe's hardships, they are tears for the people who look up to Zoe.

Says Zoe, "Even though (fashion) is trivial and superficial, I liken this job to being a doctor. You need patience, TLC and a high threshold to deal with so many types of personalities and give a hundred percent to all your clients. It definitely helps that I was a sociology/psychology major!"

I need a drink.


Wabasha Street Bridge

Yesterday I checked into a hotel in Minnesota, looked out my ninth floor window, and saw the bridge that brought back memories, many involving pain and exhaustion in below-freezing conditions. The bridge to West St. Paul AKA the Wabasha Street Bridge.

My second year in Minnesota, the year my inner strength crumbled and I really got tired of having frostbite, I rented an apartment in Minneapolis.

I worked at a halfway house in downtown St. Paul, ten miles away. I often stayed overnight in West St. Paul at my boyfriend's mom's house, just across the Mississippi River, in order to avoid the midnight bicycle ride home. After an eight-hour shift of doing rounds, switching out rolls of toilet paper, shooting pool, and listening to the stories of a hundred psychotic residents, I rode my mountain bike across this bridge.

The 1,200 feet of this bridge has one of those not so steep but everlasting grades that repeatedly kicked my ass. I would invent stories and strike deals with myself midway across this bridge in order to convince myself to keep pedaling and not topple to the side. I imagined myself weeping and pounding my fist into the pavement, just out of traffic's way. My stories were morbid and terrifying enough to shock more strength into me.

"Mom has cancer," I'd tell myself.

"If I keep going, she recovers. If I stop, it metastasizes."

Or, "Neill is drowning. If I get off this bike and walk, the boat leaves him in the middle of the lake and he has a seizure. If I ride faster, someone pulls him out and performs CPR."

Looking back, Jesus Christ, how sick. But my adrenaline kicked in at the thought of my family, my speed picked up as I "saved" them, and in the end, I not only made it back to the house in good time, but I got to be a hero.


1,089 pounds of pissed off swine

At the swine barn of the 150th Great Indiana State Fair, I saw the world's largest boar. According to the Indianapolis Star's August 10 Star Report, "The pig from Pulaski County put behind him any disappointment from last year's competition and was named the 2006 World's Largest Boar at the Indiana State Fair."

Question: the pig was disappointed? Is that how is works?

Big Papa weighed in at 1,089 pounds and beat his competition by three measly pounds to gain the title of World's Largest Boar and the enviable opportunity to laze around in a small pen atop pile of straw and be ogled by thousands of shuffling fairgoers.

I looked Big Papa in the eye and can report that while he might not be disappointed anymore by last year's crushing defeat, neither did he seem all that triumphant. Big Papa acted like a pig who is OVER IT. And, actually, quite pissed off when Leila took a flash photo of him.

"He's a good pig. He's very gentle, and he doesn't act like a boar, said Reed, Big Papa's owner. "Most boars are a little mean, and he's not like that, and he is also still able to move and get around good."

Leila brought out the boar in Big Papa because, for maybe the first time that afternoon - or week, or ever  - Big Papa found it in himself to do more than snooze, wiggle his tail, and lift a fat fleshy eyelid to check and see if he was still being treated like a circus freak. He bared his teeth, threw his head back, and produced a loud noise registering somewhere between an excited squeal and the last moments of asphyxia. Big Papa looked perturbed enough to almost do something as drastic as stand up.

I said almost.

This excitement in the swine barn did not, evidently, go unnoticed by state fair officials since the entire barn and surrounding area was shortly thereafter treated to a loudspeaker announcement requesting visitors to please not disturb the pigs by taking flash photos since it makes them mad. Sorry Big Papa.


Asleep with beer in hand

Matt took this photo moments before the Bud Light slipped from my fingers, I put the comforter on the seat next to me, burrowed my head under it, made a fort, and went to sleep on a pillow of two water bottles.


People in Alabama say HEY

Birmingham, Alabama

Our hotel is fifteen miles from downtown and connected to a mall. It is 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside and sunny as shit. According to the weather channel, there are fine particles in the air, presumably pollutants. I went shopping and in the mall was introduced to the Alabama HEY.

Macy's lingerie department:

"HEY Mabel!"
"HEY Barbara!"
"HEY Sally!"
"How's yer dad?"

Barbara rang up my purchase. I found out that her dad isn't doing well and she spent all night taking care of him. When I pulled out my wallet and counted change, Barbara stole a look inside my courier bag and took a break from saying hey to ask, "Are yew in the pen business?"

After flashing a blank expression, I looked down and realized that Barbara had seen the eighteen pens stashed in the front pocket of my bag.

"No, she just steals them from hotels," Jimmy said.

"I'm a COLLECTOR," I said.

"Better than matchbox cars, I guess," added Barbara.

Ten minutes later, I pushed my way through a family that was blocking the entrance to a store, mom in the middle of the doorway, calling out out at the top of her lungs,

"HEY!...HEY!...HEY DAY-AD!" (Dad)

And then, "Hold on a minute! I'm gonna go say HEY!"

Yeah, you are.


naked man oh five hundred hours

I'm getting better at the night routine after a show: Sleep for a few hours, wake up when the bus slows to exit ramp speed, and jump off to check everyone into the hotel.

Our check-in times range between 1 am and 6 am and I'm improving in speed, coherence, and mood. I often now manage to smile when I'm handing over the key packs and sometimes even wrestle out a "See you in the morning" or "Sleep well" for the Idols or band members.

I usually doze in the front lounge of the bus and have been told by more than one person that I'm a bit of a sleep contortionist. Well, if sleep contortionists fall asleep with glasses of wine in their hand and dribble it down the front of their shirts, then I agree.

I'm also supposedly capable of rolling myself up into a ball smaller than any nearly six-foot tall person should be able to. I remain that way, tiny and coiled, until I explode all over the lounge so that every available surface area - couch and floor - is covered by legs, all without breaking my sleep.

It's a REALLY good day when I get chatty with the front desk staff. Focus on more than being polite, shepherding the flock to their rooms, and keeping the glasses on my face from being cocked at an angle greater than thirty degrees? Yikes.

Recently, after a short two-hour drive, I arrived at the Marriott feeling good, perky even. The guy at the front desk, Avi, was very happy to have us there. VERY. Somewhere in the midst of his gleeful yammering, Avi mentioned that it was his last night working at the hotel.

"You should steal something," SOMEONE ELSE said.

This made me laugh louder than the situation warranted because it reminded me of the King Missile song Take Stuff From Work and that's what happens whenever I remember King Missile songs (Jesus Was Way Cool, Meditation is Boring, Detachable Penis).

Since Avi and I had broken the conversational ice, I asked him about his last day. Avi told me that he's worked for Marriott for eight years, that he LOVES Marriott, that he's witnessed several Marriott employees fall in love and get married, and reiterated how much true love goes into the Marriott business.

But it's not all love, it's stress, too, and Avi can't take it anymore. It's affecting his health. He's already had ulcers, colitis, and, unless my ears betrayed me, a COLOSTOMY BAG thanks to Marriott.

Avi ran in the back and brought out a large homemade poster that his colleagues had made for him, wishing him well in the future. I smiled and wished him luck, too, and then decided it was time to go to my room.

Last night's drive was five hours long. I woke at 4:45 am and found myself alone in the front lounge, splayed on the couch using a balled-up American flag blanket as pillow. During check-in, I was swift and tidy but somewhat humor-free. In short, I wasn't fucking around.

Twenty minutes later, I was ready to take the elevator upstairs. The bellmen were delivering bags and the drivers were milling about the sidewalk, smoking cigarettes. I was waiting for our last person, Jamecia, to disembark and was slumped in an armchair, holding her key in my hand.

Mid-slump, I glanced towards the elevators and saw a naked man striding out of the elevator. His nakedness could be referred to both as STARK and BUTT-ASS and it didn't appear to bother him at all. Naked man pumped his arms, flapped his junk, pushed his way through the revolving door, and walked right past Jamecia.

In her squinty-eyed fatigue she looked at naked man but looked too tired to process what was happening. She'd nearly brushed up against some stranger's glory. I, on the other hand, was suddenly alert and couldn't rip my eyes off his rear end the whole time it tromped its way across the loading area and took a left up the street.

When I turned back to the lobby, I saw everyone displaying the same expression of NO, HE DIDN'T. The hotel manager, the bellman, the security, and Jamecia were all stunned into silence until the manager goes, "Well, he didn't have a key so he's not getting back in."

I went over to Jamecia, dropped my hands on my knees and hung my head, laughing at the naked man.

She looked around and out at the street. She looked at me and the hotel workers and kept huffing out the same sound over and over, unable to complete the whole word WHAT - "Wh- Wh- Wh-" - and after awhile I was laughing only at her.

Then I went upstairs, went to sleep, and forgot about him until today when the first round of "your boyfriend" jokes started.


101 things to do before I die

According to the book 101 Things To Do Before You Die, we can thoughtfully and consciously improve our lives by making lists. Lists! I love lists! But, according to the book, rather than just micromanaging ourselves with grocery and chore lists regarding cottage cheese and dry cleaning, we can chart our wilder desires and greater goals with the help of this zingy little paperback. The macabre yet cute introduction offers the following framework: ATTEMPT. COMPLETE. EXPIRE. What to attempt is open to personal discretion though a list of examples are suggested.

Catch a fish with your bare hands while skinny dipping at midnight, cook it to your own perfected recipe on a fire you made without matches.

Hm. I'm pretty sure that's not going to be on my list.

Complete is all about tracking your lifetime achievements by filling in the book's easy-to-follow forms. And expire, of course, tackles dying and possible regrets and what ifs and should haves and how if you want to avoid feeling like shit on your deathbed you might want to get off your ass and focus. Like right now. Kelly Dearborn gave me this book a week ago as part of a care package consisting mostly of toys (plastic pirate figurines, bacon-scented air freshener, glow in the dark stars) with which to decorate my bunk on the tour bus.

The last time I saw Kelly before hitting the road was in New York. It was the last day of school for the New York public school system and Alex and his colleagues, all teaching fellows in Queens, met for pints of beer and free popcorn at a Brooklyn pub to celebrate another year of teaching. I showed up with Kelly and Sarah for the Guinness, the Brooklyn accents as thick as East River sludge, and to do some drunken shopping whereby we traipsed through Boerum Hill boutiques knocking over handwoven baskets full of expensive t-shirts and irritating shopkeepers. We left each other on the downtown corner and and promised to meet again when Idol pulls through Long Island.

Since I'm currently living out of a suitcase, it would be challenging to pack all the useful gear suggested by the 101 plan of life enhancement. I'm having a hard enough time writing or returning personal phone calls regularly so I think it's okay that I don't spend time right now trying to get my hands on a confessional booth, spray cans, poker chips, and a ski mask. Luckily a few of the other things are easier like a pen, a strong stomach, glue, some strangers, some friends, beer, a fearlessness of heights, a reckless spirit, a stick of chalk, a celebrity, a good imagination, a sense of humor, and fruit. I've had only a quick look at the suggested list of 101 things but am thrilled to announce that I can safely attest to completing at least five of them:

1. Design your own cocktail

The Austin: campari, soda, vodka, cranberry. Thanks to Shane and Sunny for participation and inspiration.

2. Leave a job you hate

I'm sorry Feminist Press but I had enough right about when all the backstabbing started.

3. Bungee jump

Thrilling, frightening, so surprised I didn't poop my pants. And I don't recommend parking lots in Las Vegas where they have to dangle you upside down after you jump and then pull you ALL THE WAY BACK UP to the top of the tower feet first. That was easily as bad or worse than the jump itself.

4. Leave your mark in graffiti

If you're going to be indignant and self-righteous and decide to graffiti for a cause in high school, you should probably make sure you know how to spell otherwise you end up looking a fool. Also, it dilutes your intended message. My early-90s causes were anti-fur animal rights and freedom of speech civil rights. The word I had a problem with was CENSORSHIP.

5. Meet your Idol



Sorry about your erythema migrans

Sara, I'm sorry. When I was at your house and kept cracking jokes about you having Lyme Disease - "Is your Lyme Disease acting up?" and "Get off the couch, it's not like you have Lyme Disease!" - I NEVER thought you REALLY had Lyme Disease.

I thought that the rash on your leg was something other than the characteristic skin rash erythema migrans, transmitted to you by a blacklegged tick infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. I never imagined that the headache and fatigue you felt was related to a condition that, if left untreated, could have spread to your joints, heart, and nervous system.

I just thought you were tired because you're a mother and four months pregnant and I hear that that's really tiring and a fairly good reason to lie on the couch in the middle of the day and fall asleep for hours. And I'm sorry that when we went to the basement to tear down cabinets and you asked for my help in working on the house you're remodeling, all I did was take photos and make MORE jokes about you having Lyme Disease and getting tetanus and then wandered in the other room to take photos of my feet.

I'm so glad that you went to another doctor to get a second opinion and caught the Lyme Disease before it caused any palsy or cognitive disorders and I want you to know that if I weren't with Idol right now, I'd be in your living room smoothing the covers over your shoulders and putting honey in your tea and buying do it yourself home improvement books.


Lisa London's hardcore posse

Yesterday I read Lisa London's blog and found that I made the list of her HARDCORE POSSE: BEST OF THE BEST. Woo!

Lisa is my former boss. We met shortly after I moved to New York and I answered her ad for a publishing internship at The Feminist Press.

Lisa returned my email and suggested that we meet to discuss the internship at Virgin Records in Union Square. Whoever arrived first was to go the Flaming Lips listening booth and put on track #4 from the Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots album.

"Wow," I thought to myself, "That's crazy. I like her already."

I showed up and this lady took the headphones off her ears, put them on mine, flashed a huge smile, and said, "Isn't it great?!"

I nodded and tried to look cool.

After spinning some yarn about how much energy and enthusiasm I'd devote to the internship, we were on. For the next two years, under Lisa's management, I appreciated a singularly killer mix of instruction, support, and hilarity.

"Lisa," I'd say after knocking on her office door, "Could we find something to meet about?"

Meaning: I'm all the way over in my own office and I miss you so maybe we could hang out and you don't mind if I put my feet up on your desk, do you?

Lisa introduced me to the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and convinced me do jumping jacks on the beach and then run into the water to freeze my tits off. We laughed until we choked over imitating Klaus, an elderly German member of the Polar Bear Club.

It wasn't the skin-stinging, head-splitting, bone-aching cold that eventually drove me out of the water, it was Klaus and his guttural voice sidling up to me in the water with:

"It's bettah thahn an ORRRGAAAHSM!"

Gotta go!

Lisa and I once had a competition to see who had the worst elementary school photo. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that we used to be IDENTICAL TWINS.


Duck Dodge

Last week I was drinking pints of beer at Leny's Tavern and catching up with my friend Jon. I had sprinted two blocks from Jane's house to the bar and abandoned Seema, our other high school friend in Seattle to celebrate Jane's graduation, with a wave of my hand and a slam of the screen door.

Around my fourth Bud Light, Chris Kelly showed up, plunked himself on the bar stool at my side, and invited me to the Duck Dodge.

"The what?"

Jon said I should definitely go. "It's great," he said, "a sailboat race around Lake Union." Piece of cake, lots of fun, etc.

The name Duck Dodge is taken from Race Rule 12: Never make a duck change its course. Several people now realize Rule 13 should be THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE LETTING ME JOIN YOUR CREW, but Jon (boat-maker who blithely sails to the South Pacific) and Chris (as boundlessly cheerful and plucky as a golden retriever puppy) assured me it was a superb idea.

Chris and I scooped up Seema and headed to the lake.

Navigating the creaking planks of the dock, I resisted the urge to walk with both arms extended for balance. I greeted the real sailors with raised palm and wide smile and hoped that bravado and a deep sense of inner confidence would mask my heavy buzz. Seema and I exchanged glances and lingered on the dock for a moment before awkwardly straddling the railing of the deck and thudding onto the other side.

Once aboard, Seema and I chose distinct coping mechanisms. Chris offered us each Pacificos and Seema nodded quickly and practically dove headfirst into the galley to find a bottle opener. I, on the other hand, shook my head and harbored suspicions that my pupils were, in fear, as dilated as a high schooler on an acid binge.

Seema and I attempted to lean against the sides of the cockpit and give off airs of casual ease. The fact that we didn't understand any of the sailor lingo being exchanged and were perpetually blocking someone and scooting out of the way with little "Sorry! Sorry!"s didn't help our skit.

Chris told us to just follow directions once the race got underway and I felt suddenly compelled to come clean to the others and announce that I not only have never raced but don't sail at all. I needed to know that no one was going to scream at me to tie a loop knot or a double loop bowline at a crucial point in the race. I needed the directions to be VERY CLEAR and in LANDLUBBER ENGLISH.

The others assured us we'd both just crouch mid-boat under the mainsail and scramble underneath the boom from side (port) to side (starboard) when ordered. They also said to take care not to knock our heads on the swinging boom and get concussions.

The Duck Dodge happens every week from mid-May through September. We showed up on Pajama Night but our entire crew forgot to wear their PJ's. Hopefully they won't be so neglectful on Prom Night and Pirate Night scheduled for later this summer.

Shortly after the start of the race, I learned several things. I learned that it is impossible to not know when it's time to dive underneath the boom to the other side. When the boat tacks and the angle of the deck shifts drastically, you don't need an order to GET YOUR ASS MOVING, regardless of the excessive bruising that you shall suffer later.

I learned to immediately start cursing our arch-rival, a red boat named Minor Threat, who won the race. I learned that sailing is super relaxing when you aren't sustaining a sudden gust of wind while rounding a buoy, losing control of the sails and rudder and nearly capsizing.

And I learned that the rest of the time you can pretty much hang over the side and listen to others read the water and announce oncoming winds, "Puff. Puff on." It's mildly amusing to imitate the real sailors by saying languorously to each other, "Puff on, Seema" and "Puff on, Jess" while trying to make yourself look as high as possible.

Thanks, Chris.