An army of one

Yesterday I struck a collegiate pose and sat underneath a tree on the OSU campus. I was trying to read a book and think complicated thoughts when a shadow fell over the pages of my book. I looked up to find an Army Corporal in fatigues standing over me.

"Hey, how's it going?" he asked me.

"Pretty well," I answered.

"Hey, uh, are you going to Ozzfest?" He said OUT OF NOWHERE.

"Oh," I paused, "I can honestly say I hadn't thought about that."

"REALLY?!" He said with an enthusiasm that stunk of intensive marketing training. "I thought you'd know about it."

"I mean, I've heard of Ozzfest but I'm not making plans or anything," I said.

"Huh," he said, stumped.

Army Corporal paused and looked at his feet like he was baffled that I'm not a raging Ozzy Osbourne fan and didn't know where to take the conversation from there. For whatever reason, I helped him.

"When is it?"

"End of July," he perked back up, back on track.

"Oh, I'm not going to be in Columbus then anyway."

He asked me where I'm going to be in July and I realized I'd just steered the conversation from point a) Ozzfest to point b) American Idols Live. I informed him that I would be working for the AI concert tour and he took it in stride. He remarked that I must get to see a lot of the country and I replied that I'm definitely exposed to a different side of America.

"You ever been to South Dakota?"

"Yeah, I like South Dakota."

"You DO?!" He was incredulous.

"Sure. Sturgis, the Black Hills, the Badlands...," I start.

"Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore...," He finished.

"And that Crazy Horse monument!"

Now I'm getting wound up. It's as if South Dakota has paid us to do a commercial for the state. Note the distinct omission from my South Dakota appreciation of February's anti-abortion legislation which I was not in the mood to discuss with Army Corporal. He pulled a handful of AN ARMY OF ONE business cards out of his pocket, handed them to me and told me to pass them out to the American Idols. 

I took them but say, "I'm pretty sure they're more interested in breaking into the entertainment industry than the military."

He nodded coolly and told me to have a nice day.


Wearing pajamas to school

I recently strolled around the grounds of Ohio State University. I sat on a bench by Mirror Lake and thought about how campuses feel to me now rather than twelve years ago when I started school. These days I'm not stressed about finding my people or the least bit concerned about who I'll eat dinner with in the cafeteria. I'm certainly not pretending that watching the Star Wars trilogy every week with the stoners down the hall is stimulating.

Now I get a kick out of observing people and pretending I'm making a documentary on them. The kid with acne, the one smoking a pipe, definitely made the edit. I kept my fingers crossed that I'd spot someone wearing an elbow-patched blazer, preferably someone else who also looked barely pubescent, but it didn't happen.

What did happen, however, was GIRLS IN PAJAMAS.

The trend of attending class in sweatpants with the waistband rolled down and a word plastered across the behind, top picks being PINK and JUICY, is pervasive by all accounts so far, which leads me to conclude that school these days is synonymous with slumber party.

I happen to realize that this is far from accidental: Victoria's Secret targets 18-to 22-year-olds, and, as part of their fall 2004 collection launch, selected 20 college students from a nationwide search to be spokeswomen in university dorms. These campus ambassadors - Team Pink - were chosen because they're a) cute and b) know a lot of people and can get the word out: pajamas are in, thongs are in, flip flops are in!

Victoria's Secret proclaimed in a Associated Press statement that the Pink collection "expresses that lingerie is more than just underwear, but a necessary and fashionable wardrobe extension. Some of the ambassadors are ready to wear the longer, more substantial pajamas right into the classroom."

You can sleep in it and get up for that 7 am class, and go!

Well, that marketing blitz worked. Christ Almighty.

I also happen to realize that I have little ground to stand on when I get critical. My professional wardrobe over the years has included combat boots, overalls, and tank tops, so who am I kidding? Not a certain lady at the Woman's National Democratic Club a few years back.

I used to go to conferences and events regularly in Washington, DC for my publishing job. Once I went to the WNDC wearing cowboy boots, big belt buckle, purple velvet blazer, and hair festooned with blond and red streaks. I was nibbling on a cheese cube and listening to a political debate between my boss and the lady when the lady stopped, glanced at me and said, "We should stop. We don't want to scare the child." I stared at her as she continued, "Are you even an adult?"

My boss shot back, "She's an adult. She's just a cool-looking one."

We gave each other high fives with our eyes and made fun of her later in the taxi. What I was wearing was appropriate for a New York function but wasn't quite as conservative as DC decreed.

I do think, however, that there's something to the notion that WHAT you wear and WHERE you wear it do two things: 1) reflect what you think, 2) affect how you think about whatever it is you're doing. I'll wager that aesthetics of people and of environments mean something. I'm just not sure what.

Take my grey years. My office in New York was grey: grey walls, grey floors, and grey cubicle dividers. The motherfucking bulletin board was grey. I hung photos I'd taken in Alaska in my cube to remind myself that there are things in the world that are not grey and that those things are called glaciers. When I got my own office, I installed a giant red-orange lamp to cast a lovely non-grey hue about me until maintenance men kept singing "Roxanne" when walking past and I gathered they might be getting the wrong idea. But all along I was fighting a grey, grey feeling.

So, do pajamas-in-public make a girl more interested in cuticle treatments and mud masks than her diploma? I don't think so. And I'm sure the medieval founders of modern academia would find my Converse and Levis an abominable affront. So why do all those juicy pink cabooses make this girl want to put someone in time out? I'm getting old.


TJ chews on staples

This weekend I learned that TJ chews on staples. "Here, watch this," he said and then popped a staple or two in his mouth and chewed away. I was taken aback for a moment.

"Dude, this might mean you have a serious vitamin deficiency," I said.

An Ecuadorian once told me that he loved eating dirt as a kid. Apparently he couldn't get enough and spent a ton of time over the years shoveling handfuls into his mouth. He also repeatedly got parasites.
I thought the image of my Ecuadorian friend salivating over dirt was funny until I stumbled upon the information that dirt-eaters may suffer from severe iron, zinc, and B vitamin deficiencies and I felt like a jerk.

This condition - craving non-food items - is called Pica and is named after the Latin word for magpie, a bird known for its random appetite. The causes of Pica are unknown but a nutritional theory suggests that appetite-craving brain enzymes, altered by vitamin and mineral deficiency, trigger the cravings. The physiological theory is that eating clay and dirt relieves nausea, controls diarrhea, increases salivation, and removes toxins. When Pica strikes, people have been known to turn to dirt, paint, metals, clay, plaster, chalk, rocks, cigarette ashes, sand, and gravel to get their fix.

I don't know what TJ's story is (Does he take multivitamins? Eat lots of leafy greens?) but during his exhibition, right after I asked if he ever gets hurt and he shook his head no, one of his flourishes with the staple went bad and it stuck in his gums.


I looked on as he bared his teeth, pulled it out, and checked for blood. TJ was vague when I pressed for details as to how long he's chewed staples and how often he indulges. I don't know if he gets excited every time he sees a stapler or if he plays it cool. I do know he can tie a staple in a knot with his teeth. Now that's talent.


Coffee so thick you can stick a fork into it

With permission from Tom Coffee of www.spillingcoffee.com, I respectfully supply the link to his article:

Coffee! Tea? Not me…

Written by the man who said:

I like real coffee. I like coffee so thick you can not only stick a fork into but you can also cut off a slice and make a sandwich with it later in the week. I like coffee so black that when carry your cup into the room the lights seem to dim. I like coffee so strong that it jumps out of the pot and wrestles me to the ground, making me scream for mercy before it finally agrees to climb into my mug and let me drink it.



"Spring" 2

It's the third day of spring and I'm wearing: 1) knee socks, 2) sweat pants, 3) sweatshirt, 4) robe and 5) leg warmers on my arms to achieve warmth.

Yes, I am complaining.


White tea and the new normal

This evening Michael Bova and I hauled ourselves off the couch, into the car, and drove nine miles to Trader Joe's to buy four-dollar bottles of wine. We also thought maybe we should have a little more food in the house than alien potatoes.

On the way to the store, my phone rang. I answered, "Hi!" but didn't get a response right away. Gail thought she'd get my voice mail and was chewing on broccoli so all I heard for a moment was muffled noises and giggling. After recovering, she told me that she couldn't call on my birthday because she was in Peru.

"I bought you a shirt," Gail said. "And then I wore it to hike up Machu Picchu."

"I love that," I said. "I love that you bought me a shirt but wore it at Machu Picchu first."

"I wish I were going to drink red wine," she said.

"We'll drink red wine soon," I told her.

Gail replied, Yeah. I'll pump."

"What? Oh, you pregnant people. Damn it."

"No, no, I'll pump," She reassured me.

After making plans to drink wine with Gail after she's pumped, I hung up the phone and asked Michael, "Gail's six months pregnant and just hiked up Machu Picchu. Is that normal?"

"It's the new normal," Bova nodded.

We returned home and uncorked the Malbec. I retreated to the computer and Bova set about making his dinner. Soon I heard a loud GODDAMNIT issue from the kitchen.

"What happened?" I called out.

"Well, I was CUTTING this lemon but then I SQUEEZED it."

After a short silence I asked, "That warrants a goddamnit?"

"Well. Yeah."

I cannot stress enough how rhetorical my question was. There is very little in this world that doesn't elicit Bova's GODDAMNIT. A few minutes later I hear him say, "Jesus Christ on a cracker. This is not good."

I chose not to comment, but when he murmured, "Ooh, I'm going to have white tea..." and sung out "Health, health, health!" I couldn't resist asking about white tea.

He told me that white tea used to be reserved for emperors because you can only pick it two days a year, right when it sprouts open, and that it's incredibly delicate and high in antioxidants.

I looked into it and, sure enough, black, green, and white teas come from the same plant but the white tea leaves are harvested before the leaves open fully, when the buds are still covered by fine white hair. Hm, hairy tea. It grows in China, Japan, and India and the leaves are gathered, steamed, and dried by hand in an arduous process that can yield as little as ONE POUND OF TEA PER THREE THOUSAND leaves.

Way back during the T'ang Dynasty (618-907 AD), white tea was just for the Chinese imperial court but now anyone who can find the Celestial Seasonings aisle can partake.


Gangster Monday

On Monday afternoon I slunk into the Gypsy Cafe for my routine: buy large mug of tea, sip for five hours, disappear into laptop galaxy and wonder how businesses stay afloat with customers like me. I was settling into my seat and plugging in the computer when I saw the shoes. Transfixed, I asked the gentleman if I could take photos. He looked at me cockeyed and asked why. I said I just like documentation and threw in that the shoes might turn up on the web.

He extended his hand across the divide between our tables and introduced himself with the same name as a outlandishly famous pop star.

"Nuh-uh," I said. He nodded.

"Lemme see your license," I said.

The man was, in fact, named Michael Jackson. Due to this identity collision, he regularly fields calls from little girls, big boys, and people who wish to threaten his life. We got to talking and he showed me his pink hat and pink belt and described the green snakeskin shoes he wore for St. Patrick's Day.

"I'm retired, Jessica," he said. "I'm going to wear what I want."

We launched into a conversation on literature and publishing and had a disagreement on why so many bad books are published. We lambasted political correctness and noted the inability of many people with opposing beliefs to speak to each other without becoming unreasonably emotional. Some of my social views clashed sharply with those of his and while it's usually easier for me to talk ABOUT unreasonable emotion than control my own unreasonable emotion, I was totally under control on Monday and had no surges of facial tics.

When he professed to be a born-again Christian, geek, and Democrat, I realized what made him delightful: 1) he was surprising 2) he listened. He could TALK, but he also shut up, grabbed his pipe, and leaned in intently when I had something to say. While he was explaining his interest in science fiction, chick flicks, and kids movies, another man walked in the cafe and he greeted him. 

"Hi Blackie. How are you, movie star?"

Michael Jackson informed me, "He's in a movie. He's a gangster."

A few moments later Blackie gave us a piece of cake with two forks. Blackie plays a gangster in One in a Billion. The man said that he and Blackie argue about lots and lots of things but agree on at least one subject: Ken Blackwell is an a-hole. Ken Blackwell - Ohio's Secretary of State, co-Chair of the state's Bush-Cheney campaign, and chief election officer for Ohio's embarrassing 2004 presidential election - has come a long way since his dashiki and afro days.

Ken's the guy who said barnyard animals have better logic about coupling than same-sex humans and tried to reject Ohio voters who registered using paper that wasn't thick 80-pound stock. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT DEMOCRACY IS ALL ABOUT. Michael Jackson said that when Ken talks, he levitates, he gets so puffed up by crowds of salivating supporters. A past political opponent once said that Ken likes television lights so much that when the refrigerator light goes on, he gives a three-minute speech.

 Several hours later, we shared a piece of cake.

"Are you going to eat any of this cake?" I asked him. "Because I'm going to town on the icing."

"You go right ahead, darlin'."


As seen from my window. 27 degrees fahrenheit. So glad I got my cute red high-heeled sandals out of storage.


George Washington and the buttcrack

In the summer of 2001, I was a trip leader for TrekAmerica and bought a book from the Mt. Rushmore gift shop: George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.

I bought books about the U.S. so as to appear smarter to the foreigners I drove around the country in a 15-passenger van. Invariably they'd pipe up from the back seat with questions like, "Jess? What's the difference between bison and buffalo?" and I'd have to feign distraction until I found a field guide and could casually bring up the topic again.

"Sorry, Sae-Jun, what did you ask me the other day? Oh right!

Bison is a taxonomic genus containing six species within the subfamily Bovinae. It's also known as the American Buffalo, although it's only distantly related to the Water Buffalo or African Buffalo.

Yeah, I just remembered I needed to tell you that."

George Washington's book was different. I bought it because it was funny and seemed like a good party favor, though all it did was sit politely on my shelf for several years. This week I used my TrekAmerica backpack and was surprised to find the book inside.

I happened to be at the airport when I found it, standing in a long line at the US Airways counter, and decided to pass time by scrutinizing the civility of people in the terminal.

George Washington (1732-1799) subscribed to the morals and manners of an 18th century Virginia gentleman, something I cannot say of 21st century civilians of Columbus, Ohio. At the age of 14, George wrote down 110 rules that he practiced until the day he died from a throat infection. It wasn't long before I observed something which would have given George a fright.

In particular, fright #52: In apparel be modest and endeavor to accommodate nature; rather than to procure admiration, keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to times and places.

I myself - no great model of propriety - was unnerved when a woman in line bent over to fish something out of her suitcase. Her jeans slid down six inches and her booty emerged in equal proportion. This was no peeping thong as there was zero evidence of underwear at all. The vast crack of butt and its fleshy hollow presented itself with bare indifference.


I flicked my eyes away self-consciously as if I'd just caught myself staring at a severe physical deformity, though there was nothing wrong with the stranger's ass EXCEPT THAT IT WAS IN MY FACE. When I thought it safe, I looked back but the butt was still catching wind. And the lady was still unaffected. She may have been "keeping to the fashion of her equals," but the lowriders could not accommodate her nature.

When she finally stood, she cocked one hip to the side and persisted in exposing her rear, which now bore a more squinched, rather than elongated, appearance. I felt myself turning schoolmarmy and had the urge to straighten an imaginary pince-nez and exclaim "Mon Dieu!" I'm pretty sure that our Founding Father would have a couple tut-tuts to add as well.


52 ounces of I am never gonna sleep tonight

Two days ago I received a box in the mail from Jimmy. I opened the box and immediately commenced rejoicing.

Bubba Keg 52 is a blimp of a mug. It is super colossal and grossly excessive and I am going to be embarrassed every time I use it, yet I can't wait.


I hope your stupid isn't contagious

Miguel was in Ohio this week talking local coffee roasters into buying beans from Atlas Coffee Importers. We got to hang out, Ohio-style!


This isn't my coast

I got a call from Sara yesterday. "Where are you?" I asked.

"Walking with Bella through Central Park," she said, "Going HOME."

"Shut up," I said.

"No. We are walking HOME to our APARTMENT in NEW YORK CITY. Because, you know, we moved to New York two days ago."

"I can't believe that," I said even though I already knew that.

"I MIGHT have woken up last night and had a little panic attack," She admitted.

"What was that like?"

Sara produces a bunch of slobbery-sounding shudders and goes, 'I miss my coast. I miss my mom. This isn't my ocean. This isn't my coast."

After 33 years in Washington and California, Sara has a subway stop (86th and Broadway), a doorman ("Good afternoon, Mrs. Levine!"), and qualms about smart ass MTA workers.


Stretching is gross

In January, Jimmy and I stopped at a light in Austin. Jimmy looked out the side window, saw a group of runners stretching on the corner and said, "OH, GROSS."

"What?" I asked.

"That!" he replied, pointing to the runners.

This threw me into an unrestrained fit of laughter because, due to my family's business, Bob Roncker's Running Spot, I've witnessed a lot of stretching in my life. More than anyone should, perhaps. I have made fun of people who run in place at stoplights but I've never been sicked out by stretching. I asked Jimmy what makes stretching so gross and he went off. He said the worst case scenario is standing in line at the grocery store behind someone wearing workout clothes. "I'll change lines," he said.

"Just because they're wearing nylon shorts?"

"Yeah," Jimmy said. "You know they're covered in dried sweat! They need to keep that at home! And if they stretch, it's over. That's like me expecting everyone in line to back up so I can practice my golf swing."

When I showed up to work at the Running Spot yesterday, a marathon training group had just finished a run. Runners were milling about in front of the store and filing upstairs to recover and stretch. It was a humid and rainy morning and when I got to the top of the steps, I was struck by waves of heat emanating from the runners' slick and mottled flesh. The carpeted floor was covered with runners, some in crumpled heaps and some perkily reaching for their toes with straight backs and splayed legs. All of them were dripping and sweating with abandon and the room felt ten degrees hotter than anywhere else in the building.

Not long after, I was in the Running Spot kitchen waiting for coffee to brew when an employee, Amy, walked in with her hand over her eyes.

"My eyes are burning from all the Ben Gay in there."

Even though I knew I'd regret it, I went to the door and peeked. The atmosphere had taken on the aspect of a public bathhouse. A member of the training group was lying on her back with one leg on the ground and the other pointed at the ceiling. Someone else kneeled between her legs and massaged Ben Gay into the aching muscles of her calves and thighs.

"Jesus!" I thought. "What's next? Soft core porn?"

I wheeled back around, poured a cup of coffee, and took the back stairs down to the retail space where I thought I'd be safe. At the door near the register, however, were a pile of wet towels and suspicious dark patches blotting the carpet.

"What's THAT?" I asked two other employees, Sue and Ed.

They both shrugged their shoulders with resignation.

"No one wants to see that!" I said.

Due to my job as towel girl for the American Idol tour, it's impossible for me to see a towel on the ground and not feel compelled to pick it up. I secured a plastic bag from behind the counter, wrapped it around my hand, and started picking up towels while scrunching my nose. A customer leaving the store saw my face and said, "I don't blame you."

I remembered Jimmy's reaction to the runners in Austin and realized that I agree.

Suddenly I, too, think stretching is gross.


Bob Roncker's true obsession

Runner's World magazine April 2006 features a short article on Bob Roncker, the man who gave me half of my chromosomes! The piece is entitled True Obsessions and is about the 300 pairs of vintage shoes and 200 pieces of vintage running memorabilia that my dad displays in his shoe museum at Bob Roncker's Running Spot, the store he founded in 1981.

In some ways my dad and I are quite different. I don't spend a lot of time measuring my heart rate or my blood-oxygen level. No one on my mom's side of the family has said, "It's not a party 'til JESS is asleep". Finally, I don't walk up and down the hills in our neighborhood backwards in order to stretch different muscles in my legs.

My dad started running 50 years ago and still today the man just runs and runs and reads about running and writes about running and talks about running to anyone who will listen. He loves to learn and taught me to love learning and for that he gets proper respect. Thanks dad.


When well-meaning instruction gives you nightmares for the rest of your life

Last night the news announced a severe storm warning for Central Ohio. I didn't take much notice since I have grown out of my childhood inclination to worry myself to pieces about potential danger from the outside world. I woke up early this morning to the sound of wind buffeting the house, something bouncing through the backyard, and a wind chime wildly chiming. My first thoughts were predictable for someone who has, in the past, been terrorized by the idea of tornados.

1) Should I crack the windows?

2) Should I run into the basement?

I've never actually faced a tornado but, as a kid, the Wizard of Oz movie was enough to rivet me to the radio and television for updates on tornado warnings and watches in Southern Ohio. Before I saw Oz I didn't understand what a tornado was.

Once when my parents made me get out of the bathtub, wrapped me in towels and took me to the basement, I thought we were waiting for a GIANT TOMATO BEING DRIVEN AROUND THE CITY ON THE BACK OF A PICKUP TRUCK. We were hiding in the basement. From the tomato's poisonous and deadly juices, duh.

My third thought this morning, however, was new. My computer is coming with me.

As a child, I made disaster-planning lists. I deliberated on what prized possessions, like Paddington Bear, would get to come to the basement with me. In the event of house fire, I mapped out a route that included waking my parents and brother before grabbing special belongings. Too bad the one time our smoke alarm actually did go off in the middle of the night, I bolted with no regard for my family or my belongings. I flew downstairs and out the door without looking back. My mom found me shaking head to toe on the front porch, told me it was a false alarm, and persuaded me to come back inside.

I like to blame some of my former fears on my wonderful elementary school teacher, Alice Jansen. Ms. Jansen used to gather us first, second, and third graders for lessons outside the parameters of arithmetic, grammar, and geography. She solemnly informed us that it was disgusting to not wash our hands after using the toilet, showed us how to safely carry scissors, begged us not to eat pills we found on the floor, and reminded us why it was a bad idea to stick our heads out of the school bus windows (decapitation). Finally, Ms. Jansen said it would be a perilous mistake to linger in a house on fire. Ms. Jansen had a dog named Beowulf whom she cherished. She told us that she wouldn't go back into a house on fire, EVEN TO RESCUE BEOWULF, and that it would be to our mortal advantage to follow her example. It made an impression.

This is why my lists were so important to me: once I saved myself, there was no re-entering the house or leaving the basement. I had to take care of business beforehand. I realized in bed this morning that my prized possession is now my computer. I've treasured my iBook since last May and have made jokes about tucking her into bed next to me, smoothing the covers over her shiny white shell. When I bought a Mac, I was so happy that I never had to call the Dell help desk in India again. The iBook stores my photos and keeps a record of my untangling thoughts. With it I write to and talk to people on the other side of the country and the globe.

I had an image this morning of the pose I learned in elementary school tornado drills: me curled on the ground with my face buried in my knees, hands clasped behind my neck to protect my spinal cord. But in my mind this morning I slid the iBook under my belly.


Delicious diligent indolence!

On February 19, 1818, John Keats wrote a letter to his friend J.H. Reynolds about the sheer pleasantness of reading, to "wander upon it, and bring home to it, and prophesy upon it, and dream upon it."

How happy is such a voyage of conception, what delicious diligent Indolence!

These thoughts were penned between when Keats gave up his medical ambitions for poetry and got a sore throat and died from consumption AKA tuberculosis. Keats wrote a hefty number of odes in his time, pondering everything from nightingales and Grecian urns to women, wine, and snuff.

I dig the three words delicious diligent indolence because that's what I'm after. Dictionaries don't think too highly of indolence and define it as habitually lazy and disinclined to exert oneself and use sentences like LEPROSY IS AN INDOLENT INFECTIOUS DISEASE to capture the slow nature of indolence.

I daresay the dictionaries are one-sided. There are both physical and mental ways to exert oneself and the dictionaries don't take into account that DDI could just as easily define someone who spends hours reading and writing and thinking as it does someone who is slavishly devoted to eating multiple boxes of Cinnabons while watching the WB all day long.

Last year my official workday ranged from 0-18 hours and due to this extreme range I am protective of my time. Solitude rules because I develop and order my thoughts when I'm alone and thereby avert early-mid-life crises like the one that made me cry like a baby back in November. Right now I balance scholastic moments by working with other ZenGenius freelancers, talking shit, and tuning in regularly to Sex and the City and American Idol Season V.

But I get this response from some when I find myself blogging a lot, "You must have a lot of time on your hands."

Well, sometimes I do have a lot of time of my hands. Sometimes, though, I just make time by waking up too early, going to bed too late, and sequestering myself from people. Sometimes I can't make time and I feel nuts. When those 18 hour days happen, I run on morning coffee, afternoon adrenaline, and nightly gin and tonics. Then I don't have the wherewithal to reflect on Grecian urns much less the Socratic Method because I JUST WANT TO CRASH. So I'm treating what I have right now - the opportunity to concentrate - as one of my jobs. And like Keats' voyage of conception, it is delicious.


Overexposed in Falmouth, Kentucky

This morning Jocardo and I went on a roadtrip to Falmouth, Kentucky. He had to deliver an amp for a theater production in Falmouth and felt apprehensive about how he might be received from the 95 percent white citizenry of the small Kentucky town. He didn't want to go alone. You see, Jocardo doesn't blend. It's not for any lack of adaptability on his part - Jocardo is impeccably gracious and polite - but he's simply a black man with a lot of presence. He has also experienced enough in the past to be acutely aware of situations in which he is out of place in the present.

We drove south on Route 27, found our destination, dropped off the amp, and were pulling out of the parking lot when we realized we needed windshield wiper fluid. We stopped at a Marathon gas station to buy wiper fluid and coffee and ogle the TREMENDOUSLY large Texas Hold 'Em lighters for sale. Working the lighters was a two hand operation, they were so big. They were so much bigger than a cigarette that I decided they must be for Civil War reenactments and the cannon firing that that entails.

At the register I became engrossed by the cigarette boxes emblazoned with a rippling Confederate flags and the words REDNECK OUTLAW. We'd almost left the Marathon station without incident when I decided to make a purchase. I was looking for my wallet and pulling things out of my bag when I saw that a pair of my black underwear were sitting in plain sight on the counter.

Apparently when I thought I grabbed my black hat from my suitcase this morning, I ACTUALLY grabbed a pair of underwear. Ooooops. I snatched up the unmentionables, sprinted to the car, and told Jocardo I'd given Marathon cashier man a peep show.

To which he replied, "You know right now he's going that whore has a black boyfriend AND extra panties in her purse!"


Porno houses and dreary commercial zones

Today Cathy leaves the United States. In planning her virgin trip across the Atlantic ocean, Cathy searched online for affordable hotels and booked a room in Paris. It's cheap, the photos looked good, and it isn't far from a metro stop. Cathy wants everything to go nice and smooth since the only time she's left the country has been to go to Canada. Later Cathy was reading Fodor's reviews on Paris and found out that her chosen hood is known for its porno houses and dreary commercial zones, making it one of the least desirable neighborhoods for living, dining, and sightseeing.


She called me from New York to read the review and I started laughing before I remembered the nice thing to do would be to try to make her feel better. "Man, I hope you don't get knifed." She thought that was funny.

I wonder what French porn is like. Lemme know, kay?.

We decided her Parisian neighborhood is probably going to be like Bushwick with fresh baguettes. Or any stop on the JMZ after 10pm. After that it's all chateaus, lavender fields and winery tours.


Master Cleanse

For six days last year I didn't drink coffee because Kelly talked me into trying the master cleanser detox. This photo demonstrates how extraordinarily healthy Kelly is: even at the bar she cannot refrain from warming up in case something healthy might happen.

I'd heard about the master cleanser because Ariel was a big fan of subjecting himself to austere dietary restrictions and then announcing that his PIPES WERE CLEAN right before nibbling on a sprig of parsley or a grain of rice. A few others also told me that when they drank water with maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper for days on end, they felt a heightened sense of energy and clarity in mind, body, and soul.

Initially I was concerned about fasting since I feel crazy when I haven't eaten. My blood sugar drops quickly and once made me pass out at the top of a staircase and get a black eye from the windowsill I hit on the fall to the landing.

But this memory and my hesitations were assuaged by the all the hoopla I read about Grade B Maple Syrup which is high in B vitamins, minerals, and calories. See, you're not actually starving yourself and thus experience bliss instead of a potentially crippling eating disorder.

I didn't give a dang about food on my first day because I was far too consumed by the devastating headache caused by lack of coffee. I stayed in bed under my covers all day and irrationally wanted to punch Coco's lights out when he walked past my bedroom door with a steaming cup in his hand. I could have cried. By day six, I felt pretty good, still hadn't fainted, and my runny nose was gone but I was starting to miss food. I know I need to eat when I CANNOT STOP THINKING ABOUT THE CANNED TOMATOES ON THE KITCHEN SHELF. Just as much, though, I missed coffee and the ritual of making coffee, waking up to coffee, smelling coffee, and buying coffee.

I remembered the days I spent in a stone cottage on the Scottish shore with English and Sri Lankan friends. There was no coffee in the house and every morning one of the Sri Lankans woke us up by entering the bedroom with a tray of hot teacups. He enunciated clearly in his crisp accent, "TEA?...TEA?.." while distributing the cups to us in bed. Sadly, instead of feeling gratitude, I felt exasperation, sadness, and the desire to whup ass.


I know that coffee dependence is one step away from a Ritalin prescription and that it's a fine line between that and a cocaine habit but I give in nonetheless.