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.