The air in Silver Lake was a fresh as a drunkard’s breath on Sunday morning. I drove until I found the place, a YMCA with a façade that had last been scrubbed during the Eisenhower administration. I parked next to a green sedan with a COEXIST sticker on the bumper. Yeah, this was the place.
Inside smelled of scorched coffee, sandalwood, and entitlement. I poured some sludge into a paper cup and made it a little happier with a slug from the bottle in my pocket. I caught a tight little brunette watching me sharply as I did this. She had a long, unhappy mouth like a smear of mustard.
“Want some?” I asked.
“It’s nine in the morning,” she snipped.
“Better get started then.” She ruffled and stamped away. Her canvas Toms shoes made slapping sounds like sarcastic applause on the tile floor.
I looked for a folding chair in the back, but no dice; they were arranged in a circle. Already most of the chairs were taken, girls in cargo pants and a few guys who looked like they were chewing on tin foil. Guys like me, I guess. Guys who’d said the wrong thing, looked the wrong way, picked the wrong bird to start plucking. “Harassment,” they called it. Well, that was jake with me, as long as my suspended license got un-suspended.
I sat next to a brunette with rimless cheaters and a HILLARY 2016 T-shirt stretched across a figure that might be interesting under the layers of organic cotton. She nodded and shifted a little away from me.
“Nice politics,” I said. She nodded again. That was all I was going to get, it seemed. I addressed myself to my coffee. It tasted like fresh pavement.
A tall brunette walked in. “This is getting monotonous,” I said to the one beside me. She pretended not to hear.
The new one walked into the center of the circle and stood there proudly like an Indian chief. She wore jeans and had her hair pulled back in a long shingle. “Good morning, all you women and sons of women, and welcome to the Ain’t I a Woman Gender and Equality Workshop. My name is Zoe, and I’m a graduate student in Gender Studies at UCLA. Can we all go around and introduce ourselves?”
So we went around and introduced ourselves. The twists were students and tattoo artists and baristas. The men were cops and tenured professors. They got to me.
“Name’s Marlowe,” I said. “I don’t do much, really. If you don’t believe me, check my wallet. Back when I had clients, I used to work as a private dick.”
One of the cops snickered. Some of the ladies reddened. One matron who didn’t look much like Boris Karloff said, “We don’t use offensive speech in this room. This is a safe space.”
“I’m sorry you’re offended,” I said. “I don’t take divorce cases, if that helps make it any safer.”
They didn’t look like it helped. Zoe gave me a stare as warm as the northern lights. “Let’s move on to some journaling,” she said.
The rest of the morning went like that. We did synchronized clapping. We did active listening. We did a role-play exercise in which I was a girl waiting for a bus and Karloff was a masher, but when I started flirting back, she didn’t like it. I got four more cups of coffee and felt brokenhearted when my bottle gave up its last drop.
At a smoke break I offered my pack to Zoe, but she waved her American Spirits at me. I was feeling frisky. “You’re about as demure as a stretch limousine,” I told her.
She blew smoke through her nostrils. “Does that really work for you?” she asked. “That macho posturing? Keeping up the ironic façade, day and night? What would happen if you let your guard down and actually had a conversation with a woman as if she were a human being?”
“That’s a lot of questions. Let’s work on some answers back at your place.”
“I have a girlfriend,” she said. “And you smell like bourbon.”
“Rye,” I said. “Maybe you and your girlfriend and I could share a bottle.” She rolled her eyes, sighed deeply, and went inside.
After that we made columns in a notebook and wrote down differences and similarities between the sexes. When I read mine aloud, I was asked to leave. That was jake with me.
I drove down to Echo Park and found a liquor store next to a greasy spoon, and I thought about things over a half-bloody burger. I thought about the women I had known, the ones I’d cared about and the ones I’d nibbled over and the ones who’d held a gun on me. Some of them were the same woman. I should make columns in a notebook. I ate my sandwich.
I saw Zoe once more after that, but it didn’t go anywhere; turned out her definition of “outreach” was different from mine. Still, I got my license back. I guess she liked me that much.
To Anyone Thinking of “Borrowing” a Handicap Placard Not Registered to You,
I know you’re tempted. You’ve been driving your aged or invalid relative around and come to feel as though it’s your handicap placard as much as theirs. In fact, you’re no spring chicken yourself, and being a primary caregiver has taken a toll on your back, your hips, your knees. Would it really be so bad if you, an otherwise upstanding citizen, borrowed the placard just this once? Just for a minute?
Trust me: it would. I made the mistake of using my husband’s placard in the faculty parking lot of the university where I teach. It seemed like a safe enough place. Little did I know it was one of a handful of locations where sting operations are regularly conducted. Nor did I know that, while parking in a handicap space is a simple parking violation, actually hanging the placard elevates it to a misdemeanor.
When I got to court, all the people there for “misuse of handicap placards” were herded together by an advocate appointed to advise us of our rights and (limited) options. The advocate had a disablity, which did not bode well, since the crime was potentially punishable by six months in jail. To my relief, I learned that, by paying $1501 in fines and penalties and doing 16 hours of community service (knocked down from the usual 24, due to my 60+ years), I could have the misdemeanor expunged from my record.
I was assigned to the local animal shelter. Sounded good. I pictured myself walking the dogs and spending quality time with lonely cats. But, when I arrived, I was presented with a long list of rules, which included not drinking on the premises, not doing drugs before showing up for work, not parking in the customer parking lot, and not interacting with the animals! I guess they thought my criminal tendencies might rub off on the innocent creatures. I was to wear suitable clothing for cleaning and a “community service” vest at all times, so that I would not be confused with customers, employees or volunteers. Then they told me to come back another day because they were full.
Apparently, the shelter is a very popular place with those repaying a debt to society. No matter when I went back, they were already full and you cannot schedule your hours in advance. Finally, I asked the shelter for my paperwork back so I could get a new assignment. While waiting, I heard a plaintive meow from some nearby cages and found a black and white kitten stretching its forepaws toward me. I didn’t dare touch it, let alone consider taking it home. They probably do background checks on prospective adopters and I would never pass. I’m probably lucky they’re letting me keep my own two dogs and cat.
I took my paperwork back to the courthouse and, decided to pay the fine while I was there. After half an hour in line at the “General Traffic” windows, I was turned away and re-directed to the other side of the building, where I found a sign that said “Criminal Windows.” Luckily, criminals aren’t as plentiful as traffic violators so the line wasn’t as long.
My new community service assignment was at a Latino church that operates a food bank on Wednesdays. I showed up to find a large, dark rec hall full of folding chairs and shopping carts, with a little raised stage at the front and kitchen at the back. I asked several people where I could find Jonathan but no one understood me. Finally I found someone who spoke English. She explained that Jonathan was on vacation, but I could help unload food from the truck while they heard The Word.
The Pastor gave a sermon about Robin Williams (it was in Spanish but I understood the words, “Robin Williams”) while we hauled boxes of canned goods and vegetables. Another English speaker and fellow con, Tina, instructed me on things like how to scrounge through mountains of onions to locate the ones that weren’t rotten. Tina was very well-informed. For instance she knew that, though the pastor was black, he spoke excellent Spanish because he came from South Africa. I asked if she meant South America. She said, “No. South Africa. They speak Spanish there.”
When the service was over, the congregants retrieved their supermarket shopping carts, which were parked at the side of the nave, and got in line for the groceries. After that, we workers each got to grab an empty box and fill one for ourselves. I got some onions, oranges, tomatoes, red peppers, Starbucks fruit sodas, potato chips, tortilla strips, zucchini, two kinds of cranberry sauce, some power bars and a baguette. Who says, “Crime doesn’t pay?” I thought, convinced that the remaining 13 hours wouldn’t be so bad.
I was wrong. The following Wednesday, I arrived at the The Church of the Holy Shopping Cart at 9 AM and was told to scrub the restrooms. Fortunately, they couldn’t find a scrub brush, so I was reassigned to lining up the metal folding chairs for the church service. When that was finished, I was sent to wash the tall windows at the front of the building.
Getting to the windows entailed climbing from the sidewalk onto a three-and-a-half-foot wall (no easy feat with arthritic knees) and carefully navigating flowerbeds filled with tall thorny rose bushes. Every time I bent over to wash the lower half of the windows I would get stabbed in the backside. Then, it was time to unload the food truck. It had been hot outside, but the kitchen was hotter. There were wet bags of half-rotten potatoes to be hauled in, picked over and washed. I was just getting ready to have a little break before the service ended, when a man I hadn’t seen before called all the community service people together.
“We’re going to pray,” he announced. Everyone stood around the big kitchen island and bowed their heads. I closed my eyes but opened them when I felt Tina pushing my stomach back from the table. I thought perhaps I’d broken some Protestant prayer protocol, but then I saw the bugs crawling on the table’s edge. “Roaches!” Tina mouthed silently.
Our leader did not bother to translate the prayer, so I have no idea what we were praying for. Perhaps it was for an exterminator. Afterwards, he asked how many of us had to leave by 1 PM. I did, so instead of staying in the food line, Tina and I were led to the church office by a woman who said we would be much better off. The officina was air conditioned, unlike the rest of the church, and it was one of the hottest days of the year.
Turns out we were in the office just long enough for Jonathan to give us a roll of trash bags and some latex gloves. Then we were taken outside, into the 90-degree heat, where a storage closet was unlocked and thousands of dirty cans and bottles came tumbling out. There, we were left to separate smelly, garbage-covered cans, plastic, even broken bottles, into separate bags.
After ten minutes, Tina declared she’d had enough of rotting onions, rotting potatoes and rotting garbage. She was going back to the high school where the trash was clean and criminals could work off their sentences by picking up wadded-up class notes and lost homework from a shaded lawn. She said she was never coming back to the church. I thought she meant once the day was over, but she suddenly disappeared and something told me I’d seen the last of her.
The other criminals and traffic violators were all inside the church, which now seemed a cool oasis to me, even without AC. I normally don’t advertise my age, but today I wanted everyone to know and to feel very sorry for me. How dare they make a senior citizen climb walls to wash windows and sort cans and bottles alone in the blazing midday son. Don’t they know elderly people can die of heat stroke? (And, if I died, you better believe I’d sue them for every Starbucks soda they had!)
After four hours. I took off my gloves, washed my hands, and said a heartfelt prayer of my own: “Dear Lord, Please let me live through Community Service. Please let me keep my sanity and deliver me from flesh-eating bacteria. If You grant this request, I swear I will never so much as tear off a mattress tag as long as I live. Amen."
I intend to go straight from now on. I hope you do too.
I am sorry.
As far as orchestral cannon playing goes, that probably couldn’t have gone any worse (it could have, but you don’t want to hear that right now [I’ll just quickly summarize: we could all be injured—not just those within the blast radius or who were bitten]). However, I would like to put forward my case as to why I am not completely to blame for the disaster/pretty-bad performance reviews.
First though, a few glaring issues that I must admit to:
- I am prone to panic in high-intensity situations.
- I grossly exaggerated my previous orchestral experience, specifically my knowledge of cannons and also Thai Trotsky’s “18 Twelves Overdrive.”
- Dogs go absolutely batshit when cannons get fired.
- My cousin shouldn’t have brought nine dogs to an orchestral performance of any kind, let alone one that involved a cannon.
- I shouldn’t load cannonballs into an orchestral cannon.
- I can’t read sheet music.
But look, no one told me that the cannon was pre-filled with a kind of diluted gunpowder. As far as I was concerned, as Orchestral Artilleryman, which is probably my job title, I should be in charge of gunpowder and cannonball distribution.
This is basic military operation, guys. I don’t think Napoleon sat there on Lord Nelson’s yacht saying, “Oh shit, the Turks are coming. Quick! Who’s got the ammo!?” No, he would have been on those cannons in a flash, jamming in the powder cannonballs-deep.
What I’m trying to say is that I think everyone needs to consider the mitigating factors that led up to the incident. You’ve got to put yourselves in my shoes. Well, crocs. Well, one croc and one sock to be exact. Firstly, I have the most epic instrument. You’re up there with your tooty instruments and your stringy ones and so forth, and I’m literally on stage with something that was used to take down frigates! I mean, I could kill someone if I wanted to!
And secondly, there is soooo much time up there for me to just stand around. I don’t even get a chair. Most of you guys get chairs, and the ones that don’t still have something to do in the first fourteen minutes of the song. I just have to stand around for ages like a jackass in my sock and croc, watching my cousin’s dogs run around the concert hall sniffing old people.
So I guess my point is this: It was inevitable that I would start to daydream a little bit. And because I was relentlessly funneling gunpowder into a cannon, I began to daydream about being a ship’s captain… take this to its logical extension and you can see how it’s unavoidable that I’m going to eventually imagine spearheading a great naval battle.
So there we were, being attacked by a Portuguese Man o’ War (a quick Google Image Search shows that I may need to brush up on my maritime knowledge). You were all frantically working around me, pulling sails to the jib or whatever, while hundreds of Portuguese sailors were glaring at us, armed to the teeth with little binoculars on sticks. They even had vicious beasts running up and down the length of the deck, sniffing crotches and defecating in the aisles.
And this where you guys get a bit of the blame but also a pat on the back. I think the “Overdrive” song kind of lubricated my daydream with theme music. I mean, it’s a pretty good track, and it sounded like you guys definitely practiced. This very real presence of actual theme music birthed my daydream from the womb of imagination into the delivery room of reality. With the music reaching a crescendo and the impending attack of insane Portuguese septuagenarians, how could I not fire the cannon?
If anything, you guys should have stopped playing by then. Here’s a tip: If there’s a guy with one croc on and his pants over his head screaming, “All hands man your battle stations!” don’t keep playing awesome war music.
When I reloaded the cannon, I really can’t say for sure what I was thinking. But by that point, with the screaming, the massive devastation to the concert hall, the many injured, my cousin’s dogs chewing on people and seats, and the LSD wearing off, I think part of me just wanted to get the ending right—for you guys.
So do you see how firing the second and third volley was done with the best intentions?
And because of the ringing in my ears, it didn’t occur to me to look up to see if you all were still playing—I just assumed “professionals” like yourselves would know not to stop the song just because of a mistimed note.
In conclusion, I am sorry, but it’s clear that pointing fingers will really get us nowhere. I hope we can get over this, and I can continue to jam with you all just as soon as one of you bails me out.
I do suggest however that the next audience should be at least 400 feet from our orchestra. And maybe we sell body armor with the brochures.
I’m Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, your senior yoga instructor. From now on, you will not speak unless spoken to—not a single chakra will open until I say so—and when commanded you will bring your focus back gently to your breathing, the sole object of your attention. Do you maggots understand that?
If you complete my yoga class, you will have transcended the material world, which you will see as maya, illusion. Until then, you’re that material world’s lowest form of life: human beings burdened by tension, negative energy, and disorganized thoughts!
Today, you have been issued a yoga mat. You and your mat will be incapable of non-attachment. Now pray with me: “This is my yoga mat. There are many like it with a thin top layer of polyurethane or natural sustainable rubber to wick away sweat, and a super-cushiony textured grippy side for safety and performance, but this one is mine. Before my deity or deities and/or secular value system, I swear this creed. My mat and myself are defenders of prana, the life giving force.”
Get dressed and be seated. Make sure your attire has a relaxed fit and appropriate construction. Between your mats and assholes will be nothing but organic cotton, hemp, or recycled poly fiber. If I see a non-eco-friendly fabric, god forbid one stitched in inhumane working conditions, without even the courtesy of a living wage, you’ll be wearing this as an accessory: my foot, ankle deep in your ass. The only sweatshop I like is the one here in my studio, as it has a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity, to facilitate injury prevention and deeper stretching.
Atten-hut! The junior yogis will now instruct you on the correct form for your first asana. Hold it and center yourself. You are not to lose balance or mindfulness without permission.
Private, do you have a name? What? Bullshit! Look at your posture. You call that a Crow pose? You look like a constipated pigeon! Your name is Private Pigeon from now on. Realign your spine. I want fresh oxygenated blood moving to your every organ and fiber! I want to see proper muscle tone and a vibrant glow!
No! Not like that, you disgusting sack of synthetic chemicals! Stand back up. If there’s one thing I hate it’s a pose executed so poorly it completely destroys the healing vibe!
Everyone stand up with your arms in extension upward above your head, like a shooting stem, and feel your spirit growing roots downward. Place your finger on your right nostril. Hut! Now slowly—wait! Private Pigeon, do you not know your right from the side energetically linked to your body’s cooling lunar flow? Drop down and give me five minutes of Downward Dog. Everyone join Private Pigeon. From now on, when someone disrupts the free flow of creative energy, I will punish all of you, because obviously you pukes have failed to float off enough harmonious positivity.
Alright, everyone sound off to my cadence:
I don’t know, but I’ve been told
Bhujangasana is the Cobra pose.
Your head and rib cage elevate
Your viscera won’t constipate!
Breathe in, cleansing breath
Breathe out—three, two…
feel that tension leave your neck…
picture it leaving through your fingers…
just let it go…
Let’s return to the Crow pose. Private Pigeon will lead. Build a solid core—align your abdomen, your solar plexus, your sacrum. Stay connected to the sensations, find wisdom in your— Private Pigeon, you’re drooping! Tap into your core more fully. Be ultra-present! Build an emotional rock, and stoke your inner fire, you worthless little shit!
Private Pigeon, get back here, did I say you could leave your yoga mat? Cease all movements toward the civilian gear! Private Pigeon, I said cease—goddamnit, get your disgusting hands out of that bag—and—what the… Private Pigeon, in my studio we embrace an ethos of understanding and non-violence. In the name of all that is worth cherishing in this earthly existence, I invite you to mindfully and intentionally put down your weapon, now!
Public Swimming Pool Porter
Old Laundry Barleywine
Cookies and Creamator Lactose Doppelbock
It’s Kind of a Belgian I Guess
Murky Waters American Amber
Ceci N’est Pa Une French Saison
Butter and Cabbage ESB
Fuzzy Mouthfeel Peach Lambic
Stool Sample Irish Stout
My Buddy Troy’s Dad Grows Some Kind of Hops Pale
What Is That—Cleaner? Weizen
English Enigma Brown Something-or-other
Actually Pretty Passable Pilsner
Triton’s Taint Triple IPA
Chapul: The Original Cricket Bar
From what Buzzfeed and hipsters tell me, eating bugs is the future. They’re pretty much the key to keep feeding our screwed up world, essentially prolonging our ability to totally annihilate it. I understand that people have eaten insects for eons and people all over the world are eating them right now but I’m American, so ew. I like to think I’m forward thinking. I separate my glass for recycling. I try to eat organic. I learned to love kale chips. But bugs are fucking gross.
I tried Chapul at a “green living” festival. A very nice, clean man who didn’t look like he raised crickets for mass slaughter asked my girlfriend and I if we’d like to try a sample. His table had morsels of the Chapul bars stabbed with toothpicks, and bags of what we learned were cricket flour, which is where the “cricket” in “cricket bar” comes in. It looked like brown flour with dark flecks. Upon seeing it I had already decided the dark flecks were bits of eyes and felt my heart sink into a pool of bile.
As I toyed with the idea of actually eating Chapul, I thought of the following:
Reasons to not put this in my mouth:
- Memories of dissecting a cricket in 6th grade where I had to take its fucking eye out, which made it leak formaldehyde from its head.
- Keeping crickets as food for my late pet frog, Pierre, and learning how gross and smelly they truly are.
- I’m vegetarian and this confuses me.
Reasons to put this in my mouth:
- I’ve had a couple beers and I’m feeling pretty fucking brave.
- Payback for all the times the crickets for Pierre wouldn’t shut up at night.
- Peer pressure from my girlfriend.
- Blah blah, sustainability, blah blah, helping Earth, blah blah.
- So I can say I did.
Drunk me won (drunk me always wins).
Every bite was preceded by the trepidation of, “crap, what if they didn’t grind all the antennae?”
While you eat Chapul, you almost want to taste cricket and your brain will constantly search for a new texture or flavor to connect your tongue to what your brain already knows: you’re eating goddamn crickets. But you never find it. The bar was almost boring. It was good, but you think, this is made of crickets, and I don’t know, you want it to taste somehow more magical than an average energy bar. Not gross magical, but something that elevates it beyond its insect-less brethren. The bar I tried was Thai flavored: a mix of ginger, coconut, and lime. It tasted just like ginger, coconut, and lime, with the familiar texture of date paste, because it was primarily made of date paste.
Drunk me is an asshole.
The Idaho Spud
Submitted by Reiko Turner
The Idaho Spud is old. First manufactured in 1918, the Idaho Candy Company proclaims that this obscure little chocolate bar is its “Top selling candy in the Northwest.” My girlfriend and I grew up with the Idaho Spud hidden on the bottom shelves in grocery store candy aisles in Utah. So, seeing that this is the immortal cockroach of candies, the Idaho Spud has somehow lasted long enough for me to recognize the packaging without actually trying it, and I’m certain 99% of Utah is in the same boat. Perhaps Utah, not fully understanding what it was getting itself into, agreed to support the Idaho Candy Co.’s quirky idea of selling potato-shaped candy bars to the farming public only to find out that the Mormons are more of a dessert salad crowd.
Anyway, let’s dive in. What lies beneath the dark brown, crinkly packaging is an appalling mash-up of chocolate and a marshmallow-esque substance sprinkled with coconut flakes—a turd rolled in snow. I wasn’t about to plunge teeth first into unknown territory, so I cut the thing in half and pulled it apart. Half of the chocolate coating sloughed off of the marshmallow center like an insect molting its exoskeleton. What remained beneath the crumbles of really shitty, really waxy dark chocolate was a two-inch blob with an odd gray tint; it was something similar to the muddy core of a rancid potato. The innards of an Idaho Spud, as printed on the website, claim to be light-cocoa flavored marshmallow. The cocoa flavor is so infinitesimal that it’s as if someone whispered the word chocolate and ran away. The texture of the center is horrifyingly bad, like the remnants of congealed turkey gravy at the back of your refrigerator long after Thanksgiving. I imagine it’s what sinking your incisors into a slab of whale blubber feels like.
Supposedly, the Idaho Spud was originally marketed as a healthful candy bar because the company uses agar agar in place of gelatin. Now, my vegetarian heart flutters when I hear that a jelly candy is gelatin-free, and, from time to time, agar agar can be a suitable substitute for gelatin when used correctly. The 1910s were not that time. And, clearly, the Idaho Spud was created pre-1990s trans fat enlightenment, as it contains a whopping 1.5 grams of trans fat. Please wait while I jam this into my face and clog every artery.
All in all, the Idaho Spud was one letdown after another. And, who even buys this shit apart from senescent farmers? Tourists. People who are suckered into visiting Idaho in the first place and opt for the possibility of this mysterious confection in lieu of an overpriced “Idaho, the Gem State” mug. I’m sure all the Idahoans are laughing at the rest of us poor saps right now. “Jokes on you, mother fuckers,” they say as cases of Idaho Spuds petrify on our shelves.
Nasoya Vegan Nayonaise Sandwich Spread
Submitted by Jay Zhow
In the 4th-grade class of my red-bricked and blacktopped suburban elementary school, there was a girl named Irene. She had a round, quiet, peach-freckled face, straight muddy-straw hair, aggressively neat bangs. Irene was bookish, studious, mild-mannered, kind of kept to herself in a way perhaps common to 4th-grade girls not especially high on the popularity pole and without any of the publicly noticeable qualities that would afford her such status (beautiful, witty, chatty, friendly, athletic, gamely, wealthy, savage, creative, humorous, etc.).
She played the clarinet or flute or oboe. Don’t recall which—something tooty and reedy. Whether it was due to parental pressure, early extracurricular résumé-padding, or some innate flutter that needed to find its way out in pipe-song, I couldn’t say. I know in later years, as we ascended school grades, she was not found playing among the reeds past middle school. Take that as a sign of what you will.
On this particular day, as our 4th-grade teacher conducted class, Irene occupied her usual seat in the front row that just abutted the teacher’s large desk. Her row-mates sat evenly on either side of her, she towards the middle of the row. I sat in my typical spot, somewhere off to the right towards the back with sufficient angle to survey the room with a quick pivot of the head, as was my choice and tendency. We were dutifully taking notes when mid-lesson Irene turned abruptly in her seat to face back towards the rest of the room as if intending to address us then proceeded to vomit onto the speckled sea-green public-school carpet directly before her chair. The pale muculent pile on the floor was surprisingly large, I recall thinking, especially given her tiny size: noodles—something formerly noodles. Irene sat there unsure, confused, but somehow quietly defiant even through the brimming tears. The rest of the class gasped, gaped, and moaned as only a classroom of 4th-graders can collectively do at the almost-miraculous manifestation of puke. I can remember little else of the incident. For some time after, we would know her privately among ourselves as The Girl Who Puked.
I’m not sure how much of this event The Girl Who Puked carried with her, whether it blotted her experience as an elementary school student, or if she tried to eject it as soon as possible from her mind like the puke itself, but this Nayonaise, this egg- and dairy-free doppelganger, tastes like Irene’s awkward shame.
If you want vegan mayo, try Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise instead. It has no hint of cruel nostalgia.
Submitted by Marti Davidson Sichel
When I saw it on the menu, I only knew two things about it: It’s made out of soybeans, and the one person I’ve ever seen eating it said, and I quote, “I hate natto.” So what exactly could have persuaded me to try it? Was it simply the excitement of finding something both vegetarian and wholly unknown? Was it my youthful bravura that I could handle a flavor even a professional chef, whose palate I assumed would be remarkably diverse, couldn’t? So I ordered it, wrapped simply in nori and sticky rice.
It looked pleasant enough, like lentils spooned out of a nice bowl of soup. I took the first piece between forefinger and thumb, dipped a corner gently into the dainty little porcelain soy sauce dish, and popped it into my mouth.
To call it a taste sensation would be an understatement. The flavor and texture instantly transported me to an earlier, simpler time. Specifically, it transported me to that time in middle school, when I didn’t wash my gym socks nearly as often as I should have, and how, one day, when I plucked a particularly fetid pair off the floor, it was only to discover that the cat had vomited all over them.
Thanks for the memories, natto.
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, Dragon 2 Shapes
Submitted by Vivian Wagner
OK, a few confessions: I didn’t know this was what I bought. I thought I was buying Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, REGULAR shapes. I’m not proud of the fact that I buy Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, eat it, and love it, but it’s the truth. Another confession: I have no idea what Dragon 2 is. Or what the shapes are supposed to be, though I’m guessing dragons of some kind. And finally: I didn’t eat this. I threw it out. It was that bad.
See, I boiled the noodles like normal, without at first noticing the strange shapes. I boiled them for seven minutes, something I’ve known how to do since I was seven. In fact, I was thinking about how long I’ve known how to cook Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner while I cooked it.
After seven minutes, I poured the noodles out into the colander like normal, and that’s when I noticed the shapes. Weird shapes. Shapes that made me think of twisty worms or growths. If they had looked like dragons, that would have at least been something. And they were white and hard, not glistening with the sense of promise I’d come to expect from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner. I poured them back into the pan and studied them. They were clearly not cooked. But I’d cooked them seven minutes! I looked at the box—the first time I’ve had to look at the box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner since I was seven—and that’s when I saw it: “Cook 11 to 12 min., or until done.”
It was too late. They were inedible. So I ran to the store and got real Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner. It made me happy. End of story.
Epic Bar: Turkey with Almonds & Cranberries
Submitted by Kelly E. Spivey
I’m a very healthy person. I drink raw juice blends every day, take blue green algae shots like a champ, and carry around an immune-boosting herbal tincture for those days when I’m feeling a little listless. That’s when I’m not devouring burgers National Geographic-style and shoving fistfuls of candy bars down my throat like some kind of post-meal chaser.
I also have a penchant for “energy bars,” or in other words, health food disguised as junk food. It is the perfect marriage of my fantasy of being a healthy person and my true desire to be a fat slob. Enter the EPIC bar. This was a departure from my usual chocolate and peanut butter laden flavors in an effort to seem diplomatic. Epically so.
Let’s begin with the Game of Thrones-esque packaging. The words EPIC are spelled out in bold underneath some sort of faux-looking tribal caveman symbol you might find tattooed on any guy in a sleeveless cut off shirt around 1999. This is next to a Thomas Kinkade-worthy illustration of whatever animal you have chosen—I went with what seemed to be the safest: turkey. Other offerings include bison, beef, and lamb. While the bar promises to be not only gluten, soy, and milk free, it also claims to be:
“. . .inspired by the simple yet highly powerful diets of our ancestors. The same diets that have driven human innovation, inspired creativity, and fueled over 100,000 years of brilliant evolution.”
I wasn’t aware that my addictions to gluten, soy, and dairy were holding me back from the Picasso-like brilliance I could have been displaying all these years. If only I had known. If you’re starting to sense a tone of anger, it could possibly be due to the fact that the word EPIC is on this package no less than nine times. No food that comes in bar form and is not made of chocolate can possibly be that epic. At least not nine times over.
I chose the Turkey flavor because I hoped the combination of turkey, almonds, and cranberry would ease me into the EPIC line of flavors to come. It would be like Thanksgiving, except I wouldn’t have to unbutton my pants immediately after (or during) eating. I hoped.
The first bar I opened was moldy. As fuck. I first thought that maybe it was supposed to be covered with a coating of white, not unlike what appears on the outside of a well-aged soft cheese. Perhaps this was a test of my mettle. Quickly, I decided this was probably not the case and went back into the sea of moms in workout gear at my local Whole Foods to exchange it for another. The second bar looked normal. If that’s what you can call a very slightly misshapen piece of meat-like substance that looks like a high quality dog treat. After two trips to Whole Foods, I was determined not to look back now.
The smell should have been my first warning. It had a subtle, oniony-garlicky smell, which immediately made me suspicious. Where was my Thanksgiving-meal-in-a-bar? I took a bite. The texture was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. And I was a vegan for three years. I had seen and tasted things most people would (and should) shy away from. There was definitely something to chew but I got the sense the texture was created in the way a three-year-old draws their family—with pride and a total lack of understanding what people really look like. If there had been a turkey involved in this monstrosity, it had been chased, caught and had the living hell beat out of it long before it was ground down to be included in this poor substitute for Thanksgiving-on-the-go. Occasionally there were what I can only describe as “meaty fibers” that appeared, which indicated meat had in fact, at one point, been added but this was just confusing and more upsetting. The only flavor I could taste was the onion and garlic. I saw the cranberries. I chewed on the cranberries. I did not taste the cranberries. Almonds seemed non-existent. I got about halfway through before finally realizing that the only thing “epic” about this bar was how bad it was.
I should have just cut my losses, owned up to my shame, and bought a Snickers at the gas station on the way home.
Camel Balls Bubble Gum (Extra Sour)
Submitted by Mara Altman
My friend’s Central Park potluck picnic was upon me. I didn’t want to bring the ordinary massaged kale or tub of hummus; I wanted to delight and fright people. So I went to a novelty shop and found the perfect item: a box of Camel Balls Bubble Gum. The packaging depicts a desert-scape with a dromedary—a one-hump camel—mischievously looking over its shoulder in the direction of its rather conspicuous scrotum. Just beneath the gonads reads the phrase, LIQUID FILLED. To the left is a drawing of the product: a brown oval with a red gooey center. It looked like a Toucan miscarriage and/or something that Marina Abramovic might use as confetti.
Buying the balls was clearly a life-of-the-party move. This was going to be legendary. The potluck goers, lauding me for bringing something edgy yet functional, would all say, “Holy crap, Mara, how’d you find something so edgy yet functional?” There would be high-fives, laughter, and a hook to enable radical and taboo discourse like vasectomy reversals, canine neutering, and whether or not polyethylene was causing boobs to grow in adolescent boys.
I arrived one-hour into the festivities and pulled the box of Camel Balls from my purse, pointed to it and shouted “Camel Balls!”
The box was not torn excitedly from my hands. I waited. Waited. Nothing. No one even mentioned jock itch. I was wondering when everyone decided to get so darn mature.
Right then, I felt a pinch in my lower abdomen. Was that the sensation of my ovaries growing crow’s feet? Whoops, silly me, I think that was just a hunger pang.
Another two hours passed and the Camel Balls remained untouched. People were busy opening up the 23rd tub of red-pepper-flavored hummus. So I brought the box to the center of the blanket and unwrapped it myself. Inside, each gumball was individually packaged. I discussed the finer points to anyone within earshot: “These balls are safe to chew.” “These balls never get blue.” “These get you pregnant with happy.”
Yes, I’ve already fully investigated it, rewinds can’t happen in real life.
One hour later, I left with all of the Camel Balls rolling around loosely at the bottom of my purse.
On the subway ride home, I had a lot of balls and nothing to lose. So I tore into one. The gumball was the size of a robin’s egg and had the glossy sheen of something 100% inedible. So I popped it in my mouth. When my teeth sunk in to it, the flavor leeched out: sweet and sour bursts that made my brows crinkle and my eyes squint. The intense artificial sugary flavor was nostalgic. It tasted a bit like being invited to a game of spin the bottle, but only to watch. The flavor dissipated rapidly. Ta-da, all of a sudden it felt like I’d attempted to snack on Elmer’s adhesive putty. I spit out the rubbery wad shortly thereafter. Overall, the gum was gross. So I put another one in my mouth. What else to do? This was clearly my karma: to wind up alone, sucking on camel balls.
번데기 (Beondegi, canned)
Submitted by Amy Wright
Silkworm pupae are not a new food in Asia. Considering the Silk Road winds back to a legend in the 27th century BC that the fourteen-year-old Empress Leizu unwound a spool of thread from a cocoon fallen into her teacup, both trade and snack may have emerged simultaneously and scented with jasmine. But I was raised on the milk of Holsteins and the beef of Black Angus, so this red-and-yellow can covered in Hangul script was new to me.
Beondegi, boiled or steamed and seasoned, are widely available from South Korean street vendors, but fresh delicacies in Nashville are as hard to come by as a record deal. The clerks in the Asian and International Markets shook their heads when we asked for them, and in one case, led us to the bait and tackle section of the store.
But we persevered.
Unafraid of cultural bifurcations wherein “me” becomes “you” and something I scrunch my nose at, I offered my best shy southern smile to the man behind the pungent counter where slabs of fresh eel were laid out like the steaks I was raised on. Over their dead bodies, Don and I asked if they sold any insects, the corners of my mouth upturned as if to say, “Friend, in every measurable way we are different, but let not that divide our mutual love of arthropods. Where do you keep the goods?”
Nothing. You’d think we were asking him for Moon Pies, which I saw in hot pink version by the door. We were on our own, white-skinned minorities in a foreign land trying to fit in.
A can, tucked between the lemongrasses and pepper pastes, bore a picture of what looked like glistening—if grayish—headless beetles. I was thrilled. Having already eaten crickets, mealworms, wax moth larvae, and cicadas, I looked forward to trying another species of amino acid-rich protein.
My foray into the world of entomophagy (the human consumption of insects) was prompted by Marcel Dicke’s...
LACTATION CONSULTANT #1: Congratulations on your new baby! I’m Courtney Sax, one of Beth Israel’s ten lactation consultants, and I’m here to answer any questions you might have about the breast-feeding process. Just know: this is a very stressful time and there is no right or wrong way to go about nourishing your child.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Oh good. We know this is silly, but last night she wouldn’t take the breast, and we were really tired, so we gave her formula, and now we’re feeling a little guilty.
(Lactation Consultant #1 gets very quiet, punches the wall, and then slowly backs out of the room.)
LACTATION CONSULTANT #2: Hi! My name is Lauren, one of Beth Israel’s nine lactation consultants. So what can I help you with today?
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: We were just hoping for some hints about getting our baby to latch a little better than she does. She puts her mouth on the nipple and then just kind of hangs out there.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #2: Positioning is the key. It’s simple! Imagine that your breast is a Cartesian Plane, and the baby’s spine is the hypotenuse of a right triangle. The vertex formed by the baby’s head and the top of the areole should form a 60 degree angle, and if you don’t have a protractor handy, just think about it like this: the sine of theta should be root three over two and if you were to integrate to find the area of the baby subtending your nipple, you should get a result of 7.3 pi.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Any advice for a couple of sleep-deprived parents who don’t remember trig or calculus?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #2: I pity you and your kind.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Nothing against Lauren, but her approach seemed to involve a lot of complicated math. Do you have a simpler method?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #3: How about a simile? Babies are like gummy bears. They’re really sticky.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #4: Here’s what it comes down to—just don’t give your baby chocolate. It will kill her.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Are you sure you’re not thinking of dogs?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #4: Dogs might kill her too. Depends on the breed and temperament of the animal. And whether your kid was being a dick to it.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #5: Just so you know, if you don’t pump enough, your baby might get rickets and die.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #6: If you pump too much, your baby will almost certainly get diabetes and die.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #7: Breastfeeding is the ideal metaphor for the parent-child relationship. The child sucks the nutrient-dense life force from the mother until the mother is thoroughly depleted, at which point the ungrateful child howls at the mother for having had the gall to run out of what the child wants, leaving both resentful and bitter.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: How is this helpful?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #7: It’s not supposed to be helpful. I’m brainstorming ideas for a suicide note that will make my kids feel terrible.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: I see you’re using a nipple shield. (Jots down a note to herself and shakes her head.)
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Is that bad?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: (Muttering) Only if you want her to live.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: Our pediatrician recommended we use one. She said it would cut down on irritation.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: (Muttering) You are to babies what Pol Pot was to Cambodians.
Exhausted, Confused Parents: Sorry?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: You two are so cute! (To mother) You look like a young Christie Brinkley. (To father) And you look like Stephen Jay Gould, if Stephen Jay Gould had been in some sort of terrible accident. Anyhoo, how often are you pumping?
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED MOTHER: I was pumping eight times a day, but then we were scared of giving her diabetes, so now I do it four or five times.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: (Muttering) Why don’t you just throw her into a vat of boiling lava?
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: What?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #8: Have you guys seen Orange is the New Black? On the surface, it’s about the prison system, but really, it’s about America.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #9: She told you not to use a nipple shield?! Uh, no. You have to use a nipple shield. Your nipples are too sharp. How can I explain this? Imagine trying to swallow a thousand flaming broad swords, but you have strep throat, and your esophagus is made of broken beer bottles. That’s how your baby feels when you feed her.
(Exhausted, Confused Parents hold each other and cry. Their baby looks on stoically.)
LACTATION CONSULTANT #10: You two look overwhelmed.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: We’re getting so much contradictory advice, and we’re so tired. We’re afraid we’re bad parents.
LACTATION CONSULTANT #10: Relax. Take a breath. Different consultants have different opinions. You need to do what’s best for you and your family. If that means a little trial and error, so be it. And if that means not always taking our advice, that’s fine too. If the nipple shield works for you, use it. If pumping four times a day rather than eight times a day feels right, then pump four times a day.
EXHAUSTED, CONFUSED PARENTS: That’s the most sensible thing we’ve heard yet. Thank you! Are you a mom yourself?
LACTATION CONSULTANT #10: I was, but my kids all died of rickets. Good luck!
Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that you’re embroiled in a gang war, and you can choose either Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë to fight on your side. Which 19th-century novelist would you pick?
Brontë would be handier in a tight spot, I imagine. She was small and wiry, and given that she was missing quite a few teeth (see Elizabeth Gaskell’s letter to Catherine Winkworth, 25 August 1850), she’d certainly look the part of the smash-mouth brawler. She was by all accounts stubborn and fiercely loyal, good qualities in an ally.
But for a drawn-out turf war, I’d have to go with Austen. Not a scrapper like Brontë, she’d still beat the celebrated author of Jane Eyre hands-down on strategy. Austen was meaner, too, and that’s saying something because Charlotte Brontë was no cupcake. I can imagine Brontë going out brilliantly in a hail of gunfire, perhaps hurling a Molotov cocktail with her last ounce of strength. Austen, though, would survive and triumph over any of your trifling Mafiosi or drug cartel leaders. Say what you want about the novel of manners as an art form; there’s no better way to learn about factionalism
Authors of marriage-plot novels might not be the first place you’d look for fighting prowess, but I see them as a deep talent pool. Seriously, go read Middlemarch and then tell me with a straight face that George Eliot wasn’t capable of terrible things. Or pick up any of Madame de Staël’s novels (go on, I dare you). Hell, Harriet Beecher Stowe started a war. These ladies knew some shit about conflict, even if they did bury it under calling cards and teacups.
Of the whole formidable crew, Jane Austen would be my top draft pick. She’s by far the most sophisticated fighter among her literary peers, with a narrative style reminiscent of Aikido, predicated on off-balancing and emptying. Her attacks are exquisitely subtle; the thuds of her enemies’ falling bodies very loud. Like a martial arts master, Austen uses others’ energy to create gaping holes, and then politely allows her readers to fall into them.
Consider the opening of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Calling this “ironic” is much too crude; it is an elaborate and devastating syntactic joke built on absence. The “truth” that anchors the sentence is manifestly untrue; it describes something that doesn’t exist. The further claim of universal acknowledgement, with its manifest impossibility, thus merely amplifies the emptiness. The “want” that motivates the hypothetical single man redoubles the emptiness; it is itself a negative quality—a lack, a need, a desire—which also can’t exist, since the “truth” claimed for it earlier isn’t true. The insistent, epistemic “must” only underscores the futility of the entire assertion.
Then of course, this initial declaration is not at all what the story’s narrator actually believes, but rather the opposite. The whole sentence is hollow, a Burmese tiger trap of obvious untruth that we nonetheless allow Austen to guide us straight across until we plummet, still nodding and smiling agreeably, into the pit. There we land painfully on the narrator’s unvarnished opinion: People who do believe this “truth” are idiots.
It’s a brilliant opening move for a novel, and perhaps the plainest evidence of Austen’s genius is that she repeats this structure over and over, and it always entertains, whether she’s tossing off a blithe indictment of character in the novel Emma (“The charm of an object to occupy the many vacancies of Harriet’s mind was not to be talked away”) or casually demonstrating, toward the end of Sense and Sensibility, how a superior fighter triumphs by declining combat (“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition”).
Austen’s novels are masterpieces of negative space; listen closely to her funniest lines and you’ll hear the wind whistling through them. She pulls the chair out from under her readers time and again, and we’re continually surprised and delighted to find ourselves on the floor. The only comparable experience I’ve had is my training with judo and aikido instructors who helped me discover the infinite number of ways a person can fall down. Those martial artists, like Jane Austen, understood weakness and predisposition, and how they can be used to create opportunity.
Charlotte Brontë was an entirely different kind of fighter, and she knew it. In fact she disparaged Austen’s restrained style, finding it too “cultivated” and “confined.” (Mark Twain also claimed to hate Austen, saying, “She makes me detest all her people, without reserve.” I think he was just jealous.) Brontë throws a lot of elbows, and she isn’t above a literary head-butt now and then (“Am I hideous, Jane?" “Very, sir; you always were, you know”). She plays to the cheap seats, with drama and Gothic flair. I’m sympathetic to her balls-out approach to conflict; I fight the same way myself (minus the Anglican dogmatism). If I were fighting zombies, or Scots, I’d prefer Brontë by my side. But in a real-world conflict, Austen’s the obvious choice. She’d be more likely to sniff out the informant or stay three steps ahead of the double-crosser. And she would never, ever do anything to attract the attention of police. She was a lady, after all.
OK, so let’s say you’re not involved in a gang war, but you are interested in autonomy and self-determination for women, and you’re looking for role models who will teach young girls how to stand up for themselves. Who’s the better ally in that fight, Austen or Brontë?
They’re both a whole lot better than that woman who wrote the Twilight series; still, if I have to cut one and keep the other, I’m keeping Austen. Brontë could plumb the depths of a struggling soul, yes; but Austen had healthier priorities.
I once taught Jane Eyre to a class of returning college students, including a grandmother re-reading the novel for the first time since her teen years. She’d been enraptured by Mr. Rochester back then, she said, but when she re-read the book, thinking about how her granddaughter might experience it, she was appalled. “What a horrible, horrible man,” she told our class, shaking her head like someone who has just discovered that her trusted accountant was arrested for embezzling from orphans.
My student was right: Brontë is a disappointing voice for women’s empowerment. She rejects the trappings of conventional romance, only to create even worse excesses. Her female characters make impassioned speeches about autonomy and intrinsic human value (“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do . . .”), and then they end up marrying unspeakable douchebags like Mr. Rochester or M. Paul. Really, Brontë is her own heroines’ worst enemy.
In order to make her obnoxious heroes look slightly less obnoxious, Brontë paints her villains as simple monsters—dark, raving lunatics or cold, sadistic authority figures. They starve small children and burn down houses; they’re easy to identify, yet they’re allowed to get away with their bad behavior much longer than they ought to.
Austen, in contrast, understands how similar we are to our enemies, how difficult it can be to correctly identify them and the threats they pose. The most dangerous people in her books—Henry Crawford, Mr. Wickham—are often quite pleasant, and her clowns—Mr. Collins, Mrs. Norris—cause considerable damage. She works with reality, and firmly resists the lure of the exotic.
Students in self-defense workshops often succumb to this allure. The scenarios that come up when we discuss our fears about safety are always peopled with vague, shadowy predators. This despite the fact that we’re much more likely to be attacked by someone who knows us, looks like us, and in fact is like us—a family member, say, or an intimate partner. Sometimes I ask self defense students to close their eyes and visualize someone who might try to harm them. What does this person look like? I ask. Do they look like you, or do they look different? Do you know them, or are they a stranger? And most importantly, Why is this the person your imagination presents to you as a threat?
I don’t ask students to share what they’re thinking when we do this exercise. I don’t have to. Research shows that the majority of us imagine threats coming from people who look different from us. We’re also apt to envision danger in the forms most commonly presented to us through popular media. Thus for the average white person, the default “attacker” in their imagination is a dark-skinned, male stranger.
In Jane Eyre, it is Rochester’s mad first wife, a tall, dark creole woman, who haunts the heroine’s dreams and bedroom. Jane tells us the woman has “a discoloured face—it was a savage face,” with “a fearful blackened inflammation of the lineaments,” “the lips swelled and dark, the brow furrowed, the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes.” Nothing suggestive about that description, is there? This is what Brontë’s heroine, and possibly Brontë herself, envisioned as the prototypical attacker: a big scary black woman. And yet the greater danger to Jane, by far, is Rochester, who wants to trick her into bigamy and thus threatens her very soul.
But only because he loves her! It’s frustrating to watch Brontë pull her punches this way—she’s very good at depicting abusive relationships (her sisters Emily and Anne were even better at it). But she romanticizes them. When the unfortunate madwoman who stands between Jane and her abusive lover conveniently offs herself, setting fire to her husband’s mansion and then (in a scene blatantly plagiarized from Ivanhoe), jumping off the battlements to her death, Jane is free to marry the egotistical brute (but he’s reformed! And blind! And he loves her!) and afterwards warble, “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am; ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.”
She expects us to believe this creepy bliss lasts indefinitely, but honestly, I give it five years before one of them is a secret drinker, the other has unexplained crying jags, and the neighbors hear regular screaming matches late at night. You simply can’t build a successful marriage without healthy boundaries, and that’s an important message for girls and women to absorb. They won’t learn it from Brontë.
Austen’s heroines, though they may be prudish like Fanny Price or ditzy like Emma Woodhouse, aren’t fooled (at least never more than temporarily) by Byronic posturing. They look for decent men, and believe they deserve them. They compare, thoughtfully and rationally, the behavior of potential love interests with that of other people they esteem, which helps them discover and correct for their own biases.
Of course, studying Austen and Brontë’s combat skills is only one of many reasons to read their work, but I wish more people would view their novels through the lens of conflict. They model two distinct styles of fighting, and I think women especially need to see more potential ways we can fight. No matter how constrained we are by the gender expectations of our day, we can still find ways to protect ourselves and make our own decisions. And that’s the real key to living happily ever after.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a Bill Cosby fan. From Fat Albert on Saturday mornings, to his stand up LPs (which I used to check out from the library before I could buy them), to his concert film Himself, to The Cosby Show, and beyond… he’s always been a part of my life. But that’s just his work. In the handful of times I’ve gotten to spend with Bill Cosby in person, he’s touched me in even more significant ways.
I first met Bill in my early days of doing stand up. I was still a teenager when I performed at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. That week, Bill was at Caesar’s Palace doing a double bill with Sammy Davis Jr. The Cosby Show was at its height of popularity and yet Bill was kind and generous with his time, offering counsel to a young comedian who was thrilled to get to sit at the feet of the master.
One piece of advice of his that both surprised and resonated with me was, “If you try to please everyone, you will please no one.” The most universally beloved comedian was telling me not to pander, to not worry about the people who don’t get it. In retrospect, that made great sense coming from Bill. His work was always a reflection of his true self. All the greats have that at their core. Authenticity. But Bill was the first comedian to look me in the eyes and deliver that essential truth.
About fifteen years later, I was attending a charity function and Bill was the evening’s entertainment. I went over to him to say hello and mentioned that I had bought tickets for his show at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center on Father’s Day as a gift for my dad. Impishly, Bill asked if I had paid full price for the tickets. When I told him that indeed I had, he invited me to bring my family to visit with him backstage before the show.
Now the scene backstage at most shows is usually chaotic. Clusters of people waiting to see the performer, usually getting nothing more than a quick hello, a handshake, and maybe a hurried exchange while eager onlookers jockey for position to be next. I was nervous about bringing my dad into that situation as he had been in failing health. But when we got to the venue and knocked on the stage door, it was eerily quiet. It even occurred to me that we might have the wrong date, time or theater. My mom, my dad, my wife and I were ushered to a large sitting room and told that Bill would be right in. The four of us sat alone, waiting, slightly incredulous to be given this space all to ourselves. And then in he came. Dressed casually in sweatpants, he pulled up a chair and parked himself in between my dad and me.
Knowing that Bill was a lifelong cigar smoker, I brought him one of the best smokes from my humidor. He gratefully declined the gift informing me that he had recently quit the habit. He did show me how to feel the wrapper on the cigar as a measure of its quality. He took two fingers and stroked the back of my hand to demonstrate. Cheekily, I made eyes at him. Without missing a beat, he turned to my wife and asked her if she “knew about this.” My wife told him she did and Bill let out a deep and and appreciative laugh.
Bill had been sitting with us for quite a while and show time drew near. Feeling self-conscious about how much of his exclusive attention we were taking, my mom asked if Bill needed some time to get ready for the show. Bill scoffed. He said he didn’t need to prepare. Bill wound up spending over an hour with us, giving very special attention to my dad, soliciting stories from him about his time in the service during WWII. Bill patted my dad’s leg and said, “Kids today need to talk to a man like you to better understand what makes this such a great country.” I looked over at my mom and tears were running down her cheeks. From that day forward, whenever my Dad saw him on TV, he’d shush everyone in the room, boasting proudly “that’s my friend, Bill”. And to her dying day, my Mom had the picture of our family with Bill from that evening as the desktop photo on her computer.
A few years ago, I went with my friend Morgan Murphy to see Bill at Lincoln Center. We went backstage after the show and, filled with emotion, I gushed to Bill just how much that evening had meant to my family and me. He just smiled that trademark smile and said, “Well all right!” His impact on comedy is immeasurable. But his imprint on my life is indelible.
Greetings, Comrades Kaganovich and Molotov:
I write to you today with new directives, and to address my suspicions that our fourth roommate, Chad, may be engaging in counter-revolutionary activities. This morning I awoke to find that the leftover slice of Mellow Mushroom Pizza that I had obtained at a meeting of the executive presidium had been stolen by Chad, who has previously displayed bourgeois capitalist tendencies. I therefore issue a new law prohibiting the theft of collective property without executive approval.
If there are any objections to my proposal on promulgating a law against the theft of cooperative and collective apartment pizza, give the following explanation. Capitalism could not have smashed feudalism, it would not have developed and solidified, if it had not declared the principle of private property to be the foundation of capitalist society and if it had not made private property sacred property, with any violation of its interests strictly punished and with the creation of its own state to protect it.
Socialism will not be able to finish off and bury capitalist elements and individualistic, self-seeking habits, practices and traditions (which are the basis of theft) that shake the foundations of this apartment unless it declares public property (belonging to cooperatives, collective farms, or the pizza-consuming bodies) to be sacred and inviolable. It cannot strengthen and develop the new system and socialist construction, unless it protects the property of collective apartments, cooperatives, and the state with all its might unless it prevents antisocial, capitalist-kulak elements from stealing collectively-owned leftover pizza. I have reason to believe that Chad is behind this theft of apartment property. That is why a new law is needed. We don’t have such a law. This gap must be filled in. It, i.e. the new law, could be called something like: “On Protection of the Property of Public Enterprises (including collective apartments, cooperatives, pizza consuming bodies, et al.) and the Strengthening of the Principle of Public (Apartment) Food Ownership.” If the proposal is accepted, send me an advance draft law.
Yesterday I sent you a number of telegrams on issues that we discussed in the Politburo. I want to explain our decisions on some of these issues in this letter in more detail. First, on financial measures. We adopted a number of resolutions, which I have already written you about and which were already partly summarized in Comrade Kaganovich’s memorandum on the rent. We should consider the liquidation of landlords as a class, so that we may divert rent resources to other projects more pertinent to the development of Socialism. I suggest developing heavy industry in Chad’s room.
In addition to this there is an additional new measure: first is the reduction of Chad’s lacrosse sticks from the foyer; even if it were not related to financial measures, we should do this because I suspect Chad may be using them to conduct counter-revolutionary bourgeois activities with his fraternity members. Of course in doing this we must avoid, as you once said at a Politburo meeting, a purely mechanical approach. A reduction must by no means turn into a purge. We can replace them with productive socialist instruments such as beets, woodcutting materials, and Marxist texts.
The second measure is riskier and more controversial. I personally, to be honest about it, had doubts about its advisability, but we more or less all agreed that we could probably go through with my directive to sell Chad’s BMW in order to raise funds to hire and train an apartment security police. Using this support we could engage in more revolutionary activities in the interest of worldwide socialism and begin to remove bourgeois specialists from the apartment (Chad). I suggest we collectivize Chad’s fraternity and begin to convert it into a collective agricultural production facility so that we may produce grain that can be requisitioned in the name of state interest.
The third measure is to begin work on the “Monument of Soviets” outside of the student union Starbucks. The “monument” should be in the form of a tall column and feature a hammer and sickle atop the column that will be electrically lit from within. If possible, place three statues of Marx, Engels, and Lenin in front of the monument.
It’s hard to keep from becoming a dinner-obsessed chef when you become a parent. I don’t know how I am managing it. It’s not that I don’t like cooking. Well, yes it is. That’s at least half of it. The other half is that I don’t like following directions.
I do like my children quite a bit, however, and last I checked, they do need to eat to live. So I have tried to make peace with this situation. I have done this by reading cookbooks. Reading cookbooks is the perfect activity for non-chefs like myself: it doesn’t entail any actual cooking and it provides me with some interesting and occasionally useful information.
I have three kids, and as a result, I have read a big ol’, fragrant mess of cookbooks. I have read so many that I can categorize them by type. And much like a particular type of cookbook author, I have now decided to share with you my amazing, life-altering system of how these cookbooks break down. Grab a snack—I don’t care what it is, as long as I don’t have to make it—and let me present you with some yummy sentences to digest.
Cookbooks for Info-Freaks
Do you like spreadsheets? Did you major in math, science, or engineering? Then you will find much solace on the cookbook shelf. You will recognize a cookbook for information-lovers by the fact that it doesn’t have any porn-worthy photos of grilled cheese sandwiches in it. It won’t have any photos in it, in fact. What it will have: charts. Many charts. And bullet points. If you are comforted by the great equalizing activity of a precisely spaced conversion chart, then these are the books for you.
The major redeeming quality about this type of cookbook is that it is not trying to sell you on the author, or the perfection of her kitchen-y world. The information-lovers who write these books don’t have time for that nonsense. Their focus is not inward, it is outward. Get your head out of the fridge, dear reader: have you looked lately, at what there is to eat in the world? You haven’t? Well, I have news for you.
The Great Mother of this type of book is a 674-page paperback called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, with Mary Enig, PhD. Fallon may have written this book with Enig, but it is Fal-lon alone who is pictured on the back cover, looking a bit like a martial arts master who could kick the focaccia out of you. Her introduction is 78 pages, has 188 references, and it is filled with not-exactly-encouraging statements like: “Unfortunately, most water supplies are contaminated by a number of harmful chemicals,” “the milk sold in your supermarket is bad for everybody, partly because the modern cow is a freak of nature,” and “Baking powder can be another source of aluminum and should be avoided.”
Far be it from me to get into the dojo with any of that, my friends. But when you have a new ba-by, and are trying to figure out what to feed her, it may not matter that Fallon is tragically and undeniably right. What matters is that you need something to feed the baby. Now.
Here is my advice: remember, facts are fun. Read this book for its incredibly disheartening, fun facts. When it’s time to actually feed the baby, there is another book you should turn to. It is here to save the day. It is called Super Baby Food.
My husband brought home a copy of Super Baby Food for me when our first born was about a month old. I was still much involved in the womanly art of breastfeeding—yes, that’s the title of a book, and can we just take a moment to affirm its reader-flattering genius?—and the idea that I would soon begin to make actual table food for my son was a little hazy. I was already making super baby food, I said to my husband, a little petulantly. He handed the book to me. It was heav-ier than my son.
Super Baby Food, a heroic tome by Ruth Yaron now in it third edition, clocks in at 608 pages. Unlike Nourishing Traditions, which calmly but relentlessly pummels you with the painful truth, Super Baby Food dazzles you with a wonderful system, a feeding system. Did you think you would be doing things a little more haphazardly? Say, fixing food for your baby when he/she is hungry? Pshaw. That idea is for liberal arts majors.
Super Baby Food has a system all right, and though it’s not anything actually new—it really boils down to making food in big batches, freezing it in baby-sized portions, then thawing or re-heating at meal time—as anyone who has watched a late-night infomercial knows, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that its system is dazzling. You know that moment in an infomercial—and if you have a new baby, you have surely seen one of those—when what you thought were merely a bunch of 15 loose and unrelated knives are suddenly revealed as parts of a much great-er, awesomely connected knife package? Who doesn’t love how 15 knives can suddenly fit to-gether like one, big, happy family? Especially when you are sleep-deprived and holding your seemingly inconsolable baby? No one, that’s who. Where’s my $19.99?
Super Baby Food’s author, Ruth Yaron, was a satellite programmer for NASA, which is the kind of background you would expect for an author whose book includes a helpful chart entitled: “A Broccoli Food Cube Assembly Line.” In it, she breaks down the steps to making broccoli food cubes for your Super Baby, along with the allotted time for each step. There are 14 steps. It ends with a total time of “Less than one hour for four broccoli bunches.”
Now, this, fellow parents, is where you could possibly start to feel bad, if you were reading this with anything other than cookbook-lurker status. I am telling you, if there is one thing you must remember, it is this: you must lurk. If you read these books with any intention of follow-ing them, you are doomed. Do not start despairing about how you will never in a million years find the slightly less than one hour required to convert what seems like a paltry four broccoli bunches into cubes: that way lies madness. Have you ever seen a child studying a Pokemon evo-lution chart? Do you know how some tots love reciting how Pichu becomes Pikachu becomes Raichu? You are one of these children now. You know that the Earth has evolved so that all wa-ter is contaminated and the milk at the grocery store is crap. The only little problem is this: you have a child to give lunch to.
But let’s worry about that later! I have a table for you to look at! (No, not the kind you put food on, silly). This table is from Super Baby Food and lists the items Yaron keeps in her “baby emergency bag,” i.e., a duffle bag in the trunk of her car. It consists of 25 suggested items in-cluding a can opener. Whose mom keeps a can opener in the trunk of her car, along with 24 other items ranging from baby sunscreen to a full change of baby clothes? I love you, Ruth Yaron. Can we go camping? Will you be my mom?
Suggestions for further consumption: Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter
Keep reading, not cooking: Part 2 of The Great Cookbook Breakdown will feature “Cookbooks for Daydreamers.”
Until then, xo
“I don’t think I should squeeze your lemon. You’ll get lemon juice in your eye.”
“A little red Corvette is a way out of my price range. I drive a Civic.”
“I’m not going to ride your pony. I’m too old for that kind of stuff now.”
“Your milkshake isn’t bringing me anywhere; I’m on the Paleo Diet.”
“Even if it’s a so-called ‘Love Gun,’ I refuse to pull the trigger. I’m terrified of guns.”
“We don’t need a sledgehammer; a regular hammer will do.”
“How are you possibly working up an appetite for an afternoon delight? We had lunch, like, an hour ago.”
“I appreciate the invitation to your candy shop, but I have to respectfully decline. I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.”
Hey, bitches! Today I acquiesce to the peer pressure of my educated, professional, affluent female friends and start ending every sentence with “bitches,” bitches.
I used to think that “bitches” as a punctuation mark was affected—an attempt to appear carefree by co-opting nihilistic Breaking Bad gangster slang, bitches. But now I have to add it to anything just to be heard, bitches. If I say, “Let’s go to brunch,” everyone ignores me, bitches. But, “Let’s go to brunch, bitches,” has my ladies calling premium vodka for a Bloody Mary in 30 seconds flat, bitches. So beginning today I’m going to be heard, bitches.
It starts at my 7 AM doctor’s appointment, bitches. When my internist asks if I’m exercising, I say, “Not as often as I should, bitches.” She looks startled and says, “What?” I repeat myself and she doesn’t just nod, she writes in my chart for a long time, bitches. She’s listening, which means she will catch even the slightest hint of a symptom of a deadly disease, bitches. Adding this one word to every sentence could save my life, bitches.
I celebrate my likely increased longevity at Starbucks by ordering: “A tall, skim, light cap for Kate, bitches.” When I pick up my drink, the name on the cup is actually, “Kate,” bitches. And when I take a sip, it’s the right kind of milk, bitches.
At the office, I greet my colleagues with, “Good morning, bitches,” “I hope we are not out of the Dulsao-flavored Nespresso pods, bitches,” “How are those spreadsheets going, bitches?” They look at me more intensely than ever before, bitches. Like they are taking me in for the first time, bitches. They don’t just hear me, they see me, bitches.
All morning, I am so audible and visible, bitches. I am a police car, lights flashing and sirens blaring as I chase the perp called indifference and arrest him, bitches. “Who else’s email is down, bitches?” “I got your UPS package by mistake, bitches.” “I signed that birthday card yesterday, bitches.”
My coworkers must be intimidated by my higher profile, because they head to lunch without me, so I go alone and order an extra-large drink because I’m dehydrated from adding this extra word to everything, bitches.
Back at my desk, my boss stops in unexpectedly and suggests I go home early, bitches. Finally, bitches! Just one extra word and she’s rewarding me because she’s noticed how hard I work so I say, “Thanks so much, bitches!” She looks behind her for another person, bitches.
In my Prius with the windows down, I tell the entertainment system to play "Firework,” but it will only play Bowie’s “Queen Bitch,” bitches. I sing it loud over and over again, bitches. Except I have to change the lyrics a little to squeeze in “bitches,” bitches. Other drivers let me merge, bitches.
I’m home before my roommates, so I drink green tea and listen to NPR and in a pensive moment brought on by today’s big revelations ask, “Do we really consider all things, bitches?”
Finally, my roommates get home from their jobs at the lab and the think tank and the law firm and the tech start-up, bitches. So I say it, bitches. The sentence I have been waiting for all day, bitches. “Let’s go to happy hour, bitches!”
And they say, “What, slut?”
Boat Parts: 2, 4, 7, 11
Names of Unvaccinated Children: 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12
One of the few remaining places in New Jersey where one can spend $100.00 and three hours without being taken into police custody. Also, a mnemonic for the seasons of the year (summer, fall, winter, spring).
Out of all of your friends’ children, what is first name of the one you find most annoying?
What is the make and model of the car you were driving when you realized you don’t actually like to share with anyone?
What is the name of the sports team whose statistics you think about whenever talk turns to finding a good preschool?
What is the middle name of the ex-boy/girlfriend whose profile photo you look at from time to time so as to comfort yourself that you made the right choice in ending that relationship?
When you make a Top 10 list of the places you got to travel to because you didn’t get married and have kids, what ranking is Paris?
What is the age your mother cites when saying, “I thought that by the time you turned ____ you’d be married”?
What was the name of the street of the Starbucks where you met the blind date who made you resolve, “Nope, that’s it, no more blind dates”?
What is the name of the town you got the hell out of when you graduated from high school?
What is the color of the fur of the cat who will be the first one to start chewing on your leg after you die alone at home and leave all of your pets without any food or water for days?
What is the ratio of the amount of times you have casual sex in the last year compared to the amount of times your married best friend assumes you’ve had casual sex?
In one word, sum up your most depressing New Year’s Eve. (Examples: “Measles.” “Robocop.”)
When taking a road trip on your own, what is the first name of the celebrity who you pretend is in the passenger seat with you?
Should you decide that you do want a child, what is the name of your friend or friend’s partner whom you would choose to father/carry that child, in a Big Chill-like scenario?
What is the title of the song that was playing when you realized that your family’s genetic line was going to end with you and your siblings?
Because I’m an idiot, I haven’t listened to Joan Rivers’ comedy that much over the years. I’m not sure why. Maybe all that plastic surgery and red carpet stuff turned me off. Maybe I’m not just an idiot, but a sexist idiot. Whatever the case, I’m finally realizing what just about everyone else knew for decades: Rivers was the one of the greatest comedians ever, with an energy level bordering on nuclear fusion, and her jokes were incredible.
Though known for her insults, Rivers could more than pull off absurdity. Some of her jokes are incredibly silly: “I got a waterbed, but my husband stocked it with trout.” Others have a wonderful literalism: “I blame my mother for my poor sex life. All she told me was, ‘The man goes on top and the woman underneath.’ For three years my husband and I slept in bunk beds.” Speaking of sex, here she offers a rebuttal to women’s optimistic sexual expectations: “Everybody talks about multiple orgasms. Multiple orgasms! I’m lucky if both sides of my toaster pop.”
I watched her DVD Don’t Get Me Started—recorded in Chicago when she was 78—three times in the past week. I don’t know if Rivers’ cells turned solar radiation into superpowers like Superman’s, but her energy level was astounding and her jokes devastating. Some riffs are as well-crafted as they are tasteless, like a run about Anne Frank, who Rivers paints as a braggy one-book author who should go back to school: “Did you ever read her fucking book? Some author. There’s no ending.” After describing annoying children on an airplane, she asks, “Where is Casey Anthony when you need her?” I don’t think any segment of society goes unscathed—including, as usual, Rivers herself. A physical bit in which she compares her breasts to a pair of slinkies is sublime. I thought Anthony Jeselnik was mean, but he’s practically a Muppet by comparison. His shtick is deliberately, obviously made-up, a professional wrestler’s shenanigans. Rivers was more like a mixed martial artist.
Somehow, her comedy was vicious yet not mean-spirited. She insulted thin people, disabled people, old people, ugly people, disabled people, children, Jenny Craig, the Kardashians, and everyone else with such glee that it was hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm. Her energy was so potent it might be what turned Mars red. I was intrigued to see Chris Rock recently say that a lot of his style comes from Joan Rivers. That’s kind of obvious now. They share a similar energy and showmanship that make it impossible to look away: if one joke doesn’t land, another is already on the way. Rivers, like Rock, was a fastball pitcher, and she never lost her good stuff.
For Rivers’ Best Joke Ever, I’m spoiled for choices, but I have to go with what might be her most personal and dark joke: “My husband killed himself. And it was my fault. We were making love and I took the bag off my head.”
Let’s look at this joke piece by piece: “My husband killed himself.” This statement of fact does not get things off to a rollicking start. It’s practically anti-comedy.
“And it was my fault.” This is even less funny, if that’s possible. Now we’ve got a real suicide plus a widow blaming herself. Not exactly an episode of Friends.
Finally, we get a punch line that turns the entire scenario upside down: “We were making love and I took the bag off my head.”
Wow. This joke is complete validation of the idea, put forth by George Carlin and others, that you can joke about anything—as long as you’re aiming at the right target.
Look at all the ground this joke covers: It deals with the pain of suicide. It addresses survivor guilt. And it makes fun of Rivers. You shouldn’t be able to tell a joke about your spouse’s suicide, and you probably can’t. Joan Rivers could.
But that’s not a surprise, since she could seemingly do anything, and she wouldn’t let anything—age, sexism, tragedy, or bullshit—stop her. In Piece of Work, Rivers discusses some setbacks, then offers some advice I’m making my personal mantra: “One continues. Don’t look back. Who gives a shit?”
You recently published an article titled “We’re Officially in the Era of the Big Booty” by Partricia Garcia. You’d think, as a big-bootied woman, that I might greet this article with open arms, support, excitement, and a sigh of relief, but you’d be wrong. So wrong. I hated your article.
For women like me, acceptance of a big booty is not a fad isolated to a singular era. Big butts are not bell-bottoms, nor are they grungy flannels, overalls, skinny jeans, or any other fashion trend that comes and goes with the seasons. Girls with big asses can’t ditch them as soon as they go out of style. Our asses are our bodies, not an accessory. I did not see a big ass on the runway at New York Fashion Week and run out to the nearest Forever 21 to get a knock off so that I could be hip and cool and current. I was born with this ass. The time I have spent and will spend with my ass is not limited to an era. My ass is me, it always has been, and it always will be.
Identifying big asses as something that is currently on trend disgusts me, and your statement “a large butt was, [in the past] not something one aspired to, rather something one tried to tame in countless exercise classes” is a blanket statement that makes me want to punch you in the face. How many big-assed women did you interview to come to that conclusion? Where are they from and what are their backgrounds like? I was 12 years old the first time I realized my ass was extraordinarily large. I was handing back essays in my 7th grade English class, walking up and down the narrow aisles of desks. I turned a 180 to hand a paper to a student I had already walked passed and in doing so I knocked another student’s binder off his desk with my ass. Kids laughed and made jokes. I shrugged and went about my business. This experience could have sent me down an adolescent hormone fueled downward spiral of distorted body image, self-hatred, and eating disorders, but it didn’t. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I have never once aspired to have any ass other than the one I was born with, and I have never once tried to “tame” my ass with exercise. Did you interview me, or women like me, before you wrote your article? I was made aware of the size of my ass almost 20 years ago, and we’ve been BFFs ever since because it is me and I love me and society’s collective idea of what beauty is and isn’t is of no interest to me and never has been. Did you consider this perspective at all?
Your article references famous curvy women in an attempt to, I assume, subconsciously tell your readers that celebrities are paving the way for ass acceptance with catchy songs like “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child and that we commoners should follow suit. You try to valiantly challenge mainstream society through song, asking, “Can you handle it?” What I think you’ve missed is the opportunity not to ask society if it can handle a big ass as a new idea of beauty when it’s been conditioned to reject certain body types in favor of others, but instead to ask if society can handle the woman attached to the ass. My ass does nothing particularly worthy, simply by existing. It doesn’t contribute to society in any way. But my ass is a physical symbol of my strength, and I use that strength to help my friends move, to support my legs during walks to end Alzheimer’s, and to swim fellow river-goers’ rafts back out to the current when they’ve gone off course and gotten stuck on rocks. My physical strength empowers my spirit. My physical strength is what I use as a foundation for emotional strength. I use the power derived from my big ass to propel myself mentally and spiritually and I am fierce. I am force to be reckoned with. Vogue, Ms. Garcia, next time, can you ask society if it is ready for that?
“We’re Officially in the Era of the Big Booty” is well intentioned, sure, but is misguided and does more harm to women with big asses than good. Your article talks about Iggy Azalea and Jennifer Lopez, who I love, but who are only a tiny sample of big-bootied women in the public eye, and who, unfortunately, use their asses as a means of sexualizing women. Have you ever had attention drawn to a part of your body that you have no control over? Let me assure you, I do not want society hyper-sexualizing me, and women like Iggy Azalea and Jennifer Lopez covering themselves with what appears to be buckets and buckets of clear L.A Looks hair gel and seductively rubbing it all over their bodies reinforces the idea that women want their bodies objectified and want the associated attention that comes with objectification. Have you ever been told, as you leave the grocery store, that you’re going to start an earthquake walking around with all that booty? I have. Are you a white woman and have you ever been asked why you’re built like you’re black? I am, and I have, and all I could think to say was “I’m built like me.” Have you ever been asked how you fit into your jeans? The list goes on, and none of it is awesome. Please stop perpetuating this attitude with your articles.
I think I’ve said all I have to say to you, Vogue and Ms. Garcia, but I’d like to leave you with these words from Nike, who celebrate big booties in a way that I support (in an ad that ran four years ago, mind you, so technically you’re late to the Big-Booty Party):
“My butt is big and round like the letter C, and ten thousand lunges have made it bigger, but not smaller, and that’s just fine. It’s a space heater for my side of the bed. It’s my ambassador to those who walk behind me. It’s a border collie that herds skinny women away from the best deals at clothing sales. My butt is big and that’s just fine.”
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE
- Commissioner Jackson
- Commissioner Rand
- Commissioner Hegel
- Commissioner Clemens
- Commissioner Levin
COM. JACKSON: Please go ahead sir, you have five minutes.
SOCRATES: If it pleases the Board, I prefer to investigate this subject collectively. There is one question in particular, a most vexing question about the nature of the testing process, which has been dogging my mind.
COM. JACKSON: I’m sorry, sir, that’s not how public comment works.
SOCRATES: Is it not?
COM. JACKSON: No.
SOCRATES: Does the problem lie in my desire to pose a question, or in my assumption that the education of our children is a cooperative effort?
COM. JACKSON: You speak, we listen. That’s how it works.
COM. RAND: I advise the speaker he has four and a half minutes remaining.
SOCRATES: Very well, so I may ask certain questions, but not others?
COM. HEGEL: If the speaker is unfamiliar with the public comment process, we can answer his questions regarding the rules of order. Otherwise, please go ahead. The floor is yours.
SOCRATES: And the walls and ceiling as well, and even the heavens, if I might only obtain a satisfactory answer to this question: Which format of instruction is more beneficial to the youthful mind––the one in which the teacher presents a series of questions, and the student is obligated to answer, or the opposing, in which the teacher provides only the answers and the student only the questions?
COM. HEGEL: Again, that is not the nature of public comment.
SOCRATES: But am I not simply inquiring about the speaking process, with which, as you pointed out, I am unfamiliar? And also the rules of order––for what are the rules of order but the succession in which questions and answers are presented? Therefore I ask, should a student be judged solely on his ability to furnish solutions, or might he be judged on his curiosity as well?
(COMMISIONER LEVIN removes a handkerchief from his coat pocket and emphatically blows his nose.)
SOCRATES: I shall assume your silence gives consent to the notion that both forms of tutelage are worthy of consideration?
COM. RAND: Three and a half.
COM. CLEMENS: The man can see the clock well enough. We don’t need to count it down for him.
SOCRATES: But let us continue our investigation, shall we? I believe I am beginning to apprehend the rules of order, and as you have so sagaciously satisfied my first inquiry, I think I shall put good use to this overabundance of time and present another question to the board. And I shall be most fascinated to hear your responses; do not trouble yourselves, for I will make sure to adhere to the parliamentary procedure. Only, allow me to request a definition of terms, so that I might be on proper footing in this discourse. Would you agree that if some thing can be bought and sold, and has a value, that we call it a “good”?
COM. RAND: Fair enough.
SOCRATES: And if something has a value, is it therefore a good?
COM. CLEMENS: Sounds reasonable.
SOCRATES: I appreciate your support, Commissioners. We have reached some accord, then, on this notion: that the buying and selling of goods endows them with value. My confusion––and perhaps it is a confusion of semantics––relates to certain foods in the cafeteria. I refer to those ornately decorated packages of savory and sweet treats among which are the Lays potato chips, Rice Krispie Treats, Oreo cookies, Cheetos, and also the ambrosial beverages Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, Fanta, and others of which I am forgetting the names. It is generally accepted, is it not, that these products, while most beautiful and charming to the eye and tongue, offer little or no nutritional value to the youthful soul and body?
COM. RAND: The items you mention are on the snack cart, not in the lunch line.
SOCRATES: I see. And though we admit freely that these snack foods do nothing to nourish the children, but only contribute to the rotting of their teeth and innards, we offer them for sale during the lunch hour, and present them as goods. Is this not the basic economic tenet we discussed earlier? I only wish to clarify our definition, as it strikes me that we have a limited time to impart these economic and philosophical lessons to the children.
COM. JACKSON: It would be of no use to argue with you, sir. A healthy lunch is offered free of charge to every student. If they wish to purchase something from the snack cart, they are free to do so.
SOCRATES: Of course. But be patient with an old fool, as I am simply trying to understand the notion of what is good, and what has value. If I were a younger person I might be perplexed, for the examples of this principle are scarce on school grounds. On the one hand, books and wisdom, and healthy meals, are given away freely, and on the other, the items on the snack cart can only be bought…
(A blaring buzzer sound fills the room, and a red light blinks above SOCRATES’s head. His voice is lost in the din. He turns full round, bewildered. A security officer ushers him away from the dais. A primly dressed woman in glasses takes his place, flipping through a notepad.)
COM. JACKSON: May I remind everyone if we want to get out of here by midnight, we need to focus on the two main issues up for vote tonight: the adoption of the new Common Core standards, and the approval of this year’s budget.
SOCRATES (from the floor): But are these not precisely the topics…
COM. JACKSON (banging the gavel): Order!
COM. RAND: I see we have a lot of people waiting to speak tonight. I move to curtail the public comment to three minutes instead of five.
COM. HEGEL: Second.
He was classified as ”owner surrender,” when both his humans were deployed to Afghanistan
Rescued from a high kill shelter in S.C. (or N.C.)
Adoption return due to heartworm and ringworm positive
Brought in from a hoarding situation (one of 23 dogs)
Found wandering around the University of Alabama campus after being abandoned by Kappa Sigma when no longer a cute puppy (fraternity symbol on bandana around neck)
Dumped at a vet office with a note saying, “Not good with cats.”
Mouth not “soft enough” for bird hunting
Released from a laboratory
Airlifted from Russia after Olympics
Smuggled in from Mexico/San Juan/China
Discovered tied to a fuel pump at a truck stop
Showed up on front porch during a snowstorm