Youth of America,
We know you are busy. We know you are hard at work solving the burning questions of our age, such as: What will we do about overpopulation? and How does one accurately calculate mortgage equity withdrawal? But we’d like to encourage you to stop for a moment, to skip your Lyceum meet-up this week, and to apply to the first-ever McSweeney’s Student Short Story Contest, guest judged by an illustrious, soon-to-be-named writer.
Contestants must be students (undergraduate or graduate) in the United States, and stories must be under 7,500 words, but that is, thankfully, where the rules end. The winner of the contest will receive $500 and their story will be published in McSweeney’s 51, in August 2015. A few stories will be selected as honorable mentions, and the names of those stories, as well as the names of their authors, will also be printed in McSweeney’s 51.
We will be accepting submissions from July 30 – August 31, 2014. To cover the cost and time of our small staff and our guest judge, submitters must pay an entrance fee of $55—but, get this, with your entrance fee, you also get a full year’s subscription (at a discount) to McSweeney’s Quarterly. Isn’t that a great deal? It is indeed a great deal. To learn more about what this subscription will include, check out this letter.
Along with your submission, please include a brief cover letter that mentions your hometown, the college or university you attend, and your year in school. Please also include your contact information. To enter the contest online, please go here.
If you would prefer to enter by physical mail, please send your story and cover letter, along with a check or money order, to:
McSweeney’s Student Short Story Contest
849 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA, 94110
Please make all checks payable to McSweeney’s Publishing.
The Editors of McSweeney’s
“Beheading the Unicorn: An Adventure in Surgery”
Journal of the American College of Surgeons
“Child Psychiatry Perspectives. If You See a Unicorn You are Obligated to Report It”
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
“Polymyositis: Not a Unicorn or Mythological Beast… But Maybe a Duck?”
The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology
“How to Show That Unicorn Milk is a Chronobiotic: The Regression-to-the-Mean Statistical Artifact”
“Unicorn Tapestries, Horned Animals, and Prion Disease”
Emerging Infectious Diseases
“Rats, Cats, and Elephants, But Still No Unicorn: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells from New Species”
Cell Stem Cell
“Never Play Leapfrog With a Unicorn”
Crit Care Med
This Testomania diagnoses your rights under the U.S. constitution.
Robbie is so much better at canvassing than I am, it’s not even funny. Look at him, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, relaxed and louche. A modern-day Fred Astaire leaning on his invisible streetlamp. The stragglers of 7th Avenue actually stop for him. He has an urgent look in his eyes that contradicts his stance. People want to know what’s up and before you know it, they’re signing his clipboard, filling out “Address Line #2.” If there’s drilling or construction or if it’s lunch hour, I can’t make out the nuances of his pitch. But otherwise I can. He’s animated and he enunciates. I can hear him from fifteen feet away where I stand, facing him, wearing a matching T-shirt three sizes smaller.
It was my idea to do this. I called Systems Social. I printed out our applications. I did the research. I am the people person here, the one who cares. My summer internship at The Department of Environmental Protection fell through and so did Robbie’s (interning for a state senator—I guess his mom had some kind of falling out with the senator’s wife over a property line and a lilac bush and Robbie’s resume was collateral damage). So I said “I still want to do something meaningful with our summer” and Robbie said “I don’t give a shit anymore, I just want to be outside” and I said “I have an idea.” As it turns out, I am only a people person with people I already know. Which apparently means I’m just a person. Not like Robbie, who is a whirling dervish of charm and persuasion. Forget talking the leaves off the trees. He could get the whole tree to uproot itself with a well-timed wink. He makes his quota by noon. Today he has obtained the signatures and financial pledges of nineteen people and it’s not even 2 PM. I have obtained five and one gentleman resides at 666 Seal Clubber Lane. So: four.
Robbie broke up with me two weeks ago. I find people like to indulge in the alternate reality of a clean breakup. They say things like “it wouldn’t be so bad I didn’t live in the same building as Sheila.” I can no longer muster empathy for those people. To be fair, the only reason I know this is a common fantasy is because I have been venting about Robbie to anyone who will listen and this is what comes back over the transom. Still. I’ll give them all something to cry about: Try spending six hours a day facing down the man who left you for another woman.
There’s a joke Robbie once told me: What’s grosser than gross? Siamese twins attached at the mouth and one of them throwing up. I ask you: What’s more heart-breaking than heart-breaking?
Cho Hee is her name and she is a certified nail technician at Divine Diva across the street. I think she’s older than us but not by a lot. She is beautiful, despite some unfortunate hair accessory choices. She smiles more than I ever have and she doesn’t have any pores on her face. It’s the weirdest thing. Robbie is (sorry, was) my first real boyfriend, my college sweetheart. We’re both juniors and International Relations majors. I tutored him for finals. That’s how we became a couple. What no one tells you about getting left for someone else is how stacked the cards are against you. Because in addition to wondering what your boyfriend (sorry, ex-boyfriend) is thinking, you get the added bonus of wondering what this random Korean woman is thinking. It seems unfair. Mathematically.
Systems Social gives us an hourly rate commensurate with a part-time barista, but mostly we work on commission. The majority of the money does go to charity but not all of it. It’s confusing where it all goes. The company allocates the funds using some kind of global desperation algorithm to which I am not privy. This doesn’t seem to bother Robbie but it bothers me. For years the streets were dominated by the five gangs of good will: Children, Animals, The Environment, LGBT and Uteruses. Systems Social unites them all—the theory being that people don’t have 60 seconds for women’s rights, but they do have 60 seconds for a shot at fixing the whole planet. It’s not a bad idea. Unfortunately for the men and women on the ground, it can be tricky to encapsulate our mission while getting body-checked by hurried businessmen and careless tourists. Unless you’re Robbie. Robbie, who will single-handedly save the life of every transgender ivory-billed woodpecker in need of free birth control.
I wonder if he gets off on it, watching Cho Hee rub and scrub other women’s feet, the top of her ponytail just visible behind a reflexology chart.
When things were good with us, I loved canvassing. We complained about it because that’s what you do, but I loved it. Watching my boyfriend standing in the middle of the street, staring straight at me while people whooshed around us in both directions? It was like a music video. It made me feel alive. After I accused him of having a wandering eye (“it’s my job to have a wandering eye,” was his defense), things felt more pistols-at-dawn. Pistols between noon and six, to be precise.
Canvassing is naturally demoralizing work. So few people can say “no” normally. People yell at you for speaking to them without being spoken to first. Like you’re some kind of emotional mugger and their lives will fall to pieces if they treat you like a person. They yell at Robbie more. He takes the nut jobs and I take the creeps. This is how gender works. Still, we made a good team. A jogger would pass one of us, downstream or upstream, and ignore either Robbie or me on the first round. Then one of us would get him six strides later with a “He try to get you to sign that pre-nup, too?” or “She’s too pretty to be trusted, right?” and this little heart-shaped light bulb would go off in the jogger’s head. Romance is as humanizing as canvassing is demoralizing. Once you have romance, you can save the whales and the orphans and the lot of them. One guy went so far as to tell us we should “take our show on the road” and Robbie spread his hands, holding his clipboard against his forearm, bowing to the sidewalk. I’m telling you: the man has a knack. His political career will not be thwarted by a lilac bush.
We used to laugh about the fearful ones, the ones who popped in their headphones or placed fake phone calls or pretended to receive disconcerting emails just as they passed us. Do we look that scary? Who raised these people to be so petrified of disappointing others? The fearful ones want us to think they are busy but what they really are is resentful of our youth. That’s what no one can say. Though, how does that account for my own behavior? I have never told anyone this but I avert my eyes when I spot other canvassers.
I have crossed the street to avoid people like me.
He kept using the bathroom at Divine Diva. That’s how this Cho Hee business started. He said their bathroom was cleaner than the one at Subway and he liked the smell of the hand soap. It wasn’t the hand soap he liked the smell of. Obviously. I’m the one who cares about the environment. It’s hypocritical of him to date Cho Hee. Do you have any idea the chemicals they use to remove a gel manicure? You don’t want to know. She pretends either not to see me or not to speak English. I want to tell her that I stand out here all day, watching people act out the same minor ruse. She can’t fool me. I thought about learning how to say as much in Korean, just to mess with her. But things are awkward enough as it is.
After Robbie broke up with me (he looked at me one day and said “Cho Hee and I are going to lunch” and I said “great” and he said “and by lunch I mean dinner”) the fissures in my canvassing skills revealed themselves. Without the joint performance, me in the role of magician’s assistant, I’ve realized I’m no good at asking people for things. As hard as it is to say “no,” it’s even harder to hear it. “No” is tough all over. I worry about the implications of this fact. Will the world steamroll me? Am I just a girl in a box, waiting to be sawed in half? But then something will happen—I’ll hop away in time to spare my foot the phlegm of a homeless man—and I think maybe I’m being too hard on myself.
“Hey,” Robbie speaks to me for the first time today, “I’m getting a bottle of water. Do you want one?”
I nod yes and prematurely thank him. He goes inside the Duane Reade, letting the automatic doors swallow him. It’s hot and my skin is burning. Yo, Cho Hee! Expose yourself to more UV rays than the hand dryer and let’s see if your skin’s so perfect! I have this pocket-sized fantasy in which Robbie has noticed my scorching forehead and reemerges with suntan lotion. He insists on applying it himself and I shut my eyes and let him. It’s very intimate even though we’re standing in the middle of a street on the most crowded island in the western hemisphere. The potential of wish fulfillment is killing me. It’s so distracting, imagining what an interaction like that could mean for us, that I almost don’t appreciate the moment. Facing the oncoming sidewalk traffic without Robbie looking back at me is oddly thrilling. I am a vampire looking in the mirror. I am one hand clapping. I see each face with a faultless clarity. I wonder if I register to these people as what I am or if I’m merely a lost girl in an ugly T-shirt. Can they see me? Can they tell I want something from them? Because I do. I want something from all of them.
Apple employees call Cupertino headquarters the “Mothership.”
This is where the big stuff happens. iPhones, iPads, the Genius Bar, iTunes, the glass storefronts, all the ‘Think Different’ ideas burst out of this not-so-secret hive in sunny California. What will the company roll out next? Software? Hardware? A new way to sell music? A new app market? By golly, a watch perhaps? If it’s a wallet, like the rumors say now, the whole world will make that WOMP-WOMP sad sound.
Somebody over there, right this second, knows the truth. Maybe one of the big names who brainstorm and brunch, like Tim, Phil, Jony, Angela, or now sometimes Dre.
Steve Jobs used to walk those halls.
Wired recently posted an online portfolio of the concept art for the new facility, which just broke ground. Plans call for a giant, see-through ring, which lives up to the Mothership moniker even better than the current campus, already a heady bastion of glass and green.
It’s hard not to be curious about the place. You don’t have to be a fan to appreciate the biggest company in the world, just like you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the Sistine Chapel. Sometimes a place is interesting because you want to know why so many other people are interested in it.
That’s not just Kool-Aid talking; it’s basic economics as applied to social interaction. Even if you personally choose to regard a gem as just any old rock, you’d be an idiot to not to pick up a huge diamond you found on the street, because it represents immense value to others. I’d believe your saying Cupertino holds no interest for you, if you could prove you’ve never, ever once clicked on a story lead, personality quiz, or video someone recommended to you on social media.
I guess my cynical side reminds me that a corporate Mount Olympus is still pretty damn corporate.
It does call to me, though.
I’d always wanted to visit the “Coop,” but I didn’t make enough as a retail employee to warrant spending my vacation time buying a plane ticket and renting a car just to pop into the Company store and the lobby. Retail employees don’t have corporate access. I could take that selfie in front of the 1 INFINITE LOOP sign, but security would stop me from getting much deeper, which kind of only maked me want it more.
Want—and Apple knows this better than most—can be encouraged.
There is a wild phenomenon in MMO’s (massive multi-player online games) through which meaningless tokens take on a perceived social value. The funny thing is, perceived social value equals social value.
For example, your avatar might earn some badge for having completed a particular mission, visiting a remote virtual location, or even taking part in a limited holiday event. Badges do not affect gameplay at all. They can, however, be displayed to other players as a title or even as a visual effect like a pet creature that follows you around.
Beginners usually play with a focus on playing the game rather straightforwardly—as they assume it is designed—by completing quests. Exploring and socializing are baked into the game, motivated by mechanics like offering treasures, which are available only to groups. This inevitably guides new players to meet higher-level players, possibly even leaders recruiting for guilds.
Higher-level players game the game. Sure, they enjoy killing orcs. But they also bask in the geek celebrity of the badge, which declares they’ve gone out of their way to slay 5,000 orcs. You may think you’re immune, but no, you are a social being, and as soon as you watch people laugh and virtually applaud the players who collect these silly, meaningless badges, you start wondering if it might be fun to get one yourself. Meaning has been seeded.
I bring that up, because I’d noticed that in my store, only Managers, Creatives, and Geniuses have their face on their employee key cards. Everyone else’s card is white. How do you get your face on your key card? You get it by visiting Cupertino.
Managers, Creatives, and Geniuses, the senior positions in the store, are flown on the company’s dime to Cupertino for training, Apple finishing school, if you like. You’re paid salary to take classes and partake in tradition. It makes the pilgrimage seem that much more of a reward.
After a year or two in Retail, when I was finally told my trip to Cupertino had been scheduled, I was psyched.
Word spread, and soon coworkers were asking me to pick up souvenirs for them at the Company store. Maybe a limited-edition hoodie, maybe a pen, maybe just a key card chain with the logo on it. Some piece of the nigh unattainable.
Even before the trip, I’d become one of the few and the proud who could provide Cupertino schwag. They say the store has stuff you can’t order online. I’d like to believe that, so I’ve never actually checked. They probably sell little Statues of Liberty everywhere, but it’s nicer to get one from a friend who actually went to New York City.
I was so giddy the morning I got to the airport, I skipped coffee. I realized my coworkers and I had never seen each other with luggage. A ton of obligatory “before” selfies got taken on iPhones, and we eyed anyone in our general demographic, wondering if they, too, were Creatives or Geniuses from local stores taking the same flight.
We squeezed in three hours of sightseeing in San Francisco before driving down to San Jose, where we were staying. Hotels in Silicon Valley proper, we couldn’t afford, apparently.
The first morning split into those of us humble enough to partake in the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast and those who demanded a Starbucks hit. Meat-market radar went into overdrive, but isn’t that par for the course the first day of any camp?
We caravanned to school.
On the down side, we learned our classes were not in the proper campus at 1 INFINITE LOOP, but in a low building reserved for Retail Training on a side street full of auxiliary buildings. No wonder they’re building a new facility—they’re already flooding annexes!
On the up side, our trainers were fellow employees who used to have our jobs. They came to Cupertino for a few weeks each year to teach folks like us before going back to their stores, which means we could someday become them!
It was hilarious to share war stories from every part of the country, especially with coworkers who got it. Crazy-bad customers all seemed the same from story to story, but the great customers, the ones who make the job worth it, we found, managed to shine each in a different way.
I envied the problems the Midwesterners faced. They seemed so much less frantic than those of us from either coast! I felt like there could be such amazing cross-pollination. Ideas our store concerning line maintenance, customer clarifications, distribution, what have you, could be transformative if properly shared with our fellow employees!
Inspiration required a lot of fast-food lunches. Mostly tacos. There is a killer burger joint where we had dinner a few times, plus a campy sushi place where a train brings out the dishes. One liquor store would even stamp their receipts as food purchases so that we could expense them! Life was kind.
On the Creative side, sticking to the Socratic method and empowering students truly challenged old teaching habits. On the Genius side, one particular know-it-all got embarrassed when someone used Remote to get into his training terminal and make it beep uncontrollably.
The culprit revealed himself to me over beers one night. He was from New York and liked to keep one step ahead of the game. He figured robots were going to take all of our jobs someday, so he just wanted to make sure he could get a job fixing those robots. True genius.
Geniuses take an ESD (electro-static discharge) safety test, and vie for a special skull sticker if they get a perfect score. I’d seen that in the key card carrying case of some Geniuses in my store. Now I knew what it meant.
The nights were sweet, but got a little weird. Some folks were lucky enough to hook up, just like in camp. And just like in camp, these couples of convenience usually flamed out before the last night, leaving the rest of us acting as buffers and psychologists. But we were used to that from our jobs, so it was all-good.
Last year, a new institution went up: the enshrining of names. For its 30th anniversary, Apple printed ten enormous posters with the names of every single employee. These were put around the Cupertino campus.
No other company would make that gesture, which sets Apple apart for having done something quasi-permanent for its staff, reportedly 40,000 strong.
On the other hand, what does it mean? Aren’t these like hieroglyphs on a pharaoh’s tomb? Am I the kind of moviegoer who stays to clap for that one friend, buried in a block of 1,000 names under “Lighting Technicians”?
I guess it’s hard to thank and memorialize 40,000 individuals. I’m impressed the idea survived. Someone there championed it.
The posters are, if nothing else, a litmus test of how you feel about your job. If your name’s John Smith, you can zero-in on your true location by searching a database using your employee number. Maybe your name is close to your friend’s name. Maybe it’s close to someone famous. Maybe you save that experience to be a fun puzzle to play when you finally get there. It’s one more connection to have.
I find that even the most jaded of Anons (the anonymous, venting tweeters among Apple retail employees) still wonder about their name and how to see it live before they leave the company.
A trainer pointed out a clique of attractive women gliding through the cafeteria while we bumbled about looking for open seats like freshmen the first day of high school. They were the iTunes marketing team. They looked like the Mean Girls, all grown up. They were supposedly nice. They’re in charge of deciding who lives and dies on iTunes Recommends, a popularity metric that can make or break a musician’s career.
Nowadays, the celebrity sightings one might hope to catch in the all-gourmet Cupertino cafeteria include Tim Cook, Angela Ahrendts, and hey, maybe Dr. Dre if he’s visiting from Beats. Most of my female friends would cut off a finger to bump into Brit designer superstar Jony Ive.
But back in the day, it was all about catching a glimpse of the one and only Steve Jobs.
Like meeting intermediary training layers of handlers before you ever addressed Her Majesty the Queen, you were prepped either by your host trainers or by your store leaders (or both) to never run up and talk to Steve Jobs. He’s got more important things on his mind, they assured you.
There are darker legends about his quizzing people in elevators about what they did for the company, and if it sounded like bull, that person would find him- or herself fired.
This dates me, but he was still around when I visited. I missed him in the cafeteria by one minute on three different occasions, which drives me nuts.
On the other hand, I heard a story directly from a Genius that I have to share.
This Genius, like me, had been warned not to address Steve Jobs. However, one day, sitting at a table with other Geniuses there for finishing school, they saw Steve walking around, unable to find somewhere to sit. We’ve all been there in some lunchroom at some point in our lives.
This Genius invited Steve over. Steve said sure and sat down. Jobs was completely gracious and asked them each about where they worked. He even expressed a bit of envy. A Genius, he explained, gets to take on a case, diagnose it, fix the problem, and hopefully counsel the customer. There was a specific joy in taking something from the beginning through to the end.
Steve said that he never quite got to do that anymore. He started things others would finish. He finished things others had begun. There was such a flood of projects, strategies, markets, big-picture decisions, lawsuits, and finances for him to attend to, he asked the table of his retail employees to try and appreciate what they got to do and own from start to finish.
I wonder how many times that story’s been passed on. I don’t think anyone ever wrote it down, so it’s rather quaintly oral history. Maybe it’s too sentimental to go viral; people prefer to preserve the sense of mad genius, the rumors of high-functioning sociopathy.
Only in Cupertino could Steve Jobs (to whom The Onion paid memorial tribute by calling him “The Last American Who Knew What the Fuck He Was Doing”) have lunch with a couple of yahoos who work for the people who work for the people who work for him. He related. He spoke to them on the intimate, engaging level of appreciating process. Man, I dig that. Who ever says anything over lunch worth remembering?
I finally got my picture taken for a new key card. It was a bit pixelated, I have to say, but I’d been made. The Company store was small, but it’s cleverly designed to have price points from a few dollars right up to the thousands. You get to pick your poison. It’s hard not to think, when I will ever be here again?
It was genuinely sad leaving Cupertino, not only because I didn’t know if I’d ever see these comrades again, but because it was clear it would take a serious promotion to get me inside again.
I had a slow-motion moment when I walked back into my store, like in the movies. How are things different here? Am I different? What do I have to look forward to now?
I wondered if I should try to become a Field Trainer. Because the best thing about working for Apple is the cool people you work with, much more than the Russian roulette of customers you serve. Seems like Corporate has already figured that out, if one can get back there. Cupertino is the palace, and the sea of Apple retail employees is the moat.
If you’re a writer, I bet there’s some dark fan fiction to be mined, about the suicide rate for people who can’t get back into Hogwarts, Oz, or Narnia. What must the debriefings have been like for the abductees who walk out of the glittering UFOs at the end of Close Encounters?
Can I stand a few more years of this retail crap for some perceived shot of getting back into the Mothership? Is that my dreamland, my ultimate goal? Maybe, if I had studied engineering or industrial design.
I don’t know if I have the stomach or the luck to get back up there, but I can tell you, it was a sweet ride.
From: Leah Bush
Date: Mon, Jul 28, 2014
Subject: RE: THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF ROMANTIC LETTERS PRESENTS THE FIRST ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON HOW TO TELL SAMANTHA I REALLY LIKE HER
Hi Bobby (Jason? Can I call you Jason?),
I’ve never written a proposal before—project proposal or love proposal—but I have engaged the questions you asked even though I’m not actually engaged. Actually, I’m a high school senior, but more on that in the abstract and C.V.
Title: “Love in the Time of High School.” (I have to read Love in the Time of Cholera, among other books, for my AP English Literature class. I’m responding to your call for submissions because I feel like procrastinating. There’s still some summer left, right? Right?)
Abstract: High school is an often overlooked breeding ground (of knowledge), one where learning takes place both within and beyond the classroom. The knowledge borne of my research experience—and it’s not complete; I still have one year of high school to go, assuming I don’t fail again—has shed some light on the murky shadows that surround love. Specifically, when I read Plato’s Symposium in 10th grade, I wrote an A+ research paper comparing Aristophanes’ notion of the soul mate to a similar notion that appears in the Hannah Montana song, “He Could Be the One.” That same year, I also read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I found the number of semicolons in the novel unbearable, though, so don’t use too many semicolons in your note or tweet or whatever the conference guides you to choose. The moral of Jane and her eventual husband Mr. Rochester’s story is that even if you do something so outrageous as conceal an insane, undivorceable wife from your current lover as Mr. Rochester did to Jane, things still work out in the end. Basically, it’s harder than you think to fuck up.
As a sophomore, I tried my hardest not to fall for anyone, and it was a pretty miserable year. Junior year, however, I started to like like a young man named David. We didn’t have AP English Language together—he had it 6th period, and I 7th—but we did have chemistry together. (And how fortunate! AP Chem is a double-period class at my school, and we were together 3rd and 4th period). Near the end of this past year, though, our English teacher, Mrs. Crawford, assigned a project on any dystopian novel of the students’ choice. We had the option of working individually or in groups, and the groups could consist of students within a class or across multiple classes. Naturally, I asked David if he’d like to work with me. He was hesitant at first, but he was hooked after I read him the first line of one of my favorites, Catch-22: “It was love at first sight.” (Two comments: 1. Catch-22 Isn’t technically a dystopian novel, but, according to Mrs. Crawford, all literature falls in one of two categories: satire or dystopia. (When I asked her which Twilight fell into, I expected her to say dystopia because society can disintegrate into nothing lower than sparkly vampires. In all her cunning insight, Mrs. Crawford responded, “That’s not literature.”) 2. Further research is necessary to determine whether a novel whose description of “love” consists almost entirely of one night stands is an appropriate novel with which to tell someone you might love him or her.) The project went so well that in my yearbook David asked for more book recommendations! He even drew a potato in my yearbook! If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Future projects, which I plan to undertake this school year, include making David a Valentine’s Day card that says in white Comic Sans, “I have a Major Major Major Major crush on you” on top of a background of a WWII plane to make clear my allusion to Catch-22. Also, even though schedules for the coming school year aren’t available, I’m pretty sure we’ll have at least one class together: physics. (My school isn’t huge, and there’s historically been only one AP Physics C class, which we both requested to take.) And isn’t chemistry just applied physics, and physics applied chemistry?
C.V.: I’m a girl. (I don’t know how to highlight in email, so I redefined “highlight” to mean “change the font color to pink.”)
The abstract covers my relevant high school love experience. I hope it is of value to you even though it is from the perspective of, rather than about, the unrequited love of a girl.
I tutor, which has been a nice way of getting paid while improving upon my social interaction skills.
I got a 2330 on my SAT. David got a 2330 on his SAT. Coincidence? I think not. (For all of the old people out there, College Board added a writing section in 2005. Like the math and verbal sections, the writing one is scored out of a maximum of 800 points.)
I play tennis. I highlighted this because my mom happened to see David’s mom at the airport—my mom doesn’t know I <3 David. I don’t know if David’s mom knows what David thinks of me. I don’t know if David knows what David thinks of me. Love. It’s complicated—but my mom told me that David’s mom told her that David has started to pick up tennis.
Statement of the Author’s Estimate of how likely it is that Samantha will simply laugh at the note and post a pic of it on Instagram, thereby ruining [your] entire life: I think it’s highly likely that Samantha will post a picture of the note on Instagram. See, the whole purpose of a female’s teenage years is to get the maximum number of likes possible on all pictures posted to Facebook, Instagram, etc. When I was asked to senior prom as a junior—by another boy in my chemistry class, no less—I made a picture of the _prom_posal my cover photo on Facebook. It garnered 86 likes, which far outnumbers the sum of the likes of my 8 other cover photos, which totals 25, for an average non-prom cover photo likeage (that’s a technical term) of 3.125 likes per picture. The only logical conclusion is that the demonstration of love in a cover photo has resulted in a 2,752% increase in my cover photo’s likes, and there’s no reason to think that Samantha’s experience should differ greatly; female teenage humans comprise a very homogenous population. However, I don’t think she’d “simply laugh at the note.” I wouldn’t at least. To ensure no hurt feelings, I hope we can discuss the content of your note further at today’s conference, which can only happen if you accept my proposal. Maybe then we can talk about the possibility that your note becomes a part of her Snapchat story.
— Leah Bush
Date: Wed, Jul 16, 2014
Subject: This New Rap Song…
Hi, interesting article but nowhere do I see the rap song in question. If this isn’t some sort of vague joke, I think it’s likely an oversight. Can you please fix up the article with the relevant details. ty.
Date: Fri, Jul 11, 2014
Subject: Fake Massachusetts town names
There really IS a town in Massachusetts named “Braintree”! Really!
I don’t know what they were thinking (or smoking) when they thought that name but it is true.
— JJ in R.I., somewhat near Braintree
Editor’s response: [Sigh.]
From: Jodie Leidecker
Date: Thu, Jul 10, 2014
Subject: Our Great Nation
Our country just celebrated another year of freedom, which has caused me to become reflective. I am very patriotic and so glad I was born in the United States because if I were born in India in the social class I come from then my parents would have sold me to somebody who would have cut off my arms and legs and made me roll in the dirt begging for alms, just like in a Charles Dickens’ novel but in modern times. Although if my ancestor John had stayed in Prussia and not come over to Kentucky after the failed revolution in 1848 and the bloodline had survived the other crop failures, famines, political upheavals, and major problems like World War I and World War II, then I (and my cousins on my dad’s side) would be now enjoying free government-sponsored health care and six weeks’ vacation at a spa resort in Baden-Baden every summer instead of spending the 1980’s driving around Paducah in a Camaro looking to score some weed and working at Long John Silver’s. I’m just saying.
Ancestors seem to always have been worrying about themselves instead of their descendants’ well-being. It was just a failed revolution—how bad could it have been if John could afford to pay passage across the ocean and buy 500 acres of good real estate a few miles out of town? Where’d he get the money if he was running from the king? (I am pretty sure that the only way any ancestor from my mom’s family could afford to get to America was as a member of a new penal colony—all expenses paid, of course.) I love my country, but a spa is nothing to turn your nose up at, either. Unless it would have turned out that I would have been one of the sweepers or the mean woman who makes you pay to use the bathroom of the spa (or beer garden). In that case, forget it and God Bless America.
I also harbor a very strong love for my state, Kentucky. Kentucky IS the best state in every way and its attractions are too numerous to mention here ( but just check out our state health insurance marketplace to get an idea), so suffice it to say that the physical beauty of the landscape is matched only by the charming character of the residents. I have lived in Kentucky for forty years except for six weeks in Europe, six months in India, and an occasional week here or there in New York and one big splashy road trip to see the southwest. After two weeks with just my family in the tiny rental car for ten hours a day, I threw a fit and we drove home in silence all the way through Kansas until a tornado-producing storm blew up and I started freaking out and praying to find a hotel. After all these times, I couldn’t wait to get home to a normal environment where there are package tobacco stores so that you can drive up to a window to pay for cigarettes and not have to drag your oxygen tank all the way out of the car (so inconvenient). Some even have pharmacies on the other end of the building so you can pick up your COPD medicine in the same stop. Now that’s what I call progressive.
I don’t mean to be biased, though, because I know we have some problems. For example, I went walking in town recently for my health and I saw a bumper sticker that said “Elect Jesus king of your life.” All I could think was that this driver may have had twelve years or so of public education Kentucky’s schools and still couldn’t tell the difference between democracy and the divine right of kings. Kings aren’t elected is the point I’m trying to make. Just ask my ancestor, John, who was ready to give up his descendants’ future rights to free health care and long summer vacations at spa resorts just to get away from his king. I need my own bumper sticker that says “Somebody around here robbed Peter to pay Paul.”
Another problem in Kentucky is that not many people are taking health walks like me. Of course, there is the danger of being run down by those on the way to the package cigarette store, so I have to be watchful, but there was the opportunity to pick up a free sock on the road. Some of my socks have holes, so I was considering getting it, but it looked too small, so I left it for the next lucky person who would be walking that way. I also used to pass by some thong underwear that had a cute butterfly sewn on the front that lay near the road for weeks, but I wasn’t tempted to take them. I was getting exercise, finding treasures, and communing with the cigarette smokers and political Christians (via their bumpers), so I felt like overall it was a good time and would like to encourage everyone to get out there and get to walking, but to also watch out!
Because I am so patriotic, when I die, I hope my kids take my remains out of the acid bath that dissolved me (if there are remains after that) and sprinkle them into one of the beautiful creeks I played in as a child in north Graves County. My “ashes” will mingle with broken whiskey bottles, cigarette butts, and straight-flush toilet contents from whence I was made and I will be happy, just floating and dreaming that I finally made to that big spa in the sky.
Your friend and fellow patriot,
From: Kate Shuster
Date: Tue, Jul 1, 2014
Subject: Correspondence Loosely Related to Issue 46
I killed a ladybug. It was after nine on a Friday night in Montgomery, Alabama. I was relaxing in the clawfoot bathtub we’d installed in our old house. Understand, please, that we had not gotten the tub because we were rich or indolent, but rather because the old bathroom’s floor was falling in from a century of neglect and poor construction work and termite damage and who knows what else, and also because we live in Montgomery and needed a refuge from the complex historical background radiation that steeps this place. I’d settled in with a mystery from the excellent collection in No. 46, the one that takes place in a sanatorium where a man awakens with ants crawling across him.
Please understand that bugs were a major reason I didn’t want to move to Alabama, despite relocating from Claremont, California—a place built on a warren of ants. My father was briefly stationed in Pensacola after I was born, spending the years after Vietnam flying reconnaissance missions into hurricanes while my mother was left to fend for herself against, the way she tells it, an army of giant flying roaches. “They call them Palmetto Bugs,” she would say, scorning the local delusion that these things were not giant flying cockroaches. This was a woman who had previously spent years in Guam rooming with geckos who would supposedly climb on the ceiling above the bed and poop on the sleeping military bride below.
When I announced to her that I was moving to Alabama seven years ago, she said, “God, but the roaches.” Fortunately, we haven’t had much of that in our particular house. We have everything else, it seems. For example, our neighborhood is infested in the summer by nefarious-looking and dumb as hell cicadas, whose tragic life is the subject of another letter. There are giant incomprehensible rectangular bugs with wavy sinister antennae, glittery green beetles who seem alive even when dead perched on the collection of axe handles that inhabits our outdoor shed for some reason, and absolute hordes of mosquitos. And there were, at least when we moved in, mysterious rafts of ladybugs who would enter the house only to be found dead in the seeming hundreds on window ledges and just under doorframes, mingling with dog hair and forgotten bits of paper in grotesque and fading collages. Years of caulking and weatherproofing reduced their mass extinction somewhat. We also suspected that the cats were eating any stragglers; in any case, they diminished and I’d forgotten their attempted collective migration until tonight.
I didn’t think of these devastated refugees from the conflict-ridden out-of-doors when I reflexively swatted at the flying insect from my perch deep in the water. I lunged with a fancy hand towel that was the last item I’d bought and described to my mother in detail before she died, something much too expensive for me to actually purchase (much less a set) when I got it in Birmingham. That’s where you shop, incidentally, if you live in Montgomery—it’s that or the Internet, as the self-named City of Dreams doesn’t boast much in the way of meaningful retail for those of us who want some meaning in our retail.
I got it in a second when it flew confused down from the small wood-framed window, trapped it against the curved rim of the online-ordered tub. As I closed the towel around the intruder triumphantly, I saw that it was a ladybug. In that same moment, I was crushing it, bringing it down to the floor. My chest felt expanded but tight, as if I’d had too much whiskey and accidentally met in the street an old lover that I had wronged. As I dropped the towel I actually said out loud “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
To an insect I said this, in the bathtub in the house by myself on a Friday night. Which is not that normal, the latter part, as I usually have a husband with me doing various things while I relax after the week. I say this not to be defensive, just to set the record straight on the larger context of events. Was I sorry? In retrospect, the case is dim. Seeing the flying thing above, I carefully placed my bookmark (a drive-through bank receipt) in your fine periodical in the beginning-ish of the marvelous story by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, set the book on the sink to my left, and grabbed the killing towel.
If that is not enough evidence to convince anyone of my not-sorry-ness, I proceeded after a few seconds of regret to pick up the story and begin again. I didn’t think to check if it was actually dead, or to interrogate the nature of my guilt as it related to the cuteness of the ladybug (as opposed to the manifest un-cuteness of a possible roach or other flying critter, which our yard spawns like crazy all summer). But I did feel shame for offing the thing, whose only crime was impeding my luxury soak at the end of a thoroughly bourgeois day of working at home.
I read several pages more, got to the point in the story (spoiler alert) where the protagonist (the hedonist, he’s called in the story, I’m sure there’s a moral here somewhere) escapes the sanatorium and decided the water had cooled enough to leave the bath. I deliberated on the ladybug’s fate. I decided that the decent thing to do would be to flush it down the toilet rather than to leave its carcass in the trash can for the cats to pick out and eat. Let me say that the matter of disposal was not easy for me. I have been known to leave roaches under glass for days for others to deal with (even before I read Infinite Jest) or closing off whole rooms because a rogue wasp had taken up residence. But I was determined to give this ladybug, to which I had attributed some measure of personality and value, a proper burial. I toweled off and put on clothes, then shook out the hand towel onto a cloth rug with the apprehension befitting a corpse.
Excelsior! It moved! It tucked in disheveled back wings and tottered toward the center of the rug, moving its red shell carefully side to side along the contours of our Etsy-sourced hand-loomed Maine rag rug. I was thrilled, feeling that all was forgiven. I could now return it to the outside to seek its own destiny! My childhood took over and I reached down to see if it would crawl onto my finger. No dice. Maybe it knew better? I reached into the trashcan and pulled out a piece of plastic, leveling it to the tiny insect’s legs. It crawled right on, and I sped out of the bathroom and outside, to my dog’s evident astonishment. I deposited the ladybug on a shrub and felt very proud of myself. So proud, in fact, that I sat right down to write this letter and have not finished your fine collection.
I don’t have much more to add, except this: after it rained, I took the dog out and was repeatedly buzzed on the neck by a fat June bug. I was exceptionally annoyed and returned inside to the sound of Miles Davis playing “Someday My Prince Will Come” streaming on my stereo.
From: Jaime Lowe
Date: Tue, June 10, 2014
Subject: in response to your post yesterday
My Facebook feed and Twitter went nuts yesterday, mostly because friends and former editors and current editors thought I had written Jaime’s post. Jaime Lowe and I get confused all the time since we basically do the same thing (write about things, photograph things). We first met over email because she was getting letters about my book and eventually met in person for coffee. Anyway, I kept trying to explain to Facebook and Twitter that I did not write the excellent post by Jaime Lowe but maybe this will clarify things, I wrote my own bio based on hers.
AN ARTIST (BY THE SAME NAME) BIO GETS ...
CALL FOR PAPERS
Theme: To Pass Her a Note, or to Digitally Approach Her? That is the Question.
Date: Today after school.
Venue: My house.
Keynote speakers: Whoever can give me decent advice.
The life and times of Samantha first became a subject of romantic studies during Ms. Connor’s third period AP English class, when a smile from Samantha caught critical attention. Thus began a search for previously overlooked encouraging signals produced by Samantha, resulting in a corpus of mentally cataloged gestures now considered canonical.
I cordially invite all friends and experts in the study of romantic letters to join me after school for the first annual ASRL conference. This year’s theme: Should I just tweet at Samantha like all the other guys, hinting that we should chill one day? Should I ask for her cell number and slowly take it from there with old-fashioned texts (à la my fifth grade Alice debacle)? Or should I take the plunge and give Samantha an actual note made of paper to really let her know that I like her like her?
I can’t mess this one up.
EPISTOLARY PROBLEMS ON TEMPORAL PLANES
ASRL members and other romantic studies professionals are invited to think about persuasive methods by which to make Samantha my girlfriend. This problem has gained prominence since the beginning of the school year, as we are now seniors and will soon be going away to college— Samantha will be lost forever if I don’t make a move.
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” Wordsworth once wrote (as Ms. Connor told us this morning). But how should the performative utterance be considered vis-à-vis Samantha? Should I actually fill a real piece of paper with my heart’s breathings, physically pass it to Samantha, and risk looking like a complete weirdo? Dating praxis suggests that sappy-ass gestures should be avoided in the early stages of relationships, but isn’t Samantha the kind of girl who would consider a handwritten note to be sweet? Since we sit next to each other in AP English, wouldn’t a letter be thematically conducive to jocular Ask Out models? Do I dare go so far as to quote Keats in the letter, or maybe even try to write her a poem myself? Do you think my poem would be shitty and fatally lame? Tell me the truth.
Will not be available.
Content and Context: Exactly what should I put in the note? Samantha has beautiful eyes, but should I mention that? Would it be better to wait until I’m actually gazing into Samantha’s eyes at some point before I call them beautiful, assuming I ever get to that point?
I’m thinking it would be lame to tell her she has pretty eyes in the note, but fine to do it in-person.
Hesitation in the Samantha Narrative: If the best way to approach the Samantha problem is to allow the narrative to flow conventionally—sans the note—am I then at risk of Dave Pearson moving in and blocking me, since everyone knows he likes her likes her, too?
The Role of Women in Samantha Studies: Women are awesome, and Samantha is awesome. Dating theory and Mom suggest that I will meet many other awesome women as I grow older and that I should therefore not stress this Samantha thing too hard, since there are likely “other Samanthas” out there for me. But is the conclusion of this theoretical framework really just a total lie meant to dupe me into a lonely death?
FOOD, LODGING, AND OTHER CLAIMS
Will not be covered.
Please submit proposals for engaging these questions, as well as for how best to compose the note in the event that I decide to go that route. All proposals should include:
- A title and an abstract of 450-500 words.
- Author’s name and contact information.
- C.V. with relevant girl experience highlighted.
- A Statement of the Author’s Estimate of how likely it is that Samantha will simply laugh at the note and post a pic of it on Instagram, thereby ruining my entire life.
I look forward to seeing you at today’s conference, and to hearing a wide range of ideas concerning what I should do tomorrow when I see Samantha.
President of the ASRL
Make hay while the sun shines, though we’ve also installed new solar-simulacrum paneling all over the geodesic dome to enable twenty-four-hour hay production. You’ll be on the night shift; we expect you here at nine every night, and you can clock out at five in the morning. After a year on the job, assuming we’re all on the same page and you’ve hit the appropriate milestones, you’ll be considered for the morning shift, which also comes with health care.
This was the week we considered erotica for architects while producing sex-drenched music mixes for exercising moms. We wrote banner ads for medicated wipes and wondered why women’s apparel catalogs want their customers to go paddleboarding before eating tacos. We unearthed excerpts from hipster romance movies, wrote more engaging Ten Commandments, and tried to decipher Eminem lyrics from lesbian poetry. We also thought about launching a podcast (in the near future at least) and expounded on the joys of working in an office in the summertime.
Lost Scenes from Generic Hipster Indie Romance Films Found in 2076 During a Museum Restoration of an Old MacBook Air and Subsequently Adapted for the Stage During Heritage Week at a Camp for 7th and 8th Graders Later That Summer
by Bethany Billman
It’s Finally Summer in the Office!
by Kassia Miller
Notes on Your Banner Ad Copy for Medicated Wipes
by Jeff Johnson
McSweeney’s Quarterly Presents: The Road to 50
Erotica for Architects
by Allegra Hyde
More Engaging Copy for the Ten Commandments
by David Tate
Eminem Lyric or Line of Lesbian Poetry
by Sascha Cohen
Classic Russian Writers for teh Internets: “Vladimir Nabokov’s Signs and Symbols”
by KA Semonova
I Like Big Brass and I Cannot Lie: Confessions from the Tuba World: Enough Tuba Talk—Let’s Listen
by Elizabeth Eshelman
Reviews of New Food
by Alison Satterlee, Stephanie Frazee, and Sam Slaughter
My Own Private Shock Corridor: My Own Private Shock Corridor
by Bob Schneider
On the Trail of Mary Jane: Dabs, Girlz, and Restraining Orders
by Wendy C. Ortiz
Some club music producers want to write hits that will make every hardbody in South Beach thrust their pelvises on the dance floor in ecstatic abandon. But not me. I compose grooves for the moms who take 6 AM boot camp classes at community rec centers in places such as Naperville, Illinois, where my music plays in the background to their workout routines. My songs can be found on battered compilation CDs next to the rec center gym’s sound system, ready for any instructor who forgets to bring an iPod.
When I sing “I want to pump you, pump you, pump you with my love muscle” while the bass pulsates aggressively, Sharon in Naperville will complete a set of ten arm curls, feeling motivated to flex her biceps, never consciously noticing that actually, I am singing about sexual intercourse.
The inspiration for my work goes back to that summer in Ibiza. All club songs derive from nostalgia over those heady days. You might say they were seminal. You know what root word seminal comes from? Semen. When I learned that, it inspired many lyrics. You’d wake up on the beach with someone attached to you and be like, “Renata, is that you in there?” and a muffled voice behind you would say, “No, it’s Jorge. Renata is over there.” That experience inspired my hit, “Pick a Hole, Any Hole,” that Sharon has been performing twisties to at boot camp lately.
As Sharon leaps onto a stepper, she will wonder if what’s left of her cartilage will allow for this movement of her knee, and her hip will make a disturbing crunching noise, but I will lubricate her joints with vocals that are soaring and at the same time dripping, dripping with the bodily fluids that we shared so freely that summer in Ibiza.
When I segue from the tumescent moment just before the drop to that orgasmic section of shimmery vocals over skittering beats—Sharon will be hurling the medicine ball against the wall, which is its own kind of release.
Many wealthy club owners in Las Vegas have invited—no, begged—me to come for a residency. But I tell them that the only clubs that matter to me are the small ones, like the East Naperville Recreation, Aquatic, and Senior Center. If I were to take time out of my producing schedule to fly to Vegas and make obscene amounts of cash for a few hours of work, who would be there for Sharon as she crawls across the gym floor, her butt high in the air, the fluorescent lights glinting off the lacquered wood, street-shoe grit coating the palms of her hands? Who would be there to motivate her when the trainer screams “Lower!” and presses Sharon’s back into a posture that increases the pain?
I must be there, singing, “I’m going to make you sweat and sweat and sweat and sweat,” while an eardrum-piercing siren sounds, for it is only my words and my piston-like beats that will see her through her exertions.
My song “Pump You, Sweat You, In-and-Out You Until You are Addicted to My Love Plug” will be just one among many tracks on the Get You Movin’ 12" compilation included in the swag bag at seminars for physical trainers. But to Sharon it will stick out, reminding her of that early February morning she was inspired to complete forty burpees in a row before dashing home to nurse her twins, Aiden and Braden.
She’ll say to her husband as he dumps the twins into her arms and rushes out the door, “Wow, class was really great today,” and he’ll say, “I’m glad that my getting up at the crack of dawn and changing three diapers before I head to a ten-hour grind at the office allowed you to go to your little exercise class.” But what only those of us who shared that summer in Ibiza will know is that her “wow” implies nostalgia for the erotic ecstasy she experienced through my songs, and only through my songs for about the last ten months now.
When she straps her screaming children into their respective bouncy chairs and positions them a few inches away from the shower while she attempts to quickly rinse off the sweat I made her produce, she’ll feel guilty about neglecting her babies for those seconds but also as the hot water courses over her body she’ll think of the warm sands of Ibiza and she’ll have no idea why.
Dear Catalog People,
Thank you for your continued belief in me. While I may think of myself as a desk-bound 42-year-old mom, you see someone who will one day require short shorts and a bikini top to wear when I go stand-up paddle boarding. I appreciate how you think that one day I might just chuck it all and move to Maui, where I will need a waterproof moisture-wicking sundress that I can change into behind a taco truck, after paddle boarding and before attending a parent-teacher conference. How thoughtful of you to realize that I’ll need a dress so I won’t spill hot sauce on my bare midriff while I laugh and eat tacos. I also like that the dress will look appropriate when I get to the parent-teacher conference. It moves well, so I can scrunch easily down into one of those little first-grader-sized seats, and the wicking will come in useful because I always sweat during those conferences. Teachers make me nervous. I guess you knew that.
I like that you’ve given the dress a built-in bra because when I go paddle boarding I’ll probably not have remembered to pack a bra. Most likely I’ll have driven my ’50s-era pick up truck to the beach, maybe after picking up anti-wrinkle cream at the pharmacy, to hang ten with the other 40-something moms. Do paddle-boarders hang ten? Well anyway, I’ll need something to wear to the beach, over my bikini top and short shorts, so I really appreciate the fact that you make a jaunty straw cowgirl hat and a flowy see-through shirt with a picture of whatever-asana on the front. But I won’t have a bra, and also I won’t have my gigantic mommy bag filled with child-sized mittens, hats, a half eaten granola bar, and a juice box from 2009. So it’s a good thing you put a stash pocket into that dress too. That way I’ll have a place to put my keys.
Thank you for believing that even though I live in the middle of New York fucking City I might one day be out running in a field and need some lightweight pants that I can throw over my running tights when it starts to get chilly, maybe while I’m doing my cool down next to a lighthouse as the sun sets behind me. Of course we both know that I’m not going to wear those pants for any activity that has anything to do with running. In fact, I will probably wear them for the opposite of running, which is to say they will be the pants I put on when I wake up on Saturday morning and decide that what I really want to do is eat bacon. But I appreciate your continued faith in me.
I can’t help but wonder, though, which article of clothing I ordered that caused you to start sending me the catalogs for women who are on the verge of giving up? Was it the somewhat shapeless blue sweater dress I purchased from a catalog filled with faux-indigenous-peoples attire? What was it called… Earth Ninja…? Simple Alpaca…? Blue Peru …? I did notice a lot of the clothing descriptions in that catalog said things like “easy” and “languid” and “Zephyr-light” and the women in the catalog don’t seem to be the stand-up paddle boarding type. They clearly prefer lounging comfortably with scarves, clutching a cup of coffee and remembering the days when they used to wear clothing that wasn’t beige. I guess those catalogs were your way of telling me that you were thinking of dropping the pretense that I might do something in my clothing. Maybe, you thought, Hana really just needs something that removes all sex appeal from her wardrobe because she just wants to be comfortable, damn it.
Speaking of which, remember when you guys used to send me the Victoria’s Secret catalog? What happened with that? I used to open the mailbox and there would be like forty-three V.S. catalogs piled in there next to a few bills and maybe an errant Fredrick’s of Hollywood. Though you and I both knew I wasn’t trashy enough to order something from Frederick’s, I did appreciate the thought, especially in college, that I might be having sex, which I wasn’t.
But now instead of Victoria’s Secret you have decided to send me a catalog called something like Bazongas. That is where my bras come from. These are bras for breasts that are about to scream “I quit” and walk out the door. They are feats of engineering, hydraulically powered contraptions designed to prevent one’s breasts from communing with one’s navel. I guess you were trying to be nice when you took me off the Victoria’s Secret list because you know that I no longer aspire to lounge around with tousled hair while my boyfriend makes me a cappuccino. I do not aspire to do this, and I don’t want to be reminded that other people aspire to do this.
Although, you never know: one day I might just fling my kids in the back of the SUV and drive across the country to go stand-up paddle boarding. I might quit my job, open a yoga studio on a craggy beach in Maui and make friends with some people who own a taco truck. And then I’ll need something to wear. Something waterproof and moisture-wicking, with a built-in-bra and hidden stash pockets.
First impressions of the Kush Expo, billed as “the world’s biggest Medical Marijuana Mega Show!” are signs outside the sterile convention center warning NO DABBING.
“What’s dabbing?” my companion and I ask each other. There are signs at almost every entrance and I wonder how long we can go without asking someone what dabbing means, or if the answer will present itself once we enter the convention.
The long walk from the parking structure to the convention doors reveals expo-goers who are, by Los Angeles event standards, quite racially and age diverse. There are a number of people, who I might call “dudes,” as in “this event is pretty dude-heavy,” and they wear uniforms of Slayer and Red Hot Chili Pepper T-shirts and flat brim baseball caps. There are elders pushing other elders in wheelchairs, and everyone is smiling.
Upon entering the convention center, we stop at a booth to retrieve our tickets. The booth is staffed by three women who appear to be convention center employees. They immediately get surrounded by a crowd of people in board shorts, dyed black hair, and tattoos in abundance. The line forming at their booth is shapeless like an amoeba.
We cross through the turnstile and enter the expo. It’s loud, sometimes downright raucous, as we slowly move up and down the green-carpeted aisles peering at the offerings on the green textile-covered tables booth by booth. Among the vendors and the crowd, there’s a panoply of big gold jewelry, tight-fitting dresses sprinkled with marijuana leaf patterns, and a lot of bikinis. One woman working a booth wears a white lab coat over her crop top and jeans. A tent is set up among the booths where doctors are seeing patients hoping to obtain or renew their prescriptions. One elevated booth becomes a focal point when the inhabitants grab a microphone and start catalyzing the crowd into a mild frenzy, throwing T-shirts, stickers and I’m not sure what else. The main DJ at the stage plays over the minor DJ’s that play at booths, a musical war of reggae, songs with “Mary Jane” in the lyrics, and rap. There are a lot of puns working for our attention among the banners and T-shirts for sale. 4:19 COLLECTIVE and THE DUDE LIFESTYLE stand out. A young man walks by with a T-shirt that reads, IT’S NOT GONNA SUCK IT SELF [sic].
Only two venders accost us at this event. One is an elderly Asian woman, who eats with one hand and uses her other to beckon us to her booth of hippie leggings and jewelry. The second is an elderly white man, who looks like he’s set up a small window in an oversized booth. He plainly beckons my companion directly, insisting she come up and speak to him. When we gather around his small carved-out spot, I see the board game he has in front of him. It’s hard to hear him explain the rules of the game, so I try to comprehend the handwritten rules he lays out next to the board. The game is Trade Bank, and he encourages my companion to play. After a few moments where no one is understanding each other and we are not understanding the game, we politely take leave and continue making our way in-between strolling “420 Girlz”—who also appear on calendars and posters for sale—and all manner of other expo-goers.
References to dabbing are bountiful on banners, T-shirts, and products. We admire a number of booths with outrageous looking equipment all meant for the art or sport of dabbing, which we learn from a friendly vendor means heating a dose of concentrate on a hot surface. We see blowtorches and a variety of glass bongs meant for dabbing. Like a number of newbies to this field, my companion and I make a quick comparison to freebasing, though we realize this is exactly not how the vendors would describe it to us.
When we make our way to the other side of the booths and behind the stage, we realize that the expo itself actually takes up less than a quarter of the entire convention center space. We sit at a table so I can write notes and I pick up a flyer (among many flyers strewn across all the tables) that tells me that with a fifty dollar purchase from a particular Orange County collective I can also claim my catered dinner for two between five and ten p.m. that day only, right at the convention.
The back doors to the convention hall open onto hot cement and a special tent for those who brought their prescription and identification so they may medicate on-site. It’s brutally hot out. I watch the security patiently check each person at the entrance to the open tents and it looks and sounds like a very lively afternoon party.
We had allotted ourselves nearly three hours to wander what I imagined being an enormous convention hall but we’ve already walked the aisles twice and spent time talking with a few vendors after only two hours. As we leave I realize we are going to miss the Kush Cup Awards ceremony and the performance of Kush Expo girls the following night.
Meanwhile, in our neck of the woods, the inaugural Boyle Heights Medical Marijuana Farmers Market opened the same Fourth of July weekend, and we considered visiting, but did not, imagining we’d try it another weekend. At the time of this writing, the farmers market lasted one more weekend until it was shut down by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s restraining order citing non-compliance with Proposition D’s legal parameters for the sale of medical marijuana. A hearing is scheduled for August 6th.
Sorry we couldn’t meet face-to-face on this. But I did take a few seconds to power through ’em and now I’m off to Banff to ski and jumpstart my marriage. Some great writing here. A few lines that will do a lot of heavy lifting in banner ads and maybe some shelf-talkers. Take a look at my feedback. Keep revving on this continually throughout the weekend. We’ll touch base when I get back.
GREAT. MORE LIKE THESE, PLEASE:
- “Click to continue the Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes journey.”
- “Follow Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipeson Twitter.”
- “Friend Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes on Facebook.”
THIS IS COOL:
- “Friend Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes in real life.”
GOOD, BUT NOT NEEDED AT THIS TIME. REALLY COOL TO SEE YOU TRY TO MAKE IT MORE ACTIVE, AND I BET THOSE BALL HOLES ARE FILTHY:
- “Go bowling with Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes.”
- “Vacation with Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes.”
MAYBE WOULD WORK FOLLOWING CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, BUT THIS IS AN IRRESPONSIBLE MESSAGE NONETHELESS:
- “Go out and get plastered with Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes.”
- “Wait, don’t take that tone with Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes.”
- “Put yourself in Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes’ shoes.”
NICE. BRAND NOT INTO LOOKING BACKWARDS THOUGH:
- “Think back on your time with Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes.”
- “Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes did more for you than you care to admit.”
- “Snap a photo of this Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes QR code to unlock the full experience.”
- “Sorry. Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes knows there’s no going back to how it was.”
- “Answer one of Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes’ texts. Just one of them.”
- “Show Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes you are still alive.”
NICE. AGAIN, BRAND NOT INTO LOOKING BACKWARDS THOUGH:
- “Remember what Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes meant to you.”
- “Tell a friend about Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes.”
GENE, THIS IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE WANT TO SAY:
- “Understand that Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes doesn’t care anymore.”
MEDICATED WIPES ALWAYS HAS TIME, GENE:
- “Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes doesn’t have time for your ass right now.”
NEEDS TO BE MORE POSITIVE:
- “Know that Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes tried as hard as Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes could.”
- “Move on from Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes.”
- “Speculate to a stranger as to Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes’ whereabouts.”
GREAT BUT CHANGE OPENING:
- “Bump into Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes at your local drugstore.”
OKAY, GOOD FOR RETARGETING EFFORT:
- “Reconnect with Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes online.”
- “Try Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes again for 50% off.”
GREAT, BUT THIS IS FOR WIPES 2.0, GENE:
- “Share your Smythe-Logan Medicated Wipes story.”
Whom god wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.
— Euripides by way of Samuel Fuller
After dropping acid, the committed psychonaut sits in quiet contemplation, slows his heartbeat, steadies his breathing, calmly waits for the rush. Unlike the tripster who can’t hardly wait — he shakes his legs, paces, races about, quickens his heart, which increases arterial flow and speeds the alkaloid toward the 5-HT2 serotonin receptors in both the locus ceruleus and the cerebral cortex, with hallucinations, awe, and laughter the result. But the neuron, he for whom the solution has become the problem,1 compulsively sucks on the sugar cube even though some part of him (the vector of the unconscious where important messages are stored so that they can languish and die) knows it’s really a psychic cyanide pill.
Guess which one of that trio I was.
Once upon a time, way down in the alley, when the Age of Aquarius had morphed (seemingly overnight) into the Eve of Destruction,2 I did what any post-adolescent, Mensa-minded, slavo-jewo depressive would do — I self-medicated and slid all the way down the rabbit hole into bizarro Wonderland. I was lost and could not be found; I was also emaciated and probably dehydrated from snorting too much speed in too little time. Then one day, in my weakened state, foolishly believing I had docked in a safe harbor, I dropped 200 mikes of Sandoz3 with three reivers in rainbow tie-dyes, one of whom was the sociopath-snitch who once, when popped for possession with intent, had given my name to the authorities, looking to trade me in, like an old cell phone, for his freedom.
It was my Humpty Dumpty moment, the night I shattered into a million pieces.
The background music for our liftoff was Cream, “Strange Brew.” Coinciding with Clapton’s first cautionary chorus — kills what’s inside of you — I felt the first tingle, the first hint of weightlessness that for some signals the exciting freedom to float along gusts of psychotomimetic wind, but to me . . .
I closed my eyes. I quickly found myself floating, la-dee-dah, through a vertigo-inducing, Oskar Fischinger–inspired,4 day-glo galaxy of pulsating circles, blinking rectangles, spinning globes — a phantasmagoria of Colorform abstraction, flaring incandescence, chromatic intensity.
It was psychedelic, man.
But I was dancing on the knife’s edge and as the Azerbaijani say, Dance on a dagger’s edge, shred your soul. After a century or two, this galactic vortex I was aglide in took on the appearance of a gaping, febrile, hyper-colorful, festered wound. As it did, I began to sense a loss of control. It is a mere hop, skip, and an uh-oh for exhilaration to transform into abject terror. Soon I found myself in free fall — The Neuron Who Fell to Earth.
Newton’s Third Law of Thermodynamics defines the binary universe: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Therein lies the beauty of binaries — their absolute, oppositional nature: on or off, alive or dead, win or lose, true or false, black and white, war and peace, self and other, open and shut . . . to be or not to be.
Thanks to my early training as an acolyte in the cult of the volcano god Jehovah, I have always been a binary kind of guy. So in this instance, as with most others, I reduced the set of variables to the simplest of equations: if I were freaked with my eyes closed, when I opened them, I would surely calm my shit down.
Unfortunately, as soon as I opened my eyes, the oozing, throbbing horror of it all streamed seamlessly from my mind’s eye into the phenomenal world. The walls, the rugs, the floors, the furniture, the windows and shades, the lamps and sconces, the sockets and switches all appeared to be breathing and pulsing in tandem, morphing and blending into one another, as if everything had become part of an immense and singular living organism.
I should have been ecstatic, but being at one with the universe launched me into a terror-filled maelstrom — ego death seemed to me to be only the beginning of a slippery slope that would inevitably lead to a more all-inclusive kind of death.
I was tripping out of my skull, trapped in the bummer equivalent of Defcon 1. I had to do something, and pronto.
Faced with what I perceived to be an extinction-level dilemma, I had a go-to strategy I had fooled myself into believing would someday yield a different outcome. And so . . .
Determined to think myself out of trouble, I threw myself into the abyss of reason.
My mind commenced to race — a mile a minute the operative cliche, but only if you plugged in parsec for mile, nano for minute. The stream of my cinematic consciousness became a Class VI rapids, superfluming me past a specific set of memorialized texts, which I sluiced by in ascending order — Attack of the Crab Monsters, Invaders from Mars, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. As I flumed, I grokked why I had had such a violent reaction to such a commonplace, purple haze hallucination — the Persian rug doing the psychedelic slither before my eyes. (Colonel Panic, in the living room, with an icepick.)
The dialectic made perfect sense, too. Attack of the Crab Monsters is a poverty-row meditation on the downside of collective consciousness: in order to be assimilated, the brains of the chosen ones must first be chowed down by a mutant giant crab on a totally fucked and irradiated atoll. What could be more straightforward?
Invaders from Mars portrays the horrors of the hive-mind from the POV of a kid. Little Davy’s parentals have extraterrestrial hatpins inserted into the base of their skulls, which puts them in thrall to a macrocephalic bronze brain under glass who sports a pair of fiercely bloodshot eyes, as well as several sets of T Rex-ish atrophied arms — he’s a thoroughly stoned, alien avatar of the Hindu god Krishna . . . and no adult believes the kid.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the cherry atop this hive-mind shit sundae. Pod People take you over atom for atom, cell for cell, absorb your mind and your memories, all this while you sleep. The invasion is fronted by the holy trinity of Amurrican trust — your best friend, the avuncular sheriff, and the town shrink. Suburban Freud dismisses the growing paranoia (the boy says his father isn’t his father and the woman says her sister isn’t her sister) as merely an epidemic of mass hysteria. Let your guard down for an instant, forget to pop that extra pep pill you’ve copped from your stash, and you might just come back to your squeeze and experience The Naked Kiss,5 the horrific reveal that while you were gone, the love of your life has gone pod on you. Since the body snatchers are all connected through a uni-mind, all she has to do is think it and the pod volk come running. With them hot on your heels, you run and run and run, winding up on a freeway jammed with SoCal commuters and pod-filled trucks, screaming for anyone to listen: They’re here, they’re here!
And if it weren’t for the moral bankruptcy and marketing mandates of the Hollywood hive-mind, the story would have ended right there. And what a bummer that would have been.
Or in my case — was.
Tempus was fugit-ing, and I was bumming like a motherfucker. I needed to slow my roll. I had to speak my mind.In tonight’s performance the part of the Jabberwocky will be played by Bob.
Brainiac scout troop . . . collective crab consciousness . . . once they were men, now they are land crabs . . . parents from space . . . mom and dad down to kill — me! . . . epidemic mass hysteria . . . you fools, you’re in danger . . . she loves me, she loves me not . . . ’cause she’s one of them, one of them, gooble gobble . . . make me a sergeant in charge of the booze, make me a sergeant in charge of the booze —
Wait a second, I said to myself, those last two — they’re from Freaks6 and from Them.7 Mutants and giant ants have nothing to do with this. How the fuck did they get in here? . . . How the fuck did I get in here!
Even more to the point, How the fuck was I going to survive this trip?
The answer came in the form of a vision: Skeeter Davis8 — a mieskeit mirage wavering before me, serenading me:
Why does the sun go on shining
Why does the sea rush to shore
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world
’Cause you don’t love me anymore?
Who was it who didn’t love me anymore?
I didn’t love me anymore.
It was then I had my epiphany (I was tripping after all): I needed the end of the world. I scrunched my eyes and held my breath; I was fixin’ to die. Which I couldn’t, because, as we all know, the autonomic nervous system has no override switch. Spent and spooked, I stopped trying and opened my eyes. I saw my fellow tripsters staring at me. They looked like three grinning gargoyles. They exchanged glances, then burst into what was clearly an at-you rather than a with-you cascade of laughter — cruel and resonant.
I was sure some telepathic shit was going down.
I was certain the Crab Monster with the collectivized consciousness would round the figurative corner any second, perambulate toward me, reach out to me with its claw; it would use every trick in the giant crab ventriloquist manual to get me to give up, give in, to join the new crab order: Once they were men, now they are gargoyles.
I was equally certain that if I sneaked a peek at the back of a gargoyle neck, I would see the telltale hatpin — proof positive that he and his gang were in thrall to the rheumy-eyed Martian puppetmaster.
I urged myself to think good thoughts.
I thought and thought and thought, but all I could come up with was the creepy notion that if I opened the door to the hall closet, I would see my pod replacement in medias snatch, waiting only for me to gey schluffen in order to finish the job — my nightmare scenario made flesh.
The walls felt like they were moving in on me.
What choice did I have? I screamed.
I stood up; I ran; I took refuge in the john, took a leak. I flushed. I stared at the swirling, rainbow water. It was hypnotic. The toilet began to serenade me — the first chorus of “Tales of the Brave Ulysses”:
You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever,
But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun.
And the colors of the sea bind your eyes with trembling mermaids,
As toilet Cream sang, the water became kaleidoscopic, alive with tiny purple fishes and trembling mermaids, choreographed by the invisible, hallucinogenic hand of my Busby Berkeley9 introject — synchronized swimming while circling the drain.
All, in the end, sucked down the abyssal sewer.
The light in the bathroom was blinding; the noise of the toilet recycling deafening. And yet I couldn’t stand, couldn’t even move. It was as if I had no will. I was lost in space; I was in a state of waxy flexibility.
Dr. Cristo, bull goose shrink of Shock Corridor, said it best: A man can’t tamper with the mind, and subject himself to all kinds of tests, and expect to come out of it sane.
After my Waterloo in the loo, it was retreat and surrender, as well as grievous humiliation, all the way home.
The gargoyles, having tired of me — I was less entertaining, more of an annoyance now that I was bogarting the bathroom — called My Friend the Bear to come and get me, which he dutifully did. As he led me down the stairs, he handed me a brownish pill (Thorazine: ensuring that children are seen and not heard since 1952; for prompt control of senile agitation; helps keep the real in reality). I dry-mouthed it without question, the Bear being one of the few creatures on the blue planet I almost trusted.
The dopamine antagonist kicked in. I stopped bumming but I couldn’t stop thinking about how badly I had disintegrated. I felt burned out — like I had run out of fuel, like my core had collapsed, like I had formed my own black hole hell.
As if that wasn’t enough, while I was trying to gain some traction in order to tread lightly back into the real world, there came a knock on the door of my coffin-like crib. Before I could plead with whoever it was to just please leave me the fuck alone, in floated My Friend the Bear’s Old Lady wearing nothing but a tattered tee, her eyes bloodshot, practically twirling in their lids, her smile bursting with bravado, offering to laugh with me10 like she was an Eskimo wife in The Savage Innocents.
Would that the wonders of the day cease and desist already. On my best days this kind of sexual adventurism would not have been my strongest suit. And this was not one of my better days. The Bear’s impulse was surely generous in nature, but it was also the Platonic form of projection. A pity fuck pimped his way is how he believed the healing should begin. And while I had no clue what was good for me — if I did I would never have dropped acid with Brain Eating Cannibals From the Planet Pitiless — I just knew as I stared at the Bear’s main squeeze in all her good sport willingness, that accepting her vulvaric gift11 would send my careening spin on the karmic wheel of desire ever more out of control, and would be certain to bring on yet more pain to both spirit and flesh.
And I told the Bear’s Old Lady so.
I felt unbounded relief when she slammed the door on me on her way out, even as I knew that I had just offended one of the few people who, until that moment, had borne me no ill-will.
This last straw broke my mental back and I then went into hermit mode — snorting meth and brooding. As I focused inward, the Jehovah judgment thing I was raised on did not serve me well. I was on trial, yet I was also judge, jury, and prosecutor. An optimist might have noted that no matter what the outcome, I couldn’t lose. But I was no optimist.
One morning, a week after my mondo megabummer, seven days into my meth bender, I looked in the mirror. Staring back at me was a gaunt, unshaven wraith with a cigarette dangling from its lips, tough-guy style. Its eyes were bugging out, nearly pinwheeling; this specter was way tweaked. Some part of me was able to see through the dissociative mist and understand that the thing in the mirror needed quality, structured chill time, and that if the wraith didn’t get to chill, and quickly, it would be curtains for the kid.
The next day I went back to the city and within a week I was crashing in the psych ward of the Klingenstein Pavilion of Mount Sinai Hospital. What better place for a lost yid to wander?
1 With a tip of Da Schneidz hat to My Friend the Cartoonist’s shrink.
2 The western world it is exploding was the message Barry McGuire laid down in his unpolished and straightforward rendition of “Eve of Destruction,” a 1965 protest song that had been passed on by the Byrds and, according to the google, recorded by the Turtles, who often recorded the Byrds’ discarded or rejected material. The song was what creative executives would dismiss as on-the-nose (appropriate for the protest genre) and (tortured metaphor alert) was one of the primary agaric cultures used to breed the bacterium ironica in the petri dish experiment known as the baby boom. The song’s title also inspired a film of the same name, which is perfectly summed up in IMDB: A terrorist hunter is hired by a scientist to deactivate her android double, a walking, talking, murderous nuclear bomb which has gone amok in the big city and is about to explode — keeping in mind that both scientist and doppelgänger are named Eve.
3 When research chemist Dr. Albert Hoffman unknowingly absorbed a molecule of the chemical he had newly synthesized, he described the feelings he had when he got home and got prone: I . . . sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away. Three days later, on April 19, 1943 (now known as Bike Day among the initiates), Hoffman deliberately dropped 250 mikes of the new compound—lysergic acid diethylamide-25—hopped on his bike, and pedaled home, getting off on the way. This auto-administered dose of LSD was mankind’s first intentional acid trip and even though it happened during wartime, thanks to Swiss neutrality, all of Switzerland had been declared a no-bummer zone. The pharmaceutical company Hoffman worked for was Sandoz, which therefore had exclusive rights to space you out. In the ’60s at the beginning of the tripping frenzy that followed, anyone lucky enough to get his paws on some pharmaceutical-grade acid would brag to his bros that it was the real deal Sandoz shit that had fueled his journey to the inside of his mind.
4 Fischinger was an experimental animator and artist. Had he remained in the Reich, he would have undoubtedly been designated a member of the degenerate art tribe, with all the perks that went along with that tag, so that when Paramount came calling in ’36 and offered him an office and 250 samolians per, he hopped aboard the first dirigible out of Hitlerville and landed in Lotusland, where he ran head-on into the art v. commerce dialectic, quit Paramount, and moved over to Mauschwitz, where he produced some of the more far-out shit in Fantasia. When Tio Walt had his work redrawn to satisfy Disney’s more Mickey Mouse aesthetic, he split from there as well. He then divided his creative time between personal and commercial projects, one of the sprightlier examples of the latter being his animated promo for Muntz TV. Its theme song begins There’s something about a Muntz TV. The vid box was the brainchild of the great American huckster Madman Earl Muntz, who sold factory-direct to idiots. (A YouTube commentator describes a Muntz TV as having about half the parts in it of any other TV. . . Muntz took an RCA set and removed as many parts as he could and still have the set work negligibly.) Muntz manufactured the first car tape deck, a four-track sold under the brand name Muntz Stereo-Pak, as well as a shitty sports car, commercially fueled by its futuristic name — the Muntz Jet. Muntz was a visionary capitalist con man who, in the case of Fischinger’s kicky commercial, seduced the public with snazzy abstraction in order to more easily separate the marks from their moolah.
5 According to the hooker heroine in the movie of the same name it is the smooch that signifies perv.
6 The original ninety-minute cut of Freaks Tod Browning turned in to Paramount had the guys in the bespoke schmattas so whimmy-whammed they took it out of his hands and had it trimmed down to a sixty-four minute programmer. This truncated version jettisoned the horrifying details of the mud-dripping freaks [on their rain-soaked, midnight crawl led by Prince Randian the human torso, biting down on his knife as he wiggles his way forward before finally] swarming over the tree-pinned Olga Baclanova. The crawl climaxed in House of Pain surgery that transforms Cleopatra from beautiful trapeze artist and gold digger into the latest pledge to the Freaks fraternity—the Chicken Lady. But what elevated Freaks from precode curiosity to world-historical film is the initiation ceremony during the wedding feast: A tabletop dwarf enthusiastically announces We’ll make her one of us. A loving cup, a loving cup. The rest of the table begins to chant We accept her, one of us, we accept her/Gooble gobble, gooble gobble, at first individually, but, as the dwarf walks the table passing around an outsized goblet filled with bubbly for all the Freaks to sip from, the recitative becomes louder, more somberific as all the Freaks chant in unison We accept her, one of us, we accept her/Gooble gobble, gooble gobble. This psalm of acceptance, this ritual of welcome, is poignantly moving and horrifyingly hilarious. It underscores the righteousness of this congregation—the mutant and deformed celebrating themselves as they sanctify acceptance of the other into their tribe movingly demonstrates the noblest aspect of what it is to be human.
1. “I knew I shouldn’t go/and get another tattoo/of you on my arm/but what do I go and do.”
2. “I wish I were dead/When she left, she wept.”
3. “A woman broke my heart/I say heart/she ripped it in two parts.”
4. “Thought we shared a covenant/I even held your hand in public.”
5. “No one writes a lyric on a battlefield/on a map stuck with arrows/but I think I can do it if I just lurk.”
6. “An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge/some words live in my throat.”
7. “Now only words in a rhyme/no more than a name/on a stone/and that well overgrown.”
8. “Sometimes it feels like the world’s almost over/but then she comes back to me.”
9. “All that time alone/kinda taught me how to cope/so I shaved my head/and made me a rope.”
Eminem Lyric: 1, 3, 4, 8
Lesbian Poetry: 2 (Sappho), 5 (Adrienne Rich), 6 (Audre Lorde), 7 (Carol Ann Duffy), 9 (Alix Olsen)
Oh man, there’s nothing like summer in the office! When the air conditioner buzzes on and frigid air chills me to my core, I know it’s somewhere between 70 and 109 outside. I don’t know for sure because I only am outside for two fifteen-minute intervals per day, once early in the morning and once after the sun goes down, but man, it sure looks hot out there!
And when it’s summer in the office, I get to break out all my favorite summer clothes: my lighter-weight wool pants, conservative button-up shirts with cap sleeves instead of long sleeves, and my sandals. Well, they are technically the same sensible pumps I wear from September through May, but during the summer months, I call them my sandals and BOY does it feel good.
But my summer wardrobe staple has to be my black cardigan. I think every girl can agree: nothing says summer in the office like a black cardigan. When I feel my black cardigan blowing behind me as I race from meeting to meeting, up and down the same bland halls that I have been trudging down for the past five years, I feel like a Native American princess! (I say that because Native Americans were downtrodden people and I feel like I have a lot in common with your Pocahontases of the world, emotionally speaking.)
The best part about summer in the office is the summer schedule! I work just as much as I do in the fall and winter, but it feels different. Cause everyone’s a-buzz about their weekend plans: coming in to work on Saturday, firing up the old desktop, and ordering Thai food to their desk.
Oh and in the summer, there are so many free summer concerts and movies in the park to miss! It’s summertime, baby!!
Everyone has their own favorite activities, but my girlfriends and I like to spend the summer months just lounging individually in our windowless cubicles, reading whatever pertains to the work we do, and staying at our desks until the sun goes down. It’s crazy!
OH! And don’t forget about the picnics! Please, don’t forget about the picnics. I almost did once. I was like, “Picnic… what is that, when everyone brings a dish to a party?” And my therapist was like “No, that’s a potluck. A picnic is eating in a park on a blanket.” And then she warned me that I was under too much stress and likely to have some kind of breakdown because I had lost word retrieval for anything not pertaining to my soulless corporate job. So please! Don’t forget about the picnics, people! It’s a really bad sign if you do!
Anyway, I’m just really glad it’s finally summertime in the office. Because I’m definitely ready for some fun in the sun! (“The Sun” is the name of the conference room on the east side of the office. It gets a lot of light, which makes it hard to do audio-visual presentations or to even read your laptop, so we have to keep the light-canceling blinds all the way closed.)
You Won’t Believe What God Said to This Man…
- What You Need to Know Now About the Lord Totally Being God
- At the Beginning He Had Me Confused, But by Minute Two I Knew That I Shouldn’t Have Other Gods.
- Are You Making This Common Mistake with Graven Images?
- How I Work: Read This Life Hack from God Your Only Creator.
- She Admitted to Doing What Every Sunday?
- Seven Morning Habits of People Holier Than You: #7 No Killing Before Lunch.
- 37 Things in Your Bedroom That You Need to Get Rid of Right Now, Like Adulteresses.
- What the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know About Stealing Your Neighbors Servants.
- This Little Girl Bore False Witness and the Results Will Shock You.
- Doctors Hate Her But You Shouldn’t Covet Her.
XOJO In-Game Protein Drink
Submitted by Alison Satterlee
I don’t know if XOJO In-Game Protein Drink actually exists outside of the prototype that my copywriter girlfriend gave me to try. “The creators wanted us to use their preferred slogan, ‘smooth protein gliding down your throat,’" she said. “We told them that was a bad idea.”
I demanded she bring me a sample. With a slogan like that I just couldn’t refuse. To my delight, a couple of months later she brought home a bottle XOJO “In-Game Protein: White Grape Flavor” Drink from a work meeting.
Before I fully describe the, indeed, “smooth” texture of XOJO, let me describe the packaging. XOJO looks like your average sports drink, but it has more writing on the label than a bottle of Oxycodone. Fearing eye strain, I managed to read in ant-sized font warning not to “chug” XOJO, but rather drink about a quarter of the bottle every 15-20 minutes during your workout (that the bottle assumes will consist of “strenuous exercise”). Even though the dishwater colored liquid inside was essentially clear, further writing on the minuscule lime-colored label indicated that XOJO is derived from milk and soy, hence the slippery protein contained within. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my dairy products opaque like God intended.
I chose to take sips of XOJO as a chaser to vodka. I am clearly not XOJO’s intended consumer.
XOJO is incredibly smooth. It does not have the chalky, gritty, or otherwise previously powdered texture of other protein drinks. However, most other protein drinks manage to taste pretty convincingly like chocolate, not concentrated ball sweat, so there you go. Like a fine wine, XOJO has an evolving flavor profile. It starts off strong, sweet, and earnestly grape-flavored. Then it takes an immediate nosedive into aforementioned ball-sweat territory. There are surprisingly few ingredients in XOJO and one of them is salt. Apparently a lot of salt, which is strategically hidden behind a wave of sucralose that manages to hit your tongue first only to be followed by mighty salty backwash. XOJO has the strange effect of feeling like thick water but totally sucks all the moisture from your mouth, perhaps a test of your mettle to abide by the label and only drink a quarter of it at a time. Maybe XOJO just isn’t meant to be ingested at all. It did smell faintly rotten, like it had been blooming in the sun a few too many hours.
I can’t say the experience was a great one, though I do feel as if now I can accurately describe what drinking a bottle of post-nasal-drip would be like. And I don’t even necessarily feel lucky to taste XOJO before its somewhat inevitable demise but I definitely don’t regret the experience. I rate it somewhere between bacon-flavored jellybeans and salt-covered licorice.
Thunderbird Energetica Cacao Hemp Walnut Bar
Submitted by Stephanie Frazee
If the name of this energy bar (aka “The Ancient Champion Bar”) didn’t turn me off, the packaging should have. The list of attributes cluttering the label include:
- Certified Gluten-Free (Who certifies these things? What kind of job is that?)
- Verified Non-GMO (Do these people talk about their work on first dates? Do they get second dates?)
- Soy-free (In truth, a turn-on for me because I am allergic—fun fact!)
- Raw (I feel like this trend should have been over by 2012 at the latest.)
- No added sugar (Of course. I would expect nothing less from the weary-eyed bird flying vigil across the label.)
- All natural (No shit?!)
- Agave-free (Is this a good thing?)
- Compostable wrapper (Oops, it’s in the landfill by now.)
- Vegan (I’m starting to think the good folks at Thunderbird may take themselves a bit too seriously.)
- Shaman-blessed (Seriously.)
- With mint (Flavor? What madness is this?)
The mint tasted good, but I had to work to detect it behind all the general earthiness. The rest of the bar was a sticky, medicinal vehicle for the hint of peppermint. I was genuinely surprised it was so bad, which probably tells you a lot about me as a person. I was expecting something akin to a Larabar, which is a level of dates-mixed-with-whatever kind of mouth-magic few can hope to achieve. Thunderbird did not achieve. It took me an hour to eat it, or I should say, to get through it. I dedicate myself to the cause. Or maybe I am just psychotic.
I should have prefaced this review by telling you that I was fourteen weeks pregnant when I purchased and ingested this rectangular alloy of FDA-approved food-grade ingredients. The first trimester did some disturbing things to my taste buds, such as making me crave glasses of milk. Just plain milk—not chocolate. I shudder to think. But I was largely over that by week fourteen.
I wish I could blame a strange pregnancy craving on my decision to spend $2.50 on this 1.7-ounce bar. But I can’t. It would be unfair to my unborn child to saddle him or her with this burden at such an early age. No, I must take responsibility for it. I chose to purchase it despite the myriad warnings on the label. I chose to eat it despite my gag reflex. I chose to purchase two because they were two for $5.00. I chose to ignore the fact that I could have bought an entire box of granola bars that would not stick to my teeth like desiccated tar for that same amount.
To Thunderbird’s credit, the Cherry Walnut Crunch bar (aka “The Anti-Inflammatory Bar”) was much more tolerable. Either that, or my tastebuds had already been destroyed to the extent that I almost enjoyed it. Watching me eat it, my husband asked whether people who ate things like that all the time developed such low taste expectations that their minds would be completely blown by the amount of flavor in something like a Cheeto. I didn’t say what I was thinking, which was that I might actually destroy someone to trade that bar for a single, glowing-orange Cheeto.
On Tap Liquid Beer Enhancers
Submitted by Sam Slaughter
I, of the slightly snobby beer ways, had put off spending money on the On Tap beer additives (excuse me, “Liquid Beer Enhancers”) for as long as I could. I was scared of them. It was something about the word additive that did it, I think. How could a Mio-esque squirting device make common draft beer taste like craft beer, as the company claims? How too, could it regulate which crappy beer one was drinking and make it automatically taste like the two flavors the company offers, American Ale and Pale Ale? Curiosity getting the best of me, I gave in and bought both.
The principle is simple enough. Take a syrup, add it to something that tastes terrible, and voila: better-tasting whatever it is. I like this principle. I like it enough that I have a consistent supply of things like Country Time mix in my kitchen cabinets. While I waited somewhat eagerly for my On Taps to come, I wondered, could that principle translate to beer? Would it make the jump?
I had high hopes for On Tap. I really did. I was a little giddy when the enhancers finally arrived in the mail. I was ready. Craft beer could wait if this wondrous invention would really do what it said.
In order to truly test the mettle of On Tap, I decided an experiment was in order. I felt dirty doing it, but I walked out of the 7-Eleven that day with tall boys of Schlitz, Icehouse, Bud Heavy and Hurricane malt liquor. I thought about involving PBR, but I didn’t want to sully its grand name—too many nights had been spent curled around an icy can of the Blue Ribbon.
Upon popping the tops of the On Tap containers, I was met with two very distinct scents. The American Ale smelled like strong, burnt coffee. At first I was okay with this. Maybe, I reasoned, the nose would mellow once it hit the beer. The Pale Ale, on the other hand, I immediately deemed hopeless; it smelled like soap, straight-up Catholic-school bathroom soap, the kind a nun would use as a threat.
The directions said to put only a few drops into a full glass of beer for the maximum effect. My roommate and I lined up all of our pint glasses and distributed the beers, one can per four glasses. I decided I would go light in one and heavy in the other, just in case.
First up was the Bud Heavy with two drops of the American Ale additive. Figured I might as well go with what the majority of the population has been swilling for decades. The American Ale turned it a little darker color—it looked like it could pass for a craft beer—but aside from that, everything else was off. The nose on it was a mix of that burnt coffee and the regret that accompanies the morning after making your way through a six-pack of Bud, something reminiscent of moldy carpet and vomit. As I raised my glass, I reminded myself that cheese also smells bad and tastes good. But this concoction from hell was not cheese and had all the pleasantness of being beaten with a baseball bat. I would’ve rather shotgunned the entire can of Bud than have to drink any more of the stuff.
I would not give up, however. Well, not completely. I tried the same two-drop American Ale method in the Hurricane and got a similar result. I considered ripping the taste buds out of my mouth and dropping them in a deep fryer. I also questioned the existence of God. If this was supposed to make crappy beer taste like craft beer, I felt terrible for the producers of On Tap. Was this what they thought craft beer tasted like? Seriously?
I moved on to the
soap Pale Ale flavor. The smell of soap and sheer misery did not dissipate in the beer, but instead intensified. I was not-so-fondly reminded of when classmates vomited and it was covered with sawdust and newspaper. It also tasted like soap. There was nothing redeemable. I gave up on experimenting shortly thereafter.
Could I have done it wrong? Maybe. Could I have not put enough in? Perhaps. Could I have put too much in? Doubtful. If you really want to drink craft beer, and you think this is the option for you, just don’t. Roll up a newspaper and bop yourself on the nose, then go back to the store for a case of Natty. You may not be drinking craft beer, but you’ll be better off in the end.
Submitted by Jonathan Schwartz
Hi. I’m from Canada.
I know this because I laugh at American food habits: the massive portions, the reliance on industrial chain restaurants, the use of cheese and bacon as condiments.
Yet I think nothing of drowning French fries in brown gravy and cheese curds, and inhaling the results before they cool into a singly sludgy mass.
Especially when I’m in a drunken stupor.
It’s a cultural tradition up here, like ice hockey, Céline Dion, and the seal hunt.
(I apologize for the Céline Dion reference).
Each bite brings me closer to chest-crumpling pain and death, but it’s part of my heritage so I celebrate. Valhalla, I’m coming.
What happens when my Hudson Bay-Blanket-wrapped national pride conflicts with the latest chain restaurant offering (and a passing need to stave off a hangover)? Worlds Collide.
Recently, American chain restaurant McDonalds introduced poutine to its menu.
By way of background, the website www.montrealpoutine.com states that the first poutines were invented in Quebec circa 1950-1970, outside of Montreal. Legend has it a local restaurateur, when passing a customer a takeout bag filled with the requested french fries and cheese, stated “ça va faire une maudite poutine” (”That’s going to make a damn mess”). Sauce (originally a sweeter, more barbecue-ish version than the current standard gravy) came later.
Like Seth Rogen, Justin Bieber or Rob Ford, Americans have made this Canadian icon their own. Swap in shredded cheddar for the curds and you have New Jersey Disco Fries. On the West Coast, you can order the same thing off-menu at In-n-Out Burger as “Animal Fries” (fittingly, we Canucks have stolen this one back; a mustard-fried “Animal-Style” hamburger may be ordered as a “Jarsch” at our vastly superior Burger’s Priest). But I digress.
So here we are, re-introduced to a Canadian staple by an American fast food conglomerate. My heart swells with national pride and saturated fat. My heart falls at the thought of yet another piece of Canadian cultural identity being syphoned off (and with saturated fat).
I order. I wait. I receive. I sit.
I open the cardboard box, greeted with a puff of steam and an approximation of the real thing.
The fries are familiar golden straws; neatly crisp and aggressively salty. The gravy is either surprisingly good and beefy in flavor, or I have grown completely acclimated to fake dreck.
The cheese curds resist a full melt, but don’t maintain their desired squeakiness between the teeth.
The French fries are the biggest disappointment. Made with hearty, thick-cut fresh chips, poutine fries maintain their crunch at least halfway through the box. These fries go limp too quickly, and wind up twirled around my fork like Bizarro spaghetti.
Were I to happen upon this poutine anywhere else, I’d be pleased; a little guy using ingredients at hand to make a tasty, ubiquitously Canadian snack. In Ronald McDonald’s gloved hands, the whole production feels like a slick imitation of local flavor.
I can buy McDonald’s Saimin in Hawaii, or curry in India (and England, I’m told). In France, I can order a Royale with Cheese, mayo with my frites and a beer to wash it all down.
But please, hands off my Canadian junk food.
Flying Fish Flavored Beer
Pressed Orange and Crushed Lemon
Submitted by Nick Mulgrew
A gaggle of twenty-somethings jive on a beach. There are kites, cerulean skies, DJ booths made of coral. Women with elaborate earrings sip daintily from green-glass bottles. Men play volleyball over a sand sculpture. The crush of ice.
Suddenly, a gravelly voiceover asks: “Who says beer can’t be flavored?” Dubstep. Sarongs. The camera pans: the beach is on a rooftop in the middle of a giant, unspecified Afropolitan city. Twist! Beaches are social constructs; summer is a state of mind.
The TV spots for Flying Fish are confusing, mostly because it’s currently winter in Cape Town, and the prospect of going outside is as attractive as drowning. Something bothers me, though: is the gravelly voice’s question rhetorical, or are there people who insist that, no, absolutely not, beer must not be flavored? Aren’t hops technically a flavor? What about malt? These are questions that have to be answered.
I walk through the sideways-blowing rain to my local bottle store and buy a can each of both varieties of Flying Fish. There’s one called “Pressed Orange” and one called “Crushed Lemon.” They’re worryingly cheap. I leave the bottle store, half-expecting to somehow conjure back the summer with the power of my purchases, to see the clouds part and to hear strains of reggae lilting somewhere not too far away.
Instead it begins to hail.
I take shelter under the wooden balcony of a Mexican-Italian pub. I take the cans of Flying Fish out of the packet and read the ingredients. Both kinds are flavored with “at least 2%” fruit juice, as well as “flavorants” and rosemary extract. The hail eventually slows, but the rain replacing it is torrential, ferrying clumps of ice down the gutters and into the storm drains.
Trapped, I crack open both cans and sit on the sidewalk. I immediately half-drain the can of Pressed Orange in more or less the same manner as one of the wholesomely sexy women in the commercial. It tastes like a lager shandy, if a lager shandy was made with Orangina. I then sip the Crushed Lemon. The lemon flavor is the sort that one usually smells lingering in expensive dishwashing liquids.
Disappointingly, I do not taste rosemary. At this point I would like to taste rosemary. I would like to taste anything other than these watery, citrus-y simulacra of the warmth of the sun.
A few people in the coffee shop directly across the street are looking at me through the window. They wear scarves and drink coffee.
I weave my fingers into a basket. I place my head into the basket. Three more months of winter. I burp.
Kite Hill’s White Alder nut-based, dairy-free cheese
Submitted by Gina Cocchiaro
Allow this gentle warning, reader, that while I consider myself an otherwise tolerant individual, you shall soon experience my unmistakable prejudice against vegans. I do not actively hold them in contempt, but it may be revealing that I have exactly one vegan friend. She wasn’t always vegan, but now that she is, I am convinced one is all I can handle. She works at Whole Foods, and her birthday fell over Employee Appreciation Week. She got 40% off a wheel of Kite Hill’s White Alder, a nut-based dairy-free cheese. I’m game for any kind of cheese anytime, but soft cheese has it out for me. The air could be three parts per million oozing triple cream nasty and I’d find it blindfolded. There it was, cozying up to some deep red jam on a white plate while I, unaware of its masquerade, cut what I believed to be some off-color Brie. As I dropped the slice into my mouth, she said, “it’s nut milk cheese,” I, quickly masticating and clearing my mouth to speak, replied, “It’s NOT dick cheese?!” Because A) that is what I heard, and B) I suppose I needed the reassurance.
“We believe the best part of eating is inviting everyone to the table for a convivial meal…[our] products had to entice the full range of food lovers: omnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike.” — Kite Hill
Go ’head, Kite Hill. Warriors of food justice, transcending dietary restrictions in a quest for a truly harmonic, egalitarian meal. I like the golden-rule quality of this mission. Showing painfully exclusive eaters the courtesy of inclusion. Offering them a treat for being royal pains in the patoot while omnivores are dealt a compromise. Everybody… wins?
Sad news is we cannot unite all diets around a ruse (especially if the best draw is an opioid-free stand-in for dairy’s holy grail) much less quell vegan FOMO through creation of “cheeze” that, despite Kite Hill’s best efforts, boasts the barely-there taste and mushy texture of semi-firm tofu. Though its taste is inoffensive, its lack of distinction raises my hackles. I am all at once disappointed, hoodwinked, and seriously troubled. Is the fuzzy rind impressive? Certainly. I would consider it a frontrunner in the category of culinary costume design, because honestly until that bitch was cut into it could have passed for some REAL soft-ripened goodness.
While nut milk cheese is an intriguing concept, I can only assume those shmeg-mongers at Kite Hill have lost their damn minds. I imagine late-night recipe development sessions: them snacking furiously on quinoa crackers while snorting line after line of cocaine. They do a lot of backslapping and circle-jerking and inhaling whole blocks of real cheese before gagging themselves with their fists. This team possesses a flair for getting-it-not-quite-right, a mastery of fanciful ideation, a knack for making the unimaginable both extant and terrible.
Of course this is all speculation. Who are these people, really? Shock yourself—as I did—with a visit to the Kite Hill website to find that these four co-founding gentlemen are well-established scientists, chefs, educators, and magician/businessmen. You can shock yourself in another way too—as I did in the early stages of my research—if you google image search “nut cheese.” I think on some level I knew what I was getting into with that one… but if I’ve peaked your sick curiosities then be my guest and search away.
Anyway, the takeaway from the website: these are not strung-out vegan radicals hell-bent on legitimizing the name of gourmet veganism. Their qualifications are irrefutable; these are men of reputable scientific and culinary backgrounds. As far as all-access cheese substitutes go, this is probably close to the best we can do. They’re grabbing an oxymoron by the horns. They’re birthing a mutant with no...
Simone caressed Cynthia’s hair, only to get her hand tangled up in her earbuds, pulling both out of her ears. They could no longer hear Foster the People through the splitter but they didn’t care. The speakers dangled helplessly at their sides, forgotten.
Jumping on top of his Tesla, Theo yelled her name into the crowd. “ALICE!” he cried, willing time to stop, willing the world to come to halt, desperately trying to find her before she slipped through his fingers forever. For he knew one thing in that moment, and that thing was that Alice was the love of his life. Alice, who had introduced him to Malort. Alice, who had bought him those super neat biking pants with the reflector on the ankle that he could also wear to pitch meetings. Alice, who had told him about that bomb-ass brunch spot, who had recommended he read BoingBoing, who signed him up on Twitter. Alice, the one that sent him that great Someecard five days ago with the horse on it, five days before he knew that he needed Alice so desperately, five days before he realized what excellent taste Alice had in local organic meats, five days after he dumped Claire via iMessage.
“I don’t have a TV,” Carla murmured into the nape of Nate’s neck.
“At long last the council has finally passed city ordinance HB 1644, outlawing plastic bags,” Logan said into the microphone as he looked up and saw Shelby walking down the center aisle of City Hall, carrying seventeen cloth bags filled with cats, tears in her eyes. He liked cats.
The Stop Gentrification Now! rally was crowded, but Natasha expertly maneuvered through the crowd on her fixed gear. She locked up and bought a tamale from a vendor. As she approached the group, listening to the protesters’ cries, she heard a voice. She stopped. He was behind her, it was him. She knew that voice anywhere. It was Thaddy P, who had rescued her when she lost a hiking boot off a cliff on the Pacific Crest Trail 5 years earlier. She turned around as he said her name and she saw that he was wearing the same flannel shirt he’d had on the day they met. “The shirt,” she whispered, “you’re wearing the shirt.” “I’ve never taken it off,” he said, as his dreads quivered with surprise. He smelled like really terrible body odor and ramen noodles, and he took her in his arms, promising never to leave her again. She mouth-breathed emotionally.
“Non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be a sham, baby, but our open relationship means the world to me,” said Mark. To both Toni and Ruby. Several days apart. Also Ashley.
The doorbell rang basically right as Lane placed the order. Goosebumps erupted across her arms. Heart pounding, she made her way to the door. “That was… freakishly fast” she said, signing the receipt.
Greg came home to find his Dollar Shave Club order on the steps, delivered by UPS earlier that day, same as always. What wasn’t the same as always was that the box was the size of a refrigerator and was humming the theme song to Juno. Greg sat down and put his head in his hands, listening to his wife sing. Fatherhood. He took a selfie.
“I’ve waited for you for so long” Chad whispered into the dark, sliding his hand over her smooth curves, her beautiful face, his new iPad.
“WHAT IS THIS LIFE” Alyssa shouted, her heart melting. As she walked from room to room, every surface in her home was covered, just like, covered, with candles made out of yarn. They were all on fire. Sam waited behind the door, with a tiny knit ring in a tiny knit box, trying to find her in the smoke.
“YOLO,” he texted. Her pulse quickened.