Heart-whacked

Today I got injured in my Pilates class, which is a thing that could only happen to me. It’s like suffering a croquet injury, or a bongo mishap. It’s just not easy to injure yourself in Pilates. It was a tower class, which means that you’re working on equipment that’s bolted to the wall, and there’s a piece of that equipment on springs that you push down with your hands—and what you’re not supposed to do is let it go so that the equipment flies up and whacks you in the chest so hard you can’t talk for a few seconds. 

You see that bar each lady is holding? Well, if you stand over it, push it down, and then let it go, it will rise up with surprising force and leave you bruised and mad at it. 

You see that bar each lady is holding? Well, if you stand over it, push it down, and then let it go, it will rise up with surprising force and leave you bruised and mad at it. 

It hurt. It really, really hurt. Like, really.

It’s only a small class, just me and another student and the instructor, so it’s not like the WHANG that reverberated through my chest went unnoticed. Once I was able to talk I claimed that I was fine, and after a few minutes of me enthusiastically lying (why? Why must we always pretend we're fine?), we kept going. 

And that’s when the tears started. You know when you feel them coming and it’s just not the right time, and you’re like, not now, tears, wait until I’m home, come on, we only have ten more minutes of class, RETREAT, RETREAT, you're fine, keep it together, and the tears are like "NO THANKS! WE CAN’T WAIT TO SPILL ALL OVER THIS YOGA MAT!"? 

So embarrassing. 

It hurt, yes, but I also think I needed to cry. I'm normally a crier (boy, am I) but I've been having a dry spell. And it’s been a rough few months. I’ve been worried and sad. My dad isn’t doing great. His health problems keep multiplying, and he’s having cognitive issues, and it feels like every week there’s more news, and it’s never good. I’ve been keeping it together, though. I mean, he’s 80. This is what happens. I’ve kept my focus on my mom, who has to deal with the brunt of it. But then I got whacked in the chest, and something else hit me: my dad’s going to die.  

Luckily, as I said, it was only the three of us, so the class turned into a stretching/therapy session, with me soaking my yoga mat as the other two recalled the times they had cried during Pilates. I kept trying to stop, but my chest kept hurting in these waves, and each wave would bring it on again. 

The thing is, I really don’t want my dad to die. Not surprising, I know. I don't want him to die, and also I hate this. All of it. I think this whole deal, this whole getting old and sick and unhappy business, is stupid and unfair. I wish to have some words with whoever came up with this plan.

In the meantime, I hurt myself and I hurt and I got home and thought I'd stop crying, but I continued on with great vigor, and then my son came home from school and was quite concerned, and he ordered me to bed, because he is goddamn adorable and sweet. So I’m just going to lie in bed for a while with a whole bunch of damp tissues and a mildly alarmed chihuahua. Right after I hit publish. 

An amazing thing I didn't know I needed

Sometimes I write about stuff and I don’t fully understand why I’m writing it. Take last week’s post. I thought I was making a point about writing on the Internet—the high school anecdote was just the way to get there. Why would I care that much about high school? It’s been almost 30 years since high school. I’ve put decades between me and the eighties. The span of my life after high school is longer than it was up to high school. And more things about time. I’m an adult, is what I’m trying to say! Such an adult. I adult like you wouldn’t believe. 

So, sure, I wrote about this time when my friends hated me, but then I skipped right ahead to the here and now. I’m Facebook friends with two of the members of that high school circle. Since then, we’ve had really nice interactions both online and in person. I’ve long moved past that point. Did I mention that I’m an adult, now? I’m ridiculously sophisticated. I sometimes use that primer you put under your makeup. I have creases and such. And life insurance! 

I will admit, however, that a small part of me worried that these friends might react negatively. That I would either hear, “Oh, I see—we’re talking about why we all hated you in high school? Because I can tell you exactly why." Even worse: “I don’t remember anything about it, because you weren’t relevant enough to make it into my memories.” (Yes, this is where my mind goes. I’m in therapy twice a week!) Mostly, though, I figured no one involved would comment much on it. Events that seemed huge to me truly might not have registered for them. 

A few days after publishing, I received two Facebook messages. Both of my high school friends sent me the most extraordinary apologies. They were apologies I had no idea I needed until I read them. 

Not only did they remember what happened, not only did they confirm my suspicions that there was nothing definite that caused the break (or at least they couldn’t remember it either)—they both expressed enormous regret. One person called it “my biggest regret from my high school years.” They said I was undeserving of what I went through. They hoped I could forgive them. 

It’s hard to express what I felt, reading these messages. I’ll tell you what I did. First I stood up. Then I clapped my hands over my mouth. Then I said “oh god oh god oh god” while walking rapidly back and forth around my living room. And then I read them again. While rocking back and forth. (I was alone except for the pets. The cat didn’t care, but Hazel was unnerved and immediately commenced humping her favorite throw pillow.) 

It was amazing. I’m still just…I can’t put it into words. I can’t wrap my head around it. I didn’t realize how much I was still identifying with this time in my life. Until they told me that I was blameless, I didn’t see how much I still believed that I was to blame. I didn’t know I’ve been carrying around the belief, ever since, that any friendship I value is probably going to turn to shit because of me. That I was, at my core, somehow a bad person, and I couldn’t even see it. I didn’t know I was holding onto all this shame. There was a fist in my chest, and I didn't know it was there until I felt it unclenching. 

How great is that? 

(Episode 6 of the podcast is now live! "What's this about a podcast?", you ask? Click on the link and find out!) 

The stupidity of writing (and/or living) for people who dislike you

Halfway through my senior year of high school, a group of my friends decided they didn’t like me anymore. It felt at the time like the entire class had turned against me, but it was probably about five people. Nonetheless, they were five people I spent a lot of my time with, and they were fairly well-liked, so other people who had once thought I was cool now found me loathsome. I devolved from “somewhat cool to hang out near” to “What? No.” It was…difficult.

It was never clear to me what started it; over a period of weeks and months I was just frozen out. People who had once laughed at my jokes were now rolling their eyes. Then walking away. And when I asked them what I had done, they said, God, you don't understand anything. I’d call and their moms would say they were busy and their moms would sound embarrassed. Like that. If I had to dig through my memory I’m positive I'd find I wasn’t blameless, but luckily no one’s making me dig through my memory. (It’s messy in there.) 

So that’s hard to remember, but what’s even worse were my attempts to change their minds. Because I did not say, “Well, screw you” and concentrate on the few good friends who stuck by me. Oh no I did not. Instead I engaged in desperate and frantic bids to get their friendships back. Showing up at get-togethers that I wasn’t specifically not invited to. Breakin’ the rules and gettin’ suspended to show that I was a real bad-ass. (And apparently dropping my g’s.) Worst of all, I made up gossip, literally made up dirt on people, to show that I was somehow in the know and worth hanging out with. You can imagine how well that turned out. 

In my spare time I was learning what "panic attacks" were and breaking out into epic rashes (the family dermatologist was fascinated by me that year), and when I was at school I playacted at being an asshole. Somehow I thought that if they didn’t like me, maybe they’d like this frantic, aggressive version of me. 

This strategy, not surprisingly, backfired, in that not only did they dislike me even more, the few people who were still brave enough to be my friends were beginning to see their point. Is it a coincidence that the one friend who was kind enough to sit me down and tell me what a dick I was being, and then forgive me when I acknowledged said dickness, is now a priest? It is not. She is a goddamn saint. 

The whole situation was pretty excruciating, and the only thing that saved me was graduation. 

This particular story was a dramatic example but not an exception to how I like to focus on someone who doesn’t like me and try and make them like me. I’ve homed in on the one person in my life who doesn’t think I’m all that charming and used all my charm to change their minds. And do you know what? This has always failed! Sometimes spectacularly! 

If someone doesn’t like you, it’s probably got more to do with them than you, but either way, I've learned, there’s not too much you can do about it. Unless you’ve actively been a terrible person, in which case you should quit doing that, for everyone’s sake. 

I’ve been thinking of this period in my life recently, because I found myself recently trying to understand why I’ve struggled with blogging over the past few years. Since I started it in 2004, Finslippy has been one of the most joyful experiences of my life. I gave it my random thoughts and it gave me friends, positive feedback, a book deal, television appearances, a stream of writing gigs, crazy speaking engagements and video projects, and more than one job. I owe my blog so much.

It also provided me with the weird sensation of reading about how much some people weren’t into me. Of course, right? Once your audience extends beyond your friends and family, it’s inevitable that someone’s not going to think you’re particularly interesting. I always knew that. I just didn’t know people would find me so not-that-great that they’d be compelled to write about it. And that so many people would agree with them. 

I am not a special case. This is in no way unusual. It happens to everyone who's put anything out there in the world. It’s the byproduct of creative output. If anything, I’ve gotten off easy. I’ve gotten off easy, though, because I’ve pulled back. And I’ve pulled back because the negative feedback was too painful. 

And it’s not like I was being attacked on the regular, by any means. All I got were a few comments on a forum here and there. A discussion thread or two about how non-exemplary I was. A couple of Google alerts let me know that I wasn’t nearly as great as I (apparently) believed. A couple of emails informing me that I’m a garbage dump of a person. That kind of stuff. 

In realizing that I wasn't alone with this phenomenon, I also read scathing attacks on my blogging peers and my friends. I sort of...obsessed over these attacks. I saw people I understand on a cellular level being ridiculed and dismissed. No one was making me read those sites. But somewhere in the weird little frightened squirrel part of my brain, I was taking notes, trying to figure out what these people who hated everything would like, how I could be that cool girl who’d get a pass. 

It didn’t take long for me to really get these people's voices in my head. I became increasingly careful with what I wrote. I edited and re-edited. I second-guessed and didn't hit publish. I became increasingly self-conscious and reactive and every post just felt harder and harder. And then I gave up. It wasn’t fun anymore. 

But who made it un-fun? I did. I denied myself the joy of writing shit that I wanted to write. How stupid is that? Who was this benefiting? A few people who probably weren’t paying any attention? Would these people spontaneously contact me and say, “You know, I used to think you were boring and unfunny, but now that you’re not writing at all, you’ve really grabbed my attention. Want to get drinks?” And then we’d get drinks and we’d be best friends and everyone would like me again and I’d be voted Most Misunderstood But Secretly Great? 

This is silly. It’s so silly. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t think you’re great. Don’t read it. Don’t read negative shit in general, actually: it’s poison. 

And if someone doesn’t like you enough to fire off an angry missive about how you're the worst, just rest easy in the knowledge that that person is a miserable chafe of a human being who doesn’t deserve your time and energy.

Then reply, “For the last time, I’m not going to have sex with you.” 

This always freaks them out. Because secretly they wanted to have sex with you. They all do. Because you’re super hot.

 

Generating ideas

About a month ago I left my editorial job to return to writing, and I knew I was going to do this for a while, so I had a few months to really hyperventilate over my decision. I hadn’t written much in that time and was feeling kinda dead inside as a result, so well before I was unemployed, I set myself the task of writing down 10 ideas every day. They couldn’t be stupid—“write a bestseller” or "make a million dollars" couldn’t count as an idea, much as I wanted it to— but “not stupid” was otherwise broadly defined. 

This was a really valuable exercise and I recommend it. Idea generating is hard work. It tires you out like exercise can tire you out. Just like exercise, it can feel overly difficult and pointless, until you start to see results. 

When you’re churning out ideas you generate all kinds of garbage. Sometimes you're delighted by the useless garbage. You get to look back at your lists from weeks before and you don't have a single clue what you were thinking. Were you falling asleep when you wrote these?

Then you post a few to your blog because what the hell. 

  • “You're Not Terrible: A Story for All My Friends Who Think They're Terrible" 

Well, that's easy. You're not terrible! You're the best, not the worst! Why do you think you're terrible when you're definitely not! Only people who are terrible don't think they're terrible. Wait, did you not previously think you're terrible and now you do because I said this? No way, not you. You're a shimmering being of light. I want to take pictures of you all day.   (Great idea, great story, get this published immediately) 

  • “Alice and Alison—find someone I can emulate, like Julie and Julia!” 

Oh my god, what? Get a hold of yourself, Bradley. Also what Alisons are there in this world? Alison Williams? Alison Brie? Commendable young ladies, but no. Gross. Stop it. Now I'm mad at me. 

  •  “Eulogy for the guy who lived down the street who’s angry about the sun.” 

 I don’t have a clue what this means. I don’t know what it could possibly mean even in my imagination. I’m 99% sure I was dreaming when i wrote this. This is dream language. But then my penmanship is pretty legible. It wasn’t even my last idea of the day. Was I thinking about Buzz Aldrin railing against the moon on 30 Rock and I thought, that’s proven gold, just flip it and make it local? Oh well, here you go: 

We’re here to remember that guy who lived down the street. He was a good man, even though he was super angry about the sun. He was always outside, which is weird, seeing as how the sun made him so angry. Most of us on the block have a fun story about Bill—his name was Bill, obviously, we all know this—standing in the middle of the street, waving his arms around about the sun and its hidden agenda. “But it’s cloudy out today, Bill!” we’d say, and he’d reply, “But it’s there, damn your hide! Don’t you understand? It’s not leaving us alone, it’s just hiding! Continuing its secret work!” And we'd tell him, "Bill, we need the sun for warmth and energy!" And that's when he'd start karate chopping the air. He was a colorful guy and wore a real big hat. We’ll miss his yelling—his sunrise yelling least of all. 

Rest in peace, idea. 

  • Stories about weird street detritus

One of my neighbors left, on the curb, the following tableau: a Plan B box leaning against an empty bottle of Old Fitzgerald bourbon and a pair of denim cutoffs. I’ve been trying to find a way to mention this online ever since. God that felt good. 

 

 

 

 

 

Scared straight

Last June was our 16th anniversary, so Scott and I spent a weekend at this funky hotel in the Catskills. Every room is themed at this place. I chose a space-themed room. It was appropriately far out. 

Before we left, Scott mentioned that one of his coworkers, a fellow video editor, had gifted us an edible. A pot cookie, in other words. (I feel like I'm a million years old when I say "pot cookie" but I don't feel like I've earned the right to say "edible.") He apparently was a frequent user (and baker, I guess) of such things, and thought we’d have fun with it. Sure, I said! Pot’s fun! 

Couple of important details: First, I smoked pot plenty in my twenties, but not really since. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s … changed a little, in the past twenty-odd years. I learned this a couple of years ago, when I shared a one-hitter with a friend and spent the next few hours paranoid and hyper, my face in a jumbo bag of Cheetos. Number two, I’ve never ingested it. Smoked, sure; eaten, no. (Turns out ingesting is also different.) I will research the hell out of anything, but in this case I didn’t bother doing a single second of reading on how to manage an edible. At least I can blame Scott’s friend, who had lulled us into a false sense of security with his detailed tips and tricks. 

After we’d settled into our Catskills Room of Space-Whimsy, Scott took out the cookie. We ate only 1/4 each, as per our instructions. It was not difficult to only eat 1/4 of it. It tasted like if you licked the inside of a suede vest that had just spent a long hot jam session pressed up against Robert Plant’s pectorals. Approximately. 

Once that was over with, we drank Prosecco, played the Velvet Underground, laughed at the Cylon tub. 

Space tub!   

Space tub! 

 

 

Then we were in the Cylon tub, because that's what you do on a romantic weekend in your space room. We weren’t feeling the effects of the cookie, and briefly discussed eating more. We didn’t because, I don’t know, there’s a God? A God who might be looking out for middle-aged folks getting overly high in the Catskills? 

Then we were out of the tub and engaging in the usual anniversary-weekend behaviors when I realized that my mouth had turned so dry it was definitely going to kill me. I could barely form words to tell Scott that all the fluids had exited my body and I was now but a husk. Scott went to get water, and to my mind he was gone for an hour and when he finally returned I was curled up on the bed, my eyes clamped shut, repeating the same phrase over and over. It was something about time and drugs and it wasn’t interesting but the point is that I kept repeating myself because I kept forgetting I was saying it. And yet I was sort of aware that I was repeating and forgetting, repeated and forgetting, and that my brain was permanently damaged. 

I drank more and more water, Scott forced to make repeated trips to the sink while I yelled "ARE YOU STILL THERE." I assured Scott that I was definitely dying. I moved from my fetal position to an alert crouch right next to the bed, neither standing nor sitting, kind of a vertical fetal position that turned into a real workout for my quads. I think the crouch was meant to ward off death. (Death can't get you when you're crouched.) Or the burning thigh muscles were an important reminder that I still existed. I became positive I was going to die from over-hydration, and I was also sure that Scott’s friend had slipped something more serious into the cookie than pot, and I insisted that Scott had to call both his friend and also 911 immediately because death was coming for me, crouch or no crouch. 

“You’re fine,” Scott said. “You’re just really high. You’re freaking out.” 

“I am not high, I’m dying,” I told him. "I mean, yes, I'm high, but I am also dying. You have to believe me." 

He did not believe me. I thought, you’re not going to call 911 and I’m going to die and you’re going to feel so bad. Poor, poor Scott. 

For some unknown reason Scott found my High Alert Crouch unsettling so he coaxed me back onto the bed, where I proceeded to tremble uncontrollably. I pointed at my legs as they thrashed about. “See? I’m having a seizure,” I told him.

“Pretty sure if you were having a seizure you wouldn’t be talking,” he reasoned. 

“I’m going to be a HuffPo article,” I told him. I was picturing myself as a cautionary-tale news story. “Woman Dies From Pot Like an Idiot. World Laughs at Her.” 

Then I told him I was having a seizure 9000 more times and forgot his response each time. 

Scott, meanwhile, seemed fine. I kept asking him and he kept saying he was fine. (I found out the next day that Scott was freaking out as much as I was, but held it together because he knew that if I thought he was also dying I could not have been stopped from calling the authorities. And then we really would have been on HuffPo.) 

At one point I asked him to tell me a story and he said “you know all my stories” and I explained that I wanted him to distract me and only a story would do it. He proceeded to tell me about a dream he had about being very tiny and running around in a giant sink, and I thought, of all the stories he could tell me, he chooses this Alice in Wonderland nightmare shit right now? I commanded that he stop telling me the story, otherwise known as the Worst Story to Tell an Overly High Person Ever. 

(If someone is high, tell them a story about a cute bunny you saw in the woods. And how you had to stay real quiet until it got close, and then it sniffed your hand for a bit and hopped away. Tell them about your mom making you a grilled cheese. Don’t tell them about how you morphed into a tiny thing that was menaced by a sink sponge. For God’s sake.) 

After…minutes? Hours? The shaking subsided and I was somewhat reassured that I wasn’t going to die. Still, I was suffering a fate worse than death, locked in a permanent psychosis like I was. So that was a shame. Scott, meanwhile, fell asleep. I stared at him, amazed. Asleep! He could actually sleep! I checked his breathing. 

By this time I was somewhat ambulatory so I made it to my phone where I proceeded to Google “POT COOKIE TAINTED,” “ECSTASY IN MY EDIBLE,” “AM I DYING FROM POT Y/N” and countless other all-caps iterations, all of which I read aloud to Scott the next day. I found advice that all amounted to “you’re just incredibly high and there's nothing you can do.” I read an article by Maureen Dowd about her unfortunate edible experience and was brought to tears by the cruel taunts of the NYT commenters who all seemed to think she should have known what she was getting herself into. Only I understand you, Maureen Dowd, I thought. This was one of many thoughts that I never had before or since. 

Since there was no way I was ever going to sleep again I stayed up for hours, first watching an infinite number of Friends episodes and then, somehow, an equally infinite number of Seinfeld episodes. Friends, I determined, was the best show ever, and Seinfeld was a horror show masquerading as comedy. I know this because I was writing about it in my journal, which i was doing both to show myself that I still existed and also because I had this vague idea that I was being ridiculous and whatever I came up with right then had the potential to be hilarious the next day. 

(It wasn’t. It was really boring. I wrote poetry about Friends. And it was boring.) 

Actual doodle from that night.   

Actual doodle from that night. 

 

In conclusion, we had a terrible time and it was the least romantic getaway ever. But the hotel was pretty cool. 


I'm not hiding my shame under a bushel. A shame-bushel. That's the saying, right?

I was in okay physical shape, once. At least for me. I don’t know if that equates to anything resembling “okay shape” for other humans. I kind of doubt it, but let’s pretend that I’m somewhere in the realm of normal. Pretend along with me! Make me feel good. Look, you don’t have to pretend. I won’t know. 

When I was in okay shape and I didn’t have time to hit the gym (the gym was something I “hit,” back then. It’s a figure of speech, you understand. Coined when people were so satisfied with their working-outs that they’d slap the gym wall and say, “that’s a good workout, by gum!” Then they’d drop their comical barbells, peel off their woolen unitards, don their three-piece suits, and set off for a mustache-steam. I don’t have a good handle on what old-timey people did)— 

—ANYWAY, when I didn’t have time to slap the gym I would do that 7-minute workout the New York Times told us was the only workout we ever needed. The New York Times told us that science said it was so, and I believe whatever the New York Times tells me that science says. Except this workout was kind of easy because I was a smug gym-hitter. So I would (smugly) do two of them. Sometimes three. Three workouts all in a row, like a SUPERHERO or something. 

FAST FORWARD TO NOW, about six months after I started my job, and I haven’t been to the gym in…hey, six months! What do you know! I’ve been pulling my own leg with lies like “Walking is like working out, only slower and less sweaty” and “Sucking in your gut is like crunches but standing and you can wear nice pants.” Turns out, though, that walking won’t help you do a push-up, which I learned last week, when I did one (1) 7-minute workout. And could barely do a push-up. AND the next day, all my parts hurt. At one point, I was sitting down, and I won’t say I couldn’t stand, but I had to think about it. And I could pretend this is the declaration that's going to motivate me to return to my former glory/okay-ness but really I just wanted a topic to write about, and my first thought was, "Hey, my sore butt!" 

I feel so close to you all right now.

Announcement

I hereby announce that from now on I’m going to be answering my phone by barking, “Go for Bradley.” I feel it necessary to announce this because I’ve tried just implementing my new phone-answering style and it didn’t go well. Specifically, no matter who was on the other end, they all said, “What?” or “Whuh?” or “Gopher Badly?” or "Goldfarb Brad Lean?" And I'm like "Why on earth would anyone say 'Goldfarb Brad Lean?" and THEN I have to explain that I said “Go for Bradley” and this is my new answering-the-phone style and then they’re like, “I don't understand, why are you doing this to me?” And I’m like, BECAUSE, Mom. Because.  

I have to say “Go for Bradley” now because I’m a professional and I’m very very busy. “Go for Bradley” is my way of saying, “Cut the chit chat, slackers. I don’t want your jibber-jabber, slowpokes. I don't need your niceties. I'm a goddamn professional, so let’s get down to it.” Only no one understands what I said or else they don't appreciate it and I spend a lot of time explaining myself. So it’s not actually that efficient. But I can’t change it now because if I say “hello” people will be like I THOUGHT IT WAS “GO FOR BRADLEY,” JERK. So: look. I'm saying "Go for Bradley" now. Deal with it. You've been warned. Or, you know, announced at. 

All right, fine. I’ve never said “Go for Bradley,” not once. BUT—and this is true—I think about it all the time, I think about saying it, and as a result every time I answer the phone I experience a mild frisson of delight at the very thought. I get a little giddy and I bet everyone thinks I'm incredibly excited to talk to them, when in reality I'm just thinking, this is it! But then I chicken out. Once I started and I said "go for—" and then I pretended to have a coughing fit. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, guys. 

(Also, any time anyone says "Supposedly," I want to lift a finger to interrupt them and say with a patronizing smirk, "I think you mean supposably." This also cracks me up every time. It's fun to be me!) 

Anyway I'm just here to say hi, I never meant to be gone for so long, but, you know, job, life, excuses, shut up, and I haven’t given up on this blog, although I know it seemed that way. I'm very sorry to confuse the, you know, two of you still looking in on me and wondering where I am. I missed you! I missed us. So: hello! I mean: go for Bradley. 

She's a lady

 

We were going to wait to get another dog, but then we realized that waiting is stupid and dogs are the best. Meet Hazel.

 

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:21pm PDT


Hazel is between 3 and 5 years of age, so we'll just go ahead and call her 4. She was dumped by some sad fool who failed to recognize that she is a wondrous being with popcorn-scented paws. We got her through a rescue group, and now she is ours and she is the best. They called her a chihuahua mix but we think she's all chihuahua. 

 

Her full name is Hazel Doolittle Bradley-Rosann. Doolittle because her evening gloves belie her coarse beginnings. 

 

I'm a good girl, I am. #hazeldoolittle

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:08pm PST

 

We love her a little bit. 

 

Izzy is glaring at Hazel, aka "midafternoon snack."

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 11:48am PST

 

 

The cat now makes this face, all the time. 

 

 

Izzy is glaring at Hazel, aka "midafternoon snack."

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 11:48am PST

 

She'll get over it.

 

Back to Hazel! All she wants to do is sleep on a lap, or burrow under some covers. 

 

"Good morning, Hazel!" "Nope." #notamorningdog #hazeldoolittle

A photo posted by Alice Bradley (@finslippy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 5:39am PST

 

She is very, very smart. I think she might be the next Oprah. 

Charlie the Dog, 1998(?)-2014

Charlie died on October 10th.

As you know if you’ve ever read this site or looked at a single word I’ve written on social media, Charlie was our beloved dog, the greatest pet who ever walked this earth, blessed with the softest of ears and the most agreeable of dispositions. He was nothing but a joy to live with since we picked him up on a street corner 15 years ago. We had answered a Petfinder ad, knowing nothing about him other than that he had been neglected by his previous owners, and that he was a “sweet dog with soft ears who needs a chance.” (That’s quoted directly from his ad.)

Charlie’s health had been going downhill for the past year or so. He had arthritis in his back legs and a heart murmur. He was totally deaf and almost completely blind. His kidneys were failing, his weight was plummeting. It seemed like we were constantly either walking him or trying to get him to eat. Normally he weighed around 25 pounds, but last month he was down to 14. It looked painful. Well-meaning neighbors and passersby expressed amazement in his continued existence. Once a stranger stopped to hug me; not because I looked sad, but because the dog did. Plus he didn't seem to know where he was, most of the time. 

So that’s how he was, and he was ready to go, and we thought we were ready to say goodbye, but then of course you’re never ready, not really. We miss him so much. 

I wish I could find more things to say about him. He was the best dog. We are so lucky.

 

 

Let's go

After Michael Brown was murdered, I started reading. I heard the voices of my friends, rising up in rage. I read voices that were new to me and thought, that’s what needs to get read. This particular white lady should shut up and listen. But I also felt that silence implied an implicit acceptance of the terrible crimes committed—against Michael Brown, against Eric Garner, against Trayvon Martin, against Renisha McBride. And on, and on. This is unacceptable. 

 

Henry is almost twelve. (Time marches inexorably and mercilessly forward; our amazement in the face of this reality grows exponentially with each passing day). He is learning to navigate this world without my company. He walks around the neighborhood by himself. He runs errands for me; he visits friends; he accompanies said friends to buy ice cream or run around the park. Once they are out there, set free, I am sure they occasionally make too much noise. Out on the sidewalk, crossing a street, I can see at least one prim-faced adult shaking their head at the rowdiness of today’s youth. 

As he outgrows his little-boyness and stretches toward the light, I worry about him getting into trouble. But “trouble,” for me, means, oh, that he might get arrested. His inherent goodness might be impugned. We might have to go to family court; he might be traumatized. These are the consequences that actually concern me, if I bother to consider them in any real way. 

I never worry that a police officer is going to assume he’s a thug and shoot him. 

He’s a good kid. I know he is. But no one else has any reason to know that. They assume it and they will continue to assume it, because he is white. He enjoys the absurd privilege of being, by default, a good kid until proven otherwise. 

If he were black, it would be the reverse. And I would be scared as hell. 

Back when Henry was a baby, there was a rash of violent muggings in our neighborhood. Beat cops were assigned to practically every corner. We lived in a co-op at the time, and at one of our meetings, we were discussing the weird police state in which we now lived. One of us concluded that although it was unnerving having so many cops around, at least we were safer. 

One of our neighbors, a black woman, set us straight. It wasn’t safer for her; it was terrifying. Her two teenage sons, who couldn’t have been more than 13 and 15, were stopped every day. They were harassed if they sat on the stoop with their friends. 

She would have been well within our rights to call us out on our utter cluelessness, but instead she only asked us to help, if we saw the cops giving either of her boys a hard time. She asked us to confirm that they lived in the neighborhood. That they belonged. 

Never mind that they were good kids, who went to good schools. That doesn’t matter. They could have been drinking, they could have been troublemakers, they could have been teenagers acting like dopey teenagers. They were supposed to have that right. Instead, they were being treated like criminals solely because they were black. They were children, they were innocent, and they were afraid to step outside. 

We enthusiastically agreed, back then, to provide whatever help was needed, but I remember wanting to do more than play the role of white saviors. Didn’t our stepping in also imply tacit acceptance of the system? I didn’t know what to do. Riot, maybe. Take to the streets. March until our feet bled. 

Then, you know, the muggings stopped, the police presence diminished, and our lives went on. I stopped worrying over the inherent racism in the system designed to protect us. This was also a privilege that I enjoyed. 

But of course it never stopped. It’s still going on, all around us, everywhere. And it is an obscenity. That’s the only word I can come up with. That parents live in fear for their children is an obscenity. That there is even a discussion over whether Mike Brown’s homicide was justified is an obscenity. 

Innocent people are assaulted and murdered because of their skin color. This is something beyond an obscenity. I don’t have words for it. I don’t know how to make it stop. But I’m ready to fight. I'm ready to find out where we go from here, because we can't stay here. 

Sponsored post: summer reading

This post is sponsored by Scribd

I'm not a huge fan of summer, but I love summer reading. I grew up right next to the beach, which is a strange and hostile land when you’re as pale and unlikely to become a lifeguard as I am. I don't know how I went outside before serious SPF was invented, and even when science allowed me to venture out without bursting into flames, I preferred reading to camp activities like "archery" or "coming up with dirty alternate lyrics to 'My Sharona.'" On weekends, my bikini’d peers would cavort in the Long Island Sound, flirting with boys and ingesting pesticide runoff (probably), while I sought shelter under a beach umbrella with a Coke slushie and my new boyfriend, Stephen King.

Even now, when beach vacations are limited to the occasional Saturday afternoon trip to Coney Island, and I have no assigned reading the rest of the year so it’s not like summer affords me any special luxuries, the idea of Summer Reading still makes my heart skip. I’m easily excited. 

So when Scribd asked me what I might want to read this summer, I was like SIGN ME UP and they were all GREAT and then I told them about the pesticide runoff! And the heavy metals! I’m so much fun to take to the beach. No one at Scribd has invited me yet but I bet they’re going to.  

 

Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt 

Because nothing says summer like starving in Limerick. I’ve meant to read this for forever. It’s one of those books that too many people told me I should read. There’s a number of recommendations beyond which I get contrary and refuse to read something because you can’t tell me what to do, man. I’m a lone wolf. Anyway I’m reading it this summer. I don’t even care what you say about it, man. 

Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell 

I’ve never read Patricia Cornwell, and summer feels like an appropriate time to begin. This one has gruesome murders perpetrated by a brilliant serial killer. So if you see me at the beach looking especially pale, blame this book. (Although it will probably be because I’m coated in zinc oxide.) 

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester 

Another book that I have been meaning to read for forever. I think that subtitle says it all, don’t you? God, I miss dictionaries. I used to read dictionaries for fun. I’m beginning to see why no one invited me to parties. 

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, by Vendela Vida 

This hugely acclaimed novel has the main character travel to Lapland. There's a hotel made of ice. I'll be reading this in mid-August, when my apartment is on fire. 

 

Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, by Stacy Horn

It is a scientific fact that in summer, you require one or more chills to run up your spine. It's a medical thing. Anyway: ghosts. I can't read about them any other time. I am too easily spooked, even when the topic is a parapsychology laboratory, where ostensibly everyone is professional and not hiding under their lab desks, clutching their beakers. Anyway, everyone knows ghosts can't get you in summer. (That's also a medical thing.) 

If you want to pick out your summer reading, sign up for Scribd and use the promotional code finslippy0614. Here’s a link to get you started. You'll get three months of unlimited books for free. Then let me know what you're reading, because I'm still adding titles to my library. 

 

 

Tracking Pixel

Help for the hopeless (mouth)

 

For most of my life, my mouth has been a train wreck. When I go to a dentist for the first time, they say things like, “I see we have quite a history!” and “Look at all this!”  For years, I would brush and floss diligently, only to somehow end up with more cavities than I have teeth. Especially after I had Henry. Pregnancy hormones, man. Also: caramels.

Even before The Child, however, every cleaning was a gore-fest; every x-ray ended in the dentist tallying all the cavities to his assistant while I wept into my blood-soaked bib. Not surprisingly, these ordeals resulted in me not wanting to go to the dentist anymore. Did you know that if you don’t go to the dentist, your teeth will not magically remain okay? And then when you go back they can’t even believe how messed up your mouth is, or that you’re still alive or able to eat anything chewier than pudding?  

About three years ago I started the ol’ Paleo diet. I really liked it. I still like it. I would call myself, right now, Paleo-ish: mostly Paleo, with the occasional off-roading because life's too short not to eat cheese. The only thing I really, really avoid is wheat. I won’t claim real intolerance, but if I have wheat I feel bad. (It's easy to avoid something when you get bloated and depressed afterward.) Since the Paleo-ish eating, my checkups have become startlingly less terrible. The cleanings were still pretty dramatic, but I had zero cavities.  I think it’s safe to assume that wheat (or, more precisely, the wheaty treats—brownies/cookies/cakes/crackers) is problematic for me. 

The real change, however, started about eight months ago,with this new regimen.  It was created by Dr. Ellie Phillips, DDS, and it goes a little something like this: 

1. Rinse with CloSYS. (I had never heard of this before, but it’s available online; I've also found it at CVS.) 

2. Brush. 

3. Rinse with Listerine. 

4. Rinse with Act Fluoride Rinse. 

And that's it. 

(If you’re looking for reasoning and/or details, I strongly recommend looking at her site. There’s good information in there. Go on. There are details, like only using regular Crest paste and replacing your toothbrush frequently. Dr. Phillips is also an enthusiastic advocate of supplementing with xylitol, which is a thing I keep forgetting to do. I am not a perfect disciple.)  

You’ll notice there’s no flossing in there. I still sort of floss, but that’s because most of my mouth is made up of crowns and play-dough, and I feel weird if I don’t. If I’m in a rush, however, I do the rinsing and skip the flossing. 

ANYWAY I went for a checkup about a month into this new routine, climbed into the dentist chair, braced myself for an hour of gore and mayhem, and experienced…not much. A little bleeding, a sensitive area here and there, but I never even once prayed to God and all the saints in heaven. This was a strange and new world. 

Then the hygienist said something. Her mouth opened, and she said, “You’re doing a good job.” 

You’re. Doing. A. Good. Job. 

I have never heard anyone in a dentist’s office say this to me. Never. And I was. I was ever so good. I was flossing like a pro and brushing for two straight minutes twice a day with my soft-bristled brush. I followed the rules. And still the hygienist would lecture me after each torture session about the importance of flossing. She would make me hold a mirror in front of my face while she demonstrated proper flossing technique on me and I’d try to say, “I know! I floss like that!” But my mouth was full of her hands! 

Not only was I told that I was “doing a good job,” (I might have asked her to repeat it, a few times) there were (again!) no cavities. I was so excited leaving the dentist’s office that I almost ran home to write this blog post ordering everyone to do what I’m doing. But I thought I should wait. I had only been using the rinses for a month or so. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe I was drunk. You just never know with me. 

Fast forward to today, the day of my next checkup.  I am here to tell you that this cleaning was … I don't even...there are no words. It was painless. I’ve had haircuts that felt worse. It felt like someone was just...brushing and flossing for me. How nice of them! While I have my hands free, for knitting! There was no bleeding, no sensitivity. I didn’t pray. I didn’t sweat. I didn't cry/laugh. The hygienist said everything was “perfect.”  I might have teared up. My dentist told me that I've halted my gum recession. Once again there were no cavities, and then he and the nurse held me in their arms and declared me their favorite patient ever. Then they made all the other patients come in to admire me. It took a while.  

I'm not being compensated for this post. I just can’t keep this to myself. Again, I think the reduction in sugar intake was a huge help. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to hear that part. (Did you just slam your laptop down and run to your bundt cake for comfort? I get it. Bundt cakes are delicious.) But the rinses were definitely instrumental in making my cleanings less...instrumental. Will they help you? I have no idea, but I don't see why not, and I don’t think it can hurt. 

Forty five

 

So I turned 45 today. So that’s a thing I’m doing. Also apparently beginning sentences with “so,” now. I’m pretty sure I resolved to stop that somewhere back in my thirties, but hell, I’m FORTY FIVE. I’ve earned the right. By the time I’m fifty I’ll be misplacing modifiers everywhere. At 70 I’m only going to write in all caps. Send my son texts in serif fonts. See if I won’t. 

I turned 35 a few months after I began this blog, and I remember turning 35 more than I remember any other birthday because 35 was the first birthday I fretted over. Like, ooh, I’m 35, that’s so old. I’m old now. 

I now find the idea that 35 is old to be hilariously adorable. Adorably hilarious. 35! Like a baby, I was. Still covered in vernix. I was a little gross, come to think of it. 

I got my Age Crisis out of the way at 35 and now I see how silly it was. How can I freak out about 45? If I freak out now, then in the distant future, when I’m a brain suspended in a bucket of nutrient-fortified goo, I'll have to transmit orders to my android body-replacement to chuckle ruefully about it. And I can’t have that. I’ll have more important things to do, like battle the monstrous virus army, and crochet. 

I mean, however old you are, you’re as young as you’re ever going to be. Oof, that’s obvious. Now that I’m 45 I’m going to issue really obvious pronouncements like that one. Also: be nice to people. Not to mention: sunscreen. You’re so very welcome. 

 

(What does it say about me that I thought Sarah Silverman was the person who sang this song? I wasted a good 3 minutes of what's left of this wild and precious life Googling "Sarah Silverman Older Song." Did she sing a similar song? Sorry, what was that? SPEAK UP HONEY.)  

I’ve only been 45 for about twelve hours, but so far it feels exactly the same. Except it’s colder. That might be the weather? Either way, it’s easily fixed with a little something I like to call “layers.” This is the kind of wisdom you gain at 45. I like it. I like you. Let’s keep getting older, shall we? 

 

 

The State of the Blog

I had an interesting chat yesterday about blogging and the state of my blogging and how “blogging” is weird to say more than twice, blogging blobbing blugging blarging. And afterwards I thought, hey Self, why not share where I am with my readers? Why not? Have I learned NOTHING from “Show Your Work”? Should I not Share My Process? What Would Austin Kleon Do?  

I’m at an interesting crossroads right now, and the good news is there are several ways I could go, but I think I may have a touch of the ADD because all the options are overwhelming me and as a result I take many naps. 

Let’s back up. First of all, I’m not closing up the blog, or anything dramatic. I know you’re breathing a sigh of relief and/or weeping. There, there. I wouldn’t do that to you, baby. I want you to know that, sure, things have been weird, and I’ve been distant, but it wasn’t you, it was me. All me. 

I hadn’t been posting as much in the past few months because in addition to teaching and novel-writing I was spending my work hours at a corporate gig. Said corporate gig wasn’t even a writing job, so it felt wonderfully removed from the rest of my work, and pure, somehow, like I was keeping my writing energy sacred or something. Feel free to roll your eyes at that. I know I just did. 

It was easy to depend on the corporate work to continue while I pursued my Art and taught about Art and etc., but then. Then! The work slowed down, then disappeared. It wasn’t personal. The company is in transition, they’re reorganizing, I don’t know. It happens. 

Now I’m scrambling and trying not to scramble because nothing will bring you work less successfully than desperate scrambling. Sending pitches to editors that are in all caps. Using too many exclamation points (or any) in your professional correspondence. Instead I’m taking a step back and seeing where I went wrong and what I want to do in the future. 

The big mistake I made was to put all my income-generating eggs in one big corporate basket. (I’m not counting the writing course, which is more like a fun lil’ egg in a side pouch. Imagine that I’m a marsupial holding a basket. Except marsupials don’t lay eggs, so okay, imagine that my writing course is a joey. Aw. Ew.)  Over the last few months, my big corporate basket tipped over and smashed my eggs. And did it so slowly I didn’t even notice it was happening until I had a dried yolky mess all over the ground. 

Okay, so: first mistake, one big basket. My second mistake was that I put all my work hours toward work that didn’t really speak to my talents. My corporate assignments could be completed by any reasonably smart person; they didn’t need my specific strengths. I was (gasp!) expendable. 

Which got me thinking, okay, where can I be invaluable? (Or more valuable?) And that led me back to this blog. This is a valuable platform for me. It gets me work. Also, and more importantly, I enjoy it. It’s what I do. It’s important to do what you love, if you have that luxury. I know many people don’t, and I certainly don’t always, but I do here. So: I am recommitting to the blog for selfish reasons, but I hope you don’t mind that. (Wait, does anyone blog for selfless reasons?) 

You will probably see sponsored posts. I don’t have a big master plan about this; it’s just a heads-up that I’m thinking about it. I am not, however, seeking out sponsored posts as a major source of income, so I’m free to be incredibly choosy. I won’t write content that doesn’t make me happy and wouldn’t benefit you in some way. That is my pledge unto you. I can count on two (maybe three) fingers the times I’ve featured sponsored stuff I wasn’t happy with, and those moments made me feel extra-super gross. That isn’t something I want to do ever again. 

Also, I’m thinking about ways to use this site to advertise my services. The other (paying) work I enjoy is magazine writing and copywriting, and I’m trying to find a place for that on this site. I want to hang my shingle, so to speak, more prominently. (Ugh, also, I’m crappy at promoting myself. I get all apologetic and twitchy. It’s time to quit that.) 

Thirdly, I’m going to offer more courses, and maybe even a writing guide e-book. That’s going to be later on, somewhere in the distant future, when we’re all wearing mylar rompers. Or in the near future, when we’re wearing our micro-floral rompers. 

(I also pledge never to wear a romper.) 

Oh my god, what was my point. I think I wanted your advice? Wait, it’s coming back to me! I’d love to know of any bloggers whose sites successfully straddle the personal and professional: like, there’s a “hire me as a copywriter” section or "Take my class" or “I’m a successful journalist” part along with “here is my personal blog where I talk about how I smell weird.” Or: do you do it? How do you promote yourself? How do you balance professional writing with personal writing? Can we get coffee sometime? Or just hold hands for a while? 

A blogger I respect said recently that you should never end a post with a question, so I’ll end this with: I can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to have a marsupial pouch. Weird, right? Oh, wait, that’s a question. 

 

May I Gently Suggest: Teen Angst Edition

These are two very different books about teenaginess. Teenagedom. TEEN LIFE. 

God, I remember how much I hated being called a teen. I remember taking a resort vacation with my family and my older siblings were like, “Don’t you want to check out the teen activities?” Then they snickered while I stormed off with my copy of Dubliners and my full array of head gear. 

Anyway! Now that I’m well past that point in my life, it turns out I can read books about teenageness without feeling any empathy or even a twinge of discomfort. Except that that is a filthy lie. After reading these, I am awash in adolescent memories, and I think I’m breaking out again. Or maybe that’s perimenopause. I hear that’s a thing. At least now I don’t have the headgear? (I think I need a retainer, frankly, but on the other hand fuck that. Being an adult means you can curse all you like. Someone bring me a fucking cocktail.) 

So the books I am gently suggesting to you, they are very different and I think their weaknesses and strengths complement each other delightfully. Let us discuss!  

 

First, there’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. You may have heard of this one. It’s all the rage. The movie is coming out soon. So many people recommended it to me that I ended up avoiding it, because I am just that contrary. But finally I gave in to peer pressure, and I’m glad I did. (Kids: your friends are not always wrong!) TFIOS (as the insiders call it) is funny, compelling, and wrenchingly sad. I can’t emphasize that last part enough. I knew going in that it would be sad. I was like, yeah, sure, teens with cancer. Bet it’ll have some dark humor. What I didn’t expect was that I would wake up the day after finishing it sore from crying so much. TFIOS is its own workout. If your eyes aren’t normally puffy enough, read this book. Problem solved. 

Reading it as a grownup renders the reading experience extra-hard, I think, because you feel not only for the teenagers but also for their parents. Without spoiling too much, you can probably guess that the families here get put through the wringer. I’m not saying that teenagers wouldn’t feel sad for all involved parties, but I can’t imagine Teen Me would have related quite as strongly to the adults. So: read TFIOS, but be prepared. Be prepared for your spouse to come to bed only to find you weeping violently and then he’ll get angry at the author for making you cry like that and you’ll yell at him to leave you alone because you still have a chapter left. Buy extra tissues. 

For me, the weakness of TFIOS was that I didn’t quite believe these teenagers were… teenagers. They recite poetry to each other. They think things through. They are far more sophisticated and witty than I ever was. I mean, maybe I was kind of a dope. I can fully get behind this idea. But you know how even the wittiest, smartest teenagers are super-duper lacking in good judgment and will do things so profoundly stupid you can’t believe it’s the same person? That kind of thing never happens, here. On the other hand these are teens with cancer and maybe they’ve had to grow up fast. That’s a possibility. I just think that the version of teenagers John Green shows here is…aspirational, shall we say. Maybe teenagers need that. “Look how witty I could be,” they might say. “Time to memorize some poetry.”

On to the next book! 

Jo Ann Beard’s IN ZANESVILLE is a great contrast to TFIOS. I was crazy about Jo Ann Beard’s collection of essays Boys of My Youth (check out that title essay—talk about wrenching) and I was recommending it to a student when I accidentally discovered that she had since written this novel. It’s a crime that more people don’t know about this book. It's a crime that I didn't know about this book. 

IZ (yeah, I'm abbreviating it) is about two best friends trying to find their way into adulthood, getting into trouble, falling out of friendship and back in, and it reads like maybe the author read my diary. I loved, loved, loved it. The deep affection I felt for the angsty teens here was something I missed in TFIOS. These are the kinds of girls I remember being. Well-meaning. Flailing. Anxious. Thoughtless. Dopey.  

Here’s the first paragraph, which may be my favorite first paragraph ever: 

“We can’t believe the house is on fire. It’s so embarrassing first of all, and so dangerous second of all. Also, we’re supposed to be in charge here, so there’s a sense of somebody not doing their job.”

Is that not brilliant? Can't you immediately picture these two goofy fourteen-year-olds, making an utter mess of things, trying to abdicate responsibility for the fire while it is occurring? And it only gets better. The entire book is a harrowing and hilarious in just that way. I believed that these kids existed. I worried about them. 

I do have one problem with IZ, but it’s kind of a book spoiler. I’ll just say I didn’t think the book quite realized its potential. I think you can have a literary work that also has an exciting plot, and this novel frustrated me a little in that way. IZ is wonderfully evocative in a way that TFIOS isn’t, but on the other hand, The Fault in our Stars goes, shall we say, all the way. In Zanesville is something of a tease. 

 

What's this CentUp button all about? CentUp is a way for you to express your appreciation of my work via sweet cash while also giving to a good cause. See the bottom of this post for details. 

 

 

 

How not to carry lunch. Also: about "CentUp"

A couple of months ago I joined a writer’s collective, which is like a writer’s space except you get your own permanent desk and also you get to say you’re in a “collective.” It feels good, guys. Collective. Good mouth feel.

The collective is about a half-hour walk from our place, or a couple of subway stops, but now that’s it’s sort-of spring I’ve been walking. I bring my laptop, of course, which is shoved into my backpack, and I also bring lunch, which is usually in a separate cross-body lunch pail thing that I bought for Scott and promptly stole for my own use. Marriage! In addition to the various straps of my laptop backpack and lunch-pail-bag I’m almost always listening to a podcast on my phone, because we all know there’s nothing worse than being alone with your thoughts/feelings.

On my way there today I stopped for a coffee and because I’m not a sick monster I removed my earbuds so that I could hear the nice barista tell me how many twenties I owed her. Somehow all my straps and wires got tangled, and while I waited for my coffee I sorted it all out. I thought. (Foreshadowing.) I left, coffee in hand, earbuds back in my ears, feeling like a normal human being who knows how to carry things. The rest of the walk I was getting some odd looks, and I couldn’t tell if they were admiration or pity. (Or both? Is that possible? And what would that look like? Someone work on that expression for me.) There were some sad smiles directed my way. Or maybe that guy just had a sad face? I figured that either 1) I looked amazing or 2) my fly was wide open. #2 was a negative so I decided to feel good about myself, even though I was encumbered and feeling increasingly sweaty.

When I reached my destination I got a load of myself in the mirror by the elevator and saw that my lunch pail had shifted at some point. Or I moved it. It was probably my fault. It was no longer across my body. The straps were now dangling from around my neck, the lunch sack landing between my boobs. How could I not notice that it had hiked all the way up there? I was carrying last night's leftover like a St. Bernard would carry his barrel of whiskey. Maybe people figured my mom hung it there right before pinning my name to my coat sleeve. Or maybe that’s where I keep my external heart pump. I was a little embarrassed, but more than anything I was surprised that people were giving me looks that seemed maybe sort of positive. People are good. Most people. The ones in downtown Brooklyn, anyway, where you're allowed to look a little off. If I had been in Soho I’d probably be set upon by German tourists, or a gang of hungry models.

***


On a totally different note, I wanted to explain this CentUp button you may have noticed at the bottom of each post. CentUp is a way for you to express your appreciation of my work via sweet cash while also giving to a good cause. Each contribution you make is split 50/50 between myself and whatever charity you choose. (Currently CentUp has a choice of seven charities, but they plan to expand their lineup over time.) You can donate as little as a penny, or as much as a trillion dollars. OR MORE. Infinite dollars.

But seriously, even donating a little lets me know which posts you particularly enjoyed and want to see more of. And then I can post more. Plus you're helping the world. Try it out!  When you create your CentUp account, you automatically get a dollar to try the button and see how it works. You don’t need to enter any credit card information for this step.

Here's an informative video about CentUp. Enjoy!

CentUp.org from CentUp on Vimeo.

 

M.E. in Trouble

My short story "M.E. in Trouble" was published in PANK magazine a few months ago. It’s a little more experimental than most of my stuff, and experimental is sort of their thing. The whole issue is great, so if the story appeals to you, you should buy it! Or subscribe! We need more independent journals like PANK. Also PANK is fun to say. You have to shout it. PANK.  

I actually wrote this in graduate school. Which was, uh, 15 years ago. I submitted it to a bunch of places with no success, and I gave up on it. I’ve abandoned plenty of stories before, but this one really wanted to get out there, apparently, because it wouldn’t leave me alone. So I dug it out, had some trusted readers look at it, and made the necessary changes. I made the mistake initially of keeping it to myself and deciding it was confusing but it was SUPPOSED to be confusing because it was ART. 15 years later, I got over myself and fixed what was broken*. I also did my research and sent it to a place that featured non-traditional work. Not only was it published, but (bragging alert) the editors at PANK nominated it for the Pushcart Prize. I like happy endings. (Uh, not that you'd think that, if you read this story.)

*The only thing I refused to change was the character’s name, because okay, maybe “M.E.” is weird and sounds like ME, but that’s the guy’s name. It just is! I couldn’t do a thing about it.

Read the whole thing here.


Time to boil dinner!


I’ve written before about the other Alice Bradleys. Let’s talk about this one.




This Alice Bradley was, among other things, principal of the Fannie Farmer School of Cookery from 1915-1944. The cookbook pictured above (actually more of an advertorial pamphlet, Other Bradley) promised salads both alluring AND new, and it delivered, but today I’m going to a highlight an even more glorious example of Ms. Bradley’s expertise: The Alice Bradley Menu Cook-Book.

 



Now, I’m no expert on semi-aspirational Depression-era cuisine, but if I had to imagine what it was like, it would guess this. The meats are boiled; the sauces are white. Many of the foods are mock-foods. There’s always one extra step that tips a relatively inoffensive side dish into pure horror. Take, for instance, “Date Salad.”


1. Wash and remove pits, stones, whatever you want to call them, sure.
2. Fill with peanut butter: so far I’m on board.
3. Oh, wait, the peanut butter should be mixed with some WHAT THE NO NO NO—
4. Curl up into a tight ball and shriek with your mouth closed until you stop imagining peanut butter and mayonnaise together.
P.S.: Why isn’t she saying what the shredded lettuce is dressed with? I’ll tell you why: it’s French dressing. It’s always French dressing. Back when Alice Bradley was in charge, only the French did dressing.

Next up: this.

 

I’m sure Alice Bradley was a nice person, but only a monster would think to cream celery.


Let’s cleanse our mental palate with some Jellied Cabbage Salad, shall we? This one, at least, sounds…adventurous? I don’t know, I’m broken. Hey, what can we serve this with OH GOD NO.



Okay, Chili con Carne is, well. Huh. There’s no French dressing in it, and that’s something. But isn’t this a little more…boiled than the kind of chili we’re used to? Is that…enough seasoning? I mean, I’m not the Principal of any School of Cookery, so who am I to say?

Finally, an alarmingly simple breakfast suggestion. I looked really closely at this one, and I’m pretty sure there’s no boiling or surprise mayo anywhere in here. I’m not sure, though. I don’t know that I can trust my own eyes.



Next week: we look at some of those alluring (and new!) salads. They have a spicy secret. (Hint: it's not mayonnaise. Usually.)