Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Neko Case Paradox

I don't much care for Neko Case. I don't know why--maybe it's her voice or her phrasing or the production of her songs. Maybe I have something against Canadians or redheads; I couldn't really tell you. However, it's the opinion of some that I should try harder: I should try this album and that album and whatever. But to those people, I say, ya'll--don't worry about it. I can accept that Neko Case and I will spend our lives asunder. It's okay with me, and also probably fine with Neko Case.

But I'll give her this: Neko Case writes really good songs, and I love it when other people sing them. Just about anybody else, actually. Like these two girls sitting in a stairwell:

That one just about makes me lose it every time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Easily the Filthiest Thing I've Ever Seen

Audrey's home from Texas for a few days and last night we did the usual: went out to eat and came home and watched Robyn videos and talked about what we'd wear if we had Beyoncé's boobs. Then this happened (Caution: patently NSFW...or anyplace else you're supposed to keep it half-way decent, especially starting around minute 1:47):

And so last night, Audrey and I made an important discovery: just because David Attenborough is narrating it, doesn't mean it's not nasty.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poncho and Vesty

You see what I'm doing here? It's a pretty simple discomfort avoidance technique in which I replace a high-priority action with a low-priority task. Because today, my babies, I am supposed to be writing about plant cell biology. And Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Bless'd Donkey, you guys--it's no wonder nobody likes plants. I mean, I used to like plants until this morning when I discovered they're terrible. It's been a real blow to the old psyche, actually: like if I met Paul Newman and discovered he was really boring. In a few weeks I'll have to write about animal cells and start hating animals. I'll be a regular old misomanic you guys! Get ready.

So instead of reading about tonoplast and the rough endoplasmic reticulum, I was thinking I'd tell you about Bryan's idea for a mall kiosk.

So, Bryan really loves coming up with ridiculous ideas and because he's had so much practice, he's really good at it. One of my favorites came out of this one time around Christmas when he spent a day at at the Mall of Georgia with our friend Ricky and his parents, Big Rick and Mildred Ann. The Mall of Georgia is humongous and exactly the place Bryan doesn't ever want to be, because what if he were to die in there and his last minutes were spent on the threshold of an Abercrombie and Fitch?

At any rate, Bryan never goes in malls, but he came back from this trip a changed man. When he got home, he was like, "Did you know there are all these little kiosks in malls now? Like little booths where you can buy covers for your cell phone? Anyway, I'm going to open a mall kiosk where people can buy vests and ponchos. It's going to be called Poncho and Vesty."

Let it be known that this was several years ago, before the poncho craze swept the nation (people were more into blazers back then), and for some reason, I found the idea of Poncho and Vesty so hilarious that it really encouraged him. And sometimes when he doesn't have anything better to do, he goes online and researches merchandise he'll stock at Poncho and Vesty. He was doing that the other night while I was writing an article about vestigial human organs. And I think he's looking to go in this general direction:

And I was like, "Damn babe, that's like more of a cape, or like a traveler's cloak or something, don't you think? And it's, uh...$408 wholesale."

Bryan: Well yeah. See Poncho and Vesty's main clientele are going to be SCA guys suiting up for a week-long tactical campaign.

Me: Ohhhh. I didn't get that before.

Bryan: Can I get you a cape for Christmas?

Me: No.

Bryan: What about just a little one?

Me: Nope.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Then Why Don't You Marry It?

OMG you guys, I have the biggest crush on the sun.

Isn't he gorgeous?

This is the time of year when I start thinking about how awesome it would be to live on Mercury.

So, I'm just going to put it out there: I've been considering it, and if I absolutely have to die, I think my preferred way to go would be to crash a luxury spaceship into the sun. But it would take about 176 years to get there, so that's kind of too much of a hassle. So I guess my second choice would be to die peacefully in my sleep under an electric blanket at the age of 102. My third would probably be to freeze to death saving a school bus full of Asian toddlers and tiny foxes. I haven't worked out all the logistics of that last one, but I'll get back to you.

P.S. I love you, The Sun.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


So, last night Vicki and I were complaining about how busy we all the time are, and the subject of extramarital affairs came up: namely, how anybody ever manages to find the time to have one.

I know, I know: where there's a will, there's a way.

But listen you guys, I'm currently working a full-time job in addition to a halftime job, in addition to being the mother of a toddler, the household chef, shopper, bathroom cleaner, and I'm on two nonprofit boards. Plus, I have to shower sometimes. So, there is literally not one hour of any given day when my time isn't spoken for in some legitimate way. However, I know that there are a lot busier people out there who are, like me and Vic, married to men and women of character. Or, you know, maybe not of character, but it doesn't really actually matter.... The point is a lot of those people find the time to seriously mega-philander. Take JFK, for instance. That guy, you guys: he was the PRESIDENT. He had a 24-hour security detail, and he managed to get it on with....god, so many women who weren't his wife.

So, like I said, people accomplish the things in their life that really matter to them. And if boning matters that much, you'll find a way to get it done.

But for average people...who even has the time? I mean, people do--all the time. I'm just not sure I understand how. Vicki and I were talking about it, and we came up with a list of occupations that would actually jibe with the adulterer's lifestyle. Here's the list, but I want you to feel free to come up with your own ideas.
  • Flight attendant, duh
  • Message therapist, duh
  • Actual therapist or any client-based occupation wherein you're always having to make appointments.
  • Cab driver
  • Truck driver
  • Ice cream truck driver
  • Custodian
  • Traveling pharmaceutical salesperson
  • People without children
  • Roadie
  • Somebody with a part time job and also a trust fund who also teaches yoga.
  • Prince. You know, like the Prince of Someplace, but also just Prince.
  • This lady:

Because obviously, she's down for whatever.

So, I'm not asking why people cheat because I realize that's very complicated and situation-specific. But there are people out there who have like TWO SEPARATE FAMILIES that remain blissfully unaware of each other. How do those people manage it? AND WHY? I'm pretty sure I'd rather do open-faced surgery on myself with a fork. Just thinking about it is giving me ulcerative colitis.

Speaking of which, I've got to write an essay about Marie Curie now. Who, it turns out, had a relationship with a married man after Pierre got hit by a horse-drawn carriage.

Marie!? Weren't you supposed to be in the lab isolating radium-cholride or something?! Good Lord.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011



I just got a new computer, and I'm so goddamn excited. Breathin' in a paper bag. Feelin' a little lightheaded.

Basically, I'm a writer like John Steinbeck now, mostly because we have in common the luxury of not sharing a 6 year old hand-me-down laptop with a toddler who likes to march around the house wearing an old dishtowel as a skirt bellowing, "NO MOM TV! DESSA TV!"

This day, you guys. It's amazing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Situation

Hello! I just got back from Montana where it was cold and white like a porcelain toilet. But you know what improves a situation like that?

Friends. And making money.

I lived in Missoula, Montana for a couple years in grad school and the thing about that place is how stupid awesome it is. It's surrounded by all the beautiful Natures, every single 10 year old rides a skateboard, it's got both my favorite grocery stores I've ever been to and people are nice: it's Montana so they're kind of weird, but not neo-Nazi-militia-freaky like they are in Idaho. Also, a lot of my friends live there and I love them.

So what's the problem? Why don't I move to there right now? Well, do you see my face in that picture up there? That's not happy Jesslyn--that's I'm-outside-against-my-will-because-this-dog's-not-supposed-to-poop-in-the-house face. I left yesterday morning and it was 6 degrees when I woke up at 5 in the morning. SIX. DEGREES. My goal in life is to never have to know six degrees ever happened. Show me a 10 hour miniseries detailing all the genocides the world has ever known, but don't talk to me about six degrees. My psyche is too fragile.

BUT. So, I have a job in Montana now. Well, kinda: it's freelance writing and that's always a little squirrely, I guess. But somebody is paying me to live in Georgia while I write about science for somebody in Montana. Which is really exciting for the following reasons:

1. I like to write more than anything I ever do. Other than, you know, being a loving wife/mother and gossiping, I guess.

2. I'm getting paid to do something I like and I'm good at, you guys. That's ape-crackers.

3. In January, I'm going to go to halftime at my day job because I'll have enough freelance work to make that not the stupidest decision ever. I never in a million years thought that would happen. So now I'm going to have more time to spend with Odessa, doing things other than flicking lit cigarettes at her and telling her that skirt is too short and she'll never amount to anything. (Oh my god, you guys--I can't even joke about that. You know I don't do that, right? This morning I forgot about a parent-teacher conference at her school and I basically almost handed her over to Department of Child and Family Services myself because I'm unfit. I'M UNFIT! Parenthood is the hardest thing ever--don't forget I told you that.)

Eeeeeenyway. So, I just wanted to keep you abreast of the situation. I might not be posting as much as usual in the next few weeks because I'm basically working a job and a half. But! I'll do my best because I love you.

You know I love you, right?


Monday, November 7, 2011

Personal Best!

You guys! I totally just got a story published in my favorite blog, The Hairpin!

It's kind of a scary story, so brace yourself. You can read it here.

A Misunderstanding Regarding Underpants

I was ten years old before I knew that boys wore underpants. I am being serious.

I was raised by hippies and I remember this one summer when I was maybe 5 years old, we were living in the mountains of California helping my dad's friend build an underground house. My mom and dad worked on the house all day and my sister and I played in the woods while they worked. There were usually 5-10 other people there on any given day, and a quarter of them pounded nails and sawed two-by-fours completely naked (except they wore work boots). Also, according to my dad, most of them were on LSD. It was bizarre and also probably not very safe.

Mom and Dad were pretty square by the standards of that construction site, but on the other hand, I don't think Dad has ever owned a pair of underwear in his life. When I was little, I thought underwear were worn exclusively by girls and women. And I lived 10 long years on this earth thinking that until one day in 5th grade I was standing in the lunch line behind Jim Minshew, and I noticed his pants were too big for him. Over the saggy waistband of his jeans I could see a whole swath of material printed with red and blue Transformers.

As soon as I could, I ran over to my friend Rebecca and gave her the scoop: Jim Minshew wore panties.

Rebecca just looked at me.

"What do you mean panties?" she inquired. "Like girls' panties?"

"Well, yeah," I said. "And they had Transformers on them."

"Jim is wearing underwear with Transformers on them?" Rebecca was confused and I was beginning to be confused and also uncomfortable. Rebecca smelled blood in the water.

"Do you like Jim Minshew?" she asked me in her best 10-year-old-confidante stage whisper.

"No! Gross!" I spat, maybe a little too emphatically, as I was still reeling a bit from the boys-wearing-underpants shocker.

Well, it just so happens that Jim Minshew was single and looking. And additionally, Rebecca had a big fat mouth.

So a couple days later while walking across the playground, I was ambushed by Jim Minshew between the climbing tires and the batting cage.

Jim was a chubby kid with pink cheeks and a crew cut. He could also be kind of a dick sometimes.

"Jessie, do you want to go with me?" he asked, without preamble. "Going with" was basically the same thing as "going steady," which is what they had called it at my old school.

I shook my head frantically without making eye contact. "No," I whispered.

"Ha ha--PSYCH!" he yelled and pushed me by the shoulders into the wall of tires. "Nobody wants to go with you because you're TOO POOR!" And with that he trudged away into the gym.

For the life of me, I'll never know why Jim Minshew chose to put me down in that particular way. I guess I probably was poorer than him: I was on scholarship at a private school, so I was poorer than pretty much everybody. Afterwards, I remember thinking of snappy comebacks I could have used to make him feel bad about himself. The one I remember practicing at night in bed before I went to sleep was, "At least I don't wear Transformers panties!"

That one might actually have worked.

Friday, October 28, 2011


God, I love acorns. They're so little and smooth and they wear cute, nubbly caps. They're so satisfying to crush under your feet as you walk down the sidewalk, plus they make amazing weapons: you're not going to put anybody's eye out with an acorn, but if you can manage to hit somebody with one, it's great because it makes the person laugh and say "Ow!" at the same time.

Acorns remind me of Casey, who I used to be married to and who recently called me to ask if I would be his biographer. I told him I was interested, but that I'd have to wait until my schedule cleared up a little. I seriously think I could make a ton of money off the story of Casey's life, so I moth-balled that idea (you like that? I picked it up in a meeting yesterday. Meetings are great places to discover new, stupid ways of saying things.).

Casey is wonderful and also craaazy. This one time, back when we were married, he decided he was going to spend the year 2003 only eating things that were produced or grown within a 150-mile radius of Athens, Georgia. He decided this in October and he planned to start in January. So he scored a freshly killed deer off the side of Mitchell Bridge Road ("There's only like one bruised place on it's left haunch and Brady totally saw it get hit a few minutes ago, so it should be fine. I'm gonna go pick it up in the Justy--be back in an hour.") and he started spending every Sunday walking around in the woods shooting squirrels. Pretty soon our whole freezer was filled with roadkill and squirrel meat. So that was good, I guess.

But Casey's a big eater, and that wasn't going to last him until summer. He picked a cardboard box full of pecans out of a friend's yard, but upon shelling them, found that he was going to need a lot more pecans. So he picked about 5 bushels of apples, but they all rotted within a couple of weeks. And with this, Casey started getting nervous. He surfed the internet and discovered he could eat acorns.

At this point, it was November and Athens was lousy with acorns, just like it is now. One afternoon, Casey came home with a shopping bag full of acorns.

"Whatcha gonna do with all those acorns?" I asked.
"Make acorn flour! For acorn cakes!" He's an enthusiastic guy.

So Casey spent the better part of November gathering acorns. He toasted them in the oven and shelled them. He let them soak in boiling water for hours and hours. He fed them through my great grandmother's meat grinder, and voila! Acorn mash: a ton of it.

And man alive, was that acorn mash ever disgusting. Casey made some acorn cakes one morning and I tried one. It didn't just taste bitter, it made my mouth try to attack itself. Like all my salivary glands were spitting venom. It took a while to get over that.

"I think you might have used the wrong kind of acorns?" I said when I had recovered.
"Mmm." Casey said, still chewing, nodding thoughtfully. "Mmmhmm."

Anyway, come January Casey started his year of local eating. One morning--actually, I think it was January 3rd--I was cooking an egg and toast in the kitchen, and Casey came in from outside.

"Fuck it," he said. "I am so damn hungry. This has been the worst three days of my life."

And he scrambled like five eggs and sat down and ate them with half a loaf of bread.

And that's the story of Casey and the acorns.

Friday, October 21, 2011


So, my friends Rob and Vicki are the only people who like personality tests more than me. This is Rob and Vic:
As you can see, if anybody is going to win a personality test, it's going to be them.

Rob and Vicki are into this thing called the Enneagram Personality System, wherein there are nine basic personality types (numbered 1-9). The Enneagram focuses on how each type of person might respond to the world when they're psychologically healthy, in just sort of average health, and when they're unhealthy. There are books written about this stuff by men who look like this:
See? I'm talking about turtlenecks and haircuts. Plenty of fiber. Bracing outdoor exercise. Tough love.

So, a few months ago Rob had me take the Enneagram test because he and Vic were all the time arguing about what my personality type was. Conversations over at their house would go like this:

Vic: Rob, don't you think Jesslyn's a 9?
Rob: You really think so?
Vic: What? You don't think she's a 9? She's know. Nine-ish.
Rob: You could be right.
Vic: But? But what. What do you think she is?
Rob: I mean, I don't know--you might have a point.
Vic: What do you think she is?
Rob: Well, I always thought she was a 2.
Vic: Oh. Huh. Because...wait. You think she's a 2? You just think that because you're a 2. She's not manipulative enough to be a 2. She could be a 7 but I think she's a 9.

These conversations, by the way, were not about me. No no. Rob and Vicki would stand in the kitchen together, making uncomfortable amounts of eye contact, talking about me as if I wasn't even in the room.

"No, Rob--2 goes to 8 in health, and she's just not that aggressive!"
"Well, all I know is that she doesn't have any 1 or 5, so she couldn't be a 7."

Anyway, so one night Rob got out his computer and sat me down and I rated about 200 Likert scale questions just like these:
  • I love traveling and discovering different kinds of foods, people and experiences.
  • People feel safe around me.
  • Most people see me as a serious, no-nonsense person.
  • I feel that "you have to break some eggs in order to make an omelet."
I answered the questions to the best of my ability, and when I was done the computer generated this bar chart:

Which Rob annotated, as you can see. And then, because the test was inconclusive, he told me to get this book:

Which I did that while I was in California this summer--because California is apparently the only place that sells books like this one.

And so now I'm getting around to reading it. And ya'll, the Enneagram book did not come here to make friends. It might have a dove on the cover, but this shit is harsh. It made me CRY this morning. That guy in the turtleneck totally made me cry.

I called Bryan and was all, "Wahhhhhhhhh I'm so unhealthy--I'm basically just a lump of poop--I can't believe you can even stand to stay married to me wahhhhhhhh...."

And Bryan was like, "Have you been taking online personality tests again?"


P.S. I'm totally a 9.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Here

It's fall, ya'll. You know how I know? Because I put on Comes a Time yesterday, and one of the more ancient and perhaps vestigial of my organs was like awww yeah, that's the stuff.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, my ability to tolerate Neil Young is seasonal and synchronizes perfectly with moose rutting season in north Ontario. The interval is fleeting, but I feel it when it gets here. Just like mooses feel it when it's time to, you know. Rut, or whatever.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I've never been a big drinker of spirits. I've always had bad luck with hangovers, being chased by the police through some bushes while intoxicated and underage, accidentally breaking up with cool boyfriends while drunk and feeling sassy, etc. Also, I’ve never learned to love the taste of hard alcohol, and as far as I’m concerned, they can pour all that beer right back in the horse (that one, folks, came straight from Becca Rose's grandma). So, it was with not much reluctance that I hung up my drinking hat after a couple years of college. It just didn't seem worth it.

But then ten years later I had a kid and everything changed.

I think it might have been just before Odessa's 2nd birthday when I had the glass of wine that changed my life. I was sitting outside at a restaurant with lady friends on a warm spring evening. We were talking about some Goony McDoofus one of them had just met on OK Cupid and I was laughing so hard there were tears streaming down my face. The waiter came to the table and asked us what we'd like to drink, and everyone but me ordered a glass of the same wine.

"You know, it'd be cheaper per glass if you got the whole bottle," the waiter said.

I have sort of thrifty and indecisive friends, and this news caused a small kerfuffle. They started trying to figure out how much it would cost per person if they got a bottle versus the glasses and who would drink the one remaining glass, etc. The waiter was waiting.

"I'll have a glass, too." I offered. "To make it even."

Everybody looked at me like I had just performed some strange piece of impossible wizardry. The wine came and I drank the whole glass.

And suddenly there was music and wonderful roses. But you knew that was going to happen.

So now I drink wine. Red wine, white wine, pink wine--whatever you got. I've tried drinking really cheap wine and outrageously expensive wine. I've even tried drinking an entire bottle of wine by myself--you know, just to see what would happen (a lot happened, actually, because my tolerance is looooow).

But generally, I've decided to use wine sparingly and only occasionally as a parenting tool. Like last week when Odessa and I went to the Tuesday farmer's market, which is on the patio of Little Kings. We met Jessica Sterling there, and as the bar conveniently serves goldfish crackers and gummy bears, Jess and I had a glass of wine while Odessa freaked over her unprecedented good fortune at having unrestricted access to refined sugars. When we were done and had to leave, I was in a great mood, Dessa was in a great mood, we went to the taco place for take-out, her mood deteriorated due to plummeting blood sugars and she ended up screaming on the ground outside the car. About something. I didn't quite catch what.

And you know, one glass of wine can turn that nervy, bone-grating moment into mellow golden sunlight with extra butterflies.

Thanks, Wine!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

David Bowie Is Pretty Good

I've thought about it kind of hard, and I think "Ashes to Ashes" contains the best riff in music history. Because ya'll know I'm totally qualified to make that call.

Or, for those of you who might enjoy the Ethereal Lady Jams version. I assume you're familiar with weakness for the genera:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Name Makes a Sentence

I never realized this before today, but my name makes a sentence. Jesslyn Shields. Jesslyn shields. Granted, shield is a transitive verb, so makes a lame sentence without an object or whatever. But my name makes a sentence! It feels like I won some sort of raffle. And last time I won a raffle I was presented with some supplements to make my hair more lustrous, and I was like, "eeeek! I won!" and then I saw what I won and was like, "oh." But I was still kind of thrilled.

All day I've been thinking about what it means. I'm not certain who/what I'm supposed to be shielding or what I'm shielding them/it from. Or, you know--what kind of shield I would have. Like, would I throw my body in front of somebody else, human-shield style? Or would I have a big metal aegis bearing the bust of Gorgon? Not sure. I'll have to think about it a little more.

But at any rate, I'm feeling pretty heroic today.


Um, you guys. My dad's name is Pat Shields. It's a transitive verb AND its direct object. The implied subject is, of course, "you."

Which is seriously blowing my mind.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ding Dongs

The other night I stopped at a gas station, paid for my gas inside, and when I came back out to my car, I was approached by a man--an older gent with a sharp haircut. He was from South Carolina and was trying to get back to I-85 via 106, but first he and his wife wanted to go to the movie theater over on Lexington Highway because she wanted to see The Help. The theater (he pronounced it “thee-ay-ter”) in their town wasn't playing it anymore. They were playing Contagion instead. His wife was sitting in the passenger’s seat of their beige minivan, blinking furtively at me from behind thick, oval spectacles. I imagine she was wishing he had asked somebody who was not sweaty and wearing stupid workout clothes.

The thing about me is I'm a sucker for, a) giving people directions, and b) people from the country. So, I started pumping my gas and then came around the car and took the map the man offered me. It had been printed from MapQuest on a color printer that had run out of all but the cyan ink cartridge; it didn't show any streets--just names of roads following invisible, crooked lines.

Oh, and another thing I love? Being a hero.

So, I set that guy straight. I asked him if he preferred a map or driving directions. I considered landmarks that could be recognized by two elderly people in the dark. I gave him road names and approximate distances. Before he went back to his wife in the minivan, he told me I was a very helpful young lady. I smiled winningly at him, and with a spring my step, got into my car and drove away.

And of course I took the fuel pump nozzle and hose with me. Broke it slap off.

Now, I have never done this before, but it's totally something my mom would do. Last weekend, Mom crushed a hole in the bumper of my car, backing her truck around in her rather spacious driveway. Once when I was a kid, she filled the car up with diesel fuel instead of regular unleaded, and she had to call a mechanic to come drain the tank. I believe that time we were on the way to either the circus or the airport.

I think because this stuff happens to her so often, Mom deals with these situations with a lot of dignity and panache. And it’s not like she uses her feminine wiles to sucker some poor dope into helping her out—she’s actually a fairly butch lesbian lady approaching 70 who works with adjudicated youth. Mom’s just very good at acting repentant, a little flustered and utterly helpless. In short, my mom is a total ding dong, and she makes it work for her.

So, I’ve worked for 33 years to override this little lead nugget in my genetic code. But it’s hard to get around. I’m just a ding dong at my core.

Anyway, the gas station attendant had no idea what to do when I brought him the dismembered nozzle and hose. Earlier, when I paid for my gas, I’d spent an extra 20 seconds talking to him about why he was so sleepy: he had helped a friend move out of his apartment at 6 in the morning.

“I don’t know why I always help people move,” he said. “It’s not like anybody ever wants to help me move.”

“It’ll come back to you one of these days,” I said. “I think that’s the way karma is supposed to work.”

While I stood there under the florescent lights of the convenience store, holding the whole gas pump apparatus like an anaconda I had just killed with my bare hands, the attendant called his supervisor. I had been genuinely repentant and flustered as I told him the story. So as I stood there waiting, I realized I probably looked just like my mom would in the same situation—kind of helpless and uncomfortable. Because frankly, I was pretty sure I was going to end up paying for damn fuel pump.

While the attendant waited on the phone for his boss to answer, he looked at me vacantly, like people always do when they’re waiting on the phone. We made eye contact for a couple seconds, and he kind of grinned and rolled his eyes.

“Go on,” he said. “Hang that thing up on the pump before you leave.”

“Oh my god, thank you,” I said, my shoulders sagging under the weight of my quarry. He waved a hand for me to get out because his boss had just answered the phone.

As I backed out the door, I heard him tell his boss the customer had already driven away.

And then I got in my car and drove away, grinning like a fool. Just like my mom always does when she gets away with being a total ding dong.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I don't drink beer. I never have, mostly because when I was 20, I backpacked through the desert for 3 months, getting my water from cattle troughs and out of seeps in canyon walls. You didn't know that about me, did you? Well, the reason I don't eat beef is that I've had to drink cow poop at about 50% potency, and I the reason I don't drink beer is because it tastes like cow poop water at about 50% potency.

Anyway, today was my sweet Kerry's birthday, and her plan was to go over to Terrapin Brewery and get hammered out of her tree. I had never been to this place, but I love me some Kerry Steinberg and, whatever--I'd find something to do. Hell, I'd bring Odessa. She'd find something to do, too.

So, at this place you give them $10 and they give you 8 tickets for "tastes" of beer, which is basically an entire pint of beer if you can successfully flirt with the right bartender. So all of my friends kept going back and returning triumphant with full glasses and smug, fluffy expressions on their faces.

I should mention that all this drinking was taking place on a big, flat, brown lawn. There were maybe 150 people there, all throwing frisbees and footballs with the kind of forethought, aim and trajectory you'd expect from mid-sized adults on their 4th high-gravity beer. Everybody was talking louder than was strictly necessary. This 4-year-old girl named Karma correctly identified me as the only sober adult on the premises and sat on our picnic blanket watching Odessa with laser-focused intensity, periodically asking, "Odessa, why don't you talk to me? I'm Kawma. Your fwend." When I told her Odessa wasn't very good at talking yet, she didn't take her eyes off Odessa but told me, "that's what you think."

It's actually pretty funny to be sober in the midst of a bunch of drunk people who aren't creepy. For instance, Kerry had a temporary tattoo of a shark on her right bicep and kept asking people if they wanted to see her "make it swim." Ricky spent a lot of time thoughtfully planning my birthday party at Medieval Times on his iPhone until he found out it would cost $50 per person. Jess got pegged by a football but didn't spill a drop of either of her beers. The whole scene reminded me of that island in Pinocchio where little boys smoke cigars and play pool and cuss, generally making jackasses of themselves until they're magically transformed into actual donkeys. Only this was cuter than it was in Pinocchio.

In other news, who knew Steve Winwood was a damn genius? Not me. But somehow this cover convinces me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies

The other day I was talking to Frank, this really nice guy I used to work with. I don't see him all that often, but when I do, he always asks after my family and wants to see pictures of Odessa and hear about what she's doing. And I always say the same thing: she's the cutest kid in the galaxy, charming, intelligent, etc. Sometimes I'll tell him a funny story about how she sometimes wakes up at 5 AM, gets Bryan's cell phone off the dresser and shines the light in his eyes to wake him up, or about the time she whined so much one day she made herself hoarse. Frank doesn't have kids, and when I tell stories like this he chuckles and nods as I talk, but he always wears a kind of bemused, slightly concerned expression.

So the other day when I saw Frank, I was finishing up the relation (which admittedly included some eye rolling) of how Odessa refuses to fall asleep unless her arms are wrapped like baby pythons around my neck and her face is pointed directly at my mouth so she can inhale my deoxygenated air. When I finished Frank looked at me with his head cocked to one side and said, "You know, I can tell you're a great mom--I mean, you even kind of look like one of those old paintings of Mary and Jesus. But sometimes when you tell stories about Odessa, you don't seem.... I mean, you're obviously a wonderful mom, but it sounds like you're kind of tough to please sometimes."

Wait, what? I don't seem what? Like the Virgin Mary? What?

Keep breathing, Jesslyn. A fake Daisy Buchanan laugh. Short, dismissive reference to "The Terrible Twos." Change the subject.

Here's the thing: being somebody's mom is challenging in the way that being the President of the United States is challenging. Everybody's got this picture of George Washington crossing the Delaware in their heads, and how the hell was Jimmy Carter supposed to live up to that? And everybody has a picture of a mother, too: their own mother, Maria Von Trapp, Clair Huxtable, Angelina Jolie, an African lady with a bowl on her head and a six month old tied to her back with a pair of pants. A goddamn 6th century icon of Mary, Mother of Jesus holding a tiny, disfigured man.

I remembered what Frank said to me this morning at 7:30, when the following Thing happened:
  • I found a cockroach egg case clinging to the shower curtain and threw it in the toilet.
  • Odessa saw me do this and promptly tried to go in after it.
  • I picked her up and told her "No, it's dirty in there."
  • She arched her back, twisted her face into a mask of agony and slithered out of my arms and onto the bathroom floor.
  • She busted her bottom lip on the sink on the way down.
  • After I checked that her brains weren't pouring out of her ear, I took five seconds as she sat on the floor screaming to close my eyes and take two deep breaths.
  • Afterwards, I spent a half hour holding her in my lap with a cold compress applied to her mouth while she emptied her piggy bank onto our bed and reinserted the coins, several paper clips, a barrette, a wad of dog stickers and a slightly soiled Curious George BandAid.
  • By the time I dropped her off at school, I needed a glass of wine. It was 9:06 AM. I settled for coffee.
I wonder if Jesus pulled shit like that when he was a little kid. And if he did, I wonder if his mom did everything right and then sang him an allegorical song in a clear, lovely Julie Andrews voice about how toilets are only for poop, pee, ticks, cockroach egg cases and toilet paper.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Words People Hate

Have you ever noticed that there are certain words that nearly everybody hates? Like these ones:
  • moist
  • ointment
  • mouthfeel
  • slacks
  • vomit
  • panties
In general, I like most words. Some more than others, but the way I see it, there's a perfect context for every word--even if it's a gross context. Like vomit? I'm sorry, but that word is awesome. Vomit is perfect.

So, I've recently become more aware of people's word prejudices because I find myself an unwitting soldier in this word jihad. The reason is that Odessa is potty trained now and I happen to call the item of clothing you wear underneath your slacks/skirt/cullotes..."panties."

And so a few times a week, Bryan and I have an exchange that goes something like this:

Me (digging through a basket of clean laundry): Honey, have you seen any of Dessa's panties?
Bryan: Really? Must you?
Me: Are you 8 years old?
Bryan: If you're referring to Odessa's underpants, I think there might be a pair in the drier.

So panties is one word people can't stand. Another is moist. It's like the most reviled word in the English language. And what did moist ever do to anybody? It made your brownies more delicious is what it did. It dampened the warm washcloth the stewardess on the overseas flight just handed your jetlagged ass. It lubricated some shit you needed lubricating. So don't start with me about moist.

And mouthfeel? Well, yeah. That's really disgusting.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hereditary Disability

It's been really dry here lately and Dad called me yesterday morning, mad as a bear. The news had been calling for rain this weekend--a seething, apocalyptic gullywasher that was going to carry off our livestock and force us all onto the roofs of our houses. So dad busted his butt on Sunday to plant all his garlic before the rains came. Instead what happened is it got really cloudy and it drizzled half an inch. Dad blamed the Madison County Board of Education.

"These people," he said. "They move out here to the country and everybody says 'oh, we gotta build'em a new school.' Because the county's 'projected to grow.' But then they build this big, ugly new school building and it sits around nearly empty because the economy crashed and now I'M paying taxes on it. What they should be doing is building all these schools like concourses at the airport with a bunch of docks on it so they can pull trailers up depending on how many kids they got."

Dad's rancor is nearly always misdirected at local government or hack meteorologists.

To tell the truth, I was grumpy yesterday too because I'm related to my dad and our emotions run on sunlight and hugs and Lay's Original potato chips. It took me a little longer to sink into the sweet pit of despair that dad was wallering in when I talked to him in the morning, but it happened. At around 5 in the afternoon, I flopped on the bed (it had started raining again) and I looked out the window at the dripping camellia bush. Bryan came in and asked me what was wrong.

"I don't think anybody likes me," I said.

Bryan laughed and then stopped kind of suddenly like a lawn mower running out of gas.

"Honey, everybody likes you," he said.

"But...." And then I didn't say anything else. Bryan rubbed my back for a while and left me to glare mournfully out at the mist and rain. When the rain let up, I went for a run and felt better. But here's the thing: I'm a psychologically healthy person with a crippling hereditary aversion to cloud cover. I'm not sure what to do about it, other than live someplace very sunny. But I've lived in the desert before and I like it better where it's green. Sunny and green like it usually is here.

The fact is, we're probably going to have to move away sometime next year because Bryan will finish his PhD and have to find a job. He was looking at postings today and he found one in Berkley, California that looked nice.

"I can't live in Berkley," I said. "Too foggy. I'd probably throw myself off a bridge or into a marina or something. Actually, I think there are a lot of bridges there, so I'd probably do that."

Bryan made a face like he was trying to condense all his features into the space right below his eyes.

Although I can accept today that I'm a generally likable person, it must be hard for Bryan to live with someone with my disability.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ethereal Lady Jams

My friend Chester and I love the crap out of each other, but we detest each other's taste in music. We spent an entire week this summer driving around south Georgia in my car with two very well-stocked iPods, and the only things we jointly agreed to listen to were "Edlewiess" performed by Captain Von Trapp and The Very Best of Prince in its entirety. The good news is I now know all the lyrics to "When Doves Cry."

So usually when Chester calls me he puts on this weird Napoleon Dynamite voice and says, 'Hello? What are you doing. Are you listening to some ethereal lady jams?"

To Chester, pretty much every song I've ever heard (even those not written, performed or produced by a lady) automatically classifies as an ethereal lady jam by virtue of the fact that the sound waves were carried to my ear and were processed by my brain. Chester doesn't know very many straight women besides his mom, so he basically looks to me to see what the ladies are into. Not that he's terribly interested.

Well, I listened to this song about 8 times today, and it's a genuine and authentic ethereal lady jam. So, if you're writing a term paper about ELJ and want some primary source material, I suggest you start here. I bet you could also interview Chester.

(BTW: I hate the stupid look on her face, too. But though that video leaves me with the distinct impression that girlfriend has zero self respect, this song very nearly makes up for it.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dream Interpretation: DOs and DON'Ts

I had this dream a couple of weeks ago...but no, wait.

First let me tell you that I know you don't want to hear about my dream. People hate hearing about other people's dreams. Because it's like this:

1) "Hey, I had this crazy/amazing/scary/weird dream last night." {And then they proceed to tell you a vague, boring, disjointed story that has no narrative arc because IT WAS A DAMN DREAM. I get it--I've had dreams before. It seems really cool and important while you're in the middle of it, but most of us just don't have the rhetorical powers to do our dreams justice. So instead, let's just go get some frozen yogurt and gossip about a mutual friend's relationship problems.}

2) "Hey, I had a dream about you last night." {SUBTEXT: "Wherein YOU were doing something gross or weird...let me tell you about it." To which I respond: This is not my problem.}

So anyway, back to my dream:

In the dream I had snuck into my friend Vicki's house and stolen a knife out of her knife block--one that was really dull--with the plan of taking it to the kitchen store to be sharpened as a birthday surprise. So I took the knife to the store and the two guys working there poured vegetable oil on the counter and sort of sloppily sloshed the knife around in the oil, all the time talking to each other about Fantasy Football. When they had finished, one of them went over to a cash register and, "Beep-boop-boup--that will be $106.36."

And you guys, in my dream, I started sobbing. Wailing like I was at a Romanian funeral. But I wasn't really all that upset--it was just that I was hoping that those guys would cut me a deal on their shoddy workmanship because, HEY--a lady's crying over here. But the more I cried, the less concerned they looked. I woke up and there were ACTUAL TEARS streaming down my face. I'm here to tell you it was intense.

So, why the hell did I just tell you that? Because that wasn't just a dream, it was my brain thumping me on the side of the head saying, "Look kid, you just exercised the nuclear option and it didn't make one bit of difference, did it?" And you know, that's been happening to me a lot lately in actual reality. I pull out all the stops, perform the grandest gesture I can think of, and whoever it's directed at is just sort of like, "ehhhhhhh. What else you got?"

All this is probably in my horoscope and stuff, but my dream pointed it out to me instead. So dreaming was actually useful this time! Did it give me the answers to what to do about it? Hell no. But my point is, THIS is dream interpretation, my babies.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Most Romantic Thing

Did you guys see THIS?

The way I'm reading it, Moammar Gadhafi and Condoleezza Rice are soul mates. They found a whole photo album of her in his compound in Bab al-Aziziya when the rebels took it over and ransacked it. He's also been known to say weird stuff like this:

"I support my darling black African woman," he said. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. ... Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. ... I love her very much. I admire her, and I'm proud of her, because she's a black woman of African origin."

Aw. As they say where I'm from: "Bless."

Is it weird that I like them both better because of this? Because a tiny part of me wants to believe these crazy kids might have a shot at love. You know, after her country stops trying to kill him.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Perfect Day

Hello, you divine creature.

You know, today was really nice. I couldn't really tell you why, but it was the kind of day you suspect you didn't actually deserve. Like whoever's in charge of dealing out days accidentally handed me a way better one than I had coming, but didn't realize they'd done it until sometime this afternoon, at which point they were like "ah, just get on with yourself...."

So a big THANKS to that cosmic administrator. And Friend, here are some carefully-considered songs for you, in the spirit of Jesslyn's Good Day:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mashed Potatoes

We got back from California on Saturday afternoon and my expectations were not met. What I expected was this: I was going to get off the plane and it was going to be hot like someone emptied the contents of a jacuzzi over my head. Then I was going to drive home and all my zinnias were going to be dead and the sun was going to set through the trees behind our back yard tattoo parlor, and I was going to sit on the porch and drink a cold can of seltzer water under the rattly fan, and I was going to feel like Bilbo Baggins at the end of The Hobbit: relieved and pleasantly exhausted and victorious and a tiny bit bored. Because that heady feelings cocktail is a big reason people invented homes to begin with. It's also why people invented long term romantic relationships.

The funny thing was, coming home didn't feel like that at all. We walked off the plane and the heat wasn't half as overwhelming as I had hoped--in fact, I don't think it broke 90 that day. Driving home from the airport, I noticed the wind kind of rustled through the tops of the trees like it does sometimes in mid August, just before the summer goes through a midlife crisis, buys a really obnoxious car and makes everybody miserable for a couple weeks. My plants weren't even all that dead (thanks Ben!). But besides all that, something just felt weird. The only way to describe it is that I came Home and Home didn't recognize me.

So here's what I did: I waited until the sun went down and I went for a drive. I took some overdue books back to the library, slid them into the after hours book drop and listened to them clump when they hit the bottom of the box. I went to Daily Groceries and selected vegetables while the girl behind the counter tried to convince the night manager not to cut his hair. I drove past some parties that were spilling out of houses into front yards, and I knew by the looks of those guys that they were probably graduate students in the Poultry Sciences department. I went to Vision Video and forgot how to act around the cashier so that he wouldn't judge me for not renting something French. And then I drove home in a bemused sort of stupor.

But then it kind of hit me as I was driving up Sunset: it wasn't the place that didn't feel like home. It was me that was different.

I sometimes forget that I'm a little bit like a pile of mashed potatoes--my brain is, I mean. And, you know, I'm generally pretty pleased with the reality of my potato lump. Usually the pile just sits there on the plate in the regular old lump shape, but then sometimes it's like someone walks by with a butter knife and spends some time rearranging the shape of my potato lump. Like maybe they make it look like a topiary of a goose or something. And after that things just feel a little different for a while until the goose falls over and it goes back to being a lump shape again.

What I'm saying is, traveling sometimes makes you different. It made me different this time and though I'd like to discuss this in greater detail, it's one in the morning now and I have to get up at 7 to write a newsletter. So fun!

Bonne nuit!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Ya'll, I've been in California for over a week and here's the thing: it's freaking cold in California. No no no, Jesslyn--you are mistaken! California is full of tan people! Skinny, blonde people in bikinis! Swimming pools and Luke Perry! Wine tastings in sunny vinyards! It's the damn American Mediterranean!

Ah yes. I can see where you might have gotten that impression. However, the California I'm experiencing is chilly and socked-in like Greenland in November. But I'm notoriously thin-blooded, which doesn't make rational sense because most of my ancestors were ruddy-faced, heroically built, horse-and-dog loving Englishmen who would have chewed up the northern California coast and spit it into the Pacific. Apparently I'm an outlier.

The really remarkable thing, however, is that Bryan's family thrives under these barbaric conditions. And they're all about 4"11 and are constantly saying things like, "I know we didn't eat breakfast or lunch and it's 3 PM, but I'm actually not very hungry. Let's all 14 of us just share an appetizer." I'm currently at their family reunion in Santa Cruz and we've been hiking and going to the beach and kayaking and surfing and otter watching, all in freezing arctic grade fog. And they're all like, "Isn't it bracing? Isn't it divine? Who wants to play team building games on the lawn with this paper bag?"

This is the self portrait Bryan, Odessa and I took on the beach yesterday:

It was 49 degrees and Odessa was deeply unimpressed by the sand castle building conditions.

But we've been wearing wooly sweaters and I've been drinking quarts of hot tea and viscous, domestic red wine. So, don't feel too sorry for me. I'll just wear all these bathing suits when I get back to Georgia.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Counting and Koala Bears

Odessa seems to be confused about numbers. This isn't all that surprising because a. she's two, and b. I'm her mom and I don't even know my 6, 7 and 8 times tables.

But Dessa is moved to count things. We'll be sitting on the couch with a book, looking at a page full of ducks, and she'll want to count them over and over again. This is her method: she starts with her finger on the first duck and moves across the page: "uhn, too...fie, ix, Mun, Daddy, bikikle, munty." If you didn't get that, she said, "One, Two, Five, Six, Mom, Daddy, Bicycle, Monkey." Which is obviously wrong.

Sometimes when we're reading together and she starts counting ducks, I'm like "Child, what kind of bullshit is this? It's One, Two, THREE...." And she repeats after me, "uhn, too, TEEEE." But then she goes back to the page and counts them again: "uhn, too, fie, ix, Mun, Daddy, Mun, Daddy, keeker." And last time I checked, kiefer wasn't a number. But whatever: she's small and confused, and I can relate to that.

When I was about 4, I had a real problem figuring out the deal with koala bears. I regularly grilled my mom on the subject:

"Mama?" I asked her. "Girls can't marry other girls, right?"
Nope. Girls couldn't marry other girls, especially in West Virginia in 1982.
"And boys can't marry other boys?"
"So, who can koala bears marry?"
The answer was always the same: koala bears marry other koala bears.

This dissatisfied me like you wouldn't believe.

I had somehow come to the conclusion that there were three sexes: men, women and koala bears. And HOW was my Mom supposed to know that? So I kept asking her about the conjugal habits of koala bears and I think she just figured I was really into koala bears. Maybe too into them--but I was four and would probably grow out of it.

I don't remember how all this was cleared up, but eventually it was. And Odessa will probably learn to count to ten someday. It's possible, however, that she'll never learn her 6, 7 and 8 times tables. But that's okay--you don't have to use those very often anyway.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Story About a Song

Part 1

I was recently at Little Kings Shuffle Club on Music Trivia night. I think Music Trivia night in Athens, Georgia is probably more challenging than it is in other places. This is what it's like: there's this bespectacled balding guy who stands by the door of the bar with a mic and he asks these impossible questions like, "What year did R. Stevie Moore release Delicate Tension?" and all these tattooed guys wearing Eddie Vedder shorts are flapping their hands in the air yelling, "ooooh! ooh! oooohh!" like they've been waiting their whole entire lives for someone to ask them that question. It's intense.

Anyway, the night I was at Little Kings for music trivia, I was half watching the proceedings and after it was all over, the trivia dudes were standing around arguing about whether Les Paul was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 or 1989, when this song came on:

After about 15 seconds I looked over at the crowd of music aficionados because they had all gone quiet. I scanned the furrowed brows, took in the subtly played air guitars, and I'm here to tell you: that song was taking those guys places. I was being taken someplace myself, actually.

Part 2

I spent the summer of 1997 in Wyoming, cleaning rooms at a hotel in the Grand Tetons. I was 19 and a terrible maid. Probably the worst maid that ever lived.

In May, my friend Kristin and I drove my 1988 Honda Accord out to Wyoming from Georgia, and you better believe we had a Plan: we were going to spend the whole summer practicing folk songs from the Rise Up Singing songbook on our guitar and banjo, and we'd most likely get a record deal by September. November at the latest.

So, we got to the hotel and settled into our dorm room which was cramped, dark and had a wide, naked view of the staff parking lot. We trudged through the snow to the staff cafeteria for dinner, and the first thing I noticed as I sat down with my plastic tray was this amazing looking man staring at me like he wanted to floss his teeth with my face.

(Excuse me while I pause for a bit of narrative housekeeping:

When I was a teenager and didn't know how to deal with a situation, this look right here was my default strategy:

I call this look the "I Knew That." For those of you who happen to be a teenage girl at the moment, a word:

When you're in a new situation and feeling insecure, the benefit of this low-effort approach is that you never have to say anything interesting: other insecure people leave you alone out of the assumption that you're either thinking something real good or judging them because you're better than they are. However, in certain cases the "I Knew That" can be misconstrued as the "Let's Make Out in The Corner," and can instigate more of a response than you bargained for. Please feel free to email me with questions.)

Anyway, this man: he appeared to be some sort of viking king, which isn't generally the sort of thing I go for, but whatever--when you're 19 and getting amorous eyes from Thor, you have like zero recourse. But while I'm divulging all sorts of personal information, let it be known that back at school I had just had my life ruined by a guy who always wore cowboy boots and who told me about a month too late that he thought he was probably in love with this girl he met in Montana at welding school. Which was such weak sauce. So in light of my fresh heartbreak, I decided to eschew the Norseman with a firm hand: I put on my best IGNORING YOU face, ate my dinner and left.

Later that night while Kristin and I were playing some sad Gillian Welch ballad on the aforementioned banjo and guitar, there was a knock on our uncurtained window. It was the viking king, grinning.

"Hey," he said. "I'm Beau. Come on over and play some tunes with me and my friend."

Some things you should know about Beau:

1. He was 27 and from Omaha, Nebraska, which didn't really explain why he talked like English wasn't his first language. Kristin thought he was probably a little mentally handicapped, but I think he just didn't give a shit and couldn't be bothered to communicate like a civilized person.

2. He was the sluttiest person I've ever even heard of. During the three months I knew him, he whored his way up one side of our dorm and down the other, skipping all the Mormon girls, of course. And Kristin and me.

3. He loved music, and he was utterly, hilariously tone deaf. But that didn't keep him from singing most of the time.

4. That summer we knew him, Beau successfully ran off every single boy who tried to talk to me or Kristin. He all but peed on us in his territorial fervor. Once he even marched me out of a social situation by the elbow and gave me 15 minute lecture on why I shouldn't talk to the room service guys (i.e. "they're cock-suckers.").

Beau, Kristin, Beau's friend Marie and I got together three times a week to "play some tunes." We always played in Beau's room, which was a one-room log cabin that smelled like dust and pine trees and dude. Marie was a middle aged woman who spent winters on the Apache reservation in Arizona and summers working in the kitchen at Jenny Lake Lodge. Marie loved Gram Parsons and taught Kristin and me to sing "Love Hurts" so good that one time we made her cry. Beau was an adequate guitar player and a lot of nights he made us sing along with him for hours and hours, until we were hoarse. When we'd say we were too tired to sing any more, he'd grin and make us listen to his 20 minute arrangement of "Rockin' in the Free World." It was awful. But we learned a whole lot of songs that summer.

You know how everybody has a special little diddling riff that they play when they're futzing around on the guitar? Everybody's is different, but once you know what someone's guitar futzing sounds like, you can walk into a room blindfolded and know who's playing guitar just by the sound. Anyway, Beau used to always play this little "doodle-oo-doo-doo-doo-doooo, strummy-strummy-strum-strum...." One time I asked him what the hell song he was always playing, and he sang it for me, all the way through. Of course it just sounded like the bellowing of a bull walrus, so that was no help. But I probably heard him play that riff 3,000 times that summer. If I was on my deathbed with Alzheimer's, I would know that little riff that Beau always played.

The last time I ever saw Beau I stopped by his cabin right before I left to drive back to Georgia. I knocked on his door and there was some scrambling and a protracted wait before he appeared wearing a pair of khaki shorts and a t-shirt he had pulled on backwards. Behind him on his bed was a dark haired, tattooed pixie girl--maybe the prettiest girl I'd ever seen. Beau introduced her as his girlfriend who had just arrived from Nebraska. I'd never heard of her before. She sat on the edge of the bed, her black t-shirt hanging off one shoulder, and looked right through me, expressionless.

Part 3

A couple months later, I was riding through eastern Montana in Matt Thomas' old green Suburban. There were about 12 people in the car, and I was sitting in the front seat between the open window and this girl named Erin who was from San Francisco and knew everything. It was a really pretty fall day--warm but not hot, and it was one of those afternoons when everything on the prairie is either yellow or blue. I saw a little red fox catch a mouse on the side of the highway and I tried to tell everyone, but most people were asleep in the back and Erin was too busy digging around in her backpack for a tape of this band she had been talking about, elbowing both me and Matt (who was driving) in the process. Finally she hollered and pulled out a clear gray tape with SON VOLT written on it in black Sharpie. She jammed it into the tape deck and it started playing.

And there he was: "doodle-oo-doo-doo-doo-doooo, strummy-strummy-strum-strum...." I started laughing.

"What are you laughing at?" Erin asked me. She was annoyed.

"Nothing," I said. " This song... it just reminded me of something."

And for a while I just looked out the window and listened, kind of grinning into the wind. I really had kind of loved that guy.

But not too much. Just enough.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


So, in celebration of Odessa becoming mostly entirely potty trained (omg!), I'm going to encourage you watch this 3 minute video of her letting the old freak flag fly:

I know. She's incorrigible.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Can Smell Ants

Something you don't know about me is that I can smell ants. No seriously--I can smell them. There is a little colony of them living in my computer, so clickety-claxing on my 5-year-old MacBook means I have to kind of suffer through ant stench. Like right now I'm suffering.

When I was a kid we lived in central California where there were all these oaks that were great for climbing. Unfortunately, they were covered in these big, shiny black ants which absolutely reeked. Sometimes I would climb the trees anyway until my nostrils started burning. Those were good times.

I didn't know not everybody smelled ants until recently. Bryan's always been pretty quiet on the subject. Usually when I walk into the kitchen and ask, "Do you smell ants?" he responds with a carefully considered, "umm, no." It never occurred to me that he didn't know what I was talking about.

However, this evening we were eating dinner out on the porch and I said something like "Yurch, it smells like ants out here," and Bryan closed his eyes, put down his fork very slowly and said, "Whatthehellareyoutalkingabout." It only took like eight years to get around to asking me that. So I found an ant, caught it and held it up to his nose. "It smells like your finger," he said.

Anyway, you're not really missing anything if you don't happen to have my superhuman ant-smelling power. It's gross. Like being able to smell all the farts in a mile radius or something.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The World According to Casey

One person very dear to my heart is my ex-husband Casey. Casey lives on the Oregon coast and recently started a coffee roasting company. When I told Jane this, she wrote some exciting new text for his website:

I carefully roast my coffee one bean at a time so that I'll never, ever have nothing to do. I'll bring each coffee bean to your house on my bike, hand delivered each hour on the hour. I don't care where you live.

And that pretty much sums up Casey: if you're doing something the normal, efficient, time-tested way, you're doing it wrong.

Case in point: I was his first wife. We got married when I was 24 and he was 25. A year later, the lawyer who handled our divorce asked us very earnestly whether we were sure we wanted to break the sacred bonds of marriage when we couldn't stop giggling over the task of signing the divorce papers. A year after that, Casey got married again (he doesn't want to talk about it). And then a few years after that he married Renee, whom he no longer lives with, but refers to as his "Best Friend-Wife." Now he's dating a really nice lady named Melissa who seems genuinely unconcerned by the fact that he's been married three times at the tender age of 34. I can imagine that's easy to do with Casey--he's just so charming and stubbornly optimistic and pleased by nearly everything. The other day on the phone, Casey started giving nicknames to his ex-wives, and I asked him which wife I was. "Oh, you're my Most Special Little Guy, Jess!" he said. He was being completely serious.

Anyway, thanks to the wonder and majesty of THE INTERNET, today I accidentally stumbled upon a photo of Casey that I had totally forgotten about:
That's him tenderly nuzzling that riot policeman's bosom. It was taken at the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999, and was eventually turned into a Microsoft spoof ad for Adbusters that said, "Where do you want to go today?" (By the way, is Adbusters even a thing anymore? Evidently it is, because I just Googled it and Google says it's still a thing).

So, the story behind this photo goes like this: Casey got arrested protesting globalization and corporate capitalism, which are two things that really chap his hide. And so he got tear-gassed and had to spend four days in the King County jail wearing an extra large pair of dingy underpants that weren't his, eating Beanie Weenies and sharing a cell with a dude named Gravity's Sunbeam or some crap. I didn't know what had happened to him--he just sort of stopped calling--and Jiminy Christmas, was I pissed when he got home in a hot-boxed minibus driven by a homeless person. On the other hand, Casey couldn't have been more delighted with himself.

And that, Little Ones, is the story of Casey. He could make some lucky biographer rich one of these days.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Neil Young Conundrum

One of my favorite things to do with a morning is go to The Grit and eat breakfast by myself while taking notes for the novel I’m writing that will hopefully be finished by 2034. The Grit is always pretty empty first thing in the morning and it has big, bright windows that face the street and some hipster waiters who are too cool to pay much attention to you. It’s basically like a giant, cool, dimly-lit Cave that Time Forgot.

So, I was in there on Wednesday, and it was great: I ignored the two ladies with insomnia and lactose intolerance and Celiac disease who, in an otherwise empty restaurant, chose to sit in the booth right behind mine. There was some sort of synthesizer something playing somewhere in the background, and that was fine. The waiter kept filling my coffee until I realized I had effectively consumed twice as much coffee than my adrenal system was built for—but hey, I’m an adult and that was my choice.

What ended up running me out of there was Neil Young.

Let me be clear: I really like Neil Young, and After the Gold Rush (the album the waiter put on after the synthesizer fuzz) is one of my favorites. But there’s something about Neil Young that I cannot abide except during the brief temporal window between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. I am strictly a crisp weather Neil Young fan.

Picky, picky, you say. Well, yeah—maybe. But some music is like Christmas music to me--I love Silent Night, but who wants to listen to Silent Night in April? And Neil Young is great, but it makes me feel weird to hear him in June. Actually, not just weird—I have an actual aversion to it. It’s literally the same feeling I get when I’m in a restaurant and there are people making out—like seriously going at it--at the table next to mine. It makes me uncomfortable.

Why, friends, do you think this would be? Everybody else seems okay listening to Neil Young just any old time. Please analyze in the comments.