A Few of the More Bizarre Things on My Packing List

  • Glue sticks (yes, in the plural)
  • Alcohol wipes, and Purell, and Kleenex
  • Pins for blocking a sweater

Should Be Subtitled “And I Want to Die”

My coworker pointed out this loathsome article in The New York Observer today: My Book Deal Ruined My Life. Maybe I’m just a tree-hugging, sea-loving nobody from the Pacific Northwest, but if the fact that it’s from The New York Observer doesn’t say it all, the title most certainly does.

Yep, it’s another drama-entrenched tale of woe discouraging would-be writers from picking up their pens. I’ve seen so many of these articles in the past two years that I’m beginning to think it’s a conspiracy. The journalists who write these articles must be so bitter about their three dust-collecting manuscripts they want nothing more than to destroy any potential competition.

The Key to Success

As heard in passing: “I’ve found that if you just say a lot of random stuff and act like you know what you’re saying, then everyone will believe you’re really smart.”

Or in my case, I’ll think you’re really, really stupid. Though I suppose it’s easy to mistake a look of disgust to be a look if admiration.

Why Orange Juice Is So Great

Orange juice is one of the few wonders of this world. Forget this seven wonders. This is the wonder!

What, pray tell, spawned this rant? I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you:

  • Orange juice is loaded with Vitamin C, making it great for overcoming illnesses.
  • While ill, water tastes awful. But Orange juice doesn’t!
  • When on the tail-end of your illness, you can pour yourself a glass of orange juice and spike it with a healthy dousing of vodka, feeling great about the ability to cure your illness while getting drunk. The best part: no one will know!

Eau du Swell

Since I was a child, I knew I was sensitive to chemicals—especially soaps and specialty acne cleansers. But it wasn’t until the past three years that I realized I was also sensitive to smells. When I went to a “relaxation clinic” to help with my depression, I learned I was breathing more shallowly than the average human. I pondered this while on my way home, trying as hard as I could to inhale with deep breaths. Walking through the city pavement, I would try to swell my stomach and chest out with air, as instructed, but immediately stop short. I fought and struggled with my body, trying to force my lungs to inhale to maximum capacity. But it simply would not happen. Then while waiting on the busy downtown sidewalk for my bus, I suddenly realized why I breathe shallowly. The smell of the city, particularly exhaust from the cars, greatly bothered me.

I had always instinctively known that smells bothered me and compensated with shallow breathing. But once I knew consciously, I became more aware of the scents around me. I paid attention to any and every non-natural smell I encountered, noting how my body reacted. While fuel exhaust and extremely harsh chemical smells you barely encounter in day-to-day life really bothered me, perfumes seemed fine.

Then one day, while on the bus, a women sat in front of me with a perfume that smelled like any ordinary perfume. Mucus thickly dripped down my throat, soon followed by swelling. I opened the window. My throat continued to swell. I moved to the back of the bus, again opening a window. Suddenly, I was wheezing for air. What the hell was going on? I don’t have asthma! Would my throat keep swelling until I couldn’t breathe? Was I going to die? Was I making a big deal out of nothing?

I didn’t want to be that person who causes a commotion because they’re not quite wired right in the head. I tried to hide my wheezing, hoping that I could make it to my job. With each wheeze, I watched the landmarks pass. But ten minutes away and I felt like I would pass out from lack of air. When the bus stopped outside the mall, I dashed off. Collapsing onto my hands and knees on the sidewalk, I threw up into a drainage grate. I stared down in front of me. The prior night’s dinner and that morning’s breakfast slowly dripped through the grating. People were looking at me at the bus stop, people in cars were pointing. I tried to spit what vomit I could, wiped my mouth on my hand, and stood up.

Away from the perfume, the swelling in my throat slowly subsided. By the time another bus came and I walked into work 20 minutes late, I could mostly breathe normally. At first, I was worried this would be a new way of life for me. But as months passed without incident, I mostly forgot the fear of not being able to breathe.

And then it happened again today. A man came into my office reeking of cologne. He stood inches behind me, talking to another contractor. Suddenly, my head started to pound and my throat began to swell. I waited him out, hoping he would leave soon. And he did. But the lingering cologne persisted in the air. And my throat continued to swell. And the pounding in my headache felt like someone was stabbing my eyes from inside my skull. And then things went black. I woke up perhaps a minute later to find I had not only toppled out of my desk chair, but had projected a fountain of vomit that arched with my fall. A pulp of sugar peas, goldfish crackers, tomatoes, and Odwalla’s “Amazing Purple Superfood” dripped from the ledge of my desk, coated an unused computer monitor, and pooled on the floor near my head.

That time I threw up all over someone’s test I was grading in junior high causing everyone to avoid me for the rest of the year? Yeah, well this was many times more embarrassing. At least in junior high, I had food poisoning. This time I had—what—”cologne poisoning”?

And a Pinch of Jealousy

Right now, I can’t think of a worse feeling. It’s that cocktail of one part anger, one part hurt, a splash of resentment, and a pinch of jealousy to taste. It’s that cocktail you down with your woes when someone who has been terribly mean to you in the past is rewarded and praised by the community you share. Because you see life through your personal perspective, the cruel remarks you remember this person saying to you and others is their only face. And because it’s their only face, you’re aghast that no one else publicly agrees.

But no one else spurns this person, making your feelings a close second in awfulness to grieving for a loved one. At least with grief, you know it’s okay to feel the salt sting on your cheeks. You can cry as much as you want. You can say what you want. No one will fault you because it’s your dead mother, not theirs.

Don’t forget to add the overlaying feeling of guilt to this Molotov cocktail exploding in your stomach. After all, an entire community is praising this person. And you’re not. Something must be wrong with you. No, something is definitely wrong with you.

If you speak, you will feel better. But maybe you should keep your mouth shut. You’re the only one who doesn’t agree with everyone else’s praise. You’re the only one who feels so strongly about the cruelness of the praised. Nonetheless, you decide to say something. It will make you feel better. It will warn the person to be kinder than they were in the past, especially now that they hold so much more responsibility. Of course, you agonize over the most tactful way to express your disappointment. By disagreeing with the entire community, you’re already losing public face. If you aren’t careful about what you say, you’ll lose even more.

Painstakingly, you place each and every word in the most tactful manner possible. This sentence over here moves to there, while you delete that entire paragraph at the bottom. You’re bracing for a backlash. In order to tame it as much as possible, what you say in the end is a beige version of what you really wanted to say. Strangely enough, by the time you finish that cocktail is but a mere hangover.


It’s time for a new futon. My current futon is not only lumpy, but the couch frame is literally held together by four uneven stacks of books and the wall. To be honest, the futon has been in a sorry state for well over a year. Of course, twelve months ago, it was only propped up by two stacks of books. It also didn’t need the wall for stability. But as our sole piece of furniture, it had a lot of use, increasingly losing bits and pieces through the year. A nut and screw one day, a random spring the next, an entire bracer bar a few months later… And yet, we didn’t replace it until now for varying reasons—most of which are directly related to my writerly income (or lack thereof). But now that I have a little money these days—well—it’s time to replace the futon.

To add to the urgency of replacing my futon, I have a houseguest coming this Friday. Of course, I’m too embarrassed to let said houseguest sleep on this lumpy “bookton” we currently have. But the manflesh’s parents and our friends—they’ve slept on this very off-kilter futon many times over. Strange, I know. I won’t even pretend to have a reason for you.

We could easily buy a new $50 metal frame to replace the former $50 metal frame. The last one—bless it’s cottony soul—was cheap and sturdy enough for a year or more, making it an excellent choice for us while we were college students. But I’ve recently discovered that once you graduate college, you suddenly have more discerning taste. With that diploma, you may not get a paycheck, but you certainly get a sense of entitlement to quality furnishing. The manflesh and I mutually decided that we want a nicer, more sturdy futon this time&#8212one that will hopefully last much longer than three years. Consequently, I have dedicated what feels like a small fortune for obtaining the newest member of our household. All I know is that for over $200, this frame better out-last my immortal dog.

Sweet, Bubbly Liquids

One of the “benefits” at my current place of employment is the giant glass refrigerators on every floor that are overflowing with a wide selection of free sodas and other fructose-infused carbonated “waters.” But I’ve never been a heavy soda drinker, and this lure of free sodas hasn’t changed that. So, why is it that after reading this article about Jones Soda and their decision to move to cane sugar, I suddenly want to drink more soda?

I’ve always enjoyed sodas that use cane sugar much more than those that use high-fructose corn syrup, and I totally agree with van Stolk in that “Soda’s a treat, not a food group.” But the fact that this article made my mouth tingle is unnerving. A ghost feeling of sweet, bubbly lime soda suddenly washed over my taste buds and a craving for Jones soda was born. Knowing myself as well as I do, that craving won’t go until I’ve had at least one, possibly more, bottles of Jones.

I guess it’s simply reverse psychology for me. Tell me, as a soda manufacturer, that you are not only going to use real cane sugar, but that you also plan to advise people to drink soda in moderation, and suddenly I want to down a case of your product.

Potato, I Blame You

An hour before my night class in screenwriting this past Tuesday night, I found myself at Big Time Brewery with a baked potato smothered in three types of cheeses, chives and olives with a hardy pint of beer. The beer and food (usually pizza) at Big Time is the second best way to reclaim my happiness after a torturous day at work. The best way would be Indian food.

I spread my script pages across the table and covered them in red ink; marking up areas or words that I found weak, and writing notes to myself for how I wanted to change the story. My writing/editing process couldn’t have been simpler:

Take a bite of cheese-drenched potato. Drink some beer. Write a paragraph of red ink over printed pages. Repeat.

Good food, good beer, and time to work on one of my stories. I couldn’t have been happier!

When the only thing that remained on my plate were fragments of potato skin and a puddle of butter, I had twenty minutes to leisurely walk to my classroom. Class came and went. I rode the bus home. Walked in the door by 10 PM. Relieved the dog. Fed and watered the dog. Lounged on the futon and talked to Tyler. Finally, by 10:30 PM, I brushed my teeth and went to bed. It had been nothing more than a typical Tuesday night for me.

Suddenly—cutting rudely into my peaceful dreams—my stomach seized and churned and bile flooded my mouth.

I dove out of bed and spent a good half hour waiting to throw up. Wishing I could throw. Once I threw, that annoying bile that ruins my teeth would stop. Once I threw up, my stomach would feel better. Once I threw up, I could return to bed. And yet, my stomach persisted in contorting and seizing. Finally, sleep and the comfortable new covers won over the chance that I might throw up on Manflesh. I returned to bed. I spent the rest of the morning shifting and contorting to reach the least painful position, and cursing the cheese-smothered potato that surely gave me food poisoning.

I stayed home from work, originally thinking that I would be able to come in a few hours late. I drifted in and out of sleep, contorting, tossing and turning. Between lucid moments of sleep, all I could think about was how evil Big Time and their bacteria-infested potato was.

Finally, when noon came, I realized it was pointless to keep thinking I would make it into work. I forced my stomach out of bed, telling it that it had to commit to a decision: either hurry up and throw up and feel better, or stop seizing and feel better. This seizing and contorting business, I told it, is not working for either of us. I made Stomach an Egg in the Window, and told it that if it didn’t keep it down, I’m going to have to find a new stomach to share my life with. Stomach seemed to think I was serious, and gallantly kept that egg and wheat bread down. Stomach and I spent a few hours laying in bed and playing DS, and then finished off the working day with a hearty three hour nap. By the time Tyler came home, Stomach started to feel better, although it was still a bit uneasy. The rest of the evening passed uneventfully as Stomach settled down and returned to the well-behaved digestive system it usually is.

By the next morning—this morning—Stomach was much better, although still a bit delicate from its bout of seizing and contorting. It was then that I learned Tyler had similar issues last night. I still believed that the potato had poisoned me, though. It wasn’t until I came into work this morning and saw three of the other contractors were out, that I started to think that the potato from Tuesday night might have been an honest, wholesome potato after all. Starting up my computer and email account, I soon saw an email from a contractor who sits next to me and is directly on my team. She wasn’t feeling well at 5 AM this morning and was going to attempt to come in late. However, she never made it in.

I now feel rather sheepish about cursing that damn tasty potato all day yesterday. However, I’m pleased to know that I can still eat at Big Time without thinking about that time they served me the evil potato of cheese-covered doom.

Things That Would Make Me Happy In The Immediate Future

  1. Going to Moose Factory, Ontario this year—for vacation. Preferably with friends.
  2. A Moose Factory t-shirt, whether I make it to Moose Factory or not.
  3. A job where I edit, even if it’s only 50% of the time and the other 50% is administrative or web-related.
  4. A constant—or fairly constant—stream of pay checks.
  5. More time to sit at home and do the things I like to do.