Thursday, January 12, 2017

Truth Lies Low

"If I don't do it, it's just more work for someone else. So it's like, well, I have no other option. Why should I even talk to her? It won't change anything. It will just cause this... friction. So I just need to do it."

It's been quite the couple of years, hasn't it, church? I have not had the happiest time being a Mormon. First there was the women thing, and the excommunication stuff, and then (oh, and then) the big policy reveal. And my heart ached, and I cried, and I stayed and stayed and stayed.

And I'm still staying, just to get that out of the way. No danger of abandonment yet.

Lately the struggle hasn't been the anger or the hurt, or the beautiful wrestling before God. Lately, I've been struggling with the nothing.

No emotion. No connection. No spirituality.

It's been consumed with the never-ending motions of the every day: the go-go-go to work, the go-go-go to spend time with my daughter, the go-go-go- to do housework and cook meals and lesson plan and get sleep so I can function. And oh yes, the barest of go-go-go to fulfill my church calling. The barest, and yet it's enough to make me dread those three hours every Sunday.

I'm in the Primary Presidency, and I spend the first hour stewing over sharing times and other undone administrative tasks, simmering in all my inadequacies. I spend sacrament meeting, that one hour where I could learn of God, consumed by the things I have to do and have not done. I spend the following two hours doing those things, those teaching and organization tasks that are so close to what I do during the week, but worse because it's with small children. I go home exhausted, wondering when restoration will come.

Where is space for the divine? If I don't get to recharge at church, how can I find space to do it myself?

I whine about the culture of the church a lot. My struggle with the Utah ideals I grew up with dominates my therapy sessions. A huge target of disgust is the idea of sanctification through sufferinghow the more we sacrifice in silence, the better a person we are. It's pervasive. Good Mormons sit in silence and suffer through. We put our shoulder to the wheel.

But what if the wheel crushes us?

I talked to my therapist about what I can do with my calling. It seemed an impossible situation. I am called, and so I have to do it. What other option is there? Besides, the primary president has done so much for me, and I don't want to seem ungrateful.

In the middle of listing all the things the president has done for me, and the little I've done in return, my therapist said, "If she didn't want to do those things, she'd say so. That's what people dothey share emotions, they let you know if something's unpleasant or part of a bargain."

"Not where I grew up," I said. Cue lightning bolt.

Oh. I grew up seeing people, particularly women, serve and give of themselves far past the point of enjoyment, and often to the point of silent resentment. Usually that resentment would bubble up, siphon itself out on people. People, but never the person responsible. There wasn't direct conversation. There were clouds of anger, falsity, and a pervasive air of distrust. People wallowed in insincerity because everything was an angry, holy sacrifice. We were the sacred martyrs. Our suffering brings us close to God, even if we sink into personal despair.

And there I was, expecting the same from myself.

I don't have issues setting boundaries and expectations in any other setting. But church? Boundaries shouldn't exist. And although I give good lip service to defying that culture, I find it's unexpectedly buried deep. It's tightly woven into the fiber of my being.

Driving away from therapy, full of solutions and new resolve to be the change I want to see in the church, Andrew Bird's Are You Serious? played on my stereo.* The song "Truth Lies Low" began, and Bird's mellow voice resonated:

Here's a little game, you can play along
Oh you do the walk of shame
From the comfort of your home.
So here's another game, you can play along,
Where you empty all your blame
From your guilty bones.**

Album version here for better sound quality and less song-building.

I don't have to sacrifice. It's not worth my happiness, my sanity, my testimony. Yes, I can do it for now, but it's OK to say I can't do it forever. And it's OK to let people know I'm not happyif I don't tell them, how will they know?

It's OK.

I don't have to walk in shame. There's nothing redeemable about guilt,

*Side note: this album is FANTASTIC. It's his latest, and finally managed to convert my husband to Andrew Bird. Listening to "Valleys of the Young" as new parents was a mind-altering experience.

**I can acknowledge that Bird probably did not mean to write about people tortuing themselves with guilt and self-loathing (especially considering the last verse referencing what sound like trolls), but that's the beauty of lyrics--it just takes one line at one moment to become part of a person's unique experience forever.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

2015: On the Page

I continued to increase my books-read amount this year, which sort of makes up for the sting of failing in the movie count. I also continued to notice the phases I go through when I read. My genre-reading tends to cycle through a "comic-YA lit-modern fiction" loop, with slight sprinklings of the occasional essay compendium or non-fiction pop-culture related title. It's probably a sign that I need to push myself out of a reading comfort zone. Maybe my next challenge should be a non-fiction science text. Or a historical biography (which you'd think I'd enjoy more, but....ehhhhh).

Or maybe I should stick with what's working for me.

Perusing through this year's list, I was struck with the glory of text and place. While reviewing titles, I kept getting flashes of where and when I read them.

I remembered running to job interviews while Syllabus roasted in sunshine on the front seat of my car. Each interview I half-hoped someone would ask me what I was currently reading, so that I could brag about a book that was esoteric AND related to teaching practices! Just look how committed I am to professional development.

I remembered polishing off The Knife of Never Letting Go while lying on the floor of an unfurnished second bedroom, reveling in the fact that I could go to a place that wasn't my bed and wasn't the living room, but an entirely separate room in itself. I also remembered wondering why so many of my colleagues loved that book. Chalk that and Maze Runner up as tomes I'm glad kids love, but which leave me cold.

Fevre Dream was my airport book during the flight to Boston when I graduated with my Masters. I sat around airports during redeye flights, trying to place this tale in the greater structure of vampire lit and nervously dreading a trip that turned out not so bad.

I didn't finish The Brothers Karamazov, but I did attempt it again. And it did keep me company as the most absurd beach book in history while I chilled/burned to a crisp at Carkeek Beach during the most idyllic (read: toasty) summer Seattle has ever had.

2015 was a great year for books overall. I read in more places, read more diverse things, and had recommended reading lists yield better fruit than I'm getting so far in 2016. It was the year I got a Kindle, and even begrudgingly used it (though still sparingly). I found new soul books. And I found some beautiful memories.


Total Books Read: 68

Incredible Comics: Ms. Marvel: Generation Why. Every preteen and teenager should read Ms. Marvel. Not only does it have one of the best superhero origin stories I've read in a long time (not in this volume, but the sentiment stands), but Kamala's continuing adventures seem realistic to her age, while containing a warmth and humor that any book could seriously use. Highly, HIGHLY recommend. Syllabus. Lynda Barry is a new hero. Reading this completely amped me up for teaching again, and after using her journaling formats in my ELL class I can testify: this practice of creativity works! She's a marvel. Everyone go draw spirals right now. An Age of License. I really enjoy Lucy Knisley's voice. She somehow manages to do the impossible when it comes to memoir: be introspective without being indulgent. None of her remembrances seem whiny or entitled, and they all strike a real and familiar emotional chord. A must-read for those lost twenty-somethings on the cusp of a great future. American Vampire vol. 7. I owe some serious, life-changing decisions to Scott Snyder and this series, so it will always be on my favorites list. Also, despite Skinner Sweet being mostly unseen throughout this volume, 7 seriously amped up the big bad facing the American vampires (and vampire hunters). A solid addition to the story. Through the Woods. I love Emily Carroll's art, and the somewhat terrifying tales are right up my tonal alley. Slight unease and a touch of darkness make this a quick but satisfying read. Two Brothers. Ba and Moon's last work, Daytripper, was one of the most incredible books I've ever read. This second take, based around two unlike brothers in Brazil, packs artistic dynamism with an equally heartbreaking tale. It's an all around beautiful work.


Fantastic Realistic (read: ANGSTY) YA Lit: It's Kind of a Funny Story. Some of the greatest descriptions of depression and mental illness I've ever read. Totally captured how in the moment it doesn't feel like an affliction, but just feels like incompetence. Love Letters to the Dead. The ultimate in teen novels--feeling ostracized, finding a cool friend group, overcoming a deeply repressed past, hero worship of super-cool past idols. All familiar, but done in a way I dug. Jumped In. I loved the focus on poetry and music (plus, the local aspects were none too shabby). It managed to have teens growing and becoming adults without a completely earth-shattering trauma, which was a pleasant surprise. Adolescence is difficult enough without all the dramatics added on. I'll Give you the Sun. Gorgeous prose, told from two distinct and lovely character voices. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of falling in love, which were shown in a way that, if not emotionally healthy, at least felt true to the feeling of infatuation.


Favorite New Books: A Tale for the Time Being. This book, while initially difficult to get into, was stunning. Told from the perspective of an author in Canada reading a journal she found on the beach, telling the story of a Japanese school girl. The way the stories intersect is beautiful, and while I found the sequences in Japan more compelling, the entire thing was well-crafted. Child 44. One of my favorite books from the past few years was The Orphan Master's Son, and this very much felt like the Russian complement to that novel. A tight read that helps the layperson fear government a little bit more.  The Walls Around Us. It is a YA book, but it wasn't necessarily angsty enough to fit in my last category. Mostly because this book is mind-blowingly cool. It's told in a weird, time-bending format, and the central mystery (while not too obtuse) is fascinating.

Favorite Classics that I Re-Read and Which Comforted Me in Their Glory: Dandelion Wine. Mister Pip. A Swiftly Tilting Planet. All the Pretty Horses. I don't have much to say about these, other than I love them all and they are must-reads.

THE COMPLETE LIST:

  • Saga vol.4 by Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Batman Zero Year vol. 5: Dark City by Scott Snyder
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  • Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
  • Rat Queens vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
  • Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  • The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
  • Alex and Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan
  • Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli
  • 27 by Howard Sounes
  • Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L'Engle
  • Ms. Marvel: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona
  • Syllabus by Lynda Barry
  • Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • I am Princess X by Cherie Priest
  • American Vampire vol. 7 by Scott Snyder
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • This One is Mine by Maria Semple
  • An Age of License by Lucy Knisley
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Feed  by M. T. Anderson
  • Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
  • Swamp Thing vol.1: Raise Them Bones by Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette and Marco Ruby
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
  • Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho
  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  • Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The White Mountains by John Christopher
  • Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King
  • The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher
  • The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith
  • Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
  • Death Note vol.1 by Tsugami Ohba and Takeshi Obata
  • Ungifted by Gordon Korman
  • Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
  • I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  • The Dead and Buried by Kit Harrington
  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll 
  • War Brothers by Sharon McKay and Daniel Lafrance
  • Creatures of the Night by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli
  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Two Brothers by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Anti-Club Year

This is me, being 27.



Grand questions for this year include: will I ever stop feeling completely incompetent with selfies? Will my regrettable haircut* grow out successfully? Will this be the year I appreciate not being a world-acclaimed artist, since it significantly lowers my chances of joining the infamous 27 Club? What will my next year of teaching look like? Will Radiohead ever tour in my area? Am I going to be a good mother!?

Because oh yes, I'm about six months pregnant.

Can you blame that deer-in-the-headlights look I'm rocking?**

To reward those who visit the blog, have a bump picture. Facebook doesn't get this. In fact, it only exists thanks to the persistence of one Diane Robinson, whose requests/pestering finally wore me down.

Look upon my works and despair.

As has become custom, I have to say: this birthday felt pretty anti-climatic. My big present had happened the week before. I had to give a talk in church. And my over-whelming reaction to the actual age milestone was, "huh, didn't that pass by about five years ago?"

In fact, the most exciting part of my birthday was finding my first gray hair the day before.




I desperately hope this is the start of something, and not some random pregnancy-hormone-fueled fluke. I actively yearn for the signs of visible aging. I smile and laugh and grimace and crinkle my eyes in the sun deliberately, praying for crow's feet and laugh lines. I envy my mother's hair, generously salted with streaks of white. The wrinkles and whitening serve as benchmarks of a life well lived, trophies of survival I ache to flaunt. When my soul feels so wizened, shouldn't my exterior match?

I don't want vaulted "maturity," the posturing of knowing more than others and smugly throwing that knowledge around based on nothing more than years-by-the-number. I don't want to pretend to be in world-weary middle-age, the world-weariness a facade masking insecurity and true fear of the aging process, fear that life has slipped by unnoticed. That's not what the gray-haired are about. A gray-hair soul cannot be a douchey soul. Gray-hairs aren't cynical. Gray-hairs aren't full of regret. Gray-hairs don't chase after that which can never be.

Gray hairs come with acceptance and experience. Gray-hairs have sipped the wine of life, the sweet and the bitter, giving each sensation full acknowledgement and denying nothing. Gray-hairs don't give a damn what anyone else thinks, because they've worked and sweated and cried enough to reach a place of rare self-contentment. That being said, gray-hairs know the value of each person, each individual path, and they graciously choose to accept others with a full and welcoming heart. Gray-hairs exude warmth and humor and deep satisfaction. They've seen everything and know that, in the immortal words of Freddie Mercury, nothing really matters. Or to be more accurate, they know that very few things actually matter, so nourish those few things and leave the rest to worry about itself.

In aging, I hope to accept a gray-haired fate long before time forces my hair that way. I hope to embody a happy, optimistic age. I hope to pass the wisdom of the gray to my daughter, to quell doubts and uncertainty in favor of love. And if this year brings more gray? It's free to stay awhile.

26. 25.

*This current ode to David Lynch is the fixed version of truly, the worst haircut I have ever received. I've never seen a hairdresser so afraid of hair. It was an hour in the chair with his hand legitimately shaking as he trepidatiously picked up a lock, cut it haphazardly, observed my head for a few seconds, chose another lock at random, checked the mirror for validation from my glowering face, looked away as he made another cut, then looked back at the mirror for the whole process to begin anew

**To be fair, that's due more to selfie annoyance than any existential fear and gloom. Those emotions were reserved for the first five months. I'm mostly over it now, and on to nervous excitement.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

2015: On the Screen

This year's movie scene started out promising. I averaged around two movies a week, helped in part by a lack of steady employment and by a volunteering gig at Scarecrow Video. Honestly, it was a creative haven for me. I was watching movies outside my comfort zone, studying directors, becoming more of an auteur completist. Taylor and I barreled through 70s war movie and Kurosawa phases, dipped our toes into classic works we'd never seen. For my sadly short-lived Most Worlds blog (short-lived due completely to my own personal failings), I immersed myself in glam and vampire films, forced myself through horror flicks. With so many opportunities for new and great films, it was a golden age for the expansion of world views and massive explosions of personal creativity.

And then in July, I embarked upon the Grand X-Files Rewatch of 2015.

Watching one episode a day of any TV show is unexpectedly taxing. It's a lot of screen time, especially when you fall behind and have to catch up on six hours over the weekend. Compound that with rejoining the teaching force and my treasured film time seriously deteriorated. I was lucky to get one a week, if that. It left a surprising hole in my heart. To those who argue movies are a waste of time and brain, I say PHOOEY. It's a necessary boost for my mental acuity. Without movies, my brain is sludge. With movies, my brain ticks and whirs. Go figure.

So, without further ado, my 2015 movie round-up:



Total Movies Watched: 112. A serious dip from last year (133). Again, I blame the X-Files rewatch.

Movies I Saw By Myself in Theatres: The Imitation Game. Selma. Cuidad Delirio. Amy. Ricki and the Flash. Crimson Peak. Steve Jobs. The Big Short.

Movies I FINALLY Watched, Under Much Duress: The Hunt for Red October. It was not as boring as I thought it would be. However, it was also not as great as I'd been led to believe. It was a solid "a'ight."

Movies I Watched for Halloween: Monster Squad. Shaun of the Dead. MST3K: Manos. Corpse Bride. The Worst Witch. The Witches. Young Frankenstein. Something Wicked This Way Comes. 28 Days Later.

Martial Arts Movies: Police Story 3: Supercop. Armour of God 2: Operation Condor. Legend of Drunken Master 2. Fist of Legend. Rifftrax: Miami Connection.*

*I'm counting it. I mean, martial arts IS the co-main focus of the movie (next to neutered 80's pop songs).

Classic Movies I'd Never Seen: Heat. Zodiac. His Girl Friday. Ran. A Streetcar Named Desire. THe Shining. The Deer Hunter. Fight Club. The Silence of the Lambs. Jaws. The Seven Samurai.**

**Flawless Film

Movies Whose Awfulness Angered Me: The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies. Avengers: Age of Ultron.***

***Sweet mercy, I hated this movie. I'll be the first to admit I suffer from superhero film fatigue, and the whole building-smash-quick-cut style in this film didn't help. And then there's what they did to Hawkeye. Clint is not a family man. It does not make sense. And the love story was dumb, and they barely gave Quicksilver any lines so WHO CARES. You can tell that Whedon was exhausted with the film, because every frame resonates with a lack of caring. OK, do an explosion, fine. That's your delivery, Ruffalo? Cool, whatever. "Let's just finish the thing and go home" must have been Whedon's mantra as a director, and it was definitely my perspective as a viewer.

Movies That Filled Me With Righteous Anger: The Big Short.

Favorite Movies Released in 2015: The Big Short. Ex Machina. Star Wars VII. Crimson Peak. **** Straight Outta Compton. What We Do in the Shadows.

****Pure Gothic giddiness throughout. A typical del Toro visual feast, but with enough story to keep me interested.

Clint Eastwood Movies: Gran Torino. A Fistful of Dollars.

THE COMPLETE LIST:
  • Almost Famous
  • The Return of the King
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure
  • Election
  • Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin'
  • Heat
  • Velvet Goldmine
  • Mud
  • Punk-Drunk Love
  • The Fifth Element
  • Wayne's World 2
  • Zodiac
  • The Imitation Game
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
  • Snowpiercer
  • The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies
  • Can't Hardly Wait
  • Patton Oswalt: Tragedy Plus Comedy...
  • Donald Glover: Weirdo
  • Police Story 3: Supercop
  • Gran Torino
  • A Fistful of Dollars
  • John Wick
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • American Sniper
  • Selma
  • His Girl Friday
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2
  • Remember the Titans
  • Fantasia
  • Fantasia 2000
  • Armour of God 2: Operation Condor
  • Gremlins
  • Trading Places
  • What We Do in the Shadows
  • 20 Feet From Stardom
  • Horns
  • The Big Lebowski
  • She's All That
  • The Crow
  • Legend of Drunken Master 2
  • Spirited Away
  • Ran
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Life Itself
  • Cuidad Delirio
  • The Shining
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • West of Redemption
  • Fist of Legend
  • The Spy Who Loved
  • Fight Club
  • Hot Fuzz
  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • Inside Out
  • The Lost Boys
  • We Are the Best!
  • Ray
  • Django Unchained
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Rifftrax: Independence Day
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Jurassic World 
  • Attack the Block
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Sharknado 3
  • True Grit
  • Mr. Holmes
  • Amy
  • Ricki and the Flash
  • Bridget Jones's Diary
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • From Dusk Till Dawn
  • Benny and Joon
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Throne of Blood
  • Jaws
  • The Seven Samurai
  • Monster Squad
  • Casino
  • Hercules (2014)
  • MST3K: Manos
  • Rifftrax: Miami Connection
  • Black Mass
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • Corpse Bride
  • The Worst Witch
  • The Witches
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • 28 Days Later
  • The X-Files (Fight the Future)
  • Crimson Peak
  • The World's End
  • Spectre
  • Steve Jobs
  • Coco Before Chanel
  • The Godfather
  • Laggies
  • Kill Bill vol. 1
  • Kill Bill vol. 2
  • Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
  • Sisters
  • The Dark Knight Returns
  • Ex Machina
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • The Big Short
  • Leon: The Professional

Thursday, October 8, 2015

QuickWrite



The night begs for writing. Pleads with me, using every little bit of angst and atmosphere to wrench words from my wrists.

What's the magic formula? One part dim lighting, a dash of intentionally obtuse and heart-wrenching literature, accompanied by vinyl warmth of that album I never connected with but now finally understand.

Every time I am responsible for moving the needle to the beginning of an album, rather than relying on the automatic start feature, I cut off several seconds of the song. I'm starting to appreciate the sudden nature of that facet/ Each time I play songs it's a different experience, depending on where I start.

I am afraid to use "is" when I write. Thanks, grad school! I am also afraid to use "I," but clearly that fear does not control my life.

Life rolls along. I'm listening to more music again. It reminds me of myself, the person I was, connected with who I am now. Each new CD (yes, CD) is a reclamation of sorts, building me back up and stronger than ever, one puzzle piece at a time. The pieces are forged from security, from the ideal melding of dreams, and from the grapplings of adult sorrow. Somehow, those piece are even stronger, the forge heat forcing resilience.

I love Seattle. This deep satisfaction terrifies me. I'm waiting for the next big tragedy. It's not hard to guess what it will probably be, but even that seems manageable. What unknown horrors lurk? Things can't actually be this good.

Or maybe they can. Maybe life can be all sunsets out the window.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Patriotic Burger Bloat

Last night, I became a red-blooded American. I can finally brandish my U S of A passport with pride, because I earned it. I earned the right to call myself a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a Proud-To-Be-An-American, a champion of Ye Grand Old Flag, Ye High-Flying Flag.

Last night, I ate the Most American Thickburger at Carl's Jr.

I've never felt so nauseous* and so proud of my citizenship.

Since I'm officially a semi-certified burger critic, I couldn't let such a momentous occasion pass without documenting my experience eating this behemoth of a burger, this over-the-top spectacle. The Most American Thickburger is somewhat simple in its genius. Just take everything that could possibly be labelled American, save for the apple pie and thankfully the baseballs, and shove it between two buns. That's the only thought behind this gross(ly awesome?) display of nationalism on a platter.

The handmade bun, a little thicker and ten times slicker than your average Carl's Jr. burger holder, cradles one burger patty, lettuce, pickles, mustard, ketchup, a slice of whatever passes for cheddar cheese oozed on top of the beef, one hot dog cut lengthwise and criss-crossed on top of the burger, all resting on crunchy bed of Lays kettle-cooked potato chips.

Mm-mmm, good.



Here I am. Note my squeamishness, my frankly unAmerican skepticism in such a glorious meal. That was back when I was younger, foolisher, ten times more communist and at least ten pounds lighter.

I could barely get my mouth around this burger. The thick kettle chips resisted any compression efforts, and the more I pushed down the more the hot dogs slipped towards the edges of the bread, constantly threatening to pop out of the marvelous burger construction.

Eventually I managed to chomp into the thing, my mouth unhinging like snake jaws with every bite, but let me tell you. It was worth it.



USA! USA! USA! With every beat of my heart, slower and slower as the arteries clogged with grease, its rhythm matched this internal chance. How lucky am I to live in a world where this burger exists. The burger was meaty. The pickles were tart. The ketchup and mustard were gloriously mayo-free, just as any good burger should be. This burger is the Real Thing.

And that's without even mentioning the potato chips! I give those chips fifty stars in red, white and blue. They are the Greatest American Heroes. My Captain America, all full of crispity crunch to offset the gooey mess of whatever-it-might-be and the richness of two (or more) dead animals. It's a textural treat to sooth the wild masses.

If there is a chink in the impenetrable armor of this masterpiece, it's the hot dogs. I know, what a shock, but in the words of the immortal Joe E. Brown, nobody's perfect. The hot dogs were pinkish boiled cylinders. They didn't taste bad, per se, but the look and feel against the rest of the burger was a little unappetizing. But again, this is America. The hot dogs must be boiled. It's a nod to our war-time past. If we grilled those things, they might be mistaken for bratwurst, and this is not a German state. We won that war. Boil those dogs loud and proud! It's the American way.




All things must pass, as American hero George Harrison said (yeah, that's right, he's ours now. Suck it, Britain). And even this burger had to come to an end. I got down to one final morsel, a goopy bundle of burger and condiments and what must be cheese, trapped between soggy potato chips. Choking back sobs, both because my culinary experience is at an end and because my entire digestive tract is seizing up, I scarfed that final piece. As I did, I could barely keep from saluting this fine dining experience. Nay, this fine patriotic experience.



Take that, ISIS. Eat it, North Korea. We win. America forever, America the free. We fought through wars, strife, trouble, and it's all culminated in this, our greatest achievement. The Most American Thickburger. Cue the country singer and his leather boots, the waving flags, the fireworks, all of it, because it doesn't get any better. Welcome to the epoch of our country. Truly, we are the greatest nation of all!

Now excuse me, because I think I'll be completely indisposed for the next week or so as I slowly purge this experience from every pore. 'MERICA!

*This is not quite true. Nothing will ever beat the nausea of the Mall of America Deep Fried Oreo Incident of '04.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Older. No. Wiser.

This is me, being 26.*

This year I worked on not being grossed out by selfies.
Minimal achievement gains there. 

If we're going to get all technical about it, this is actually me being 25 for about six more minutes. Considering I was driving towards a sub gig in Bellevue there is no picture of me becoming 26. I am firmly against the car selfie, because I have a brain and a healthy respect for large machinery.

That being said, here's a blurry picture of my birthday sunrise from the I-90 bridge (hey! I said car selfie). I wish cameras could capture every single ray of light tinging cloud outlines. I've become obsessed with this interplay lately. Clouds, light, there's a beauty there that's strangely hypnotic.

Blurriness and tilt due to me not looking whilst taking the picture.
You know, that whole not wanting to die on my birthday thing.

This year was a weird one. I didn't want this birthday to happen. Not because I'm aging, because honestly 26 is still way too young and roughly 57 years younger than my actual soul's age. I think it's because it shouldn't have been a year yet. Last year doesn't seem that long ago. Here I am, one full year later, and things should be drastically different.

If you're looking at facts and figures, they are. I am writing this from a two bedroom apartment in Seattle, overlooking a stellar, sunny view of Green Lake and the Olympics. I am no longer in Boston. I am no longer taking classes. I am no longer working three jobs in addition to full-time school. I work out, have mostly kicked my Diet Coke dependence, don't take guff from anybody, and my writing has been published by people that are not me.

But I'm also floating, with temporary work that just makes the lack of steady employment sting even more. It's the first time in my marriage I haven't significantly contributed to our bank account, and it's getting old. I know I won't get a full-time teaching gig until fall, but there's this little voice saying I won't ever get my own classroom. I've been frittering away my early 20s with cross-country moves and graduate school! I should have settled down in Utah! And worked for some district in Utah Valley, where they would have screened every book choice and forced me to hold off teaching Lord of the Flies until senior year!

Ok, let's not get too carried away there.

I thought 26 would be more monumental. Instead I just wanted this birthday to fade away until I was in a place where I could celebrate. Where I could point to the date, point to myself, and say, "look, ma! I've grown!"

Instead, I am myself. Still. Depressive tendencies, wild insecurities, Clint Eastwood-loving, car-dancing, sarcastic-quipping, passionate-fangirling, hot dog/sandwich/TV enthusiast and all.

This is me, being 26.


*I got this concept from one of my old favorites from the Golden Age of blogging (see previous post). Now it's one of those empty Internet houses that makes me sad when I visit, which is still in the weekly range. Anyway, she started her series when she was 26. As someone who loves constant progression and checking for such, this concept appeals to me.