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9.15.19 tiny dictator

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There’s no light I can find that won’t awaken someone so here I am in the laundry room, scribbling in my notebook propped atop the dryer. I have my 11pm snack of antipasto from the olive bar at the local Ingles. Since we’re in the hills of western North Carolina the big “AMERICAN OWNED” sign outside the store seems somehow menacing, but I can’t figure it out—are we under siege from foreign powers trying to sell us groceries? Is shopping at the Piggly Wiggly or the Harris Teeter like sending money to terrorists? All the silverware is in the dishwasher so I’m stabbing up balls of mozzarella and parts of artichoke with a butter knife. If my niece grows up to fear the bright line of light under the door of a room no one should be occupying, the smell of oil and garlic accompanying the restless scritch-scratch of some lunatic writing in longhand deep into the night, well, I guess, blame me.

***

We’re four adults and one two-year-old, two years and three months, and there are sometimes too …

9.3.19: changing lanes

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In my experience, motorcycle riders are generally the most alert people on the road. The exceptions prove the rule, yadda yadda, but when you’re traveling at really any rate of speed atop just 400 pounds of vehicle that is mostly engine, all that is between you and the rest of the world a jacket, pants, boots, a helmet, a pair of gloves—welp, that’s plenty of incentive to ride heads-up. I had a riding instructor at Motorcycle Safety School, my beloved Jimmy Walsh, who gave me my favorite piece of riding advice, ever: Ride like everyone and everything around you is actively trying to kill you.

I like this advice not just because I am competitive—just TRY to kill me, world!—but because it describes the real dangers out there, which are the things other drivers would only do if they were intentionally trying to murder you, as opposed to just being careless/oblivious idiots. These include the vehicles that suddenly swerve into your lane, cars that pull out right in front of you, people wh…

8/6/19: test prep

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Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast, “Revisionist History,” and I admire it very much. I have listened to every episode and delighted in the stories he has discovered and so clearly relishes telling. The one with the harmonica guy? Priceless! There’s an episode about how basketball players should shoot free throws underhand but refuse to do so out of some perverse sense of pride even when they are more successful when they do it. I remember listening to that episode while riding around New Zealand on a motorcycle and cackling insanely in my helmet as Gladwell got himself worked into a lather shouting about how Shaquille O’Neal could have been the greatest player of all time if he had just make a smart choice instead of a stupid one. (It does boggle the mind.)
Alas, Mr. Gladwell recently devoted two episodes to a topic with which I am all too familiar and, as much as it pains me to say this, he got it all wrong. For posterity, here’s everything I know about “standardized” tests, including …

7/20/19: subway stories

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I like the subway, but I do enjoy people-watching and shameless eavesdropping and the subway can usually be counted on to serve up something to pique my interest. There was a video that made the news recently, showing a lady dressed up in some kooky costume, looking like an alien spider and acting like a weirdo, you know, the way an alien spider might, but the point of the video, the part that made it so popular, was how the cameraperson focused on the rest of the people in the subway car, most of whom were completely ignoring the wacky alien spider lady and staying resolutely focused on whatever they were doing before she showed up.
The headlines were all “New Yorkers Unfazed!” and that is basically the one rule of the subway: when something weird/unusual happens the only expression you should have on your face is boredom. You can be surprised or dismayed or disgusted or amazed on the inside but you can’t show it: whatever it is, you’ve either seen it be…

06.28.19: soccer

I’m touch-typing this so I don’t have to take my eyes off the screen. The USA is playing France in the quarterfinals and I am stomach-butterfly nervous. The women—let us please never speak again of those who might call them “girls”—look calm, cool, and collected but I wonder if any of them have hands as shaky as mine. Probably not, tbh: it’s not like I get sweaty palms when I’m answering email.
Watching women’s soccer is when I finally get what it means when we talk about how important it is to see people who LOOK like you doing something you might someday aspire to do. Not that I resemble any of these fit young women, and not that I have any delusions about my potential to make the 2023 World Cup team (though WHO KNOWS), but I know what it feels like to tie on a pair of cleats, to stuff shin guards into socks, to feel the sweep of my ponytail across my shoulders, my mummifying sports bra resolutely sticking in place even as my shirt—that slippery satin-y material, why did we wear th…

6.23.19: the sunday blues

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Man, did I used to get the Sunday Blues bad. Do you know the Sunday Blues? That awful feeling that starts to descend Sunday, around five o’clock, the sense that the weekend is gone and time is just going and what am I doing and tomorrow will be back to the same sea of email and torture of meetings and on and on and on and on and on. I used to put my phone into airplane mode on Sundays and had to ask my parents not to make it our weekly check-in night—I needed all my energy to hunker down and pretend to be nowhere so as not to have to acknowledge where I was or where, in just a few short hours, I was going to have to be. I read a lot of books on Sunday nights.
The Sunday Blues are pretty much a thing of the past for me, and boy howdy is that nice. I don’t think I had the SBs because I hated my job—I have had the SBs pretty much every Sunday I can remember—but rather because Sunday evenings were a marker: they marked the end of one week and the beginning of the next and I am pretty sure …

6.10.19: enough

As I stepped into the coffee shop, a man came toward me, freshly purchased coffee in hand, so I paused to step to the side and hold the door for him because manners. As he passed me, he said chipperly, “Thank you, sweetheart.”

I felt the universe pause for just the tiniest moment and then, in the space of a heartbeat, my eyes turned black and I let loose an unearthly shriek, a noise which only became louder and higher as my body began to unbend and grow: long, knife-edged legs unfolding from my torso, my head now bulbous and furry and crushing the ceiling upward, people keeling over all around me as I staggered back onto the sidewalk so I could unleash my true form, the noise of a thousand thousand bats still coming from my throat as eddies of birds began to gather overhead, pulsing and swooping and diving down to pluck at the eyeballs of the men who lay twitching, felled by the unfathomable weight of sheer rage I gathered up and whipped loose to echo up and down 8th Avenue, cars cras…