Monday, June 30, 2014

Day CXLIII: Pride

I've never been to Twin Cities Pride.

Do you even understand how much that hurts?

Stone Arch Bridge (thanks, Ashley!)

The last few years, I've been out of the area for work.

No parade down Hennepin. No queens in feathers. No dykes on bikes. No dogs in rainbow glasses. No same-sex couples displaying their love and affection for the world to see in a place that is both tolerant and welcoming.

And, for whatever reason, it really bothered me this year. It sucked to be so far away from something that I feel so fortunate to be a part of.

Day CXLII: Favorites

Do you think it's possible to avoid playing favorites?

It's something I've been wrestling with lately.

Too often I find myself in situations that require decisions to be made based on my feelings toward two (or more) separate entities. And when those things are too entirely similar, too equally rewarding-and-wonderful-and-lovely, it becomes almost impossible not to select between the two based solely on which is your personal favorite.

Today, at ALA, I fell victim to this all familiar situation.

Day CXLI: Saturday-L-A

The title is supposed to be a play on "ALA," the conference I've been attending this weekend, but, I dunno, dear reader, I am pretty tired and that just might be an awful, awful attempt at a clever phrase.

Do you get it at least? Satur-DAY-L-A? Like Saturd-ALA?

No, you're right. It's terrible.

Day CXL: Flashback (II)

Remember when I said Flashback Friday was going to be a thing and then I did it that one time and never again? Well, friends, bite your mother-effing tongues because Flashback Friday is BACK!

For today.

And, god, it's Monday. This is so late.

You'll have to forgive me: did you know Las Vegas doesn't grant internet access in their hotel rooms? What gives, Vegas?


Day CXXXIX: Suffer (I)

"We follow this figure into contradiction, into a confession that wounds are desired and despised; that they grant power and come at a price; that suffering yields virtue and selfishness; that victimhood is a mix of situation and agency; that pain is the object of representation and also its product; that culture transcribes genuine suffering while naturalizing its symptoms." -Leslie Jamieson

Briefly, I've mentioned Leslie Jamieson's The Empathy Exams in past posts. Perhaps the most unyielding book, let alone nonfiction collection I've ever read, Jamieson's work has been weighing heavily on my mind as of late.

And I'd like to tell you why.

In the above passage, there's this notion suggested that being a wounded spirit, hurt, or otherwise upset, is a desirable state, a fleeting and recurring phantom that we both seek to destroy and embrace. Initially, this is a hard concept to attach to. I don't think anyone wants to immediately acknowledge that suffering is something they look for. Rather, we want the world to be void of it, completely harmonious. Suffering? Why would we seek out pain?

What is suggested by this? That we wish to see hurt in the world? Do we believe that others deserve pain? Is it an attachment to justice? A twisted notion that suffering exists because it is necessary to punish? Is that even a twisted notion?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


There are some gross things in the world, you guys. 

Poverty. War. Famine. 

Just to name a few. 

But there are a few nasty things that are gross on a very superficial level.

You know, like a dislodged pube in a public bathroom.

I had to do a double take, standing above, because I was pretty sure what I was seeing was a curly fry.


Just the longest, most terrifying hair I've ever seen from a nether region.

And why blog about it, right? That's pretty gross.
But, honestly, I leave for ALA in 24 hours and I am mentally wiped. This icky moment seemed like just the right thing to share.

So, enjoy, and watch your step.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day CXXXVI: Snow (Sorta)

For such a remarkably warm June, this morning's snow came as quite a shock!

But, seriously, what the eff is this stuff and why is it so bountiful! It's everywhere on Colfax Avenue South!

We were walking to Bogart's this morning, because doughnuts, and everything was covered in this polleny, fluffy, downy not-quite-feathery madness!

I suppose I was happy to find out it wasn't snow after all.

My initial reaction was somewhere between fear and surprise; I might go so far as to call it a mild, suppressed PTSD-like shriek. And then common sense kicked in: it's hard for snow to build up on the ground in 80 degree heat.

Which got me thinking: how lucky are we with this weather? I know, I know. It's a bit humid. A little sticky. Perhaps the air is a tad too thick. But isn't it so much easier to smile when the sun is showering us in warmth, rather than a bright escape from thirty-below?

We'll see how I am feeling in an hourish. My roommates and I are throwing a cleaning party for our less-than sparkling home. And in a home without AC...well, it might be a sweaty situation. Check back tomorrow to see just how damp we're talking.

My guess? We're all going turn into sad examples of Alex Mac. (hat not included)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day CXXXV: Homeward

There are fewer joys than the sensation of returning home.

After a month, an extended stay, a long weekend, or even a stressful day at work, there is no better feeling than finding your way back to your own space, your own room, your own bed.

But, if you're lucky, the journey home can be as gratifying as the feeling of finding your way back. Such one return trip took place this weekend.

Before we got out of Fergus Falls, we needed gas. So, because Fergy Ferg just happens to be in the 218, we made a pit stop at Casey's, everyone's favorite general store and gas station. Inside, donuts were freshly baked (pulled from a box in the back with thawing instructions), quality meat was available for purchase (Slim Jims were on sale if you bought four or more and, let's be honest, who is ever buying less than six?), and slow cooked, artfully prepared hot food had just been gingerly pulled from the oven (a slice or two of breakfast pizza had just popped out of the microwave and found it's way to a rotating heat rack).

Ah yes, everything was right in the world.

Inside, we bought snacks. Gardettos and a water for Kyle; string cheese, water, and a pack of pistachios for Sib; and string cheese, peanut butter and crackers, and water for me. Sibley also purchased a glass bottle of Coke, which I happily opened using a cement fence and my bare hands because I AM THE FUCKING MAN.

We spent the first while in silence, listening to music, commenting here and there about our night (during which we recounted the intensity of how I share a sleeping space. Spoiler alert: there's very aggressive spooning. See picture.), and closing our eyes behind our shades.

After a period of slight boredom, I suggested we play a game. So Sibley told us about "I Going on a Camping Trip" which, basically, is a car game that requires a knowledge of the alphabet and a good working memory for ridiculousity. It starts like this: "I'm going on a camping trip and I'm bringing (word that starts with A)." The next person repeats the phrase, the item with the letter A, and then adds something with the letter B. And so on. Twenty six rounds later, you repeat each of the camping provisions together.

Here was the start to our second shot at the game.

Eventually, we decided that Sibley reading to us from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would be more enjoyable than music and, goodness, were we correct.

As it turns out, Sibley's interpretations of JK's famous characters were more or less spot on. She did, however, take some liberties with the storyline.

I think they call it creative license? 

After a grueling crawl home, we arrived in the City of Lakes. 

This weekend served as a much needed reminder that life outside of Minneapolis can be just as rewarding as time spent in the city. Perhaps 48 hours away from downtown drivers, uptown hipsters, an unhealthy addiction to Bull Run Coffee was precisely what the doctor ordered.

But, damn, did it feel nice to be home.

Day CXXXIV: Snapchat VII

Can someone let me know when they're cooler than Lindsay Lelivelt? I get the feeling that I'll be waiting a long time. Dat hat! Dat necklace! Dat glitter! Dat smirk! Is there anything this gem cannot pull off? If you're not the only one missing music festivals, this photo is here especially for you.

Karen Stenoien--I spelled that correctly on the first try, by the way--snapped me this lovely photo of one of the critters she shares her home with. Wouldn't it be so nice to just be a mantid? Hang out all day on you're beautifully elegant, long appendages, have some food splayed out for you, eat your mate. Sounds like a rough time.

Let's take a second to analyze this somewhat terrifying letter Sibley received this week. In an envelope, sealed with wax: a paperclip. No indication who it's from, no explanation, no additional contents. A single, frightening, twisted piece of metal and what has to be the grossest seal job I've ever seen.

Sometimes, you go to Wal-Mart against your better judgment because you need to snag some grub for your upcoming murder mystery party. So why not take a Wal-Mart snap to commemorate the experience? I guess I somehow missed the peace sign memo. My bad, ladies.

I think the phrasing could have been much, much better than this...

But, seriously, don't you wonder how that night turned out for these four? I am picturing a disheveled campsite, pillowcase-less pillows, a litter of empty PBR cans, and the signature scent of confusion, regret, shame, and sexual climax.


Dem eyes doe.

But, really, would anyone be opposed to Steve taking over the mayorship of any city?

Finally, how nice of Anna Johnson to send over this snap of her classroom's first harvest! Precious! They're probably not to thrilled, these small children, that they're about to chomp down a bunch of radishes, but, hey, what doesn't kill 'em makes 'em stronger.

Day CXXXIII: Murder

There's been a murder...

And, tragically, it was my own.

I guess, if you're so inclined, you could say it was Morgan Hayes, in the Billiard Room, with her bare hands.

I'll back up.

This last weekend, there was a conspicuous lack of blog posts that I am sure you noticed. I'm not even sure how you made it through the last three days without them! Fear not, I am back, and alive, but barely.

I spent the weekend in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, participating in a Murder Mystery Party that I co-wrote with the all-too-lovely Anastasia Scott. Over the last few months, we've been concepting, writing, and developing a story for 10-13 people for people to play out through improv and carefully crafted clue-giving. We cast ten or so of our friends to "play" different roles throughout the evening. They ranged from Paloma Mallen Yeats, the pot-stirring gossip monger and devious best friend, to Charles Edward, the aged and charming butler of the estate. You see, the estate owner, Stafford Von Gantner had recently--and suspiciously!--passed, leaving millions behind to be divvied up amongst his survivors. And while surely no one would have offed such a charming, generous, loving old man...someone did.

So we spent the night playing out the scenario of an old man's funeral. Over the course of three hours, new details were revealed through a series of clues that slowly divulged the plot of the story. As more and more was revealed, the guests were asked to strike up specific conversations, ask pointed questions, and reveal hidden detail to their fellow party-goers. Eventually, the killer of Stafford Von Gantner was revealed, the murderer confessed, and there was much celebration.

It was sort of a blast.

It could have been executed better--and we learned a few lessons here and there--but it was good time that everyone seemed to enjoy. Even cooler: we have the opportunity to run it again this fall for a charity event! Nifty, eh?

So if you know anyone who's looking for a murder mystery party to be put on for them...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day CXXXII: Knock

To whom it may concern,

You probably don't remember me. It's been moments since we interacted. And the way my face was twisted when we met...who knows if you would have the foggiest idea where you'd seen me.
But I remember where I've seen you. It was in the bathroom. Not more than five minutes ago, actually. I was standing above the toilet, penis out and peeing, when you opened the door and nearly collided with my backside before realizing that, well, oh, the restroom was occupied. 
You must have missed the massive sign outside the door. One second, I'll recite it for you. It reads, in massive type, "LOCK IS BROKEN. PLEASE KNOCK!" and it's followed by a drawing of a flower and a lovely little smiley face. I get it, though. Reading is tough! It's one of those things that not everyone is blessed to be capable of. Literacy is a massive issue in this country; I am fully aware of that.
But that copy of Michael Crighton's Jurrasic Park is pretty indicative of you being able to read. And my guess would be much larger words than "broken" or as phonetically misleading as "knock."
I think the worst part of this whole interaction--other than your lack of apology for interrupting my sacred moment of peace and pee--was your inexplicable need to put your hand on my shoulder as you were leaving. What the eff was that about?! I'm taking a piss in a public restroom, you just barged in here, nearly toppling me in the process, and then as a half-hearted gesture between bros, you pat my shoulder?
I loathed every single moment of this interaction. I just need you to know that. You seem like a nice human, but what kind of person doesn't knock on a bathroom door, LET ALONE A BATHROOM DOOR THAT IS LABELED: KNOCK?!"
Please, please, please never subject another human to the unbearable moment we just shared.
 Your friend in urination,


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day CXXXI: Mail

I consider myself an intelligent individual. I did well in school, perform above average on standardized testing, can hold my own in conversation with most people and about many things. I am curious and genuine; I am a great listener and offer rather helpful advice. And when you're fully aware of these aspects of your self, of your particular strengths and accomplishments, they can be slightly detrimental to your self-esteem when they're not realized in completely similar situations. 

For example: I've been finding work exceptionally stressful over the past few weeks. Gearing up for ALA in Las Vegas and balancing the extra work from being down a staff member has taken its toll on my capacity to care about what I am doing. 

And I hate that! It's frustrating. 

Striking that impossible balance between personal fulfillment and enriching work is even more difficult than they make it in the movies. And for anyone who's watched Meg Ryan give in to Tom Hanks and Fox Books in You've Got Mail, you know how damn hard it is to stay happily afloat in this world!

For as unsettled as you can be throughout any given day, there is a panacea for that turmoil. And it's sort of unexpected.


Good mail.

Mail that makes you smile and say: oh, someone was thinking about me!

Everyone loves getting mail that isn't a bill or spam; that has to be a universally acknowledged joy, right?

I knew I was receiving this package--a book from my mumsy--but the minute I turned the corner and saw the USPS tape sticking up and out of our mailbox, every ounce of gloom evaporated from my system. 

And that's a piece of mail! That's all it was! Something so simple, so common, but, damn, it certainly did the trick.

So I've resolved the following: if you'd like to receive a piece of mail--it's probably going to be a letter because I'm not a shipping warehouse, y'all--just leave your address as a comment on the blog or as a Facebook comment/message. Hell, you could even Tweet it to me! I want to do more things that actively make me feel more personally fulfilled, and I think this would be a pretty rewarding way to do so.

So, tonight, a toast: to mail!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day CXXX: Ransacked!

On our way to coffee this morning, Mike and I were chatting about break-ins.

We were heading out the door and he happened to start toward the front of the house, but I stopped him and said we should leave through the back. He joked that he was just locking the door, not leaving. This prompted a quick recount of unnecessary it was to lock the door, given how easy a house is to break into during the summer. You throw up a screen, and you're inside. It's not that tough.

A little more difficult: breaking into a car, specifically when it's parked and locked. Regrettably, in the year and a half or so that I've been in the city, Apollo--my treasured Rav4--has been attacked three times. Only once was there damage dealt to my car. It was also the only time anything was taken.

And that's almost equally unnerving. Someone put forth the effort to break into your property, shake it up, and then leave it alone. That's strange, right? If you're going to go through the effort to damage or invade a vehicle, you might as well make the most of it and take something for crying out loud. To messy it up, to manufacture some small disquiet: it seems somehow worse when no further destruction is done.

So we talked about Apollo's bout of bad luck since moving to the twin cities, about the misfortunes of thievery, its pointlessness. We walked to the corner and parted, Mike to a conference call and back home for me, back to the car, and off to work.


I guess that's four times.

Arriving home, I discovered my back passenger side door unlocked and muck dusting the back seat. Someone was searching for something!  

You'll notice that the glove box was looted, as was the center console. The pockets of the back seats were also emptied; an almanac, some deodorant, a deck of cards, a CD, and three Pilot G-2 pens littering the floor behind my seat. 

It's unnerving that nothing was taken, but I am almost a little offended! My sunglasses are cool, those checks aren't going to bounce, my headphones maintain great sound, and that Playstation 2 memory card is completely empty! You could store, like, 32 MB of Kingdom Hearts data on that shit! There's a five-dollar scratch off right under that lotion, three dollars (CASH!) in the console, and a copy of bell hooks's All About Love in the passenger door! Where's your taste, anonymous thief?!

Which leads me to believe, given the absurdity of their looting skills, that someone's trying to play a game. That some schmuck is messing with my head. And, of course, because I am a lunatic, I'm a little flattered! 

Making light of a grave situation tends to be my coping strategy. And I am okay with that.

But, seriously, mysterious threat, if you're reading this: 

I'm the wrong one.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day CXXIX: Hot Rain

Innately, Mondays are the hardest part of the week.

There's nothing kind about them. The weekend is ushered away, quietly, as if behind a curtain, and the week, with its worries and speculation, is suddenly front and center, spotlit, pronounced. Even on a day like this--terminally gray, drizzly, tires spitting back on to the streets in globs of recycled rain water--there is such unfortunate urgency in the footsteps of others, in the impatient tap tap tap of the line outside the coffee shop. That pressure to keep up, to engage in the same swiftly moving stream of the day, it's tricky on a Monday. 

It's like standing in hot rain.

I was eight years old the first time I went to Liard Hot Springs in British Columbia. The springs are actually tucked away, deep within a dense and boggy forest, about a mile away from the more populated campsites. A boardwalk simmers just above the water and moss and skittering bugs. Full of holes, eaten by nature and heavy foot traffic, it's not an impressive path. It's dangerous looking, even; perhaps it is frightening too. Of course, there are so many scary things to an eight-year-old. Everything about the single-digit years carries just a little fear along its backside, a tiny ridge of malevolence. A rickety path happens to look the part rather well.

The planks through the woods lead to a collection of pools, each steaming and sulfurous, smelling more and more like rotting eggs the closer you get to isolated spring in the back. The first spring you can step into is actually connected to several others. To the left, you wade into cooler territory. Cooler being relevant, of course. Ninety seven degrees is hardly "cool." To the right, necrotic coughs escape the water, just a foot or so from the grass that meets the edge of the hottest spring. No one stands more than fifteen feet away from the steps that dip into the center pool, perhaps out of fear.

I think my mother told Erick and I: standing in that spring would be like boiling alive.

A week or so before our first time in the springs, a bear caused problems at most reclusive spring, necessitating the closing of the walkway until the situation had subsided. A sign slung low, bright yellow and wrapped in heavy chains: "Closed - Bear."

To an eight year-old, "bear" was hardly much of a reason to diminish my experience in Muncho Lake. I wanted to enjoy every part of the springs, and seeing the last pool was very much a piece of that puzzle.

We reached the sign with just enough time for the rain to begin. Reading "bear" over and over and over, sure that we had all missed something, that it just wasn't time to open the furthest reach of the path, I planted myself in the grooves of the worn walkway. 

It began to pour. Loud, angry, drops pelting the trees, peppering the springs. And the rain was hot, hotter than the day, and heavy, heavier than the aches of an eight year-old's heart wishing for two more minutes of distance, for a bear to just go on and get out already.

There's this moment, defeated and stepping into the springs, that stands still in my mind.

Rain punctuates every step away from the stairs, my feet searching for slightly cooler temperature, my nose for a little distance from the smell. There is strange space ahead of me, hollowing out a small section of the earth at the very back of the connected pools. A bird spins in the rain, it's little twig feet dipping into the water. 

Shake, shake, shake. 
Flurries of water roll off her feathers and into the world. 

I think of how hot the rain feels. 

I think of how slow this moment moves. How slow it is.

I think of how sluggish this moment will always be. How sluggish it's always been. 

I think of how watching that bird toss the warm water away from its tiny body, seeing every feather ruffle, carelessly, recklessly, frenetically part and expel the hot rain, will always feel so sedated.

It's that hot rain. 

It's that odd standstill between moving and memory.

Today, the rain creates these charming little rings in the puddles on the streets. Little ripples stretch and diffuse, replaced in an instant, a lovely little chain of pitters and patters and plinks.

And the warmth of the rain, pouring heavily from the sky, embodies this Monday so well.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day CXXVIII: I'll Be Right There

I've read a lot of really astounding literature lately.

If Goodreads is any indication, it might be the best run of material I've ever read. I have given 5/5 star ratings to six of the last ten books I've finished, and three of those were the most recent novels.

Tonight, I finished I'll Be Right There which has already been featured on this space, in a previous post. But, my god, I don't know what it is about East-Asian literature. We just click. There is not ever much in the way of plot--at least in some of my favorites--but the way that feelings are explored and critiqued and's divine.

Sarah, of Bull Run fame, put it so well when we were discussing the book she saw in my hands: "It's very affirming to discover that great writers can just put into words everything you feel but have no medium for."

And, she's completely right. 

In an episode of the new season of Orange is the New Black, the prisoners take turns speaking directly into the camera about what "love" means. Tonight, I may have found a new definition.

With a little help from Kyung-Sook Shin, the author of this most beautiful book, I think that love might just mean never having to "hesitate to say, I'll be right there."

We're halfway through June. 

For this week, and for always, cling to the present, embrace what is now, and accept the littlest moments as the biggest lessons.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day CXXVII: Snapchat VI

Pay attention. This is some sage advice from Bethany. If you're going to put the word capiscum on the back cover of a book, maybe think about the way you're formatting the lines. A gardening text that includes the phrase "cum addict?" Not going to look great on shelves.

It's already difficult to dislike ice cream. The second you put a cute little face and bow-tie on it? Impossible. Fortunately--or is it?--Sibley knows exactly how to make a frozen treat oh-so-appealing.

Ashley Bost sent a delightful series of snaps of Jenna Lehr. And even though there were so many gems, I felt like this one really captured the essence of the collection. Is she drying a Barbie's hair on the toilet? And her toes are so pointed! Add that to Ashley's caption: picture perfect.

You guys remember Old Man Meth, right? Well Kyle managed to get a picture of him OUTSIDE HIS HOME. He's terrifying. Like straight out of a novel on the back porch with a shotgun terrifying.

Ah, Kirsten. The problems of a frizzy-haired, humidity-laden ginger. We lament along with you.

Great lessons all around on today's Snapchat Saturday. Laura is in no mood to mess around, so she's happy to remind everyone: safety first!

Steve had a terrible view while waiting for a train. We all feel really bad for him. It looks miserable. And he has to be in Chicago, too? Poor thing.

Can you say metasnap?! I received this lovely image of myself drinking a, *ahem*, Straw-beer-ita, which is a Bud Light combined with a strawberry margarita. Yes, it happened. Yes, I am ashamed. Yes, it was delicious.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day CXXVI: Minister

Did you ever think that this guy would be an ordained minister?

Yeah, me either.

Earlier this year, following their engagement late in 2013, my brother, Erick, and his fiancé, Maria, asked me to ordain their wedding.

When they called to ask, the two of them were running through the their wedding venue, the ceromony, and of course, the wedding party. When I didn't hear my name listed among the latter, I was peeved. And almost said, to them both, "wait, aren't you forgetting someone?"

But I didn't.

And thank god.

Instead, my brother and future sister asked if I would ordain their wedding. Even now, writing this on the staircase of my dear friend Anastasia's landing, I find myself a little emotional. There's something exceptionally joyous about weddings already. And knowing that I will be contributing to my family's enduring happiness? That's kind of remarkable.

Gushing has almost always been my M.O. And I am surprisingly fine with that.

Anyway, today I received official recognition by the Universalist Church—who acknowledges the power and warmth of countless spiritual practices—that I'm officially qualified to unite a couple in marriage.

And, for me, that's pretty damn exciting.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day CXXV: Eyes

I had the oddest experience at yoga yesterday.

It was a gorgeous morning, one of those picturesque and expansive mornings that stretch above and beyond you forever and ever and ever. The sky was blue, but not yet brilliant, muted by the early chorus of birds and softened light. A quick bike ride from my home to the lake was all the time it took for the sounds and sights of the day to coalesce into a shimmering mass of life. 

Of course, I was late. Just a minute or two. I casually rolled out my mat and eased into a downward-dog, simultaneously reaching into the still air and pressing into the earth beneath my palms. The instructor slowly walked us through a rotation of excellent positions, rotations, stretches, and stances. As we flowed through the practice, we eventually came into a Warrior II position.

I was looking out and over my middle finger, staring intently at a tree just across Harriet. The instructor had been meandering through the group of yogis all morning long, reminding us to breathe, where to focus, what to feel. In the middle of describing Warrior II, she was next to me. After asserting where our feet should be positioned, she calmly brushed a hand near the crease of my left temple and said to me, to everyone, "soften the eyes."

I was working at a coffee shop at thirteen, busing dishes and washing tables for a small joint on main street. It was the first time I was complimented for my eyes. I remember it so clearly, sitting in that little alcove on the leftmost window. Emily Mcclung helping me shift a table to the right and telling me how pretty they looked. I'd never thought much of anything about my eyes, which were hidden behind the worst looking glasses for most of my youth, and perhaps that's why her remark has lingered with me for so long.

An old boyfriend called them "mischievous." Another: "ojazos." A coworker: "sly."

Most recently: "dem eyes doe"

To "soften" the eyes is not in my immediate repertoire. Years of overthinking and reading and, of course, Top Model have conditioned my eyes to default to intensity. To feeling, to interpreting.

Of all the things I've gained from yoga, a different look for my eyes is not one I imagined for that list. Maybe this is a chance at something new, a unique approach to the eyes, to the "windows of the soul."

And while the intensity they hold is sure to stay, maybe a more frequent softness will find its way into my daily life.

I guess we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day CXXIV: Do(ugh)nuts

Last Friday was National Doughnut Day. (Or donut, I suppose, if you prefer. I'm indifferent--surprisingly--to which you choose to enjoy.)

Do you know what that means for someone like me?

It means: Thank God.

It means: An excuse!

It means: Why is this only once a year?

It means: fuck yes.

It means: nothing else matters.

I don't have many dessert cravings. I am just not particularly inclined to enjoy cakes or sweets or pies or tarts. Candy doesn't do much for me. Either does chocolate.

(That's a lie. Chocolate does things for everyone. All the things.)

But put me in a room of donuts? They'll be gone. Scout's honor.

And, regrettably, a new doughnut co-op has opened two blocks from my home. I am fairly certain that shouldn't be legal. I feel like you should have notify everyone in the neighborhood that the most dangerous place in the universe is just a few blocks from your humble home.

While I may have been a few days late, I managed to spread the joy of National Donut Day to the office this morning.

And promptly ate half the dozen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day CXXIII: Desk

I had this idea, during the initial run of my #100DaysOfJosh, of presenting a photo of my old office and then following that post with a photo of my new one. That still might happen, but there was just something so charming about my desk today that I just had to share it. So, for now, I am using a more tightly cropped image to explore my work space and share it with you all.

Because I care for you all so deeply, I thought I would explore this photo with five easy-to-see markers. Let's take a look, shall we?

1. Monitor, artwork by Laura Wood

Laura illustrated the book I am most excited for this season, If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant. After finding her through an illustration agency, I knew that she would be perfect for the project. Her work is bright, charming, and contains more than its share of whimsy. Her work with color is especially impressive. There's so much vibrance and joy in each of her paintings, and that feeling perfectly translates to picture book illustration. So, naturally, I would pick my favorite illustrator to grace my monitor. It used to be a delightful picture of one of my co-workers, Jen Schoeller, but I think she felt self conscious about being a constant presence on my screen. 

2. Hillary's new book, Hard Choices

Oh, Hillary. You charming little peach. You precious little nugget. You swift and merciless snake charmer. You glorious little picnic basket. You sweet lamb sent from the womb of the earth. You ebullient salt-water toad. You pleasantly accessorized and sturdily built Madonna. You feathered princess of dormant and blood-thirsty power. You dark angel from the trenches of Jupiter's giant red spot. You crafty ambassador of exultant and beautiful strength. You radiant cherub of tender and particular touch. You deity of colorful rage and justice. You fierce and admirable princess of the sun. 

I can't wait to read more of your book.

Love, Josh

3. A manuscript word count, 350 words


4. Author's Name, Paul Czajak

Paul is the author of Scarletta's Monster and Me series. He's a wordsmith and master of rhyme, and I will meet him--for the very first time--in person at this year's ALA. He's a funny and focused storyteller with a particular knack for meter. I am excited that the rest of the world is getting as on board with his writing as we have been since the beginning. It's always so exciting to see talent paid its dues.

5. An email, not directed to me

You know those emails you receive at one in the morning and your stomach just sinks to the darkest pit of your body the minute you see the time stamp?

Ugh. Yes. Those emails.

As we gear up for ALA--sixteen days away, y'all--I am reminded that there is so much to do outside of the nightmarish planning that is part of gearing up for a trade show. There are still books to be created, schedules to be followed, and, most importantly, dinner reservations to be put on lock to impress our authors and illustrators with well-priced glasses of wine and exceedingly delicious tartares. Life can be tricky like that. 

But there is nothing, NOTHING, I love more than a cleverly crafted email and a good ol' blind carbon copy. 
Get into it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day CXXII: Dating

Anyone else recognize this?

It's a brand logo. For a dating app. It's called Tinder.

For those of you who have never used the app, it's basically "Hot-or-Not" with age restrictions and parameters for distance. Simplified as such, it sounds a little pointless. 

No one needs an ego boost that badly.

But there's more to it than that. And while I am not currently perusing Tinder myself, I do have some thoughts I'd like to share.

I like Tinder. I think there's a wholesomeness to it that you lose with other dating software and applications. And while there are some stories out there that might lead one to believe otherwise, I have not experienced particularly raunchy scenarios with this little program. Of course, compared to other services--Grindr, Scruff, etc.--Tinder is a Disney classic without the hidden, sexualized content. And perhaps I am idealistically naive to think that there's not the same level of sex-driven interaction, I do think Tinder places an emphasis on actually dating, rather than hooking up. And that appeals to someone like me. 

With that emphasis comes a more casual vibe, a loss of pressure, and a lower level of sexual expectancy. (Interestingly, it's funny to think that an app, that relies almost 100% on physical attraction to match its users, would be less sexualized than its competitors. I dunno, maybe I am alone in thinking that there's less of that aura to Tinder? In which case: SOMEBODY CORRECT ME BECAUSE NOW I LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT.)

The matching system only allows you to message with individuals that also labeled you as attractive, or, to use Tinder terminology, "swiped right." So, immediately, when you have a match, you know you're mutually interested in each other's looks. In addition to the photos--up to six--you're allowed a very short bio. I think mine said: "I have green eyes. I live. I learn. I am. Books and Video Games for President. My spirit animal is a fox, my patronus is a giraffe."

Another line from my bio, and, perhaps, the most important part of the entire profile reads: "I invest myself in others, often to a fault."

I say it's the most important, because it does a really nice job of pinpointing my biggest strength and most unfortunate weakness when it comes to dating, to being alive. And it's a very integral part of my self, of my existence. If this were a job interview, I would never call it my weakness, but here, in this little space I've hollowed out of the Internet, I'll happily refer to it as such. It doesn't embarrass me. I am not ashamed of it. It is just (a very large) part of who I am. 

And it's important that I talk about it because it keeps it out of my head, the place where it can potentially do the most damage.

So here's what it means.

I have a go-big-or-go-home attitude when it comes to most aspects of my life. Dating is not sheltered from that mentality. It is, at times, very rewarding: I can grow close to others very quickly, and very readily feel at ease around someone I am interested in; I am good at creating passion and getting to know someone; I listen well and adapt easily to the dynamics of the person I am dating. 

But this mentality is not safe from painful experiences. I overthink everything. Literally, everything. I isolate moments in time and mercilessly pick at them until I've exhausted each possible meaning. I fixate, I collapse, I suffer. It's exhausting, emotionally and mentally, and almost always proves draining. But when the dust clears, the initial stages of dating are left behind, the horizon is always, always so beautiful. The formative moments of a new relationship can be disastrously overwhelming for someone like me, but the struggle is so worth the reward. 

There are points in those first days--yes, days, because I am a complete and utter mess--that I feel like a complete lunatic. Have you had that experience? You know what you're doing is embarrassingly unhealthy, unabashedly crazy, can step back, acknowledge that, and still not do anything to correct your actions? It's an unsettling condition. One that I chalk up to: the consequences of being me. 

I am reading Kyung-Sook Shin's I'll Be Right There. In a novel that is full of quotable sentences, passages, and paragraphs, there is one that has particularly caught my attention
I think that if we all have to say goodbye eventually then the best we can do is try to stay together as long as we possibly can.
There's a simplicity to the notion, an underscore of intensity and the importance of hitting hard, hitting fast, and that appeals to me.

I suppose because it's my philosophy.

There are plenty of things that I would change about myself. Better hair, ability to hide my feelings, longer torso. But, truthfully, the neurotic and intensely crazy behavior I exhibit in the face of new relationships is not one of them. The payoff is worth the intense and tragic flair that accessorizes the starting stages. And if I can't have one without the other...

I'll stick with a few days of madness.

Day CXXI: Season

I can already tell it's going to be difficult to maintain this blog in the summer.

(Monday) Selfie
Recently, Sibley and I were discussing the seasons of the year.

I have always maintained, and still maintain, that my favorite season of the year is Autumn. I don't foresee that changing. But as we rifled through our thoughts on the four different times of year we're gifted in Minnesota, I had the thought that I am never happier than when it's summer.

Now, I suppose that might trigger me to rethink my ranked order of seasons, but I still probably prefer the fall to the other three.

Still, there's something to be examined here.

I often find happiness to be a product of inexplicable feeling and deliberate choice. Too often, I find myself bogged with thought; what does this mean? Or how did that feel? Why? For what reasons? How could that change? When will this end? Does this matter? Who would care? How does that affect her? Or him? Or me? I am thoughtful, and it's often to my detriment. I think most introverts (I am a proud ambivert) turn inward too often, or at least have the tendency to do so more frequently than their more extendable counterparts.

Summer sort of makes a wash of that, though. It's easier to find opportunities to lose that tether to the often problematic melodrama of the mind. Of course, I am equally aware that my inability to disconnect from overthinking is more severe than it is for others. And that's just fine. I'm working on it. But summer helps. It's somehow impossibly busy and exceedingly relaxed. There's freedom to create and breathe, but no time to do either. Summer: the painting that perfectly suits a room, but, actually, is unfinished.

And I suppose the weather, the natural abundance of vitamin D, is helpful. In little ol' Minnesota, a warm and sunny day only happens one in four days out of the year. So happiness just occurs with a little more ease in the summer, and becomes a bit more reliant on mindful action in Autumn. Truthfully, I think that's why I like fall the best.

It's a season of reflection.

And that's something I am--for better or worse--rather good at.

Day CXX: Snapchat V

Might as well lead with this disgusting little ditty. On a recent trip to Yogurt Lab--well, another recent trip to Yogurt Lab--Kyle thought he would give a coffee-like flavor a chance. Regrettably, it came out looking like animal feces. Then, when he thought he'd pull snap a clever picture, he spelled "bowl" wrong. It was a shitty situation.

Meanwhile, he also played the part of an angry, fire-breathing she-demon from the depths of the netherworld. Interestingly, this was a response to a comment from one Sibley Mattson. He was just so proud of the artwork that he deemed it necessary to share. And, to be, fair, it's rather epic.

Bernard's spirit animal is almost certainly a turtle. I am not sure why his tail is so ungodly long, though...

Audrey was having a lovely Sunday with three of America's greatest films. Get it, girl.

Let's all take a minute to extend a hearty, and heartfelt congratulations to miss Kelly Katherine Nelson and her recent last day of school! Congrats, Miss Nelson! Another year down!

Equally exciting, Anastasia Scott made it through a WHOLE ENTIRE YEAR at one press! After a string of successful, but short-lived stays in other locations, Free Spirit seems to have tied 'Nastasia down...for now.

I know this isn't a novel idea, but it is the wisest decision you can make when you have both chips and a sandwich. Combine them. Combine them immediately.

But seriously...This title is everything, nothing, and, again, everything.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day CXIX: Minnesota Nice

Years ago, when I traveled in Europe for school, I maintained a travel blog. It was one of the more rewarding experiences I've had as a writerly person, and I sometimes backtrack through old posts for ideas, for inspiration, for thoughts.

Today, I thought I would reblog this old entry, as it has a lot to do with my mood.


(I wasn’t originally going to talk about this topic, because it really had no connection to travelling over here in London, and that’s primarily what this blog is all about.  Yet, within the last 3-4 weeks, I’ve had instances that have really touched me as a human being and have made this post much more relevant.  So: I’m gonna write about it.  Well, by the time you’re reading this, attractive and funny and brilliant reader, I will have already passed the writing stage which would make the previous sentence moot.  But I can’t very well say that I am going to post it either as that would have happened already too.  OMG.  What am I going to say here?  I’m stressing out now.  Have I written about something in the future verse even though it’s already happened?  Does it happen often I have just noticed it now?  When did I get this neurotic?! 

I need coffee.)

Not to toot my own horn, but when I wrote my Scotland blog I think I discovered something revelatory.  Then again, it’s only my own revolution so there’s nothing particularly engaging about it for anyone else.  Oh well, Amer-I-Can (pronounced: ‘a mare, I can’)! 

I realized that my blog here in this great big city is something of an enormous, far too in depth personals ad or something.  Really, it’s just an epic profile of whom I am as an individual and who I think that I want to be.  It made me uncomfortable at first, in all honesty.  I sort of realized that anyone, literally anyone with an internet connection, could stumble upon this little blog—a gem of a thing, really—and could pretty much ascertain anything about me that they wanted.

What does he look like?  See picture.

What are his hobbies?  See ‘about me’ and nearly every other entry detailing the loves of my life.

What are his dislikes?  See any blog about flying or about frowny, whiny human beings.

Where is he from and what is his family like? See initial post and any post about missing the family and friends back home.

Is he funny or smart?  Incredibly.  Er…See blog.

I guess those are just the basics, but holy crows’ feet!  This is a vulnerable place to be, especially on the World Wide Web!  Yikes.

And then, more importantly, I realized I don’t care.  I don’t really want to waste my time not letting people know who I am or what I am like.  I don’t want to be someone who cares what you think about me or changes because you think something is off.  I just want to be me.  I just want to be an orange apple. 

But there’s an issue in bearing it all to the world.  I have this disorder that a majority of people have where I am from.  It doesn’t break out all over your skin, it doesn’t prevent your body from functioning normally (I don’t like the word normal, but my vocabulary is suffering right now), and it doesn’t stop you from doing most things in life that require a clean build of health.  It’s called Minnesota Nice.  You may have heard of it.  Hell, you might even have it. 

Please check yourself for the following symptoms:

A)    You can’t help but smile when you’re walking, even when it’s raining or windy or cold.  You have a perma-grin.  It makes you look jolly and it makes you terribly approachable.
B)     When people are sad or hurting or crying for no reason on an uncomfortable couch, you just want to help.  You want to do anything to take away their pain or discomfort and make it your own, even if it means over exerting yourself and suffering for it later.
C)    You form relationships quick!  You get connected to people too fast because you cannot help but see the overwhelming brightness in all people.  Sure, there are individuals that just don’t radiate great energy, but with Minnesota Nice, you are guaranteed to try and see the smile in a person, regardless of how far down it might be inside of them.
E)     You suffer from crippling episodes of friendliness.  You just want to make someone’s day so you buy them flowers or chocolate and slip in under their door.  Even something as mundane as chapstick or a cupcake can make an individual’s life much better, so you constant have hyperdrive urges to put a smile on someone’s face.  Then, if you don’t follow through with your plans, even if that idea wasn’t going to happen if you hadn’t seen someone having a rough afternoon, you blame yourself for their terrible day and attitude.  Later you realize that it’s not your fault they had a bad day at work or had trouble with a test and that your lack of cheering them up has nothing to do with how they were already feeling.  And that’s when you realize you’re insane.
F)     You listen well.  You can carry on conversation that is sometimes over-the-top because you’re terribly genuine and love other people.

     G)    You’re a good kisser. (Okay, fine, this is more of a sub symptom that just happens to be prevalent in some individuals with Minnesota Nice…Having suffered from this part of the disease all my life, I can say it’s quite taxing.)
     H)    You always use three positives to answer questions.  Example:  Person asks, “Can I borrow your pen?”  You respond, “Yea, sure, of course!”  (or) Person asks, “Would it be okay if we took this chair to our table even though I just saw your friend get up and wander off to the bathroom and when he gets back there will be an awkward moment when he or she realizes you gave away their seat?”  You respond, “For sure, absolutely, you bet!” 
I)       Your eyes sparkle with stories every time someone makes eye contact.
J)       You spend too much time worrying about things you’ve done wrong and never really understand that, often, things out of your control cannot possibly be your fault. 
K)    Finally, you have the accent.  The vOwels Of EAch wOrd bEcome tOO much for mOst pEOple tO hAndle in friendlY convErsAtion.  It’s too adorable for words, the Minnesota dialect.  And even though it’s one of the more common side effects of Minnesota Nice, it’s definitely appreciated for what it is.

So that’s the sickness I have; that’s the disease that many Minnesotans share.  And the reason it’s a problem is this: when people ask you something like, “why are you being so nice?” or say “you can’t do that, it’s too much!” I don’t understand why he or she is so surprised by what I’ve done.  It’s just what I do.

I am (currently) sitting in Starbucks right outside of the South Kensington tube station drinking some drip coffee out of a mug that I think must have touched thousands of pairs of lips and it makes me a little apprehensive.  Then I realize that I just want some coffee.  Also, did you know that Starbucks started dealing in fair trade beans?  I’m a little impressed!  Anyway, it’s here that I got the last push of motivation to write this little blurb. 

It's tough being me :)

A couple came in with some of their extended family and they were looking for a place to sit down with their high volume of small children and caffeinated beverages.  I was the only one sitting in the comfortable study room and, for the most part, the rest of the shop was empty.  So, I offered them the room so that they could all sit down together. 
“Oh my god, no, no!  Absolutely not!” the eldest of the bunch pushed.  “You’re doing work!”  I wasn’t, I was on Facebook because I have a problem, and reading a book for pleasure.
“No, really, please, I would love to move, you bet, absolutely!” 
“Are you sure?” 
“Of course, yes, definitely.  I can sit at the coffee bar and get another cup.  It’s empty.”
“That’s too much.  That’s so nice.  You Americans, you’re great.”
“You can tell I’m American?”
“The accent always gives you away,” she smiles and winks.
“Every time!  Do you guys want a picture of you all with your holiday cups?”  Starbucks already has their traditional red and white cups out for the season.
“Oh, would you? What a great idea!”
So I take a picture of them and they all are just full of smiles.  I smile too.  What a nice family.

The other instances over the last few weeks have been pretty similar as far as dialogue goes:
“Why are you being so nice?”        
“Do you always do things like this?”
“You’re the only person that has stopped and I’ve been scrambling for, like, 5 minutes!”

"I'm a Hoover"

The last one there had lost his spreadsheets in Russell Square and it’s not like I had anything better to do than run around and pick up the paper rolling over the still green grass.  Plus, I got to pretend I was the hoover from The Brave Little Toaster or the guy in the money machine on TV in the film adaptation of Matilda.  (For the record, this as an instance of over share when I realize I am a fucking weirdo, an orange apple.  Whateva!)


It just always catches me off guard when people are surprised the niceness in other humans.  It’s especially jarring when they are surprised by the niceness in me because I’m one of the nicest people on the planet!  Seriously, I am.

Maybe orange apples are just the nicest fruits?