Being pregnant is interesting to you.  But you are not the first person to be pregnant or the first pregnant person anyone has known.  You are not the most important pregnant person anyone has known.  You are not even the only pregnant person in the world, country, state, or city at this exact moment.  You are probably the only pregnant person in your house.  But not necessarily.

Being pregnant is not exceptional.


Metaphorically, a chimera is a bogeyman, monster, or other fanciful mental fabrication comprised of grotesquely disparate parts.

In mythology, Chimera was a fire-breathing monster.  She was a child of Typhon and a sister of Cerberus & Hydra.  She had the body of a goat or ram, the hindquarters of a dragon, and the head of a lion (most depictions show her with the heads of the other two animals as well).  In some genealogies, she was the mother of the Sphinx.  Seeing Chimera was a omen of natural disasters like storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

Chimerism is also a genetic anomaly.

Real-life  genetic chimeras have the DNA of more than one distinct individual, usually just in a handful of organs.  True chimerism results from the fusion of fraternal multiples very early in zygotic development.

A chimeric mother may, for example, have ovaries and a uterus from her fused female fraternal twin.  As such, the DNA in them would not match the DNA that made up the rest of her body, so the children she conceived,  carried, and gave birth to would not technically–at least genetically–be her children.  They would be her nieces & nephews.

Ultimately, you could say, such children would be born by surrogate.  But the whole reproductive system, not just the fertilized eggs, would be tenants in a host body.

It boggles the mind(s).


“How are you feeling?”

I don’t know how many times I’ve asked this question of a pregnant woman and not actually cared what the response was.

Most of the time, while pregnant women obligatorily answer my obligatory question about their health, I scan the room to find someone who can drink alcohol–preferably male–and make plans to escape to his company at once.

I have never fit well with women.  I have no particular allegiance to my gender (at least not for sake of my gender alone), and I don’t generally trust its members.  I consider myself a feminist, but only insofar as feminism is, foremost, a sort of individualism & autonomy advocacy.  It just so happens that it’s especially for females.  Women make me uncomfortable, even more so if they’re beset with a fundamentally female affliction.

There is, I’ve found, a tendency for reproduction to have the general social effect of a middle school dance.  Girls on this side, boys on that side.

It’s my worst nightmare to be isolated among women and left to talk about nothing but women things.  So if I am to talk about pregnancy, we won’t have any of that uterine cult, Red Tent nonsense.

And even where pregnant woman are not being sentimental about their gender, being in the company of most pregnant people is not altogether unlike being in a nursing home, hospital, or hospice center. The primary topics of conversation are medical in nature.  Or if the conversation is not directly medical, it will still call to mind hospitals, medical issues, internal anatomy, and bizarre physiological processes, creating a sort of sickly clinical atmosphere wherever one is, whether at a fancy dinner, innocently trying to grocery shop, or at Disney World.


There you are on some sunshiny Orlando day, maybe in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  Your pregnant friend is chatting away about doula hunting, and suddenly you’re compelled to consider burst blood vessels, blood, mucus, and your best friend shitting the bed in front of God and doctors and family alike.

Later, the gleeful giggle of preschoolers, the whimsical pastels of Main Street, USA, and the spectre of excrement, bodily fluids, and torn sinew hanging over your burger lunch at the Crystal Palace while your friend pokes three fingers into her bulbous stomach, chewing and grimacing as her fetus grinds a heel into her liver.


Everyone’s always trying to cover it up.  Like pregnancy is a spiritual experience rather than a physical one.  It’s the “miracle” of life.  This condition, which human evolution, in 3 million years, has not managed to perfect well enough to keep a woman from vomiting for 3 months straight or wetting herself every time she laughs, is considered a “blessing.”

Pregnancy is supposed to be this sweet, gentle image–soft-focus, vignetted.  But there’s an unspoken, septic quality.  Underneath the euphemisms and precious sentiment, there’s something very Dorian Gray.  The “glow” is a greasy face.   The woman gazes lovingly down upon a creature who is pissing into her belly.  And then inhaling it.


It’s the happiest time of her life.


Except for the excruciatingly painful varicose veins in her rectum that are beginning to bulge out of her butthole.



If everything goes well, she will give birth to both an infant and a slimy two-pound mass of blood, tissue and mucus, which she can then take home and cook up like a haggis, if she is so inclined.


Everything surrounding pregnancy tends to be feminizing, mortalizing, and deceitful.  Each is bad enough on its own; they are especially awful together.

But even worse, in my perception, pregnancy–though I recognize it not to be a disability or weakness, per se–is nevertheless an instance of a person in a compromised state.  I have known only a small handful of pregnant women who did not give off that vibe.

I am acutely aware of not wanting to be perceived of as compromised.

I am even more aware of not wanting to feel compromised.


Intentional though it may have been, my current pregnancy puts me in a weird spot.


I am aware of the implications inherent in what I’m saying, not the least of which is the suggestion that childbearing can compromise a woman’s personality or intellect.  But I am also aware that biology doesn’t give a shit about my feminism or anyone else’s.


Progesterone has natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties.   In excessive doses, it’s a formidable sedative that causes drowsiness and difficulty waking.

I am currently, and all pregnant women are, to some degree, doped.


I’ve found that in the relative absence of anxiety and hyper-vigilance, my intellect has changed.  I am less curious.  I am not compelled to write.  I am less investigative.  I simply don’t care.  Face value will do.  The first answer is the last answer.  Finito.  My madness used to have a method.  Now it’s more of a declaration.

And once the pregnancy is defeated, “mommy brain” is said to persist as long as the children do.


Now whosoever of them did eat the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus, had no more wish to bring tidings nor to come back, but there he chose to abide with the lotus-eaters, ever feeding on the lotus and forgetful of his homeward way.



All to the grim, sneering satisfaction of those who have always wished I were a more docile human being.

I’m sure of it.


If the child were the only one who believed he/she was entitled to dictate a parent’s behavior, that would be one thing.

But reproduction and parenthood, especially for women, brings with it an oppressive expectation of conformity, moderation, and general temperance or softening of character and behavior in addition to a thoroughly more severe and self-righteous community of kibitzing, judgmental busybodies who want, more than anything, for the same things that happened to them to happen to other people and for other people to do the things they have done.  If there is only one way, then that’s the right way.  Validation.

I have found, already, that people suddenly assume they understand my life, my thoughts, and my emotions just because I am pregnant and they or people they know have also been pregnant.  They delight not only in speculating on how I feel and what I think but in telling me how I will feel and think come this time or that time in the future.

Presumed homogeneity of experience.  Unconscious communication and enforcement of norms and acceptable shades of deviation.


I have already been referred to as “a mommy.”

“A.”  Meaning any one among many.

“Mommy.”  The diminutive. Indicating small, non-threatening, less.


This was spoken by another adult.  A male adult.

I have put many different sentences here, attempting to describe the violent emotions that one word caused in me.  But like Lycia, I just burn and burn.


Women are often worse.  A female adult has told me that this will mark my transition into “full” womanhood.

Not only do the insipid platitudes of the sisterhood cause bile to rise in my throat and a greasy-black, acrid cloud of loathing to creep across my soul, I am intellectually allergic to the notion that a woman isn’t a really a woman until she has, under considerable duress, squeezed a watermelon-sized object out of her vagina.

Never mind that I never asked to be a member of whatever mythical club this woman is trying to induct me into.  She just assumes I’ve been on some kind of waiting list.  As if we all aspire to be “full” women.  Whatever the hell that means.

In fact, it is beginning to appear as though not even the smallest of my peeves, principles, neuroticisms, hang-ups, and individual sovereign boundaries will go unmolested during this blessed, miraculous time in my feminine journey, including, many warn me, the boundary where I prefer not to be groped by strangers in public.


There are, I accept, many aspects of reproduction and motherhood that will require me to relinquish significant portions of my Royal Self.

There will also be requests and attempted demands for such relinquishment that I will reject.

Potentially aggressively.


I pity the stranger who reaches for my belly.  I pity the person who side-glances at me as I order my morning–or afternoon–coffee.


I can feel them looking at me already.  Plotting my subsumption.  Putting their eyes on me.

It starts this low, inaudible rumbling.


Maybe I’ll end up in jail.



My pregnancy is not exceptional.

But I am.

Exceptionally what, I won’t presume.



Get your fetal chimera specimens here.


Marijuana. Mary Jane. Reefer. No matter what you choose to call it, I have never been able to smoke pot. What for some people seems to be a relaxed good time has always been for me a paranoid journey to the center of my mind, where I sit shivering in a cerebral corner, wondering if I’ll ever be able to think normally again.

In college, I reluctantly got stoned with the happy party people around me. Most of these attempts ended with me feeling lost, floating in the universe, indefinitely wondering whether or not I had to pee. Time crawled by thick as resin as I tried to decide if I looked as crazy on the outside as I felt on the inside. If I was lucky, I found a bed to pass out in, mercifully ending my hyper-analytical mental anguish.

It seems like a wonderful ride for most, so for years I tried to stay on the bucking bronco of marijuana before permanently passing the reins to the other space cowboys. Abstaining from pot, combined with my love of exercising and rising early, eventually conspired to make me the least rock and roll chick to ever play guitar in a band. I am decidedly not cool; I’ve made my peace with this fact.

Throughout high school, however, I was still trying to smoke the stuff. My older sister and I would sometimes hide behind one of the many outbuildings on our farm to do it. We’d sit in the grass, leaning against the hay barn; two teenage girls smiling into the summery blue Missouri sky, giggling about nothing and everything. When my parents took the family to Disneyland, she and I got stoned in the It’s a Small World ride. It was there I learned that hundreds of creepy animatronic children singing a repetitive song about the world closing in on me do nothing to ease my pot smoking paranoia. Noted.

On family vacation in Las Vegas that summer, my sister and I quickly tired of the little kid games inside of Circus Circus where we were staying. There were only so many stuffed animals a teenager wanted to win. Bored and seeking fresh entertainment, we left the pink ponies and casino to walk the streets of Sin City. Ducking into an alley, we decided to make our stroll more interesting by smoking a joint she had brought along. Standing next to a ten-foot-high concrete block fence for privacy, by the dirt road that ran between buildings on either side of us, we proceeded to smoke marijuana.

We’d taken a few tokes and I was just starting to feel blurry when a car turned quickly into the alley, about fifty feet away. I brought the joint down from my mouth and held it at my side. I was hoping that the person turning into the alley would think I was only smoking a cigarette, stupidly forgetting that as a non-smoker I looked awkward smoking anything I tried. As the dark blue car drove by and I clumsily passed the joint, we realized in our dulled awareness that it was an unmarked police vehicle. So of course we did the worst thing possible. We panicked.

“That was a cop!” she squeaked as he drove past.

Get rid of it. Get rid of it. Get rid of it,” I whisper-screamed at her.

She frantically tried to toss the joint over the wall next to us. It backed up to a neighborhood, so there was no convenient way around to retrieve the contraband. If we could just get it over the wall, it would be out of sight and virtually unreachable.

My sister has always been petite, and she was unable to throw it over the high fence. The joint bounced off of the wall, rolling futilely back toward us on the dusty ground. We jumped away in fear, as if it was a spider. I grabbed it out of the sand where it sat mocking me like a turd in a litter box and tried to clear the concrete wall again. I’m taller at 5’9″ with greater reach, and it went over this time.

This all happened in the span of a few seconds, so before we could feel relief to have ditched the incriminating evidence, we saw brake lights. No doubt tipped off by our frantic chicken-like scrabbling and obviously guilty behavior, the officer turned around and drove back in our direction while we watched in mute terror. There was nowhere to run, as we were trapped in an alley and didn’t know the area. We both turned our nothing-to-see-here knobs up to eleven, and then he was getting out of the car. Meanwhile, the pot we’d smoked was the kind that creeps up on you, and I was feeling exponentially freaked out by the second. I quickly realized an intimidating police officer was even more paranoia-inducing than soulless puppet children singing at me en masse. My world of hope was quickly becoming a world of fear.

“Did I just see you two girls smoking a joint?” the officer demanded.

It was do or die time. Time to sell it like I’d never sold it before. If we got busted by this cop for pot, there would be no end to the trouble we’d get in. We’d be grounded until I started college for this one, and rightly so. We’d fucked up, big time. I summoned every bit of acting ability I had in my dumb fifteen-year-old body, and tried to push the part of me growing fuzzy from the drugs to the back, working hard for a moment of ass-saving clarity. I put on my best shocked and appalled face at the mention of pot, because pot was awful, and oh my gosh, how could anyone think I’d been smoking pot?

“No officer! I would never smoke pot. But I was trying to smoke a cigarette,” I replied, shame dripping from my voice, eyes cast downward in good girl humiliation. “It was the first time I’ve ever tried it and I didn’t even like it. It was so gross!”

“It looked like a joint to me, whatever you threw over that wall, young lady. If I drive both of you around to the other side, are we gonna find marijuana? Do you think your parents are gonna enjoy having to come pick you up from jail today?”

Shit. If I didn’t pull this off, we were going to end up in a cell, the weak teenage bitches of hardened Las Vegas prostitutes. I silently hoped my prison mistress would at least have a heart of gold. In full self-preservation mode, I quickly realized that my best psychological tactic would be to act so distraught about being caught smoking a cigarette that the pot thing would be downplayed. If I seemed truly disgusted about the cigarette, he might believe me innocent of the worse crime.

“Oh no, please, don’t tell my parents I was smoking a cigarette! They’ll be so mad at me because they hate smoking! This was the first time I’ve ever tried it and I thought it was so nasty. I’m never gonna smoke a cigarette again, I swear it,” I pleaded.

He asked again that if he went to the dreaded other side of the wall, would there be marijuana waiting? I repeated the Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Tried a Cigarette monologue, as if he hadn’t mentioned pot at all. I was working it. Totally owning it. I had the big, tear-filled eyes and the quivering lip; I epitomized the scared young girl gone astray. I was a living, breathing After School Special, begging for a second chance. Before I knew it, even I believed my lies. I was the innocent babe trying those yucky gosh darned cigarettes for the first time. And please don’t tell my parents I was smoking a cigarette, yes cigarette, can I say cigarette one more time? Because it was a cigarette and totally not marijuana, you know. Cough-cigarette-cough.

It finally worked. I couldn’t believe it, but it worked. The officer admonished us one last time with some sort of you kids stay out of trouble speech, got in his car, and drove away. Chastened and shaking like rabbits unexpectedly released from a snare trap, we headed back to the hotel, officially ending our stint as teenage streetwalkers. We walked dazed and confused into the pink nightmare of Circus Circus. Sad clowns and desperate elderly gamblers were definitely preferable to horrified flop sweat and handcuffs.

I never really gave myself much credit for my actions that day, always assuming the cop took pity on me, or had bigger fish to fry. But recently my mom mentioned to me that my sister had told her about the incident. I’m old enough now that my mom has heard most of my naughty stories, and I can only be grounded by myself, so this didn’t bother me. What shocked me was that my sister said my performance for the officer was amazing. She was blown away by my acting ability, and gave me full props for getting us out of what might have been the only arrest of our lives.

She also told my mother, “After I saw Tawni lie so convincingly that day, I knew I could never trust her again!”

Oops.


My first night at my apartment in the Tenderloin turned into sex with a fan of my novel.

The only furniture in my apartment was a bed and bathroom supplies. I had recently gone through a break up with a girl. We lived together in the Mission District and I had two options, stay in the Mission, a neighborhood I adore, and live with a roommate, or move into a studio in the ‘Loin and live alone.

I wanted some solitude and I like Vietnamese food.

The Tenderloin invited me into her arms by giving me a sexy 20-something girl, someone who was literate. Someone who came from the Sunset District and wanted to meet me at the Hemlock. Someone who didn’t shave her pubes and respected her jungle down there.

The Tenderloin called and gave me a dark haired woman with kissable lips and an infectious, eager smile. After drinking at the Hemlock we ended up back at my place and were naked within 30 seconds, rolling around on my only piece of furniture.

“Do you have a condom?” she asked.

In my 40 years on this planet I haven’t slept with many women. She was my 8th. I was a virgin until I was married at 25 since I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness. I didn’t have a condom, I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to having sex since I was actually too busy doing promotion for my novel.

I ran down the stairs and outside while the wind gusted east down Geary Street. I wore my clothes half on/half off so when I got back to my apartment she wouldn’t have time to change her mind. There was a naked sexy girl waiting in my bed. It was 2:45 a.m. so all of the liquor stores were closed. I asked an Asian dude walking down the street with a tripod who seemed harmless where I could find a condom at that hour.

He said to try Frenchies, an adult video shop up the street. Then he asked why the desperation and I told him there’s a woman in my bed and I want to have sex with her.

“Can I come up and film you guys?” he asked.

Welcome to the Tenderloin.

I ran to Frenchies and put my hand in the condom cookie jar, buying whatever I pulled out. Lubed, ribbed for her pleasure, hooker grade STD double thicks.

Running down Geary back to my apartment I held the handful of condoms in the air like they were an Olympic torch and I was running my way towards victory.

I found condoms. I was going to have sex. She was still naked when I opened my apartment door.

I shed my clothes. She had a wonderful laugh and we giggled and snuggled under my blanket and got things started again.

I fell in love with her that night. I fell in love with the Tenderloin that night.

I fall in love easily. Less than a week later we were talking relationship and it was too soon for me. I needed to heal from my last two long term relationships. I needed to understand myself and trust myself. I knew my judgment was clouded by my own baggage and my lust for her.

The Tenderloin and I are still in a relationship. We’ve had our ups and downs. Sometimes I’ll gaze upon her and just watch and know if there is an Apocalypse, this is how the people would look and act. Many carrying all of their possessions in carts. Some screaming at the sky with mangled faces because they didn’t get their medicine, prescribed or unprescribed.

And then there are tough Brazilian trannie hookers all dolled up, every once in a while slamming a purse on some privileged suburban kid who thought the ‘Loin was Disneyland and you can touch and make fun of the characters.

And then there are us so-called functioning people. We can walk a straight line, hold our mouths quiet until society deems it appropriate and we clean ourselves. We watch the madness, sometimes with sympathy, other times with dread, knowing one little click in our brains can have us wandering down these streets, screaming about how well our novels were received and about that one time we had sex and fell in love with a fan. It would be a little hard to believe while doing a poop in an alley.

As for the girl from the Sunset District who came to welcome me to the Tenderloin with her adoration, well, there are times I can still smell her hair.

Dear Dust

 

There I was sitting in traffic yesterday, trying to find a station to listen to, when I noticed the person in front of me had a bumper sticker that said VISUALIZE WORLD PEACE. Like most people, I’ve seen this sticker around for years, and never really thought twice about it. But for some reason, this time, it fucking infuriated me. It’s like, why do I have to visualize anything? I seriously wanted to get out of the car and say something to the driver. But I sat there and stewed instead. Was I visualizing cowardice? Or did I do the right thing?


Thanks,

Robin

A few years ago, I decided to devote myself full-time to writing fiction. The idea wasn’t to lie around in bed all day with a laptop or pace the kitchen looking for ideas on the shelves of the fridge. I planned to show up at a discrete office (as I always have) and apply myself to the task of writing like anyone with a “real job” — which is to say eight to twelve hours a day, five days a week or more, mostly at a desk.

Jeff and Lisa, looking out the rear window of Jeff’s apartment, watch Miss Torso – a beautiful leggy blonde, swat away multiple suitors ravenous for her attention at a cocktail party.

JEFF: She’s like a queen bee with her pick of the drones.

LISA: I’d say she’s doing the hardest job a woman has: juggling wolves.

— Rear Window, 1954

*

I am not a whore.

Yeah.

That seems like a good place to start.

*

I’m cute. Almost always. Sometimes I think I even manage pretty. I have a great rack and a small waist. Hourglassy. Much more Marilyn than Moss. My big blue eyes are my very best feature and I’ve been told that my smile can be blinding. I like dresses. Girly ones. And heels. Tall. I paint my nails. Occasionally blue or black or brown, but usually red. Vampy, glittering reds are my favorite.

Make no mistake about it: I’m a girl.

But I also know where to draw the line. My clothes fit, they are both age and event-appropriate and you will never see what I do not want you to see.

After all, I’m also a lady.

Consequently, I’ve never, ever, felt like a whore.

Not until this past weekend, that is.

*

It’s no secret I’m raising money for my next film. One tactic is to find wealthy individuals with disposable income who have a passion for film and somehow convince them to invest in yours. Folks like that tend to be businessmen[1]. Risk-takers. Gamblers.

How do you find those people? Film festivals. Especially ones in wealthy towns.

I was invited to be on a jury at one such festival and seized the opportunity to attend – with the aim of networking within circles I would be otherwise unable to access. I printed my paperwork, practiced my schpiel, packed my bag with the perfect party gear and dove in headfirst.

*

At the opening night party I met “Horace”. Horace was a charming older gentleman. He was well-dressed, well-spoken, witty and thought critically about the evening’s film. I enjoyed talking with him immensely. He had done extremely well for himself working on Manhattan’s trading floor and was a fellow cinephile. He had even had been in a few background scenes in the films Trading Places and Wall Street. He retired comfortably and when the conversation got around to what I did and what I was working on, he immediately started introducing me to the other attendees – especially ones who he felt would take a personal interest to the material. He collected business cards for me and made it a point to tell me that making connections was his forté. We parted with a polite cheek-kiss and you can only imagine how thrilled I was to have started off so well.

The next morning, I awoke to an email with an invitation to join him for a cocktail party on the rooftop terrace of a snazzy new waterfront building. It was THE place to been seen and an opportunity to shake the hands of, not merely rich, but wealthy individuals.

Horace closed the email with “What are your plans tonight? I am looking for some ‘uncomplicated’ fun.”

AYFKMWTS[2]???

I responded with a polite and friendly reply. I thanked him for the invitation, told him how very much I enjoyed his company and would be delighted to join him, but that I was quite devoted to my boyfriend[3] and was there to enjoy the town, the festival and new friends and colleagues. I mentioned my investor search and how I would relish the opportunity to expand my network. I invited him to call if he still wanted me to join him at the cocktail party for networking and the like.

But yeah.

I shot him down.

Hard.

Because no matter how grandfatherly and pleasant he seemed the night before, he propositioned me.

And while there are innumerable things I will do for my film, sucking a 72 year-old dick is not one of them.

*

Two nights later, I paid dearly for a ticket for the festival’s big gala. While I did receive an otherwise pricey VIP badge in exchange for my services as a judge, the pass granted me access to everything but that one party, and when you’re looking for investors, a $200-ticket party is where you’ll find them.

As a brief respite from schmoozing some of the people Horace (whom I never heard from again) had introduced me to, I stopped to chat with some of the festival staff.

A gentleman wandered toward the group and greeted the people he knew. Introductions were made. He was high up in the “Jaymond Rames” family and didn’t necessarily flaunt his wealth, but did frequently and somewhat annoyingly refer to it. Also, he was a handsy fellow. A close-talker. And kind of loud. But it was a party and the DJ was spinning at a pitch just two decibels above ‘pleasant conversation’ and so I forgave him, but neither did I pay him much mind. Braggadocio is a less-than-admirable trait in my book.

When he mentioned that his brother was an opera singer, my ears perked up. “Who?” I asked. Small world of small words – I not only had heard of his brother, I had worked with him some ten years’ previous. I immediately saw the family resemblance. How had I missed it?! So I began to hone in on little clues as to his interest in, perhaps, another art form. Say… independent film?

My chattiness in sussing out whether he was an investor candidate was immediately assumed to be sexual and “Matt” got handsier. Grabby, actually. I got pawed like so much PlayDoh. I kept him at arm’s distance (as much as I could) and refused to “smell his neck” when repeatedly prodded, nor would I let him anywhere near mine.

It was at that point when he said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got the money for your film. Now just relax and let’s have some fun already.”

Upon parting ways, he told me to follow him in his car and he would steer me back to the interstate.

The valet brought my crappy little veedub (vs his slick beemer) first and I knew the way back. After all, I had driven myself there, hadn’t I? He called to tell me that I had turned incorrectly. The message was bitter.

“Kimberly. It’s Matt. You’re going the wrong way.”

I wasn’t.

Nor do I believe I’ll be joining him in the Bahamas next month.

*

Looking back at Rear Window, I don’t remember the specifics of Miss Torso’s party. We know all about the songwriter’s crescendo towards success and Miss Lonelyheart’s deep depression, the newly-wed bride’s insatiable appetite and of course, what happened to Mrs. Thorwald and the little dog too…

But why the party, Hitch?

The scene set up Miss Torso as a whore; a ditzy dancer who rehearsed in her granny panties during those hot summer afternoons and by the very nature of her affability and attractiveness, was asking for it.

Just like that poor little girl in Texas.

*

What the hell? Do I have to start wearing combat boots and black trench coats to be taken seriously by a man? Do I have to bind my breasts and shave my head? Assume a dour and aloof disposition and hope that someone just walks up to me and takes over where Ed McMahon left off??

*

I have another similar festival to attend in two weeks’ time and I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. I mean, seriously. Why would I prance around in my granny panties if I know everyone’s got binoculars?

After a thorough review of the weekend, I still contend that I dressed appropriately and professionally. I am certain that my pitch and business acumen was rock-solid. My friendly approach of “Hello! What did you think about the film?” came straight from the Dale Carnegie handbook, so I know that market’s cornered.

But ever the student, I knew there was something I could learn from this experience. Something I could do differently. Something I could change.

And it hit me.

Like a giant fucking rock.

[4]

– – – – – – – – – –

[1] I don’t know the percentage of male-to-female film investors, but my experience thus far leads me to believe that like the rest of the film industry, it’s pretty heavily male dominated.

[2] Are You Fucking Kidding Me With This Shit?

[3] It wasn’t a total lie. I mean, I would be if I had one.

[4] This is the wedding set I just bought (for a whopping $7.35) and will sport at the next film festival and subsequent parties. Otherwise, I’ll do and wear everything exactly the same as I did this past weekend. Even if I don’t raise a penny for the film, it should be a FASCINATING experiment.



Henning Koch’s Love Doesn’t Work, just released from Dzanc Books, is a collection of seven “dualist” tales that examine the struggles of the human condition with sharp satire but also surprising vulnerability. I picked up the collection at AWP and couldn’t wait to talk to Koch, an ex-screenwriter and literary translator living in Berlin, about his influences, the minefields of publishing, and why he thinks love doesn’t work.

So we did, and here it is.

Dear Robin Lopez,

Please cut your hair. You look like American Idol Season I runner-up Justin Guarini.

You do.

You really do.


I ask you this with the sincerest of intentions.

Every time I watch a Phoenix Suns game, I think three things:

1. Aaron Brooks could be Chris Rock’s double should Chris Rock ever pull a Martin Lawrence (Rebound, 2005) and make a horrible basketball film;



2. If Steve Nash isn’t the spitting image of cigarette smoking, rebel bad ass Kelly Leak from the original Bad News Bears (1976) with Walter Matthau as Coach Morris Buttermaker then no one is; and



3) How you look like that guy from American Idol.

Justin Guarini.

And I’ve never even seen a full episode of American Idol.

Seriously, I haven’t.

No, I’m serious.

And it’s because of the hair.

Not mine. That’s not why I have never seen a full episode of American Idol.

It’s because of your hair that you look like Justin Guarini.

It’s not like you’re suffering from what Andrew Bynum suffers from or Brian Scalabrine. Bynum looks like Tracy Morgan because of the face.



The same as Scalabrine being Michael Rapaport’s doppelganger because of the similarity in facial features.



Although, I take back the latter in some regard. It doesn’t help Scals that he and Rapaport both sport the red do and that Rapaport takes part in the NBA Celebrity Game during each year’s All-Star break.

But Robin, don’t get me wrong. It’s not just you. Anderson Verajao looks like Justin Guarini too, which is why I’m making a carbon copy of this letter and replacing your name with his at every occasion.

I know, I know — the hair is your good luck charm and you can’t just go and chop it off like Iverson did with his trademark cornrows. (Look where that got ole AI: a roster slot with Beşiktaş in the Turkish Basketball League) Your hair is what helps you bring in those mind-shattering statistics you do night in and night out as the Phoenix Suns big man: .1 apg, 2.2 bpg, 3.3 rpg, and 7.0 ppg. Averaging 3.3 rpg as a 7’0″ center is some feat. Very Rodman-esque.

But this letter is the least I can do. I’m only looking out for you.

And hey, at least I didn’t say you looked like Sideshow Bob.

Because although you do somewhat, Varejao has totally got you beat on that one.



Sincerely,

A concerned NBA fan

Jeffrey Pillow


(a distorted memory)

Disney sign

Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy-the magical portals to the Magic Kingdom.

“This was the American dream, a prayer for the future. But that golden goal was not to be had without cost. The American Way was not gained in a day. It was born in adversity, forged out of conflict.”

Conflict?

Let me tell you about conflict. It’s watching two of the Seven Dwarves kicking the shit out of each other in costume in one of “backstage areas” and hearing one rant, “You gave me herpes!”

Conflict is on one of your days off thinking it would be very funny to drop a hit of acid with your craziest friend and toodle around the park as if you were a civilian…only to find yourself peaking on the “It’s a Small World” ride, which gets stuck, while the song keeps playing over and over, the animatronic dolls representing all the cultures of the world, squeaking, “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all…” while the world does indeed get smaller as the drug comes on harder, a pregnant claustrophobic woman begins to sob, children become dangerously excited-and your lunatic friend rises and begins singing the song at the top of his voice.

Mr. ToadWe were very fortunate not to have been taken away in a net on that one-and when you get expelled from the Magic Kingdom, before you find yourself in lock-up in downtown Anaheim, you get a special debriefing by park security behind closed doors, a prospect that was considerably more hallucinogenic than I could cope with. (The prospect of what this would entail today in our orange alert War on Terror warmed climate doesn’t bear thinking of.)

Remarkably, we escaped the small world and beyond a minor incident on Mr. Toad’s Wild Road (where I found it necessary to physically restrain my friend Steve), I was able to return to my normal duties two days later, although “normal” was always a relative term in the Magical Kingdom.

I worked as a “Cast Member” captaining the Amazon Belle on the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland…and here verbatim is the spiel (which we were taught to refer to as “the preset narrative”) that I’d recite. After you’ve delivered this little speech three times you begin to get the disturbing impression that you’ve been turned into an animatronic character yourself.

Here we go deep into a tropical rainforest. Yeah, it rains 365 days a year here. Over on the other side there’s old Smiley, one of my favorite jungle residents-and also one of the craziest crocs in these parts, folks. Nobody’s seen him move for over thirty years. What a croc!

Hippo

And that there is a Bengal Tiger folks. He weighs over 500 pounds and can jump up to 25 feet from a dead standstill. Oh, look at this, the little headhunters! Watch out folks! And beautiful Schweitzer Falls. Named after that famous African explorer, Dr. Albert Falls. Oh, oh a huge African Bull Elephant. For those of you with short memories, that there is a huge African Bull Elephant.

Hang on now. Hippos! Got to scare them off. Cover your ears. We’re back in headhunter country now. Not a good place to be headed. Those are spears-and those are poison arrows. If any of them hit you folks, you throw them right on back-you’re not allowed to keep any souvenirs. Now let me take this opportunity to point out some of the rare tropical foliage to you. There’s some. And there’s some more over there.

And there’s old Trader Sam, the head trader for the area, folks, but business has been shrinking a little lately. He’s got a special deal going-two of his heads for just one of yours. And folks, you don’t wanna miss this. This might be your only opportunity to see a rare African mallard. Oh, what do you know, we’re returning to civilization. This could well be the most dangerous part of our journey. You have to careful. Not all the animals are in the jungle. Ha, ha.

Yes, this was the American dream, a prayer for the future. Where the Matterhorn rises over Frontierland next to the Enchanted Tiki village. Now a thrilling adventure cruise through dark mysterious caverns where dead men tell no tales. Clear the decks lad! Remember, The American Way was not gained in a day. It was born in adversity and forged out of conflict. Strike your colors you bloomin’ cockroaches! By thunder!

(That bit about the mallard was my improv by the way. You couldn’t always count on the ducks being in position to have them written into the script. Funny about that.)

This is a true story. Names and locations have been changed to protect the criminally parochial.

Day One

I was standing in the gym, minding my own business. Minding your own business is often the worst thing you can do, especially when you’re 15, too smart for your own good and surrounded by the lowest form of human life: the high school administrator. An unnerving presence burned into my back, the type of feeling that there’s no logical explanation for. The feeling you can’t describe without resorting to tautology. Being watched feels like being watched. I spun around to see one of my high school’s vice principals making an ugly face, probably the only kind she knew how to make. Her wrinkled face contorted into the shape of an old Yankee woman seeing something she doesn’t understand.

The last fight Peppah had with her mother obsessed her.  It stood out in her mind  like a giant picture postcard in front of her face.  It was one o’ clock in the afternoon.  Mama was sleeping the day away and Grandmother Jones was fussing around the apartment, trying to make something out of nothing in the kitchen.  A hopeful smell of onion and bouillon cubes misted through the place.  She had gathered two beat-up looking carrots and a half-cup of Minute Rice and a row of saltine crackers that would serve for
dinner.

When Alexandra Wallace posted a YouTube video of herself complaining about the “hordes” of Asian students at UCLA and how their existence on campus interfered with her student performance (in the video Wallace mocks the way Asian students speak on their cell phones in the library. “Ching Chong, Ting Tong, Ling Long” she sneers, holding an imaginary phone up to her ear) the response was venomous. Tons of insulted students of all races, creeds and genders logged online to insult her back, oftentimes relying on racist and sexist stereotypes designed to insult and intimidate. Most of these insults drew attention to her cleavage and the fact that she was a “stupid, slutty little white girl”, rather than a bigot. Though the rage that Wallace provoked was certainly merited, as noted on blogs like Racialicious and Colorlines, the use of equally appalling slurs to shame her begs the question of what kind of dialogue we aim to promote in our current culture. Though there has been considerable backlash about what is politically correct and incorrect to say in our culture, the constant influx of these type of insult matches demonstrates how often discussions about racism, sexism, orany other “ism” end with piled on insults and relying on hurtful stereotypes in order to shame the other. This is the current landscape of 2011, a far cry from the days where politically correct labels were slapped on to anything in order to minimize conflict. These days, people want their conflicts right out there in the open. The question is, are these types of conversations actually working to minimize hate?