Cherry Picking

By Brin Butler

Essay

“What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

There’s a poor orchard town near where my father grew up in the countryside. It’s one of the poorest places in the country. Most people found out about it when it got some attention in the newspapers after a famous serial killer and child rapist named Clifford Olsen passed through and beheaded a child and left the trophy to be discovered by school kids in the river that flows next to the highway that runs through the heart of the town.


We drove through that town on the way to visit our relatives since I was a baby. I remember driving when my parents were together and after they’d parted ways. I think it was one of the first places I used as a marker to measure certain feelings that upset me. When I was very small we nearly always stopped to pick up fruit to bring over for my grandmother to use in baking pies. After she died when I was five, we still stopped to pick up fruit, but usually just enough for the last stretch of the car ride. Memories aren’t photos in an album, they change every time you fondle them. I was getting good marks and then I wasn’t anymore. Holes weren’t filling in with certain things that bothered me. When I was big enough, we pulled off the highway and visited one of my favorite bridges in the world called Red Bridge.

You could climb inside the walls of that one-lane bridge and get up to the top staring a good fifty feet over that icy, glacier-fed river.

At the best of times I’m pretty lousy with heights. I was 21 before I had the courage to jump. I had a boyfriended girl up there with me, originally from the town, who I’d met in the city. She knew the parents of the beheaded kid and we’d been talking about how creepy and exciting the river felt knowing that such an awful thing polluted it.

The first time I stepped into a river when I was two or three my dad told me that you can never put your foot into the same river twice. That was a good fit as far as I was concerned. I almost drowned once floating down a river and after I quit struggling it was the most peaceful feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. You’re caught under something and struggling and struggling to get to the surface and grab some air and then you actually hear another voice ask why?

She’d never had the guts to jump and thought anyone who did was crazy. I wanted to impress her. At first it hadn’t worked out so well. I’d chickened-out over and over again maybe 20 times, but when she gave up on me and went to collect the little blanket we’d spread out up there I went for it. I figured suicide was the biggest decision you can make that you can’t ever regret.

She made a beautiful sound when I jumped over her and off that edge. I could hear that sigh-scream all the way down with my arms flapping like a maniac before plunging into the water and falling so deep I touched down on the pebbly river bottom.

The next time I visited that town I didn’t pass through, we stopped to visit that same girl’s folks.

We stopped by a friend of hers who had an apple orchard. The orchard had a pretty story behind it:

The parents of that friend who owned the orchard had wondered for years why all the pickers went to one particular tree on their lunch break for their own apples to eat. Finally they went over to that tree and tried one of the apples for themselves and discovered that the apples looked and tasted different. They had a distinctive creamy color. As it turned out, it was a new strain of apple which they named Ambrosia apples that became so popular that they became quite wealthy.

I’ve taken nearly every girl I’ve really liked through that town and bought them some of those apples from the roadside fruit stands.

On the flight back from New York with my wife a couple days ago, I was thinking about one of these girls.

On the trip we had together through that town she picked up the slack from my grandmother and used those apples to bake a pie.

I published a story about her in a magazine a while back. I gave some slippery details about her finding out I’d written a novel about her without ever having had a meaningful conversation with her. In the story I’d given myself a first kiss with her. 10 years after high school she’d read it and flew over to be with me. That was what happened.

But I’d left the piece open-ended.

Sometimes I’m interested in people who think leaving out vital material isn’t the same as lying when it achieves the same purpose.

It’s a different feeling getting away with a lie.

Different motivation too, I think.

It’s weird writing the happy part of a story that you know ends badly.

I’d left it optimistic and nostalgic and hopeful between us.

It had ended abruptly, severed with a warning she issued in a shrill tone: “You’ll always regret this. You’ll look back and regret this for the rest of your life.”

Most women I know that complain about their choice in men talk about how unsuccessful they are in finding a good match rather than succeeding in choosing assholes.

Every writer zeros-in on who their best muse is, who they’re really writing to or who they feel is looking over their shoulder. I’m not good with a Thinking Cap on my head. I end up feeling like Whitney Houston when I’m trying to sound like Billie Holiday.

Crack isn’t heroin.

The woman who published that story asked me how the story played out after meeting that girl. Was I still with her? “C’mon, she’d moved from Europe to be with you!”

That wasn’t entirely true. More to the point, she’d moved to be with an idea of us that had nothing to do with me.

I have a considerable mean streak that I try to hold back when I write about women because I know how ugly it is.

Most likely it stems from the fact that I’m scared of women. All varieties. Old, smart, dumb, literate, young, moms, daughters, wives, mistresses, whores, girlfriends, sisters, political leaders, receptionists, dental assistants, nurses, poets, writers, actresses, pornstars, nuns, book club members, lesbians, cocktail waitresses, bus drivers, wrestlers, folk singers, talk show hosts, hobos, models, anorexics, pregnant, career-women, soft, cookie-cutter, snowflake—you name it I’ll raise my hand and bow my head in shame.

I’m scared of women because I’m so drawn to them. I’m obsessed by women in all their roles and sides and facets and devious complexity and radical ambiguity and appetites and narratives and surfaces and depths and noise and silence.

I know less about them as a whole the more I meet.

Punching your weight is a good rule.

I don’t bring much to the table. I like my femininity in the cute and dirty variety, like those first video game fairies with the glittery X-rated eyes despite G-rated roles.

Cuteness is depravity’s defense mechanism: Japan only overdosed on cute after getting nuked.

I think of women emotionally the same as I think of men, only I think of them emotionally as men who are drunk and high. After all, women have purpose.

“Love is blind, but stalkers often have an eye for detail” is how I opened the piece.

Before I started the piece, I had a few pages of notes that included several pretty lines meant to hide other elements I’d left out.

Salinger had this line about “letting all your stars come out” or something. I wonder why this is so scary to do.

When I look at them, relationships seem mostly about addiction. Chemicals. Junk. Power. Submission. Domination.

Even with all the little stuff.

Telescopes and microscopes uncover what you can find.

She’d said she looked forward to baking pies after we got married and had our own family and grandchildren.

I like opening my eyes underwater in a lake or in the ocean when I can’t see anything.

She knew she was going to live to be over a hundred, she assured me.

I love fortune cookies, but not for their wisdom.

She was glad I thought she looked the same as when I’d first met her at 13, but she was most pleased that I loved her eyes, because the rest of her would “perish” into old age and “decay” but “my eyes will always remain.”

It was speeches like these, the chilling inflection and frightening vocabulary, that first broke the spell.

Then there was the preemptive self-flattery: “Everywhere I go others inform me that my breasts are divine.”

Pleasant would have been my choice of words.

“My bottom attracts attention like you wouldn’t believe.”

She was on the mark with that one. I didn’t believe it. And even more so after just breaking up with a Puerto Rican dancer whose ass moved like a wrecking ball down New York streets in terms of the attention from men it commanded.

“Don’t you fancy how quirky I dress?”

From her attire, she looked a girl who proudly lived in a giant shoe.

I left out that I was so nervous before meeting her that about 8 hours prior to picking her up from the airport I accepted the offer of a perfect stranger for a random meeting and presumable “booty call”.

I think it’s the only time I’ve ever been the one not chasing.

This random girl somehow got very turned on discussing books. She was boyfriended also. It didn’t really matter except that he was a very respectful boyfriend, which in all areas except sexually pleased her just fine. “That’s my main problem with this guy. I want a good person who can really demean me. He can’t. We can connect emotionally and intellectually and he’s not intimidated by someone with my education and career and outspokenness. You know what I mean? He just can’t bring himself to really give me what I want sexually.”

“What do you want sexually?” I asked.

“A guy who isn’t afraid to come on my face, you know?”

“Right.”

It’s liberating in a slightly unsettling way to be attracted to a woman yet having no interest in fucking her. It’s not a state you’d like to occupy all that often, but it’s valid somehow too.

“Are you gonna fuck me or what?”

“Nope.”

“So you’re using me?”

We’d met on top of a hill with a really spectacular view. She’d laid out a blanket.

She asked about the girl flying in. She asked how I felt about the circumstances. She gave her point of view. She asked me if I knew who Mr. Darcy was. She asked if I had any intention of contacting her after that night. When I gave her a look, she informed me that she was making a joke.

I told her after that night I would never speak with her again and she saw very clearly that I meant it.

She asked if I was joking.

“There are no jokes, the truth is the funniest joke of all.”

—Muhammad Ali






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Brin-Jonathan Butler's work has appeared in ESPN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The Classical, The Rumpus, Salon.com, and The New York Times. Brin has also written, directed, and produced a forthcoming documentary called, "Split Decision" (splitdecisionfilm.com) examining Cuba and the United States through the lens of elite Cuban boxers faced with the decision to remain despite the lure of millions, or chase the American Dream from a smuggler's boat. The documentary has been featured on Maxboxing.com, Newsday, and The Boxing Channel. "When We Were Kings" Oscar winning director Leon Gast has called Butler's film, "Something very special and worth the wait." Please follow him on twitter @brinicio

53 responses to “Cherry Picking”

  1. Lenore Zion says:

    i like this way you’re describing women with boyfriends…”boyfriended.”

    and i like that big red bridge. i’m glad you jumped off of it and survived.

  2. Brin Friesen says:

    i had a jacket a long time ago to match those arm warmers.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    I second Lenore. I’m glad you didn’t do yourself terrible injury when you jumped off the bridge.
    I like your honesty in this. I think it’s probably very common for men to be scared of women. I don’t understand why… after all we’re all pussycats. Heh.
    Seriously though Brin, super nice piece. Such lovely phrasing and imagery. Oh and I think Ambrosia is perhaps the best word in the world.

  4. Brin Friesen says:

    Then you are required to try one of those apples, Zara.

  5. “Cuteness is depravity’s defense mechanism: Japan only overdosed on cute after getting nuked.”

    Brilliant. I’m writing that down and will quote it mercilessly for the next few weeks.

  6. Ducky says:

    When I look at them, relationships seem mostly about addiction. Chemicals. Junk. Power. Submission. Domination.

    Sheeesh, you may be too right about this.

    Love your candor.

    • Brin Friesen says:

      What’s *your* take?

      I meant that line totally subjectively.

      • Ducky says:

        Sometimes, I wonder if love isn’t simply a distilled smell and nothing more. Something that triggers the olfactory center of the brain and makes us crazy and retarded.
        Though I hope I’m wrong.

        • Brin Friesen says:

          What woul you *prefer* it to be, if you don’t mind my asking?

        • Brin Friesen says:

          What would you *prefer* it to be, if you don’t mind my asking?

        • Ducky says:

          I would prefer it to be transformative, profound, a connection that frees the spirit. Not an elusive scent in the wind. But I watched way too many Disney movies as a child.

        • Brin Friesen says:

          A philosopher I like calls love a tremendously violent force. In zero-ing in on one person we do so to the exclusion of others. Thus the world is a little worse off because all our concern is piled up on that one person while the welfare of others means less. I’d never really grappled with that part of love, but it resonates with me. Love is just another foxhole for a lot of people.

          But Disney is vile. We’ve all been down the conveyor-belt being stamped with him whether we wanted that brand of innocence or not. Though I liked (and probably still would) Beauty and the Beast. It had some charm.

          But I think the same thing about romantic comedies. They must really fuck up a lot of people in the message they put out there. They’re so incredibly, almost sadistically phony.

          The Dali Lama has been mentioned as actually a negative force by some too (which is awesome). Laying out the argument that people see all he has endured and how it all slides off his back like a Ducky’s wing as it were, and look at their own meager problems by comparison and feel awful and more guilt for not dealing with them better.

  7. josie says:

    This was honest and revealing and yet gives the sense that you’re still playing your cards close to your chest with an experienced poker face. Revealing and yet somehow still shady. Nicely done.
    “Memories aren’t photos… they change everytime you fondle them.”
    That line is fantastic.

    • Brin Friesen says:

      Thanks Josie. Do you have any experience writing about ex’s?

      • josie says:

        I only have one ex and when I wrote about our rocky divorce it made people uncomfortable. So I don’t write about Him anymore. But now that the chastity belt is off I’m looking for a cherry picker… I’ll definitely be writing about him after the harvest… !

  8. New Orleans Lady says:

    “Memories aren’t photos in an album, they change every time you fondle them.” Great line! I loved this story. I want to taste those apples. I want to jump off of that bridge. Lovely…

    • Brin Friesen says:

      I don’t know if they sell Ambrosia apples in the states, do they? It’s funny, immediately after I wrote this piece I went out and bought a huge bag of those apples from a little corner fruit stand.

  9. Irene Zion says:

    Brin,
    Are you a male nymphomaniac? (There’s probably a word for that, and I’ll bet Lenore knows it!)

  10. Irene Zion says:

    HA! I found it without Lenore’s help!
    Satyriasis.
    Why are you tsking me? You have had two million girls you’ve “boyfriended.” What else are we supposed to think?

  11. Brin Friesen says:

    I’ve never heard satyriasis applied before. Quite a voluptuous word yet voluptuous in a silicone sorta way.

    However, you’ve been tsked (and rightfully had it coming) since you take issue with the “two million” girls I’ve boyfriended, yet brand me a nymphomaniac. You were specific to the amount of relationships rather than sexual partners. As I’ve only slept with 12 girls in my life time (spending 9 years with 2 of them) satyriasis is a misplaced word, I think you’d agree.

    Now then, your supreme punishment and millstone is finding out the term for one who serially enters into relationships. Because, as your tsk suggested, *that* was your actual beef.

    You even crucified ‘boyfriended’ with quotes for nails.

  12. josie says:

    “with quotes for nails”
    Dang me, that’s a great line.

  13. Erika Rae says:

    It’s been too long since I’ve come in from the cold to sit by the Brin fire.

    I admire your honesty, sir – whether this causes you shame or not. Beautiful read.

  14. Erika Rae says:

    Why, Sir Brin – I’m shocked by such a question. You are a literary knight.

  15. jmblaine says:

    Sorry I’m late to the game here
    you can sure paint a picture.

    I read your stuff carefully
    to learn.

    Dont quite have the courage yet though.
    Working on it.

  16. D.R. Haney says:

    It undoubtedly speaks poorly of me, but I don’t bother myself too much about what I leave out — not in writing. I consider at length the shape of a piece and how much weight I think it can bear, and what goes into it is what strikes me as applicable.

    Memories change every time they’re fondled, as you say, and I’m sure I’ve never told the same story in the same way twice. Certain details are included or omitted depending on circumstance, including the listener and time, and perfect fidelity is impossible anyway. Maybe the last is just an excuse, but then I remember something Flannery O’Connor said about honesty, that to believe we’re finally capable of it, for all our best efforts, is a mark of innocence.

    I’m not saying that about you. I’m just trying to pinpoint for myself what I believe and don’t. Thanks for giving me pause.

    • Brin Friesen says:

      I guess I’m just interested in how something can have the intention of *appearing* honest which has nothing whatsoever with the piece actually being honest. Likewise, some judge how much weight a given piece can handle for themselves, others do so for their readers.

      As you say, you don’t tell the same story twice. Beyond that being a natural extension of certain things going by the wayside, I’m interested in how stories sharpen. What does it say about the teller? What is the aim of a story getting smoother, more interesting, more developed? It reflects well on the teller but the teller is always witness to smoothing over potholes, making themselves look good, being rewarded for making themselves look bad in how they convey them looking bad.

      And you make a very interesting distinction, why is it in WRITING that you don’t bother too much about what you leave out while in other contexts you you do? I’d be curious to know.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        What I meant was that in conversation I’m much less apt to leave things out — which you should well know. I volunteer far too much information, with very little thought as to how it will be received.

        Also, in writing, I proceed without much thought of the reader or myself. I feel more like I’m having a dialogue with the piece itself, taking cues from it and helping it to be what it seems to want to be. I’m sure the reader, that abstract idea, is there someplace, but very dimly. At least that’s how it’s experienced.

        I find it interesting that you find these questions of interest. I always assume that writers, and people generally, are holding things back, however unwittingly. Then, too, it’s pleasing to be charmed. I think that word — “charm” — is what’s missing from the discussion.

        • Brin Friesen says:

          Another thing, Atwood always drives me nuts when she’s asked about the views of her characters who are all easily identifiable. She routinely ducks defending their stance saying, “They’re just characters of fiction.” Which they are, but SHE wrote them, spent huge energy and time creating and occupying their world, so why can’t she buck up and take ownership of some of their positions? I’m not entirely sure. She always seems affronted to be asked to explain anything as if her reputation proceeds her.

  17. Brin Friesen says:

    I don’t follow how you mean “charm” in the context of what’s left out. Meaning it allows other to fill in those gaps or… ?

    I like your descriptions about your process but I think we’re talking about slightly different things.

    You talk about the process of getting stuff down. The actual writing part of the job. Once it *is* down, then the juice about what’s left in or edited out really takes place, doesn’t it?

    I guess I’m saying that with all writing the writer has a vested stake in how he/she comes off as a result of the exchange that follows with the reader.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Of course. But it seems to me — and I could be wrong — that you’re calling people on their shit, and as someone whose writing is often characterized as “raw” and “honest” and so on, I can’t help but feel implicated. I’m as forthcoming as I feel I can be all the time, but there are gradations. Full disclosure isn’t possible, or even desired, in every circumstance. It isn’t a matter of hypocrisy or mendacity. Some information is superfluous, and it’s a judgment call as to what is or isn’t. Then, too, certain information can repel where it’s better in the larger scheme things to attract; because I want the reader to, yes, have a favorable enough impression of me so that he or she is willing to hear me out, and sometimes the point being made is fraught or controversial or disturbing in some way, and a confrontational approach is going to work against its reception. It’s the old honey-versus-vinegar thing — that’s what I meant by “charm.”

      I’ve never read Atwood, but writers, and artists generally, are always being asked to explain themselves, so I can understand a reluctance to do so. Too many people want to pin things down like high-school kids dissecting pickled frogs. A novel isn’t a thesis — or at least I don’t think it should be — and a certain vagueness can at times be a symptom of reaching for the indescribable, or in any case the ineffable. I have to admire that kind of courage.

  18. Brin Friesen says:

    My attention wasn’t to call anyone out beyond myself in the circumstance I indicated. You’re welcome to feel implicated, but it wasn’t by me.

    The nature of almost anything “confessional” is a slightly ugly sense of being rewarded for the disclosure.

    Eggers seemed terrified of this, or at least played off it throughout his book, and I think was rightly criticized for not trusting a feeling he expressed in the entire book. In short, we go up to our brain to deal with our heart. I enjoyed his words, but I was stunned when a reviewer called the book not only heartless but bloodless. The narrative was so smooth I’d missed that side to it completely. I agree with the reviewer, despite enjoying the ride of the story.

    Your terms are interesting choices too: you’re as honest as you “can” be instead of “want” to be. You talk about full disclosure being some measure of honesty. I didn’t say that or anything suggesting an encyclopedic take on events. I said, of the meaningful details in a story, which are left out and why are they? Which are left out consciously, which are unconscious? All those cognitive dissonances that abound, what is our ego trying to protect? Who are we trying to convey in each story as a creator?

    It wasn’t that I resented Atwood not explaining herself. It’s that I resent her consenting to an interview on television to discuss a book she’s written and not being honest in declining to answer a question pertaining to her book, but positing that a protagonist clearly modeled on herself has nothing whatsoever to do with herself merely because she’s fictionalized them. It strikes me as entirely chickenshit.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I don’t have any opinions about Atwood, since, as I said, I don’t know her stuff. I’ve likewise never read Eggers, except for a few sentences in a piece posted at Salon.com.

      I expected you to be lawyerly with my terms, though I wasn’t sure which of them you’d underscore. Yes, I’m as honest as I feel I can be in a given piece of writing, bearing in mind the bigger picture. The word “want” wouldn’t have worked for me in that sentence, since, in the act of writing, I feel I’m being guided to a certain extent by something larger than myself. My own desires are secondary. That, at least, is my sense of it. The writing state is dreamlike, and dreams are slippery and so hard to delineate. Also, I wasn’t referring to volume of detail in disclosure but those emotional details that may or may be pertinent, which I thought was obvious, since how can anyone be accused of mendacity for failing to include the shape of a doorknob or somesuch?

      But what, to be less lawyerly than Freudian, do you mean by your “attention” not being to call out anyone other than yourself? Anyway, I did allow that I might be wrong. I’m simply trying to get at the larger meaning of an argument that, I hope, has implications beyond yourself, as your phrasing here indicates it does: “I guess I’m saying that with all writing the writer has a vested stake in how he/she comes off as a result of the exchange that follows with the reader.” I will indeed feel welcome to be implicated in a general statement — “all writing,” etc. — like that one. Elsewhere, you speak of “our” ego and who “we” are trying to protect. And it’s an interesting question, which is why I’ve pursued it, though I’m not sure that we see eye to eye on where it leads. Sometimes, yes, there’s a “reward” for disclosure, but it seems to me that the most successful writers are rewarded for no disclosure at all. And then there are unwitting disclosures of the kind that, in this exchange, you’ve sought to pinpoint, and now I’m doing the same. We all give ourselves away at every turn, which is why I trust less what’s said and more the way it’s said. No amount of image-shaping can stand up under rigorous scrutiny and analysis. But we’re creatures of ego, finally, and the impulse to present ourselves in the best possible light is a constant, even when we think we aren’t doing so. I’m doing it now, in fact, as just occurs to me, otherwise I wouldn’t make an effort to phrase myself as well as I can, even though I’m distracted with a number of pressing matters. And now to pause the debate to attend to them.

  19. Brin Friesen says:

    Fair enough, you’re guided by something dreamlike and don’t have control where it goes. But that’s not everyone.

    Many people map with great specificity exactly where they go and more or less paint-by-number the material. Also many people are guided somewhere with the work and edit and craft it into something very consciously packaged and targeted. You leave out where the dreamlike stops and the marketing begins. Both components are important.

    We both know Kerouac advocated “spontaneous writing” when his work, the final product, was anything of the kind. He mapped out the chapters beforehand and vigorously edited them after he’d completed them. Compare that scroll to the first published copy. Look at all he left out and it’s very obvious in most cases *why*. But from a marketing perspective, saying that first thought was best thought and this was real and other writing by implication was phony, was brilliant.

    Did it come to haunt him integrity or morality wise? Probably. Leaving out fooling around with guys and tossing in some choice homophobic remarks to throw off the trail (just so Freud could drool) and his mother or Jesus wouldn’t be offended by his transgressions against his upbringing and faith is noteworthy. There was a reward and a price to pay for the choices.

    My intention was calling out myself in the story, but sure, I’m interested in how writers operate in this regard to. I read up on the back story and get off on the literary autopsies.

    I read the reviews on A Moveable Feast and how it’s so terribly honest and I read up on the facts cited in other books and am amused to find out while Hemingway’s claiming he’s starving in Paris he’s in fact living on his wife’s trust fund very comfortably before dumping her to marry his 2nd wife who was loaded also. But he didn’t dump her or cheat either according to him, “the rich” lured him away like “pilot fish”. He’s helpless to resist. And then he’s awful hard on himself too. He’s too much the perfectionist and artist. Too loyal a friend (but Fitz is a drunk and can’t spell and has a small dick). He’s just too damn dedicated and blinded by purity to notice some of these pernicious things he seems to keep pointing out over and over and over again and would’ve been very happy to publish if only there weren’t lies that would’ve gotten him sued to death all over the place.

    That book in particular, you can see the beautiful mechanics going on in that the more material he provides about someone during his assassination attempt, the more you know he’s worried. Stein and Fitz get 3 chapters a piece.

    It’s a strange book to read because the first time you find it, it DOES feel honest and warm and beautiful. Not too long after when you return to it, it gives the opposite impression. He goes after cripples for folding up their missing arm’s sleeve as an ostentatious gesture. What the fuck does he EXPECT them to do?

  20. Tony DuShane says:

    damn, you’re good. this piece is great.

    • Brin Friesen says:

      now I feel a little self-conscious about a glib little line in this piece about suicide being the biggest decision you can make that you can’t regret.

      my guess is we both have a sense of humor about this ugly business.

      i appreciate the kind words.

  21. sheree says:

    Whu???? No back wood country gals on your list. We swing axes with deadly force. Lop of the heads of snakes without a second thought. We pull calves free from the wombs of their mothers. We drink moonshine and dance jigs, slop pigs and clean shotguns to shoot rabid animals on the prowl. We howl through the woods on hot summer nights. Regular forces to be reckoned with.

    Seriously, great post. Thanks for the read.
    P.S Female folk singers scare the crap out of me and I don’t even know why.

    • Brin Friesen says:

      It was a glaring omission on my part to leave out the kind of women you describe. Internally they have been carved onto my list.

      What is it about female folksingers??? I have a friend who routinely refers to the affliction of being “folksinger-fat” and what’s worse, intuitively everyone seems to know exactly what he means.

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