In Mexico City, something’s clotting in the streets—clotting with banners and drums and megaphones, people ripping the clothes from their own bodies, waving them overhead like pirate flags. This is angry unrest, scabs picked, coming to a boil, salt added, running over onto the sidewalks. We have caught up to the protest and it has gained in momentum. Hundreds of thousands are marching, the parade backed up for over a mile. Blood seems likely to spill.

The bedsheet banners, splattered with red and black paint letters and stenciled guns blotted with Xs tell part of the story. Peligroso! Defender la educación pública! No a la militarización! I lean toward Louisa, speak into her ear so she can hear me over the melee.

“Defend public education! No to militarization!” I translate.

She raises her eyebrows. This seems like something we can agree with.

While we were in Chicago, taking care of my sick mother, much happened in the Mexican educational system. The government, passed into law an edict demanding 10.6% of the teachers’ pension fund, raised from 3.5%. President Felipe Calderon apparently sealed this deal with Elba Esther Gordillo, the head of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), the National Education Workers Union, promising to use that money to increase retirement benefits and repair a broken health care system. Instead, the protesters allege the money went to pay off Mexico’s debts to the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund. In fact, according to a July 19, 2007 article in The Economist, Gordillo may have used some of these funds (perhaps as much as $70 million) for personal reasons, like, say, satisfying her desire for a $5 million mansion in San Diego, California.

Later, after we have safely returned to the Hotel Rioja for our very, very tardy checkout, which concierge Juan Pérez in his infinite graciousness will forgive, he will fill us in on these sociopolitical details, declaring how this pension fiasco is merely the newest offense perpetuated by the government against teachers. He will nod solemnly, almost spitting when uttering Gordillo’s name, clasping his hands in flat prayer when discussing his sister’s involvement in such protests. Luckily she has yet to be injured, or killed.

“Mi hermana es una maestra,” he will say. His sister is a teacher, so she knows, he knows…

When we will tell him we are headed to Oaxaca, he confirms some of what we already know. That the educational protesting and striking situation was much worse there—more violent. The “No to militarization!” portion of the bedsheets refer the fact that police officials in Oaxaca City opened fire on what began as non-violent protests of the local teachers’ union. Certain reports indicate that the police were also instructed (allegedly by Oaxaca’s governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz) to open fire on paramedics who attempted to remove or administer treatment to wounded protesters.

What began as a plea for a raise in funding for the rural schools of Oaxaca, and, as Juan Pérez speculates, a voice of dissent against the seeds of Mexico’s Alliance for Educational Quality (somewhat akin to the controversial U.S. No Child Left Behind Act, about which Gordillo, via a PR flunky, philosophized, “Education is an opportunity, not a right…”), became, after the police intervention, a demand for the ousting of Governor Ortiz.

Here, Juan Pérez will cough into his hand as if catching some terrible regret like a dove in his palm. Or terrible confusion. He will proceed to tell us of the escalation. How the dissent became blanket. How, after Ortiz laughed off the call for his resignation, various members of Oaxaca’s small towns and unions, families and small businesses coalesced and called themselves Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO), The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca. Juan Pérez will flash his fat fingers into the air twice—first all ten digits, then seven. This is his representation of June 17th, 2006, his thumbs sizzling in the polluted air like breakfast sausages simmered in smog. On this date, three days after the police intervention, the APPO set up camp in Oaxaca City’s Zócalo—fathers, mothers, children, grandsons, granddaughters, pubescent nephews, drunken uncles, estranged nieces, spinster aunts, the horrible lines for the public bathrooms, the little spoiling food and no sleep, the wrapping of howling babies in thin yellow blankets, the dust, the megaphones pounding, the closed stores—and called themselves the new government of Oaxaca. Civil revolution ensued, much of the city choked with barricades, some erected by the APPO, some by the police. Word got out, and other states and cities in Mexico began to express their empathy in protests such as this one in Mexico City. For the people here, this is not after-the-fact. The facts, as to the residents of everywhere, always continue, evolve, devolve. Here, history is present, and the present.

On July 2nd, Ruiz Ortiz’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional party was voted out of power for the first time in Oaxaca in over 70 years. In morbid celebration, the APPO prevented certain festivals from taking place, barring entrance to buildings with heaps of garbage and upended flaming buses. Graffiti declared intolerance for tourists, demanding they return home, packing their ugly capitalism into their already bloated suitcases. The souvenir as Molotov cocktail…

Fleeing Oaxaca, Ruiz Ortiz hid-out in Mexico City for a handful of months before fleeing once again. Though the battles with the state police continued, the APPO declared themselves in control and began to make new laws, commanding radio and television stations, which anti-APPO outfits, along with police in civilian clothes, would blitz deep into the night, spilling blood, smashing broadcast machinery. The casualties escalated, included Brad Will, a visiting journalist from New York, and Emilio Alonso Fabián a professor from Los Loxicha, gut-shot twice by plainclothes policemen.

The Mexican government claims that each was killed by the protestors and not the police, in spite of Will’s recovered photographs, taken moments before his death, depicting the protestors armed merely with rocks against the policemen’s guns. Later, Will’s recovered video footage, according to local news, revealed his killer—Pedro Carmona, member of Ortiz’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional party, mayor of the Oaxacan town Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and newly-crowned soldier in this urban paramilitary.

Boys and girls lay in the streets nursing broken arms, leaking skulls, bullet wounds in their thighs. Old Zapotec women prayed upward, blood pools browning on the stones where they once spread their blankets, sold their weavings to the occasional tourist, before being trampled. It took Will’s death for President Vincente Fox Quesada (who turned over the office to Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa on December 1st of that year) to dispatch the Federal Police to Oaxaca. Nearly 10,000 Federalies and military police forcibly dragged protesters from the Zócalo, backed-up by additional army troops. The still-functional APPO radio stations warned of the raids. As a result, helicopters clogged the sky over Oaxaca City, dropping tear gas grenades. Reports of military police kidnappings ensued. Rumors of body-snatching and cover-up cremations crackled over the pirated airwaves, inflaming the protests. The Catholic Church of Mexico came out in support of the Federal Police. Protestors, academics, and students took refuge Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca, an “autonomous” university that barred police entry. Though the police surrounded the University, they were, in turn, surrounded by a larger group of protestors (who were alerted to the location via APPO broadcasts over the University radio station), and forced, if only for the moment, to retreat.

Here, in Mexico City, numerous bombings ensued, one of which destroyed the amphitheater that served as Partido Revolucionario Institucional headquarters, others blowing up portions of banks and restaurants. On my birthday, November 25, 2006, while Louisa and I listened through the bathroom door to my mother vomiting nothing but tapwater, a Saturday (my father still working, their three large dogs dozing in the sun, waning earlier and earlier…), a renewed attempt at a peaceful protest in Oaxaca’s Zócalo was thwarted when the police unleashed a sprinkler of tear gas, rubber bullets, water-cannons, and bulldozers, tear-gassing, rubber-bulleting, water-cannoning, bulldozing people. Protestors answered with rocks, bottles, water balloons, and pipe bombs. Cars and trucks were toppled and set ablaze, buildings were attacked and set on fire, frenzied crowds looted businesses and hotels. On this day, my birthday—my mother sick in the bathroom, Louisa and I rubbing each others necks at the kitchen table, my father stuck in rush hour traffic listening to sports radio, the sleeping dogs, my pregnant sister— the Federal Police succeeded in subduing the APPO, making arrests, forcing numerous leaders into hiding, castrating the Sagittarius, stapling the gargantuan sack to the city gates in governmental warning. The University radio station was once again returned the headmaster, and the conflict, for better or for worse, was once again shoved beneath the surface of everyday life, for the moment contained in its churning. The problem lidded. Unsolved.

Juan Pérez will shrug his shoulders, as Louisa and I flank him in the Rioja’s doorway, one of his cinderblock feet on the inside tile, the other on the sidewalk, split. He will say something I don’t quite understand about plight. But for now, watching this Mexico City protest escalate, our stomachs digesting the pumpkin flowers of breakfast, we don’t know all of this, haven’t yet spoken about it with Juan Pérez; we merely recall some vague news report about the Oaxacan unrest, stirring worry about our travels in my exhausted mother, ignorant beyond what we can read on bedsheets. “Defend public education! No to militarization!”

Up the street, a great cracking sound. The earth opening up, or a car being tipped over.

“Should we join them?” Louisa asks, “I mean, you’re a teacher…”

I love my wife. I look at my shoes. They are filthy, broken-laced, perfect for marching. As if empathy can reside in simple career choice and dress. Louisa is wearing her blue Israeli clogs. I meditate a few moments on her footwear—how clog-fighting was a traditional method for settling disputes in Europe, drawing such a mass of onlookers, that bets were laid; how they served as foot armor in mines and mills; how, in 18th century France, poor factory workers would protest corporate mistreatment by throwing their protective work gear—especially their clogs (sabot, in French)—into the assembly line engines, damaging the equipment and, via this protest, inventing the word sabotage. Inadvertently, she is well prepared for this. Inadvertently, we are ignorant fucking tourists. Idiots filled with food who, via footwear analysis and the intoxication of overseas, think they can empathize with some real kind of plight. Who the fuck do we think we are?

The thing is: we don’t. We don’t think we are. We don’t think we are anything. We are all dumb impulse and young traveling lover. We join arms. If we had talked to Juan Pérez in that doorway before this, learned of the nature of things, we probably would not have done this. But, you know, we may have anyway. Sometimes dumb impulse, especially when traveling, is a conscious choice. The sky is a drowning blue. The river of protestors continues. We lift our feet, hold, as if on the edge of a high-dive board, our breaths. We look for a way in, and leap. We splash into the center of elbows and noise, wild shards of banner, bare-chests, laser light, bottle, balloon, fists, spit, and the static of mad human chorus. We sink into this pool of cause, try to swallow any reservations about effect, however chlorinated, however Peligroso!

What She Said

By Tom Hansen


I was in the offices of The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) here in Seattle, talking to a caseworker about getting DVR to fund the remaining two years of my MFA. This was 2006, I was 44 years old, seven years off heroin, six years into my education and halfway through an MFA at The University of British Columbia. In my former life as first a failed musician and then a functioning heroin addict and successful drug dealer I had been lucky and smart and devious enough to never have been caught selling or possessing heroin, or when I had been caught, weaseled or schemed my way out of it, and had been funding my new direction in life with Stafford Loans and the odd grant, all channels that would have been off limits to me if I’d ever been convicted of the bazillions of crimes I’d committed over the years. Everything had been running smoothly, through Community College, a BA and the first two years of grad school. I was four years into a memoir I’d been working on and I was beginning to have hope for the future. This was big for someone like me. Pulling oneself out of an addiction as self-destructive as mine is a long grueling process. It takes years to rebuild your self-confidence and to deal with feeling things again and I was well on my way. And then life threw me a curveball, which it’s known to do. George W. Bush, the “Decider,” decided to make some major cuts to education funding, one of which was to cut all student loans to US citizens attending colleges outside the US. That meant me.


The DVR caseworker sat across from me as I explained what was what. She looked at me apprehensively, and then explained that DVR didn’t fund art programs, only vocational stuff. “Anyone can write,” she said dismissively, when I told her what kind of program I was enrolled in. This kind of pissed me off, but I kept my cool. I told her about my disabilities that I’d acquired as a result of my End Game with heroin, the destroyed and degenerating hip that required me to walk with a cane, my mangled right elbow, my contracted hands from shooting up in my arms so much the wires controlling most of my fingers had been severed. She was unmoved. She insisted I change course, give up writing and accept some kind of training in the vocational realm. I told her I would think about it and left.


I’m a very quiet guy, usually.* I’m very good at staying out of trouble and avoiding conflict, which ironically is why I was such a good drug dealer for so many years. But it was less a thought out plan and more just the way I’ve always been, which I think I got from my adoptive parents, Norwegian immigrants, some of the most unobtrusive, hardworking and stoic people on the face of the Earth. When life threw curveballs at my parents they ducked. When it came too fast and the ball hit them, it knocked them down, and then they picked themselves up and carried on. They never complained, and going after the pitcher was never an option for them. They were firm believers that “the meek shall inherit the Earth.” And that rubbed off on me. When people messed with me in school, I never fought back. Never. I don’t know where the hell Mr. Miyagi was when I was growing up. Not in my neighborhood, apparently.


I stewed for a few days after the caseworker told that I shouldn’t be a writer. What she said played over and over in my head. “Anyone can write,” echoed in my mind and the more I thought about it the madder I got. I didn’t want to be a riveter. I didn’t want to work in some damned office. I didn’t want to work on spreadsheets or computer programs or bullet points. I’d always had artistic inclinations that I’d gotten from my biological parents who had been artists and with writing I had found the creative outlet I had always been looking for, the one I had come to conclude was what I should have been doing all along as music had turned out to be too laden with traps regarding my drug problem. It wasn’t that I had delusions of grandeur about writing, fantasies of fame and fortune, it was simply that I wanted to do something that I loved. I had grown to love writing, and I think writing loved me. It was what had kept me clean to that point. It had taught me discipline and perseverance and instilled in me a new kind of work ethic. I knew of course that I could be a writer without finishing the degree, but I was still in a somewhat fragile state regarding my self-confidence, my abilities as a writer and my psychological condition. I had never finished anything legitimate in my life and I wanted to finish this degree. It would be additional proof that my old life was over and a springboard to whatever came next.At least that was what I hoped. And prayed.


Normally I would have accepted my fate. I would have told myself my education was over and it wasn’t meant to be. This was what I’d done my entire life. I had responded to these situations the way my parents had. It was one of the things that led me to drugs. I hadn’t been able to make a career of music and suddenly found that I was good at drug dealing. Really good. Everyone wants to be good at something, and that was my thing, and now that my education was over it looked like it was going to be my thing again. I began to think about selling heroin again, and trying to keep my using under control. I knew that that was damned near impossible, but I still had too much pride, and would rather be successful at something even if it killed me than be unsuccessful at everything and live.


And then I decided to do something I’d never done before. I decided to fight. I really didn’t think anything would come of it. I had no faith in my government, and I didn’t think I would even get a response. I was sure that if anything I would get a letter back from some Bushbot saying “Sorry kid,” but I sat down that night and wrote an email to The US Department of Education, who informed me that when these sorts of cuts had happened in the past, students who had begun something were grandfathered in and allowed to finish what they’d started, but this time, that was not the case. Bush’s ‘decision’ was final. It was over. I was Shit-Out-Of-Luck (SOL) as they say. And then I got madder and decided to fight harder. I wrote letters to Rep. Jim McDermott, Gov. Christine Gregoire, and Sen. Maria Cantwell. I used every writing skill I’d learned to that point and crafted an argument (I should have been a lawyer) that given my physical disabilities I was not suited for a regular labor job, and that I could use a writing degree to become a teacher in the future. I was honest. I even told them that I was a former heroin addict (I left out the part about me being a dealer for almost twenty years) and that I was trying desperately to forge a new direction in my life. I told them about the not being grandfathered in. I made my case.


And then to my utter surprise two days later I received a call from Rep. Jim McDermott’s office. They told me they had received my letter, and asked how they could help. I asked if they could help me persuade DVR to help me fund the last two years of my degree. And that night I got a call from some bigwig at DVR, who said Jim McDermott had called him. He did not sound happy at all, but he went on to say said that DVR didn’t ordinarily fund art programs, but that they were going to make an exception in my case. Jim McDermott, who didn’t know me from Adam, had apparently done some arm-twisting for me. Little old me.


The moral of this story is that people can change. For most of my life I didn’t think that was possible, and for most of my life it kept me stuck in self-destruct mode. This was the first time something like this had happened. It didn’t even happen when I first got clean. That I put down to divine intervention. But this was different. I had changed. Just like the characters we write about have to undergo some kind of change or transformation or overcome an obstacle, I had changed from someone who just accepts things to someone willing to fight for what they want. It was an amazing lesson that informs my writing and it restored (somewhat) my faith in government. And that’s how I graduated from The University of British Columbia, became a writer, finished my memoir American Junkie, got it published and became a fan of Jim McDermott. The End


*Except when I’m shooting my fat mouth off on The Nervous Breakdown (I’m working on it people)

This is a continuation of a series of personal observations about my native country on its golden jubilee. For items 1-16, please see part 1. For items 17-32, see part 2. In this final installment I include a few observations I’ve culled from my father’s memoir of his life in Nigeria and abroad “Seeing the World in Black & White.” (SWBW) (AWP, 2006)¹

33. Modern Nigerian literature, ever vibrant, is certainly on the up. Young as it is Nigeria has already had an early generation of great writers, household names such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, not to mention the likes of Cyprian Ekwensi, Amos Tutuola, Christopher Okigbo, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, and even the prolific pulp novelist Dan Fulani. It’s almost too much to ask for more, but as it happens, we have much, much more with new generations exploding on to the scene, including poets Chris Abani, Uche Nduka, Olu Oguibe and lesser known contemporaries such as Chinweizu. But the real earthquake manifests in novel form, with the emergence of the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helen Oyeyemi, Sefi Atta, and Nnedi Okorafor. I can’t pass without a word for the recently deceased poet and playwright Esiaba Irobi. One of the neat aspects of these 21st century blossoms is that so many of them are young women.

This is a continuation of my series of personal observations about my native country on its golden jubilee. For items 1-16, please see part 1.

17. Nobody deploys the witty put-down quite like Wafi and Safi boys (and girls). You know it by many names: “the dozens,” “snaps,” “cracks,” “yo mama jokes,” and such. The tradition of non-violent contests of wits through rapid-fire mutual insults is well know anywhere Black culture has left a mark. But in my travels I don’t think I’ve met any group that dishes it out quite as expertly as folks from the Niger delta towns of Warri and Sapele (AKA Wafi and Safi), rendered in the particularly extravagant brand of Pidgin English for which that region is famous. I myself still bear the scars from some such encounters. And if you are trying to get cozy with a girl from that region, you had better come correct, or you might not survive the resulting put-down.

Nigeria’s 50th birthday was a fortnight ago. On October 1, 1960, the British officially turned over sovereignty of the country to the Speaker of the newly independent Nigerian Parliament, Jaja Wachuku, in the form of the Freedom Charter. The new nation nearly convulsed apart within ten years, and in many ways, it’s amazing such an entity has survived intact, an agglomeration of hundreds of ethnic groups (and indigenous languages), many of which were so recently colonized by Britannia that they were not very warm to the idea of sharing political commonwealth with a bunch of circumstantial peers.

The holiday got me thinking of what it means to me to be a Nigerian, born in Nigeria, educated in Nigeria and abroad, living (and naturalized) in the USA, but with a very strong sense of rootedness off the Bight of Bonny. Nigeria is enormous. I’ve read estimates that a quarter of all black people in the world are of recent Nigerian origin. Among such multitudes there is so much to say that I’ve just begged off to a series of vignettes in a number that suits the occasion, and I’ve broken the expansive result into three parts. Please do join me in this sampler from our enormous platter.

When I was young, my family lived quite comfortably. We traveled often and well and, as I got older, our standard of living increased. Although I was not spoiled and had a job from age 16, I was able to experience a lot of things and didn’t often want for anything – activities, clothes, education, travel; all were, if not freely available, put on a wish list to a highly reliable Santa Claus.

I have only one prerequisite for what I consider to be quality television. Be it commercial or full-length programming, it ought to render me speechless. Quality TV, in other words, should shut me up. It should leave my mouth agape and my eyes barely blinking. That is all I ask of television. It’s all my poor wife—who daily puts up with my snarky yapping—asks of television.

Case in point, the new commercial for Kaplan University, a mostly online college based in Davenport, Iowa. The Commercial Which Shut Me Up stars James Avery, who you may remember as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I always thought Avery was a commanding talent in that role, and he is nothing short of terrific in the Kaplan University commercial.

In this particular TV spot, James Avery plays a professor at some anonymous university who stands before an ethnically diverse, tightly packed classroom and tells his class that he has failed them.

He furthermore states that the American college system is “steeped in tradition and old ideas.” It seems like a farewell speech of some kind, and judging by the quizzical looks on the students’ faces one wonders if Uncle Phil is going to pull out a gun and blow out his brains before everyone gets to sign his or her name on the attendance sheet.

But he doesn’t, thankfully, and the inspirational music swells and the lecture hall scene cuts to a montage of seemingly affluent Americans across the nation watching Uncle Phil’s speech on iPhones and laptops, at breakfast tables, on rooftops, and subway platforms. We are all witness (granted, only if you have internet access) to a hope renewed.

“It’s time for a different kind of university,” he says, pausing thoughtfully as professors do. “It’s your time.”

It’s stirring stuff, indeed. Kaplan University means business. Brothers and sisters, the revolution will be televised. And I think I know exactly what Uncle Phil is getting at.

I’ve experienced firsthand how ugly it can be teaching aliterate 18 year old kids sonorous essays by Ruth Benedict or whoever. Not to mention the frustrating distance that is a fact of life between the professor and the 100- or 200-level student. Teaching college is arguably easier than teaching primary or secondary school because you, as teacher, just don’t need to get that involved. They come, they listen, they take notes. If they don’t come or listen or take scrupulous notes that’s their problem.

But I don’t want to delve too deep into a discussion of pedagogical quagmires and thereby sink into the depths of my own horrible tangent. We’ve all got things we love and hate about Academia, to say nothing of the promiscuous foreplay and keggers and awesome tomfoolery.

Generally speaking, it hardly matters which university you attend, but rather how you spend the four or so years there. Because no matter where you go there is ample time between class and the gym and the party to self-educate. Unless, I suppose, you are a non-traditional student, the sort of busybody Kaplan University is looking to attract with its recent ad campaign.

But I cannot fathom a college experience focused on message boards and video tutorials and a dizzying crumbtrail of emails. And no parties? That can barely be called an experience.

What do you think?

What does it mean to be literate? That one’s pretty easy; it means you know how to read. What does it mean to be cultural? That one’s a little tougher; it means you know that in most situations, it’s unacceptable to put your cigarette out on a dachshund. And so what does it mean to be “culturally literate?” Many have posed this question (Harold Bloom, the Yale professor currently encased in acrylic and preserved for posterity does it a lot.), yet no one has truly come to terms with an accurate answer. My uncle Seamus once remarked that “cultural literacy is for homosexuals,” but he was urinating in a koi pond at the time, so who knows? I suggest we journey together to see if we can’t get to the core of this labyrinthine dilemma. Perhaps the most logical first step is learning how to read (I’ll wait for a few minutes)… Sweet. Our next step is to determine what exactly is “cultural.” Below are a few undeniably cultural items in the realm of architecture, literature and music. Let’s familiarize ourselves with these things, and then we can begin to get a handhold on what it means to be culturally literate.

The Eiffel Tower

Perhaps the most recognizable man-made structure in the world, The Eiffel Tower is a must-see for any culturally minded person. Completed in 1889 to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the French Revolution(1), the Eiffel Tower serves as a constant reminder that not everything in Paris is covered in dog feces.

The tower stands well over 1,000 feet high, something I discovered after dropping a crêpe from the observation deck while utilizing the equation Yf = -1/2gt^2 + Vot+Yo. Nestled along the Seine and overlooking the Champ de Mars, the Eiffel Tower strictly prohibits oral sex in the elevators (although there was no noticeable sign or warning). Also, be sure to say “bonjour” to the one-eyed dwarf who roller skates atop the structure’s antenna, drinking his own blood and reciting Ozymandias(2).  As an added frustration, Le Jules Verne restaurant on the second floor offers food you can’t afford. I recommend the filet de turnbot au sautoir, écrevisses et champignons à la Riche, then running away.


A mammoth tome, written by James Joyce and published by Sylvia Beach in its entirety in 1928, Ulysses catalogues a day in the life of one Leopold Bloom. Often cited as the cornerstone of modernist literature, Ulysses takes its name from Homer’s Odysseus, as in The Odyssey, that book you were supposed to read sophomore year but ended up huffing oven cleaner in the school parking lot most of the time.

Written in Joyce’s inimitable stream-of-consciousness style, Ulysses is an integral part of any literary aesthete’s library. In addition, the book reminds us that even though the sisters at Strake Jesuit put saltpeter in our Cheerios to keep us from masturbating, there’s really no stopping the process, even if the guilt stays with you to this day. While nobody has ever read this book, its inclusion in your book collection will ensure at least a cursory dry-hump from the intoxicated Yale co-ed you met at the “Vampire Weekend” concert last month. Be sure to look out for the last sentence in which Molly Bloom probably has an orgasm or is in the throes of Crohn’s disease. Joyce was also blind, so we can forgive him for not making a whole lot of sense (there has been speculation that Joyce wrote much of Ulysses on the back of his cat, accounting for much of the confusion within the text). The poet Ezra Pound perhaps put it best when he remarked, “Ulysses is a treat for anyone trapped under ice.”


Often cited as the only “true American art form,” jazz music is what happens when heroin happens. First popularized in the early 20th century, jazz incorporates West African musical traditions and European stuffiness, resulting in a cacophonous mishmash that makes one feel as if his or her genitals are creeping up and slowly eating his/her belly button. A vital part of America’s long history of misguided art forms, jazz is sure to spark furious debate among people who can’t admit they sing along to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” in the car when nobody is looking.

Jazz is, at its core, an interpretive medium. Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and other maestros of the genre are venerated within certain musical circles much the same way the idea of a space/time continuum is venerated by physicists, even though, after a while, ruminations on the subject lead one back to the inevitable conclusion that nothing is understandable in this crazy world, especially Ugg boots. If you feel you have the mettle, give jazz a chance. When you’ve discovered it’s over your head and you’d honestly just rather sit there listening to Shakira, don’t feel bad. You can always count on her and her hips don’t lie.

I hope our maiden voyage into the unforgiving sea of cultural literacy has proved helpful. Keep in mind; this is a long journey, but a journey well-worth taking. For how are we to navigate our desires, our fears, and ourselves if we cannot navigate the world around us?

GPS is a good answer, yes

[1] More on the French Revolution can be found in Charles Dickens’ classic, A Tale of Two Cities. Although, it is a far better thing if you start reading at Part III, as I this is where the nudity really kicks into high gear.

[2] There is a place that sells absinthe next to the McDonald’s on the Rue Duban.

They tell me you should write about what you know. I’ve always had a problem with that. I may know some things other people don’t, but in writing that down, what good does that do me? Not much. I already know it. I want to write about things I don’t know about. I want to learn things about what I don’t think, how people I don’t know don’t act and why. Perhaps I say this because I don’t know much. I know a lot of facts about arcane things, but I already know them and I already know that nobody, unless they are short of Trivial Pursuit cards, wants to hear that kind of bilge. However, I don’t know one thing that I think will serve me well in my writing career: I don’t know how to write.

So, I reckon I’m sitting at my computer in good stead now, not knowing how to write. When I learn how to do that, I can stop writing and go on to a more noble pursuit like filming my relatives in Bakersfield, California doing their best interpretations of pro wrestling, then selling the tapes on what they like to call, the inter-tubes. If the nobility of this is called into question, I defy you to tell me that my cousin Bert leaping off the roof of his house and slamming a metal chair on the top of my younger cousin Stanley’s head is not tantamount in artistry to a Nureyev –Fonteyn showcase ofProkofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

I haven’t been able to write for as long as I can remember. Alas, I’ve always wanted too, but it never comes out quite right. It seems like everybody writes better than I do. I’ve always wanted to write a book that I’d like to read, but I’m always reading books I’d like to read, so what’s the point? You toil for years over this book, like your child. You like it when you first start raising it, feel you’ve done a bang-up job. Then, the book hits adolescence, its voice starts to crack, it wants its independence, then a car, then none of your time even though you want to give it all of your time. And finally, it flings itself into its own world and blows all your time and patience by spending its time (and still your money) on the hustling whores of the Mexican border and Quaaludes. To this, I have only one response:

It is to enact a sort of vengeful Golden Rule and to take up the qualities of your prodigal, ingrate book. Besides, all the books I would have liked to have written were written by full-blown, abject lunatics. There’s Salinger, speaking in tongues and drinking his own urine, Hemingway and Toole, blowing their minds out, Plath and her oven. Did she pre-heat that? Then Ambrose Bierce, gone without a trace. Que te vayas bien!, old boy. Where is Pynchon? And Mailer, always retching at parties and occasionally stabbing his wife. What a ship of old fools! It’s a good thing I can’t write. I see myself flinging my own feces over the rooftops of Paris, confused over the relationship between vector calculus and intransitive verbs. I swear, once I learn how to write, I never will. And who has the time to learn? There are too many distractions. This is one thing I know: How not to write.

Well, I see your point. You think I’m going to start talking about how not to write.

“But, hey,” you’ll say. “He said he didn’t want to write about things he knew about.” Then you will fold your arms contentedly and relish in my howling error. Aha! I also wrote that I didn’t know how to write, so it was okay to do so. In essence, I have canceled out both of these grandiose proclamations, and at the end of this, it will be like nothing ever happened. Nature frowns at my vacuum and smokes her first cigarette of the day, like Bette Davis…like she couldn’t give one damn. And although I’ve missed an episode of The Real World: Alpha Centauri, its like I haven’t.

One way not to write is to get an STD test. I have spent hours, days not writing because of these. If you think of all the melancholic things that could occur to your genitalia during the three or four agonizing days of waiting for the results, you really can’t be expected to do anything. However, while your wondering if your dick will drop off like an unwieldy stalactite when you’re in line for the movies, or if your partner’s vagina will gradually creep up and eat her belly button, you can think ofall the wonderful places you’d travel if faced with some harrowing disease. I decided that I would go to the south of Spain and just write. I mean, really write this time.

Now, here’s a really sly trick. Do you know that apocryphal probability of a bunch of baboons at a bunch of typewriters, who, if given long enough would eventually type out the entire works ofShakespeare? It’s something that gives writers hope.


It also hints at immortality, as all faulty logic, and writing, must. Here is what you must do. If you can type, you must unlearn how to do that. Maybe turn your keyboard upside down. Then using sequences of one, two, three, four and up to, say, nine letters, type randomly, not looking at the keyboard. Then, when you have finished a few hundred pages, spell check or put the Thesaurus to your piece. Often, you will find there is no suggestion for your word. Sometimes, you will find you have actually typed a word in the lexicon, and sometimes you will find that the spell check divined the subconscious word you hammered out on the keyboard. (Note: If you try this with common penmanship, you will find yourself either cheating or your neurons will become so confused at your attempts to confuse them that your head will turn into eggs Benedict.) “kdfyfrt,” I write. I then use my computer’s thesaurus and find that “juvenile behavior” is an equivalent to “kdfyfrt.” (Seriously, try it.)

And there, I have the beginnings of Catcher in the Rye, or Lord of the Flies. I am that baboon that will succeed. Eventually. And on a side note, if you are interested in poetry, I suggest you type out a few turgid lines in your native tongue, then find a translation website and in translation, you may very well be the next Goethe, Neruda, Rimbaud, or Horace, depending on the language you select. Perhaps you translate better than you are, like Garcia-Lorca.

I want to make clear that, although I don’t know of any other treatise on how not to write, I assume that there must be a few out there. Fine. We all know that everything has already been written before and that the crucial thing is to say it better, or at least, differently. It’s like the idea of Genghis Cohen, the noted Jewish barbarian who went marauding through China slapping everybody with gefilte fish. It turns out, there is a Genghis Cohen’s restaurant at Fairfax and Melrose in LA and is also a character in a Thomas Pynchon novel, The Crying of Lot 49. But I thought of this name, independently, as I thought of the subject of writing on not writing, so be it. I wonder if anybody has done anything with The Origin of Feces, though. I must fact check. Why am I so defensive about this? Because I realize that many people must have sundry techniques for not writing, but I have found the following quite adept at keeping me away from the keyboard. That said, these are only some micro-suggestions.

The easiest way to not write is to start drinking. You may have a splash of inspiration after a few cocktails and look to put this, the framework of your magnum opus on paper. This feeling will pass. I will occasionally belly up to the keyboard after doing the same at the bar and find that while I think I can write, I still can’t (Thankfully. I would hate to learn I did something better drunk than sober, aside from falling down.). Just don’t drink whiskey. The only two things whiskey makes you want to do is fight or write. Both of these will get you into trouble. In defense of writing, though, the simian ogre at the bar ready to knock your block off doesn’t have a “delete” key. Stick with red wine and read a good book until you fall asleep. Or call up some friends and tell them how much you love and miss them. If you have no friends, watch a city council meeting on the public access channel and ask yourself why you are such a drip. Drinking is an easy out, and one determined to really not write should have salted away a number of other options. I’ll make this hasty, as writing about not writing is proving to be almost as exhausting as just writing. There’s something I didn’t know.

There is one particular flood of menstruum that dissolves the spirit and when instituted will assuage all pains related to not writing. This is called internet gambling. This is the knockout drop in the drink that keeps me alive, as Endymion. Rolled up jacks over trips, down and up, down and up. It is that kind of blessed monotony that I think keeps most people alive. And for the antsy creative type, you can really make an art out of losing money, which, I should add, has been my summer job. Losing money at the online casino. This is not as lucrative as a typical summer job, but the hours are flexible and I don’t have to talk to anybody, save my own ravaged conscious. When does anybody make or lose money on writing? Never. Writing just is as I am. Nobody can prove either postulate and only the fool might try. I have just lost $200. Really, I just did that. I sell bonds like cracker jacks and switch them like shell games. I am such a disappointment. I feel that way. Thinking, I am Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all of them. Pick my story, I’ll try not to write it. Matt, the realist. Too much on about His wisdom, Son of Sirach and all that drivel. Boring. Then Mark, snot-slinging drunk and bitch of Luke, holds forth on the Sabbath and then hits the middle-of-the-road. Why not Luke, the pretty-boy, the best writer of the bunch who learned how to write and kept it short, ofsorts. And finally, John, who gives the words appeal. Writes the bestseller. The clincher. No, I am none of them. I have created no universe, I have moved no man, no woman. Damnit, I tried, though. That is all I have ever wanted to do. Like McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, “I tried.” There is nothing more stifling than knowing what to write and not writing it. I suppose that’s the point, though, not writing.

Maybe I’ll can it. I’m getting awfully invested about thinking about not writing. Change the ring on your phone to Dance of the Valkyries, think of titles for new books, old books. If you have that liberal guilt, see how far you can jam your thumb up your ass, while convincing yourself you’re really not that gay. Ok, then how interesting can you be? If you can see 3-D, try a hand at vector calculus. Make a sloppy Spanish tortilla. Put your brother to bed, again. And again. He’s getting old now. Memorize something. Like ketchup: Tomato concentrate, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, onion powder, natural flavoring. I think I finally got it.

Enough. Writing, and not writing, is a brilliant ponzi scheme. You manufacture one word and the rest fall into rank. Any word engenders another, no matter how puerile, no matter how vacant. They will all, eventually, spill out in a brilliant splash of your own gore. But it is your gore. And you must believe it will withdraw from you some semblance of value. This is, of course, if you are able to write. I , of course, have a problem writing. I will sweat until my death in attempts to finish this odious trade. Until then, I can tell you only that one should never write about what one knows, one should never know what one truly feels, one should keep one’s thumb up one’s ass, constantly, in the hopes that one’s head will peer out from that unholy aperture long enough to realize that we must always try and hold our entrails, our souls out to ourselves long enough to realize that we can never, ever, learn to write. Jesus wept. I’m talking about me. But Godamnit, I try. I will try and take my TKO against the demiurge of words with grace, with nonchalance. With everything I have. I shall never write. I know that. That’s one thing I know. The thing I’ll never write about. Or not.

Hungry Sara

By Irene Zion


Of all my children, Sara was the one who excelled in adventurous eating. The top two were only 14 months apart, so I can time when I learned this fact precisely. Lonny was all skinny legs and dead weight in my front carrier and Sara was no more than 15 months old.

Sara was playing in the bedroom with her imaginary friend, Jack, who lived under the bed. I was in the kitchen and thought to look in on her since she was unusually silent. She and Jack were usually quite boisterous.

As I entered the front hall I met up with Sara. Her mouth was all chocolaty and she was holding what appeared to be a Baby Ruth. She was chewing. She was smiling.

She was eating dog shit.

I gagged. I ran to her screaming something I can’t remember. I really frightened her and I  just feel awful about that, but honestly, wouldn’t you scream?  (I realize that a picture of this would have been great, but at the time, my mind must have been somewhere else.) I picked her up and ran to the bathroom and, holding her aloft with my right arm, I moved Lonny’s hanging little body over to the left. I rinsed out her mouth and washed her face and hands, all the while gagging and screaming as quietly as I could so as not to frighten her, or Lonny, more than I already had.

She was angry with me. She had been enjoying her snack.

(This, right here, is why you do not get an older dog from a shelter. More often than not, they are in the shelter because no one could housebreak them, or they never stop barking, or they attack anyone who passes who might be wearing boots or a hat. You walk in, fall in love and go home to raise a retarded dog, who is sweet as can be except for just one little quirk.)

Some of you may wonder just how sick Sara became after this. She did not get sick at all. She had probably been feasting on dog shit long enough that she was accustomed to whatever bacteria grows in dog shit.

A few weeks later, I was wearing my skinny legged baby as usual and Sara was walking next to me. She was always very dependable and did what she was told. I never had cause to worry about her misbehaving or, say, running into the street. We entered the elevator and Sara asked for the chapstick. I handed it to her. The elevator was full. When we got to the 6th floor, I asked Sara for the chapstick back.

“I ate it,” she said.

“You ate it?”

“Do you have any more?” She asked.

I did not realize up to this point that you had to explain to a child that chapstick was not edible. You learn something new every day as a mother. The tube was completely empty, right down to that little plastic circle with the point at the bottom.

I watched her pretty closely after that. She had a tendency to pick things up off the sidewalk and appear to study them, but if you looked away, she had already popped them in her mouth.

She ate lots of pennies and dimes and nickels, although she only sucked on quarters.

She ate flowers.

She ate gravel.

She ate dirt.

She ate little pieces of plastic.

You name it.

If it were in her path she’d tuck it in her mouth. She was pretty quick. I got so that I only worried if the item was too large. She had good instincts, though, and never choked on anything.

You might think that this would have made her a sickly child. You would be wrong. She never had the slightest stomach upset. I don’t think she ever vomited in her whole life.

Sara was three years old when we joined the Navy and moved to Annapolis. We used to treat ourselves to a dinner out once a week at generic fish ‘n’ chips greasy spoons, where Lonny could make lots of noise and run around like a banshee and no one would care, while Sara sat patiently waiting to eat.

At one particular dinner that is emblazoned in our minds, we asked Sara what she was chewing, because our order had not yet arrived.


“But we don’t have any gum.”

“I do.”

“Where did you get gum?”

“From here.”

She indicated the underside the table.

Then she smiled and showed us her cupped hand full of used pieces of chewing gum that she had been busily been prying loose and collecting.

“These are for later,” she explained.

We gave her the “You Shouldn’t Eat Gum from Under the Table” lecture, but, really, we knew it was useless. We at least got the gum out of her mouth that time and her stash of the moment.

You do what you can do. (I do wish I had had a camera with me then.)

By the time the top two were old enough for small chores, and before the bottom three were born, we asked what chore each would like to do. Lonny didn’t want to do anything, but we made him do little things that wouldn’t push him over the edge. Lonny did not like to be told what to do. Sara offered to clean up the dishes after dinner every night.

This is how Sara looked at this time:

After a while I noticed that the plates were coming into the kitchen pretty much clean. There never seemed to be any leftovers. This is when we cottoned on to her trick of eating everything that anyone else had left over on his plate each night. She really enjoyed cleaning up after dinner, but she had her own reasons.

By this time we thought we had a handle on Sara, but then the unthinkable happened.

In High School, Sara became a vegetarian.


The girl who could and did eat anything, stopped eating all meat and fish.

(What category would dog shit be in, anyway?)

When she went to college, she came home a vegan.

(I’ve told you her history. Can you believe this?)

I had to make Thanksgiving for all the ravenous carnivores in the family and an entire vegan Thanksgiving also. I discovered upon researching that the “Tofurky” is no match for the “Now and Zen.” She had to have vegan “turkey,” “gravy,” “stuffing,” cranberry sauce, (Okay, that one was easy,) and dessert with no meat, fish, eggs, milk, butter, gelatin, or any animal product. She still liked to eat, mind you, she was just suddenly enormously finicky.

Thankfully, she has reverted a bit and as of now is a regular vegetarian with a touch of pescatarian thrown in on occasion. She will eat milk products, but only those from “The Happy Cow Farm,” and only eggs with painstaking requirements that boggle the mind. (Just try to go shopping for her.)

This from the girl who ate dog shit.



Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-06-05 08:10:34

Yeah, well, what lessons did you expect me to learn? Remind me who couldn’t be bothered to get me a clean glass of water from the sink but instead left a cup that I could just dip in the toilet when I was thirsty?!

I am not making this up, nervous breakdown friends. They actually gave their toddler daughter a toilet cup.

Again, really, what did you expect?

(Small wonder I retreated to vegetarian food after what you intentionally fed me! Survival instincts, Lady!)

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:08:10

I never knew you were using the cup in the bathroom to scoop up toilet water!
There was a step stool for you to reach the sink and we TAUGHT YOU how to use the faucets!!!!!
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy!
Every time I write one thing I learn something else yet more horrible.
Sara! Why did you never tell me this?
There is a cup in your own childrens’ bathroom!!!!!

What goes around comes around.

Comment by Phat B |Edit This
2009-06-05 22:07:08

I’m dying over here! Toilet cup.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 03:56:48


My children are ALL out to get me. Unquestionably.

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-06-06 02:37:12

I do not remember this. You yourself told me this story about the toilet cup several times (Mahomet, Champaign) as evidence for how stubborn and quirky I was about my independence. Basically, you said you gave in to my demands because I really wanted to do it myself. Now, as a parent of two little ones who constantly want to do disgusting things, I have two things to say.
1) kids are revolting
2) you don’t enable their disgustingness a a parent!!!

What were you thinkin’, Lady? (again with the “Lady…”)
Ask Dad; He might remember. I think you regaled me with his story in front of some high school friends– if I wet get back in touh w/ them, will ask.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:01:18

I am obviously getting demented. I cannot remember this at all. Not the slightest glimmer.
You WERE very stubborn, that I obviously remember.
I remember you told me that you taught Lonny the trick of brushing the toothbrush hard on your hand so it SOUNDED like you were brushing your teeth, then putting a tiny dollop of toothpaste in your mouth for the breath test.
Why couldn’t you just brush your teeth?
I’ll see if any of my friends remember, but I’m pretty sure they are all as addled as I.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:03:28


And futhermore, your father doesn’t know any of your middle names or your birth dates, with the exception of Lenore’s birth date since it is TAX day. Most of the time he doesn’t even remember he HAD children.
Ask Dad! I say HA! to that.

Comment by lonny |Edit This
2009-06-06 16:12:54

sara you are awesome

do you let your kids eat poop or drink out of the toilet
just wondering

i dont have kids but i definitely would let them drink from the toilet

mom sometimes i think you might give people the impression that we are not normal

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 17:24:50

I’m pretty sure that abnormal is our middle name.

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-06-08 02:51:51

Ask dad.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-08 03:48:44

I’m sorry, honey. He doesn’t remember.
If it makes you feel better how about I admit that I certainly did tell funny stories about all of you because you did such crazy things.
I mean, duh, that’s what I do here. I just don’t remember this particular thing.
Lonny doesn’t seem to remember it either.
You are probably right.
All of this happened and because there was SO MUCH material to deal with I have lost some of it somewhere in my brain.
As I get further into dementia, I understand that older memories become uncovered. I suppose we can hope for that.
I believe you. I just don’t remember it.

Comment by Sara Zion |Edit This
2009-06-08 12:07:44

the “ask dad” in the last line was a joke
because you said dad doesn’t even remember our middle names
and then you said “abnormal is our middle name”

wasn’t funny, i guess. )

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-08 12:38:12

A thousand apologies, Sara.
This whole comment line is totally out of order.
I don’t know how anyone could understand what went on in this whole process.
Now I understand you.
That really is hysterical.
He DOES remember his grandchildren, though. Hard to believe, but true nonetheless!

(I actually asked him. I’m totally an idiot!)

Comment by George |Edit This
2009-06-07 09:41:06

Sara said, “You yourself told me this story about the toilet cup several times (Mahomet, Champaign) as evidence for how stubborn and quirky I was about my independence. ”

Well, I lived in Champaign during the relevant time period, and I never heard of this story until now. I know that if I had heard of it, it is the kind of think I remember.

Perhaps Sara drank from the toilet (a little girl imitating a dog), but it is not something that her parents would brag about or even allow. I never head this toilet cup story until now, and (sadly) it will be hard for me to forget the mental picture I have now.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-07 11:31:41

Yet another of my friends chimes in!
You see, Sara? It’s becoming increasingly clear that you imagined this in your fertile brain and came to believe it.

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Comment by Kate |Edit This
2009-06-05 08:36:43

I used to eat Vaseline. That stuff was good. Oh, and paper. If you look at books I read as a kid, all the pages are missing their corners because I used to eat them. Then, I too became a vegetarian, vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian.

Maybe there’s a trend here…

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:12:17

(I have a horrible urge to taste vaseline now. Just to see, you know? I really hope the urge goes away before I can act on it.)
Paper I can understand.
Paper tastes good.
I get that. (Doesn’t everyone?)

But what is the deal with all you normal children turning into crazy weird picky eaters later in life?

I just don’t get it.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-06-05 16:16:34

Carbon paper tastes bad and thermal paper tastes worse.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 17:40:57

And you know this…HOW, Adam?
Don’t tell me you’ve eaten carbon paper. Yuck!
(You’ll have to tell what thermal paper is before I will be suitably impressed.)

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-06-05 18:22:18

Thermal paper employs a heat-sensitive chemical that changes the color of the paper as an alternative to ink. Any receipts you receive with crisp, solid black printing are likely thermal paper. If you’re curious, hold the paper to a flame, but not close enough to ignite the paper; the whole sheet should go black.

Thermal paper is the bane of restaurant expeditors and waitstaff, as ready entrees are placed in the “window,” which keeps them hot until delivery, with a ticket designating which entrees go together, and to where — which ticket is invariably printed on thermal paper and goes black and illegible in the window.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:05:34

Well, thanks for telling me, but I still never heard of it.
I suppose it was because I was never a waiter since I have a grave problem with clumsiness.

2009-06-06 05:16:24

Nick ate paper and got pinworms in his butt. How disgusting is THAT? I guess that’s why he’s a meat and potatoes guy today.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 11:54:27


Why in the world would eating paper give you pinworms? I think whoever told him that was incorrect. It just doesn’t make sense. I don’t think pinworms can live in paper, they need a digestive tract of a mammal.

Comment by Trish |Edit This
2009-06-05 08:55:10

Now maybe my kids can understand why we didn’t have a dog when they were little.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:14:35

Trish, Trish, Trish,

It’s not ALL dogs. It’s older dogs from a shelter.

We had terrific luck with rescue dogs.

Sorry, you are NOT out of the woods with this one, Trish. Your children will be able to torture you for the rest of your life.

Comment by Dana |Edit This
2009-06-05 09:19:36

A TOILET cup?! LOL!!

2009-06-05 12:04:30

I just spit out my tea. A toilet cup! Irene!!!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:21:29

Oh Criminy!

My own firstborn daughter has coined the term “Toilet Cup” for all the world to use.
I will never outlive this humiliation!

Gina, just wait till YOUR daughters are in their 30’s! THEN you’ll find out what they’ve been doing all along!

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Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-06-05 16:18:18

As long as everyone flushed, it’s not a big deal. Below the floor, it’s the same pipe.

Unless you used some kind of tank sanitizer, in which case it’s a very big deal.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 17:43:05

Well, at least there’s that, Adam. We never used any of that blue stuff on account of we never had a dog who did not prefer water from the toilet to fresh water in a dog bowl.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-06-05 18:12:04

The dog is the canary; the water’s fine, Q.E.D.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:06:52

I’m not sure if that’s true, but I chose to believe it since it makes me feel better.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:18:53

Jimminy, Dana!

I had NO IDEA it was a toilet cup until this particular child who just turned 37 years old yesterday! How could I have guessed this was what was happening?
Who would have imagined?
Really, Dana, cut me some slack here.

(Now there is an actual term in use named: “Toilet Cup.” Thanks a lot, Sara!)

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-06-05 09:22:00

My kids barely eat meat at all. They’re already vegetarians. They just eat cheese and yogurt and ravioli. Is the inverse true? Does this mean they’ll grow up and eat dog poop?

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:25:13


I’ll go out on a limb here and say that barely anyone grows up to eat dog poop. I’m pretty sure that if you don’t do it when you are little, you have other weird quirks when you grow up.

But, seriously,Greg, do you actually KNOW your kids haven’t experienced the certain je ne sais quoi of dog poopy when you have not been around to notice?

HA! No one can feel safe anymore!

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-06-06 01:29:04

They’d prefer poop of the feline vintage, if poop they sampled.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:08:45

I might be showing a prejudice here, but we’ve had zillions of cats through the years and NOTHING smells as bad as cat poop. I’m pretty sure that dog poop is superior in taste to cat poop.
You probably have nothing to worry about.

Comment by Erika Rae |Edit This
2009-06-05 09:27:25

A toilet cup, huh? You guys DID have those cool Japanese toilets, though, right? Probably more sanitary than the sink. Ha! (Or did the toilet cup predate the cool, musical toilets? Or was it the reason for the purchase of them in the first place?) So many mysteries here from the Zion household…

Nope, can’t say that I blame Sara one bit for going veggie. She’s probably still in therapy for what she ate as a child. It’s a wonder she eats at all.

( :

Hilarious post, Mama Zion.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:31:24

Erika Rae!

We did not get the glorious Japanese toilets until after our trip to Japan two years ago.

There is no discernible reason for Sara’s thinking she had a cup for the special use of drinking out of the toilet!

Now I have to find out if she taught Lonny about the “Toilet Cup”.

And, I’m sorry to all you vegetarians and vegans, but THERE IS BACON IN THE WORLD! Who in their right mind would turn down BACON? Crispy, hot, spicy, wonderful BACON!

Comment by Cayt |Edit This
2009-06-06 02:27:47

I would, Irene. Sorry. Meat makes me so ill… even bacon isn’t worth it.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:11:00

Did you have some strange “food” cravings as a child? Ask your mother.
I think there may be a connection between odd cravings early on and vegetarianism later.
Just postulating here.

Comment by Amy |Edit This
2009-06-05 09:50:19

My mom says I was the one who ate dirt pies. I remember making them, but not eating them. To this day I am still not a picky eater. I guess you never know how they are going to turn out. My daughter Ashlynn (who is 14 months) is a picky eater. I hope this changes because my husband and I are not and we love to cook new things.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:34:39

Yeah, Amy, well get this:

Victor and I love to cook and eat new and wonderful things. But we had in mind things like sushi and bouilliabaisse and tapas and file gumbo. NOT DOG POOP!

Get ready.
You won’t even know until you are old and grey. They never tell you a thing until it is too late to do anything about it.

Trust me on this.

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2009-06-05 10:07:20

Ah the family Zion.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:35:15


I need some support here.

Comment by amanda |Edit This
2009-06-05 10:31:22

My brother is also notoriously finicky, after getting off to a grand start on canned dog food and hard green dog biscuits…my dad used to gag into one hand while using the other to scoop masticated Doctor Ballards from my brother’s mouth. I don’t know how he developed a taste for the stuff–my chore once I was big enough to do small chores was feeding our poodle, and the smell wafting from the can was so putrid that I mastered holding my breath a really, really long time.

Now that he has a son of his own, I’ve been tormenting my brother with jokes about feeding his baby some meat. The doctor gave the all-clear a little while ago, and they’ve started with some bland veg. Joking about giving “meat” to the baby pushes my brother’s buttons to the point where he can’t even pretend he thinks it’s funny. He gets all pinchy-faced and chuckles in the voice of someone who’s going to punch you in a New York minute if you say that thing one more time.

Perhaps, like your daughter, he used up his adventuresome appetite young, compressing a lifetime of experimentation into eleven short months.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:37:45

You see, Amanda? Now he’s going to take his own weird background, which he alone is entirely to blame for, and foist it on his poor unsuspecting son, making him a girly vegan or something.
Tell him I said to MAN UP!

Comment by Amanda |Edit This
2009-06-06 05:01:13

My nephew is lucky enough to have a dad who believes in being prissy and a mom who believes in eating dirt and shoving clods of fresh-mown grass into your diaper (since you’re crawling around pantless and have no pockets for carrying stuff). I like to imagine the little guy will find a place in the middle ground and turn out a perfect (dirt-eating, room-tidying) angel.

….and if not then his Aunt Sissy (that’s me) will pick up the slack and teach him all about balance.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 05:13:53


It sounds like everything is covered for your nephew to grow up to be a healthy, well-rounded kid!
Good for you!

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-06-05 12:01:19

OY VEY…you crack me up all the time. So Sara started that phrase. The one I told my ex as he left, You can’t make me say it , I am a good girl.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:38:55

You said “Toilet Cup” to him?
Melissa, that doesn’t even make sense.
You are hiding something deep and dark here, aren’t you!

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-06-05 16:27:06

She’s referencing the coprophagia, I suspect.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 17:46:22

Dammit, Adam, you are just a kid and you made me look up a word. I have a very nice vocabulary, I’ll have you know. It just doesn’t include these sorts of words.
Or at least it didn’t.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-06-05 18:11:08

Being just a kid goes hand in hand with commanding this kind of vocabulary. We’re both showing ourselves for who we are, I’m afraid.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:12:37

Are you saying I’m an adult or an old hag here?
My response to you is dependent on knowing that.

Comment by Adam |Edit This
2009-06-06 05:09:39

I’m saying I’m apparently the type to have actively, independently learned a five-syllable word for eating shit, and you seem to have had no such inclination, which probably speaks to our respective characters and maturity levels in a more cerebral sense.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 11:56:22

You know just what to say to calm down an insulted old lady!
You charmer, you!

Comment by Melissa |Edit This
2009-06-05 17:06:12

oh Irene are you going to make me say it? I told him to eat shit, among other things.


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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 17:49:32

Oh. Melissa. I’m SHOCKED!

(But, on the other hand, I’m right behind you!)

Comment by melissa (irene’s friend) |Edit This
2009-06-06 03:09:43

From now on, the people that get on my last nerve are going to be called TOILET CUP.
As, My son in law is a toilet cup.


Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:13:50

Eventually good things evolve from bad things.
I have many examples.
(But they are too serious for right now.)

Comment by Marni Grossman |Edit This
2009-06-05 12:12:42

Did you just give up, Irene? Just give up and let her eat whatever crossed her path? Live and let live?

It makes sense to me. Built up her immune system. Notice, if you will, that she didn’t have any stupid peanut allergies or gluten intolerance.

She was adorable!

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:43:51


I have to say that I totally worked at never, ever seeing her eat dog shit again, but she ate the other stuff so fast and never seemed to have any bad effects at all. Except for the ear infections that were the scourge of the family, she never got sick.
I had two rules for her:
1.No dog shit.
2.No choking on big pieces of anything.
That worked out pretty well. She’s a totally healthy young woman now, except for her predilection for eating no BACON.

(That was MY dress she was wearing in the last photo. Both my girls wore it. Didn’t mean a thing to them, but it did to me.)

Comment by Dew(ed) |Edit This
2009-06-05 12:27:55

This was a fun read. My son eats everything and anything as well.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:44:50


Your son will be healthy as an ox. Just watch out for all that girly vegetarian stuff!

2009-06-05 13:25:51

It doesn’t matter what your kids eat (ate) I would make out with each and every one of them!!!

Oh, to be a child of the House of Zion.

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-05 14:46:34


Savor every moment.
I’d give my life for ten minutes back with the five of them as little kids.
My life.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-06-05 18:17:17

“Savor every moment” is good advice not just for parents but for everyone, and applicable to almost every situation.

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Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 04:15:01


Comment by lonny |Edit This
2009-06-06 15:52:18

it wasnt all dog shit and used gum i assure you

Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom) |Edit This
2009-06-06 17:26:57

Yeah, That’s true, lonny. (But is the normal stuff funny?)

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