JuliaFierrophotoYou just launched your debut novel, Cutting Teeth, you run The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, and you have two children. How do you do it all?

My lifelong insomnia has been a blessing in disguise. I pretty much sleep four hours a night, and am doing my best to ignore conspiracy theories like this, that simultaneously attempt to cut my productivity in half and promise my inevitable doom.

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you abandon all household chores that aren’t absolutely essential. Sure, we’re living in chaos, but mom’s making great progress on her next novel and the number of Sackett Street writers attending classes has doubled in the last three years. It turns out that women can “have it all”—they might be miserably tired, suffer from high blood pressure, and not have enough time to eat well, exercise or have meaningful relationships, but you can do anything when you don’t give yourself a reason not to.


Scampering through Cape Cod, searching for an outhouse, looking out for Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Secret Service…

So I’m staying at the Kennedy Compound because I’m writing a biography on Sargent Shriver, the guy who started the Peace Corps. Bill Clinton is there, sailing with Ted Kennedy. Arnold is there. I’m out walking around town when suddenly the anxiety hits. Anxiety leads to a certain gastric distress so I’m rushing back to the house, sweating, looking out for celebrities and the secret service, wondering if I can make it back. I get there—and the toilet breaks. Sewage rises around me, ruining my pants. I mop it up with towels just as the dinner bell rings for some sort of fabulous Kennedy soiree. I sneak out and race up the stairs, half-naked, wrapped in a towel and run straight into JFK Jr. “Oh hi, Scott,” he says. He was totally unfazed. We had met the day before.

Our Waking Life

By Mag Gabbert


Ty and I were asleep. We were in my new apartment, the first place I’d ever lived in on my own. We’d gone to bed exhausted after a full day of moving my belongings from my grandmother’s house in Dallas to my new place in San Antonio, where I was about to begin my junior year of college. The apartment was still empty, but for a few stacks of boxes in the living room, a wicker trunk that was to serve as my coffee table, and a futon, laid flat in my room, that was to serve as my bed. I remember opening my own front door for the first time, the rushing smell of fresh paint and wood.

The last two times someone has asked to interview you they gave up halfway through, yeah? What’s wrong with you? You think you can make it to the end of this one without doing whatever it is that caused that?

Fear of Self

Somewhere in this sprawl of sleepless hours is my father, and the destruction of his aging brain. Dad, now seventy-three, has been diagnosed with acute dementia. In the dementia, as it opened, he began to forget how to get to places he had been many times before outside our home. He would find himself driving deep into the country in his small car, with a cell phone he could often not remember how to use. I find the meatloaf in the cabinets with the clean dishes. Bowls of cereal wrapped under foil in the freezer. Many days he cannot answer any question. His eyes deep in his head–in the image of someone who has not at all been sleeping–though now sleeps more than he ever has. His usual bedtime of 10 PM drawn back to eight then seven. The other day he went to bed at four in the afternoon. My mother stopping him in the hallway, asking him to come sit with her, it’s not that time yet. “I know what I am supposed to do,” he said.

I’m blinking nonstop. Blink, blink, blink, like a forgotten movie reel that has run out and is now flapping around and around in mindless circles. And then I’m trying hard not to blink at all, holding my eyes open until they are dry and exhausted. My mother peers down at me.

“Stop that right now,” she snaps.

She pulls my fingers away from my face then sighs deeply when I immediately start rapid-fire blinking again.

My father leans down. His mustache is black and prickly. He shaved it off a few weeks ago but my mother dropped the groceries in the driveway when she saw him so he’s growing it out again. He puts his hands on my shoulders then blinks back into my six-year old face. He stands and pats one of my mother’s stiffly crossed arms, telling her not to worry.

The problem is that I’ve recently noticed that people blink. Oh man, people blink all the time. I am blinking all the time. And now I cannot stop noticing, can’t seem to get back into normal eye rhythms. All I can do is consider over and over again how many times I am blinking per minute, count them, and then blink some more.

It turns out blinking isn’t all we do. We also breathe. In and out, all day long. Soon it’s all I can think about. I take long exaggerated breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale again. I watch other people breathe then attempt to match their pattern. My mother tells me this is unnerving. The last thing you want to cross paths with on an otherwise uneventful Sunday morning at the market is a hyperventilating seven-year old staring maniacally at your chest.

“Get a grip,” she whispers though clenched teeth. We are in an expensive restaurant downtown, me exhaling all over my lukewarm pasta. I stare at my lap and consider what I am meant to be gripping. On my mother’s lap, her napkin is folded neatly in half. There is a small lipstick smudge in one corner. One of the white linen edges is fraying a little. I watch her gently squeeze it then swiftly rip off the offending string with her free hand. She balls it up between two fingers before flicking it on the ground.

“Lighten up,” my father tells her. He’s working through a piece of ham, cutting off a chunk then dipping it in his mashed potatoes before finally tacking on a single pea and popping it into his mouth.

Later they argue in their bedroom with the door not quite closed. My mother suggests we get her some help since she seems to be becoming rather eccentric and my father says she’s fine and all you’re worried about is what other people think and who gives a shit about that. My mother says how dare you I’m worried about our daughter and my father tells her to just relax which she cannot, will not, stand for. She’s not the child is what she tells him then slams the door and storms into her study.

When I’m eight I stop sleeping. Each night I shuffle into my parents’ bedroom, the sounds of my mother’s snoring leading me like a scent to her side. I nudge her gently until she makes room for me. Other nights I cross to the far side of their canopy bed where my father is sleeping on his back. He always leaves a little room at the edge so I don’t even have to rouse him. I just sneak under the covers, pushing him even further towards the middle in the process.

“This too shall pass,” my father tells my mother.

“Have anything a little less vague to offer?” she says.

My parents cannot bring themselves to lock the door, as the child psychiatrist has instructed them, but they do dutifully return me to my room most nights. I stare at my ceiling for a few minutes — it’s covered in those plastic glow-in-the-dark stars — then kick off my covers. Back in their room I now know better than to try and get in the bed. Some nights I sleep in the closet, once in the bathtub with my comforter wrapped around me like a cocoon and our old Beagle wheezing contentedly at my feet. But mostly I curl up on the floor at the foot of their bed. Here I wrap myself in the very edges of their heavy winter comforter, gently tugging it inch by inch by inch until I’ve got enough material to cover my whole tiny body. In the morning they will shiver groggily in their light cotton sheets before they realize I’ve pulled the covers almost completely off them.

What was unusual about your first professional writing, which was published when you were only 23 years old?

My first published writing was the growing instructions on the back of flower seed packets. It was like writing tiny poems or haiku—every word mattered. It was instructions for life—the life of the seeds, and my own as well.

Can you make the sound of a wild snail eating?

I don’t think this sound can be made by a human. Some radio interviewers have asked me to try but how could I, with only 32 teeth, reproduce the sound of a snail’s 2,640 teeth? However, some scientist friends recorded the sound of a real snail eating and you can listen to the sound on my website.

How dangerous is the writing life?

I do most of my reading lying down, holding a book above my head. My arms get weak and sometimes the book falls on me. This is a serious concern. “Author dies of concussion from dropped book” is a headline best avoided.

Explain one of the rarely discussed complications of the writing life.

I edit hard copy with a pen and invariably I get ink everywhere. I get ink on my clothing, my sheets, and my skin. Before they invented the new kind of correction tape, I used to use liquid Wite-Out. If I wore black, Wite-Out always managed to jump on. Everything was black and white. I got black on white and white on black.

Were there any coincidences involving the writing and researching of your book?

There were many coincidences of which I will just tell you one. Nearly at the end of the writing process I learned about an interesting pathogen that may have been involved in my illness. I saw a new infectious disease doctor to discuss the possibility, as I wanted to include it in the epilogue. It turned out the doctor had a side interest: He was involved in a snail research study in the Galapagos.

What do you wish you could have included in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating but didn’t?

As I worked on the book anything that didn’t fit in but that I couldn’t let go of got moved into the epilogue—like sweeping dust under a rug. The epilogue grew and grew until it was humongous. Finally, I had to cut out wonderful long Victorian quotes or the epilogue would have been wagging the book. A bit of that cut material just came out in my essay “A Green World Deep in Winter: The Bedside Terrarium,” which appeared in February 2011 in the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Please let me be a morning writer!!!!!!! Morning writers get their work done early and then enjoy the rest of the day guilt free! Not I, alas. It is 1:18 a.m. as I write this. I wish it were not so. I simply can not focus or concentrate until all has gone quiet and everyone in the houses around me is asleep. Then I write until I get stuck, at which point I go to bed. Just as I am about to fall asleep I start solving the creative challenges, scribbling things down by flashlight throughout the night. In the morning, I am a wreck from the insomnia but the nearly illegible notes are gold.

What is it like to tell someone that you are writing a book?

I wasn’t prepared for the extent to which the general public romanticizes the writing life. My earlier respectable professions never drew the level of instant interest that I get now when I say that I am a writer. It boggles my mind how anyone can romanticize the silent torturous routine of staring at a computer screen in creative paralysis. Writing—at least for me—is mostly a matter of continual rewriting. I rewrite every sentence dozens of times. Some sentences haunt me for months before I manage to perfect them. If you are a writer, people invariably ask what you write about. For some reason my subject matter—an individual snail—seems to leave people speechless.

Do people give you snails?

Yes, snail candles, snail soap, snail salt & pepper shakers. I immediately regift these snails to new homes. The only snail that mattered to me personally was the one in my book. Imagine if you wrote a book about a spouse or child or a cat or dog and then everyone wanted to give you more spouses and children and lots of cats and dogs? One needs to be careful what subject one chooses to write about. I think my next book will be about air or mountains or sleeping. Or maybe I’ll go back to writing about flower seeds.

Did you really find a way to tell a 6 minute and 40 second story of how you wrote The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating?

You ask very good questions! Do you know about Pecha Kucha? It’s a patented format in which you explain a life story or passion in 20 slides with 20 seconds of talking per slide. I created a Pecha Kucha for my book. It’s now up on my website so you can see it for yourself. It tells the story of why and how I wrote the book and has plot, pathos and humor, surprises, and a good ending, all packed into less than 7 minutes.

Did you really film a snail?

Yes! It was fun. Though I don’t know what the snail thought. We caught some wonderful snail behavior. A bit of the film footage is on my website.

If you get a film offer on your book, which character would you want to be?

The snail.

Please explain what just happened.

I’m not really sure, nor do I care.  But I think it had something to do with Dennis Lyxzén.


What is your earliest memory?

I remember being a baby of the barely walking variety.  Something about camping and my mother bathing me in a green plastic washbasin on a campground table.



By Angela Tung


“Cancer,” my father’s voice whispered in the night.

I rolled over on the mattress on the floor. The light was on in my parents’ bathroom.

“Cancer,” my father said again. “Now it’s in her bones.”

Nai-nai, I thought as I drifted off back to sleep. He was talking about my grandmother.

The year my father’s mother got sick was the same year I couldn’t sleep. I was nine and had seen The Exorcist at a friend’s house by mistake. I didn’t know it was scary till the girl started flipping back and forth on her bed, her eyes rolled up, and her throat swelled as though by a bee sting.

“Maybe you shouldn’t watch this,” said my mother, who was playing mah-jongg with the friend’s parents. But it was too late.

Shortly afterward, I came down with the flu. Weird thoughts of demons and shaking beds mingled with my fever. Too much cough medicine gave me hallucinations – the curtains in my bedroom shrank and grew, shrank and grew – and the jitters. I had ringing in my ears and could only sleep where there was noise – in the living room with the TV on, in the den with the clock radio, anywhere there was someone else so that I could hear their breathing. On bad nights though, nothing worked, and I’d sit snuffling on the stairs, long past midnight.

I was already an anxious kid. I worried myself into stomachaches over book reports, was terrified of situations with lots of people I didn’t know, and broke into tears over any harsh word. But now I felt nervous all the time.

One night when my father came home from work, I threw myself into his arms. I was crying uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned. “Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know,” I sobbed. “I can’t help it.”

My parents worried silently, as they did about everything. Our grades, the mortgage, the kids on our block who called us ching-chong. My father kept his concerns about my grandmother quiet too, whispered only to my mother at night.

He rarely talked about his family. It was my mother who showed us the black photo album hidden in the closet, the tiny black and white photos of Nai-nai, older and younger, but always the same. Her hair in a bun, her face bare of make-up, her large bucked teeth protruding over her lips.

“You don’t want teeth like Nai-nai’s, do you?” my aunts on my mother’s side said when they learned I was still sucking my finger.

No, I didn’t. I wanted to look like someone pretty in my family. Everyone said my brother resembled my mother’s handsome baby brother. I told myself I was the spitting image of my father’s beautiful sister.  I knew I actually wasn’t, that I took after my father, who had Nai-nai’s smallish eyes, her peasant cheekbones, and thick coarse hair.

“Your grandfather didn’t want to marry Nai-nai,” my mother told us. “It was an arranged marriage.”

I gazed at the photos of the handsome young man. He had big eyes, round black glasses, and favored natty suits and ties. When the Communists took over China, Nai-nai and her two children fled to Taiwan while my grandfather stayed behind. I wasn’t sure why. He worked for the government and couldn’t get away. Or he underestimated the situation and thought his family could return. Or he saw it as a chance for escape.

Whatever the reason, he’d eventually marry the widow of one of his colleagues, and would raise the widow’s daughter as his own.

At nine, I didn’t think too much about my grandmother, although I knew she was ill. I wasn’t close to her the way I was with Puo-puo, my mother’s mother. Puo-puo was loud and fat and cooked constantly – dumplings, scallion pancakes, and steamed buns. During the summers, she taught us Chinese, and quizzed us like a real teacher. My grandfather, Gong-gong, would watch game shows all afternoon with the volume turned high.

“Come on down!” he’d shout with Bob Barker.

The several months Nai-nai stayed with us was like living with a specter. She mostly stayed in her room, knitting vests and socks from brown scratchy wool. She’d make sudden appearances, once to present to my brother and me origami animals she had folded from pages torn out from old magazines (we weren’t impressed). Another time to scrub pots and pans with the same torn-out pages, which for some reason, made my father mad.

“We have perfectly good paper towels!” he yelled.

When the weather got warmer, she emerged again to wander in the wood behind our house with a scythe. I wasn’t sure what she was trying to do. Clear weeds, perhaps. Sometimes she returned with flowers; once she came back with poison oak.

My father was so angry, he couldn’t even say anything, just shook his head. My father rarely lost his temper. If he did, it’d be for a second, then over, unlike my mother who was a storm that raged on and on. A nurse came to help with Nai-nai, and it was my mother who sat with her and translated.

Nai-nai was always nice to us, in her quiet way. She was always smiling. But I was glad when she returned to L.A.

* * *

My nervousness continued through the rest of the school year.

Scary things followed me everywhere. Commercials for The Elephant Man on TV. I didn’t know what Joseph Merrick looked like, but what I imagined was far worse. The two-faced man on That’s Incredible! UFOs and aliens.

When my language arts teacher didn’t feel like teaching, she read us Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe. We fourth-graders listened with horror at The Black Cat, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Sometimes I was able to tune out, but then somehow I’d catch the scariest parts: a man peering through a keyhole to see a troll-like creature drain a woman of blood. At night I’d lay petrified, wanting but not wanting to peek through the crack of the door, in case I saw the same thing.

My father came and went, came and went, to Los Angeles. He’d always leave in the early morning and return in the dead of night. Finally, that spring, Nai-nai died.

“Bow to Nai-nai,” our mother told us gruffly. We’d just run in from playing. A large picture of Nai-nai, embossed inexplicably in a porcelain plate, sat on the kitchen counter.

Did my father know? I wondered stupidly as I bowed once, twice, three times. He was watching television in the living room. He had no reaction.

I wasn’t sure if I believed in ghosts, but I wondered if Nai-nai’s was with us. The creaking in the room where she stayed were her footsteps, the heater click-clacking were her knitting needles. I stopped sleeping in the den, which was where Nai-nai had slept. I bunked in my brother’s room till he got sick of me. Finally, over a year later, I moved back into my own room.

* * *

I once asked my father about his father’s second wife. I was in the 7th grade and had a family tree assignment. My question was purely pragmatic: Should I include his father’s second wife and daughter in the tree?

My father’s face darkened. “Who told you my father has a second wife?” he asked. “My father doesn’t have a second wife.”

Confused, I felt my cheeks burn. “Mom said – ” I started.

She appeared in the doorway. Without looking at her, my father asked, “Did you tell her my father has a second wife?”

Her mouth dropped open. “No,” she said. “I didn’t say that.”

It would be a long time before I asked my father about his family again.

* * *

My junior year in college, my grandfather died, and only after that could my father display his portrait. Only then would the black album appear on the shelf with our other photo albums, and in it pictures I hadn’t seen before. My grandfather and two young men in 1930s New York. Decked out in suits, fedoras, and long winter coats, they posed on top of the Empire State Building, on Fifth Avenue.

I was amazed. How was he able to go? Did he ever get to go again? Did he think, looking at the snapshots my mother secretly sent him, me on Columbia campus, at Rockefeller Center, in Central Park, Now my granddaughter is there too, where I once was, so long ago?

“My father was very handsome,” my father says now. “Of course I look like my mother.”

I don’t know if my grandfather’s second wife is still alive. His stepdaughter is. Does my father ever think about seeking her out on one his annual trips to China with my mother? His stepsister would be able to tell him all about his father. But would it be too painful, knowing how much he had missed?

My father is now the same age as Nai-nai when she came to live with us. She had already seemed ancient at 70, as though I might break her if I sat on her lap. My father walks three miles a day, and sings karaoke and plays mah-jongg several times a week. He reads two or three books at once, and paints constantly.

But he’s aged suddenly, in the past five years or so, since his retirement. His hair is grayer, he’s a bit more stooped. He can’t hear as well. He’s not a grandfather yet, and I want to make him one, not an easy task now that I’m 38. Some nights I lay awake worrying about this. What if I never get pregnant? My boyfriend and I could adopt but would that be the same? I don’t want my father’s lineage to die out.

I’m not ready yet for my parents to be old. I look for obituaries of people ten, fifteen, twenty years older, and somehow that makes me feel better. I don’t want them to be breakable, then gone, then mere ghosts. I can hardly bear to imagine walking through their empty house, only traces of them left in hollow clothes, untouched books, the places in the bed where they once slept.

For now, I remind myself, they’re real. For now, it’s not too late.

I’m a night person. I pull all-nighters. No, I don’t do speed (although I might as well). I simply hit an hour of no return and there I am watching the clock roll into the future. Bringing in the next day. Telling me I made one more.



Usually, if I get to bed before 10:30 then I’m good. But if I pass that time then who knows what’s going to happen.



As of late, I’ve been night binging. Like a junky. But I like the night. I like the deep black and find comfort in it. I like the silence that the light of day doesn’t offer.

In my latest binge I’ve reread Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Strange Pilgrims; John Fante’s Wine Of Youth; A.M Homes’ Things You Should Know; and Ishmael Reed’s The Free-Lance Pallbearers. Last night I started Annie Proulx’s That Old Ace In The Hole.

It’s pretty good. Annie’s a brutal unflinching writer. I love her to bits. I want to kiss her lesbian lips.

Muah, Annie. Muah, baby.

A few of these nights were spent talking to Zara Rose Potts via IM. A dear person in this life and any other. We shared notes on our respective countries. We talked politics, food, world accents, volcanoes, earthquakes, and the man/woman predicament, among other things.

I now know that fish and chips sounds like fush and chups on the New Zealand tongue. And what Americans refer to as screwing is rooting over there.


I told her that I don’t refer to sex as screwing but call it handled.

“Like in, ’Yeah, I handled her,” I told her over the long wire across the sea that divides us.

We had a good laugh. I told her she could have it, pass it around her town that in my mind is covered in green and distant gold.

We got off the line one night and she told me: “Kia ora.” 

A nice sentiment indeed.

Kia ora, Zara

Just waiting for the chocolate.

I’ll gobble them up and wink your direction.

Dimples and all.

Kia ora, Zara.

Kia ora.

* * *

I live in a cluttered neighborhood full of bleached houses and faded cars.

And action.

One night I sat in my driveway and took in the sights. Cats, like ghosts, floating across the street. A couple of dudes walked by smoking, the tips of their cigarettes sparking red like lightning bugs. I heard one of them say: “She’s a bitch.”

The people across the street opened their door, pulled out their lawn chairs and started drinking beers. They fired up a joint, throwing back their heads and blowing their hits into the tree they were sitting under.

The pot hit my nose and took me away in soft memory. I wasn’t the only one that was up at 3:30 in the morning. Burning through the day.

Night people.

We’re nuts. We’re going crazy.

I stood up and noticed the glow of a casino.

From my house I can see the neon pulse of the Eastside Cannery. It wasn’t too long ago a friend came into town and we stumbled in there and ended the night in a blur of smiles and flashing hands. I woke up, head spinning over the pale splash of the Boulder Strip, and shoveled in a huge plate of dry eggs, hash browns, and bacon in my hurting mouth.

No more whiskey, I told myself. No more fucking whiskey.

* * *

The late night also brings on a slew of commercials that you won’t see when Regis finally shuts his mouth.

Enter Girls Gone Wild. They own the late night. Young college chicks pulling off their silky bras and ripping off their skimpy thongs. Bodies twisting, turning, and bending over for your viewing pleasure.

These videos are big business. It’s straight porn. Make no bones about it. Porn, folks, porn. Sure, no johnnys flying around winking at you and sinking in, but porn nonetheless.

“We’re looking for the hottest girl in America,” a girl announces, her tits taking in some lame sun.

Then you get hit with a barrage of chicks pulling all kinds of stunts: flipping over. Kissing each other, slowly pulling down their best buy and revealing the goods.


It’s hysterical.

Totally hysterical.

But I remember those days.

Young reckless days.

Girls snapping bras and throwing them across the room. Strangers splayed in front of me laughing from the buzz of cheap beer and whatnot.

Girls bending over in front of me and going: “Reno, what do you see?”

Those videos sell for the obvious reasons.




Like religion and cockroaches.

They’re here for keeps.

For better or ill.

* * *

Another amusing thing you’ll see when you stay up late at night is the infomercials that take over the TV. People who need this must need junk.

It’s pure Fool’s Gold.

Soaps that clean everything – even your dirty soul.

Mops that can wipe away your latest crime.

Quick cash cuts that will pull you out of your current predicament.

Make-up that will make you prettier than your eyes are telling you.

Knives that cut through tin cans and then slip through a piece of fruit with ease.

Those Jesus swine telling you their mud smells better than yours.

Cookers of various kinds that will make you look like a five-star chef. Or a one-star chef – depending on if you follow the directions correctly.

Exercise machines that will fix your flabby arms, chicken legs, flat ass, and bulging mac n’ cheese-filled gut. 

Dudes with big muscles, twisting and curling. Shiny skin, greasy jock hair, and dumb flat smiles. Girls in tight colored uniforms bending over, stretching back their arms pushing out their fake Vegas tits. Their faces the same: tight with make-up and stupid nervous. Hair pulled back. Cheap cheerleader smiles.

It’s High Art.

But the one that rules the night and is stamped on a thousand channels: ExtenZe.

Now, according to the commercials your performance is bumped up a few notches. The pills give you some extra fire, some extra zest. So, when your lady friend hits your bed you’ll have the ammo to knock her boots out of the proverbial park.


Going, going, gone.

Homerun, baby.

Daddy’s home.

You’re alive again and not that limp shell of a man you were before you started popping pills.

Got to love science.

Wait! And the best part: your willy may get bigger. Oh, yes. And what man doesn’t want a bigger johnny?

What man?

* * *

Again the hours tell me the night is coming. Again the cats slipping across the gutted street looking for some shit. Again more books eating what’s left of my Mexican brain. Pick up Dylan Thomas, Carver, Cheever and Tomas Rivera and put them in my hungry I-want-it-all mouth.

I don’t know moderation.


Again those sleek steak knives and machines that will tighten up my ass and lift my sagging arms. Again, I’ll remember those slippery girls telling me things I could never tell my dear mother.

I’ll do away with the for-sure cash payouts, the make-up, the fuck pills, and those Jesus con-artists that make my Jesus as appealing as a dead rat.

And I’ll be there. Eyes wide. Watching like a child. Taking notes. Shaking my head. But maybe wanting a mop to clean my dirty soul.


Hey, hey.

Goodnight, folks.

Sleep well.


My brain feels like one of those toys you have to push to make little bright objects bounce around in a clear dome over a loud grating noise.  Or a bingo dispenser, lots of stuff cluttering around and occasionally something comes out.  Or a garbage can at a rich person’s house or in a knick-knack store that’s going out of business.  You can see some good stuff in there but when you reach in you have to cringe past some gross gunk like banana peels and uneaten noodles and worse and you feel your way in the dark to find the valuable bits that can be wiped off, de-grossified, salvaged for future use.

Not to be dramatic.  I just can’t sleep so I’ll see what I can find in here (pointing to head.)

1.  At some point in middle school I went to a party where you could have your photo put on a drinking cup.  My friend Steph and I had two photos taken of us, and then each one put on a cup.  In one photo I looked really good and Steph looked okay.  In the other photo Steph looked really good and I looked okay.  I wanted the photo where I looked better but Steph said she wanted that one- why would she want to have a good photo of herself rather than one of her friend?

I forget what we decided on, but I felt vain and still do since if I were in the same situation today I’m pretty sure I would still want the better photo of myself.

2.  A few weeks ago I took a road trip to New Orleans with my friends Charlotte and Wilmot.  To pass the time in the car we played what turned into a sort of game- “Who Would You Rather Hook Up With?”  It was usually hit or miss, with many questions getting the answer – “Duh, of course (so and so).”

The fun was in thinking about the preferences of the person you were asking, and coming up with the perfectly balanced pair, balanced in either desirability or repulsiveness, and eliciting a “Hmmmmmm” or an “Ew!”

One of us wondered wether you could take all of someone’s answers and put them into a computer program that would figure out the perfect match.  Wilmot began, “But wait!  Rebecca, you said…” and I was somewhat skeptical of whatever he was about to say since he doesn’t know me as well as Charlotte and so had asked me a lot of “Who Would You Rather” questions where my choice had been obvious to me and Charlotte.

But he continued, “You said before that you would rather hook up with C over H, right?”  Yeah.  “And I’m pretty sure you picked H over G right?”  Uh huh.  “But didn’t you also pick G over C?  You’ve created a circle!  Or a triangle.”

Wait a minute.  I thought about it and he was right!   I don’t know how Wilmot had stored all of that information over the past several hours.  But I kept going over it in my head and it was true.  The answers had to do with the real-life context for each choice but it still blew my mind- and Wilmot said that my triangle would definitely be an obstacle for our computer program.

It’s really slim pickins in here today…what else?

3.  I first heard the phrase “slim pickins” in the movie “Lady and the Tramp.”

For years I thought the word “Buick” was a synonym for car, just like automobile, rather than a brand.  This is because when I was around five I was watching “Annie Hall” with my family and during the scene where Alvie is trying to kill a spider with a tennis racket and says the spider is the size of a Buick, I asked, “What’s a Buick?”

My mom said “It’s a car.”

So, be very careful what you say to your children.

I saw the movie “Murder by Death” for the first time last week and decided I want to start using the word “malarkey.”

That’s it for now.  Goodnight, sweet Internet.