A Self-Portrait

A friend dared me to draw a self-portrait. What he’s getting: ballpoint pen, notepad, five minutes of my time. Self-portrait, my ass. Maybe someday when I have a scanner.

Thought I’d share it here, just for fun. It looks pretty much like me, since I’m a cartoon and also two dimensional. Can I draw? No. But I know enough to draw myself close to the weight I am, thanks very much. Still working on the ‘legs like two white Twinkies’ art style.

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More Poetry For Poncy Millennials

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Well, guys. Sorry I’ve been so little in evidence this week. I’ve had a lot of rush to deal with at work, and some editing stuff to do as well–this blog totally took second, possibly even third, place.

I know. I suck.

In the meantime, posting a few more happy little poems about The Millennial Condition–namely, being a Millennial parent. (What’s so special about this? I don’t know. But plenty of people seem to think it is.)

We’ll be back next week with heartfelt articles and all that shit you expect. For now, CLEVER RHYMES. (Dear hipster moms of the world–I deeply look forward to you being indignant at me saying Thieves relieves stress. Long story short: I don’t KNOW what it’s supposed to do. I don’t care.)

LITTLE JIMMY

Poor little Jimmy’s come down with a cold!
Hope these antibiotics aren’t too old.

Coconut oil. His hair’s a mess.
A dab of Thieves to relieve stress.
Ginseng for focus, he likes shiny lights,
And don’t forget the multi-vites.
Fish oil in his morning tea:
We think he’s low on Omega-3.
For energy and steady will,
A timely dose of clorophyll
And carotene, for better sight–
He only takes one? That can’t be right.
Vitamin D for healthy skin,
A fistful of A to let life in.

What else could be wrong? He still looks slightly ill.
Just give him a fistful of nutritive pills.

Oh no! He’s convulsing! Somebody, please save him.
It must be something the doctor gave him.

REASONS YOU’RE A SHIT PARENT

My child says your child
Gets cookies every lunch.
My child says your child
Still drinks Hawaiian Punch.

My child says your child
Got vaxed for the flu;
My child agrees that your child
Simply won’t do.

He’s never known the luxury
Of kale chips salted light,
Or cupcakes made with free-trade flour.
How do you sleep at night?

A gender-neutral nursery
And carseats ’til they’re twelve:
Right-themed novels into which
A little mind can delve.

These are the things that make a child
As good as he can be:
A moralistic member
Of our great society.

You say love’s more important? What?
Sit down, shit mom, and can it.
Child-rearing ain’t about the child:
It’s all about saving the planet.

Existential Retail Christmas Post

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'Santa' and 'Satan'--just one typo away.

An Existential Retail Christmas

Here’s a great way to tell, if you’re slightly sadistic, whether or not your significant other has spent a good portion of his or her life working retail.

Wait until your bundle of joy is asleep. Creep closer, ever closer, to that cherubic slumbering visage, snuggled up by its pillow. Inhale, softly, and whisper into one shell-like ear:

“Wake up! It’s Christmas!”

Does your beautiful angel awake with a scream or a groan? Does he or she begin weeping, throw the pillow, attempt to hide under the bed? Does he or she mutter, with no provocation, the phrase: “no returns without a receipt?”

Your significant other has spent at least two Christmases in retail.

If your significant other is still working a retail Christmas, engage in this experiment at your own discretion. Ugly things might be said. Ugly things might be done. You might end up spending Christmas single.

You see, Christmas is a merry season in which people shop compulsively, usually at the last minute, for items that may or may not be appreciated by another person (they’re called gifts). These gift things don’t just grow on trees. They’re produced, often somewhere very far away, and are shipped in finite amounts to the retail location at which you’re currently shouting at someone because there are no more blue blenders in stock. That tired looking person who is patiently explaining to you, for what’s probably the fifteenth time today, that the next shipment will be in Monday, and if you really need one there are a few red ones in the back, has little to no control over whether that blender is there or not. The nametag on his or her chest brands him as one of the lowest-paid cogs in a vast grinding machine. Or, if you prefer, that person is an expendable human sacrifice, thrust out in front of you as a distraction tactic from the inexplicable rage you feel as another human pawn piece being slung across the board in a game of the consumerist gods.

Simply put: it isn’t that person’s fault your blue blender isn’t in stock. And, when you send off that email to corporate in a fit of pique, this person will get not only shit from you, but shit from management, where the blame for your absent blender could be more justifiably placed.

So. This Christmas, in the spirit of peace, love, and brotherhood that everyone is supposed to espouse, try not screaming at a sales representative for something that representative can’t control.

If your significant other is the nametagged cog placed in front of angry shoppers on a daily basis in the month of December, here are some tactics you can use to help make his or her Christmas nominally merrier, which in retail terms means ‘make it suck not quite as much’:

1. Don’t complain when the light is on early in the morning.
Your spouse is getting up before dawn to get paid a very small amount of money for making sure rich people have all the rich people things they need. The bathroom light is on because he or she has an existential horror of getting dressed for this day of torment in the dark. Don’t complain if the light wakes you, or the sound of the coffee maker, or the smell of the curling iron heating up. You can go back to sleep. Your life, for the next month, isn’t a raw vortex of mindless purchases. No one wants to be able to answer the question ‘did you get dressed in the dark this morning?’ with a guileless ‘yes’.

2. Buy liquor.
“Merry Christmas! Here’s a fifth of vodka on December 5th, so you can drink to forget.”

3. Do not, DO NOT, play Christmas music at home.
Thanks to the years I spent in big box retail, I now know every single word to ‘Santa Baby’, ‘Feliz Navidad’, and that Mariah Carey pile of bullshit. It’s been five years. I still froth at the mouth whenever a store’s muzak releases one of these little gems of excrement in my vicinity.

4. Let ’em bitch.
Retail Christmas is a horrible, soul-sucking thing. Your partner is working retail, and therefore can’t afford therapy. They do, however, have you. Nod and look sad when the stories begin. It might not mean a lot to you that some old dude patronizingly patted your S.O. on the bottom, but it sure does to them. If the stories become too much to bear–and there will be a lot of stories, so they might–learn to tune out. Sympathetic noises are all you need.

5. Make dinner.
You know what the worst part about coming home after fourteen hours of retail hell and transportation is? It’s making dinner. Why, by nine in the evening, is this not done already? Trust me, she isn’t spending her shift planning a four course meal for the late evening. She’s spending it contemplating the endless void of greed and self-righteousness into which humanity, for one month a year, sinks.

If you can’t cook, invest in some ramen and mac n’ cheese. After all, during Christmas, the body is a mere walking vehicle for information about coupons and return policies. Give it something to sustain it, sit back, and pray the end is in sight so you can have your spouse back.

Long story short: Christmas has become a vaguely symbolic pan-all holiday during which we ostensibly celebrate the birth of a penniless child in a manger by throwing as much money at retail giants as we can. If you want to celebrate in the ancient spirit of the holiday, try honoring the poor, like Jesus did: don’t scream at sales associates. After all, they spend your ‘holiday season’ working like dogs. Because of your need for a ten speed bicycle, many of them won’t get to spend Christmas with their families, or get more than one day off of work. Yes, we’re all sorry you won’t have that toaster oven in time to bring it down to the beach house when your vacation begins on the nineteenth. But somehow, somehow, it’s difficult to feel very sorry for you.

It’s been a while since I’ve done the big box thing, and Christmas still bums me out.

Happy Holidays. I hope you spend them somewhere far away from humanity, admiring the beauty of nature with the people you love most and neither giving nor receiving presents.

Diabetes Awareness Month: Things to NEVER Say to Your Type I Diabetic Friend

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Photo from alex27 @ freeimages.com.

Because it’s November, we’re doing something a little out of the ordinary this blawg.

November, for the millions of you who aren’t aware, is National Diabetes Awareness Month. No, there isn’t a ribbon. At least, I don’t think there’s a ribbon. If there is, I hope it has Wilford Brimley’s picture on it, and the word DIABEETUS in flaming pink letters down the side. (UPDATE: there IS a ribbon. It’s grey. Boo-ring.)

Anyway. You don’t get pink soup cans, and no one cares if you go braless. (Except me. You can totally show your boobs for diabetes awareness. Totally.)

I, however, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when I was seven years old, so I’m all about spreading the word.

I could share inspirational messages, but I get tired of those. If you haven’t gotten the gist of ‘you can do it’ by the time you’re old enough to read, you’re never going to get it.

Or I could share the struggle, which I think is the traditional thing to do. But the internet is chock full of people ‘sharing the struggle’, and that shit tires me out faster than inspiration. If I struggle a lot, it’s the only thing I’ve ever done, and it seems perfectly goddamn ordinary to me.

So, instead, a little information:

There are two basic types of diabetes (actually, there are more, but for blawg purposes we’re going to talk about two); Type I and Type II. Type I diabetes is an incurable autoimmune disorder where the pancreas doesn’t produce the hormone insulin, necessary for blood glucose regulation. Type II diabetes is, at least in the beginning, insulin resistance, where the body DOES still produce insulin, but has trouble absorbing it.

Not all diabetics are the same, and not all diabetes is created equal. (Obviously. Mine’s better.)

Type I diabetes, like that of yours truly, is an auto-immune disease in which your immune system (for reasons still not totally clear to science) starts attacking insulin-producing beta cells in your pancreas, which usually regulate the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. As a result, Type I diabetics are insulin dependent–they have to inject insulin, usually produced by those pesky betas, to keep their blood sugar from rising. Type I diabetes is usually, but not always, diagnosed in childhood, and is, while not inherited, often previously apparent in the family tree. (My grandfather, for instance, was also a Type I diabetic. My grandchild would likely be a Type I diabetic too. People claim it ‘skips a generation’, though that’s absolutely not scientific fact). Type I diabetics account for roughly 5% of the diabetic population; Type II diabetics are the other 95.

Type II diabetes is a condition where the body becomes insulin resistant. Type II diabetes can be controlled through healthy diet and medication, though Type II diabetics may occasionally require insulin, temporarily or permanently, to bring down blood glucose levels.

Type II diabetes can, with good diet and exercise, sometimes go away. Type I diabetes is a syringe-laden plague you carry your whole life, inherit through no fault of your own, and pay exorbitant sums of money to feed with medicine that, if absent, would leave you dead within a matter of days.

Not that it’s personal, or anything.

Anyway, now that you know a little about the diabeetus, here are five things you should never, EVER say to your Type I diabetic friend. All of these have been said to me, on numerous occasions. DO NOT be this person. DO NOT.

1. ‘Did you get diabetes because you were fat?’

No. I got it because genetics. When your body is first adjusting to man-made insulin, in fact, it can cause you to gain a few pounds–however, uncontrolled Type I diabetes often causes weight loss. When I was diagnosed, my blood sugar was 647, and I was VERY thin.

2. ‘Should you be eating that?’

Why, thank you, Tinkerbell! My hand was aiming for the carrot sticks, but, in a moment of temporary blindness and insanity, I grabbed this giant hunk of chocolate cake instead. Why, if you weren’t here to function as the reasoning senses of an adult mentally capable woman, I would have gorged mindlessly on chocolate cake until my pancreas exploded.

I’ve been doing this as long as some of you have been alive. I know when I can eat cake and when I can’t. Would you tell an overweight woman she ‘shouldn’t be eating’ something? Mind your own business.

3. ‘If you eat less sugar, it’ll go away.’

While this is, arguably, semi-true for Type II diabetics, your Type I diabetic friend is getting just a little tired of your dietary advice. I do not explode when I touch sugar. I do not explode when I touch pasta.

For that matter, sugar itself isn’t the enemy–a diabetic counts carbohydrates, not sugars (though sugar will make your blood sugar spike faster than low glycemic index carbs such as pasta).

If you eat less bacon, your fat ass will vanish. Would that be polite to imply in conversation? No? Mic. Dropped.

4. Diabetic-Friendly Treats.
While your effort to accommodate is really kind, please pause before you reach for the Sweet n’ Low. Consider asking your diabetic friend: ‘I can make this sugar-free. Should I do that?’ Each diabetic, again, is different. Some folks treat sugar like C4. Some folks treat it like C4 that tastes DELICIOUS.

Cookies, no matter how much Splenda you pack into them, still contain carbohydrates, as they contain flour, milk, etc–so a Type I diabetic can’t eat even the most sugarless of cookies like a non-diabetic person can. Everybody else doubtless wants the sugar, don’t go making a separate batch just for me.

Sweet n’ Low tastes like shit. Sorry, but it does.

5. ‘My (insert relative here) has diabetes, and she never–‘
That’s great, boo bear. I’m glad your relative has a system. I have one, too. What’s true for one person might not be true for another–f’rinstance, even though it goes against common wisdom, I take my lunch insulin after lunch. Why? Because I’m at work, and I’m not always sure if I’ll have time to eat the right amount of carbs to counteract the insulin I take. It’s better to have my blood sugar be slightly high than slightly low–the first will just make me grouchy, the second might have me passing out on a sales floor.

Other fun conversation bits have included misguided (male) attempts to forcibly ‘improve my lifestyle’ for the sake of my health, offers of Victoza (a medicine used to treat Type II diabetes) because ‘it worked really well for me’, and a loving but deeply erroneous desire to cure my Type I diabetes with essential oils.

Long story short: I am a healthy and fit youngish person. I’m a vegetarian, I don’t do drugs, and I rarely drink. I’m a little overweight, but I have an active lifestyle, and am in no immediate peril from kidney shutdown/blindness/amputation. So, please, save your lifestyle advice for your kids.

Because it is not okay to tell someone their incurable autoimmune disorder can be cured if they’d just lose a few pounds. Sure, the advice is probably well-intentioned and the result of ignorance, but when did ignorance become an excuse and not a deficiency to be remedied? I don’t know anything about engineering: therefore, before I try and tell an engineer how to build a bridge, I’m probably going to need to google it at the very least, and, you know, maybe shell out a hundred thousand dollars to go back to school.

I’m lucky: being diabetic doesn’t affect my life very much. I’m healthy, young, in good control, and I’ve only been hospitalized a few times. I can work an ordinary job, go out with my friends, live life, in short, like a garden-variety human.

Maybe it’s a disability and maybe it’s not. I, personally, tend towards the not–everybody has something wrong with them. But, long story short, I live with it every day. You, person telling me it’s a ‘simple problem’ essential oils can cure, do not.

Before you try and give me life advice, think about the stuff that’s wrong with you. Would you want ME telling you how to ‘manage’ it, if it’s something I’ve never experienced?

Fright Week Flash Fiction VII: The Alternative

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Photo by joe burge at freeimages.com.

We’re ending Fright Week on a spooky yet blackly funny note–and we’re talking about the scariest thing in our modern world, student loan repayment. Ooo-wee-ooooo. Might not be the most startlingly original story in this collection, but it’s my favorite.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the week of spooky flash fiction. Have a happy Halloween.

The Alternative

“If your loan goes into default, your paycheck could be garnished up to fifteen percent,” the nice lady on the phone tells me, concern infused in every syllable. “If you get refund money at tax time, the government can take that, as well.”

I stare at the wall. I know I need to do something–something–but what can I do? I have rent and utilities to pay, just like everybody else. My parents won’t give me a cent. I’ve pissed off just about every friend I have.

I need to pay off my loan. I know I do. But I also need to eat.

“I just…I don’t have any money,” I mutter. This conversation is probably being recorded–don’t they record them? I want to scream, and curse, and throw things, but she’s a thousand miles away in some cubicle, and besides, she’s just doing her job. And it’s probably a shitty enough job already. I’m sure a lot of people do scream and curse.

“Times are pretty hard,” the lady says. God, that concern. Do they train them in the precise inflection necessary to make us scumbags feel like total wastes of breath? Do they play recordings of someone’s mother to them, educate them that way in disappointed sighs?

But what she says next catches my attention. It’s something no one has said before.

“Of course,” my loan lady says, “there’s the alternative.”

“What alternative? Bankruptcy?”

“We’re starting a program. It’s called A Pound of Flesh–you can look it up on our website, if you’re curious.”

“I’m curious.”

“Well, it’s one of our charity initiatives. If you’re lower income–if you make less than 15,000 dollars a year–you can donate a part of yourself for forbearance time. A piece of your liver earns you six months, an eye or a lung earns you a year. If you’re interested in loan forgiveness, you might want to look up our Kindly Kidneys initiative. The parts go to your local hospital, where they’re donated to a lucky person in need.”

I’m glad she can’t see me. I can feel my jaw hanging open. “You’re kidding me,” I say at last. “You people are accepting body parts in lieu of payment? Is that even legal?”

“We want to provide everyone the opportunity for good credit,” my loan lady says. Which isn’t exactly an answer.
I shake my head. I know she can’t hear me do it, but I imagine she’s had this conversation enough times to know it’s happening.

“Shit,” I say at last. I don’t care if they’re recording. They deserve to hear someone cuss over this–deserve to hear how ridiculous it is.

“I’ll email you one of our Pound of Flesh information packets,” my lady says, voice cheerful and carefully modulated. “It’s a good option, for someone young and healthy such as yourself. You won’t be disabled by the loss of one kidney, or one lung, or one eye. And the organs, I promise you, do go to a good cause.”

“Wait–how do you know I’m healthy?”

“Medical records.”

I don’t think my jaw can sag any closer to the floor without falling off. Hell, I kind of wish it would–then I could just give it to them and get some money back.

“I’m not interested,” I manage to say at last. “I’m–holy shit. I’m so not interested.”

And, for the first time, I hear a hint of personality in my loan lady’s voice. It’s sly, and amused, and I don’t like it one bit.

“That’s what they all say,” she tells me. “At first.”

“I’ll call you back once I’ve looked at all my options,” I tell her. I hang up.

For a while I just stand there, phone in hand, looking around my apartment. Dark, this late–I try to save money by only turning on one light at a time. Blank walls, unmade futon, empty mac n’ cheese boxes lined up like dead soldiers on the kitchen counter. The steady drip-drip-drip, from the bathroom, of a leak maintenance hasn’t been by to fix for two months. I hear money in that drip. With every liquid splatter against the sink, I hear a penny clinking, never to be seen or heard from again.

I sigh.

I open up my laptop.

*****

A few week later, I wake up in my own bathtub, surrounded by ice. Someone has placed a Sandy March Loan Company bathrobe on the toilet seat for me, next to a chocolate bar and a big glass of water. And, of course, a stack of papers. Seems like there’s always a stack of papers.

I can feel the stitches, like burrowing worms, in my abdomen. The ice has a pink tinge to it, a strange antiseptic smell–when I breathe the smell in I’m reminded of the medical personnel who filed in here a few hours ago, green scrubs bearing the Sandy March logo, full of smiles and good cheer and reassurances.

“You’re doing a great thing,” the doctor tells me. “Thanks to you, some kid’ll have kidney function for the first time in years. He’ll have a future away from hospitals, dialysis machines, doctors. He can go to college like a normal person. Now just sign here. And here. And here.”

Going to college, I want to tell him, is what got me into this mess. But I sign all the papers, I shake their hands.

What else can I do?

What other choice do I have?

“Enjoy your year of forbearance,” the doctor tells me, smiling. He slides the IV needle into my arm and there’s a little pinch, a few moments of waiting, and then–

–well. Then, I’m here. Strangely peaceful, lying in my tub of ice.

And the worst part about it is, the doctors were right. It doesn’t hurt so much, and I don’t feel any different.

And I’ve still got most of my liver, a lung, and a kidney to spare.

Fright Week Flash Fiction III: The Chair

Definitely Not Dave, my magician manperson, wanted me to write one of these about a massage chair. So I did.

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THE CHAIR

The kiosk is disgusting, a deserted island of cracked leather chairs in the middle of the empty mall. On a folding chair, an old man–from somewhere in Southeast Asia, or maybe Mexico, hell if I know–sits snoozing, a paperback book loose in his lap. Lucky for me, I don’t need him: though I have to say, it might be worth a complaint to whoever management is. You put your money straight into the chair here, but still. Attendants should attend you. It’s what they’re paid for.

The sign by the old man reads ASSAGE. There’s a slightly cleaner patch of sign backing where the M once rested. I read the sign’s smaller letters, scrawled in Sharpie:

5 MIN=5 DOLLAR
10 MIN= 10 DOLLAR
30 MIN= 20 DOLLAR SPECIAL PRICE

I plunk my purse down by a chair and try out the surface with a tentative palm. It’s springy, and maybe I’m crazy but I could almost imagine I feel a little vibration in there already.

Lana from HR said I need to try it. She said I looked tired. I don’t know why the hell that’s okay now, telling another woman she looks tired–and Lana’s not the one to talk. She hasn’t gotten her hair done in months, and last time I saw her her panty hose had runs in them. Maybe I shouldn’t be talking to Lana in HR. Maybe I should be talking to HR about Lana. She’s a blight on the office environment. Not me. I just work hard.

But I took a long lunch today anyway. And I don’t have time for a real massage, but the mall’s right across from the office, and this, maybe…

Lana recommended the stupid chairs herself. And it’s so cheap! she said. And that giggle. That stupid airhead giggle. I don’t care about cheap. Doesn’t she know that?

I take off my jacket, fold it over my purse where it’ll maybe keep it hidden from purse-snatchers. Mall like this, you never know who’s around.

I sit down in the chair. I slide my money in–ten dollars. I don’t have all day. 

I close my eyes and lean back. It’s the funniest massage chair I’ve ever sat in, but it’s soothing–a faint prickling pounding, like millions of little pistons are wearing themselves out against my back. I should’ve brought some disinfectant with me. Woken up the Chinese guy, asked him for a towel. Who knows who sat in this thing before me? Some fat old housewife, probably. A hoarder, out at midday, puttering around the mall. Ugh. I don’t want the shit from some filthy house all over my skirt.

But I can’t help it. I press myself deeper into the chair. The feeling–it’s an interesting feeling. I like it. I wish it was just a little bit stronger, but there are no adjustment controls on the chair–no space-age technology, this.

I press in deeper. Christ. It’s almost working. I can almost feel the knots in my back releasing. Whoever designed this thing was an evil genius–I’m going to put another ten dollars in, I can tell it already. Maybe there’s a market for this, a product that almost works. Something people have to buy over and over again. Like cigarettes, but without all the bad PR.

I press. I can feel the cheap crappy leather against my hose, my skirt, my nice new work shirt. Probably going to wrinkle. I don’t care. I want more.

I press in as hard as I can, clutching the tattered chair arms and forcing myself backwards. That feeling, Jesus. It’s almost working, almost perfect. Like an itch you can’t quite reach.

Something in the chair shifts, and I feel an opening, slotlike, where the back of the chair joins the seat. Whatever. Come on. Just give me a massage. A real massage. Come on, chair.

The opening widens, and there are sudden needles of pain along my back. I don’t have much time to feel it before the opening gets wide, wide, wider than it should be, wider than it can be.

I see something on my way in.

Teeth?

*****

Out in the deserted shopping mall, in a lonely kiosk filled with shabby leather chairs, a sound rings out.

It’s a single burp. Low, sinister. Satisfied.

The man on the folding chair drops his book, jumps. He looks at the chair for a few seconds, stands up, stretches.

“Are you happy now?” he asks it. “Did Lana send us a good one?”

The chair burps again. A tiny bit of blood, fresh red, seeps out between the backing and the seat.

“Eh,” the old man says. “You fatty.” He chuckles.

He takes a towel from his pocket, wipes the blood away. He picks up the purse and the jacket, balls them up with the towel. He throws the whole mess in the trash, and returns to his book.

Condiments are People Too

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Photo cruelly cropped from a lovely original by icaro leite, at freeimages.com

Five Totally Worthwhile Condiments

Okay, guys. I should’ve done a writing post today, and I know it.

But the fact is, I’m sick n’ tired of talking about writing. I talk about writing all the goddamn time, and there’s so much more to my life that you, my captive audience, need to know all about.

Like how I feel about condiments.

Let me explain myself. I’m not talking about the make-your-own mayo, squeeze-your-ketchup-tomatoes-by-hand kind of condiments. Those are great, of course. I have my tomato relish and celery sauce recipes in my mindbrain, where no computer crash will ever rob me of them.

But sometimes–sometimes. You have fries, or Wheat Thins, or toasted baby arms, or whatever crispy snack you prefer, on a plate, and LEGASP, no time to make your own ketchup, like a proper frontierswoman. Should you abandon all dignity and head for the Heinz?

Hell, naw. Have standards, you tramp.

My fridge groans with condiments. The door shelf sags outward under the weight of a glass jar and bottle invasion. Want mustard? I’ve got like fifty kinds of it. Want soy sauce? I don’t even know what that is any more, be more specific. I know, I know, premade condiments are just full of preservatives and food coloring and GMO death omg. But get off your high horse for a minute. Stop thinking about how every particle of nourishment that passes your lips is poisoning you. And admit it: sometimes you just want to grab a goddamn bottle out of the fridge.

So, for today’s post, instead of nattering on about plot holes and guns going off in the third act, we’re giving you five of Emily’s trusty premade condiment staples. Why? Because why not. You can’t tell me what to do. Long live the rebellion. Aspfhrrgsgfl;.

(A NOTE–I wouldn’t actually buy any of these things on Amazon. The prices are, on average, about three times what I pay in my hometown. But I wanted to show you what I get. Because I love you.)

Pickapeppa Sauce–Pickapeppa is a minor god among somambulent sauces. Where others sleep, Pickapeppa mainlines coffee. Where others whisper, Pickapeppa roars.

Pickapeppa has a sweet, almost molasses-like tang, with orangelike afternotes and more sourness and sweetness than heat. One of the ingredients on the bottle is ‘peppers’, but don’t worry, the only people who’re going to find this spicy are your ninety year old grandmother and her toothless daschund. I used to love it on burgers, in my meat-eating days, but it’s good on everything else ever as well. I even put it on vanilla ice cream once (yes, because I am insane).

Doubanjiang–You like Sriracha? You think dotting your morning eggs with Sriracha is spicy and adventurous? Fuck you, buddy. (Actually, I love Sriracha too. Poured straight into my mouth. In shots.)

Doubanjiang (Pi Xian being my chosen variety, though it’s hard to find, at least in a relatively rural area) is what Sriracha became when it grew up and got some years of working experience. It’s a red broadbean paste made in Sichuan province, traditionally left to ferment and mellow, sometimes for years, in large clay pots. (Is the cheaper stuff made that way? Is Pi Xian made that way? I have no idea). There’s a spicy version, which tastes deep and spicy and a little earthy, and a non-spicy version, which, to me at least, tastes a little bit like miso paste. I use the spicy version in mapo tofu, but it’s also great on eggs, as a dipping sauce for fried tofu, with plain rice, or anywhere you require red spiciness ever again ever.

Banana Sauce–The first time I tried banana sauce, I wasn’t completely sold. I saw a bottle at my local asian market, and it was cheap, and I was like what the hell, why not.

Two years down the line, banana ketchup has become my permaketchup.

It doesn’t taste that different from bottled ketchup, really. A little sweeter. The kind I get is deep red in color and has an unusual gloppy texture. Seeing as it’s made from bananas, I’m guessing it has enough red food coloring in it to kill you slowly. But man oh man, is it addictive. It’s a Philippino thing–they use it on all sorts of stuff, spaghetti dishes being the one I’ve seen the most when I google ‘banana ketchup’, which I do more than I’d want to admit–but, not being from the Philippines, I should probably leave that up to the folks who’re masters therein. Me, I just put it on everything I used to put ketchup on. Thank you, trusty bottle of banana ketchup. Thank you.

Duke’s Mayo–If you’re not from the American South, you might not have heard of Duke’s. This is because you’ve lived a sad, colorless life, and your southern-style salads are devoid of true meaning.

Why do people swear by Duke’s? Because it tastes better. I don’t know what else to tell you, but it does. It probably has a host of non clean living ingredients that make it taste better, but dear Jesus, I do not care.

I slipped up last week. My grocery store had Kraft two for one and I, like a moron, bought Kraft. After my first cucumber salad came out sad and tasteless, I went right back to the damn store and made everything okay. I owed it to my boyfriend. No one should have to take that Kraft shit.

Green Pepper Jelly– What a strange thing to make jelly out of, you say.

Your mom is strange, I say right back, sticky-sweet green goo oozing out of my face hole.

Green pepper jelly is sweet. You probably figured that out–it is a jelly. But it’s got this funky sharp and earthy aftertaste that’s worth talking about, and keeps it from being totally cloying (which is, to be honest, how I find most jellies after brief exposure). And it’s green. Which is, really, all I demand from most food items.

Useful anywhere you need a jelly, but I have two particular uses for which I adore it: one is inside cornmeal thumbprint cookies around Christmas time (I use green pepper jelly for the green ones, red pepper jelly for the red. How cute.) and the other is on Wheat Thins, in combination with cream cheese. I have no idea where I got that one. I think it was Mom. But it’s awesome.

And, bonus points!

Chow chow. Oh, chow-chow. What are you, exactly?

Deliciousness. Sheer, tangy, sweetie, yellow deliciousness. I put you on hot dogs for years. I’ll put you on soy dogs for more years. My collards are incomplete without you. Actually: any green I make is incomplete without you. I’ve forced you into chicken salad before, and I was sorry for it. You didn’t belong there. Next time, I’ll just serve chicken salad with a scoopful of chow-chow beside it.

Chow-chow is…a relish. Of some sort. It comes in both sweet and spicy varieties, both of which I recommend. I left it off my original list because I couldn’t for the life of me tell you exactly what’s in it, but by God, a condiment listing without chow-chow in it is sadly incomplete.

There you go. Non-writing silliness, and God Save the Condiments.

Fun With Words: Electioneering Edition

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Fun With Words: Electioneering Edition

Well, guys, my little blackboard of words is full once more, so it’s tiiii-iiime…for fun with words. It’ll be especially fun for my American friends, who’re all probably just as sick as I am of election coverage…though the election itself isn’t for another year.

I noticed I was having a word-trend about halfway down and decided to go with it. After all, what makes your political opinion sound more justified than a few snappy words in there? The last one, in particular, will probably come in very handy as you debate the merits and drawbacks of our next potential commander-in-chief.

So hoist up your red white and blue, make up a brief statement about Our Great Nation, and enjoy the sensationalist and information-starved election coverage as it’s meant to be enjoyed: with a bunch of big snarky words, so you look smarter while disagreeing with everybody.

A NOTE: I’m not interested in your political opinion. Really, I’m incredibly not interested. I tried to keep my examples fairly cross-party, but of course more of them stick to Donald Trump than to anyone else. Donald Trump is like the statement piece in the well-to-do living room of election politics. You might like it, you might not–but you’ve got something to say about it, and it’s damned hard to pretend it just isn’t there.

Verjuice–a sour juice made from unripe fruit, previously used for medicinal and health purposes, now mostly used in cooking.
Example: Every time someone mentions e-mails, Hillary Clinton looks like she’s just taken a shot of verjuice.

Mendicity–The state of poverty or beggardom; the state of being a beggar.
Example: Bernie Sanders is very concerned about the current mendicity of the US–however, his Republican counterparts complain his platform would make the country even more mendacious.

Cavil–A petty objection.
Example: Ted Cruz’s cavilling might actually cost Planned Parenthood some funding some day.

Bunkum–Nonsense, empty talk. Particularly nonsense thrown about insincerely by a politician. Apparently, this word originated in Buncombe County, North Carolina–I love it when my people spawn something excellent.
Example: If I hear any more of Donald Trump’s bunkum about Megyn Kelly, I’m going to become a Fox News reporter myself and be twice as mean to him.

Quisling— A person who collaborates with an enemy force, thus betraying their own people. This word comes from a Norwegian army officer named Vidkun Quisling, and his story is worth a look.
Example: I’d support Hillary Clinton more if I didn’t worry she’d wind up being a quisling to the American middle class.

Pareidolia-– Seeing things that aren’t actually there because they resemble some other thing. F’rinstance, seeing the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast, or a face in the light and bumper setup of the car in front of you. This is another word you’ll want some background info for.
Example: I know my pareidolia is getting out of hand because every time I see Donald Trump, I want to shoot the two mad muskrats currently feasting on his skull.

Snuggery–a small space made to be comfortable and cozy, such as a den or a study.
Example: It’s sweet to see the snuggery Rick Santorum has made for himself in the Christian Evangelical Right.

Bloviate–To speak at windy and greatly exaggerated lengths about something. This is a word coming back into popularity lately: probably because it’s what our politicians do a lot.
Example: I’m sick of Donald Trump bloviating about his wealth.

Widdiful–Worthy of being hanged.
Example: If our nation’s presidential candidates weren’t such a widdiful bunch, I might have more faith in politics.

ZOMG.

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So. My book just came out, and you can get it free here, or for .99 on Amazon, if you just MUST spend a dollar today. It’s real good. I promise.

Unfortunately, this means I’m too busy to blog today. Instead of abandoning you guys totally, here’s a cheap lumpy filler graph detailing the delicate ins and outs of my extremely self involved creative process. Enjoy.

Political Notes From the South

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Political Notes from the South

Usually, I try to avoid talking about current events on this blog. They don’t have much of a place here, it only starts a lot of unpleasant arguing, and, frankly, most of them are painted in such lurid colors across the media canvas I hardly feel the need to add my own voice into the mix.

But I DO have something to say about all this Confederate Flag nonsense.

Let me start off with a little autobiography. I’m a woman, twenty seven years old. I have traveled north of the Mason-Dixon line twice in my life, and I’ve spent a total of three days–THREE days out of the roughly 9,500 I’ve been alive–outside the South. I haven’t received an especially rigorous education. My family isn’t especially progressive, or especially regressive. Nobody’s a flaming racist (well, nobody much, and certainly not me). I’ve lived a fairly normal life, for someone south of the Mason-Dixon.

I–and most of the people I know down here–think flying the Confederate Flag is pretty dumb.

I do NOT think the Confederate Flag stands for bravery, or loyalty, or anything much except a war that should’ve been over 150 years ago, and has been romanticized, perfumed, and anointed far beyond its use except as a lesson in history books, drowsed over by kids more interested in what they’re having for lunch than class content.

I do think people (individuals, please read) have the right to FLY the Confederate flag outside their own homes. I think it’s a pointless and moronic thing to do, and, yes, a racist thing to do as well. However, letting your freak flag fly is a right protected by the first amendment, as is my right to tell you you’re a moron.

But that’s all whatever. Because, in spite of some of the alarmist stuff I’ve been seeing, I don’t think anyone much is interested in repealing your first amendment rights and ‘banning’ the Confederate flag. Stores have taken it off their shelves? Well, tough, that’s their right. And what goes up in front of government buildings is a matter for the government to decide, and has no bearing on the first amendment. God, people, get it together. Not everything you dislike is an attempt to take away your freedom.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. All that shit’s been said to death, and I’m tired of all of it.

What I’m here to say–PLEASE stop assuming this nasty mess gives you the right to blanket-refer to an entire region of the country as rednecks, hillbillies, hicks, morons, undereducated, etc.

Please, Jesus.

I don’t give a shit about my ‘heritage’ as a Southerner. But that’s not what you’re attacking, when you say ‘all Southerners this’ and ‘Southerners that’–when you say those things, you’re attacking me, as a person who happens through pure accident of birth to live in the South.

I’ve seen plenty of questionably-spelled post-vomit coming from our nothern states. Plenty of racism, plenty of ugliness, plenty of stupid. I wouldn’t say you assholes up there are, en masse, any smarter than us assholes down here.

No, none of your rejects are clinging to a Confederate flag. Of course they aren’t–you guys won that war, remember? This does not, however, mean your rejects are all shining examples of human equality and compassion. They just don’t have a handy banner to unite behind for the Great Moron Crusade that is our current century.

So yeah. Flying the Confederate flag is dumb. I’m not arguing with you here. Hell, I’ll join you in calling the people who do it idiots.

However.

We’re not all racist morons. We’re not all undereducated, ignorant, inbred, potbellied, alcoholic, all those other fun labels your blowhards have been flinging like poo-laden orangutans all over the internet. As someone who’s pretty proud of her brain, seeing this blanketing happen just makes me grit my teeth.

So please. Please. Don’t lump all of us in with those flag-waving dickheads. All right? Can you do that for me?

Otherwise, I want you to take that piece of lox slathered bagel you’ve been munching and blow it out your Yankee ass.

Got it? See how not fun that is? How totally not cool? I feel a little bad for saying those things, even as an example.

However.

Call me ignorant one more time. I fucking dare you. But if you do it, here’s the deal–any arguing we do in the comments thread will be conducted in sonnet form. Petrarchan, because I hate you and want you to think better. If you get me mad enough, we’ll move to sestinas. FULL sestinas.

The first person to break meter probably fucks his own sister in the mud patch outside his doublewide. I mean, obviously. You’re from whatever arbitrary place in the world you’re from, so that’s what you’re about, right?