A Stunning Essay

March 20, 2017

Things have been––well, let’s say, harried around here recently, so I am half-assing this post by pointing you in the direction of an incredible piece of writing someone recently reminded me of.  It’s more than half-assed, in fact: it’s a selfish move, because I want to pretend that I have some affiliation with someone who can write so well, even though we’ve emailed twice and I’m resorting to cutting and pasting her words.  Ah well––extenuating circumstances!  Here’s a teaser of “What’s in a Necronym?” by Jeannie Vanasco:

I.

I am named after the daughter my father lost.

I remember the day I first learned about her. I was eight. My father was in his chair, holding a small white box. As my mother explained that he had a dead daughter named Jeanne, pronounced the same as my name, “without an i,” he opened the box and looked away. Inside was a medal Jeanne had received from a church “for being a good person,” my mother said. My father said nothing. I said nothing. I stared at the medal.

Later that day, in the basement, my mother told me Jeanne died in a car accident in New York when she was sixteen, many years before I was born. Two other girls were in the car. Jeanne sat between the driver and the other passenger in the front seat. The driver tried to pass a car, hesitated, then tried to pull back into her lane. She lost control and Jeanne was thrown from the car and killed instantly.

“Your father blames himself,” my mother said. “He can’t talk about it.”

“Why?” I asked.

“He gave her permission to go out that night.”

After Jeanne died, my father bought two burial plots next to one another, one for Jeanne and one for himself. When he and his first wife divorced, she stipulated that he forfeit his plot, and he agreed. Soon after the divorce, he went to court again, this time for beating up a bum on the street. “Why should you be alive?” my father had asked him. “You’re not working and my daughter’s dead.” The judge remembered my father and let him go.

“Did you know his first wife?” I asked my mother.

“No, he was divorced long before I met him. All this happened in New York.”

I lived in Ohio, where my father and mother met. In my mind, New York was made of skyscrapers, taxicabs, and car accidents.

“What did Jeanne look like?”

My mother said she had never seen a photo.

That spring I painted portraits of Jeanne in watercolor. I titled them Jeanne. My art teacher told me she was disappointed that such a good student could misspell her own name. From then on, I included an i.

A Gem

March 12, 2017

I don’t usually read letters to the editor, but in a recent New Yorker, I happened upon this one, which I thought was quite astute:

“As a child psychologist, I find Barry Blitt’s cover depicting Donald Trump in a child’s limo terribly sad.  It suggests that the problem with Trump is that he is a child.  this is an affront to children everywhere: children are not inherently narcissistic, ignorant, cruel or vindictive.  They tend to accept other human beings with an open mind and heart, without prejudice.  Would that a five-year-old were our President.”

YouTube Knows Me So Well

March 9, 2017

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Sorry for another Tweet-like Message

March 7, 2017

But this one was just too good to pass up…

KM:  I wish auto-fill-in would get on the same page as I am.  It’s always trying to fill in my sentences with “great” or “positive” when I am typing “gross” or “pointless.”

Buzzfeed-Style Quiz

March 6, 2017

Find out fun things about your personality this Monday morning!

From a NYRB review of the biography of Angela Carter:

“Psychologists have suggested that there are two classic early fears, both deftly portrayed in the folktale ‘Hansel and Gretel’: the fear of being abandoned and the fear of being consumed.  For most of us, one of these anxieties is dominant.”

Which one are you?!

But Who Will Play the Rhino?

March 2, 2017

First of all, I know conservationists will fault me for this, but anyone else think we should abolish zoos?  They’re kind of loci of horror these days, more often than not.  I mean, at the very least, Sea World has to go.

On that note, though, someone please write a dramatic opera about this utter clusterfuck:

The founder of a zoo where almost 500 animals died bragged that his management style was better than “textbook” weeks before government inspectors condemned his practices.

Inspectors at South Lakes Safari Zoo, in Cumbria, found that 486 of its animals had died as a result of mistreatment between December 2013 and September 2016, a report said yesterday.

Shortly before the inspection David Gill, 55, the owner, said that the recent birth of a baby rhino was a “fitting tribute to my work and expertise in zoo animal management”.

He wrote on Facebook in December that he had enjoyed “huge success”, having “always pursued a different style of management to the norm”.

“I wish many other zoos would watch and learn from our example as it is not worth copying books and guidelines if they don’t actually work,” he added. “In my opinion you simply do not listen to people who have had far less success than you in any area of life.”

Inspectors have recommended that Mr Gill’s application for licence renewal be rejected and called on Barrow council to consider prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act.

In 1997 Mr Gill was found guilty of endangering the public after a white rhino escaped from its enclosure. The animal fell down a ravine and had to be shot. In the same year a Sunday newspaper reported that he was having an affair with a teenage zoo hand, Shelley Goodwin, who had left school at 16 and began looking after his kangaroos.

His wife left him, taking their two children, and Mr Gill and Ms Goodwin married. They have since separated. In 2001 a pregnant zoo keeper who incurred Mr Gill’s wrath when she expressed fears about feeding lions was awarded £30,000 in compensation.

Mr Gill’s personal life was given another public airing in 2008 during the trial of a jilted husband who slashed the zoo owner’s neck when he discovered him in bed with his wife.

Richard Creary, then 38, attacked Mr Gill, who fled in his Ferrari dressed only in his pyjamas. Creary was later jailed for five years. In 2014 Mr Gill was forced to apologise after saying that the legalisation of gay marriage signalled the end of the world, and that gay lifestyle was “abnormal” and “anti-natural”.

Last year his zoo was fined £297,500 after a keeper, Sarah McClay, 24, was mauled to death by a Sumatran tiger in 2013. Ms McClay’s boyfriend, David Shaw, 27, told The Times that she was considering setting up a trade union at the zoo because of a “cloud of fear” that existed for staff.

“Sarah and I spent some time looking to implement trade union,” he said. “We were looking towards suitable trade unions because the staff were mistreated at the time — the staff were managed by fear.”

Ms McClay’s brother, Stephen, 31, who lives in London, said: “It absolutely baffles me that anyone would still visit the zoo after my sister died there and now that this report about the conditions has emerged people must surely be put off visiting.

“Had he done the right thing four years ago and stepped down after an employee died on his watch, the animal mistreatment over the past four years at least could have been avoided.”

The zoo was awarded a six-year licence to operate in June 2010 and the council received an application for renewal from Mr Gill in January 2016.

The council rejected the application in July, agreeing with inspectors that he was “not a fit and suitable person” to manage the zoo.

However, the law dictates that if the licence holder reapplies for a new licence, the existing licence continues in force until the application has been processed or withdrawn.

Mr Gill, who remains the licence holder, handed over the responsibility of managing the zoo to Cumbria Zoo Company Limited.

Mr Gill’s lawyer said that his client believes it would be “inappropriate to comment” during the regulatory and legal process.

Barrow council will decide on the renewal of the zoo’s licence on Monday.

Obsessed With This

March 1, 2017

KM sent me this incredible opportunity, with an accompanying note that read: “I’m at once deeply confused and yet desperate to do this.”  ME TOO KM!

In 2017, Mall of America® celebrates its 25th birthday. As part of this special celebration, we think it’s crucial to capture how much we’ve evolved over the course of the last 25 years. Rather than do it ourselves, we’re giving that job to a gifted writer.

The Writer-in-Residence Contest will give a special scribe the chance to spend five days deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere while writing on-the-fly impressions in their own words. The contest winner will stay in an attached hotel for four nights, receive a $400 gift card to buy food and drinks and collect a generous honorarium for the sweat and tears they’ll put into their prose.

To apply, visit the application page before March 10, 2017, midnight Central Time. Tell us about yourself and, in 150 words or less, pitch your idea for how you would approach this assignment if you won the Writer-in-Residence prize. Would it be a personal story? A blow-by-blow account of your experiences? The Mall as seen through the eyes of a first-time tourist or a regular guest?

This application is open to everyone from all writing backgrounds and levels of experience, from seasoned journalists to aspiring poets. We’re not only looking for writing skill, but also creativity in your pitch. Heck, if you can make the assignment work as a musical-comedy screenplay, by all means make it so!

Twenty-five semifinalists will be selected from the first round of applications, judged on creativity and skill. Though not required, previous experience will be considered as well. Those 25 semifinalists will have the opportunity to expand on their story idea in a 500-800-word essay. The contest winner will be chosen based on the strength of this essay, judged by experienced writers and journalists.

Where will the winner’s lovingly crafted story end up? Just wait and see!

We strongly recommend reading the full contest rules before applying.

Abbreviated Rules

No Purchase Necessary
Void where prohibited
Entry Period begins on February 20, 2017 and ends on March 10, 2017
Legal residents of the U.S. & D.C
To enter must be 18 or older
For Official Rules, prize description and odds, read the full contest rules.
Sponsor: MOAC Mall Holdings LLC

SAD But Funny

February 23, 2017

AWP: I feel sluggish too and I am not even knocked up.  I attempted to buy a SAD light for seasonal affective disorder but when I plugged it in it blew up which made me even more sad and sluggish.

Spotted in an Urban Outfitters Dressing Room

February 20, 2017
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Gayle, is that you!?

Hair of the Dog, Part II

February 13, 2017

Two years later, lining up for Big Gulp-sized Buds at a Madison Square Garden kiosk, I was experiencing that same nausea, though my head was only pounding slightly, thanks to the seven coffees and three Advils I had consumed over the course of the day. The culprit: the first night of the WKC, during which we had slugged Maker’s Mark in a slightly better section, closer to a proper bar. Night two, we had been exiled to the nosebleed section, away from the ball-gown-wearing pure-breed owners in the double-digit chairs who drank white wine and soft-clapped for their chattel; up here, where the plebeians sat, there was only beer for the masses, like we were peasants at the theater in Elizabethan England.

“Do you get a lot of big drinkers at this event?” D asked the server.

She scrunched up her face and thought a minute. “Last week we had the Clintons speaking here,” she said. “Nobody had any beer then.”

This year, we had decided that to finalize the rules, we should probably attend the show itself. You know, drink in the milieu, and drink in the drinks, and hope that the environment inspired us to be the best drinking game artistes we could possibly be. We were missing out on the witty banter of USA Network’s panelists, truthfully, but other than that, it was going splendidly. The spirits––of the “sporting gentlemen” who founded the Westminster Kennel Club in 1877, and of T. William Samuels Senior––were filling us, which meant that our goals were both being met and also being quickly forgotten. No matter––it’s all part of the process. The first night, we had confirmed two rules, but then found one of them so thought provoking that, as we drank more, we just couldn’t get ourselves off the topic. Here’s the prompt: would you fuck the handler? If so you, took a drink. (Later on, we developed a twist: if you actually had fucked the handler, you had to finish whatever it was you were drinking, no matter how much was left in the mug/glass/chalice.) On the surface, a pretty basic question, but one that begs all sorts of other ones: what if, for example, you thought the handler pretty tasty, but you thought maybe, possibly, they weren’t into your genitalia? Two drinks later, we found ourselves mulling over D’s penchant for falling in love with women who turn out to be lesbians, all while watching a fluffy Chow Chow, fit for a royal court in ancient China, stride in front of a pensive, tuxedo-clad judge.

So now here we were: one last night, during which we had to overcome the shakes to harness all our drinking game writing powers. Five rules in place, including the “would you fuck the handler,” and pages of scattered notes from which to work. Two large Buds––working people can’t be choosy––at our feet. In the section to our right, a group of ten or so who appear to be our age peers, practically tumbling over the bleachers to talk to one another, even though they were yelling already. In the rows in front of us, a handful of middle-aged women dressed to accentuate their muffin tops, each clutching an official Westminster Kennel Club Program (the hardcover kind, the kind they had to purchase), pencil at the ready. And way down beneath us, the glorious, Astroturf-carpeted arena, no less grand, surely, than the Coliseum during Rome’s heyday, in which shortly, one dog would be crowned top dog.

“Hey, that’s good!” D says. “Maybe one rule should be if the announcers call the winner ‘top dog’?”

“Funny, but you know what’s funnier? Irony.”
“Right. What about if they say the word ‘underdog’?”

“Jackpot.”

The crowd of youngsters next to us was getting rowdier, each member whooping in excitement as his or her favorite breed took to the tiny podium. The terrier group, the last group before the climax, began. The pressure was on; I could feel my heart rate rising, and I kind of liked it.

Out strutted the little rat-hunters, their tiny wiry beards highlighted on the Jumbo-Tron. Interspersed were a few dogs that looked suspiciously like toys: a little too groomed, a little too dainty.   We snarled at these terrier-imposters.

“Patty Hearst owns that one,” D slurred, pointing out the Skye Terrier, with its butterfly-shaped head and long, silky hair, probably brushed a hundred times as the Skye stared at itself lovingly in the mirror like a Disney princess.[i] There was another reason to hate it aside from its obvious toy-ness: D and I had gone to middle school with the daughter of Patty Hearst, now a socialite-cum-model. They were both heinous bitches. Like, we assumed, the dog.

“Ew!”
“That dog does not belong here,” he seethed. “Also, you can’t see its eyes.” This was one solidified rule, so we took a big gulp of our Big Gulps.

As the judging began, I surveyed the notes. Five rules did not a game make, particularly over upwards of four hours of broadcasting. I began highlighting frontrunners and slashing through stupid ideas. D kept drinking and watching the stage. Frei’s sweet voice narrated it all. “Often described as having the look of the lamb and the heart of a lion… ”
“It DOES look like a lamb! Hey, do you think there’s subtext when the announcer says a dog can be a good family companion ‘with proper training or socialization’?”

“That definitely means the breed is full of assholes.”

Rule: formed.

I made a beeline for the bathroom before the inevitable commercial break, when they’d play the dog shampoo commercial and an ad for Purina Puppy Chow yet again, wobbling as I walked up the stairs to reach the hallway. The rows of toilets were empty, people obviously too rapt to leave their chairs. I briefly considered puking, but then thought if I just ate more generic popcorn, I might survive. When I returned to the chair, the hair care Adonis that is Chaz Dean was posing on the Jumbro-tron bookended by a quadruple of Labrador retrievers with shiny, beautiful coats.[ii] D had gotten us new beers. My stomach lurched, and the Manchester Terrier took to the stage. Around and around they went, like a dystopian zoological Small World ride, the russets and grays and the long snouts and the smooth coats and broken coats and the various Shires of England where they originated blending together until I could no longer tell a Norfolk Terrier from a Russell. “The Miniature Schnauzer is at home both in the city and in the country!” Despite being pretty sure I was at a point where I could possibly pass out on a gutter on West 33rd Street, I kept taking seal-like swallows of my beer. I barely remember the judges picking out the finalists, but I do remember what happened when he pointed to the sleek-haired Skye to indicate he was top dog. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw D cup his hands around his mouth, and bellow out––did I mention that D’s a professional voiceover artist? Yep, the powerful lungs behind the Army and Nascar––“THAT’S NOT A REAL TERRIER!”

To me, it felt like his roar flooded the entire arena; that’s probably a drunken exaggeration, but it would be accurate to say all of section 232 heard and reacted. The tribe of rowdy contemporaries nearby stopped whooping and looked at us. The middle-aged women in mom jeans stopped taking notes in their official handbooks and turned around to stare, utterly aghast. Unsure as to whether I should be embarrassed or greatly amused, I opted for the latter and burst out laughing. D took another sip.

“Well, it’s not,” he said, this time at a normal volume.

Thankfully the Skye wasn’t crowned top dog that evening, otherwise there would have been real hell to pay. Instead, an adorable little beagle named Miss P (we decided it wasn’t a truly human name) enjoyed a steak at Sardi’s and visited the top of the Empire State Building the next day, during her media tour. As for us, we got a big bar tab, one of the tallest plumes to stick in our drinking game caps, a selfie with Chaz Dean, and two walloping hangovers. And we’ve never looked back.

 

 

Full rules can be found here. This year, in addition to new breeds, WKC will also feature cats (though during one of the ancillary events). Oh, and also: there’s Trump hook for this essay, don’t you worry.

[i] It came to my attention afterward that in fact Patty Hearst owned the Shih Tzu, not the Skye Terrier. Immaterial for the sake of telling this story, but I felt it should be acknowledged. The Shih Tzu also made it to the final round of judging, but it would have been even worse if that breed––known to wear little bows––triumphed.

[ii] In the time since this event, Chaz Dean’s brand Wen has been sued by 200 women who claim products from the line have caused “severe hair loss.” I sincerely hope the canine line hasn’t had similar problems, otherwise there will be lots of angry show dog breeder/owner/handlers out there.