Category Archives: fictionista

2010: year in review

1. what did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
stayed in a hotel when i attended a zine fair.
lived in philadelphia (just for a few months).
attended a religious service.
bought a car, with my name on the registration & everything.
regularly cooked dinner for two people at least three times a week.
sang “sweet child o’ mine” at karaoke.
wrote fan fiction (not saying i’m proud).

2. did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
every year, i make a list of ten new year’s resolutions, & then i review them the next year & see how i did. i did really badly in 2010. i didn’t keep a single resolution. i kind of half-kept some of them, & others were rendered immediately irrelevant (for example, i resolved to do only five distro things per day, in an effort to give myself more free time…& then i closed down the distro altogether instead, which certainly boosted my access to free time).

i think my resolutions were too specific this year, & that’s why they seem like such a failure. but of course i intend to make more resolutions for 2011 & hopefully this time they will stick. they include things like “learn how to drive & get driver’s license”. it would be great to write a novel this year. it would be great to conceive a baby this year. i intend to quit smoking, stick to my budget, & keep more of my whining & complaining to myself. but i guess we’ll have to wait & see what happens.

3. did anyone close to you give birth?
not that i am aware of.

4. did anyone close to you die?
again, not that i am aware of.

5. what countries did you visit?
i just stayed in the united states all year. but i traveled quite a bit within the states. i live in kansas & managed to hit missouri, iowa, illinois, colorado, oregon, utah, california, pennsylvania, new jersey, new york, massachusetts…

6. what would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
more money socked away in my savings account, cute dresses, more physical strength, a solid baby-havin’ game plan, & more self-discipline for writing.

7. what dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
may 27 was the day we arrived in philadelphia, hence beginning my philly summer. my memory of the day itself is foggy because the first thing we did was hit the bar, but it was probably a lot of fun. also, february 2 was the day i shipped out the last of the zines ordered from the distro, april 4 was jared’s birthday & cait came to visit & brought him carrot cupcakes, & july 21 was the day we flew back to kansas after out summer out east & we circled the kansas city airport for over three hours & eventually had to fly to omaha to refuel.

8. what was your biggest achievement of the year?
this is a weird thing to consider an “achievement,” but i shut down my zine distro this year & that was pretty cool. i’d been running it for like seven years & it had pretty much taken over my life. i’d been toying with the idea of closing it for months, & i am pretty proud of myself for finally making the decision, following through, & not wavering or regretting it. every now & again, i miss it just a little, but i know i made the right choice. i feel a lot happier now & i feel like my relationships with people in my actual day-to-day life have improved as a result.

9. what was your biggest failure?
i definitely didn’t do as much writing as i would have liked. i ostensibly closed the zine distro so i would have more time for my own writing projects, but i really struggled with actually making that happen. i barely wrote in my journal at all, i didn’t finish any really complicated fiction projects. maybe i just needed some downtime after ending one time-consuming long-term project before jumping into another, but that seems like a weak excuse.

10. did you suffer illness or injury?
my arthritis continued to make my health deteriorate. it’s worse than ever now & it really impacts my life in huge ways. i also burnt my thumb really badly lighting a sparkler at a kickball game in july.

11. what was the best thing you bought?
i got a new hard drive for my computer & i’m hoping that will make it last for many years. i also treated myself to a subscription to “writer’s digest,” from which i have derived a lot of inspiration & motivation. jared & i invested a little extra rent money in a bigger apartment, which has been great. we also bought a car, which ought to simplify our lives in a lot of ways (while inevitably complicating them in other ways).

12. whose behavior merited celebration?
“merited celebration” is a really weird phrase. but, you know, i am pretty happy with jared. he always makes me laugh & prevents me from taking myself too seriously. i am also happy that bart made so much effort to come visit with me in philly over the summer. & every conversation i have with jessika rae is always golden.

13. whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
the biggest disappointment, for a few different reasons, was the behavior of the former friend who alienated me by expressing her feelings of resentment over my disability income. that might be the worst inter-personal thing that happened in my life this year. not only was it really hurtful coming from someone i had trusted, but it also means that i don’t really have a really hardcore, articulate, critical thinking feminist lady in my immediate circle of kansas friends anymore. i love the kansas friends i do have…but i miss the dynamic of having long wide-ranging political conversations with someone.

i was also really disgusted with the selfish, egotistical actions of a zinester who shall remain nameless, but makes me feel very relieved that i am no longer contributing much energy to the zine community. she exemplifies the very worst things about that world, as far as i’m concerned.

14. where did most of your money go?
rent, buying a car, groceries (which suddenly cost like twice as much as they did last year). boring, i know.

15. what did you get really, really, really excited about?
i don’t get “really, really, really excited” about anything. but i was pretty pumped about spending my summer in philly, i was usually stoked about going to karaoke, i am always excited for nice weather after a string of cold or rainy days. maybe i need to make a resolution to be more excitable.

16. what song will always remind you of 2010?
this song, this specific video parody:

also, that ridiculous song by the dude who likes to rock the club while wearing all his favorite brands brands brands brands, & who throws his hands in the air every now & again.

17. compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
probably a little happier.
b) thinner or fatter? fatter, for sure. kansas is just so boring & jared’s cooking is so delicious.
c) richer or poorer? far poorer. it’s stressing me out.

18. what do you wish you’d done more of?
writing, as always. exploring whatever possibilities for excitement kansas may have to offer. wearing real clothes & not just pajamas. allowing myself to be a little more spontaneous.

19. what do you wish you’d done less of?
smoking. having pointless gossip sessions about shit i don’t even care about. traveling. feeling self-conscious.

20. how did you spend xmas?
jared & i went to brunch at alana’s house. alana is jared’s brother’s new lady friend, & she knows a lot of the same people as me (not just from boston, but also from zines). i ate lots of sweet potato biscuits & gravy & tamales with salsa & guacamole, which was great. then i played with a cat until the cat freaked out & hissed at me. then jared, david, alana, & i went to newton to have xmas dinner with jared’s parents. they made a traditional xmas dinner–turkey & mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed pearl onions, cranberry sauce, etc. their tenants–a woman from china & her eleven-year-old son–joined us. we all exchanged xmas gifts. the tenant woman gave me a fabulous rhinestone-studded summer parasol in a little clutch, & jared’s mom gave me a chinese bangle that does not fit properly over my horribly mutated arthritic jumbo wrists. david gave us a painting of a dinosaur playing baseball & zombie fluxx. we ate plum pudding with lemon sauce (amazingly delicious, which is high praise coming from someone who loathes fruit-based desserts) & then played the longest game of fluxx ever, which i eventually won.

21. did you fall in love in 2010?
stayed in love.

22. how many one-night stands?
well, let’s see here…i may need a caluclator…jay kay. zero. who could ever hope to compete with jared for my affections?

23. what was your favorite TV program?
i became pretty obsessed with “dexter,” & also watched the entire series run of both “lost” & “the wire”. oh, & “big love” too. of the three, “the wire” was far & away the best & “big love” was probably far & away the worst. i also kept up with “america’s next top model” & “project runway,” although the magic of both is pretty much completely gone.

24. do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
there are definitely a few people i wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire, but “hate” is a strong word.

25. what was the best book you read?
i really enjoyed all the babysitters club books i read this year (around 80 books). i didn’t read the whole series, like i intended, but i had fun with what i did read.

as far as “real” books go, i enjoyed the books i read about terrible mountaineering disasters. even the poorly-written ones (& let’s face it, most of them are poorly-written) were at least a little bit thrilling. i am embarrassed to admit that i really liked the happiness project & just let me lie down. i re-read special topics in calamity physics over the summer, & while it was certainly more gimmicky than i remembered, i still really liked it. the girl who fell from the sky was okay too, if occasionally meandering & plotless (not great for such a short book). sloane crosley’s newest made me laugh. i thought death is not an option by suzanne rivecca was one of the better short story collections i’ve read lately.

but ultimately, i won’t lie. i read A LOT of books this year (about 200) & A LOT of them were just terrible. maybe i need to resolve to read better books in 2011–books i expect good things of, rather than books that just arouse my bitterest curiosities.

26. what was your greatest musical discovery?
i don’t keep up with new music. all i will say is that i enjoy ke$ha’s music a lot more than i expected to when all i knew about her was that she wore a very questionable headdress on “saturday night live,” hence lighting a fire under the hipster american indian cultural appropriation trend.

27. what did you want and get?
a lot more time for myself, many delicious home-cooked meals, an apartment with a bathtub & some fabulous-smelling bubble bath, the chance to visit with a few long-distance friends, central air, some nice books about writing, a completed babysitters club collection, a shawl.

28. what did you want and not get?
a pain-free existence (not that i expected that), a baby, a badass local radical feminist friend who does not say offensive things that make it difficult to be friends with her & does not move away, the willpower to avoid spending all my money on cigarettes, self-discipline & finely tuned organizational skills.

29. what was your favorite film of this year?
i don’t know, so i’ll just fall back on my usual go-to & say “harry potter & the deathly hallows, part one”.

30. what did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
i turned 31 this year. jared came down to philly from new york to visit with me. we got up in the morning & collected amanda & went to breakfast at the popular breakfast cafe in south philly where all the employees have tons of tattoos & stuff. i don’t remember what i ordered, but i’m sure it was great. i do remember that my coffee was served in a glass cup, which was weird, because the coffee made the cup really hot & i kept burning my hands.

after breakfast, i saw a cat on the street & played with it for a while. & amanda spilled coffee all over the sidewalk. we jumped on the bus & went to the zoo, where we saw tigers & that is really all i care about. i love tigers! we also saw other large cats, big scary birds, peacocks walking around like they owned the place, playful giraffes, crazy otters, etc. unfortunately, the zoo closed like an hour & a half after we got there, so we really didn’t get to spend a lot of time with each animal, & we didn’t have time to ride in the zoo balloon, which was really disappointing.

we took a cab back to south philly & picked up ingredients to make baked ziti & flourless chocolate cake. i guess we also got beer at some point, because i remember drinking it. kate & sarah came over & i think it was just the five of us hanging out. after sarah left, amanda brought out a strawberry shortcake pinata & it took me so long to break it open (occasionally coming dangerously close to hitting jared instead) that my arms got really tired. & it was completely dark out, so amanda & i were finding candy in her garden for days afterward.

it was fun! the only thing that could have improved matters were if we’d planned out our timing a little better. therefore, i resolve to figure out what i want to do on my birthday & make sure i have plenty of time to do it this year before it closes. topeka zoo, i’m looking at you.

31. what one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
if every single person in the world conducted themselves with utmost self-awareness, honesty, personal responsibility, & empathy. but i would settle for lawrence residents making the effort to shovel their sidewalks after it snows.

32. how would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
winter: corduroys & turtleneck sweaters, sorels, a pink crocheted hood & a black wool coat that apparently makes me look pregnant is the dude at the post office who asked me if my baby was kicking is to be believed.
spring: i am seriously asking myself if i put on real clothes at all for the entire spring. i think i mostly just wore pajamas pants, a t-shirt, & slippers.
summer: it was so fucking hot this summer that dignity went out the window. i was all about baggy jean shorts & t-shirts or hideous sleeveless dresses with leggings. hair was always in a bun, socks were never worn.
fall: jeans, jeans, & yet more jeans. sweaters that kind of look like jackets. finally got a haircut so now i have bangs. gave up on ever wearing contacts & just wear glasses everyday.
in conclusion: i like what is easy & what is plain. nothing with obvious logos or slogans or anything. hair off the face, whatever is comfortable for the weather, & whatever is best-suited for laying around the house.

33. what kept you sane?
coffee, cigarettes, logic puzzles, home-baked cookies, walks, water, & books (yay for the lawrence public library!).

34. which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
not applicable. jared is the best.

35. what political issue stirred you the most?
radicals/liberals becoming rape apologists for julian assange. climate change & the concept of peak water. the racist arizona immigration bill. republicans attempting to pass legislation rescinding citizenship for babies born in the united states if their parents are undocumented. crazy fucking tea partiers winning mid-term elections.

36. who did you miss?
jared, when he was in new york & i was in philly. that situation was so much harder than i expected it to be. i also missed jessika rae, bart, alyssa now that she lives in columbia, etc…

37. who was the best new person you met?
i will say kelly, just because of the awesome way we met. one day, a lady rides her bicycle into a ditch right before your very eyes, & the next day, she’s your buddy & you are there when she gets locked in every public restroom in the tri-county area.

it was also pretty cool to meet alana. i was just really pumped about all the people we knew in common & how she seems genuinely interesting & unpretentious.

38. tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:
i learned that feminism matters more to me than pretty much anything else at the end of the day, which was kind of surprising & eye-opening. i also learned that it really is better to make a roommate into a friend than a friend into a roommate. i learned how to fit myself for a bra, i learned that i don’t have to keep doing something i hate just because i’ve been doing it for a while, & i learned that over-the-counter painkillers, when taken in excess, can cause liver failure.

39. what did you devote most of your energy to?
organizing my to-do lists. sad but true.

40. quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
“there a place i know/
if you’re looking for a show/
where they go hardcore/
& there’s glitter on the floor.”

this is pretty much the attitude i try to bring to karaoke, & 2010 was my best karaoke year yet.

no one stole my kidney in san francisco

we’re back in home in kansas after our whirlwind trip to san francisco. i am exhausted. all i want to do is sleep & lay around wearing pajamas. i can’t believe that we’re turning right around & flying to boston in under 48 hours.

there’s no logical reason for the trip to san francisco to have been such a tiring experience for me. i can understand why jared is so beat. he was preparing & giving a presentation, & putting the final touches on two big end-of-term papers at the same time. what’s my excuse? we stayed in a hotel (thanks to jared’s academic funding), so i was sleeping in a real bed with access to my own shower. i never really wandered further afield from the hotel’s neighborhood (soma) than the mission, which is like twenty blocks away, tops. i don’t know how i used to do the kind of punk traveling i did when i was younger, riding the greyhound for two & a half days only to find myself in some random city where i’d probably be sleeping on a floor, going out until all hours of the night, socializing with people every waking moment. young people really do have more energy. enjoy it while you can, kids!

jared had a meeting with his hydrology colleagues to hammer out the details of their presentations on our first full morning in san francisco, so i was like, great. i can hang out by myself, maybe hit a coffeeshop & do a little writing. i had big plans to pick up a pack of notecards & hammer out an outline for my novel. i got to the coffeeshop okay (it was right next door to the hotel), but when i turned on my computer, it wouldn’t boot. so i ran a file systems check & tried to reboot when it said the hard drive looked okay. nothing happened. i waited about 45 minutes for it to boot, & finally i gave up & called apple. they said i could bring it into a store & they could look it over & get it back to me in three to five days, but because i don’t have applecare, it would run me about $600 to have the hard drive replaced. not only did i not have three to five days in san francisco to wait for repairs, but $600 is just about all the money i have in savings.

i brought it into the store anyway–my first time ever in a real apple store. i bought my computer at an “accredited apple sales center” in lawrence, which basically looks like a big garage with maybe two employees, sparse metal shelving units lining the walls containing (i assume) whatever apple products have fallen off the back of the truck lately. a real apple store is a totally different animal, & i was a little bit scared. i think there were more employees milling around (all of which seemed to be engaged in talking a customer into buying an expensive apple product) than the number of people that attended woodstock. i waited at the “genius bar” for my appointment. the genius assigned to me gave me computer a once-over with his fancy computer diagnostics equipment & told me i needed a new hard drive. you don’t say! he said they could do it in-store for $180 & get it back to me in three days. obviously, i needed it done sooner than that because i was leaving san francisco in two days. he gave me a card for an accredited apple repair company half a block away that could do it faster. “they’ll probably be more expensive, huh?” i said. “actually, they’re cheaper,” he replied.

i strolled over to the flood building & up to the suite in question. i was a little scared that it might be an organ harvesting front at first, but it was actually just an apple repair center. the technician told me he could have the computer fixed within 24 hours for $150. naturally, i would have preferred for that $150 to stay in my pocket, but it felt like a small price to pay after initially being quoted $600 for a five-day fix.

i kind of enjoyed the whole process. for whatever reason, i really like going to other cities, running into mundane problems that would just be tedious errands back home, & taking care of business. it makes me feel very capable. i also spent some quality time with a couple of zine friends, ate super-cheap indian food, stopped by the crafts museum for the mexican folk art exhibit (my favorite piece of art there was a huge installation of hand-painted plates depicting the mexican black market–it included a plate featuring a goat smoking a pipe), & observed the fact that san francisco is the place to go if you are in need of an appliqued onesie for your baby. doesn’t seem like a great idea to me, as appliqued clothing needs some special laundry care & baby onesies get washed constantly, but hey. i’m not kidding myself that the san francisco appliqued baby onesies market really values practicality when dressing their infants.

when we flew home, somehow we missed the entire boarding process for our flight & had to be called by name from the gate. no idea how that happened. charlotte was so happy to see us, jumping up on her hind legs & purring & trying to cuddle with jared’s computer equipment.

one other completely insane thing happened while i was in san francisco (unrelated to actually being in san francisco), but i am still trying to figure out how/if to write about it in this forum. let’s just cal it reason #9462 why i’m not an anarchist anymore.

of minimal interest (with photos!)

i’ve been getting more comically hateful comments here than usual recently. that tends to happen when someone links to something i wrote months ago & suddenly people start flocking to the blog & sharing their goofy opinions. i usually don’t approve the comments of people who just come over to write things like, “you suck!” i’ll approve a comment with which i disagree if i feel like it adds to the conversation or the person is arguing in good faith. but stuff like, “everyone wishes you were dead” is not really all that helpful or interesting. which is really too bad, because sometimes the most asshole comments are also the funniest.

i think my new tagline for the blog should be, “come for the controversy…stay for the babysitters club reviews!” i like to think i have a little something to offer everyone.

i’m going to be in san francisco later this week. i haven’t been to the bay area since the summer of 2001. any recommendations for things to do/see/eat? preferably nothing that really costs a lot of money. i am not really looking to do any shopping or eat at fancy restaurants. buying the car really decimated my savings & i need to be careful for a little while in order to re-build it. i have some friends that live out there, so i’ll have some locals to show me the sights, but i expect i’ll also be spending a fair bit of time on my own. jared is going to be presenting at a conference, so he won’t necessarily be squiring me around the city full time.

i spent the afternoon writing fiction, so my creative energy is kind of tapped at the moment & i’m not feeling the magic i require to write a coherent blog post. but! i dreamed last night that i had a baby. except that the baby was cat. & i actually gave birth to it. & i was like, “this baby rules! it’s so cute, & also so soft!” & then i would pet it. i’d put it down in its crib for a nap & i was so happy because it would sleep for ages. i was like, “wow, having a baby is so much easier than i expected. it sleeps all the time!” & finally one of my friends pointed out, “yeah, it sleeps all the time because IT’S A CAT.” & i was like, “no way, dude, my baby is not a cat.”

i don’t know what this dream means. maybe it means that i have unrealistic expectations for parenthood. maybe it means that i have realistic expectations & my brain is trying to create an alternative narrative that is easier to handle. maybe it means that CATS RULE.

i am starting to get pumped for 2011. new year’s day is my favorite holiday. because you really don’t have to do anything but sit around & relish the concept of a fresh start. i haven’t put together my resolutions or anything yet. i like to savor the process. but it looks like 2011 will be kind of big. i will learn how to drive, jared will finish his master’s degree, & there is some possibility that we will start trying to have a baby (that is actually human). & maybe 2011 will also be the year i finally finish a novel. it seems like it could be within reach. on that note, i’m going to get back to my researching & writing. please enjoy some photos in lieu of more content:

my office a few months ago when i was getting rid of my zine collection.
ellen & kelly, partying hearty.
jared picking apples. he really is from new england!
my zine sweatshop.
this is a two-parter. this is the reader window of the cute just-gay-married car ericka & i saw in portland.
this part two. so romantic!

winter survival guide, part two

perhaps ironically, i have been derailed from finishing my winter survival guide because it’s been so cold in lawrence. temperatures have been in the teens every night & it’s been bumming me out. i ordered cozy slippers on the interwebs last week (see last post: clothes), but they haven’t arrived yet, so my feet have been cold all the time. but our first gas bill since we’ve had the heat on came, & it was quite reasonable, despite jared’s dire predictions that our apartment is poorly insulated. so that was a plus.

anyway…winter survival guide, part two:

i struggle in the cold weather because i don’t want to do anything but stay as still as possible, preferably while wearing nineteen layers & huddled beneath a quilt. but staying engaged is important in the winter, when it is so easy to sink into despair. it’s tough, because it’s not as much fun to go out & do things when it’s freezing & icy out, so i have to find things to do around the house. luckily, i am great at hanging out alone & i never get bored (my parents started the whole “only boring people are bored” thing with me when i was like two years old, & i don’t ever want to be a boring person, although i have an admittedly boring life).

my favorite things to do are reading & writing, & luckily, those are great winter activities. i love my local library so much. it’s only a few blocks away from my house, & i have only looked for a few books there that they didn’t have. & i have found so many more interesting books just by browsing the shelves. when i read a (non-fiction) book i liked, i go to the stacks where it’s shelved & look for other books on a similar topic that seem interesting. this is how i have become an amateur expert on all kinds of weird shit, like himalayan mountaineering disasters, fundamentalist mormons inflicting blood atonement upon one another, & the unique smugness of eco-stunt memoirs. i am also a little less than halfway through my big project of re-reading every single babysitters club book in chronological order (& reviewing them all on goodreads–see sidebar for link). i also sometimes check out back issues of “writer’s digest,” which helps inspire me to take on writing projects.

& boy, do i ever have a lot of writing projects. i review every book i read, i keep this blog, i have a five-year diary in which i write up the highlights & lowlights of my day (about two years in), i have a more wide-ranging catch-all journal, & i have my fiction projects. my main fiction project right now is (embarrassingly, yet awesomely) a babysitters club fan fiction novel. i aged all the characters i am using ten years & am putting them into life situations that are interesting to me (ie, no babysitting). they are punks & radicals. i try to write a couple of 2000-word “chapters” per week, & i’m hoping to eventually have a continuous story of about 75,000 words. at which point, i fantasize that i’ll edit out all the obvious babysitters club references, change all the names, do some editing, & pretend like i wrote an original novel. i am amused by the idea of scoring an agent who will sell this novel to a publisher, & no one will ever know it was originally about the babysitters club. then, after it’s published & on the “new york times” bestseller list, i’ll admit the truth in an interview…& never publish a book again. because surely no one would let me after a stunt like that. or i’ll become an irreverent superstar & when i do my own interview about my “process” with “writer’s digest,” i’ll be all, “yeah, what i do is i just write stories about characters from the babysitters club & then i change all the names once i’ve hit my word count.”

i also think knitting would be a nice winter hobby, but i’ve never been able to force myself to take it up. i worry that it will stress my arthritic hands too much, & i also have big issues committing to hobbies that don’t actively engage my mind in cognitive tasks. i am really bad at just spacing out & letting my mind wander. but i think a great piece of winter survival clothing gear would be a voluminous, cozy, knitted shawl…so i am torn. maybe next year.

winter is also good for catching up on all the TV & movies i missed when i was out having fun in the sun during the summer. last winter, i watched the entire series to-date of “the wire,” “dexter,” & “lost”. & i re-watched every episode of “friends” (perhaps my favorite TV show of all time). the winter before that, i watched every episode of “the simpsons”. a few winters before that, i got hooked on “america’s next top model” & “project runway”. all of these shows are readily available on DVD or youtube (for “top model”). i also try to watch one or two movies a week during the winter. winter sucks. you have to treat yourself to a little downtime.

people get sick in the winter a lot. i’m sure scientists have done studies that explain why, but i don’t know what their findings are. maybe it’s all the changes in temperature, from being in the freezing outdoors, & then entering a warm apartment or coffeeshop or place of employment or whatever. maybe it’s all the running noses from the cold & people touching their noses all the time. to avoid getting sick, i try not to run in & out of the house all the time, & i try to wash my hands a lot. if i’m smoking & i feel my throat getting scratchy, i cut back on the smoking. i am not a big fan of fruits & vegetables, but i try to make sure i eat them every day anyway. & i make sure to drink lots of water, even though it’s not all that appealing in cold weather. it’s easy to drink tons of water when it’s 96 degrees outside. it’s less fun when it’s 18 degrees.

jared has a theory that the wintertime seems less cold if you go outside & expose yourself to the cold every single day. so i try to do that, even if it just entails standing on the balcony for ten minutes. i think it does help a little.

when i do get sick, i try to force myself to drink lots of water, orange juice, & ginger ale. if i feel really dehydrated, i bust out the pedialyte. it tastes gross, but it’s really helpful with hydration. i am a big advocate of using cloth handkerchiefs instead of tissues, for environmental reasons. seriously, there is no need to keep tissues & paper towels in your home. it’s just wasteful. use handkerchiefs & dish towels. they can be thrown in with the rest of the laundry & it’s no big deal. hot baths are also good for things like chest congestion. it’s also good to eat what you can. buttered toast, ritz crackers, broth-based soup. once when i was really sick (like, REALLY sick–i think i had swine flu), i made jared read a choose-your-own adventure book to me. that was awesome. i also like to watch old episodes of “roseanne” & “the golden girls” on youtube when i am sick.

the one good thing about winter is that it’s the perfect weather for all my favorite foods. & sometimes i feel motivated to experiment with new recipes because being in a warm kitchen actually feels nice. i have learned a lot about cooking, thanks to jared’s patient tutelage, so i will share some of my favorite winter recipes.

chicken in sour cream wine sauce
some chicken (i like chicken breasts best)
1 cup sour cream
half-cup white wine
half-cup chicken broth
half an onion
1 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
some mushrooms (optional)
2 cloves garlic

melt the butter in a saucepan. stir in the flour until it’s smooth. stir in the wine & chicken broth, along with the chopped up onions & garlic (i like it really fine, but that’s a judgment call). wait until it’s bubbling & then turn down the heat & mix in the sour cream & paprika. this will create a nice creamy orange sauce. put the chicken in a baking pan & cover it with the sauce. bake it for about half an hour at 350 degrees. feeds two people quite well. really yummy over mashed potatoes (which are always better when made with heavy cream instead of milk).

pork loin in wine sauce
boneless pork loin
half-cup flour
spices of your choosing (i mostly just like oregano)
1 tbsp. butter
half-cup wine
half an onion
some mushrooms (like maybe five)
cut the pork loin into medallions. four or five is good for two people. mix the flour with the spices (it should be more flour than spices–we’re talking maybe a teaspoon or two of spices). dredge the pork in the flour (this means, roll the pork around in the flour until it has a nice flour coating). melt the butter in a saucepan. saute the onions until they are looking translucent. throw in the pork & cook on either side until it seems fairly brown. pour in the wine & chopped up mushrooms (mushrooms are kind of optional, but so delicious). turn the heat down to medium-low & cover the saucepan. let everything cook for half an hour. delicious with mashed potatoes! use the extra wine in the pan as a thin gravy.

cheesy chicken
chicken (whatever cuts you like)
about half a block of grated cheddar (i like extra-sharp best)
about a quarter-cup of bread crumbs, but you can use more if you want
2 tbsp. of butter
cover a cookie sheet in tinfoil. do this. you will thank me later. melt the butter. grate the cheese & mix it up with the bread crumbs. dip the chicken pieces in butter & then roll them in the cheese-bread crumb mixture until they are nicely breaded & cheesed. put them on the baking sheet & bake them at 350 until they are done. for breast tenderloins, this takes about 20 minutes. for thighs, 45 minutes. for anything else, i don’t know because that’s all we eat here. if you have leftover cheese-&-bread crumbs after you’ve rolled the chicken, just dump them over the chicken before baking. the cheese will bake on to the tinfoil, so you can throw it out, which is a lot better than trying to scrape baked-on cheese off a cookie sheet. i am not going to kid you: this recipe is pretty much not healthy at all. but it is delicious. just remind yourself that at least it’s white meat, not red. i like to serve this with steamed broccoli in an effort to pretend to be healthy.

some meat (ground beef or stew meat)
tri-color bean blend or kidney beans or whatever kind of beans you like–easiest from a can
diced tomatoes–easiest from a can
half an onion
a few cloves of garlic
some spices like oregano, chili powder, paprika–whatever you like
3 tbsp. olive oil
okay, if you can’t figure this out, i don’t know how to help you. chop the onion up & saute it & the beef in the olive oil, in a saucepan. meanwhile, open the cans of beans & tomatoes & dump them into a pot. jared also likes to add this tomato-chilies thing that is all spicy, but i tend to forgo that step because i’m a chili wimp. i like mild chili. when the beef is browned, toss it in with the beans & tomatoes. throw in whatever spices you like. cover the pot & cook on low heat (seriously, you don’t want to scorch the pan) for an hour.

chili is delicious & everything, but i consider it a mere excuse to also make custard cornbread, which is the most delicious thing ever. i am not a fan of regular cornbread because it’s so dry. custard cornbread is totally different.

custard cornbread
2 tbsp. butter
one cup of flour
3/4 cup of cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups of milk
1 1/2 tsp. vinegar (apple cider vinegar is fine)
1 cup of cream
butter a small baking pan (like 9-inch square) & stick it in an oven while it heats up to 350 degrees. melt the butter. mix the eggs into the melted butter. add sugar, salt, milk, & vinegar. all of this should be in a big bowl. in a smaller bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, & baking soda. slowly mix the flour mixture into the wet mixture. the finished batter will be pretty thin. pour this into the heated baking pan & then pour the cream into the middle of the pan. don’t mix the cream in with everything. just put it carefully (not sloshing everything together) into the oven & bake for an hour–maybe a little less if it’s looking pretty golden at 50 minutes. let it cool a little & you will have this amazing cornbread with a layer of custard baked into the middle. i don’t know how it works but it is delicious. eat it slathered in honey after your chili, & again for breakfast the next morning. this is the best.

flourless chocolate cake
6 tbsp. butter
12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 eggs
1/2 cup of sugar
melt the butter & the chocolate chips together. separate the six eggs (egg separators rule). mix the yolks into the butter/chocolate. whip the egg whites until they form “stiff peaks” (or are just majorly frothy–i recommend an electric mixer for this or else it will take you like an hour). whip the sugar in with the egg whites. mix the chocolate into the egg whites & then pour everything into a circular cake pan (or a springform pan if you have it) & bake it at 275 for 45 minutes. let it cool for like an hour before you start eating, or else it will be gloppy & fall apart. tip: the frothier you get your egg whites, the bigger your cake will be. & this shit is delicious, so you want it to be big.

& lastly, one for the vegetarians:
cheese lasagna
one box of lasagna noodles
one big container of ricotta
about 3/4 lb. of mozarella
about 1/2 cup romano or parmesean or whatever hard italian cheese you like
one jar of whatever pasta sauce you like best (i’m partial to newman’s own marinara for flavor combined with cost)
2 eggs
whatever spices you like–again, i mostly just go for oregano, or some fresh crumbled basil
boil the lasagna noodles until they are soft. mix the ricotta with the eggs, spices, & a little splash of sauce. whipping in a few tablespoons of soft butter is also delicious, as is maybe throwing in some chopped garlic, but it’s all a matter of preference. i will tell you now that one of the secrets of great lasagna is making the ricotta yummy, because it’s totally bland on its own. give it some flavor. in a big baking dish, lay down a thin layer of sauce (this helps prevent sticking). add a layer of noodles, topped with a layer of ricotta, topped with a layer of sauce, topped with a layer of mozzarella, topped with a layer of grated hard cheese. start over again with the noodles & repeat until you’re either out of ingredients or out of space in your pan. it takes a little trial & error to figure out how much ricotta/sauce/mozzarella to use to keep the layers even without running out before you’re done. i find about three wooden spoonfuls of ricotta & sauce per layer get the job done. i really recommend using the hard cheese & using it generously because it’s the most flavorful cheese in the recipe. throw your spices on top & don’t listen to anyone that gasps when you serve it & asks if the cheese is moldy. they are idiots. bake it for half an hour at 350 degrees.

i am not including any vegan recipes because that shit is ridiculous. enjoy!

hamster baby(sitters club)

i am trying to read a book about chronic pain, called the pain chronicles, but it is tedious work. the language is so dense & flowery & needlessly pretentious. there’s all this crap about deer falling through ice & pain as a metaphorical response to romantic love…i hope it gets better. i hope i can stay awake long enough to appreciate whatever nuggets of truth are lurking within the book.

so, last night, jared & i went to the thanks for nothing show, which is a night of cover bands, each one covering tunes by a different punk band. of least interest to us were the urinals & the melvins cover bands. more exciting were jawbreaker, minor threat, bikini kill, & nirvana. we almost bailed before the nirvana cover band because we were tired & they were last, but cait talked our ears off until they started & convinced us to stay. & i’m glad we did, because they were pretty fun. they mostly did songs off “bleach,” which was far more amusing than it sounds. i wasn’t 100% psyched about jawbreaker because i honestly never really listened to them much & their songs aren’t all that familiar to me, but i did enjoy the singer’s attempts to sustain the jawbreaker rasp. he did a very nice job. i also was not psyched about the minor threat cover band because i hate ian mackaye so much, i want nothing to do with anything he does. but they really won me over, for two reasons: 1) hilarious stage banter that mimicked all of ian’s most self-righteous opinions, & 2) jared went completely bananas for them. he actually tried to start a circle pit, which did not pan out, because apparently kids from missouri & kansas are notorious for being unable to sustain a circle pit. they just mosh. which actually just consists of shoving each other really hard.

needless to say, i was most curious about the bikini kill cover band, which so did not disappoint! they were genius. the singer even did the little dude-bro interview sequence before launching into the lyrics to “white boy”. i knew a fair number of people at the show (considering how few people i actually know in lawrence), & i have to say, it was really cool to see all these ladies i DON’T know being really into the bikini kill cover band & singing along to all the lyrics. i felt so much solidarity with all the ladies in the bar (except kelly, who later said that she skipped bikini kill to sit outside & smoke because she likes ladies, but she loves cigarettes) (okay, i’ll still be in solidarity with her). i can’t even begin to imagine how awesome it must have been to actually see bikini kill play back in the day. i have always been really into them, of course, & i thought their lyrics expressed by disaffected teenage feminist angst really well, but it must have been totally mind-blowing to be at an actual bikini kill show in like 1992. my mind was a little bit blown just watching a cover band last night! i just really loved watching all these different kinds of ladies yelling, “your whole fucking culture alienates me!”

when we came home, i spotted the world’s most humongous spider in the hallway. it was so big, i almost didn’t think it was a spider. i thought it was maybe a dark-colored grasshopper or something. & it was just standing there, doing nothing. so i was able to get pretty close to it, at which point i realized it was a spider, & i told jared, “there’s a huge horrible monster in the hallway.” he killed it. i seriously think it may have been an acromantula, a ginormous spider heretofore believed to be mythical. i have seen a lot of spiders in my day, but none as huge at that one. even jared, who consistently downplays the size of spiders he kills in an effort to mitigate my spider phobia, acknowledged that it was fucking huge. it practically required a burial.

so i know some people were curious about my babysitters club fan fiction, which i posted a few days ago. that was my first time writing fan fiction ever in my life. i actually had a lot of fun with it! by aging the characters i chose ten years, & choosing minor characters to begin with, i was able to impose a lot of personality of my own invention on them, but it was still fun to imagine how these characters i “know” might respond to the situation i created for them.

the story, i am somewhat embarrassed to admit, is part of a larger writing exercise i may pursue, which involves writing a hundred stories based off a hundred different prompts–all of them babysitters club-themed in one way or another. it could be fun, but i am torn. i don’t really understand the point of fan fic. someone want to help me out with this? i know my sister writes tons of it, & has even won awards & had her fan fiction translated into other languages. but…why? i think it can be fun if i think of it as a writing exercise as opposed to, like, the actual endpoint of my creative energy. but there’s also a chance that i am just looking down my nose at fan fiction because i fear (know) that it’s incredibly nerdy. i am not really a person who has a lot of non-ironic interests, so i have a hard time thinking of myself as a “fan” of anything. but i have read every babysitters club book ever written at least a couple of times–& in some cases, dozens of times. might as well put all this useless knowledge to some kind of purpose.

new depths of nerdosity

i asked & the people spoke. i have been having some trouble coming up with fiction ideas, so i tried my hand at a little fan fiction. sometimes it’s easier to come up with plotlines when you’re not simultaneously inventing characters from whole cloth. & because i am a total loser, i stole my characters from the babysitters club. but at least i stole tertiary characters, so i could impose my own personalities on them for the most part. i asked some friends if i should post this ridiculousness on the blog, & people seemed pumped for it, so hear you go. the basic plotline is that we are in modern-day boston, where janine kishi (claudia’s super-genius older sister) & pete black (random dude at stoneybrook middle school who sometimes took claudia or stacey to dances; also developed a huge crush on laine cummings & was elected class president) live as adults. janine is a grad student of molecular biology & pete is a bike mechanic. also, they are dating. pete has to break some bad news to janine one evening…

just to warn you, this is totally unedited. i mean, it’s fan fiction. it’s not like i’m going to workshop this shit. i’m sure there are nits to pick. jared, for one, thinks that an epidemiologist would be the last person on earth to foster a secret passion for fermented foods. but let’s just roll with it, okay?

Dragging on my cigarette, I burrowed back into my Broadway Bicycles hoodie to avoid the drizzle. As I biked home from another day of fixing the bicycles of Cambridge yuppies & hippies alike, I spelled out the name of my girlfriend with each rotation on the pedals. “J-A-N-I-N-E, J-A-N-I-N-E.”

Janine had a late class that night, some kind of molecular biology lab. I always asked about her classes & tried my hardest to follow along, but when she got going on school, she didn’t slow down for us mere mortals to try to catch up or disappoint her with oafish questions. I sometimes felt stupid around her, which was kind of ridiculous. I was not a dumb guy. I was class president every year from eighth grade through the end of high school, when I was elected student body president. I was the class salutatorian, right behind Emily Bernstein. I scored a 1980 on my SATs, & was accepted to MIT. I’d been planning a physics major…& I admit, I’d been following Janine.

Janine was an astonishing woman. Surprising no one, she was valedictorian of her class at Stoneybrook High School, walked away with a 2350 on the SAT, & received a full scholarship to MIT. She became a biology major, & within two years, she had narrowed her focus to studying epidemiology from a bacterial & viral perspective—-which means creating new scientific understanding of the ways diseases are passed from person to person, or animal to person, or person to animal. She had taken two years off after high school to intern with Doctors Without Borders—-a gig that was of course supposed to be mainly paper-shuffling administrative gofer work for a girl fresh out of high school, but eventually some of the doctor volunteers were surreptitiously allowing her to examine their field notes, research, & experiments on the spread of diseases impacting disaster-struck nations, like cholera & malaria. She developed cutting edge computer models charting the efficacy of preventive techniques like village hand-washing stations, well locations, & the dispersal of free mosquito nets. She became passionate about the intersections of medicine & social justice. If we’re being honest, she became quite radical.

I met Janine when I was a freshman in high school. She was a senior. She could have graduated early & been in college by the time she was 16, but her parents encouraged her to try to enjoy her youth even while she devoted herself to academics, so she challenged herself by enrolling in classes at the local community college. As did I—not because I am in any way as brilliant as Janine, but because I thought string theory was kind of interesting. I was a nerdy kid, I read a lot of science fiction, I liked movies about aliens….Learning about physics for real seemed like a logical extension of those interests, & I knew it would look sharp on a college application.

Janine was in my class. I was awed by her. She digested the complicated precepts of string theory like she was just sitting there reciting the alphabet. She made physics seem effortless–& even then, physics wasn’t really her passion. I have always had a weakness for smart girls. In fact, I’d previously dated Janine’s sister’s best friend, Stacey McGill, a math savant. She solved calculus problems just for fun. Things didn’t work out because we were thirteen & thirteen-year-olds don’t fall in love for good. In high school, I was pulled more into Janine’s academic orbit (though we didn’t really become an item until had both moved to Boston, five years previous) while Stacey became a little more interested in partying.

I didn’t consider at the time that fourteen-year-olds don’t really fall in love for good either, & I was fourteen when I first fell for Janine.

Janine & I had a beautiful apartment just outside Central Square, in Cambridge. Biking one direction up Cambridge Street, I could be at the bike shop in under fifteen minutes. Biking (& Janine always bikes—one of the many shared interests that unites us) in the other direction, Janine could be at MIT in under fifteen minutes. Our apartment was a maze of tiny rooms lit by antique ceiling fixtures, with huge casement windows on every wall. It got amazing light during the day, regardless of season, & at night, we could see downtown Boston all lit up across the river. We had a spectacular view of the Fourth of July fireworks from the roof, where we kept a large container garden. Janine grew cabbage to make her own kimchee—-despite, being Japanese American, Janine loved her Korean kimchee. But Janine loved all East Asian food, & she loved fermented food. I chalked it up to her studies of bacteria. She had a lot of ideas about how we could boost our immune systems by eating the cultures one finds in sauerkraut, kimchee, raw milk (which she bought at the farmer’s market in Somerville even though it was illegal), etc.


“Jesus Christ, Janine, you almost gave me a heart attack!” I clutched my chest & leaned back against the kitchen counter. Janine was curled up on the couch in the semi-darkness of our living room, buried beneath a quilt with a notebook . “I thought you had a late lab tonight.”

“Re-scheduled. The prof is presenting at an epidemiology conference, remember? In San Diego?”

“Right. Well, I sure am happy to see you.” I collapsed on to the couch & wrapped my arms around her.

“I’m happy to see you too. How was work today?”

“The usual. Changed about twenty flats, installed five of those industrial-sized bike baskets for people who do all their shopping in the street markets–”

“Hey. The street markets are one of the great things about living in the Boston area.”

“I agree. But at least you knew how to install your basket yourself. I mean, it’s not complicated. A dog with thumbs could do it.”

“Did you get to work on anything cool?”

“Yeah, Danny came by & we worked on his triple tall bike.”

“Did he persist in calling you by your full name?”

“Of course. ‘Pete Black, let’s weld this fucker. Pete Black, let’s paint some fucking tiger stripes on it.’”

“Did you tell him what I said about how calling three bikes welded together a triple tall bike is a misnomer, as two bikes welded together is simply a tall bike, so he’d have to stack six bikes on top of each other to earn the distinction of being a triple?”

“Yeah, but he just said, ‘Your girlfriend is probably over-thinking this.’”

Janine laughed. “I probably am.”

“What did you get up to today?”

“Well, I had my meeting with the physician from Mass General regarding the World Health Organization findings on the use of checklists to reduce hospital error. He was intrigued by the computer models I worked up to increase compliance.”

“The Indian guy?”

“Atul, yes.”

“So what does that mean for you?”

“It means that I might be flown to Amsterdam next year to attend the WHO general conference. Just as a spectator, of course, but if one of the models is approved for a study, it’s a feather in my cap & Atul can pull some strings to ensure that I’m part of the team synthesizing the data.”

“Holy shit, Janine! That’s huge!”

She smiled. “It is. Not bad at all for someone still finishing grad school.”

“You’ll be accepted into the doctoral program of your choice.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is still hypothetical.”

“Would you want to stay in Boston? Maybe try for Harvard? Or even stay at MIT?”

“I would like to stay in Boston. It’s near our families, & there’s always a chance you might want to finish your degree at some point….”

I frowned & folded my hands in my lap. “Sweetie, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I just don’t have your smarts. I couldn’t hack those science classes, even the intro courses. I don’t even know if my records would even apply toward a second a attempt, considering I quit four years ago.”

“Don’t put yourself down, Pete. I wouldn’t be with you if I didn’t think you were smart.”

“Really? So you were dating Charlie Thomas in high school because of his big sexy brain?”

“I never dated Charlie Thomas! Why is this rumor so persistent?”

“Well, what did he do with himself for half an hour three times a week when he was driving his sister your your place for those babysitting meetings? Trevor Sandbourne always thought you guys were getting a little frisky.”

“Trevor Sandbourne is a fucking asshole.”

“He’s a writer. He’s got an agent trying to sell his first novel.”

“Right, just what the world needs. Another member of the ‘Hey Guys, I’m a Tortured White Guy with Pretensions to Revolution’ literary mediocrity society. The world already has one Chuck Palahuniak too many.”

“Okay, he’s pretentious. But you’re not answering the question. Where was Charlie during the babysitting meetings?”

“How would I know? Out in the car working on his fantasy football charts or something. Trust me, nothing ever happened between Charlie Thomas & I.”

“I know. I just like to torment you….Speaking of tormenting you, Trevor actually called me yesterday.”

“Why on earth are you still friends with him?”

“We’re not really ‘friends’. But…I don’t know. I kind of grew up with the guy. I’ve known him for years. You still keep in touch with your old friends.”

“Yes, it’s one of the many perils of social networking.”

“Well, Trevor is coming to Boston. He’s attending some kind of writing workshop.”

“Of course he is. I suppose the 826 Project is involved in some capacity.”

“The 826 Project boosts literacy in teenagers! Come on, Janine. You are such a hater.”

“But that’s why you love me.” She smiled up at me.

“Yes, it is.” I kissed her nose. “The thing is, he, uh…Trevor needs a place to stay for a few days.”

“Don’t even.”

“Yeah, I told him he could stay here. Just for three days! & he’s going to be out at his workshop for most of the time!”

“Pete, I hate Trevor. He creeps on me. I think he’s an Asian fetishist.”

“Yeah….” I sighed. “He probably is.”

“& he treated my sister very disrespectfully when they broke up.”

“But that was five years ago.”

“Really? Shall I call Claudia right now & ask if she’s forgiven him for hacking her website & adorning it with pornographic images he created by Photoshopping her head on to his Asian fetish filth? Because I bet she’s totally over it & would love to come visit with us while he’s in town. We can all go out for burgers & beers & reminisce about old times.”

“Okay, Trevor is a dick. But I already told him he could stay.”

Janine sighed. “Fine. He can stay. But don’t expect me to be nice to him. I will be polite, but I will not be nice, & if he starts some kind of nasty business, he’s going to wish he hadn’t.” She flipped the quilt off her lap & stood up. “I need special tea. Do you want special tea?”

“I’d love some special tea. Thanks, Janine.”

“Right.” She paused on her way to the kitchen. “Fuck this, actually. I need a cigarette.”

We took the quilt out on to our balcony & smoked in silence, watching the sun set over gray & icy Charles River.

to be continued…

hurricane elsa

i’ve been a little crabby lately. computer problems, jerks on ebay failing to pay me for auctions they won, anxiety over buying my first car & learning how to drive…i’ll probably write about these topics at a later date. in the meantime, let’s cleanse our palates with a flash fiction story i write this summer. for the uninitiated, flash fiction is just very short fiction. this story is a little over 700 words. feedback is welcome!

I stretched my legs in the passenger seat, nudging aside stuffed cow toys, cracked cassette tapes, and mangled copies of “Sassy” magazine. Elsa pulled her station wagon into the Dairy Queen parking lot and leaned out the window. She penciled on glittery gray eyeliner by the last rays of sunset reflected in the side mirror. She resembled a fast food mascot in her fuzzy cow-print overalls. Elsa’s fondness for cows, combined with her size, was sad or fortunate, depending on one’s perspective. Her cow-print wardrobe inspired much mooing in the halls, but Elsa chose to interpret it as acknowledgment of her favorite animal rather than a commentary on her weight.

“It’s weird that your mom won’t let you get a tattoo,” she said.

I turned down the radio, a modern rock station out of Detroit. “It’s not that weird. I’m only sixteen,” I said.

“My mom didn’t care.” Elsa’s mother had paid for her daughter’s tattoo as a seventeenth birthday gift three weeks earlier, an intricate Hungarian latticework design curving around Elsa’s left forearm in traditional brown.

“You’re class valedictorian. That buys you certain privileges. Not that my mom would care…In fact, when I asked her about getting one, she said you’re a bad influence,” I said.

Elsa’s head whipped around. “Me? A bad influence?”

“She says that you’re smart, we both are, but judgmental. That we get together and put other people down. That we have attitude problems that are going to cause us a lot of trouble in life.” I shrugged. “She says there’s more to being a good person than doing well in AP German classes.”

Elsa snorted. “It’s pretty judgmental of her to talk that way about a couple of teenage girls.”

“She also said that she’s not going to let me get a tattoo just so you and I can strut around school like we’re cooler than anyone else. That having a tattoo should be about more than impressing a bunch of teenagers.”

“I got my tattoo to celebrate my Hungarian heritage. I don’t care if some cheerleaders think I’m cool.”

“I know. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone either,” I lied. I knew Elsa was lying too. She was too conscious of the way she folded her arms on her desk, the length of her sleeves, her stagy gestures in the lunch line, to not be seeking out—and relishing—the attention her tattoo attracted.

“Everyone thinks mine is henna anyway,” Elsa said, stroking it. “Like I’d ever do that. It’s culturally appropriative.”

“Really? What culture?”

“Indian, I think? They do it for weddings. Anyway, I want a Blizzard. With peanut butter cups.”

A limo pulled up on our right and I remembered it was prom night. Elsa and I had made a pact back in October to skip it. Dating in high school was for vocational class kids, said Elsa. The limo doors were open and I saw three boys in tuxedoes, a different flower in each boutonniere. A pasty brunette swathed in navy satin leaned out the window and dumped a beverage on the ground. Her blonde friend, in a frothy pink chiffon mermaid dress, exited the limo and saw Elsa.

“Oh, hey!” said Mermaid Dress, “I like your henna tattoo.”

Elsa stopped and turned around. I backed toward the bumper of Elsa’s car. “It’s not a henna tattoo,” Elsa snapped.

“But it’s all brown and swirly. It’s gorgeous! Who did it?”

“It’s not a henna tattoo,” Elsa growled. She clenched her fists.

Mermaid Dress floated toward Elsa, oblivious to the danger signs. I sank on to the bumper. “It seems really detailed,” said Mermaid Dress. To my horror, she reached out to touch Elsa’s arm. “It’s amazing what they can do with henna–”

Elsa swung her arm around and popped Mermaid Dress in the nose. She toppled back on to her ass on the oily pavement. Blood dripped into her floaty chiffon lap, and she watched it pool in disbelief.

“Hey, what the hell?”

“Did that girl in the cow outfit just punch Flora?”

“Flora, oh my God, are you okay?”

The kids in the limo swarmed out and surrounded their friend. “My dress…” whimpered Flora.

“I said, it’s not a fucking henna tattoo. And you don’t touch without permission.” Elsa turned and stomped inside the Dairy Queen. I followed.