Recipe for Bereavement

Jicama Dill Salad

  • Peel and slice jicama into julienned sticks (Knife or cooking mandolin works. Musical mandolin does not.)
  • Peel and julienne apple, roughly the same amount as the jicama
  • Toss the jicama and apple with a few moderate gluggs of rice wine vinegar
  • Quarter a couple of handfuls of grape tomatoes and add
  • Wash, dry, and mince a bunch of dill fronds (not the stems) and add
  • Gently fold in a couple handfuls of arugula
  • Pair with chilled sake or soju and eat

Yahrzeit

candle

“It’s not so much what is there as what isn’t there,” you say, leaning across the aisle to look out the window and getting in my space, but you never notice social niceties when it doesn’t suit you.

I haven’t been speaking to you since we barreled down Narita’s runway, when I realized you had taken my last Ambien that night we spent on the beach in Hasaki. Nine and a half hours into our flight and you still haven’t noticed.

I give in. “What are you talking about?”

“Look.” The Boeing tilts abruptly and the ground looms; gravity ignores my sullen wish and you remain upright. “Where’s the green?”

“It’s summer. California is hot. And dry.”

“Not San Francisco.” The fasten seatbelt light dings, but you ignore it. “Look.”

“I did look. Sit down. You’re going to get in trouble.”

“Something’s not right,” you insist, but I ignore you through the descent. It’s only when the wheels shudder to a stop that I concede you’re right. There’s no way I’m going to admit it aloud, though.

The earth outside the window is barren; the long grass promenades between runways are fallow and the ocean beyond churlish dark.

We taxi. And taxi. And taxi.

The air inside the cabin is stagnant, fetid with human sweat, and we’re not even back in economy seating. I squirm. You squirm. Everyone squirms. We’re all caught between needing to pee and the itch to break free from this claustrophobic cylinder. Even the flight attendants chafe, their formerly smart suits rumpled with futile anticipation.

You loosen your seatbelt to its full extent, recline your chair, curl your legs up under you, and go to sleep. It’s not fair. My eyes burn from fatigue. It’s been more than a full day since we closed up my apartment and set off, and I still can’t even nap. Poor Hosho and Kirameku down in the cargo hold must be traumatized.

The intercom crackles, the pilot’s tin voice not reassuring. But we begin to move again.

We disembark not at a gate, but on one of the tarmacs, seemingly as far from the terminals as possible. Three hastily erected tents wobble in the wind, flaps flying with the great Pacific gusts and revealing rusted carts of unfolded chairs inside. Downwind, a small fleet of armored vehicles squat, but none approach.

Three hundred of us or so out here alone—ironic, really—and seeing my panic, your voice remains the loudest as you bully the pilots into opening the cargo doors.

Hosho, antsy with latent puppy anxiety, pulls hard on his leash as he ricochets between craving our love and his instinctual need to sniff sniff sniff. Kirameku clings to my shirt, trimmed claws still digging into my shoulder. Her wild eyes belie her insistent purr.

Twenty years. That’s what everyone keeps saying. Twenty years. Our smart phones, that don’t seem so smart anymore, don’t lie.

“Three years,” you had said, boxing up the entirety of my life just days ago. Or rather, years. “Three years in Tokyo, hiding from ghosts, and all you’ve learned is how to make a pot of tea and a passable bowl of ramen.” I still can’t argue with that, even though apparently now twenty-three years have passed between then and now.

We watch the news of our arrival on screens that buffer and buffer and buffer. It’s safe to say we’re all a bit behind on firmware updates. The ads that break up the stream feature a world both familiar and alien. Phones are paper-thin now and fold in origami shapes, apparently. Actors’ teeth in coffee commercials are still impossibly straight and white. We’re the flight from nowhere, the impossible apparitions. All my social media apps are ghost towns.

There’s nothing left in Hosho by now, but he still tries to mark the plane’s tire. Just in case. We are here! Hosho hears a Who.

In retrospect, I don’t blame him.

You take a selfie, peace sign in hand and catching all the confusion behind us. Hashtag just landed, hashtag quarantine. Are hashtags even a thing anymore? Another selfie. Siblings with Cat, the museum sign will say, 1.3 mb with chrome filter. Your grin is infectiously devilish; I appear paralyzed.

“I look really good for fifty,” you proclaim, and I can already tell this joke is a gift you will just keep giving.

The tent does nothing against the weather, it just makes the heat feel worse and the wind more obnoxious. We raid one of the plane’s galleys for mini water bottles and start a trend. The sun is setting and still no movement from the lurking platoon.

“Do you think we’re going to have to sleep out here?” Hosho’s tongue is long from the heat and frothing with sweat. He laps the water I pour with such vigor that one bottle is done before I can empty another.

You shrug, and that’s more than enough of an answer.

Kirameku pulls on her lead, straining the harness. You had laughed when you saw it, but now with her carrier needing to be cleaned out, my over preparedness has proven useful.

The envoy, when it finally approaches, has logos littered on the sides of the trucks and then again on the hazmat suits that zip up their emissaries. If we’ve been contaminated by radiation, then the army’s contracted NASCAR.

We all ping clean, though. Even my two fur balls, whose rabies shots have laughably lasted two decades longer than they should have.

Doctors take up residency within our tents, floodlights illuminating the dark circles under all our eyes as we wait our turn to be interviewed, inspected, and inoculated. The vet technician tries to get Hosho to stay still, but he is having none of it. Not when there are so many hands around and belly rubs to be had.

MREs as we wait for the self-driving shuttles. The future of food thus far isn’t very impressive, but at least the soup heats in seconds and the grainy vitamin juice is ice cold. There’s even a packet of parsley garnish that blooms almost-fresh when fed a dribble of water. Dipping my bread roll in what resembles minestrone, I’m grateful to see gluten is not a thing of the past.

The airport hotel we’re herded into doesn’t normally allow pets, but in this case they’ve made an exception. It’s very noble of them. While everyone else doubles up in an adult rendition of gym class, you and I are already on our way up to our full-sized beds.

“I always thought the future would be more future,” you complain around your toothbrush.

“A lot has happened,” I muse. “We have so much history to catch up on, we may as well go back to school.”

You laugh. “Will they let us? We’re so delinquent on our student loans.”

We all end up in the same bed, unable to bear the solitude engulfing the space between the matching headboards. Hosho shoves his warm bulk between us and Kirameku takes up guard at the foot. In the pitch darkness of the room, it feels like we’re six and eight again, staying up past bedtime to whisper innocent secrets and dream up epic tales. Our new story is non-fiction, but no less fantastic.

“I miss Mom,” you admit. It’s the first time I’ve heard you say that. Even after the last shovelful of dirt had filled the grave, you had remained clear-eyed and tight-lipped. It was your silence I couldn’t endure, your determination to carry on as though nothing had changed. It was your silence and the empty space at the table that drove me away. But it was your voice, authoritative despite the fresh bad news, that brought me home.

Almost.

There is no home anymore, at least none that I can see. We are adrift in the present future with our present past skulking right behind our shoulders.

“That’s what scares me,” I confide. Hosho, ever ready to comfort, licks my cheek. I wipe his slick saliva off. That only serves to encourage him.

The rabble of journalists swarm like butterflies, flitting from one passenger to the next. We are the Boeing 300. Technically, all included, we’re the Boeing 321, but 300 sounds better. We are the lost flight that was never expected to be found. The miracle of the skies. ANA’s PR rep is having a field day, and the CEO is already on her own flight in to greet us.

One reporter asks you what you’re most grateful for—“That the airline didn’t lose our luggage”—and can’t tell if your deadpan is serious or not.

Kirameku is the most recalcitrant of our ever-lengthening new-found fame. Camera after camera, each as thin as the phones, flash bright at her carrier and countless pictures of her gleaming and glowering eyes through the bars are enhanced and filtered on the spot. Feline Groovy, one stylus captions in a flurry.

“Wrong decade,” I mutter to you; your suppressed snicker is a snort.

Hosho, on the other hand, is ready for the press. He sits as regally as he can for thirty seconds before dropping the charade to search hands, pockets, and crotches for hidden dog treats. “Oh, he’s twenty-two years old,” I answer into one proffered microphones. “But he’s still pretty lively for his age.”

Our dryness is starting to get a reputation, and it’s all too obvious who gets our humor and who doesn’t. I wonder if any of the other passengers are jealous of the attention we’re attracting, but in the end I reason they’re probably more grateful they’re not the ones who have to keep wrangling an overeager pup out of the hotel lobby’s fake decorative foliage.

Our bank accounts are both in the deep negatives. Twenty years of auto-bill pay and no income has cursed us.

We’re not the only ones in this bind. As the reporters give way to lawyers and social workers over the next two days, we can tell who among our company planned well for their financial future and who, like us, didn’t count on their day-to-day living wage being maladapted to year-to-year. Your studio apartment has also long since rented out to other tenants.

I sign the kibble deal for Hosho without hesitation, but you argue Kirameku would be happier hawking office products. Specifically, laser pointers.

Our banks make very public debt forgiveness announcements, as does your former local library branch. No word yet on the student loans.

The hotel room, with its retracting toilet and LCD walls, is overrun with gifts. New phones from multiple companies, each vying for our business as our previous contracts have long since expired. Flexible teeth molds that correct gaps and cavities as we sleep. Make-up that not only lasts all day, but also all night and all the next day, too. High heels that convert to flats for that morning-after walk home.

We hear the men in our group have received more practical items: satchels that transform with Swiss Army efficiency and water bottles that can make hot or cold coffee with a twist of the lid. Misogyny is apparently alive and well in the future. You put up such a fuss about it that everyone else from the flight is given satchels and bottles, too. I’ve never been more proud of you.

At night, we turn on the wall opposite the beds and try to detangle what has happened.

It’s painfully obvious how secluded we are being kept. The bedazzled army trucks hulk in sight of the front door, more to discourage the Boeing ~300 from leaving than keeping others out. I’ve been encouraged to walk Hosho on the rooftop terrace, where the patio is so far fenced in from the ledge, all I can see is the sky.

“I don’t think there’s a president anymore,” you puzzle out as another primary campaign commercial flicks by. The executive office has been replaced with a corporate oligarchy, but the other two branches of government remain intact. Five companies to carry out Congress’s will… and pander to the public for sales. Appease the masses and make a profit. Don’t just sell the good life, enforce it. Diplomacy and globalization for all. No more mad men with buttons.

We do the math and it doesn’t add up; 2036 should have been an election year, not 2038.

“Maybe we should go back to Tokyo,” I suggest, even though I know we won’t. Even though the whole reason for me returning to the States from Japan is now moot.

Home is where our feet are on the ground, and the skies aren’t so friendly anymore.

There’s still no explanation for how or why we’ve ended up now, and we’ve come to the dark realization that, even if it was possible to go back, we couldn’t. These three long days have been more than enough time for us to pick up pathogens galore. We would be a liability to the past.

You find your old college dorm mate online, but when you call her up to video chat, the whole conversation is stilted and forced. Maybe it’s the grey in her hair, maybe it’s the lack of common years. Two more calls to other familiar-yet-foreign faces go much the same way.

You have your suspicions, but you wait until the last call ends to declare: “I think they’re embarrassed.”

“Embarrassed of what?”

“History. The present. Something happened. We’re the guests who’ve shown up uninvited, and they haven’t cleaned the house.”

I’d like to scoff at your hypothesis, but I don’t have any proof to say otherwise.

We find the obituary, written by someone who clearly didn’t know her. July 2, 2017. B’nai Israel Cemetery. Our grandmother, last of our kin and clan, gone twenty years ago tomorrow. We almost made it in time. The hotel staff procure a yahrzeit candle for us and we watch the flame as it lights up the dawn.

Social worker on our left, lawyer on our right, we cross the hotel foyer’s threshold into the humid morning and past the sluggish guards.

The four of us sit in the car—self-driving again—facing each other with nothing to say. Kirameku serenades us down the highway, singing the song of her people and pawing at the carrier’s cage door.

Bayshore Freeway is deserted, the wide roadway pocketed with ruts and bumps. The cars we do see all appear the same—self-driving and solar paneled. Glass boxes on wheels. Along the edges of the highway, though, gas guzzlers of all kinds languish.

The city is still working on recycling them, our social worker explains. But there are so many old cars that must go and only so many contractors allowed to bid. Bureaucracy, as always, moves at its own pace, banging its own drum.

The Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge are both gone, replaced by a stream of ferries. Our escorts remain in the car, but we stand by the railing as we pass under the Golden Gate’s arches, which are all that is left of great icon. Buzzing around the upper reaches, great bulking drones weld I-beams into place. Lower down, smaller ones spray fresh paint over the original structure’s skeleton—covering swastikas and foul graffiti. Rising above it all, a bright rainbow flag dances with the American stripes and stars—fifty-two now—from the highest rafters.

When I read from the Torah at my bat mitzvah, you had sat just to the side of the podium, making ridiculous faces our parents couldn’t see from their seats on the bimah. Only memorization and a stiff jaw got me through without laughing. Later, when everyone had left, we ran barefoot out behind the synagogue, dirt sticking to our feet and my skirt, adulthood finally achieved.

And then we’re back on the road, passing a sunshine Sausolito and more sober Waldo before swinging right, away from Coyote Creek to cross the bay once more. No matter how many times the social worker checks in—Are you sure you want to go there?—the answer doesn’t change.

Redwood Highway intones home in our bones.

Her house, couched into the hillside and straddling the fine line between urban and rural, is the same. The shutters, hingeless and nailed to the sides, are whitewashed and still at odds with the building’s mid-century modernism. If I close my eyes, she’ll still be there. Just waiting on the other side of the door.

You take my hand.

“This is now,” you tell me. “We were always going to get here now. Now then or now now. It doesn’t matter. We’re here. She knows we’re here.” You’re way too wise for your fifty years.

We leave Hosho and Kirameku with our companions and follow the walk up past the silvery sign to our historic future.

The door swings open on its own, life and laughter spilling out into the daylight. The ivory mezuzah is still nailed to the frame.

There are more bookshelves now. The walls of the first floor are lined entirely with them. They crowd around her portrait in the den. Even the kitchen has been converted into a cozy nook, banquet seats by the windows and the cheery freestanding fireplace stuffed with potted succulents.

The last time I was in this kitchen, Kirameku had figured out how open the fridge. We had to put a chair against the door to keep her from sneaking in to chew through bags of shredded mozzarella. Hosho hadn’t been born yet. My idea of ramen came in styrofoam cup.

Upstairs, twin guest beds have been replaced with twin workshop tables, coils and cogs springboards for the imagination. Our LEGOs have been replaced by robots in the making, our dolls with real children—all busy creating new worlds and stories.

The old office has been opened up to connect with her bedroom, the long lengths shimmer with the same LCD screen walls as the hotel. I stop, transfixed by the shifting screens, each wall revealing some other window to the world. Windmill boats devour the Great Pacific garbage patch, sorting refuse with long oars and compressing the waste for future recycling. Bustling 3D printers mass producing Intuitive’s surgical robots. Coastlines being shored up by barriers made of reprocessed cars.

When we had left my apartment, hours ago, our past had menaced and the future felt dubious. Now, our grandmother’s bright home, the foundation of our mother’s childhood and our late adolescence, alive again. The tight knot I’ve been holding in my chest for years no longer clenches. Rather, it hugs the timeline of our lives.

Out in the garden, we let Hosho off his leash. Kirameku sits under a tree, hackles still raised, but she snacks on the grass when we aren’t looking. Further back, where the grill and patio used to be, a group of youngsters is learning how to tell weeds from wealth. They tumble around a center obelisk, glossy dark and engraved, unimpressed by its presence.

History may repeat itself, it says, but knowledge and love will always triumph.

“That’s kinda stupid,” you say, reading over my shoulder, “but it’s true.”

We go back into the kitchen, and I make us a cup of tea.


I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of writing, but the writer’s block is strong with this one and the brain fog shows no sign of lifting. Even so, when time allows, I go to my Saturday Shut Up and Write group and spend a few hours shutting up and at least pretending to write, though sometimes I’m a bit successful. In the fall, I tried using short story contests as a inspiration, and it sort of worked.

Today I went back and reread what I wrote. Obviously, I didn’t expect this story to win the contest—they wanted optimistic views of the future and I can’t seem to write optimistic, at least not in a blatant way. But I love this story. It’s one that feels so right; it’s a story I didn’t know I needed or ever considered writing.

Just like we need more Afro-futurism in our science fiction (and fantasy!), I think we need more multi-theological perspectives in our science fiction. It’s been dawning on me that my fiction is innately Jewish. After all, how could it not be? All my lived experience, my values and morals have been imbued by my reform Judaism upbringing. My cultural identity makes up the foundation of my imagination.

But this identity has been missing in the fantasy and science fiction I consume. When I think way back to my undergrad Jewish Literature class, the names I recall are Issac Singer, Chain Potok, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Shalom Aleichem, and Elie Wiesel. Where was Issac Asimov? Harry Turtledove? David Brin? E.L. Doctorow? And, more importantly, where were the Jewish women, of color, of LGBTQ, of disability science fiction and fantasy writers?

I recently found my old homework assignments from that class, and all of the works we were assigned to write about were written by men, and the women in these stories fell on the conservative side of the spectrum. Where were the pants-wearing, breaking the fast with pepperoni pizza, totally forgetting to check the calendar to see when Hannukah starts women? Mel Brooks has given us Jews in Space (part one), where was part two?

Shortly after I finished “Yahrzeit,” I watched the preview of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Alone in the house, with only the Furballs™ to help me process, I cried. It’s ridiculous, but it’s true. Here was the heroine I wished I’d had growing up, the one I could have identified with. Here was the shrimp-serving, Yom Kippur day-noshing, foul mouthed woman whose family conversations mirror a Robert Altman film I’ve been looking for.

The story of Mrs. Maisel takes place more than half a century from mine, and even further apart from the worlds I write, but in that moment, my only thought was:

Thank effing God. It’s not just me who wants this. Who needs this.

The October Epiphany

Driving down 695 on my way to physical therapy, a truck hoisting a maroon shipping container on its back paces next to me. Unbidden, the thought floats: That’s my new home.

Well, not really.

The truck splits away onto an exit ramp. It’s a high container (9′ 6″), not a standard (8’6″), which is right, but Jeremy and I are looking for 40′ longs and this one is only 20′.

Good thing this shipping container already has a job.


Except for a summer break, we’ve been house hunting since this past spring.

I’ve given up on wedding planning because I hate it. It’s seriously the worst. I would say I prefer going to the dentist over wedding planning, but the truth is I’ve never had a problem with my dentist (nor he with me). Maybe we should have the wedding at the dentist.

Jeremy and I were originally considering a waterfront wedding. I was debating how long I would wait until I asked my mother if I could get my dress made out of Lycra so I could go swimming after the ceremony. Jeremy had already rejected my suggestion that we get mood rings for our wedding rings. And when the invite list looked like it was getting rather long, my proposal to give guests staggered arrival times and have both a matinée and an evening performance was ixnayed by all.

Wedding planning is awful.

It’s also obnoxiously and unnecessarily expensive. And I just don’t care enough to spend that much money on one fleeting day.  So, instead of booking a venue, we dropped all the wedding planning and went on a jaunt around Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Harford County. We even made one trip up to Carroll County, but that was a mistake.


The worst thing about so-called invisible illnesses is that they’re invisible. They consume your life, sap your energy, and yet, since on the outside you look perfectly fine, you find yourself terrified of the fallacious stigma associated with non-obvious disorders. You don’t look sick. You’re just exaggerating. Just get over it already. If you’re ill, why do you have cheerful pictures? Or do things or go places that make you happy? I have days where my body hurts and I don’t stay home in bed all day. If you’re not working, you’re a failure. It’s all in your head. You’re not disabled; you’re lying. 

I’ve been living the past couple of years paralyzed by how I perceive others perceiving me. I have nightmares about failing at school, at work, at life… and I’m not even in school or working right now.

Oddly, though, there is one perk to being sick. One of my diagnosed illnesses is biotoxin illness (essentially, mold poisoning). Just to name a few, symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, joint and muscle pains, weakness, shortness of breath, numbness, vertigo, and tremors. I have all of those. And more. (I’m just not in the mood to write them out, because it’s as depressing as trying to fly a kite on a windless day that then rains on you.) But having this disease has turned me into a human mold detector.

As Jeremy and I traipsed through house after house, my mold radar pinged. And pinged. And pinged. I would walk into a building and within seconds could tell if there was something to be suspicious or not about. Out of dozens of houses, we found just a couple that passed my where there’s mold, there’s a migraine test. There were more houses that didn’t even pass the threshold test… I shall not pass. Poor Jeremy often went alone while I hovered in the entryway with our real estate agent.

Sometimes even he didn’t make it past the front door.


The Furballs™ wake us up almost the same way every morning.

Darwin Dog is cuddled up against us; Phebe Cat is sitting on the pillows, practically on top of our heads; and Phobos Cat is ungracefully stretched across the width of the bed, disregarding all beneath her as she purrs.

It’s October when I don’t wake Jeremy up because The Furballs™ are already doing a damned good job of it.

“Let’s just build our own house,” I say. I don’t think he’s really awake, but his eyes are open-ish, so that’s good enough for me. “We can use one of those pre-fab steel frames.” A couple weeks ago, I had read about Amazon now shipping tiny homes and gone down a Google rabbit hole reading about all the different types of partially-built frames that could be shipped to your lot of choosing.

And even though he probably could have rolled over and back to sleep, Jeremy doesn’t say no. He thinks about it. We pro-and-con and spend the morning looking at zoning and building references instead of Facebook. He makes the coffee.

Research becomes decision. A steel frame becomes shipping containers.

But not that maroon container on 695.

That container already has a job.

Let’s all ruin a perfectly nice day and think about depressing stuff

This is my new meditation track. I don’t even need to play the game. 

 

I really need to write my will and advance directives. Not that there’s anything imminent on the horizon, but because these are Things That Must Be Done.

Actually, I have an ever-growing list of Adulting I really should start tackling rather than just making endless lists and then losing them. With a wedding and house hunting on the horizon, I’ve actively been sabotaging these efforts. And so the adulting continues to loom.

Most of the marriage adulting to-dos are normal—gotta combine the insurances; need to think about joint savings; keep trying to convince Jeremy we should both switch last names, just to mess with other people—but the morbid tasks are the ones that seem to take a lot of people aback. And I’ll be honest: I hate thinking about my eventual demise. I hate thinking about anyone’s demise. Death freaks me the smeg out.

But those documents are staying on the list, along with researching long term health care plans and life insurance. I’ve written publicly before, both here and in Social Media Land, about caring for my grandmother in the year before she passed. Being a caregiver for someone you love is the best worst thing ever. You get the bonus of spending time you might not otherwise, but you also get all the stress, the worries, the lonlieness. Medical appointments and keeping set routines swallow up your world. And when the gig ends, you’re left untethered and obsessive.

What could you have done differently? Did you do enough? What if you had been there just one more day? Was the inevitable decline actually your fault? In the end, these are useless questions, neurotic enough to send anyone into cycles of depression and guilt.

The truth is, none of us can hold onto the present. Nothing is stagnant; after all, even rocks erode. Time—be it linear, circular, cruel, or or dulling—progresses, and we have a choice to face it or turn away.

Personally, I’d prefer to sing the Lah-Lah-Lah-Not-Listening song, but I can’t ignore the lesson my grandmother gave me. Any preparation for long-term illness and/or death is gift to the people who love you. And, in a way, addressing the bleaker aspects of our existence is a form of self-care.

So, I’m going to do the paperwork.

And I’m going to buy a nice bucket to store it all in.*

And then I’m going to have to think of a better wedding gift to give Jeremy.

Like this. (Hey, we live in Baltimore. This is totally apropos.)

 

 

*Because BUCKET LIST. GET IT?? GET IT???!!!!!

Not so funny, after all

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Why is there a picture of a sleepy Phebe Cat here, you ask? Why wouldn’t there be a picture of a sleepy Phebe Cat? Also, BAM. I just mastered click-bait. 

I’m not sure how it happened, but for some reason these past week, I dove into memoirs. Specifically, comedian and entertainer memoirs.

So far, I have read (not in this order) Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody, Tina Fey’s Bossypants (this was a reread, actually), Jessi Klein’s You’ll Grow Out of It, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? 

Yes, I know that is quite a few books for a short time frame, but years of semi-anti-social tendencies and grad school have turned me into a book-a-day (sometimes two) kind of gal. (Yesterday, I also read Leah Remini’s book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, but that one was really just for my own entertainment.)

What started as me just looking for relatable nonfiction turned into a down-the-rabbit-hole brain explosion. There were threads that kept jumping out, and when your brain knots like that, you can’t just walk away. You have to untangle and promise to brush your hair on the reg from now on.

That meant I couldn’t just read. I had to watch, too. I’ve never had strong feelings about stand-up, but considering the role stand-up plays for so many comedians, it seemed sensible to start there. So I watched Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King,” then I went on to Amy Schumer’s “The Leather Special.” And then it just spiraled. Aziz Ansari’s “Buried Alive.” Maria Bamford’s “Old Baby.” Chelsea Peretti’s “One of the Greats.” Maz Jobrani’s “I’m Not a Terrorist, But I’ve Played One On TV.” Ali Wong’s “Baby Cobra” (this one a rewatch for me).

Did you know that out of Netflix’s current (summer 2017) 180 stand-up catalog, out of 135 performers (these numbers do not include the one special that features several comedians, “Sigue la Risa”), only 23 are women? And that out of those 23 women, only six of those women are non-white? And out of those six women, only one of those women (Mo’Nique) is black?

This is compared to their male counterparts, where out of the remaining 111 performers (several performers had more than one special available to stream), 39 of those performers are people of color. Out of the 26 comedians who had more than one special, five of those entertainers are women and only one of those women is not white. Thirteen of the remaining male comedians are white. However, while male comedians are more likely to have at least two specials available, male performers with more >2 episodes are (currently) more evenly balanced, with Kevin Hart topping the list at six specials and Louis C.K. and Jim Gaffigan right behind him at five (each).

This is nonsense. Not just the fact that out of all of these performers, only one comedian is a black woman, but also the fact that Netflix still only has eighteen categories for international films. Why do Chinese, Korean, and Japanese films all get their own sub-genre, but “African” is a monolith? I guess it’s an improvement, though; Netflix used to list Africa as a country. Not only is the diversification of comedians underwhelming, but the presentation of any non-mainstream entertainment lacks.

Also nonsense: the fact that I just spent three hours figuring out these few stats (more details to come on a different the-weather-app-is-a-lie day) and that I’m about to go cross-reference Netflix’s offerings with Hulu and Amazon Prime. Who does this on not-supposed-to-be-sunny Friday? More importantly, who does this for no reason at all?

I guess that’s me.

You know it’s bad when the dog settles in at your feet, looks up at you, and says with his eyes, We’re not done here.

 


Sources/Extended Readings 

Antoine, Katja. “‘Pushing the Edge’ of Race and Gender Hegemonies through Stand-up Comedy: Performing Slavery as Anti-racist Critique.” Etnofoor 28, no. 1 (2016): 35-54.

Bingham, S. C., and S. E. Green. “Aesthetic as Analysis: Synthesizing Theories of Humor and Disability through Stand-up Comedy.” Humanity & Society 40, no. 3 (2016): 278-305.

Bogdan, Alina. “Racial Issues in American Stand-up Comedy.” Cultural Intertexts 1, no. 2 (2014): 268-74.

Brodie, Ian, Laurier Turgeon, Pauline Greenhill, Diane Tye, and Holly Everett. “Stand-up Comedy as a Genre of Intimacy.” Ethnologies 30, no. 2 (2008): 153-80.

Double, Oliver. “Tragedy Plus Time: Transforming Life Experience into Stand-Up Comedy.” New Theatre Quarterly33, no. 2 (2017): 143-55.

Fey, Tina. Bossypants. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Finley, Jessyka. “Firespitters: Performance, Power, and Payoff in African American Women’s Humor, 1968-Present.” 2013, 144.

Finley, Jessyka. “Raunch and Redress: Interrogating Pleasure in Black Women’s Stand‐up Comedy.” Journal of Popular Culture 49, no. 4 (2016): 780-98.

Fisher, Carrie. Wishful drinking. London: Pocket, 2009.

Foy, Jennifer. “Fooling Around: Female Stand-Ups and Sexual Joking.” Journal of Popular Culture 48, no. 4 (2015): 703-13.

Gillota, David. “Stand-Up Nation: Humor and American Identity.” The Journal of American Culture 38, no. 2 (2015): 102-12.

Jacobs-Huey, Lanita. “Gender, Authenticity, and Hair in African American Stand-up Comedy.” In From the Kitchen to the Parlor, From the Kitchen to the Parlor, Chapter 04. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Kaling, Mindy. Is everyone hanging out without me?: (and other concerns). Ebury Press, 2013.

Kenderick, Anna. Scrappy Little Nobody. Simon & Schuster LTD, 2017.

Klein, Jessi. You’ll grow out of it. Strawberry Hills, NSW: ReadHowYouWant, 2017.

Knoedelseder, William, and Ebrary Provider. I’m Dying up Here Heartbreak and High times in Standup Comedy’s Golden Era. New York: PublicAffairs, 2009.

Krefting, Rebecca, Project Muse, and Ebrary Provider. All Joking aside : American Humor and Its Discontents. 2014.

Lockyer, Sharon. “Performance, Expectation, Interaction, and Intimacy: On the Opportunities and Limitations of Arena Stand‐up Comedy for Comedians and Audiences.” Journal of Popular Culture 48, no. 3 (2015): 586-603.

Lynch Morris, Amanda. “Native American Stand-Up Comedy: Epideictic Strategies in the Contact Zone.” Rhetoric Review 30, no. 1 (2010): 37-53.

Michael, Jaclyn. “American Muslims Stand up and Speak Out: Trajectories of Humor in Muslim American Stand-up Comedy.” Contemporary Islam 7, no. 2 (2013): 129-53.

Nittrouer, Christie. “Indulging and Divulging: Exploding Expectation in Stand-Up Comedy by Women of Color.” 2011.

Noah, Trevor. Born a Crime : Stories from a South African Childhood. First ed. 2016.

Pate, George. “Whose Joke Is It Anyway?: Originality and Theft in the World of Standup Comedy.” Theatre Journal66, no. 1 (2014): 55-71.

Pelle, Susan. “The “Grotesque” Pussy: “Transformational Shame” in Margaret Cho’s Stand-up Performances.” Text and Performance Quarterly 30, no. 1 (2010): 21-37.

Perez, Raul. “Learning to Make Racism Funny in the ‘color-blind’ Era: Stand-up Comedy Students, Performance Strategies, and the (re)production of Racist Jokes in Public.” Discourse & Society 24, no. 4 (2013): 478-503.

Poehler, Amy. Yes please. New York, NY: Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow Publishers, 2014.

Remini, Leah, and Rebecca Paley. Troublemaker: surviving Hollywood and Scientology. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2016.

Stebbins, Robert A., and JSTOR Provider. The Laugh Makers : Stand-up Comedy as Art, Business and Life-style. Montreal [Que.]: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990.

Seizer, Susan. “On the Uses of Obscenity in Live Stand-Up Comedy.” Anthropological Quarterly 84, no. 1 (2011): 209-34.

Stott, Andrew. 2014. Comedy. Florence: Taylor and Francis. Accessed June 16, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Sturges, Paul. “Comedy as Freedom of Expression.” Journal of Documentation 66.2 (2010): 279-93. ProQuest. Web. 16 June 2017.

Thomas, James M. “Laugh through It: Assembling Difference in an American Stand-up Comedy Club.” Ethnography 16, no. 2 (2015): 166-86.

Can you TBT something that happened just a couple months ago?

Because there was that time where Jeremy and I were talking about the disappointing lack of accurate coffee ads, and then he fell asleep, but I stayed up for ages after designing this fake ad, which I posted it on his Facebook wall, all pretending that it was this real ad from somewhere and not just a one a.m. photoshop binge, and people actually seemed to believe my bluff.

That made me so happy.*

I should do that again.

But maybe not a one a.m.

WTFUp.jpg

 

*Needless run-on sentences also make me happy, sometimes, too.

The stuff of dreams

Today in Headlines That Are So Awesome, I Never Want to Know What the Article is Actually About: “Pigeons Are Misunderstood Mermaids.”

I’ve been sitting here, trying to figure out what else could possibly need to be said.

 

Pigeons are misunderstood mermaids.

 

I mean, pigeons:

squab-151212_1280

Mermaids:

mermaid-1480175_1920

(Do you know how difficult it is to find a mermaid illustration that doesn’t have the poor mer-lady’s boobs falling out everywhere? Whoever came up with the idea that shells or starfish provide adequate support and coverage was a… Okay, I’m not gonna even try to come up with something funny. It was a dude. It totally was a dude.)

 

Mergeon (sqaubmaid?):

 

 

Mergeon

 

No need to thank me; just appreciate this beautiful creation that I gift here to you.