Witness This

Michigan people do not speak like people from Minnesota and Michigan people, NOT Wisconsin people, own the right to use their hands as a map.


My mom scanned this and sent it to me.


My Crew in Overton Park

I won’t be walking the Old Forest Trail alone in Overton (again) if only to avoid a contact high from the other people (that don’t much look like they are out for their constitutionals – the hand-rolled cigarettes being a tip off).  I also want to avoid snakes, men with golf clubs, women in high-heels, giant trees hovering overhead on quite seriously - their last limbs, mosquitoes, and dive-bombing dragonflies (all present on the trail).

Of course, there is the option of forming my own vigilante crew, a dream I have had since childhood (not Overton Park specific – just the Vigilante Crew part).  We would be the Park Patrol Posse or the Old Forest Trail Blazers and probably wear green satin jackets emboridered with a map of the trail and green kerchiefs to blend (but also shine) amongst the trees and bags of grass. We’d carry nets to catch mosquitoes or offer to walk alongside walkers/joggers while holding torches of citronella. Maybe we’d walk a few yards ahead of em to throw rocks into the trails to scare of the snakes. And no doubt we would specialize in hooker/John mediation.  Because our motto would be; No one has to get bugged out in the woods.


Counters, Waiting, Watermelon, and Lucy’s

1) When we got off the Staten Island Ferry, there was a guy in a jean jacket repeating “lucy’s, lucy’s, lucy’s” over and over (that’s what repeating means I guess) and I thought, How interesting, selling acid (my interpretation was some kind of bastardized Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds code) right off the Ferry – is there that much of a demand for psychedelics on the commute?

Then my friend told me, They are loosies. Like a loose cigarette. And I was like oh, yeah, LOOSIES. I get it. Excuse me if they didn’t have a big loosie market when I was a smoker. I would have been buying loosies all the time.

And then she bought one. It was a Newport. She needed to it help her think where we should go before we went home.  Cigarettes fire up the synapses.

While she smoked, E and I watched a a toddler in (only) a pajama top play with a rat while his mother sat on an overturned bucket and I thought, that loosie is already working.

2) I was buying my standard grocery list at Schnucks:  bananas, apples, miniature ice cream drumsticks (the brand with the Chilly Willy looking character on the front), some La Croix, and some frozen pizza (this should also explain my malnutrition-chic look to those that know me) well anyway, unbeknownst to me, the pizza rang up at the wrong price. I didn't know this until I had been standing there re-swiping my debit card for about ten minutes.

“Naw, I gotta change the price. I need a manager.” The clerk tells me.

And I said, “Oh silly me – I thought it was my card – because I had been swiping it. Like a hundred times. But I am sure you saw me because we have been standing here for ten minutes which is a unusually long time for one customer in the express lane, no?”

And instead of answering she pulled out a Womans Day from the side of her register and opened it flat out on the scanner. Opened the magazine and started to read.  Just reading a magazine while I held my wallet, waiting. I thought about taking off or packing up my stuff and going over to the register next to us – they seemed to be moving well enough. But maybe I was flattered that she was comfortable enough with me to sneak in a break with me. Maybe I was impressed  that she was prepared with reading material (something I pride myself in, even though I left my book in the car that day).

After a few page turns she called the manager again. And a several more pages after that the manager showed up with the urgency of a crock pot meal. She punched in a few numbers. The magazine was returned to the side of the register and my debit card was approved.

I saved three dollars on that frozen pizza.

3) I was in the drugstore (the one I always stop at on my way home from work if I need Bud Light Lime or Raisinettes or Advil or Calamine Lotion) and there was a line out to West Virginia so I used my old trick – check out in “Cosmetics” where it doesn’t smell as much like an adult diaper as the rest of the place.

There were already two old ladies in line helping each other buy bottles of Eucerine and they were being hounded by a crazed sunburnt hippy girl wearing cutoffs and a blue floral spaghetti strap tanktop asking them to tap her watermelon. I didn’t even know this place had fruit so I was deeply confused, but still determined to ring up and get out without falling for any fruit scams. 

It was a miniature round watermelon and she kept tapping it and saying: “It’s on clearance, I hope its good. How do you know if it’s good?” As soon as I got in line she started in with me, “Do you think this is good?”  Shake shake tap tap.

“Watermelon on clearance at a drugstore is always good.” I told her. I could barely look in her direction, her skin looked like the dark end in a pack of those florescent Crayola crayons. I was getting radiated just standing next to her.

“I hope it’s good.” she said and then told us that she was “On the road.” Code for adult runaway. I know it well.

The other item she was buying was a can of cooling spray for sunburns. She told the woman ringing her up, “Oh I hope it’s the kind that sizzles down when you spray it on” and as soon as the clerk set it down Sunburnt Lady Kerouac open the bottle and sprayed it on her shoulders right there in the store. I saw smoke come up off her scalding skin and she sighed a bit of relief.  But not as big of a sigh of relief we all had when she recapped her purchase, bagged the watermelon, and left without further commentary.

Two to one that woman had a mangy dog waiting out side for that her. My only question was whether or not her dog would like watermelon.


The River, Two Ways





My parents were in town this weekend. First we went to Mud Island to walk the Riverwalk (a map and miniature lovers dream destination – it’s a wading pool style scaled replica of the lower Mississippi from a bit above Cairo on down to the Gulf) and then, after getting the big (miniature) picture of Old Man River we hopped on a riverboat in Tunica with some other tourists that were fine with being out in the 105 degree wet hot weather.

Just look at that finicky shoreline. There isn’t one. Reminds me of the video we watched in the River Museum – in an exhibit called “Theater of Disasters” where they play a video that lists all of the deadly disasters on the Mississippi and at the end of it the narrator says “Don’t go looking for trouble on the Mississippi, it is already lookin for you.” *

A metaphor for my parents visit perhaps?

*Or something like that.


My International Fans


I’ve decided to change my comments settings. Especially if these people aren’t going to at least give me a free pass to their skank sites.

Maps of Sweet Miss



Found this weekend. The second one is more abstract but I’m counting it towards my postcard map collection.


Warming the Bench at the Orpheum




I sat outside for a good portion of the Robert Plant show the other night. Many people took note of my performance art - I had three fellas in various states of intoxication and in varying degrees of being earlytwenty try to school me about music and rock concerts.

I assumed the guy with the soaked shirt was rolling or perhaps he had simply taken off his shirt, placed it on the ground, peed on it and put it back on, or maybe someone holding 12 overpriced ounces of beer in a plastic cup jumped up at the sound of Misty Mountain Hop and dumped it all over him, or it was possible he had been roofing all day, or crying backwards.

Whatever the reason for his soaked state and crazed blackball eyes, he wasn’t embarrassed to approach me and tell me that “Plants voice isn’t was it used to be, but if I opened myself up to the music I would see…see the beauty of the music.”  I told him I’ve already had that conversation – a lot. And I think it freaked him out.


Ruler Road Show

One of my favorite recent thrift purchases was this VINTAGE presidential ruler:


I used my expert appraisal skills to determine that this piece is from the mid-to-late 90s and worth ten times what I paid for it.


Coming Off the Tracks


The crowning moment to my birthday weekend was our visit to the Holly Springs Dragway. The smell of burning petroleum sent me back to my “Use Your Illusion I” days.  Forget the face-melting, eye-blinking, leg-spazzing, hand-jazzing aesthetics of Detroit Steel for a minute and just recognize - racing does not get old, ever.

In fact just last week I witnessed an old fashioned foot race down a street right off Airways Boulevard. Three pre-teens running down a road wearing jeans, t-shirts, and untied sports shoes for real. One guy called it using the ol arms up/arms down (probably short a hanky or checkered flag) to signal “go time” – I hadn’t seen such a thing in awhile, I waited through a whole stoplight to witness it. All of this racing and competition are certainly premonitions of interesting times ahead.

My take-away message from the Dragway? Corn dogs for now, coupons for next time, and this vision always:



The Renegade Age

Back around (in a sort of way) after my birthday weekend. I am now old enough to only have a couple of candles on my cake. I am old enough to check a different box on retail surveys and sweepstakes entries. And I am now the age of the women that used to fascinate me when I was just a young sh*t-job worker. They were in their thirties but young I guess, young because they were single or single moms, or young because they had nearly the same job I did in my teens and early twenties. I liked hearing their detailed stories about frightening things like chest hair and cheating ex-husbands during our lunch breaks. They seemed liked outlaws, complaining about things (like their children) that people too afraid of god would never mention. 

A big blonde ex-hippy used to work across from me at a small parts factory and tell me about the tv she watched the night before and the Led Zeppelin concerts she used to go to and the twenty-five cent raise that the manager promised her months ago. And then there’s the crew of partying smoked-out waitresses at the highway restaurant (where I worked hours that later got the manager cited for child labor infractions) that constantly talked about putting their lazy children to work on house and car repairs. So many repairs!

But my favorite was the twitchy bar-weathered hairdresser at the mom-and-pop salon where I answered phones and stocked shampoo. I think the owner hired her because they needed another pair of hands for back-to-school cuts. After overhearing a few of the stylist-to-client conversations, I knew she was not a good fit for our salon culture. This was a place where gentle senior ladies from the surrounding towns came in on Thursdays and Fridays to get their hair set. Teresa, actually her real name now that I think about it (and I have to use it because it might be the most descriptive detail I have about her) anyway- Teresa would slip kids a bit of Manic Panic on the way out the door even though their parents brought them in specifically to look as conformed as possible because there were SCHOOL PICTURES coming up and everyone knows school pictures are meant to document the influence your mother had on your style over the years. Teresa came to work late every day – like clockwork, had a boyfriend that never called her, didn’t particularly know how to cut hair (I saw more than a few botched Rachel cuts), wore faded black cotton clothing, and got these facial peels (more exotic than you can possibly imagine for the area) that would make her look like she was on fire in the face nearly all the time. Truly. Like she had been pulling pizzas out of a 800 degree oven and using her cheeks for oven mitts. Skin would hang off her face and she would pick the bits off between clients and tell me about her “newer, fresher skin” that was about to appear. She called me at home one day and said that the salon owner had fired her. She wanted to talk about it and I was so shocked and flattered that I did. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about but looking back I am appalled and embarrassed (for her) that she used me for information. It was no different than the kind of endless repetitive gossip-tinged analysis that I’ve been participating in since kindergarten, so I count that moment as one of many. I never got to see her newer, fresher skin because she never showed up again. And that is what I was fascinated by, being someone who grew up in a town where people stayed and stayed the same - these chicks were ghosts, shapeshifters, renegades.

I can only hope I am old enough now to impress someone with a life as unglued as my face.


Shore Do Love Maps

I made it to the New York Public Library just in time to see their map exhibition Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009.


If it hadn’t been one of my first days in the city (and being unsure of how much needless crap I would haul in and need suitcase room from H&M and the MoMA store) I would have ripped most of the maps off the walls and run out screaming, “I’m taking this exhibition to Memphis!” And had I used one of the earlier maps, like from 1609, I would have accidently found myself in the Atlantic Ocean and probably on a pirate ship.


Amusement Parts By The Water


The best thing about Brooklyn is the last stop on the Q train:


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Before the night falls:

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After a death defying ride on the Wonder Wheel (the sign says no accidents in 89 years), we walked the pier with beers in hand and saw some fisherman pull things (occasionally even seafood) out of the water and their pants.



And speaking of food here’s some food – well, not just food but Beef Stroganoff I ordered that night- from Ocean View Cafe in Brighton Beach:

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B told me afterwards that going to Coney Island and then to Brighton Beach for Russian food is exactly what they did on an episode of Bored to Death – I was like, hey man, if I wanted to be original I would get a snake or a lizard or a colorful squawking bird, put it on my head, and walk around Coney Island.

** Postcards from Lola Star Botique, Coney Island, NY.

Coded Clippings

I unpacked a few of the last boxes from the move and I found my valentine candy box with a bunch of half-eaten chocolates still in it and this Garfield comic strip I remember clipping but I don’t remember why --it is not especially hilarious, doesn’t involve lasagna, and I haven’t clipped a comic since:


I’m convinced there is a secret message or an intended recipient. I hope I find both.


I Declare!


I usually don’t allow myself to be photographed with children (one of my Norma Desmond rules) and my feet are kind of hogging the frame here but aren’t these RWB sandals real show stoppers?

Our patriotic footwear display was nothing compared to the Betsy Rosses and Abe Lincolns and Uncle Sams and dogs in mini hats in the annual Independence Day Central Gardens Parade.  Now I’m not sure of the official name but I can say that it was officially awesome.






USA Birthday Celebration Day Two:






And later, in Germantown:


It Starts and Ends With This Bear

In true travel tradition, I am not prepared or nourished or rested enough to properly post about my visit to New York CitaY. In less than a week there I encountered (and involuntarily rubbed up against or held hands with on the subway) more human beings than the entire population south of the Mason-Dixon line. I had trouble sleeping at night because as soon as my head hit the pillow I kept thinking this city isn’t sleeping, why are you sleeping?  Or I would just obsessively, mentally replay the sites of Coney Island (like blubberly bodies in swimsuits, freakshows, naked toddlers grabbing live crabs out of white paint buckets while their parents ate rice-a-roni out of a giant tupperware popcorn bowl, the Wonder Wheel, and the pier dance party for starters).

I can bookend the trip with this, the unnamed bear I won with my dart skills (and five dollars) at Coney Island:


He came back to Manhattan with us and later ended up as a distractor element for my lack of cash to tip housekeeping when I left the hotel:


He looks blue because Sportscenter is playing up above.

Now, I know he ended up somewhere because I had to return to my room only five minutes after I thought I was leaving for good (I forgot something very important – I had forgotten to indulge my fear of leaving something behind) and when I came back – the lock was fixed out like housekeeping does when they are getting ready to clean the room and the cash and the bear were gone!

I wonder where he is now, I wonder where he will go next.  Like many other things this week, he was released from the plastic bag of carnie oppression and sent out on an endless, or at least, unpredicatable New York adventure.