This Town

We saw that bank heist movie last night. The one starring Ben Afflick’s jaw and Jeremy Renner’s twitchy small town mug. A few hours after the movie I found myself in a strip mall parking lot waiting around while all the shops were closing up… the Whole Foods workers bundled up their green aprons and came out with brown paper sacks of groceries and got on bicycles and into metro rideshares and foreign cars. Perfectly normal. But the Office Depot crew came out like they were the original inspiration for Reservoir Dogs. The glass doors parted and light beamed through the forms of seven workers staggered in a majestic reverse-V - all of them dressed in workslacks and white polo shirts, looking uniform, clean, and purposeful – maybe even paper-cutter-dangerous. Their leader had red fuck-you-conditioner hair and a manager’s cell phone belt clip and she motioned for the OD Crew to pile in a white armored van featuring the Office Depot logo (modified slightly with a ammo clip in place of a printer cartridge). One of them did a reverse backflip into the rear of the truck and another kept one foot on the footbed of the passenger side so he could stand up as the driver, the shortest and oldest one of them all, drove them away. I am pretty sure I heard a couple of them barking and loading up their tech-9s in time to pick off a few Whole Foods workers waiting for their rides. You never know where professional take-down crews are assembling. Be nice to your retail worker.


The Traveling Woman

2010-09-02 13.46.31_Memphis_Tennessee_US

This photo could have been submitted to my other blog but I actually bought the book so it doesn’t technically qualify. I wanted to see if the weather guide was still accurate and to find out if the author is still alive because if not I would like to steal her name as my pen name.  I’ll report my findings soon.  - Dena Kaye II


Cement Rooms, Snot Floors: Dinner Convo

My sister sent me a letter from Basic Training with detailed drawings of her chemical warfare/gasmask training:



(All drawings 2010 copyright KML, Soldier, USA Army, America the Beautiful)

Now, nearly my entire family has gone through basic training except for me (and my mother, but I’m quite sure they wouldn’t let her in because she would scare the drill sergeants and say such passive aggressive things to the cooks they would be forced to secretly poison the entire battalion in a mass suicide attempt) and I have heard about this day in basic from my brothers and mostly - my dad, who suffered through it probably in ‘68 when they made gas masks out of bandanas and band-aides. It was and still is one of his more animated story presentations – he used to tell us stuff like that over dinner - “You think mom’s burnt Bisquick and tuna casserole smells bad – let me tell you about when I had to hold my breath for forty minutes while a bunch of pansies puked and cried all over themselves…”

According to K, getting tear-gassed is of course, extremely uncomfortable, and produces a LOT of snot.  So there’s just crowds of recruits doubled-over, choking, with eyes watering like supersoakers and strings of snot falling from their nose to the floor. And when they come out – the sadistic trainers (drill sergeants, captains, whoever) are all there to take pictures of people gasping for fresh air through their snot-covered faces. I think the photos are the modern twist to the old tradition. The image that stays with me (and one that I gathered from her letter, not a photo) is of my little sister standing in a pool of other people’s snot and barf waiting for her turn to suffah – suffah for our freedom! For Jersey Shore and blue jeans and automobiles and rock shows and corn mazes and liposuction and Linsay Lohan and booster seats and low airfare and genetically modified fruit and iPhone aps. 

Shine sweet freedom. Shine your light on me. (But keep it away from the floor of that cement room chamber thing – I mean who cleans that up?!)


Feet First

My drive across Old Muddy is becoming more dangerous every day. The bridges are crowded with impatient semi-trucks and everything is down to one lane while being earthquake-proofed and other things that spell commute disaster. Yesterday I was greeted with a doom cloud of smoke as soon as I crossed West Memphis. They (the farmers, the faceless industrial farmers) were burning the fields. Cotton is over. It’s been scooped and combed and sent to China for a chemical bath before being handed over to small children to make my Forever 21 clothes and now it is time to set the past on fire. Driving through the endless cloud of dead field particles with strips of fire at my side made me feel like I was plunging into unknown dimension, and I was, I was in Arkansas dimension.

The smoke lingered even after nightfall, I could still smell charred dirt when I stopped at the Exxon after class. As I was getting out of my car I noticed a young mom holding a lil toddler (the size of your typical novice walker) on her hip. The mom came around to the passenger side of an older mid-sized SUV and plopped the little girl in the front seat and put the seatbelt on her, shut the door and headed for the ice machine and nearly knocked me over because I was busy staring at her kid who was sitting in the front seat with the shoulder strap actually covering half of her chubby face. Just one eye and a babycheek looking back at me. She looked surprisingly comfortable so I could only imagine that she rode this way quite often. And although I am not a daily caretaker of small children, I know that breaks at minimum four known rules, three legislative and one moral, of transporting children in vehicles. In fact it might have been safer to tie her stroller to the trailer hitch. I’m sure if it wasn’t so smoky I would have seen a set up like that. I’m only telling you the things I COULD see in Arkansas.

In other doom observations:

Just yesterday during a productive lunch break, I found a great hand-crocheted black sweater dress at my favorite almost-scabies-free thrift store. I threw it on over my clothes to look in the mirror (I prefer not to go in the dressing room at this particular place because it also doubles as a toilet) and it fit! I turned to the side and thought, “This would be good for a funeral.” That’s what came to mind and then I bought it. If I show up to a holiday party wearing a black sweater dress that will tell you what I think of your party.

Darker still: I have developed a fear/fascination of death by black hole after listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s description of falling into one. He was on the last few minutes of the most recent RadioLab.

When your feet are being pulled at a gravitational velocity so intense that your body snaps in half and then half again and again and again until you are scattered particles of space, that’s when you know you are falling into a black hole (or Arkansas).


All Apologies

B’s Apple Cake went moldy:

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What I know about this Jewish Holiday season (aka: The Days of Awe) is only what I have gathered from an episode of Entourage, some absences from students in my class, and an article about 10Q – that happened to inspire this awesome reader comment:

“What is something you would have done differently over the past year?”
I never would have answered a blogger on the internet whom I met once years ago who turned out to be a mentally ill obsessive stalker, harasser, and would be black mailer.
People are seldom what they represent themselves to be.
I vow not to make the same gruesome mistake in both the upcoming New Year or the next Lifetime.

— Perley J. Thibodeau

Perely, Perley! Are you calling me out? I’m not a would-be black mailer son, I’m the real deal!! Now send me your extra Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons or the world will know your full name!!

Note: I would reclaim about 30% of my waking life if I could stay away from the filth and profundity that make up online reader comments, but I can’t stay away – the draw is stronger than all of the real housewives put together.

I only bring up the apple cake and the holidays because I like the idea of asking forgiveness – Catholics are into it, but you have to go through a messenger (usually an old man in a robe). I think I might prefer the ol’ once-a-year approach.

So I apologize to anyone I have wronged – especially those of you that count on this blog for exciting stories and fun photos – I apologize for all of those times you came to check for a new entry and there was the same old entry about my officemate. I’m sorry to all the Starbucks baristas that haven’t gotten a tip from me ever since I started to use the drive-through. I’m very sorry to both the Pistons and the Dodgers because I feel like I gave up on you when times got tough. But really it feels like we are headed into even tougher times and if you don’t pull your shit together I probably will just not pay attention until you get in the playoffs again (or when the Pistons play Miami). I’m sorry that I had to take a hiatus from my short-story chain. I’m sorry I didn’t get to visit with everybody in New York. I’m really sorry to myself that I didn’t get to touch a single Great Lake this whole summer. Sorry to my car for pushing that 3,000 – 5,000 mile oil change. Sorry to the guy at the drive-in movies that we told we didn’t have jumper cables. Sorry to the Department of Education for not having any intention of ever paying more than fifty dollars a month on my student loan. Sorry to the weddings and baby showers I missed this year. Sorry for giving up Diet Coke and Chick-Fil-A. Sorry to the several museums and docent-led tours where I took picture when I wasn’t supposed to. Sorry to my boyfriend for pretending I don’t know how to cook or wash dishes. I’m sorry I think that I have a psychological diagnosis for everyone.

And finally, in the spirit of forgiveness and healing, I also apologize for those of you who use, have used or plan to use in the future, the phrase: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Because it is a phrase that makes me want to make you actually, really, and truly sorry, in the I’ll-give-you-something-to-cry-about sense of the way you can be sorry.

G-d. I feel much better.


In Dreams




Nylon for the War

I bought two pairs of knee-high nylons at the drugstore. Twenty cents a pair. I’ll probably wear them with a pair of slacks or something careerish, but there really is only one right way to wear knee-high reinforced toe nylons : with a skirt or over an ace bandage. It reminds me of gals in borrowed clothes at choir concerts and middle school award ceremonies and everything else I adore. Knee-high in good company.



Goat Cheese

Goat Chariot Races at the Millington Goat Days.

  • Excitement Factor: 5
  • Kitsch Factor: 9
  • Speed of goat: Varied from 0mph to 3mph
  • Crashes: 1 (at finish line)
  • PETA Factor: – 75
  • Pita Factor: + 50




The best part about the race was the local soldiers keeping people off the bales of hay. Homeland security indeed.


I immediately wrote my sister a letter at basic training and suggested she change her detail request to Millington.


Where Were You A Weekend Ago Today?

We took a tour of one of the several antebellum homes in Natchez and our tour guide, who looked put together in a blue checkered short-sleeved button-up shirt and khakis (the outfit of choice for preservationists and docents I suppose), scratched his belly a lot, was rather kind when a grown woman asked “how did they bathe in those days?”, dropped southern gems like “we don’t call it the Civil War down here,” and told me not to take pictures on the first floor after I had already taken a few.

We ate a one of the oldest buildings in the city, an English Pub that is supposedly haunted (you can buy t-shirts). They tell you that you can go ghost hunting upstairs if you dare. The six year old boy at the table next to us came running back down stairs with his brother and sister completely ruined. We were much tougher on our own ghost hunt. Or at least B was, I am not into haunted houses and it isn’t because of my fear of the undead. I just don’t like being surprised and frightened by items from Spencer’s Gifts.


We drove out to Ferriday, LA to tour the childhood home of Jerry Lee Lewis. I’ve read different reviews of the tour experience – so I expected something between Graceland Too and the Hank Williams Jr Museum. Jerry Lee’s nephew gave us the tour and unlike other tourists, we didn’t get to see the short video (too bad, I love short orientation videos) but he did let us take one picture inside. The place is packed full of some rare photos and clothing and also some completely random things like Brillo pad boxes from 1956. His nephew was a swell guy, he made sure to point out a humorous George W. Bush pin and mentioned several times that Connie Chung had been to the house. Not a whole lotta of additional Jerry Lee info but you could say the tour was atmospherically valuable anyway.

We also got a peek at the Jerry Clower Museum near Liberty, MS.  Lots of southern football paraphernalia and several impressive taxidermy items. I passed out when I saw a license plate for The Fowlerville Fair, my old hometown county fair where I battled for 4H ribbons and risked my life riding midway rides put together with carny spit. Clower’s son gave us the tour and I gotta say you can tell he was bornt of a master storyteller. His stories made the whole trip.


80 miles from home and on a busy highway, we got a flat tire, changed that, and the spare went flat. The truck from AAA showed up in 90 short minutes and it was actually just a guy in a truck. Like a standard pick-up truck with an extended cab. He stepped out smoking a cigarette, took a look at the situation, grabbed a giant hydraulic jack from his truck, jacked the car up, ripped the lug nuts off the spare, said “that ain’t gonna work”, threw the tire iron and the lug nuts on the dirt on the side of the highway, and told us to get in the truck and that he was taking us back to the Deer Lake or Deer Pond or Deer Guts service station. I could tell we were both thinking “you can’t just leave items out like that!” and he could tell we were thinking that so he said “I don’t think anybodys gonna take that" and we got in the truck. I got in the tiny seat in the extended cab and right away noticed a handicap hang tag on the rearview mirror with the name Rory McGurrery* and a small hatchet sticking out of a dollar store style gift bag. Handwritten on the handle: Attitude Adjuster. We pulled straight cross the highway and he gunned it for the median. “Shortcut?” I asked him. “Yes m’am” he responded in heavy deadpan. Not much of a joker this guy. B said something about how we were coming back from spending the weekend in Natchez and the dude gave B a once-over look like he’d said we had just come from maypole practice. He took us back to the service station, filled the spare up and hammered out the rim. We were back to our car in a few minutes. All of the lugnuts were still there. Rory was right. No one took them. “Should getchu to Walmart – if she goes flat again I’d just keep er running on that rim – you got nothing to lose.” We were going to ask him to follow us the two miles to WalMart but figured we wouldn’t risk showing any bad attitude for fear that it would get adjusted. We made it traveling 40mph for a few miles, praised WalMart and the southern states in general for not giving a flying rats ass about Labor Day or labor laws or driving with an open hatchet, and got a new tire (and some toothpaste – they have good deals there).

*name changed a bit


The Fabric of Our Lives

The older you get, the louder you breathe, chew, and open plastic packages. Old being over 70 if you’re average, over 50 if you look like you stepped out of Menopause the Musical and have spiky red hair and brightly colored reading glasses, and over 40 if you share an office with me and sing-song “Theeerre she iiis!” every time I come in the room. I am around a decent amount of old people on a daily basis. That’s probably why I was totally comfortable with us taking a little weekend vacation down in Natchez, where the mature crowd goes to have little buttered biscuits and Mint Juleps on the grounds of historically preserved antebellum plantations.

I used to know this girl named Amy back in my JC days who only had fat (not chubby) girlfriends because, and this is something she told me as if she was straight common-sensing about the right motor oil to put in a high-mileage four-cylinder, that way she is the best looking one of them all. Of course I saw many problems with her strategy but I must have adopted it because now we frequent places where we appear to be the youngest and hippest people around. But what is life or vacation without sweet, sweet self-delusion?



sk_spanishmosslongwood mamyscupboard





Two Ladies, Across Town

One works in an abandoned office park. Never leaves for lunch, sometimes eats Chex Mix, always spends over half her work days cleaning up the office kitchen or rearranging the office furniture or rewriting the office calendar on the dry erase board. Always backs into her parking spot.

One lives in the historic Evergreen District in a lovely historic apartment building. Has stringy hair and a small dog, thinks everyone should be ok with the small dog running up to them, waters the plants around the historic apartment building at least four times a day wearing plant-watering clothes (in the morning; a robe, after work; sweat pants). Always backs into her parking spot.

I imagine them meeting at a museum/music/drink tasting event. I imagine theirs cars parked side by side, both facing front, under the car port, the dishrags in the office kitchen growing mold, and the plants around the historic apartment building drying up.


BTS (Back to School) TCB (duh)

Oh look – it became September. I was in the thick of the Great Grannie Caper so I didn’t notice. Y’all have no clue what kind of under-the-rock and over-the-river type of characters non-profit people have to deal with – in my case all of them disguised as Grandparents. Let’s just say of all the wisdom and colloquialisms and prayers and life lessons I’ve learned from them, the thing I know for sure, the opening line to my This I Believe NPR listeners, is that everyone turns Narc, Criminal, or Certified Saint if they live long enough.  ‘Course babbling curmudgeon is what I am aiming for but only time will tell what category that fits in.

I’m glad to see the change to September though. In Michigan I loved September, in Memphis (which is in Tennessee, but really it is not Tennessee like the rest of Tennessee is - you'd understand if you lived here) I don’t have the same love just yet. So far it has all of the trappings of a early fall month  - back to school and football games and Halloween Candy in Walgreens. But the heat says not really.

My classes on Tuesday and Wednesday nights are in rooms without any air conditioning. This past Wednesday night they were kind enough to bring in a fan that was five inches in diameter. I really could have put it on a headband and made a personal cooling system but I chose not to be selfish. While the prison won’t deal with the air conditioning (a student told me it had been broken since 1999) they do have a dress code, no sleeveless shirts, no sandals. It wouldn’t really be comfy wearing a tube top and flipflops in front of a room full of inmates anyway and usually I double up on the modesty but modesty is hot. As in temperature sweaty forehead, forearms, and armpits hot.

So for all of September and maybe even into October I will be sweating it out, losing my grip on the dry erase marker, wiping my brow with a zeroxed copy of a David Foster Wallace essay (that I have no permission to distribute) and walking out of class looking like I was trapped in the jade steam room at a Korean Spa with all of my dress-code clothes on. Anyone that has had to pretend like they know what they are talking about for three hours (anyone that isn’t my boyfriend) knows, it’s pretty similar.

Hello fall y’all.