Revision, Revision, Revision

I'm going to try not to make this some lesson-laden post about all the dumb white people problems I've been having this week, but honestly. I hope we can still be friends by the end of this post.

A month and a half ago, after my fall, after I came to on that bathroom floor, I was overcome with this HUGE sense of relief. An all consuming, holy crap am I glad to be back, ENORMOUS sense of relief. I mean, it makes sense that one's being would generate that sensation after one's being was visiting alternate universes for a few seconds while lying limp on a dusty linoleum floor, but, really. This might have been the most relieved I have ever felt. It was almost like the faint to end all faints- like my body was SO glad to be back it was making promises to never conk out again.

And after that faint, I had this perfectly miraculous 24 hours of feeling calm. I practically FLOATED through my day. Stack of papers on my desk? No problem! Giant to-do list? Done! Voicemails? Returned. Emails? Answered. Laundry? Folded and put away. Nothing was overwhelming. The to-do lists that usually trail out into infinity? I couldn't see them. Or rather, I was aware of them, but chose to not focus on them. All they could see was the desktop in front of me. I was concentration incarnate. I was all soft edges and confidence. I knew everything would get done in due time. And it did. I had one of the most productive days I can remember.

Zumba class that week? NAILED IT. Normally I am scrambling to keep up, all flailing limbs and sweat dripping into the eyes. But that night, I was a vision of grace. I was one with the music. I pivoted when pivoting was called for. I clapped when clapping was called for. I didn't miss a single beat, didn't jump when I was supposed to clap, didn't step when I was supposed to jump. And I did all this without thinking about it . That anxious feeling of not being able to keep up (which in turn causes me to not be able to keep up, which causes me anxiety about not being able to keep up which causes me not being able to keep up) was somehow gone. And because I didn't think about keeping up, I DID keep up. My consciousness was outside my body, floating up above it a little. I was relaxed and limber and coordinated. Terri came up to me afterwards, sweaty and tired, hands on hips, and declared that the hardest class she'd ever taken. Terri, who's been taking the class for almost a year and has practically mastered all the routines. Really, I asked, because I kinda thought that was the BEST I've ever done in class.

And then it all went to hell in a handbasket.

All that ease and lightness evaporated. And it was replaced with this harsh self criticism that would not let up until, like, maybe yesterday. Maybe.

Everything I attempted from then on, from having a conversation to sketching a telephone pole, came out all wrong. I was feeling so bad about myself, I had to pull back and make a list of all the things I WAS good at just to remind myself that I wasn't a total failure of a human being. Good Lord, that's the saddest sentence I think I've ever written.

Anywho. One of the things I came up with on that list to comfort myself was "cooking". I soothed myself with thoughts of strawberry-mango muffins and broccoli-tofu stir frys. I concentrated on the one place I have never felt out of place or unsure of myself: the kitchen. I'm so comfortable in a kitchen, in fact, that I take quite a few liberties in there. Swapping out ingredients for other, less intestinally-harmful ingredients is my forte. Most of the time it's because I'm trying to avoid the inevitable unpleasantness that results from too much wheat and dairy in my diet. But, also, I like experimenting. I like seeing how far I can go with those swaps. I like the thrill of throwing a bunch of stuff into a bowl, stirring, and then applying heat and not really knowing how things are going to turn out until minutes before serving it. I've been cooking for a very long time and I'm comfortable in an apron. I know, too, from experience, that it's all a matter of ratios. Somehow, I've managed to see the kitchen as just a palette where I can mix up the colors and not have to worry about the outcome. Mac and cheese has morphed from a gas-inducing glue-forming intestinal blockage to a light and easy gluten free, cheese free affair that involves making a roux and turning powder into liquid. I'm a goddamned alchemist for chrissakes. Sure, there are days when not everything turns out golden. There WAS that one time I added a QUARTER CUP of salt to a batch of roasted potatoes because of a typo in the recipe. I understood that a quarter cup of salt is more suited to a bathtub than to a baking sheet, but I still followed the directions religiously. What the hell was I thinking? To be honest, I was thinking about a recipe I'd seen for salt encrusted fish that bakes inside a very salty paste... and I somehow thought this would translate to the veggies. I was wrong. And I served them to very, very dear friends of mine, who, thank god for their Midwestern upbringing, didn't make a peep even as their eyeballs were drying out and their joints were starting to fuse.

Anywho. The kitchen. I love it in there. It's a giant playground with the perfect mixture of sharp objects, liquids, powders, malleable soft things and crispy brittle things and I feel like a sculptor in there. I feel utter and complete permission to serve a quivering heap of gelatinous failure because, like haircuts, I see my failures in the kitchen as only temporary. There are plenty more to be had and all are recoverable. I can make a bad meal and, because we live in America, and because we shop at Trader Joe's, there is always a frozen pizza on hand if I screw up REALLY bad.

But, for whatever reason, I can't seem to take this permission to fail out into other parts of my life. My baggage as oldest child (among other things) is that perfectionism has been stitched into my personality. If I can't master something on the first try, I literally break down in tears. I become a veritable Don Fucking Piano and I slam my head down on the keyboard over and over and proclaim I'LL NEVER GET IT RIGHT because that's what I actually believe.

Thank goodness I live with a man who, as part of his exercise routine, voluntarily wears a humongous pair of multi-layered, heavy, black cotton pants ON TOP OF a heavy cotton gi. Because, if he learns nothing else while he tumbles and rolls and dodges men and women who come at him with the force of a thousand murderous thieves, he surely understands what it is to be hamstrung by our own circumstance. Seriously. You try fending off attackers while wrapped in wet boat sails. I dare you. Also? He learns that we cannot all be masters of our practices at first blush.

As a matter of fact, it is routinely repeated at his dojo that Aikido is a practice- there are bad days and there are good days. And the bad days do not equate to total failure. They are just a temporary pause in awesomeness. And we must accept them as heartily as we accept the good days.

Back when I used to do yoga, I was told the same thing: yoga is a practice. There is no getting it right or wrong. There is only your breath. And you can't win at breath. Except... I tried. I tried to master breath. And because I couldn't, I stopped doing it. This is the cycle I get into. I try something. If I appear to be good at it, I stop, satisfied, lest I mess up my perfect 1-in-0 record. If I suck at something, that is proof that I never should have attempted it in the first place.

Sometimes, during Zumba class, I look over at a woman in the mirror and I see the way she moves with short, evenly measured steps and I see symmetry and beauty. And then I look over at myself and I look like a short torsoed, big footed, red faced beast frantically trying to keep up. Like an orangutan trying to pedal an imaginary bicycle with her arms. Or a 130 pound salami trying to outrun a swarm of fire ants. It's not pretty.

Burdy has been trying to convince me to practice Aikido for exactly this reason: to help me let go of impossible standards and to just let go of outcomes. He thinks it would be good for me if I could learn to love failing as much as I love winning. Outrageous, right? The nerve of that guy. Trying to balance out my manic nature. Ffft. Please.

A few months ago, I decided to subject myself to further torture and self criticism by enrolling in a short-lived drawing class as well. I thought: I'm going to try to let go with this class. I already know I stink at drawing. I'm going to just let that fact lie there and draw in spite of it. I'm going to let go of outcomes and see if, by letting go of outcomes, I can actually produce something worthwhile.

A few weeks ago, we learned about gesture drawing, a freehand style of drawing that's usually done with a pen and tends to incorporate lots of big, sweeping lines and general outlines. Gesture drawing is usually the type you associate with napkin sketches. Aha! I thought: I've got this one down! If I do any kind of drawing at all, it's this kind! I'm gonna RAWK this session. See that? You see what happened there? Instead of being a little Buddha about the whole thing and not being attached to whether or not I could practice the technique, I immediately went to I'M GONNA DOMINATE YOU IN THE RING, GESTURE DRAWING! RAAAAAAAAWR!

We were told to pick something in our natural environment to practice sketching, which, given the area, includes things like moving cars, stoplights, and dogs being walked. Moving freaking targets, people. I can't draw something inanimate. How was I supposed to draw leaves rustling in the breeze? I wasn't. I didn't. I drew what I thought looked like leaves. The instructor came by every few minutes and critiqued everyone's drawings. Usually she gave feedback like "I like what you've got going on there with the circles". Or, "Try to lighten up on your pen here; you'll get better shading if you start light". She stopped by my drawing and said nothing. Nothing. Just complete and utter pregnant silence. I got the impression it wasn't a "I'm stunned by the way you've managed to capture the movement in these leaves" silence. It was more like, "Wow. That's... um... maybe if you had....(shuffling, repositioning head) if you could just... (reaching for pen)... let me just... (slowly pulls paper out from underneath elbows, eases paper into nearby trash bin).... there we go....". Yeah, so I'm not a good drawer. That much is clear. Or rather (and this is the point of this whole post): I'm not a good drawer RIGHT NOW. This is a process, a journey. Honestly. I hate to be all Ram Fucking Das about this, but it really is all about BE HERE NOW. When I get all harsh with myself I need to remember to stop, look around, and take a breath. And then I need to remember the following:

1.I have a talent (okay, maybe more than one) I am ALREADY proud of. Can't I be happy with what I already have? Sheesh! How ungrateful!

2.I have nominated myself into this category of Artists, Writers and Musicians, and as a member of said category, I have put it upon myself to be the master of all things creative. When I fail to compose an opera, AND write a novel, AND paint a mural AND whip up a souffle, all in one day, somehow I count this as abject failure.

3. There is more to being creative than just "nailing it". I mean, sure, it's nice to have people come up to you and say things like, "Wow, man. When I saw that fried egg and bacon strip you crocheted... I just... I don't know, man. I just connected with it. It's like you totally got into my head and made what I was seeing....". Truly. That kind of stuff makes my day. Digging up our common humanity and putting it up on display is what it's all about, after all. But, does every attempt have to yield pure artistic gold? Can't there be room for hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of silt?

But where is that sort of example in my life? No one puts their junk out on display. You don't go to the museum and see "Picasso: The Shit Years". You go to see completed works. And sure, usually you can see many iterations on a theme, and it's pretty obvious, given the volume of his work, that Picasso didn't just sit down one day and crank out a boatload of instant masterpieces.... but, still. It's hard (for me, anyway) to remember that this is a PROCESS. Why is this so hard for me to understand?

This week I am going to try to focus on the metamorphosis. I'm going to see the moments in between the idea and the final outcome. There is so much to be gained from seeing the process. It's part of why I blog. It's why I read other people's blogs. It's why I ask personal, intrusive questions at dinner parties: I want to know about how all of us, the whole human race, gets from point A to point B. I want to know how we get from sorrow to joy and back again. I want to know how we get from tragedy to triumph, from uncomplicated to complicated, from single to married, from student to teacher. All I've ever wanted (all of us, really) is to understand how to get from point A to point B.

Sometimes I get scared that I'll get all the notoriety and fame I long for as a writer and I'll lose sight of the journey it took to get there and that my writing will be contrite. I'm always afraid of mounting that hurdle of doubt and then not being able to see behind me.

And then I remember that I have a lifetime of neuroses to draw upon for inspiration. A whole lifetime! So, yeah. If there's one thing I totally, totally win at, it's being human, and therefore vulnerable. I totally rock at being human.

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In Memoriam

It's been an emotional few days around the Burdy house. I feel like some portal has opened, like the veil between me and the rest of the world is membrane-thin right now and everything is flowing in unchecked.

It started last week with a news report that a cyclist had been killed in a hit and run accident downtown. I heard it on the radio just as I was parking the car to get to my Zumba class. There were no details in the report, just that the driver was in an SUV and the cyclist was dead. Burdy regularly rides his bike to work downtown, so when I heard the report, I froze in fear. I knew that Burdy had probably not been anywhere near that part of downtown, but I still panicked. The minds of the anxious are incredibly over-active in situations like this. One moment I was preparing myself to sweat to dance music. And in the next I was imagining the rest of my life without my best friend.

It's been a while since I've had a freakout session like that. I am trying to be gentle with myself these days, trying not to let the words "freak out" enter my vocabulary because they only serve to downplay how real and paralyzing this anxiety is. I could hardly breathe through my class. At one point, while I was I bent down in a stretch and feeling like I would pass out from the anxiety, I started describing my sneakers to myself (it's an anti-anxiety technique I recently learned about) and I was able to relax a little. It occurred to me that I was describing my shoe to myself to calm myself down over an accident that probably, in all likelihood, had not happened to my partner. Talk about meta-meta-awareness.

Burdy is still very much alive, thank you.

But I didn't want to start this post to tell you about my anxiety. Well, sort of, I did. It will all make sense eventually.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Burdy's dad's death. I quickly glossed over it in this blog last year when it first happened because there were last minute travel plans to be made and suits to be checked over for stains, and dresses to be dry cleaned. The call came on a glorious summer day. I was just getting home from a jog. I remember how the light outside my apartment had that particular lazy summer end-of-day quality about it, the street noisy with screaming kids and birdsong, the apartment still and warm. I remember thinking how strange and unjust the world felt at that moment. I was relaxed after a run, the sun was still going strong at 7 pm, everything right with the world around me. Three thousand miles away, at exactly the same time, there was upheaval and sorrow and loss. It didn't make sense that these two moments could coexist in time.

What made the whole thing even more chaotic was that, when he got the call, Burdy was not at home. We were dog-sitting for a friend at the time and staying at her house. We had only just begun the stint and we had to call my friend (who was visiting family in Boston) to tell her we had to leave the house in a few hours to catch a flight back east.

Death, in my family, has always been a weighty, grievous thing. Both my grandmothers died within four months of each other in the same year. Both of these deaths felt premature; my grandmothers were only in their sixties. I felt particularly close to my mom's mom. Her death was not exactly unexpected (she was in the final throes of battling colon cancer), but it was still shocking.</p>

My earliest memories are of her gingerly lowering herself into the pool, careful not to wet the line above her abdomen where a colostomy bag nestled hidden behind her classy bathing suit. She was always dressed to the nines. She spoke perfect English, but still pronounced certain words with a thick German accent. She sliced the crusty, round loves of Portuguese bread she bought from the Ironbound section of Newark against her body and stubbornly refused to use a cutting board. She introduced me to the heady smell of carrots freshly plucked from the back yard and the addictive properties of tomato gardening. She made a mean goulash. She told me very little about herself, just that she'd had a hard childhood and that I should be grateful for my parents who loved me.

My dad's mom had a heart attack quite suddenly on a weeknight. Our family was always struggling financially and my dad had to ask for gas money from my baby-sitting fund to get to the hospital. He was agitated and impatient with me when I protested. He didn't tell me that his mother was dying.

My dad's mom, in the tradition of my family, was a great storyteller. She had a memory like my dad does; every moment of the day was an opportunity to tell the story of what it was like back when she was a kid. My dad's mom taught me how to crochet. She had a whole room in her house piled to the ceiling with different colored yarn. She must have loved being near the water like I do because she fell in love with my grandfather at the community pool when they were teenagers.

The year my grandmothers died was also the year my uncle was married. I was only eleven years old, so of course what I remember was how perfectly my hair seemed to react to being blown out by a hairdryer for the first time, and how I got to wear a comb of baby's breath with my pink dress and matching shoes. Years later, when I asked my mom about what she remembered about that wedding, she said she couldn't remember much at all because those deaths were still fresh on her mind.

My mom's dad passed away two months before September 11th. He was a complex man who was also an incredible storyteller. My dad's dad passed away shortly after I was christened. I never knew him.

At my grandmother's funeral, it rained. I rode for the first time in the back of a limo. When I stepped from the car, I remember feeling like my mom was Jackie-O, and all eyes were on us, the brave little children, dressed in mourning black and walking like ducklings behind her.

A few months after my grandmothers' funerals, a friend of the family's mother passed away. We went as a family to the funeral. I cried and cried then, unable to stop. I surprised even myself. The friend, maybe in grief, maybe because both of us couldn't understand how I was capable of expressing so much sorrow for a stranger, knelt down beside me and told me "You don't have to do this. It's okay". But I couldn't stop. That membrane between me and the outside world was thin, then, too, and every death at that age felt personal and devastating.

Somewhere in that same stretch, our neighbor died. He must have been struggling with some kind of illness. His wife, a former NYC Rockette, her feet twisted from years in toe-shoes, ran over to our yard in just her housecoat, yelling over the gate as she ran, "He's gone! Oh, God! He's gone!"

So you see, death is a heavy, terrible thing in my family. And this is why Burdy's dad's passing was so life-changing for me. And why I still have a lot to learn about living. And why, if I understood more about how to really live, a bicycle accident that didn't happen to my fiance wouldn't send me into a anxiety-driven tailspin.</p>

Burdy's dad, who I called "Poppi", lived a long life. Burdy details some of it here. His father's name was Stanley, too. He became a father to Burdy late in his life. He was 55 when his second son was born. His first was born in Ukraine, to his first wife, and he didn't know she was pregnant at the time. He had to flee his native country, the threat of imprisonment looming large for having deserted the Russian army during the war. He left with the classic immigrant's fare of two dollars and the shirt on his back, literally. When he got to America, he knew almost no one and he didn't speak the language. He built himself up from nothing. He worked his way up from lineman to foreman in a factory, impressing his superiors with his quick command of the language and his proclivity for hard work. He smiled a lot. He was a classic charmer; he turned, in his lifetime, bushels and bushels of lemons into gallons and gallons of lemonade.

He was a hard man to get a straight answer out of sometimes. I believe his life necessitated this. He grew up in an era where expressing national pride was dangerous. Hard work was the order of the day and standing out in a crowd was frowned upon. He came of age in a time of great upheaval and change. I mistook his dismissive attitude towards negativity as denial, but I learned over time what a necessary thing that attitude was to his survival, and I learned to appreciate it. Poppi was able to put in its rightful historical place all the events of his life and not hold a grudge. He had a way with a dirty joke and a wink. He was a brilliant chameleon, a true survivor, and a master of adaptation.

I learned a lot from Poppi.

At Poppi's funeral, there was no carrying on, no rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. It was all very civil and simple and beautiful. This was quite the departure from my childhood funeral experiences. I couldn't fully comprehend it at the time, so I talked to Burdy about it. "He's had a very full life, sweets", he explained to me patiently. And it hit me then: this was the difference. Poppi wasn't taken in this dramatic "before his time" sort of way like everyone in my life. He lived till he was eighty-eight years old. He needed drugs to keep his heart ticking and his blood thin, but he was still lucid. He still wore a pressed shirt and dress slacks. He made his own breakfast and still sat the bar of the restaurant he owned with his wife. He did not suffer at the end of his life. He was able to reflect on the bounty life had offered him and smile at his luck. He had owned airplanes and luxury cars. He'd bought and sold property. He had managed a restaurant for forty years. He'd traveled. He had gambled and lost and gambled and won. Most importantly, he'd produced three wonderful children, two of whom, at least, I have gotten to know in my lifetime and who carry his same lust for life.

Towards the end of his life, Poppi was on so much medication that it was, even to him, almost comical that it took so much to keep him alive. He would line the dozen or so orange pharmacy bottles up on the kitchen table with his glass of water in the morning and would tell us with a sad smile, as we poked at our eggs and bacon, "It's nice to get old, but it's not nice to age".

Poppi was a man who wasn't much for the rules. Against his doctor's orders, and with a wink at the bartender, he'd order a shot glass of wine with his dinner. "Just a little bit of grape juice", he'd call it, showing us with thumb and forefinger an inch apart. "Nothing wrong with that, right?" he'd ask. And there wasn't. You couldn't deny the old man his grape juice.

Last night, Burdy and I had a shot of "grape juice" in his honor. We toasted "To Poppi" and downed the wine. There were no tears. Just smiles twisting into puckers as the acidic liquid hit our tongues and smiles again as the warmth settled inside us.</div>

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It’s Been Quite The Week Already. And It’s Only Monday.

While walking to work today, I was waved to a by a young man down a side street using a hose. I waved back. He waved more. "Nice day we're having," he called down the street to me. "Yup," I called. He waved some more. Wanting to end the waving, I gave him a solid "We're done here" thumbs up and kept walking. Thirty seconds later, from behind me, I hear him trying to get my attention the way one might hail a streetwalker in another country. I slowly turn around. He is running towards me. He repeats "Nice day we're having" about three times and I agree three times. Confused about his intentions and in a hurry, I start to walk away, but he is insistent we keep talking about the weather. He reaches out and shakes my hand (limply, like maybe he's trying to imitate something he's seen in a gangster rap video) and says his name is "J, or J, or Jarve. My friends call me J". Right. Shortening your name to your first initial. Very gangster indeed, sir. You've clearly read all the rules about how to impress a lady, including using a gardening implement to first get her attention. He asks me where I am going and I tell him "To work" and I turn to leave. I am about five paces away when he calls out, "Are you married?"


I have been trying to unload a bunch of stuff from the garage onto craigslist. For some reason, everyone I have been dealing with this past week has been a complete and utter flake. I've had really good luck in the past making deals on craigslist, so I was completely unprepared for the amount of people who just didn't show up when they said they'd show up. And I know, too, that the common feeling around craigslist is that, Hey, it's craigslist! It's not a binding agreement or anything! But, seriously, douchebags. Don't make me wait around on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and then tell me, via text, of all things, fifteen minutes after you were supposed to show up, and after you've ALREADY NOT SHOWN UP TO OUR FIRST APPOINTMENT THAT DAY that you can't because of... you know what? I don't even give a flying fart why you're late. A heads-up would have been nice.


I dropped off a package at the post office this morning, and I got to thinking about a recent news report I heard about the USPS reporting close to a 5 BILLION dollar loss for the first half of 2011. And I thought to myself: am I hearing this right? 5 BILLION? As in, it should probably cost about $28.50 to mail a letter for the next seventeen years for the Post Office to break even? I'm not one of those Down With Big Government types. I support public safety nets and socialized medicine and all that other good stuff that makes me a baby-killing, job-hating liberal. But, seriously. The Post Office? Why don't we hand this over to the already existing, mostly-well functioning businesses that deliver packages around the world and say, "Here. You seem to have a grip on how to make this profitable. YOU do this." I mean, no offense to my lovely local mail carrier, but what the hell do we even need the post office for anymore anyway? You can do online nearly everything you can do at the actual post office. And there are tons of FedEx and UPS stores around the country for those times when you feel like standing in line for half an hour to find out you need just three more cents in postage to mail your letter. Why aren't the corporate giants fighting to buy the USPS like they did Skype or AOL? It's not like they would be eliminating EVERY job with the buyout. I mean, SOMEONE's got to deliver all those Publisher's Clearing House notices, credit card offers, and supermarket flyers, right?</p>

I've been making quite a few cultural references lately that people even just a few years younger than me just don't get. I'm starting to sound like that weird uncle at family reunions that makes all the dumb jokes that just make people groan and roll their eyes. Only instead of groans, everyone just stares at me blankly and then goes back to checking their Facebook statuses on their phones. This became particularly obvious to me when a friend of mine wore a thrifted Ghostbusters shirt in front of her young student and the student commented, "Oh, I get it! No ghosts!" AAAGH, KID! It's not "No ghosts"! If it's anything, it's "I ain't 'fraid o' no ghosts"! Geez! I mean, it was only one of the most phenomenal movies of our young lives! Get it straight, kid! NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

-Ironic mustaches
-Cupcakes as adult food

The End.</div>

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THIS is why you need to stay in school, kids

It's good to have your mind blown at least once a day. I mean, that's what I've always said.

OK Go has got to be one of the most brilliant musical (theater? dance?) acts on the planet. I loved them the minute I first got wind of them. They've joined the ranks of other mind-blowingly talented folks who have used Chrome to deliver a personalized, make-you-cry-it's-so-good, Internet experience. I feel like a total toolbag writing the words "Internet experience", but I'm at a loss for how to explain what just happened to me.

What makes this even BETTER is that OK Go has teamed up with Pilobolus, a Dance Theater Company. Here was my introduction to them:


If you are not moved by this, then I'm pretty sure you are dead inside.

There are thousands of critics of our thoroughly modern electronic-gadget-driven lives. Hell, on some days, I am one of them. I waffle back and forth between wanting to unplug and run through fields of daisies and wanting to know what every single person in the world is doing right now through some form of media. I remember days when the first thing I did when I got out of bed was reach for the tea kettle. Now, before I do anything, I slip into my desk chair and check the news, my email, Facebook... Those simpler days are over. And soon to morph into something different, I'm sure. Though it's sometimes exhausting to keep up, I LOVE that our brains are complex enough to invent things like the Internet, streaming video, wireless accessories, and Facebook. (and I love that I'll be able to look back on this post in ten years and laugh at half of what I listed because it will be obsolete.)

On some days, I just need the tactile sensation and smell of an old book in my hands and utter silence.

Today, though, I needed these guys and what they have done with technology:

(You'll need Chrome to make this work properly)

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Dear Tuesday

Dear Sprint,
There's a war on. You know that, right? Between you and the iPhone people? And that every time I take my phone out, I might as well be pulling a six-shooter out of a holster? And that every time an iPhone and another phone are in the same room together, the air becomes dry and crackly and people nervously clear their throats? You can practically hear the jangle of spurs and the theme music to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly out here, Sprint. To the iPhone users, every hiccup in your performance is an opportunity to prove to me that the iPhone is faster, easier to use, and just downright BETTER than the phone I use, Sprint. SO. Here's a little advice, from someone down in the trenches: Get. Yo'. Shit. Together. Don't make me look like an idiot in front of the iPhone users. I've defended you for a long time, but the jackals are circling. They want an excuse, ANY excuse, to say to me, "Why don't you just get an iPhone?". Are you going to let them have it, Sprint? Are you just going to lie there and take it? Because that's what the iPhone people are saying you'll do. They think they've got you pegged. They think I'll eventually get so frustrated with you that I'll cave and buy a shiny white lozenge of a phone and leave you in the dust. Is that where we're headed, Sprint? You know, now that I think about it, I actually can't understand my loyalty to you. You really haven't done much more than provide me with uninterrupted, trouble-free service for nine years or so. I mean, it's not like you throw in a dozen roses every time I upgrade my phone. So why should I stick with you when everyone tells me the iPhone is better, faster, and smarter than your best smartphone? Because you had me at Hello, You're Lazy. It's true. I can feel a migraine coming on whenever I think about having to switch phone companies. So let's make a deal, shall we? I will continue to fork over my seventy-some-odd-dollars for a worry-free, all-inclusive plan, and you continue to reward me for my laziness loyalty. Here's another pointer: When I come into your store, make it seem, like the iPhone people do, that I have just brought in a wounded comrade and that you are a triage center. Treat that comrade like he is family. Gently tuck him into a white Formica drawer with other wounded comrades and promise me you'll do everything you can to save him. Ask me how long it's been since I've been without my device, and offer your condolences with lowered eyes and a respectful distance. Offer me a service ticket electronically and act like you don't even know what paper is anymore. Tell me you'll have a new phone in my hands pronto. And do this all with a smile. I mean, for godssakes, Sprint, the iPhone people are watching.

Dear Sprint,
You know I have, like, twenty six followers of this blog and that I could easily foment an insurrection against you? Do you know that in some parts of the world, twenty-six people all hating you at once out of solidarity constitutes a goddamned revolution? How much bad juju can you handle being beamed at you from every corner of North America anyway?

Dear Sprint Store Employee,
I can tell that every morning, in one motion, you push your arms into the sleeves of your corporate logo'd sweater and you put your heart up in a Mason jar on the top shelf of your closet because that is what it takes to do your job. It's okay. I can't blame you. I used to work for a corporate entity once. I, too, got tired of dealing with people who brought back items that THEIR CATS HAD OBVIOUSLY BEEN PEEING ON for three years and tell me that they just "changed their mind" about the color and could they just get a refund, please? I'm sure the stories you hear about what people do to their cell phones is equally as horrifying. I'm sure that people feign ignorance left and right about why their phones suddenly don't work and why they need replacements right this instant for free. I'm sure you have to stare grown men in the face and not move a muscle as they tell you they most certainly did NOT drop their phones in the lake even as wriggling minnows tumble onto the countertop from their battery casings. I'm sure you have to defend against all kinds of asinine behavior that voids service contracts and that you have to tell a hundred or more people a day that that kind of stuff is just not the kind of thing that warrants a free phone.

Dear Assurian Insurance Company Who Insures My Phone,
I am not one of those people.

Dear Sprint Employee (again),
Please review your customer service policies regarding "cracked smartphone screens". Understand that when I hand over my phone and you casually remark, without making eye contact or mentioning a price, that you "could probably have a technician replace the screen in an hour", this equates, in my mind, with a FREE service. You can understand, then, how frustrated and confused I was when, an hour later, you said the technician could not replace the screen because the phone showed signs of water damage. Water damage, Sprint Employee? I'm not following. HOW DOES A CRACKED SCREEN HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH WATER DAMAGE? I brought the phone in because my screen is cracked. And now I've gone from being mildly inconvenienced to irritated and confused. Do you see what's happened here? You've turned me into an all caps lunatic. When you ask me if I've ever taken the phone into the bathroom while I've showered because, you know, condensation from a shower could be the culprit of said water damage and I stand there with my mouth agog, it's because I am trying to comprehend how this is in any way related to my screen. My screen that is on the front of the phone and not the back of the phone where you checked for this alleged "water damage". Sprint Employee, do you live here in our fair city of Seattle? Perhaps you are aware of how much it rains here. And surely you are aware of the high number of smartphone enthusiasts in our fair city (I'll direct you to the paragraph above regarding the iPhone users). So, you must, you simply MUST, understand how, given the number of days in the year there is measurable moisture in the air (ahem, you might understand this better as "shower condensation"), and the number of smartphone users, that, by your logic, EVERYONE'S PHONE IN SEATTLE HAS SUFFERED WATER DAMAGE AND THEREFORE EVERYONE'S SERVICE CONTRACTS ARE VOID. Am I understanding this correctly, Sprint Employee?

Dear Assurian,
You might want to have a talk with the Sprint people. Apparently, there is some confusion about when to pay a deductible for a new phone and when screens are fixed for free. Now, having paid you people seven dollars a month for the last year to insure my phone, I was more than ready to pay this deductible and to have a new phone shipped to me pronto. But, it seems like we all had different ideas of what was supposed to happen here, now didn't we? You shipped me a phone in three days due to "backups" and "popularity of the phone" (and not immediately like you should have, like I am paying you to do). And then, when I got the phone, it was damaged. And when I called and asked your customer service rep if I should ship back the whole package, which included a battery and a memory card, or just the damaged phone, your representative told me "just the phone". And then you somehow, AMAZINGLY, MIRACULOUSLY were able to ship me a BRAND NEW PHONE overnight to replace the damaged one... which, of course, included ANOTHER battery and ANOTHER memory card. (Are you catching all this, iPhone users?)

Dear Really Stupid Week I've Just Had,
Man, am I glad you're done. Geez.... Now, if I could just back to a regular sleep pattern...

Dear Crows Outside My Bedroom Window at 7 am:

Dear Baby Next Door,
Are you in cahoots with the crows? Do you suffer from night terrors? Why the hell else would you be awake at 7 am and screaming like you're being murdered? Do you fall out of your crib every day at the same time and land in rusty bathtub full of broken glass? Why the hell must you scream like that, baby? I wake up every morning terrified that you're being mauled by lions. Why, baby? Why? I've met your mother; she's a dear woman. I know you're not being harmed in there, baby, so it must be all in your head. Do you need to see a therapist, baby?

Dear Neighbor with Backfiring Motorcycle/Neighbor with Lawnmower,
Really? Are you and the baby and the crows all in on this together? Is there some conspiracy to make as much noise as possible at the appointed hour of 6:45 am to get me out of bed? You know I don't actually GET out of bed at 6:45, right? Sure, sometimes I get up and press my nose to my screen window and scream at the top of my lungs for the crows the shut the hell up but that doesn't constitute "getting out of bed" per se. Anyway, please stop. It's getting a little ridiculous out there. I mean, a screaming baby is one thing. And crows another. But mowing your lawn AND repairing your motorcycle all at once? Come on. That's just silly.

Dear Self-Employment Schedule,
Thanks for letting me sleep in.

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