Sometimes I like to be dirty. The kind of dirty that comes from carrying a bag of groceries home in the sun on a hot day so that sweat films my skin and I knot my hair at the back of my neck. When I step into the shade of the kitchen, I set the groceries on the counter and run the water cold and strip off my jeans and fold them and drape them over the back of the chair.

I stand in a t-shirt and panties and fill a glass of ice water from the cold tap, then another. The sweat dries on my skin while I drink and I think if someone were to lick me, I would taste of salt.

There is no one here to taste me.

I put away the bread and milk and I empty the boxes of the year’s first strawberries into the strainer to sort them. I run the water over the red berries and the shock of cold on my hot skin feels good on my hands. I run my arms up to my elbows under the faucet and splash my face, then set the strainer of berries on the sideboard to drain.

There is a bottle of wine chilled in the fridge. I pour a glass.

When you live so long in fear and uncertainty that they have become part of you, burrowed so deeply into you even your dreams turn cancerous, when that fear is excised surely and immediately and suddenly, for the first time since it began, you believe it’s all gonna be okay, there is a physical chain reaction– first the shaking sick plummeting feeling of vertigo, then the euphoria of release, and, finally, the sublime bliss of soul deep exhaustion.

I take the wine and a bowl of berries to living room. There is no one here but me and no obligation to plan dinner. No one to frown and tell me wine and strawberries doesn’t make a meal. It is only two in the afternoon, and I want to write. The only way I can write while I drink is to stretch each glass–a sip of wine, eat a berry.

The berries are ripe to bursting and when I bite into them the juice runs down my fingers. I wipe the juice on my winter pale thighs before I touch the keyboard and leave vivid red stripes like ritual paint on my flesh.

Dark bellied thunderheads are riding in, crowding out the blue sky.

Strawberry slug

as far as I’m concerned pants are just periods of uncomfortable social convention that interrupt my natural state of pantslessness

As I was sorting and rinsing fresh strawberries, I found a slug near the bottom of the last box. I set him and his strawberry aside in an empty box and while I continued sorting and rinsing, I considered what to do with him. I wanted to take him outside but I’d already taken off my pants and poured a glass of wine.

strawberry slug

strawberry slug

As an intermediate measure, I added a few more strawberries to his box, the damaged ones that I would toss in the compost anyway, and put his small box in a larger box so he wouldn’t get lost in the kitchen should he leave the confines of the strawberry box.

om nom strawberries

om nom strawberries

Before I sat down with my strawberries and wine, I took him out on the balcony so I could take some photos in the natural light. Fortunately we live high enough up the people at the bus stop couldn’t see me kneeling pantsless while photographing a slug. Not that it would’ve stopped me otherwise.

slug : strawberry

slug : strawberry

When I take out the recycling later, I’ll carry him (and his strawberry) to a hedge.

(Also, yes, as far as I’m concerned pants are just periods of uncomfortable social convention that interrupt my natural state of pantslessness. Unless my legs are cold. Then pants are okay.)

sometimes this is what being an atheist feels like

Religion: Hi! I want to put my Jesus in you!

Me: No! I don’t want your Jesus in me!

Religion: With my Jesus in you, you can go to Heaven. You want to go to HEAVEN don’t you?

Me: HEY! I see you trying to sneak your Jesus in me. STOP THAT!

Religion: Hold still! I have to put my Jesus in you or you will go to HELL!!!

Me: ARGH! No means no!!!

Religion: You’ll thank me for putting my Jesus in you after you’re SAVED!

Schrödinger’s God

In a famous thought experiment, a man suggested putting a tiny Egyptian deity in a box with some radioactive material and a vial of poison. If atoms of the radioactive material decayed, a Geiger counter would cause a hammer to strike and break the vial of poison, killing the tiny Egyptian deity. The man posited that until the state of the tiny Egyptian deity is observed, it exists in a superposition of the states living Egyptian deity and dead Egyptian deity, and only upon observation does the wave form collapse, rendering the tiny Egyptian deity extant (alive) or non-existent (dead).

Therefore, we can conclude either God both does and does not exist or, possibly, that Nietzsche opened the box.

Someone on the internet told me I have a “troll complex.” I don’t know what that means.

I had a troll complex once. I thought it would be a fun and interesting conversation starter at parties, kind of like having an ant farm. I imagined swanky events where men with highballs would ask me, casually, “So, do you have any pets?” and I could say, “Yes, actually. I have a troll complex.” They’d say “Fascinating! I never met a woman with a troll complex! Tell me more,” and it would be like that scene in Firefly where Kaylee brings all the boys to the yard with her engine talk.

I found a troll complex kit, complete with troll starter growth packets, on a shady website, but I could buy it with Dogecoin. Sold! I set up my troll complex and followed the directions, mixing urine and bottom shelf vodka with the growth medium, according to directions. After a few days with no sign of trolls, I started to think I’d been scammed, but a couple days later they hatched. Baby trolls with colorful tufts of hair and eyes squinted against the light of the green LEDs that illuminated the troll complex.

At first the trolls were playful and their naughty antics had a child-like purity. As they grew, they lost their charming innocence and turned barbed and malicious, but I still loved them the way you love the cat your kitten becomes.

My neighbors, alas, did not feel the same.

It began with passive aggressive notes in my mailbox and escalated to a formal complaint. Finally the co-op’s board decreed I had to get rid of them. They even put up a sign with a picture of a troll and a circle with a line through it in the lobby. (Terribly unfair, because I know the people on two have neckbeard that pees in the elevator sometimes, and they’re allowed to keep it! How’s a troll complex any worse?!!!)

First I put an ad on Craigslist offering a mature troll complex free to a good home but the only reply I got was from a guy who wanted to use them as “intimacy aids” in place of gerbils. I called the animal shelter but they don’t take trolls, though they did give me the number for a rescue society in Norway. I guess trolls are endangered there? The rescue society only rehabilitated wild trolls for release back into their environment, it didn’t take the kind you order off dodgy web sites.

I knew if I didn’t get rid of my troll complex pretty soon, there was going to be another meeting with the board and they’d probably evict me. Late one night I put the whole troll complex in the basket of my bicycle (someone spray painted “troll lover” on it — nice neighbors, huh?) and rode down to the utility box by the highway where the telecoms have a fiber juncture. I let the trolls go beside it. They stood, small and vulnerable, on the loose gravel beside the bike path, dazed by their new freedom. My heart was breaking, but I knew I had to stay strong. I stamped my feet and shouted, “You guise r amazeballs! ILU! BFF! <3 <3 <3!” and they scattered for cover in fear and confusion.

I still miss my troll complex: Hatey & Stalky & Flamey & Pervy & Ragey & Drunky & Snarky & Gay Basher. I hope those little guys made it into the fiber box and they’re somewhere out there in the wild internet doin’ what trolls do.

I got my first hate mail.

It’s been such a long time coming, and part of me is afraid it’s one of you guys taking pity on my long spell of haterlessness. While I appreciate the kindness, somehow it just wouldn’t mean as much if there’s not real bile behind it.

Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2014 05:07:25 -0800 (PST)  
From: Leslie [redacted] <jxr*******r@yahoo>  
Subject: Your an idiot  
To: The Amazing Frankie (Guise! That's me! :)  

I saw you posting on Authonomy. God you are such an ass hole... I'm sure 
before you became a famous jag off, you were a real wanker... 


Leslie [redacted]
[redacted]
Commieland

Admittedly, it’s not the greatest hate mail ever. It doesn’t even fulfill my basic requirements.

Leslie gets full points for irregular spelling and grammar. This is her strong suit as a hater, made ironic by the fact she discovered my loathesomeness on a writing site. She even managed to pull a classic your/you’re error in the subject line. Good work, Leslie!

I’m also going to credit her with a failure to separate fantasy from reality on the basis of “before you became [a] famous” — implying that I am now famous. I’m pretty sure this fame exists only in Leslie’s head. Otherwise, have your people call my people. We’ll lunch.

And, since I’m feeling charitable, I’ll giver her points for emailing under the influence, because with grammar like that, drunk until proven sober.

Leslie falls down when it comes to communicating to me that she sees me as the living embodiment of everything that is wrong in the world today—she might feel that way, but if so, she did a poor job of conveying the depths of her disgust for everything I am and represent. I understand I’m an “ass hole”, but Leslie doesn’t make me feel like the “Great Grand-daddy Goatse of all ass holes.”

Leslie’s vocabulary also signifies a lack of imagination. “Ass hole” and “wanker” are garden variety insults. I’m not asking for Shakespeare here, but some evidence of creativity would be nice. Overall, I felt like Leslie was just dialing it in, and she didn’t even bother to wish that I’d die in a fire or get hit by a bus.

Finally, I suspect Leslie’s a bit lazy. I had to set aside my policy of not replying to haters via email to request clarification on which post made me an “ass hole” in Leslie’s eyes. That information should’ve been included by default.

Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2014 15:10:20 +0100
From: The Amazing Frankie (Yep, me again!)
To: Leslie in Commieland <jxr*******r@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Your an idiot

Dear Leslie,

I don't think I can adequately convey how much your hate mail means to
me, but I have to confess, I'm not sure which post you are referring to.
Could you clarify?

Not that I'm denying I'm an asshole, I'm just so frequently an asshole
that you could be referring to any number of things, and when someone
takes the time out of their busy day to inform me of my character flaws,
I like to be able to fully appreciate the gesture.

Looking forward to your response.

Love,
Frankie

Overall, I give Leslie a weak 3/5 for this effort, which is, frankly, charitable. I’m also willing to look at further work, after all, it’s not like the hate mail is pouring in these days.

I was supposed to get 6 of these from @createspace:

A little of the zombie sumpin' sumpin'

a little of the zombie sumpin’ sumpin’

 

Instead, I got 12 of these:

Tasty. But not what I ordered.

Tasty. But not what I ordered.

 

Go home, CreateSpace. You are drunk.

Joani Reese’s “The Skull Beneath the Skin”

Father’s Day sucks for me these days. I get it twice; Sweden and the US have it on different days. I think the American one is worse. It proliferates until it’s inescapable.

My dad is dead. Even two years on and counting, it’s still hard as fuck to really think about. When the reality pokes its ugly head up, and it does, I change the channel. Living on another continent, talking to my family infrequently with a year or more between visits, I can, most of the time, pretend like it’s just, you know, been a while since we talked.

But Father’s day, all the people talking about their dads, renders it unavoidable. I considered just shutting the internet off, calling it a day. Hiding. But everything is needles under my skin these days. What’s one more sharp thing?

I knew from the title, “The Skull Beneath the Skin” and the opening line, My father always loved to dance, that I didn’t want to read Joani’s story today. Probably not ever. Even the title reminded me of the last time I saw my dad, his skin translucent and shrunken to the contours of his skull. I tried not to look at Joani’s story. The elephant in the room.

Finally, I said: “Just fucking read it, Frankie. Get it over with.”

There is no happy ending. It’s exactly what I expected. The experience of watching someone you love slowly unbecome, losing them as they lose themselves, piece by piece. My dad died of cancer, Joani’s dad died of Alzheimer’s, yet the experience is much the same. The hospitals. The nursing homes. The confusion and exhaustion and emotional numbness, the submission to dispassionate authority. Joani’s story brought back the white sick feeling, the teary-eyed anger, of the helplessness I felt then.

It’s not something we talk about. Losing people like that. The slow but relentless decline. The hope & the gradual realization that this only ends one way. The fucked up feelings that linger afterward. The things I wish I’d done for my dad then and the choices that turned out to be mistakes and haunt me now, that will always haunt me.

And, in a fucked up way, it made me feel a little better to know Joani’s hurting that way with me.

Read “The Skull Beneath the Skin” by Joani Reese

Tyson Bley’s Drive-Thru Zoo

Straight up, I’ve been a Tyson Bley fangirl ever since I read an extract of Normal Service Will Resume Shortly on decomP and wandered over to his blog at Soapstain. I was super excited when I found out Gobbet Press was putting out an honest-to-god old school paper collection of some of Bley’s poems. Tyson sent me a copy of Drive-Thru Zoo, fondled by his own Cheetos stained appendages.

(I like to imagine he dropped it in a post box while he was walking a dog.)

I read it the day showed up in the mail. It was awesome. I read it again. It’s still awesome. Which makes it hard for me to write about. I get weird and self-conscious when I write about stuff I really like. And explaining Tyson Bley challenges my powers of description on my best days. Double whammy.

What the fuck can I say about reading Tyson Bley?

His poems are the noise which we plumb for signal. The idea that Bley is saying something, maybe something important, rubs up against me like calculus. Among the aborted robot fetuses and gorilla shit, redolent of 4chan and America’s next pop culture, ADD as a Higgs boson and disjointed as a Twitter feed, lurks something profound.

My girlfriend has for a number of years been an Elvis impersonator.
The ghost she puts on every night like a gown, just before bed,
wants her body. One day, it will have it. In bed, it is a species
of ambulance that emits dengue beams and whose sweat smells
like tap water. She has not yet heard its threadbare siren. She thinks
the noise comes from the ants living in the pipes.

from “JEDI SANDALS”

Tyson Bley’s poems are achingly human: confused, random, and beautiful with stabby bits and festering warts and hentai tentacles that make me want to shower like I’ve never been clean.
They smell like the Ewok lunch box I had in the second grade. They’re blocky chunks of animation in Thundercat colors. They’re the sick fascination the first time I saw Goatse.

And they’re funny. Tyson Bley is a funny motherfucker.

There are not many books that make me laugh, but Drive-Thru Zoo is among them.

BALANCE IS KEY

my inner ear is circulating hot earwax as all inner ears must
my balance is not out of kilter
but why is there a squishy sound under my shoe?
it’s unlikely to be Jerry
but it is Jerry
Jerry is the insect I’d welded together from tiny shiny parts
I’d euthanized Jerry because of his unbearable anxiety
I am a human
I am not a prick
I have a heart
I euthanize tiny mechanical insects when they’re in pain
I am not a shit

when I created Jerry, a certain hope became unhinged and
dribbled
through my innards in grains
I’d hoped to create a truly cute being

but why does Jerry make a squishy sound and not a crispy sound
when I step on his little corpse?

Brass tacks, Bley’s like sex or drugs; I can tell you what it’s like for me, but you’re gonna have to read it yourself to really understand the experience. Lay back and enjoy Drive-Thru Zoo for the sticky dadaist mindfuck that it is. The point isn’t to dissect each poem and suck intent from its cracked bones, it’s to enjoy the frottage as the weirdness in Tyson Bley’s panting brain presses up against you in the crowded media train.

(Check out the sweet cover by Matthew Revert, too. Shiny.)


You can find Tyson Bley at Soapstain. AFAIK, Drive-Thru Zoo (Gobbet Press; 2013) is only available via Amazon.

In which I prove that I am an insensitive fuck

Maybe Roz Warren, Isaac Blum & Kate Stone really did write Congratulations On Your New Diagnosis! (Greeting Cards for People With Mental Problems) to make fun of people with mental illnesses. In that case, they’re assholes, and I’m an asshole for thinking it’s funny. If this is your opinion, congratulations on having it confirmed, you may now go and share your enlightened outrage in your echo chamber of choice.

I admit, I wouldn’t have examined why I find it funny if it hadn’t gotten an over-the-top negative reaction in the comments. I’d have chuckled and clicked on to something else. But now I have thought about it, and in the best tradition of the internet, I’m going to take what could be a throw-away puff piece, stylistically similar to those chain emails your mom continues to forward you even though you’ve asked her to stop, and take it way too seriously.

The best comedy has a deeper meaning. It takes something conventional and stands it on end. It forces us to re-examine the subject, think about it in a different way from a different angle. It challenges us and, often, it offends.

Roz Warren’s piece does it right there in the title: Congratulations On Your New Diagnosis!

Why, when 11% of American children are diagnosed with ADHD and 11% of Americans over 12 are taking antidepressants and where one in four adults experiences a mental disorder every year aren’t there tongue-in-cheek Hallmark cards reading “Deepest Sympathy for the Loss of your Imaginary Friend” to celebrate your pal’s therapeutic breakthrough?

If you can get a “Good luck with your appendectomy!” card, why not a “Good luck with your electroshock!” card?

Is it better to do what we do now, tiptoe around someone’s disorders, feeling awkward and uncomfortable holding her rings while a friend finishes her hand washing ritual in a public restroom, or grasping for a subject change when a buddy mentions how his current drug cocktail is killing his libido? Try and mask our discomfort with sympathy and then avoid the person?

Maybe the takeaway here is asking ourselves why, when we’re awash in a DSM soup of ADHD & OCD & PTSD & BPD & depression & eating disorders & bipolar disorder & anxiety disorders & attachment disorders, we’re still not supposed to talk about them unless in hushed, respectful tones reflecting the seriousness of the topic. (And definitely not make jokes!)

Comedy gives us an avenue to explore the things that scare us; mental illness scares us. Maybe a comedian isn’t doing their job unless someone gets scared, gets mad. You can’t make all the people laugh all the time & maybe the most desirable reactions to a joke aren’t the chuckles. And maybe Roz Warren & co. aren’t making fun of people with mental illnesses, maybe they’re illuminating our fucked up reaction to it.

Even now, I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of my Metazen Christmas ebook. I never thought I would regain the excitement and sense of wonder I felt for Christmas as a small child. I thought, “Those are childish things, Frankie. For adults, the winter holidays are about obligation and guilt and one more year of failure.”

Then I discovered the Metazen Christmas ebook! (And a lovely, inexpensive chardonnay.) It was like a chorus of angels sang “Hallelujah!!!” while dancing in figgy pudding! Or maybe that was an internet porn, come to think of it.

Anyway, point being, the Metazen Christmas ebook is at least as exciting and festive as bizarre internet porn. 

I am secretly hoping that there will be a surprise bonus gift included. Because, Dear Metazen, if you’re listening, I’ve been such a good girl, and this year I really, really want a brony.

Love,

Frankie

To chynadol1969@gmail: by “able to vividly describe perpetrations of violence against my person” I mean you must be able to vividly describe your own imagined violence against my person. Just pasting my name into bits of Dante’s Inferno doesn’t count.

To fukufrankie@aol: you get points for the use of email address (this is the kind of creativity I’m looking for, people) but the rest was uninspired. Instead of saying, “You’re not a nice person Frankie and I know you think you are funny making fun of things but really you are not,” show me why I’m not nice. Describe how not funny I am in gory detail. 

It’s called “hate mail” and not “I don’t like you very much mail” for a reason.

To heckoffndye@gmx: full marks on the use of angry exclamation points, however I think you have confused me with someone else. I do not owe you any back child support. I think I would remember. (If you’re willing to persist in this delusion and bombard me with increasingly irate emails when the requested child support fails to materialize, I may be convinced to reevaluate your application.)

To jobopooks@hotmail: I’m not sure this is hate mail. Frankly, I don’t know what it is. The part with the tongue is disgusting though. For the love of god, why would you want to lick that?

Advert: Hater Required

It has come to my attention that anyone who is anyone has a hater. 

My friends all swap stories of their haters, how they acquired them and how often they are hated. They pull creased and folded email printouts of their favorites from their wallets and pass them proudly, comparing whose hater is more rabid, more frothing, whose can simultaneously display the more tenuous grasp of reality and the more intricate understanding of Anglo-Saxonisms.

I am left in the cold when these discussions begin. Bereft and haterless, I can only look on with envy while my more hatable friends and acquaintances discuss relative levels of fanatic vitriol and tally up the exclamation points. Thus I am in the market for a hater of my own. 

To be my hater requires determination and persistence. I am not easily fazed and I am oblivious to all but the most forthright and emphatic hostility. 

I recognize that acknowledgement is the primary reward of haterdom and that my  blasé, devil-may-care attitude makes me a less attractive target for your hate. To counteract my inherent insouciance, I promise that I, as your object of abomination, will blog about the scorn and derision you heap upon me, at minimum, on a semiannual basis. I will also tweet what I consider the most creative insult from your emails each month.* (Please consider the limitations of the medium and keep your most quotable jibes to under 120 characters.)

Additional requirements: 

  • must have difficulty separating fantasy from reality
  • must be prone to emailing while drunk (under the influence of other
    substances is also acceptable)
  • must be able to see me as the living embodiment of everything that is
    wrong in the world today
  • must have colorful vocabulary and be able to vividly describe
    perpetrations of violence against my person

  • irregular spelling and grammar a bonus.

If you need some help getting started, these are some of the most easily hatable things about me: I am an atheist, I am a vegetarian, I am a woman, and I have had an abortion.

Please make your application in the form of samples sent to my email address: frankie[@]ninjatoaster.com.

You may also submit hate mail via Tumblr. In the event that it is necessary to decide between equally qualified candidates, the balance is in favor of applications made by email. Initiative is an important quality in a hater and copying and pasting my email address is more work than clicking a link.

As I make it policy never to respond directly to abusive or threatening communications, I will notify my new hater of a successful application via blog posting. You will know who you are.

Happy hating!

[*] Please be aware that this means any hateful communication you send me is subject to public posting, discussion, and even ridicule, in part or in full.

All the pretty projects

There wasn’t enough room in a tweet for me to answer @empire_of_dust fully and I didn’t feel like chopping up my words.

New ideas are so full of potential. They are pure, as yet untarnished by our clumsy failures, as artists, to bring them forth into the world.

For every work I’ve finished, there are dozens of aborted beginnings on my hard drive, in notebooks beside my bed, on the shelves above my desk, left fallow in cabinet drawers.

I begin. And then I stop because the shape of the thing I am trying to create—I can see it in my mind—seems too much for me. I think to myself, “I love this so much, I can’t make it now. Not yet. I’m not good enough. I will make this someday, when I am a better writer.”

Then I start a new project with an idea I don’t love. I think, “This is a good idea, but I do not love it. It will not crush a piece of my soul if I fail to make it what it could be. This will be practice for the art I’m going to make from the ideas I love.”

Sometimes I grow bored with what I am making and I think, “Why am I wasting my time working on something I don’t love?”

Sometimes I slowly fall in love with what I am creating until I can see it in my mind, all grown up and beautiful. Then I think, “I love this so much, I can’t make it now. Not yet. I’m not good enough. I will make this someday, when I am a better writer.” 

For context, this is the tweet that started the conversation: