Of the Icebox

Words about stuff and sometimes things

On really wanting to be a psychic. And failing. — August 14, 2019

On really wanting to be a psychic. And failing.

When I was a younger youngster than I am now and psychics were a regular feature of daytime TV and commercials , I wanted to be a psychic. As a typical millennial, a belief that I could do whatever I put my mind to was fed to me daily at breakfast. So I ate my Froot Loops and put my mind to it. And so would begin my decade long journey towards repeated failure and disillusionment.

I didn’t go into this quest blind and dumb. No, friends. I knew I’d have to do more research than watch Sylvia Browne on Montel twice a week. I went to Barnes & Noble and Borders and browsed several books on the topic for several hours each. When one book suggested I try squinting and crossing my eyes until I saw auras forming around other people, I stood right in the middle of Barnes & Noble and did my darnedest to summon some auras. And, honest to G-d, it worked for a couple hours.

This convinced me that I might have the gift after all and would keep me on my wayward path for way too long. Eventually, one of the bookshop employees told me I needed to buy the book or get a library card because I was wearing out the spines and they promise people new books, not lovingly used books. I settled on a deck of tarot cards from Amazon and a library card which explains why America is where it’s at today–Borderless and B&N-less (that’s buns & nuts).

Anyway, after my aura experience, I was so convinced that I had the gift that I even talked to my PCP about it when he asked me what my goals were in life. I told him about my quest to psychic-dom and the auras I had summoned at B&N and he told me that seeing auras were a symptom of my migraines. My faith was shaken, friends, but not stirred.

So I told my PCP that I read a numerology book that had my moderately unusual name listed in it (what are the odds?) and it said that I was going to grow up to spend all my money on books and wine and that I wouldn’t settle in love until I met my soulmate and we were going to be passionate and loyal lovers.

He had nothing to say about this except that it sounded like a good life and he wished me luck but to remember that alcoholism runs in my family so I should take it easy on the wine. Small town PCP’s are the best. But I digress.  

When I failed to accurately predict anything in the lives of anyone I knew for the 1000th time, I was forced (via intervention by all my loved ones) to concede that I might not have the gift of foresight. I didn’t even have the 50% accuracy rate that would be expected by random chance. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t look backwards and summon up some dead people. I just had to change course.

So I spent the next several months trying really hard to see dead people. I even went to a metaphysical shop in Old Colorado City and the retail clerk suggested I wasn’t seeing them because my 3rd eye was blocked. I didn’t even know I had a 3rd eye which explains a lot. Anyway, after she opened it for me (like, bam!) and I told her I still wasn’t seeing them, she insinuated that I didn’t believe enough. But not to worry, she had a product that could clear away my doubt and transform me into a channel for the spirits. That’s when she presented to me a small vile of fairy dust hidden behind the counter that she had somehow come into possession of. She assured me it was by cruelty-free methods. No fairies lost their wings in the making of this dust.

She suggested I let myself be sprinkled in fairy dust to clear out the bad energy my doubt had created around me. ‘You don’t want to see bad spirits, honey,’ she said, ‘trust me.’ And I did trust her. Even though the fairy dust looked like purple glitter, I didn’t outwardly doubt her.

In my defense, let me just say that she was 19 and cool and I was 15-ish and wanted to be cool like her. Peer pressure is real. How do I know this? Because I let her sprinkle me with fairy dust and I walked around with purple glitter on my scalp for 4 days. Absolutely nothing in my life changed but if I were to go back, I’d let her do it again. That’s how I know peer pressure is real, unlike psychics or mediums or ghosts which I have yet to find proof of.

The moral of this story is that even though I tried my hardest for an amount of time that can only be categorized as abnormal, I never developed psychic or medium abilities.

That is, until this week.

This week I had a dream that I can only describe as prophetic. So, picture this. I’m in my dream, holding my phone, looking at the weather app and it says that here in Florida it’s going to be 113*F on one day and 115*F the next day. Naturally, when I woke up, the first thing I did was open my weather app to see if I was subconsciously replaying weather forecasts I’d previously looked up. But none of the highs even got close.

I have interpreted this to mean that I was dreaming of a future time in which temperatures in Florida will rise so high that they’ll reach 113* & 115* respectively in these parts that currently rarely exceed 93*. Given what I know about climate change, I think this is not too far off and I might have finally been visited by the spirits and bequeathed the gift of foresight that I’ve been asking Santa to grant me for over a decade now.

So, I consulted my deeply skeptical and staunchly logical and ever patient husband who just so happens to be a scientist (opposites attract, go figure) and guess what he said? He said if climate change models are right, this part of Florida is going to be under water in 30 years which means that even if it reaches 113* or 115* by then, no one’s going to be reporting about it on a weather app because there’s not going to be a city here. Then he told me I should probably stop eating ice cream before bed.

And so the dream dies again and, with it, my spirit animal is crushed.

Should fiction writers ‘write what they know’? — August 7, 2019

Should fiction writers ‘write what they know’?

There’s a common saying that writers like to tell one another, ‘write what you know.’ While this once meant something like, ‘don’t write a mystery novel if you’re the world’s leading expert on the history of chocolate unless your mystery novel includes a plotline about chocolate,’ it seems like it’s been taken a complicated (and literal) turn as of late with writers asking themselves, and each other, if it’s acceptable to write about experiences that they have never had.

If you’re not sure the context around this and you’re interested in reading more, these are some of the articles that have shaped my thinking on this topic:

On one level, we all acknowledge that fiction writers write fiction, right (tongue twister)? No one is saying that all fiction needs to become memoir. I also don’t think anyone believes you have to be a man to write believable male characters in your novel or, vice versa, you must be a woman to write female characters (except the die hards following @men_write_women). And I’m almost certain that even fewer people think you have to be, say, an immortal human to write about vampires.

Even though representations of women in male-authored novels have been, at times, appalling and showed a lack of understanding and possibly contributed to some degree of misogyny, I still don’t think we should ban men from giving it a try. For one, it’s the closest a man has ever gotten to wanting to know what it’s like to be a woman. And, more importantly, in the parallel universe where we take fiction to this n’th degree of separation, fiction doesn’t just become repressive and weird–fiction dies.

So we agree that men and women can write stories about each other, right? And that mere mortals can write books about immortals, right? I hope so. Otherwise, we need to start crowdsourcing letters to Nicolas Cage to encourage him to save Science Fiction. I predict he’ll do the job in 500 years when he has the self-satisfaction of knowing that none of us are alive to acknowledge he’s fulfilled our collective request.

But what about race? Can white authors write about non-white characters?

And what about sexual orientation? Can straight authors write LBGTQ+ characters? Can gender-binary authors write about non-binary characters?

And if they are allowed, must those characters be relegated to secondary roles? That is, could a straight, white author write about a black, gay protagonist? To me, this is when the conversation becomes much more complicated.

Consider the repercussions of a world in which we start stripping our fiction novels of everyone whose experience we haven’t lived or can’t perfectly depict. I don’t think we benefit from having sterilized, segregated literature: novels with all white characters, novels with all male characters, and novels with all straight characters. I’d like to see literature become more integrated, not less.

I, for one, don’t want to be afraid to write something that’s outside of my comfort zone. I don’t want to be driven into silence by fear of a bad response or missing the mark. I want to take risks and take solace in knowing that no reader in the history of reading ever died from being offended.

Maybe you’re thinking that, as a writer, sometimes we’re going to get it right and sometimes we’re going to get it wrong and we just have to accept that and apologize when we get it wrong. But writing, in my estimation, shouldn’t be about getting it right or getting it wrong. We’re not creating manifestos. (I certainly hope we aren’t, at least.) And writers shouldn’t have to apologize for depicting a character differently than the reader wanted it to be depicted.

Now, more than ever, given how connected writers are to their readers, writing presents an opportunity to exchange ideas. I’d like to propose that it’s possible, now, for writing to be an exercise in mutual learning instead of 1-sided preaching or teaching. I’d like to propose that YA readers don’t need a moral in their stories. That they can draw conclusions divergent from the protagonists without demanding that books be removed from shelves. To choose to write in this day and age is to choose to engage in a lifelong conversation with the reader and to hope that, at the end, we’ll all have achieved that magical place of symbiotic union I like to call a conversation.

Living in a world where sensitivity readers and trigger-warning happy college students demand changes to content is not conducive to a conversation. It’s a moral reprimand that shuts down all conversation. I sincerely believe the sensitivity readers of today want to build a better world (unless they’re actually secret Russian bots) but my Fahrenheit 451 senses are tingling at their methods.

If readers want to reshape the story, I encourage them to do what writers of all generations have done before them that wanted to reshape the conversation–pick up the pen, don’t burn the book.

PEN15: Season 1 — July 30, 2019

PEN15: Season 1

Friends, I’ve started a new blog. I’ll keep posting on Of The Icebox but I wanted a separate space to write review and reflections on TV shows, movies, and books.
Without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce you to ‘Sofa Tofu’ and my first blog on season 1 of PEN15. I hope you enjoy and if it’s something you’re interested in, make sure to follow!

Sofa Tofu

Review and Reflections

If you, like me, have repressed your 7th grade memories so deep that you sometimes wonder if you even went to 7th grade or were the unknowing recipient of the ‘No Child Left Behind’ act, then PEN15 is sure to cast away all doubt. This show was the reawakening of everything I thought my hypnotist had freed me of and I’m glad for the return of my memories.

From sliding your tongue over your braces non-stop to experiencing a lifetime of mortifying firsts, PEN15 took the exposure therapy route to healing our collective Junior High traumas. I had not previously associated my traumatic experiences as something universal because, as a child raised on TV, I’ve never seen a show that talked about the female coming-of-age experience with quite as much brutal honesty as PEN15. Consider this Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle’s Season 1 gift to womankind…

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Numbered lists for numbed out people — or — 9 Reasons Your Dentist Hates You More Than They Hate Themselves — July 25, 2019

Numbered lists for numbed out people — or — 9 Reasons Your Dentist Hates You More Than They Hate Themselves

Do you remember a time before the internet was over-saturated with numbered list articles (also known as list posts and listicles)?

Ever since HuffPo started feeding me daily doses of listicles such as, ’10 Legit Reasons to Stop Eating Nuts’ and ‘7 Ways to Get Healthy this Summer’ I’ve been unable to escape. We are collectively being driven by our curious clicks and Google’s a-curious algorithm towards a world in which no content exists without a numbered list attached.

I’m not the first to notice. If you pay to look behind the paywall of the New York Times, you might have even read an article justifying the existence of the listicle. Or if you’re like me and don’t believe that high-quality journalism deserves to be rewarded, you search for free opinions on the matter and have found this blog.

Maybe it’s easier to consume information in lists. Can we make this stop? Do we want to? I, for one, do but first I’ve gotta get busy on delivering the promise of this blog or my google ratings will drop from ‘invisible’ to ‘actively discouraged’.

I actually have a number of listicles that I’ve been wanting to write just to do my part and contribute to the blizzard-apocolypse of listicle doom (hereafter known as the blitzticle) that we’re all actively contributing to but I’ll just start with everyone’s favorite topic: dentists!

9 reasons your dentist hates you more than they hate themselves

  1. Floss.
    No matter how many times they’ve told you, no matter how many products they’ve invented to help with the situation, you still refuse to floss. They’ve tried everything: the floss pick, the water pick, the gosh-dang 360 Sonic Brush. You just refuse to do it.
  2. The fluoride wars of 2003.
    Remember that time you Googled ‘is fluoride safe?’ and then started stock-piling Tom’s fluoride-free toothpaste because you were afraid that every dentist in America was a part of a big conspiracy to poison Americans 1 teaspoon of fluoride at a time? Yeah. Dentists hate you for that.
  3. You’ve been a bad friend.
    Because even when you found out that all dentists wanted to kill themselves, you didn’t call your dentist to make sure they were okay. You just thought, ‘That makes sense. I’ve totally met a dentist like that before.’
  4. You never took his advice to heart.
    When you were 13 and your dentist told you on the same day that he removed your braces that you’d have to wear your retainer every night for the rest of your life, you laughed in his face.
  5. You assumed all dentists were men.
    Just because a woman walks in the room, that doesn’t mean she’s your hygienist. How about you tell your biases to Dr. Sheri Doniger who was told that by being in dental school, she was taking the place of a man. Dental schools haven’t been actively discriminating against women applicants since at least April 2018.
  6. You’re totally aggro in their chair.
    Really, a total aggressive jerk. And a wimp. Doctors have relocated shoulders without administering a drop of pain medicine, soldiers have amputated limbs with little more than a leather belt and a bottle of bourbon and yet you feel a pinch against your gums and you’re whining like a toddler? There’s a reason your dentist lets you drool all over yourself.
  7. You forgot to brush.
    That’s right. I’m calling you out for that time you figured, ‘What’s the use? They’re going to clean them for me anyway. Isn’t that what I’m paying them for?’ Just gross, dude. Would you decide not to wipe your butt before going to the gastroenterologist because you’re pretty sure they’ll want a sample?
  8. The collective ugh.
    They can hear the collective groans of everyone around you when you show up to work, or the breakfast table, or your friends bat mitzvah and say, ‘I have to go to the dentist today.’ Dentists are humans too. And I’m pretty sure they have emotion-like feelings.
  9. Treat yo-self culture.
    They get it. You’ve been a good, grown-a$s boy by going to the dentist today. That doesn’t mean you get to treat yourself with an ice-cream from DQ on the way back to work. At least let the fluoride set.

Unlike respectable journalists and writers, I’ll never use this blog to charge you for my witty insights and humorous truths. Even though you totally paid that homeless dude outside the local Aldi $0.50 for his poems. But if you ever want to feel like as good of a person while you’re surfing the internet as you do while you’re walking around your neighborhood, I support your journey to moral superiority and will gladly send you real life proof of your moral superiority for you to show all of your friends.

Alternatively, if you want to keep exploiting wordsmiths without dropping a cent, you can follow me on Twitter @oftheicebox where I dispense witticisms and more for free on a regular basis.

Boats are the new bunkers — July 16, 2019

Boats are the new bunkers

A number of things have changed since I last lived in the US 3 years ago. Most shockingly, perhaps, Amazon bought Whole Foods which is the sell out that we all knew those hipster/yuppies would serve us but it still stings.

It better be Mary-Jane because until the day comes when I can order a special brownie on Amazon and have it delivered that afternoon, I will not be satisfied with this merger and the growing monopoly of Amazon (a company which I personally rely on and morally abhor).

Arthur Greenwood, Redwood, California

Secondly, somebody confused Twitter and the Electoral College leading to everyone’s least favorite grandpa somehow living in the White House because he got confused and thought it was the gated, 65+ retirement community for white people.

Remember that Thanksgiving when he told us he was the King of International Trade? And none of us challenged him even though we all knew that El Chapo was the King of International Trade because we didn’t want him to throw a fit and destroy the pumpkin pie for the 4th year in a row? I regret that decision now.

Moral of this story is that you should have never taught your grandparents how to use social media. You should have stopped at TiVo.

But back to boats. Given Whole Foods now delivers and the ice caps are still melting and this country will soon be one large gated community for white folks, it’s time to seriously consider buying a boat.

I got a good deal on this one. I bought it from some guy named Pi Patel. He swears he survived on the boat for 27 days in the Pacific Ocean with a tiger. Anyway, thank g-d for Pi, he landed in Canadian waters. (**Spoiler alert**)

Maybe you’ve been wavering on the whole boat thing. Maybe you thought bunkers were cool again because of the popularity of ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ and because the President of the United States has adopted what’s being called a ‘bunker mentality’. But don’t be fooled. If Kimmy Schmidt were to endorse a product, it would not be bunkers. It would be rainbow-pack scrunchies.

And nothing our 173-year-old grandpa has done has ever been cool. Not the time he grabbed women by their pu$$ies who might or might not have looked exactly like his daughter; not the time he filed bankruptcy in 1991, 1992, 2004 or 2009; not the time he called his wife smart for stealing Michelle Obama’s speech, twice; and certainly not the time he started wearing trucker hats with business suits.

– What does it even mean, Grandpa?
– I’ve got international stock invested in red trucker hats. It’s gonna be huge. They’re gonna run out of the color red. The color red is not going to exist anymore on this planet.

Not the President

So if you’re afraid, if you’re unsure what direction this country is going, if you don’t really want to be here anymore, then please, I beg of you, don’t bury yourself deep in the ground with your grandpa’s cans of creamed corn. Join me and Amazon’s Whole Foods on the boat commune. We’ll be touring down the Mississippi for at least 2,348 miles during which time we’re going to need to figure out a plan to deal with that wall. I’m sure Amazon will drone in a solution.

We’re also gonna need to ask the city of Xochimilco, Mexico if we can borrow their boats.

Here’s hoping for all the places we’ll never reach. — July 14, 2019

Here’s hoping for all the places we’ll never reach.

I had a dream. Not the MLK Jr. kind of dream. One of those ephemeral, all-in-the-head video reels that plays out while we sleep. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember the dream. All I could remember was this specific longing to move to Wyoming.

If I was a fatalist or the type of person that believed in destiny, I’d have thought this was a sign. But I’m not that person. I haven’t been for years now.

I’ve never lived in Wyoming. Never in my life wanted to live in Wyoming but there it was, buried deep as if I had belonged once, in a previous life, to those golden, rolling hills set against those impossible mountains. I wanted to be swallowed by the endless skies and belong to the empty streets of some town that knows it’ll never amount to much.

And I saw, or longed for, or envisioned, or made up a place where you and me and that baby we’ve been promising to each other for a few years now all existed together and we were happy.

“Let’s do it,” you said when I told you about my misplaced longing.

You’re supposed to be the rational one. I’m supposed to be the dreamer. And now I find myself dismantling my own longing just to fill the role I expected you to play.

“But you’d single-handedly double the Asian population of Wyoming.”

“Sounds kind of charming and noble.”

“We wouldn’t have anything to do up there.”

“You could write.”

“In the winter, the wind rolls through the foothills with such force it tears shingles off the roofs of perfectly good houses.”

“We’ll get a house with a tin roof.”

“You really want to do this?”

And you smirk and I melt and we both know we’ll never move to Wyoming but now we share a misplaced dream. And just like our misplaced child, it binds something between us.

The problem with being directionless — July 12, 2019

The problem with being directionless

If you look at the date of my last post you might have thought this blog (or this blogger) had died. It’s been a long time, friends. I’ve spent much of the last few months consulting my Magic 8 Ball (Google), on important topics such as, ‘Is blogging dead?’ and ‘Does anyone read blogs anymore?’ and ‘Has Instagram replaced WordPress and Blogger?’

The answer to all of these questions, if you’re wondering, is as follows:

I’ve decided I might as well put aside my many doubts regarding if I’m wasting my time and what lies beyond the right swipe and start blogging again. I mean, really, so my cousin took me to prom. It doesn’t mean anything deeper.

In short, I’ve spent the last few months making much ado about nothing. If people are still reading blogs, some of them might eventually see this and if not, time will put my Google questions (and these words) to rest.

Another problem, for me at least, was that I had never clearly defined what this blog was intended to be and I thought that I had to. The first lesson in telling stories always includes limiting complexity. Complications are plot but complexity is confusing and disorienting.

Am I a lifestyle blog, a humor blog, a poetry blog, a rambling and wacky anecdote blog, a blog about dogs, a blog about food, a blog about binge-watching Japanese reality TV shows until both of our hearts are fluttering like teenage girls? The answer to this?

There’s another problem to take care of.

By being someone that is sometimes melancholic, sometimes funny, sometimes nonsensical (aka: human), I didn’t have a ‘brand’. I couldn’t market myself. And this, we are raised to believe in the blogosphere and social media-laden world, is what we must do if we ever want our words to be read. I couldn’t sell myself and mother always said ‘you have to sell yourself to make money, dear.’ Sorry, mom. You should have given me a bigger a$$.

Not to droll on indefinitely but I’ve decided to post what I want to post from now on and not worry if it doesn’t make sense or if it complicates my ‘brand’. Because let’s be real, I never had one to begin with. I had barely even begun when I had an identity crisis. I’ve decided to be more open about who I am and what I’m trying to do with my writing.

So here’s a start. A lot has changed in the last few months. I’ve moved back to the US from Australia and am now residing in Florida because I’ve gotta swing that vote, b!tches.

I’ve made the decision to focus on writing full-time. A decision, by the way, which I waffle on every other day like I’m Chick-fil-a trying to figure out my stance on being a corporate member of the 21st century.

Anyways, I’ve decided to try writing instead of pursuing yet another admin job that takes away from me being able to finish that next, mediocre American novel I’ve been working on for years. I’ve saved up a bit of money from my last over-committed job to be able to try this whole ‘living-the-dream like a Millennial’ thing (for a few months, at least). After that, I suppose I’ll have to revert to eating $0.50 ramen instead of $14 hipster ramen from the local chef who studied how to boil the perfect noodle in Tokyo for 3 years before being allowed to touch an egg.

In short, I guess you could say I’ve fought a lot of self-doubts and fear to get to the place where I could publish this post and consider eating $0.50 ramen again. I’m still fighting them.

I’m not sure what you will get when you follow this blog but I’m committed to posting regularly and will tell you when I’m spiraling into my next identity crisis so that you can take the necessary precautions and abandon ship before it’s too late.

I’m also not sure what I’m trying to sell to you but you can be sure that I’m trying to sell you something. Hopefully it’s the truth. Hopefully it’s my life, my reflections, my struggles and musings. And hopefully that’s enough to distract you, even if just for a few minutes, from the self-doubts and fears that are weighing you down. Because there’s only enough server space on this blog for one of our self-doubts and, goddammit, they’re going to be mine! And, also, hopefully all of this will be enough to pay my bills cause a gal in Florida needs A/C.

I want to be fearless, friends. I want to finish that novel I’ve been working on, then burying in the Cloud because I decided it wasn’t good enough to release to the world. I want to finish those spec scripts and submit applications for writing fellowships. I want to submit short stories for publication and make a real effort towards making this writing thing work because it’s the only thing I’ve ever truly loved (sorry husband and dog, hyperbole demands harsh truths be established). Maybe I’ll even apply for MFA programs despite the many warnings against following this course.

Honestly, I don’t know anything about the writing world that I want to be a part of and that scares me because I’ve already jumped off this bridge expecting to soar on the wings of my millennial optimism. Flotation device was not included. I guess it’s time to learn how to swim.

Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to meet a few people along the river that will be kind enough to teach me how to backstroke instead of doggy paddle. Maybe that person will be you. If it is, I humbly thank you in advance for your guidance and assure you there were no sexual connotations intended in that metaphor.

Onward and upwards, friends. As my hero says, Together We Can. That was either spoken by Michelle Obama or the Disney machine.

When the Face of Failure is a Flower — February 13, 2019

When the Face of Failure is a Flower

You were promised happiness. The salesman said he’d never seen an unsatisfied customer. Said any person would love your selection, 3 varieties of roses, 6 colors of daisies.

Flowers received. Flowers she said she never wanted because she didn’t want to have to watch them die. She didn’t want to be the one to bury them.

You were promised foolishness. You feasted on consumerist legends. You were convinced the woman was being disingenuous. Every woman protests but she secretly wants it.

She didn’t.

Someday you’ll learn to read the heart without a map. Until then, you’ll just have to learn to read the map.

The Oxford Comma Debate — June 13, 2018

The Oxford Comma Debate

Unless you’re Cindy Knoke, you might be wondering why I’m dedicating a whole post to Oxford commas and subjecting you to the onslaughts of my full-blown philosophical panic attack about this relatively minor conundrum of the English language which occupies a significant portion of my non-productive hours. There’s a very good reason for this which I will likely fail to address. But onwards and upwards, as they say.

If you have read my About page, you will know that I have confessed to having the occasional philosophical panic attack over coffee-shop bloggers [editor’s interjection: Stop trying to guilt me into buying organic, free-trade, naturally decaffeinated early gray and lay off the sea salt hair spray already–if I want a latte full of fatty milk that belongs to the slaughtered calf I ate for dinner last night, I’m gonna pay my $5 and have it, gosh dang it], and Santa Claus [I can’t even talk about this one or it’ll make me so hot and bothered I’ll never get to the point of this post], and, you guessed it, Oxford commas.

What is the Oxford Comma?

Whether you have a hazy idea of what the Oxford comma is and need a quick refresher or are as intimately familiar with this hairy language mole as I am, I strongly encourage you to resist the urge to pull out a dictionary or conduct a Google search and just sit back and take my word for it. I am, after all, the resident Oxford comma expert on this blog and while you are here, the rest of the contextual world doesn’t exist.

Side Note: The Oxford comma is not to be confused with the Oxford coma, a deep-seated fear that gripped the heart of the English nation for 3 1/2 years in the 1950’s and led to this guys commitment to practice contemplative non-blinking.


Let’s stop evading and define this melanoma, shall we?

Stage 1. Defining the growth.

The Oxford comma is when you have 3 or more items in a list, and you decide instead of letting the final conjunction (usually the word ‘and’) stand in place of a comma as is its entire reason for existing, you’re going to go ahead and add a comma anyway just for the heck of it.

Some will try to argue that it’s not just for the heck of it. It’s actually for clarity. I would argue that clarity is overrated. Some will also argue that if you have need of an Oxford comma, your sentence is already weak and you should rewrite it rather than trying to ‘rescue’ it with the Oxford comma. I would argue that I don’t believe in eradicating weak sentences, just as I don’t believe in eradicating weak children. You may choose designer babies but my writing is all natural and edit-proof, just as God intended.

Stage 2. Research the Prognosis.

You can read some fabulous examples (and more fabulous comments) on this Grammarly article. These lovely tidbits talk about Lady Gaga & Humpty Dumpty’s love child. Then an all out war breaks out in the comments section which starts with slanderous claims of one person being a terrible writer for asking a ‘proper use’ question and another person being accused of being a ‘grammar nazi’ (ahem…my spellcheck says that’s grammar Nazi, friend) for asserting a strong preference for the Oxford comma. It ends with the collective smelling of cheese and grass, as all good wars do.

I had prepared an example but I’ve lost all motivation to go on. The war was long. The cheese was aged. It was a good example too. It was about the size of the fourth dimension, ballerinas and Brad Pitt’s penis.

Or was it about the size of the fourth dimension, ballerinas, and Brad Pitt’s penis? You see here, I trust, the confusion I’ve created.

Was I talking about the size of ballerinas and the size of Brad Pitt’s penis in addition to the size of the fourth dimension? Or perhaps I was talking about Brad Pitt’s penis in relation to ballerinas, a separate topic of conversation entirely from the size of the fourth dimension. All distinct possibilities, friends. How many topics of conversation were there? Was it 2, 3, even 4? Was it as limitless as the dimensions we’re surrounded by? The world will never know.

Stage 3. Understand the origins.

Maybe you think this whole debate is an elaborate hazing ritual started by these dancing Oxford boys because it’s no longer enough for the elite to haze themselves. They must now haze all of us too.


And maybe if you’re not bound by a style guide at school or work, it ultimately just comes down to personal style. But if it is just personal style, which is more stylish? Because let’s face it, I need to be ‘on trend’ if I’m going to be successful at this writing thing.

Stage 4. Embrace your inevitable fate.


On the one hand, I could be loose like an American poet who embraces, nay delights in, the grey area of interpretation between the size of the fourth dimension, ballerinas and Brad Pitt’s penis. Heck, in this world, my ambiguous reference to Brad Pitt’s penis in relation to ballerinas shrinking waistline and the invisible fourth dimension was more than intentional. It was art.

On the other hand, maybe you care about context. Maybe you think that clarity must always win. Maybe you drink tea with your pinky up and insist on using an Oxford comma even when it isn’t necessary for clarity, just to make a point.

Maybe we will never agree with one another on this point (the we I refer to being the two severed halves of myself). Maybe I will continue to waffle between embracing and rejecting the Oxford comma for all my days, spreading mass confusion and being judged for my failure to master any individual style throughout all my writing. Because we all know mastering is just another word for ownership and I don’t want to own the Oxford comma.

End Stage. Stopping treatment.

I hope now that we’ve come to the end, if nothing else, I’ve successfully passed on my philosophical panic attack to you. I ask that you take up the torch and extinguish my fire because I’m tired of carrying it. It’s time for me to #Brexit from this conversation. Until next time.

When happiness is a tree, you feed it to your children — June 3, 2018

When happiness is a tree, you feed it to your children

One day, you’ll realize that you’re not born with an allotted amount of happiness, that you can keep stretching it, keep growing it, keep pushing the limits of conceivable joy until you understand.

When you realize that the price of happiness is patience, you’ll plant a tree to watch it grow. You’ll count the rings, the branches; one year, you’ll even try to count the leaves. You’ll see limbs overtaken by tiny insects. You’ll see the tree expel a branch to save the trunk. You’ll climb up, sit beneath, walk around the seasons and at some point, after 30 years, you’ll realize deep in your bones the appeal of cyclical timelines. You’ll love every season, even the barren Winter because you could use a rest and the tree grants you permission.

You’ll dance when you learn the roots are growing into your foundation. You’ll cry when the doors start sticking. You’ll stand dumbstruck when a lightening storm breaks a branch over the roof of your car. Even more dumbstruck when your kid drives into the tree — a learner’s mistake—leaving behind a barely perceptible tilt that it never cared to correct. But still, you trust it to support your grandchildren through stories so wild your ageing mind struggles to jump from myth to myth. You trust it remain patient enough not to collapse into your house until you’re done using it.

And at last you’ve learned the secret to happiness, you’ve earned the right to claim it. So when your daughter decides to throw her failed attempts away, you drive her to the arboretum and you tell her that lasting happiness is never stumbled upon, it’s been built out of all the days you waited, out of all the days you sat in the driveway and decided to return. And when she rolls her eyes and curls against the door, you get out, buy an oak tree and tie it to the roof. One day, she’ll understand.


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