I Want My HPV (not. herpes.)

If someone put a gun to my head and asked what the three great loves of my life are, I’d probably… well, crap my pants.

If the assailant continued to stick around even after that, then I’d probably say something like:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday I’m speaking to that last object of my desire. Specifically, to a February 15 GA Voice op-ed piece titled “Cars Aren’t The Problem With Share the Road,” by Melissa Carter. As it were, this single editorial has quickly become to the Atlanta cycling community what a Paula Dean cookbook is to a vegan food festival.

pigletI won’t lie. When I first read the piece, my initial thoughts were not exactly — how shall I say — ladylike. I heart Bikes. I wear my “I WANT HPV” t-shirt with pride (HPV as in Human Powered Vehicle, not herpes). I’m an avid rider and yes, in my ideal universe Atlanta Streets Alive — the bi-annual festival in which major city roadways are shut down to automobiles and opened only to foot or bike traffic — would be the norm.

That said, I’m just sane enough to know how unrealistic that is. After moving to Atlanta, I even bought a car after seven years of being a two-wheeled purist. And I’ll be the first to admit how grateful I am to have said car around should the need arise.

But as much I’d like to print Melissa Carter’s face on a “WANTED” spoke card, she’s not all wrong. She’s just really short-sighted, never more so than in her opening paragraph. There, Carter suggests every traffic jam she’s ever been stuck in “was caused by a bicycle.”

I call bull shitake.

If you can get past that doozy without gagging, Carter does go on to make some valid points. Chief among them:

A “4,000 pound vehicle that can reach speeds well over 100 mph” is not meant to “coexist on the same roads in harmony” with a 30 pound bicycle with an average speed of 20 mph.

I could not agree more. When it was created in 2000, Share the Road was designed to educate “all road users [including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, etc…] about interacting safely in and around large trucks and buses.” (sharetheroadsafely.org). That didn’t mean adding bicycle hand signals to the driver’s Ed curriculum and calling it a day. Obviously infrastructure has to be implemented that creates clear and generous divisions between the two. To say Georgia lacks in that area is a gross understatement.

On the majority of metro Atlanta streets, a bike “lane” is qualified by a white stencil drawing of a helmeted stick figure on two wheels visible right before driving your car over it. Last check, Georgia ranked 23rd in the nation for being bike friendly (League of American Bicyclists).

bikelaneBut nowhere in her article does Carter suggest ways of improving said infrastructure. Rather than being constructive, Carter is openly cynical: The system is flawed and therefore should not exist. That she places no blame whatsoever on the part of cars for the Share the Road debacle is inconceivable. Instead, she holds the “arrogant” cyclist who “flippantly” disobeys traffic laws responsible for sabotaging any real STR potentiality.

Dear Melissa Carter, for every self-righteous cyclist that leans up against your car or whizzes past you in the turn lane — I will raise you two SUV-driving jacktards who intentionally try and run biking-me off the road to compensate for their gherkin-sized genitalia.

 gherkin

Given that she sees bicyclists as the weak link in the STR chain, Carter’s proposed solution is — unsurprisingly — to hold the pedaling population more accountable for their actions. She writes:

“I want everyone who wants to put their bikes on the main road to get a license and a tag. That certainly isn’t a new idea. A similar effort took place last year in Oregon when a proposed ballot measure sought to create a bicycle education program for people who have not taken the Oregon driver’s test. It would also mandate more police enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists… The measure would have required a fee for the endorsement test and registration via a license plate for all bicycles in Oregon.”

I have one word: Portland. If Georgia was anywhere near the stratosphere of Portland in terms of accommodating a safe and amenable car/bike coexistence, then I would be first in line to apply for my bicycle license. As it were, it’s like comparing RadioShack to the Apple store. Georgia is bike-phobia; Portland is bike-phoria.

  • As of a 2012 survey, a whopping 1% of all federal transportation tax money in Georgia was allocated toward bicycle and pedestrian projects. (Altantabike.org) — versus — In 2011, Portland’s mayor Sam Adams allocated 17% of the amount of uncommitted transportation funding to bike projects (The Oregonian)
  • Georgia is ranked 23rd most bike-friendly state in the nation (League of American Bicyclists) — versus — Oregon at 5th
  • Atlanta has 30 miles bicycle lanes — versus — Portland has over 100.

Carter wants bicyclists to get licensed to codify their understanding of traffic laws and hold them accountable for breaking those laws. She fails to acknowledge the other obvious benefit here: The fee for said licenses could go directly into building a solid bike-friendly infrastructure in Georgia.

Once again, Carter is unable to see any way of improving the situation. “I don’t believe in sharing the road,” she yields. I imagine little girl she also had issues sharing her toys with other kids on the playground too.

Instead, Carter is resigned to the cluster-muck that is GA’s Share the Road; and the best she can hope for is that the bicyclist holding her up in “stand still traffic” has a valid license plate.

I am way more optimistic. While it’s still in its rubbing two sticks together stages of creating a bike-friendly culture, Georgia is light years from where it was ten, twenty years ago. When I was growing up near Atlanta in the late 90s, the only reason you’d see someone on a bike was if their driver’s license was revoked.

Now, we have “road diet” programs and the Beltline. And the most recent coup: At the beginning of this year, Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council approved a $2.47 million overhaul of Georgia’s streets to create “high-quality” bicycle projects, including:

  • Doubling the percentage of people who bike to work from 1.1percent to 2.2 percent
  • Becoming top ten U.S. city for cycling to work and cycling safety
  • Doubling total miles of bicycle lanes/cycle tracks to 60
  • Doubling total miles of linked shared-use paths to 60
  • Securing Silver or Gold Bicycle Friendly Community status from the League of American Cyclists, joining the ranks of Boston and Denver
  • Introducing bicycle sharing program that supports local economy

In the meantime, viva la velocipedes.

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Saaaaaaave Yourself! But Leave Joe Pesci with Me

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I do NOT condone stalking. A restraining order is NOT the ultimate symbol of affection. No means No. And love does NOT mean never having to say you’re sorry for the severed horse head left on the doorstep.

There is a big difference between perseverance and prowling. The one does not involve hair sniffing or sleep watching with night goggles or tethering oneself to the undercarriage of a car in order to hitch a ride to your “soul mate’s” house.

capefearIt’s good, clean, ole’ fashion courtship. And, after a solid year of wooing Write Club Atlanta, reciting love poems and planting beds of various perennials outside its cyber window — i was finally invited inside!

And there, I was welcomed onto the sacred stage where once a month, the most bad-ass literary event this side of Mars takes place: the WCA Bout. Here’s how it all goes down:

  • 1 week before showtime, you are assigned a topic. In my case — “LIGHT”
  • At the very same time, my contender is assigned an opposing topic; i.e. “DARK”
  • You both have that single week to compose a folktale, yarn, memoir, ode, allegory, recipe, Unabomber manifesto, etc. around your topics.
  • That story, when read aloud, can last no longer than SEVEN minutes. There is an actual timer. It will go off. It is ego-crushingly loud. And you must stop reading or else you will be caned.
  • Opening Night: A brutal round of rock, paper & scissors determines whether you or your opponent reads first.
  • Once both stories are finished, an audience applause-o-meter decides the winner

clapometerOn Jan. 16, 2013 — I, as “LIGHT,” went up against “DARK.” Our moves were even, our talent nose-to-nose, our wit neck-to-neck.

It was Rocky versus Apollo, graham versus honey, Spy versus Spy.

But in the end, the applause-o-meter needle swung in my favor. My ears rung from the thunder-clapping of the crowd; everything moved in slow mo, suddenly I saw my arm being lifted into the air, outside of myself. It was official. I had WON.

Honestly, I never imagined anything could taste sweeter than my dessert nom de plume — the vegan Sunny Bear Sundae.  But I was wrong. Victory, dulce victory, is even better.

So today I’m sharing the story I wrote that earned me the Write Club Atlanta prize of eternal bragging rights: (Illustrations added)

********

LIGHT

I met Eric Hyman — yes HYMAN — in second grade art class. The teacher, Ms. Lee paired us for an exercise to sketch the other person’s eye. After a half-hour, she did a once around the room to take in the results. Then, she doubled back to Eric, grabbed his paper off his desk, and taped it the center of the chalkboard so we could all see.

 “BEHOLD!” she bellowed. “The only work in the entire class to contain this,” she pointed to a little white square Eric had drawn in the lower left corner of my pupil.

“Eric, will you be so kind as to tell everyone what that square is?”

“Uh, sure,” he muttered. “It’s the reflection of light in Nicole’s eye.”

And that’s Eric. Even at 8 years old, he grasped the intricate workings of the universe, smart in the kind of way that can’t be taught.

Not this “SHORT” bus rider. I was wearing a training bra before I fully understood that the sun didn’t actually rise in the day and duck back down at night.

ralphwiggumSomehow, though, from that 2nd grade eye exercise on, Eric and I were inseparable. By fifth grade, I was spending more time at his house than my own. We’d play Nintendo, make fart sounds, prank call people Bart Simpson style, and then when his phone rang, we’d answer,

“BUSTER Hyman, here,” OR

“PAPA Hyman, how may we help you?”

And 3-2-1 collapse into side-splitting hysterics.

After high school, life pulled us in different directions. But we still kept in touch. We wrote letters, we’d visit, and use holidays for random cross-country road trips.

And then, somehow after 22 years of being his platonic partner in crime, I started to have this reoccurring dream. In it, Eric and I were — how shall I put this — Slapping The Uglies.

He’d call as usual only now my heart would race and my cheeks would flush and I’d catch myself uttering the most asinine shit like,

“I hear a nasty cold front is moving into the Bay Area.”

Eventually it hit me. Eureka! I had a crush on Eric.

I decided to fly out west to tell him in person. I took a red eye. He took the day after I arrived off work. It was Easter Sunday, and we made a plan to honor our bearded Jewish broheim in HIGH holy style:

joepesciA day hike in Big Basin State park, where we’d test out the newest yield of Eric’s home-grown medical marijuana crop: a strain he named “Joe Pesci.”

By early afternoon, we reached the Pine Mountain ranger station, home to the famous “Buzzards Bluff.”

Elevation: 2,600 feet.

About 20 minutes into the hike and for the next hour, the incline was so steep I could literally reach my hand out and touch the path in front of me.

This was good. I couldn’t even talk if I wanted to.

Must. Conserve. Breath.

And then we made it to the top. We found a sweet little nook carved out of the stone with a panoramic view of the sweeping sequoias. Eric lit his Joe Pesci joint and passed it my way. I took a generous hit, held the smoke in my lungs, and puffed out a burning, tear-filled exhale.

I looked at Eric. In my head I said,

“If not for your friendship, I’d be a BATH SALT SNORTING Juggalo right now.”

juggalo

But what came out was,

“Did.

You ever.

Notice.

How. Feet.

Are like.

Leg. Hands? “

I opted to put a pin in any life-altering revelations until I wasn’t high off my Joe Pesci gourd.

We stayed on Buzzards Bluff long enough for the actual namesakes to return to their nests after a full day of scavenging. Eric and I collected our things, scarfed down the only nourishment we had — a bag of chili cheese bugles and half a bottle of water — and began the descent.

Only this time, the trail marker on the tree in front of us was green, not the RED we followed up. But hey, what’s the difference? Green means go. Green means shortcut.

Our confidence was airtight. We moved in step, enchanted by the scenery before us. I thought of the countless unclaimed tickets for the coat check of regret — forgotten in the folds of some worn-out wallet, torn asunder in washing machines, stuck inside that inconceivably tight side jeans pocket that you can’t even get one finger into.

I rehearsed the lines under my breath:

“I thought you should know that for about a year now, I’ve wanted to kiss you.”

Short. Sweet. Direct.

Okay. Now out loud.

But before I could open my mouth, Eric interrupted,

“I think we’re lost.”

It was like how you don’t feel pain until someone points out that you’re bleeding. The second he said the word “lost,” I started to sense the temperature drop and the night set in. Now, the redwood canopy kept the slightest sliver of starlight at bay.

At first, we used the glow of Eric’s iPhone to guide us — covering as much distance as we could in each, 6-second power window before it shut off again. But eventually, the battery died and we were left in NEAR total darkness. I say “near” because I could still see the 2-by-2-inch luminescent decals on the back of Eric’s New Balance kicks as he stumbled in front of me.

They were my beacons, bouncing like fireflies on a trampoline.

Up, down. Up, down. Follow the New Balance decals. Don’t think about Blair Witch. Don’t think about piercing screams from douchebag Grizzly Man documentary.

Up, down. Up, down. My thighs felt like sandbags. My tongue felt like sawdust. I would’ve set a church on fire for a smoothie.

Up, down. Up, down.

I wanted to curl up inside one of those giant sequoia trunks and go to sleep. I wanted to dream of heaven, where all the unsolved cliffhangers of life were resolved like what the Fuck WAS ‘Lost’ about AND How many licks DOES it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

I wanted to say,

“Save yourself!”

“But leave Joe Pesci with me.”

And then I saw it. Up ahead. Lights. Little white squares of light flickering in the distance.

“Eric! Cars! “

Up, down, up, down. The New Balance decals bounced furiously as Eric broke out into a run, with me in hot pursuit. We came out onto the road, just below the entrance to Pine Mountain. We darted to Eric’s truck, sitting totally alone in the parking lot.

He turned on the engine. The clock radio flickered 3:17 am. We had been walking non-stop for 12 straight hours. No food. No water. My brain buzzed. I closed my eyes and the last thing I remember saying before passing out was,

“I can’t feel my leg hands”

Because we didn’t die that night.

And this isn’t heaven.

And we’re not granted all the answers to all the cliffhangers.

(Audio podcast of my Jan. 16 reading will be available at http://writeclubatlanta.com/podcasts/)

Return to Sender, Again

There is no one on this planet who can say what I want to say with more heart and chutzpah than the pint-sized country chanteuse Brenda Lee:

I AM sorry, soooo very, genuinely sorry for dropping the blog ball with zero — NAY negative zero to the basquillionth power — tact and grace.

I am pond scum.

I am the dillweed douchetard who walks away at the last minute in the falling exercise of those trust-building classes.

trustfallIf I was to attempt to make an excuse, which I wouldn’t dare insult you with, but let’s just say — for arguments sake — that the “Another Earth” me version quantum leaped down here to this planet with a defense:

SHE would probably try and play the holiday card.

SHE would explain that this time of year is the ultimate creative succubus. “The horror! The horror!” of the holidays SHE would affect, saying how Heart of Darkness need not take place on a ravaged steamer choking down the cannibalistic Congo River. It need only occur in the Christmas music looping, cluster-fucked shopping malls on Black Friday.

(Why’s it gotta be “Black” Friday?)

SHE would spell it out, plain & simple. Every year, between Nov 1 and Jan 2, she walks through the chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open FIRE of 5 Holy Daze Stages:

  • Consumerism: Reason and restraint go Buy-Buy. Standing outside her own body, she watches in horror as she karate chops a soccer mom in the shoulder over a pair of retro Croc mules as if they were the last drop anti-serum in a viral outbreak.
  • Consumption: Serving size: 2 SLEEVES (also known as “1 box”) of Trader Joe’s Choco-Vanilla O’s.
  • Family communion: Self-explanatory, which leads to
  • Childhood regression: Mouth guard so as not to swallow tongue during fits
  • Total Catatonic Shock: think, Awakenings, pre-awakening.

Really (and I’m not being biased at all here) SHE does make some really good points.

So, if you can find it in your heart to forgive ME, then let’s not waste another nanosecond. Sit back, relax, slip into something a little more comfortable, and join me for another Mailbag Monday:

****

Dear Nerdy Romantic,

I’m just going to throw out a few numbers here:

14: Months I’ve been a subscriber to Match.com

23: Guys I ended up having amazing, online “relations” with. Meaning: long, intense, deeply personal emails exchanged by both parties.

0: Of those same guys — after arranging to meet — I was actually attracted to.

For the love of all that is holy, why does this keep happening? How can intense email chemistry fall completely flat in person?

Frustratingly,

Another Mr. ‘Write’ goes wrong

Oh and Girl. The virtual sound of your suffering makes me want to jump through the computer screen Twilight Zone (the movie) style — minus the demonic cartoon and girl with no mouth — and give you a giant bear hug.

twilightzonecartoonHear me when I say: You Are NOT Alone. This very situation has befallen me and yours so many times I finally gave it a name —

Ani-MAIL Magnetism (an’ i mal / mag’ne tiz’em)

n. the experience of having acute cyber fireworks with your online dating match; but no actual “fire” whatsoever upon meeting.

It always starts off the same. Shy yet hopeful, I would walk onto that cyber stage and take my place in the Electronic Slide line dance:

You can’t see it, it’s electronic.

You gotta feel it, it’s electronic

Boogie woogie woogie woo.

Two grapevine winks and a quick email message turnaround later AND boom! I’m sucked into this second life alter-reality. I’m wearing a diaper at my computer desk and sucking down Power Bar Gel Blasts so as not to break the steady stream of instant messaging.

Seriously, in one case, I hadn’t been that excited to check my “mailbox” on the hour every hour since I was 7 years old and entered a sweepstakes contest for a walk-on role on The Great Space Coaster to meet Baxter the rainbow clown.

baxterclownThen the highly anticipated meet cute came: 7 pm at our mutually favorite restaurant, being that we agreed on virtually everything. We pull into the parking lot at the same time. Shut engines off. Makeup mirror checks. Get out. (I made sure to wear flats so as to optimize leaping-into-his-wide-open-arms-potential)

But instead, when we finally do make contact, it’s the most awkward, miss lips kiss nose, pull-away-too-fast side hug shamble.

As for the rest of the evening — every attempt at conversation takes off like a summertime moth… straight into one of those high-powered electric bug zappers:

SNAP. CRACKLE. FLOP

Which brings us to the “Why does this keep happening” portion of our program. I’ll show you my theories if you show me yours:

1. The Rom-com Fallacy:

youvegotmailFact: In the real world, you do not find 2 beautiful, charismatic, engaging, and mentally sound people home alone, lying in bed on a Friday night unless they’ve just had wisdom teeth surgery.

NOR are those people captured in a split-screen shot with GIRL on one side, balancing a pint of Rum Raisin Soy Dream in her lap as she types to GUY, on the other side, balancing a pint of Cherry Garcia in his lap typing back.

2. The Cyrano Effect:

Let’s face it. Communicating online is akin to having a built-in Cyrano De Bergerac. Wikipedia, IMDb, thesaurus.com — they all feed you the wittiest, funniest, and on point lines so that REALLY, you wind up search engining your way into being the perfect soul mate.

Case in personal point: When one guy sent me this beautifully worded description of the greatest moment of his life — SEEING Tony Hawk do a helipop on a half-pipe — my very first thought was —

“How the heck can Stephen Hawking get on a skateboard?”

But something told me to Google T. Hawk first before writing back. So, I was able to save face just long enough to meet in person AND find out he considers Four Loco to be a perfectly legitimate energy drink.

3. Time + imagination = disaster.

Online dating is a lot like online shopping. Let’s say you order a dress. Every day that passes in between, you go back and zoom in on that dress. You fantasize about what shoes and jewelry you’re going to wear with it; you picture yourself in it, hair up, hair down, to the side. You track its order, double check its status, and count down the hours until you can finally debut it.

And then, 7-10 business days later, it arrives. You tear open the box, pull it out, and throw it on ONLY to discover it makes you look like a walking potato sack.

Time is a dangerous thing. It allows you to form this image of a person, pieced together from their online profile pics AND a well-crafted email voice. You thought you would be meeting a silver-haired fox/tall drink of water —

Only to come face to face with Larry King in a Sippy Cup.

My advice: Cut the email exchange down to the bare essentials. Name, phone number, place & time you want to meet in person. Go DIRECTLY to the store. Put on the dress. And find out right away if it fits.

Ding, Dong the Ding Dong is Dead

Dearest Nerdudes and Nerdamsels,

First and foremost: I want to express my gratitude for the outpouring of concern over the inexcusably-long delay of ‘Mailbag Monday.’ Frankly, I haven’t seen a show of support on this scale since the “Donna Martin Graduates” demonstration care/of Beverly Hills 90210 (the one and only original).

I had no idea how amuck your poor neglected imaginations would run in my absence. So please accept my deepest apologies and allow me to allay your fears — OVERALL — and to these few individuals specifically:

  • To Todd B. in Tasmania: I was NOT snatched by a pack of dingos while night-blogging by a “bubbling riverbed.”
  • To Horace in New Mexico:  I, to the best of my knowledge, was NOT abducted by aliens; although there is the curious matter of that lost time and a sudden sensitivity to infrared light.
  • To Bibii in Montreal: I was NOT kidnapped by the Colombian, National Liberation Army (aka E.L.N.) after publishing my previous Medellin-related posts. Though I would be lying if I said this wasn’t the plotline of one of my secret fantasies, only instead of the E.L.N., it’s the E.L.O. that tosses me into their VW campervan and forces me to be their one and only female backup singer:

I repeat: No foul play or funny business is at work here. The terribly humdrum truth is:

My laptop was taken into the IT department at my office for a much-needed tune up AND I was without access to my word.DOC files. (Rest assured, all data has now been backed up onto a brain in a jar of formaldehyde).

BUT, as George Burns is my witness, ‘Mailbag Monday’ will be back to its sort-of regularly scheduled time slot starting next week.

—————————————————

In the meantime, I can no longer turn the other butt cheek as the holier-than-thou, Bon Appetit-reading, culinary (high) art world maligns the HOSTESS name even as its dead, cream-filled body isn’t even cold yet. Here we have the following, defiling headlines from this week’s blogosphere:

  • “Good Riddance, Hostess… All You Did Is Make People Fat”
  • “Hostess is Closing and We’re All Better Off”
  • “Hooray!!! Hostess Brands Closing For Good”

I get it.  Partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil is as offensive to the gourmand palate as a “Your Mama” joke is to a roomful of orphans. BUT I’m sorry. If you’re an average human (i.e. NOT home-schooled), over the age of 25 — you can NOT seriously tell me you’ve NEVER eaten a Ding Dong or a Ho-Ho in your whole entire life?

Think. Think really hard, back to a time of childhood innocence before Twinkies were traded on the playground like cigarettes on the prison black market.

Or maybe there was that post college, cross-country road trip. The one where you let your hair down and broke those strict rules against eating anything made with the same ingredients as sheetrock and hand soap.

Come on. Look me in the virtual eyes and say you know nothing about a certain post-breakup binge, pulling into a 24-hour 711 and grabbing a handful of Sno-Balls, only to sit in the gas-station parking lot scarfing down those fluffy, coconut flaked pastry pillows — singing through sobs and marshmallow gobs to Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You.”

Even if you swear to George Burns that your lips have never touched a Hostess product, don’t think you get off scot-free.  I hate — no, let me rephrase that… I derive great pleasure from bursting your epicurean bubble when I say:

Luke, who the fructose do you think the father of your fancy foodie cupcake is?

One guess: It rhymes with Yostess…

Look on the clock people, because it’s time to get schooled, Kotter style ————-

The cupcake lineage of today can be traced back to 1796, where the first-ever recorded cupcake recipe is listed in the “American Cookery” cookbook. There, it was introduced as a “small cake to be baked in small [earthenware] cups.”

The original cupcake’s merit was based on simplicity and sustenance. A “1234” cake, it was also called, to denote the 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs used to make it.

This was a pastry for the plodder, the Puritan, and the very UN-sensitive palate. It was a glorified biscuit. It’s sole purpose caloric intake. And for 151 years, it stayed that way.

Then, in 1947, marketing guru D.R. “Doc” Rice strutted onto the snack food stage like Patrick Swayze in the final scene of “Dirty Dancing.” He yanked bland “Baby” cupcake out of the corner and brought the whole frill-deprived audience to its feet in one simple act:

“Doc” added the iconic 7-looped-de-loop white-icing swirl to the top of the then unadorned Hostess cupcake.

And so the culinary art of cupcake embellishment was born, and the simple “1234” yellow pastry of yore began its complex evolution into the… wait for it…

Fondant-sculpted, chocolate-lava-spewing, curlicue spiral frosted, glazed, garnished, sprinkled, powdered, peppered, ganache-dipped, crème-, cayenne-, nougat-, jam-filled, herbal tea infused,  every flavor known to mankind, alt-wedding dessert, foodie delicacy staple of today.

So, next time you pick up that organic, whole-wheat flour “fairy” cake, peel back that recycled paper-wrapper, and anticipate that first bite doing to your taste buds what Aretha Franklin does to a C-sharp vocal note — remember — you have Hostess to thank for it.

Mailbag Monday returns November 20th’ish.

What IS Hand?!! Which Hand NOT Panic?!! (Part Dos)

Welcome to the second installment of 20 Ways I Was Lost & Found in Translation in Medellin.

Here, I recount the events for which I come to learn several choice new catchphrases — some are part of actual Medellin slang, while others are broken bi-linguistic fragments made up on the spot by yours truly:

7. Day 4: “WASHED” Business

My prayers answered. I see a BOOKSTORE. I go inside and ask the man behind the counter for a Medellin street map. He shrugs his shoulders and points to the one, single shelf with anything actually stacked on it. There I find the following:

  • A row of Spanish, Cathy Comic Day Calendars — from the year 2005 (“Muerte a Carbs!”).
  • A few Gabriel Garcia Marquez classics
  • AND what I loosely translate to be a “How-To-Guide” on welding a plane fuselage out of steel pipes.

This is a “washed” business; i.e. a fake storefront used for money laundering.

8. Night 4: “TOASTED”

On this night, I inhaled! We all inhaled. And then, we sat around listening to “Portishead” and tried to put together Camilla’s brand-new jigsaw puzzle — which so happened to be of a giant steam train in outer space. Seriously!! 99% of the pieces were the exact same shade of BLACK.

“Toasted” is Medellin’s word for what I call “Perma-Fried Fred” — the guy in college who took too much acid and now goes around wearing tinfoil hats and talking to the little green men in crosswalk signs.

9. Night 5: “What the FARC is happening to me?”

This was the closest I actually came to being taken hostage in Medellin. Camilla’s art gallery hosted a private film screening of the newest movie by a highly recognized indie-director. Seconds before pressing play, the director told us we’d be watching the 2-hour, “rough cut” version…

… IN Portuguese

WITHOUT subtitles!

Luck be this lady — the man sat directly behind me in perfect eyesight of my every twitch, butt adjustment, and head nod SO that I could feel his wilting ego bore into the back of my brain like a Ceti Eel.

10. Day 5: “HAT TRICK”

As I’m walking through the center of Plaza Botero, a piece of paper drops right below my feet. I bend down to pick it up and see it is a lottery ticket. A man with a bouquet of cane-hats appears suddenly at my side and says something like —

“See! It is your destiny that you should buy one of my hats!”

Looks like the street vendors in Medellin know a little something about ‘SEREN-DUPE-ITY

11. Day 5: “Aguanta Menos Hipsters” translation: “I am in favor of LESS Hipsters”

On a concrete wall papered with the “WISHES” of the Medellin people, I spot this sticker.

Turns out, the desire for LESS irony-loving jackbags is universal!

12. Day 6: “Slit my throat now,” ha, ha.

  • In the states, we say “Shoot me now!” and make a gesture of a hand-gun pointed at our head to indicate boredom.
  • In Medellin, people simply take their index finger to one side of their neck and slowly draw it all the way over to the other side. Somehow, their gesture has a lot more bang for its buck.

13. Day 7: “La policia se guepardos, protegar a la poblacion, que son conejitos.”

One of the officers in Parque de Berrio explains to me:

“La policia se guepardos, protegar a la poblacion, que son conejitos.”

Loosely translated, this means: “The police in Colombia are cheetahs, who guard the people, who are like bunnies.”

I couldn’t help think: In nature, don’t cheetahs tear the heads off of cute little bunnies and disembowel them for dinner? But hey, who am I to mess with their metaphors, especially when I fall into the bunny category.

14. Day 8: “SPE-DRUNKING.”

Me in my bamboo bungalow in the Rio Claro nature preserve.Spelunking + A bottle of Malbec = Spe-Drunking

15. Day 8: “Que es Mano?! Cual Mano, No Panic!” Translation: “What is Hand? Which Hand No Panic?!!

Ah yes, how can I forget? The title’s very origin! So Camilla, Fer and I decide to do the Rio Claro Canopy tour. And — as I’m being fitted for my first-ever zip-lining holster, the guide quickly runs through the necessary safety precautions — in SPANISH!

“En ingles, por favor,” I ask with increasing agitation.

“No problemo,” Fer assures me. “It’s super safe. Just make sure you put the glove on the right hand or else it will surely be severed.”

“Right as in derecho? Or right as in right?!!”  I gulp out seconds before feeling a push onto the cable.

And then, the ear-piercing shrills of “Que es Mano? Cual Mano, No Panic!” decreasing in volume as I slide-and-twirl further and further away on the steel wire 20-feet above a raging river.

16. Day 9: “Hacienda Napoles”

There is no shortage of insane Pablo Escobar stories. The man was, apart from being a ruthless drug lord, a complete whackadoo. Hacienda Napoles was his private, 8-square-mile estate turned Island of Dr. Moreau. He had exotic animals flown in from all over the world to coexist in contrived harmony: Hippopotamus with Bengal tigers with giraffes with goats with, yes — dinosaurs.

On the drive to visit Napoles, Fer hit me with this especially ghastly Escobar story:

When she was just a little girl, Escobar asked his daughter what she wanted for her birthday. She answered: A unicorn. So, without flinching, Escobar ordered his staff to deliver on the girl’s request. Fearing for their life, they had an ivory horn sewn onto the forehead of a horse, which stood upright just long enough to satisfy the girl BEFORE keeling over.

17. Day 9: “What Do I Have To Do To Make You Fall In Love With Me?”

Answer: Take me to Queareparaenamorarte, one of the restaurants featured in the Colombia episode of Anthony Bordain’s “No Reservations.”

On my last day in Medellin, Camilla and I drove up the twisted foothills to Rionegro where this very restaurant is tucked. After a 2-hour lunch, all I can say is:

The food there tastes like what it must feel like to cheat death.

18. Day 9-10: “Cosmo”

The cutest Siamese cat SOUTH of the Equator

19. Day 10: Country Home”

This does NOT indicate a quaint little cottage in the woods where you pound your dirty clothes on washboards and churn your own butter. This is Chez Botero, Camilla’s family’s gorgeous ranch SLASH future personal writer’s retreat:

20. Day 10: “Solamente mi saber mortal”

If, perchance, you really want to see the inside of the Anti-Narcoticos office at the Medellin airport, all you have to do is give the following answer to the customs agent when he asks you if you have any “SHARP” items to declare:

“Solamente mi saber mortal.”

(What I thought meant: “Only my deadly wit.”)

(Really meant: “Only my lethally sharp saber.”)

Turns out, the biggest thing that got lost in translation on my trip was my own sense of humor.

 

What IS Hand?!! Which Hand NOT Panic?!! (Part Uno)

In the spine-tingling words of Jack Nicholson c/o the SHINING —

“I was gone. But now I’m baaaaack!”

And man alive! When this cat goes away, the mice really know how to play — Little Mousey Computer Solitaire! Turns out, instead of the usual, sordid details of desperate on-line dating dilemmas, the sweeping topic of cyber-convo flooding my inbox upon my return was — well — none other than little ole me. Specifically —

Subject Line: “How the fuck was your trip to Medellin?”

Well my lovelies, I’ll tell you how the F.A.R.C.* it was. (*The first of many puns to come!)

Just hours into my very first day, somewhere on a footpath to the Sky-Cable metro, I stumbled upon this huge question-mark sign.

This, in the world of English Lit majors, is what’s known as “FORESHADOWING.” As it turns out, 2 years of college-level Spanish classes and shower-singing to Jonathan Richman’s “Te Vas a Emocionar” does NOT a bilingual me make. And because Medellin’s tourist industry is still in its rubbing-two-sticks-together stage, the only words I ever saw written in English were of a HOOTERS billboard in El Poblado.

So, it all came down to this. 10 Days and 20 ways I was Lost (and found) in Translation in Medellin:

1. Day 1: The flight over. How is it possible for a low-budget airline to offer a $500 round-trip ticket to South America, nearly half the cost of other carriers — you ask?

Well, as I quickly learned:  It’s because their airplanes are fueled by wheel-running hamsters and burning coal fire.

Also, they don’t have to pay their flight attendants. Instead, they volunteer their services in exchange for daily captive audiences to practice their stand-up comedy routines on. My male stewardess had us all — especially the crash-fearing passengers such as myself — in stitches with this little ditty:

“Here on ___ airlines, nothing is FREE. Not the in-flight snacks, the blankets, or even the bathrooms. Remember those oxygen masks I showed you earlier that are supposed to fall down from the ceiling in case of an emergency. They actually require a credit card. Should we start to nose-dive, and  I look down the aisle and see your face turning blue and puffing up like a blow-fish — that means your credit card was denied.”

Seriously: What’s funnier than a joke about free-falling 20,000 miles out of the sky, all the while gasping for what few and final breaths you actually have left — MOMENTS before take-off?

2. Day 1-10: I say most everything is smaller in Colombia. Camilla’s boyfriend Fernando (Fer) disagrees. “Things aren’t smaller,” he counters. “They’re actual size.”

Not pictured:

  • The traditional Colombian horse, which I secretly call a “PONY.”
  • The traditional Colombian cup of coffee, which I secretly call a “thimble.”

3. Day 1-10: Some things ARE bigger in Colombia:

Not pictured: blue herons, full moons, and the machine guns held by police officers guarding the city in-roads.

4.Day 1-10: In Atlanta, my friends go around addressing each other with such dulcet pet names as “Brotato Chip” and “Babe.”

In Medellin, friends and family alike call each other “Mi Amor.”

5. Day 2: When I first told Camilla’s social circle the name of my blog, one of the women asked, DIRTY Romantic?”  To which I replied,

“What? NOooo… wait… hmmm… Actually…”

(Domain name change pending……..)

6. Day 3: Fieldwork. Brunch with Camilla’s female friends to test existing theory that —

Single, well-educated women in Medellin do not fritter away their free time obsessing over guys like we do; but rather, soak up the hours in dark cafes, smoking clove cigarettes and drinking fire water, immersed in heated discussions over political reformation and radical social revisions.

Conclusion: Single, well-educated women in Medellin fritter away their free time obsessing over guys like we do.

(TO BE CONTINUED…)

(Note: Mailbag Monday will be rescheduled for the end of the week)

The Beary Kind

Hola amigo-go’s, from the other side of the equator. I thought by this point in my absence, you’ve probably graduated from the first 3 stages of grief AND are now crawling up upon the most spirit-shattering mile mark: Depression.

But fear not! I thought ahead and before I took off on my selfish South American sabbatical, I gave Poppycock specific instructions to post one of my all-time favorite musical numbers. Here, to help ease your agony is my rendition of Ryan Bingham’s “The Weary Kind.”

My own version is based on my everlasting love of sugar-coated Sunny Bears candy; and more importantly, how their gluten-free goodness can bring two, sweet-craving souls together over one tiny bulk bin.

The Beary Kind

Your hearts on sucrose

You went to the bulk bin with nothing to lose

This is the best place, for the Beary kind.

So sunny a treat,

My hand searches for the flavors so sweet,

Somehow I do feel another one there.

(CHORUS)

This is the best place for the Beary kind

This is the best place for love to find

This is the best place for bums to grind

Pick out the ones you want, and then give me a try

This candy has been

A friend for so long, it always delights

And now it has brought you into my sights

(CHORUS)

This is the best place for the Beary kind

This is the best place for love to find

This is the best place for bums to grind

Pick out the ones you want, and then give me a try

Your lips taste so new

Of the red one you so recently chewed

You are the man I’m meant to adore

Your hearts on sucrose; you went to the bulk bin with nothing to lose

This is the best place, for the Beary kind.

**** And Now!!! Some shameless self-promotion: If you dig Ryan Bingham’s work, check out my recent review of his newest album “Tomorrowland” in Paste Magazine:

http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2012/09/ryan-bingham-tomorrowland.html

Time To Feed The Travel Bug!

Dear readers, you’re going to want to sit down for this. Before I say what I’m about to say, might I suggest that NOW would be a good time to take up laugh yoga… meditation… prayer… anything really that helps you go to your happy place.

Okay. I’m just going to rip the band-aid off: Here and Goes.

Starting tomorrow, I will be off on a 2-week long vacation. No laptop. No checking my Nerd Rom inbox. No Mailbag Mondays!!!

Try as you might, you will NOT make me feel guilty for this. This is my first big — as in passport stamping, currency exchanging — trip since boarding the S.S. Homeowner Ship 3 years ago. I’ve been busting my chops, playing nice, putting down roots, putting up shop — AND frankly, it’s time to feed the travel bug a big, huge slice of globe-trotting pie.

And while I couldn’t be more excited to take my dusty, Patagonia hiking pack out of storage (can you say wicking skivvies!) and set off to charter an entirely unexplored country — my friends and family are a little more apprehensive. Their concern is 2-fold:

First, did I mention I was going to Medellin, Colombia?

  • As in with an “O.”
  • As in Pabl-O Esc-O-bar.

But really that’s just geography and ONE very UNIRONIC walrus mustache.

It’s basically just a general knowledge of my travel history that has them on edge. The fact that I have zero sense of direction; that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t just get lost driving in my car, but also have been known to lose my car itself.

And then there’s the actual track record of my personal misadventures, which can, in the wrong light, read like Inspector Clouseau meets an after-school-special.

Here are my top 10, by age and location:

  • 9 yo, Chichen Itza: Family is chased through the Yucatan jungle in the dark of night by masked banditos with machetes. (I am fast asleep in the back throughout the whole ordeal)
  • 10 yo, Hawaii: While constructing the most badasstastic drip castle ever, I turn around only to see the mouth of a rogue wave milliseconds before it pummels me into the bottom of the ocean floor.
  • 12 yo, Jamaica: While climbing Dunns Rivers Falls, I fall into a slippery-rock-sided watering hole and am pulled out by my dad just in the nick of time.
  • 13 yo, somewhere in the Caribbean: Family gets stuck on a cruise ship during a Category 4 Hurricane. The sound of synchronized up-chucking haunts me to this day.
  • 14 yo, Bahamas:  Picture it: My family and I are sunbathing in a little cove. All of a sudden, a speed boat races by. Then, seconds later, a fleet of siren-blaring coast guards follow. Drug dealers toss their stash overboard. My brother goes snorkeling and pulls a soggy $100 bill off the back of a barracuda.
  • 24 yo, Europe: Friend and I take a train from Barcelona to Amsterdam with no money and an expired credit card. Must resort to street performance-art by day, and by night eating hostel biscuits and watching Los Simpsones — the Spanish Simpsons — in a random guy’s hash bar. “Come mis pantalones, Dude!”
  • 29 yo, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Horse-back riding disaster, followed by a 12-year old boy running up to me and sticking his tongue down my throat on a friend’s dare.
  • 30 yo, Peru: Altitude sickness nearly causes me to fall down Juanu Picchu, taking out an entire tour group along the way.
  • 9 through 34 yo: The “LOST” years: Went missing in Disney Land, Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna, Venice, Aruba, and most recently the California Red Woods.

Sure. On the surface it looks kinda amber-alerty. But here’s the thing. I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve watched my fair share of Les Stroud’s “Survivorman.” I know all about stranger danger, not struggling against riptides, and what NOT to do in a major South American drug trafficking hub to attract the wrong kind of attention. Such as:

  • Don’t accept any unusual looking, ceramic bunny statues from strangers
  • Don’t wander off for an afternoon walk in the hillsides
  • Don’t feed the crocodiles
  • Don’t get into any unmarked mules
  • Don’t ask people where the “powder room” is.
  • Don’t wear my “Cuckoo for COCA Puffs” t-shirt
  • Don’t fraternize with US Secret Servicemen

Frankly, I like to think of myself as a less husky-voiced, brunette version of the fictional heroine Joan Wilder in the 1980’s masterstroke “Romancing the Stone.”

You can’t deny the strikingly similar parallels between us:

  • We’re both hopeless daydreamers who weep over our typewriters (mine: laptop)
  • We both wear flannel, plaid pajamas
  • We both live alone in our big-city apartments.
  • We both have male cats: Hers, “Romeo.” Mine, “Poppycock.”
  • We both have wild, big 80’s hairdo’s and wear wide, floppy hats
  • She’s a romance novelist; I’m an unlicensed romance blogologist
  • She receives a treasure map in the mail and goes to Colombia to rescue her sister from a corrupt antiquities dealer.
  • I got an E-ticket and will go to Colombia to hang out with my dear friend who attends art school in the heart of the city.

ME & JOAN

I can’t help it.  I like to live on the edge. But really, the view is oh soooo much better from there. And who knows, maybe I’ll come back to a sailboat parked in my driveway!

Hasta lueggo my Eggos. I WILL see you in November!!

The “Are You Really Over Him?” TEST

Before I get started, I just want to take a nanosecond to thank those readers who sent me “Happy Birthday” greetings over the weekend. While I’d love to say you’re all created equal in my eyes, who are we kidding? THREE people in particular left all of you choking in the dust with these holy superior grand gestures:

1. An anonymous admirer in Bangladesh who composed this haiku for me:

I am a Sherpa

I want to carry your bags

Up a mountain high

** Who knew you could even get Wi-Fi in a yurt.

2 & 3: My faithful readers Jill and Steve who literally made several of my Wish-Tree wishes come true with these wicked to the awesome, heart-melting cards:

And now — Step away from the ledge, put down the rubber-dart gun, and slowly walk your eyes to the center of the page:

After a brief delay, Mailbag Monday is here.

Dear Nerdy Romantic,

About 3 months ago, my boyfriend of over a year broke up with me for a perky, 24-year old au pair/Pilates instructor at his gym. Now that the shock has worn off and the Xanax prescription has run out, I can’t help but think: The longer I — a single woman in her late 30’s — stay out of the game, the harder it’s going to be to even make it on the field. So, my question to you is: How long do you think I should wait to start dating again?

Sincerely,
Benched

Dearest Benched:

Hot damn if there isn’t this Lifetime television-bred notion that the only available men out there for single women over the age of 30 have secret cyber lives, stolen identities, or are haunted by their dead ex-girlfriends.

Sure, our ego-maniacal culture views an attractive woman in her 40’s as some scientific anomaly that should be studied like an albino peacock  — WHILE men over 40 just grow more dignified, dapper, and datable cuz they’ve finally figured out the G-spot is nowhere near where Richard Gere’s rumored gerbil caught some shuteye.

Yes — statistically speaking, the older we get the pool of viable prospects dries up faster than a Wall Street bank’s paper trail. But those are all numbers. And you, dear “Benched” are more than a number. When the time is right, and you’re really READY to re-enter the dating pool, there are tons of things you can do to give yourself a leg up on the competition. Off the cuff:

  • Move to a Montana cattle ranch.
  • Hang outside the chain-link release yard of the nearest (white-collar) prison
  • When you do go out to the bars, find a cute guy and talk about whether your belly-button is an innie or outie.

In other words: Don’t Rush Yourself. Just because it’s over between you and your ex, doesn’t mean you’re OVER it. And I for one think it’s best to follow the TSA luggage regulations when entering a new relationship: i.e.

You can only take one, carry-on item on the plane, so make it a doozy.

The question then becomes: WHEN will you REALLY be ready to move on?

Theory 1: It takes half the time you were in the relationship to start seriously dating again. Reality: I’ve known women who are like lizards after a bad break-up. Their tail gets lopped off, only to grow back fresh and new in nothing flat.

Me personally — I tend to be more like Massive Head Wound Harry: showing up to fancy cocktail parties long after the break-up, horrifying guests as the pet dog gnaws at my dangling, left skull-flap.

head wound harry

Theory 2: Intensive Shock Therapoo-tang: In order to get over your ex, you must do the horizontal bop with a total stranger.

Again — been there, tried that. I ended up on some random dude’s futon in a basement apartment, eating fried Fruit Loops as he played me a CD of his Emo-punk band “Batteries for Frogger.” Only lyric I remember:

“I gave you my heart and you gave me human papilloma.”

In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all comeback cure. But that didn’t stop me from creating my very own “Are You Really Over Him?” TEST.

(Answers are graded on a point scale. Circle the number that best reflects your true experience:)

1. You have spent the last 5 weekends watching:

  • a. The entire Criterion collection of British Period Dramas: 3
  • b. The entire 4-hour, PBS documentary “Alone in the Wilderness”: 2
  • c. Sold your TV for a Black Diamond harness and belay AND have taken up rock-climbing: 1

——-

2. You + booty calls with ex:

  • a. You’re currently knocking boots with him as you read this blog: 3
  • b. You started wearing an old-fashioned, iron chastity belt: 2
  • c. You moved 3000 miles away to a remote, mountain village where people communicate solely through carrier pigeons:  1

——-

3. You hear “YOUR” song on the radio:

  • a. You start dry heaving and swerve into a ditch: 3
  • b.You roll down the windows and scream so loud, the Kraken goes scurrying back into his cave: 2
  • c. You calmly turn it off and switch on your Tony Robbins audio-podcast: 1

——–

4. His favorite t-shirt:

  • a. You wear it to bed at night and refuse to wash it for fear of losing his scent: 3
  • b. You use it to clean out the toilet: 2
  • c. The Retrievers long since picked it up from your house and returned it to its rightful owner. 1

——–

5. “YOUR” Favorite restaurant:

  • a. Go there alone on the weekends wearing sweatpants and a hoodie; sit at a table and refuse to let the waiter remove the second place setting: 3
  • b.The place shut down after an “anonymous” tip of kitchen rats was sent to the Health Inspector: 2
  • c. It served vegan-only food. Now, you only eat that which you’ve killed with a sawed-off shotgun: 1
——–
7. The weight you put on after the break-up:
  • a. Gilbert Grape’s mom: 3
  • b. A little more of you to love: 2
  • c. After joining a local running group, you look 10-times hotter than before you met whatever his name was: 1

——–

8. Your phone:

  • a. His contact name is still “Love Of My Life”: 3
  • b.His contact name is changed to “El Diablo”: 2
  • c. You erased his number all together: 1

——–

9. You find yourself listening to:

  • a. Bonnie Raitt: 3
  • a. Echo and the Bunnymen: 2
  • c. Beyonce: 1

———

10. After downing 4 Kamikaze shots, you:

  • a. Refill the glasses with your own, unstoppable stream of salty tears. AND then, you proceed to knock those back as well:  3
  • b. Go outside and start bashing in the windows of parked cars: 2
  • c. The only shots you’ve had in the last 2 months are wheat-grass shooters at the local Smoothie King: 1

————————————————————————————————

Time to tally up your points:

Total:

10 – 12:  Turn up the “I will Survive,” put on your fancy dress, and snag yourself the man of your dreams.

13 – 20:  Don’t cancel your Redbox membership just yet.

21-30:  head wound harry
You got some serious healing left to do.

Birthday Wishes from My Inner Child

What is that you say? You say it’s my birthday!

Remember when you were a kid. People ask how old you are and you round up to the biggest possible decimal. “I’m 10 and 3/4’ers and 5 days, 15 minutes, 33 seconds.” As if the longer your response is, the closer you are to it being the next year.

I’m now officially at the age where many women don’t just round down; they outright alter the temporal passage of time:

“Well, according to the Maya long count calendar I’m actually only 24 solar years old.”  — OR — “A Shaman once told me I am an extremely new soul in terms of incarnations.”

And then there’s the super-fun turning point where complete strangers in the Publix checkout line morph into my Jewish grandmother and shamelessly pry into my most personal details.

“Oh, you’re such a pretty girl,” they begin innocently enough. And then, BAM! — They bitch slap me with, “Are you married? No? Oh, well, if everything is working down there, you should probably start freezing your eggs.”

Seriously, little-old ladies with shopping carts of canned prunes and Prevail adult diapers, standing there discussing my skincare regiment and the fact that the odds of me being able to have children is dwindling faster than the white-fish spread at the Zabar’s deli counter on Sunday.

(I dare not tell them I don’t think I even want rugrats — for fear of smiting out what little life they have left right there on the spot.)

Yes. Many of the most unforgettable, UN-regrettable, mind-and-heart blowing milestones of my life occurred in my 20’s. But I wouldn’t go backwards, not for all the butter beer in Hogsmeade. To not know what I know now. To taking Jell-o shots off the hood of my roommate’s ATV, only to wake up the next day spooning a Stay-Puft-Pillow-Buddy inside a dog-training crate.

Or the night I spent in jail for — well, let’s just say the crime has been expunged from my record. Sitting there in a 5-by-5-foot cell block with only me, a free-standing, stainless steel toilet seat with a braided weave jammed into the drain, AND red lipstick graffiti on the walls that read, “I fucked your unborn fetus.”

Most of the time, I don’t “feel” my age. I definitely don’t ACT it. But every now and again, I have this Benjamin Button moment where I appear young on the outside, while my thoughts are those of a crotchety blue hair. Example: A few weeks ago, I went to a book festival in town where there was a free, WISHING TREE station.

Orbiting around the trunks of 2 giant Magnolias were all these little kids, reaching on their tiptoes to tie their WISH SLIPS to the branches. I walked over. Grabbed a sheet, and thought:

“I wish the person who stole my social security number this year and filed false taxes with it would come to meet el Chupacabra in a dark alley.”

and — “I wish I could lock down a lower interest rate on my mortgage.”

But then I looked up. And there, scribbled in red and blue crayon on the hanging slips before me, read:

“I WISH BLEEP DE BLOOP DU BLOP”

AND — “I WISH THAT CATS WITH WINGS WERE REAL”

And it hit me: I don’t want to go backwards. I want to go inwards, and see the world through the eyes of my inner child. So — on this, my 35th (in actual years) birthday, I hereby pick up a red and blue crayon and make all of my wishes from there:

I wish…

  • I lived on the moon, so I could eat ice cream all day long and it would never melt or drip onto my hands.
  • My brother would grow nose hair as long as Repunzel’s
  • I could drive my car to Starlight Music and play keyboard in Jem & the Holograms
  • The screeching squirrel outside my apartment would turn into Falcor
  • A giant velociraptor would swoop down and eat the inventor of brussel sprouts.
  • When someone said “Time flies” they actually meant giant flies made out of alarm clocks that eat hours, instead of horse poop.
  • There was no such thing as ill-fitting dress shoes
  • Everything tasted like tater-tots.
  • I had 20 fingers so I could wrap twice as many cherry fruit-rollups around them.
  • Eating too much candy NEVER made your belly hurt
  • The hard-wood floors in my apartment were made out of trampolines
  • My bicycle glowed in the dark and had a rocket-propeller button under the seat
  • For the infinite causes of grass stains!!!!!!
  • That cats with wings were real (So. Does. He.)