six degrees

There’s a route I drive twice a day, pretty much every weekday. I drove it regularly many years ago, then I switched jobs and didn’t have to drive it for like ten years. Then my husband switched jobs and we had to drive it occasionally but usually went a different route. THEN we bought a house south of the towns he and I work in and we started driving the route literally every day. Then the pandemic hit and I started working from home but my husband is still learning to drive so he doesn’t take the car by himself, so I am still driving (or riding, if he’s driving) this route twice a day, pretty much every weekday.

It just occurred to me right now as I type that this information would probably be stalking GOLD if someone were motivated to hunt me down. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not going to become an issue. If I somehow end up getting famous and stalk-worthy at some point, I’m going to need one of the six of you that actually read my posts to remind me to come take this one down, ok? Ok.

So, on this route that I drive twice a day, pretty much every weekday, there’s several traffic lights. One stops at a highway off/on ramp, one stops at the entrance to a local high school, one stops near a bunch of sprawling manufacturing type buildings, and one stops at a cross-street that comes down from between the high school and a big medical clinic. That street passes in between two financial institutions on its way to the intersection. Those two financial institutions are where our story takes place. Sort of. Mostly it takes place in my head, but…you know.

One of the financial institutions is a credit union. The other is a small branch of a big regional bank. Both these places have big light-up signs with digital read-outs that flash back and forth between the time and the temperature. As an aside, why is this a service that banks specifically feel is important to provide? You never see a gas station or a McDonalds or a chiropractor’s sign flashing up the time and temperature in 2-foot-tall digital characters. Why have financial institutions taken up that mantle? Was it some sort of package deal that came along with the mini calendars banks give out every winter? Was the sales pitch to early bankers something like “here’s the thing: you give them a calendar to take home so they know what day it is, but if they wanna know the time or what the temperature is, they’re gonna have to come to…you guessed it! YOUR BANK!” These are fully rhetorical questions, by the way. I very much do not want you to email me the history of American banking. I know that of the six of you reading, at least three are unrelenting pedants, so I just want to make sure I’m very clear on that.

Get to the fucking point, Shelby. Jesus.

So these banks are right across from each other, separated by just a narrow two-lane side street. They both have the digital signs. The clocks on both digital signs are always the same.

But the temperature is not.

And it’s not just a degree or two of difference. You know, something you could attribute to maybe a passing breeze or a rogue shadow. No. The temperatures are a full SIX DEGREES different. And it’s not just an occasional thing. The one on the south side of the street is always six degrees colder than the one on the north side. I have driven by these banks, on average, 500 times a year (twice a day X 5 days a week X 50 weeks per year to account for vacations and whatever), for at least the last two years. That’s at least 1000 trips past these signs just in the last two years. Do I notice them every single time we drive through there? No. But every time I DO notice them, which is at least several times a week, they are ALWAYS six degrees apart.

And it bothers me. Clearly.

Now, rationally I know that it’s probably just due to difference in the sensitivity and/or location of the sensors. I have a rough grasp of science and I can accept that. What I have a harder time accepting is that likely the people who work in both of those buildings simply don’t care about this difference. They have probably noticed and just accepted the fact that one thermometer, less than 50 yards away from another, is reading a FULL SIX DEGREES different. I bet it doesn’t make their teeth itchy. They may, in fact…not even notice! I am mystified by this.

Instead of letting it gnaw at me that the temperatures are six degrees different for no good reason other than human ambivalence and/or possible electronic malfunction, I’ve made a decision: I am choosing to believe that the six degree difference is due in fact to a small furry rodent that has found its way into the space that holds the temperature sensor, and made itself a lovely cozy home there. Maybe it’s a clever red squirrel with bright eyes and a nice big cache of acorns. Maybe it’s a whole big family of tiny voles who each raise the temperature near the sensor just part of one single degree because they’re so wee. Maybe a possum squeezed its trash-smelling, tick-eating, screaming-at-their-own-ass heart of gold in next to the sensor for a long winter’s nap. Who knows.

All I’m saying is, this is how I’m coping with it. Things feel a little easier to handle if you can come up with a reason for them. Which is how we ended up with religion, of course, and look how THAT turned out. Hey, maybe my calling in life is to start a possum cult. Our central rituals could be going around to local banks to calibrate the thermometers on their digital signs, and screaming at our own asses because we exist.

it came from the closet

Have you ever been cleaning out your closet (or, let’s say, putting away giant piles of laundry that may have accumulated on the guest room bed ) and found a zip up hoodie that you hadn’t seen in maybe years and you can’t imagine why the hoodie got taken out of regular rotation because it’s not stained up or damaged in any way and is a totally acceptable color and seems really comfy so you run it through the wash and start wearing it again only to discover halfway through the second wearing that this is actually the zip up hoodie that refuses to stay zipped because the zipper is weirdly heavy in relation to the fabric of the hoodie and so the zipper keeps just working its way down every time you move and it all sort of starts coming back to you why you banished the zip up hoodie to the back of the closet (or the bottom of the laundry pile) to begin with?

This is not a metaphor. I am currently wearing that hoodie. This is the third time I’ve put it on since I washed it and I now know FULL WELL what it is capable of, but it has weaseled its way back into the rotation and now it will take an act of Congress (or the acquisition of more new clothing, which is similarly expensive and time consuming) for it to be banished back to the dark depths of the closet from whence it came.

That’s basically all that has happened in the two months since I last posted. That and homework for this business law class I’m taking, because what I definitely needed in my life was more reasons to sit in front of a laptop staring at a blank page and hating myself for being unable to just…start. I mean, hating is a harsh term, I guess. It’s more like a loathing. Loathing is a step down from hating, right? The internet says they’re synonyms but I’ve decided that’s fake news.

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The antagonist of our story

chasing ghosts

(Let’s just pretend I haven’t posted in six months, mmkay? Mmkay.)

I believe in ghosts. Living things are made of energy and I believe some of that energy can cling to places, objects, and even people. As long as you invest your own energy into carrying the memory of someone, they’re living on in you, even if only a tiny bit.

We’re all haunted, for better or worse, by the people we choose to put energy into remembering, then. I am haunted by my Nana on the daily – whether by seeing a bird or flower she liked, smelling a scent that I associate with her, or thinking of a specific time I was with her. My paternal grandmother, Marion, haunts me often by way of my love for fiber arts and textiles. She was an amazing knitter and seamstress, and had aspirations in her early days of becoming a fashion designer. When I see a beautifully made piece of clothing or I sit down to knit for a while, her energy is there in my hands, if not my head, making me itch to create.

Can you be haunted by someone you’ve never met, though? Someone you have no memories of to feed your own energy into? I think in some cases, yes. Maybe you visit a place where someone’s energy is still clinging for whatever reason, like in a classic ghost story of a grisly death or unrequited love, where someone’s spirit can’t leave. Their energy might not even be trapped there due to bad circumstances – maybe it was a place that person loved so deeply or made it so much their own that they willed part of themselves to stay there long after their body had left. Perhaps there’s an item that was so important to someone that it ended up absorbing some of their energy. Whether a cherished object or a utilitarian one, the things we surround ourselves with and use on a daily basis can certainly carry echoes of us far into the future, I believe.

If you’ve gotten this far you’re probably wondering why I’m even blathering on about this woo shit. It’s not my normal LOL-fest, after all (please read that with the intended sarcasm. On no plane of existence would I have the audacity to judge my own writing an actual LOL-fest. Apparently I DO exist in a space where I refer to things as LOL-fests now, though? I’m not sure I’m ok with that, but I’m quickly sliding headlong into a black hole of parenthetical digression and I need to back away from that particular event horizon before it sucks me in and disintegrates me. I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about space lately, can you tell?).

Where was I? Oh yes, explaining why I’m talking about ghosty woo things.

So, the reason I bring all this up is that I’m being haunted. The spirit of one of my great-great-grandfathers, Harlan Godfrey, has been all up in my grill for quite some time now.

I’ve always been really interested in old stuff. I was never really great in history class in school because that involved a lot of memorizing names and dates, which put me right to sleep. But old STUFF? Stuff you can hold in your hands, or at least see in the context of the time in which it was created / used? That’s always been my jam. I wanted to be a paleontologist, then an archaeologist, for most of my childhood. Eventually I figured out that both professions a) spend a lot of time doing very physical work in some pretty inhospitable places (or worse, are in academia), and b) are not known for making big bucks. Or any bucks, really. Being physically uncomfortable and being poor have both always been pretty high on my Do Not Want list, so I eventually moved on to other dreams (none of which I have actually achieved either, but at least I learned to be more realistic? That’s a useful skill, surely). My love of old stuff and old stories never really went away, though. Eventually I started channeling it into genealogy. This was especially satisfying to me because it combined my love of old stuff with my ridiculously strong life-long urge to know other people’s business.

For a long time my genealogy fixes came from my Nana. She had lots of old pictures, lists of names and birth dates, and she knew where most of the bodies were buried. Literally. Her husband, my Bampa, was long gone at that point – he died when I was 11 – but she had stayed in close touch with that side of the family and had a lot of knowledge of their ancestry as well. My mom has always been interested in family history too, and with the advent of sites like Ancestry, being able to build an actual family tree and show her all kinds of cool stuff like census records and draft cards got her sort of sucked into my project as well. We ended up going to a family reunion together a few summers ago – NOT something that either of us would normally volunteer for, as we’re both card-carrying introverts – but several very elderly family members were going to be there and we were interested in seeing if they could confirm some details of some people for us. At the reunion my mom’s aunt Jan (my grandfather’s youngest sister) mentioned that she had some books I might be interested in, and that she’d get them to me eventually.

The following summer, Jan showed up one day with a smallish clear plastic tote bag – the kind that gift sets of shampoo and body wash come in. Rather than bottles, it was filled with small books.

“Here’s something to get you started. I want these back eventually, so please be careful with them,” she said, handing them over. I pulled out the first little book, smaller than most peoples’ cell phones today, and flipped open the cover.

‘Diary of Harlan F. Godfrey, 1910’

I went home that afternoon and lost at least three hours reading. The entries are all entirely utilitarian. Harlan was a subsistence farmer in turn-of-the-century Vermont. He used his diaries to keep track of weather, which heifers were bred and which ones were sold, when he bought feed and supplies and how much he paid for them, etc. Not exactly riveting reading for most people, but for whatever reason, I was hooked. I read through all the diaries over the space of a few days, then proceeded to bend the ear of every family member who showed even the remotest inkling of interest about them.

Jan’s words kept bouncing around in my head – “I want these back eventually”. But…but what if I some day had a burning need to know how much Harlan had paid for a hogshead of cracked corn at Chase’s store in Bradford in September of 1910? She wanted the books back, but I couldn’t handle the idea of losing that resource. I needed to preserve my hoard of the most banal treasure imaginable. So I decided to do the only reasonable thing, given the situation:

I decided to transcribe it. All six books worth.

It should be noted that, like with most plans I come up with, I decided I was going to do it and then immediately started four other things, which lead to three further projects, which in turn brought on an avalanche of roughly 17.6 million additional tasks. Before I knew it, a year had gone by. And then another one. That is 100% how I’ve made to to age 39, by the way. I swear the last time I looked, I was 27. This whole ‘time compressing as you age’ thing is pretty fucked, especially if your brain was pre-wired to have no real concept of time passing like mine is.

Anyway. Jan still hadn’t asked for the books back a couple weeks ago when the second anniversary of me having them whizzed past, but I know Jan and she is as dragon-esque with her hoard of precious old things as I am, so I know she won’t forget and I won’t be able to put her off for long once she decides she wants the books back.

So, last Friday when I had something else I really needed to be doing and thus was fair gagging for a procrastinatory escape hatch, I pulled up a Google doc, cracked open the first diary, and started transcribing. It’s going faster than I originally figured it would – it takes me about 30 minutes to get through a month of entries, provided I don’t run into any super scrawly bits that I have to try to decipher. Harlan’s penmanship was pretty decent but he wrote with a pencil, the point of which wears down periodically, making things harder and harder to read…to the point where I’ll find myself muttering ‘sharpen your god damned pencil, Gramps’ like he could somehow hear me from 110 years in the past. His grammar is also pretty suspect, which can be kind of amusing at times. He wrote very much how he would have spoken (must be genetic?), so there are entries like “Done choars this F”, meaning he did the chores this forenoon, and “drawed wood all day”, meaning not that he’s drawing pictures of wood but that he’s dragging it out of the forest with his horses. My favorite is that, almost every Sunday, his entry is “here to home”. Sometimes it’s accompanied by notes of people having visited that day, but mostly it’s just that one simple statement that sounds so…content. Like he’s taking a well-earned day off after a week of hard work. I mean, for all I know he spent his Sundays beating his kids and kicking the chickens…but I’d find it quite surprising if that were the case.

What used to be Harlan’s farm, and then his son Floyd (my great-grandfather)’s farm, is about a ten minute ride from where I live. It’s a spot I have been inexplicably drawn to for many years – since way before I knew which property my ancestors had owned, since before I stopped to look at the gravestones in the little cemetery tucked up on the side hill and noticed many names I recognized from my family tree. All that energy, all that love of place that three or four generations of my ancestors worked into the side of that hill… it’s like someone strikes a kind of cosmic tuning fork and the bits of those people that live on in my blood start singing that haunting note and I have to go back to harmonize for a little while.

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Mmm, so old. Very book.

hanger-on

(Disclaimer: this post is mildly gross. Proceed at your own risk.)

Bodies are disgusting.

I mean, sure, they’re amazing and magical and whatever, but they also do some truly disgusting stuff…usually in the name of keeping us alive.

For instance: did you know that your tonsils can produce stones? Yep! When shit (well, presumably not actual shit, otherwise you’ve probably got bigger issues to contend with), builds up in your throat, bits of it often get stuck to / in your tonsils. The upside is that this keeps the shit (or whatever) from making it down your throat into your lungs! The downside is, your tonsils gotta do something with that stuff. Sometimes you just cough it out. Sometimes you swallow something that dislodges the junk and sends it down into your stomach to be blasted by digestion.

But, sometimes whatever is back there can’t be dislodged and it starts collecting more junk. You know, because being a gross little chunk of crap in someone’s throat is…lonely? Anyway, point being, the crap builds up in one of the little pockets or wrinkles on your tonsil, calcifies, and then you have yourself a tonsil stone. Or a tonsillolith, if you’re fancy.

Tonsilloliths are very common and lots of people have them without ever even knowing because the stones are situated back / down far enough that they’re not visible. So don’t judge. You may well have tonsil rocks you’ve never met.

I’ve always had stupidly big tonsils. Like, the kind of tonsils where every doctor who has ever looked down my throat has said something along the lines of “geez, those are monstrous, how do you even breathe?”. To which I have given up trying to reply snarkily and instead say some version of “I know. What do I have to do to get them taken out?”. The answer is usually that if I want insurance to cover it, I have to wait until it’s ‘medically necessary’ to have them removed. Which of course is doctor-ese for ‘they have to make you super sick’. And to their credit (the tonsils, not the doctors), they really haven’t done so yet….so I guess I’m stuck with them.

Anyway. Back to the stone.

I had a cold last week, which came with all the typical grossness. I also suffer from year-round allergies, so I have kind of a constant background level of cacky junk traveling between my sinuses and throat. There’s been no shortage of mank hanging around my tonsils the last week or so. So the other day when I looked down my throat with the flashlight (normal people do that on a regular basis, right? RIIIIIGHT.), I wasn’t especially shocked to see a little white spot on my left tonsil. I’ve had them before, usually right in that same spot. In the past I’ve been able to dislodge them with a little bit of semi-aggressive salt water gargling. In one VERY memorable case, I actually reached back with my toothbrush and managed to knock a stone loose with the bristles…but then my gag reflex took over and I booted up my breakfast. So nobody REALLY won that round.

I should note here: the stone in question doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, it’s still new enough that it probably hasn’t even calcified into stone form. It’s probably just a little pocket filled with grody smeg back there. A pocket of grody smeg that I happen to be able to see every single time I open my mouth in front of a mirror. It’s not like this is a matter of urgency, to get this junk off of my tonsil. It would be highly improbably that this spot morphed into something that made me ill in any way. It is literally just grossing me out every time I (far too frequently) see it and so I want it gone.

I want it gone so much, in fact, that while I was in the bathroom at work looking at it earlier, I decided to take action.

Did I go warm up some water, dump some salt in it, and have a nice soothing gargle?

No.

Did I give myself a pep-talk about how some bodily functions really are best saved to be dealt with at home?

Oh no.

What I did was grab a handful of paper towels from the dispenser, twist them around my index finger, and reach back to try and manually scrape my tonsil with them.

As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, this move was unwise in several ways.

The first was that I made a total rookie mistake and didn’t wet the paper towel first, so it kind of stuck a bit when it made contact with my tonsil. The second was that, in my fervor, I forgot how strong my gag reflex is (it’s dry-heave-when-I-try-to-brush-my-tongue strong, for the record). The combination of these two very stupid things did NOT result in vomit, thankfully…but what it DID result in was a loud and somewhat confused choking, squawking animal noise issuing forth from my rightfully angry throat as I tried to fight said gag reflex long enough to knock the stone loose.

Several seconds later, when the stars in my vision had finally cleared and my tongue had returned to its normal position rather than trying to forcibly remove itself from my body, I shone my cell phone flashlight into my mouth to survey my work.

The stone hadn’t even budged.

I’ve learned my lesson at this point, I swear. I’m not going to try to mess with it any more until I get home and can have a good long gargle.

But I’ll be perfectly honest with you here, friends. There’s a drawer full of leftover take-out chopsticks in the break room that are going to be calling my name all afternoon.

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I’m sorry for sullying your lovely photo with such a base discussion of bodily grossness, Fritz. I hope you can someday forgive me.

victory

This one time, I got up from my desk to take a bathroom break after many (ok, one-ish) hours of soul-crushing data entry and left my headphones in because a good song was playing. I wandered down the hall and ducked into the bathroom. Turned around, unzipped my jeans, dropped trou for to get on with the peeing…and gasped in sudden shock as gravity, cruel mistress that she is, not only yanked the headphones right out of my ears, but also disconnected said headphones as my phone clattered from my pocket to the floor between my feet. There I was, hovering over the toilet with pants half down, panicking that everyone in the office next door would hear as Lorde’s ‘Royals’ blared its stirring crescendo in the echo-chamber that is the restroom. Instead of just turning the phone screen on and hitting pause to make the music stop, my brain decided the best course of action was to fumble around trying to reconnect the headphones that were now in a spaghetti pile of wires around one pant leg as my ass hung in the proverbial breeze. With a full bladder. Halfway sitting down onto the toilet.

That time was today, by the way. Like ten minutes ago.

No one ended up with pee on them and no one has yet come into my office asking why I was blaring Lorde in the bathroom, so I’m going to chalk that up as a victory. Gotta take ’em where we can get ’em.

 

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Rhubarb Swank, winner of today’s Didn’t Pee Inappropriately Olympics.

I look just like Buddy Holly…

…and you’re Mary Tyler Moore.

When I was a kid, personal computers weren’t a thing. Well, I guess they were for some people, but not really out in the sticks where I lived. We got three Macs at school when I was in 4th grade (circa 1990). By the time I got to 6th grade, the school had built a little computer lap with half a dozen PCs and we had “computer class” regularly, but almost nobody in my school had their own computers at home. I remember our high school computer teacher, Mr. Waste (that was seriously his name, I’m not making that up), showing us all how to use Netscape Navigator to access something called The Internet, and all of us scoffing about how it was interesting enough but we’d probably never USE it for anything. We then all went back to competing for who could program their computer to play the most annoying sequence of MIDI tones and make Mr. Waste yell at us the fastest. We called that (highly unsanctioned) activity the Waste Race. I’m sure it will shock you to learn that none of us ended up at MIT.

Anyway.

We got a PC at our house around 1996. I’m pretty sure my mom got it from Sears. We didn’t have Internet at first, just the computer. It was meant for school work you see. None of that electronic mail or chat room nonsense. Even back then companies had started putting junk on computers that nobody really needed, though. On my model there was a folder called ‘Fun Stuff’ that had a bunch of sample photos, music clips, and much to my interest, several full-length music videos.

One of the videos that came pre-loaded was Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’.

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It was set in the diner from Happy Days and they made it look like The Fonz was jamming with the band at one point.

I swear, I must have watched that video about a thousand times…not necessarily out of any deep love of the song or band, but more just out of desire to somehow be connected to what was going on in the world outside of back-woods Vermont, maybe? Plus, in retrospect, at 16 years old I was really starting to hit my stride when it came to my talent for procrastination. Having a computer, even one without the Internet, offered a whole new universe of opportunities to fuck off and not get my algebra homework done. When I got sick of Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’, I could always drill down level after level of folders and files in the guts of Windows 95, building a mental map of where things went and why. I also got really good at Minesweeper and Solitaire. Best of all was the Encarta encyclopedia CD that came with the computer. I could load that up and read all about…well, everything. And I did. Often. That CD taught me how to say “my name is Michael” in Greek for instance. You wouldn’t think that a teenage girl in rural Vermont with no Greek family would need to know that for any reason, but you’d be WRONG because my dad’s name is Michael and he actually did some work for a guy who was married to a Greek lady back in ’97 and I TOTALLY came through in the clutch when my dad came home one day talking about how he wished he knew something in Greek that he could say to the lady.

smart

All those hours of trawling through Encarta instead of doing homework definitely paid off in the long run.

(This post brought to you by a) knowing I haven’t written in a while and feeling like I really should but not knowing what to write about and b) Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’ popping up on the playlist I was listening to an hour ago.)

origins

I started this blog three years ago today.

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OCD brain is annoyed that there are more than three candles in this picture. Calm your tits, OCD brain. We’ll just assume those blurry, far-away candles are for future blogiversaries off in the misty distance. Or past ones from other blogs. Who cares, just make like Elsa and let it go already. Gahd.

It doesn’t feel like that big of a deal to me because I’ve actually had a blog of some sort for close to fourteen years now. My original blog, which technically still exists but is pretty hard to find unless you know what you’re looking for, was started on 1/13/2004. I finally gave up posting there in  2009, then started my half-assed cooking blog in 2010. The half-assed cooking blog also still exists but I haven’t posted on it since July 2015. It was starting to feel like a chore, and it was also making me feel really inadequate in a lot of ways. Like, food blogs are all about good photography, and I had neither the time or the inclination to teach myself how to be a food stylist. I’m also really not good at measuring when I’m cooking, and I don’t always think in a linear fashion, so recipes are pretty hard for me to write…and that’s pretty much what people read food blogs for. There are only so many times someone is going to want to read about how good my meatloaf is before they’re like “OK, prove it. Either feed me meatloaf, give me your recipe so I can try it, or STFU”. In the end, I opted for S’ing the F.U.

I started How Bad Can It Go because a friend drew some casual similarities between my then Facebook-based rants about being a little touched in the head and the way Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) wrote about her own experiences with mental illness. The comparison was wildly flattering. I immediately started envisioning how I’d blog hilariously (but also earnestly) about my struggles with anxiety, depression, and ADHD for maybe a year or so, then be ‘discovered’ by some publisher. I’d be given a book deal and afforded the opportunity to tell my day job they could shove off.

Let’s just say the offers haven’t exactly been pouring in. Or trickling, even. Nary a drip. Not even the merest hint of moisture in the air. Dry as a 5,000 year old Egyptian’s desiccated, mummified femur buried under 47 feet of sand, in fact.

mummy

Ramses was the worst peek-a-boo partner EVER.

But that’s OK. I’ll keep on keepin’ on, because hey, how bad can it go?

hair today, gone tomorrow

To say my partner is a good guy would be a profound understatement. He is truly one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met…and I’m not just saying that because I have to share a bathroom with him. For as long as I have known him, he has always made a point of giving to others. Whether it’s his time, his money, or even his most treasured belongings, he’s always happy to step up and help someone in need, and to do it with a smile.

Mark’s most outstanding physical trademark has always been a very long ginger ponytail. He’s always been into heavy metal music and long hair tends to come with that territory. Plus, having a long ponytail was something polite society didn’t really want him to do in the time and place that he grew up, so maintaining it was always kind of an act of defiance for him, a little way of flipping off said polite society and all it stood for.

 

After 30+ years of maintaining the long hair, he’s now ready to give it up, all in the name of charity.  Because, like I said, he has a habit of taking being a good guy to a whole different level.

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He was watching sports on the TV above us. I guarantee it.

The charity he’s choosing to support with this endeavor is the National Immigration Law Center. Unless you’ve been living under an actual rock for the past couple years (is there room under there for me? Seriously, I can bring snacks), you understand why NILC has become so important to so many people. Even so, I still encourage you to click the link above and read more about what they do and how they are helping some of the most vulnerable among us. They are a vital resource in these days of seemingly constant shifting interpretations of immigration law and, quite frankly, human rights.

I’m going to throw up the link for Mark’s GoFundMe campaign below, but I’d like to  point out here that NILC is a four star rated charity and has a direct funding agreement with GoFundMe, so any donations made to Mark’s campaign will go DIRECTLY to NILC, not to his or my bank account. I don’t want any ambiguity on this – we will not personally be benefiting financially from any donations made. Which, of course, is as it should be.

Here’s the campaign link.

If you want to throw a few bucks at it, we’ll love you forever. If you don’t have any money spare but you want to share the link around to get more eyeballs on it, again…undying love. If you want to shut your browser window and forget you ever heard of the NILC, well…you do you. I don’t have the time or energy to be mad about it.

Thanks for your consideration!

easier listening

My office-mate listens to music over a set of small speakers on his desk. Normally he listens to a Jimmy Buffett channel, which I qualify under the heading of ‘easy listening. Today, however, he has switched to something I can only describe as…easier listening? But not in a good way.  Like, the grocery store I shop at has better, more up-beat tunes than what is playing in my office right now. My dentist’s reception area plays harder shit than this.

I’m actually a real classic rock nerd and most of the bands this station is playing are recognizable to me: Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Clapton, Van Morrison…all groups / performers that have vast catalogs of perfectly listenable music to their names. But this station has for some sick reason taken all the softest, sleepiest, most boring, most utterly mind-numbing tracks they could find from all these bands (plus a bunch of genuinely shitty other ones), and coalesced them into one extraordinary, unholy stream of sonic tranquilizer.

brain

It feels like an actual waste of the energy my brain is burning to convert the waves of sound vibrating my ear drums into something recognizable to me as music. I want those three calories back. I can find a better use for them, I’m sure of it.

Could I put my headset on and listen to something more tolerable? Certainly. But every once in a while I have to take my headset off and be assaulted by the tide of blandness that threatens to pull me under. Twenty minutes ago I had to take my ears out of their safe space in order to answer someone’s face-to-face question (savages, this is what email is for. LIVE IN THE NOW, JANET), and I noticed there was a particularly odious song playing across the room. It ended just as I was about to retreat back to playlist land, but then another, even WORSE track came on…and I’ll admit it, curiosity got the better of me. As it often does.

“This isn’t his normal station”, I thought. “This is something far, far worse. I wonder how many shitty songs in a row they’ll play”.

They’re all shitty songs, Brent. ALL OF THEM. I lost count when my brain actually browned out momentarily during Clapton’s ‘Let It Grow’. I came back as Elton John’s ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ was starting and I knew I had to tell the world about it.

Sweet pole-dancing Christ, they just brought out the big guns: ‘Dog and Butterfly’ by Heart.

I can’t. I’m not strong enough.

The madness is descending.

Only the spirit of Chris Cornell can save me now…

seesaw

The company I work for moved offices last week. It had been in an old converted farm house in a tiny rural town for at least 25 years. A year or so ago, the rumblings about perhaps moving closer to civilization (such as we know it here in darkest New England, anyway) started getting louder. Then the building we were in had some pretty serious structural issues and that kind of sealed the deal, as no one really wanted to be around when the front wall of the place finally collapsed. Funny how that works.

Anyway.

So, the new office is pretty swish in a lot of ways. It’s in a big town / small city, and it’s near a bunch of restaurants, shops, and other businesses. The old place was near…a hardware store. The new place was built less than 25 years ago so it has modern windows that actually open and, even better, actually close. The windows in the old place were hit and miss on both those points. We have central air conditioning in the new building, so no more struggling to hear people on the phone over the roar of the nearest window A/C unit! Gone is the tiny, grotty, galley kitchenette that had barely enough room for the coffee makers and the sink. Now we have a big, bright, break room with two full sized counters…and cupboards! So many cupboards. There’s tons of storage everywhere in this place as well – we have closets, utility rooms, little knee-wall cubby spaces…so many spots to cram junk (that’s what she said). All the storage in the old place was in the basement, and let me just tell you in case you’ve never been in the basement of an early 1800’s farmhouse: they are, generally, fucking terrifying. There were spiders the size of my hand in that basement. I don’t even do small spiders, friends…so ones the size of my hand are nuke-from-orbit territory.  Having storage areas where I don’t feel like I’m about to be pounced on and dragged away by outsize arachnids gets a big A+ in my book.

Another fun feature of the new office is the bright, modern bathrooms. The bathrooms at the old place were tiny and terribly lit – one of them was dubbed “the coffin” because it was so narrow and dark. The bathrooms were also all very close to the kitchenette, so you could stand there making a cup of coffee and hear pretty much everything going on in the bathrooms. Even our bathroom upstairs by my old office, which was a little bit bigger than the downstairs ones, suffered from a distinct lack of soundproofing. I’m pretty sure my office mate was privy to at least a few of my louder sobbing breakdowns in the can. These new bathrooms, though! They’re down the hall, pretty much equidistant from all the offices and the break room, they’re single occupancy, and they don’t seem to share any walls with any of the work spaces. As someone who not only has regular bathroom-based crying jags but also an intermittent inflammatory bowel condition, I appreciate this feature perhaps more than most.

The new bathrooms do indeed have a lot going for them but there’s also something weird that I’ve noticed going on in them:

The toilets seesaw.

seesaw

Does anybody else see a slightly sinister raccoon face in this image? Just me? Paging Dr. Rorshach…Dr. Rorschach to the accounting office, STAT…

The bathrooms are situated back to back with a closet in between. I’m not sure, but I suspect the cause of the seesaw effect is that a sewer pipe that comes up through the wall branches off in a T shape to connect to the back of the toilets, which then drain down to the bigger pipe at ground level. Regardless of how, I’m quite positive that the stools are connected, and the WAY I’m sure of this is that I was sitting on one when I heard someone enter the adjacent bathroom, sit on that toilet, and I subsequently felt my throne rise a rather alarming inch or so.

Now, it wasn’t enough to pick my feet up off the ground or anything. I’m almost six feet tall so that would take some doing. But it was a very noticeable shift upward. I sat there looking slightly panicked, not knowing quite how to proceed. If I got up, would the person on the other side go down? Gravity dictates that in seesaw, the heavier end always goes down. But I’m the heaviest person in the office by some distance…easily twice the weight of all but a few of my coworkers…so why was MY side of the toilet see-saw going UP when someone lighter than me was sitting on it? I am entirely certain that they were not already on the stool when I first sat down, because I heard them enter the neighboring bathroom after I was already sitting.

I ended up just staying put, waiting out the other person so I could see what happened. After a short moment (clearly this was one of my older coworkers who doesn’t understand the importance of mid-day Instagram breaks. THIS IS HOW I SELF SOOTHE JANET, DEAL WITH IT), there was a distinct downward shift of my toilet and the sound of my neighbor flushing. The see-saw had come full…circle? No, that would be bad. The eagle had landed. That sounds bad in a toilet context too, actually. Whatever. You know what I mean.

After that initial seesaw experience my interest was piqued. Was it just a freak thing? Did I hallucinate it? Not that I normally hallucinate (at least, not that I know of. Oh god, we’re all just brains in vats aren’t we?!), but I believe in SCIENCE and SCIENCE says that if your hypothesis produces reliably repeatable results then something something quarks and neutrinos, and then you get the Nobel Prize. And since pretty much the last thing I’m interested in doing at my place of work most days is my actual job, I figured I might as well try to gather more data.

If that makes it sound kind of like I staked out the bathrooms for the next few hours,  trying to rush in to sit on the toilet of the opposite one every time someone went in to use the john, well…that’s not especially inaccurate. It wasn’t full on surveillance, though. I just kept finding excuses to wander up and down the hall, visiting the bathrooms all afternoon. Once I was in one, I’d sit around for a while waiting to see if someone would visit the neighboring one and seesaw me. So it differed little from a normal work day, to be fair.

Anyway.

I tallied three confirmed instances of toilet seesawing yesterday afternoon, and I’ve tallied a further one so far today. I really think I’m on to something here, friends.

In fact, I’m so confident about my impending Nobel Prize that I’ve started drafting a list of names for all the goats I’m going to acquire once I get that sweet million bucks and am able to buy my dream farm…

goats

We’ll start with Newton and Tesla.