Thursday, September 24, 2015


It’s like this she said:

First your insides crumble to dust.
Then you get a cold sweat
Your body becomes stuck
You begin to tremble
The walls around you begin to close in
You feel at once like everything in the world is about to end
Like everything you’ve ever wanted
Everything that’s good
Your insides that crumbled to dust
You watch them fly away with the wind
And you feel like this will never end
Like it will always be like this
Like this big black shadow is stuck on your soul
And it’s always going to be there

Like Kurt says, ‘So it goes…”
So it goes.
Life goes on but this shadow it stays.

Am I like the Elephant Man?
The Elephant Man?
Not in looks but in sadness. In just wanting to sleep laying down for once.
But you can sleep laying down.
It’s a metaphor.

John Merrick: There's something I've been meaning to ask you for some time now.
Dr. Frederick Treves: What's that?
John Merrick: Can you cure me?
Dr. Frederick Treves: No. We can care for you, but we can't cure you.
John Merrick: No. I thought not.

Do you see?

What is it like?

It’s like this she said.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

That Time I Was on Top Chef

When I first heard that Top Chef was coming to film in Boston, I had an instant flash forward vision of Tom Colicchio and I becoming the very best of friends. In my dreams, we hold hands and skip down the aisles of the local Whole Foods and comment on the contestants' dishes using terms like: 'needs more acid' and 'not well balanced'. We'd roll our eyes at each other every time a contestant failed to season their dish properly and then laugh maliciously when we heard that someone was attempting to make risotto. Oh the fun Tom Colicchio and I would have!

Naturally, my dreams were downsized a bit when I realized that any and ALL clues about the show, where it was being filmed, where the chefs were living etc., were held under the strictest of secrets. 'OK' I thought. "So we probably won't find the Whole Foods... BUT there must be a way to get to go to one of the tastings." My dreams were further dashed after a quick Google search for "How do you get to go to a Top Chef tasting" resulted in people admonishing the show and its events as being strictly for friends of friends, VIP restaurant types and the like. The chances of so called 'randos' getting a chance to appear on the show were slim to none.

My daydreams of a possible Tom Colicchio friendship slowly drifted away......


One magical morning in early June, the Top Chef judges Tom, Gail and Padma all simultaneously tweeted out the words every Top Chef fan from Boston wanted to hear: 'Top Chef Boston Fans now is your chance!' They instructed us 'super fans' to send an email to some address yadda yadda...I lost consciousness at this moment and only vaguely recall what happened next.

Deep down I knew I didn't have a chance. My current track record of things I'd hope to win and didn't was holding strong at 1 to 1,005. Yes, that's right. When I was 12 I won a t-shirt at the Jump Rope Jamboree. Who can top that? Throwing the past to the wind, I thought---who cares about odds when you have a chance to be Tom Colicchio's friend!? I immediately typed up my entry form and emailed it feeling vague echoes of all those jobs I applied to after I graduated college. Yet, something felt different this time. I said a small prayer to the reality show Gods and attached a Meme I had once made of Tom that I used in a post on my horror blog.

At approximately 4PM, I received an email back from the Top Chef email asking for my phone number. I texted my sister and friend who had also applied to see if they had received a similar email. They did not. Could this be? ME?! I rapidly typed back my phone number and hit send. Immediately an auto-response came back: "Thank you for your interest in being a diner for Top Chef! We love all our Super Fans but unfortunately due to an overwhelming response; we are at capacity for this event." aka DREAM ON SUCKER. I was crushed. Why would they ask for my phone number and then slam the door in my face? I kept my phone close by all day waiting for it to ring but it didn't.

Later that night while watching TV and eating dinner I felt sad and mopey. My sister asked if I was upset that I didn't get on Top Chef. The answer was obvious. Sad? No. I was DISTRAUGHT. Yes, I knew there was a slim chance but I just FELT like this was it. I left in a huff to go retrieve my phone from my room where it was charging. Reluctantly I checked my email and then cried out in shock when I saw another email from Top Chef with the words: 'Top Chef Invitation' as the subject. I stared wide-eyed at my sister not willing to believe it just yet. I opened the attachment and got an invitation requesting my presence and instructing me to uphold the dress code of: "Upscale Casual Chic". I was also to fill out a confidentiality agreement and let them know if my sister would be attending as well. Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? This was really happening? This wasn't my brain making an alternate reality while my real self continue to mope and cry on the couch?

My sister and I promptly jumped up and down with merriment. I filled out the contract as quickly as I could and sent it back (I think it said something about being murdered if you told anyone ANYTHING EVER, so I might be dead by the time you read this). We were then given the address where we were to appear tomorrow morning and what time. Don't worry---my other life long dream was to dress in an upscale casual chic style and then drive somewhere random at 8:45 in the morning. So naturally, I was down. My sister and I then spent an hour figuring out what the hell 'upscale casual chic' meant and also crying tears of joy. We made arrangements to borrow our friends car and then tucked ourselves in, willing the hours to go by quickly.


I woke up that morning with a nervous ball of energy lodged deep in the pit of my stomach. I dressed and put on my makeup--silently praying that whole 'the camera adds 10 pounds' thing was a vicious lie. My sister and I went to pick up our friend's car and pretended like it was totally normal to be out and about looking well groomed, wearing fancy dresses and being overtly happy. After stopping for some snacks at Stop & Shop and having the stupid iPhone lady lead us in a completely wrong direction we arrived at the secret location. An office park.

Odd, I thought to myself. What could the challenge possibly be? We gathered with a group of some other 'super fans' and then were shuttled in a mini-van to the actual location. Thank god I thought. Of course an office park isn't the stupid could I be? My sister and climbed in the back with some other super fans and politely talked about our excitement and who we thought might be the guest judge. I let out a sigh of relief as we took off in our mini-van of dreams. Not five seconds later, the mini van turned into another office parking lot and the driver said we had arrived.
Seriously? They just 'shuttled' us all of 30 feet to a different parking lot? What was going on?

Here we were met by a larger crowd of super fans, lining up to have their pictures taken and their hands marked with X's denoting their successful bid as a 21+ adult. We signed confidentiality agreements again, held them up next to our faces and had someone take what is probably the worst picture of me on the planet. Then we got in a giant line and walked one by one into the mysterious next room. An empty office building. Here we had all of our belongings checked and then were told to sit down in a large room with tables and various snacks. There were about 75 of us in all but we figured that if each person got to bring a guest that meant that only a total of 30 something people actually got chosen. I still can't believe this. The Boston Globe reported that over 15,000 people had sent emails how HOW did I get picked? My entry wasn't even that good. I wrote it under a spell of delirium and sandwiches. My sister and I proceeded to wonder in awe about this for the entire hour and a half that we waited.

Finally around 11 AM, a producer came out to give us the spiel. We were under no circumstances to tell anyone that we were here. As far as everyone else in the world knew---this was NOT happening. You should know at this moment that it was very difficult (and still is) to resist the urge to use cliche Fight Club references.

We were also then given safety instructions. We were told NOT to get in the blind spot of the camera men. That there would be LOTS of cameras. That we weren't to approach the judges and overwhelm them. That boom mics might suddenly come out of nowhere and listen in on all of our conversations. All of this was very exciting. The producers then let us know they'd be making two groups and leading the first group over to the site in a few minutes. We took some last minute bathroom breaks and finally got to line up. My sister and I lucked out and got on the tail end of the first group. They lined us up in a weird office hallway complete with vending machine and then we marched single file across the parking lot to our final destination...........ANOTHER parking lot!

At this point I gave up any hope of figuring out where the hell we were and why the challenge was taking place in a random office park. As we got closer to our final destination we passed several tents and trucks which made me think the challenge could be outside. But upon promptly seeing that those tents housed only bottled water and old chairs---my mind went back to the drawing board. Finally they had us line up again outside of what looked like a big warehouse. We waited patiently while a nice man with a walkie talkie waited for the signal to start letting us trickle in. We were reminded to walk in completely naturally and to most importantly---have fun.

Closer and closer we got till finally we were in the strange warehouse. We stood outside a blocked off room of some sort and continued to inch slowly to the entry point. Still confused, I wondered why we were being led past weird exposed wooden beams and slats. Finally they gave us the cue to walk on set. My sister and I looked at each other with excitement, took a deep breath and walked out..................directly into the Top Chef kitchen.

My face must have read a simultaneous expression of confusion and sheer and utter amazement. I also may have peed my pants slightly. There were 7 chefs cooking frantically. The COUNTDOWN CLOCK had 5:00 minutes to go. Cameras were everywhere. And oddly........ no one was speaking. I admit I was expecting some witty back and forth banter as time wound down but perhaps everyone was just insanely focused? Also that's what editing is for. We all kind of looked at each other with clueless expressions of  "they expect us to act naturally?" Wordlessly we drifted to the bar area where we were given tiny cups of wine. I threw mine back in one gulp you know.......take the edge off.....

Then suddenly time was up. The chefs were ready to serve us and we were ready to taste. I was about to eat the actual food served on Top Chef. The other super fans dispersed to various chefs' stations. My sister and I sidled up to the only Chef still cooking's station and stood there awkwardly. She didn't say anything to us and we glanced around at all the super fans already getting to eat the deliciousness. Finally she was finished and again silently served us our portions. I imagined the cameras were capturing the fact that she wasn't done, and that later the editors would play that weird knife slice sound of anxiety to match it. Hopefully my face has an equally anxious expression on it.

After breaking the ice with our first dish we then wandered quickly around to taste the others. By now, the 2nd group of super fans had joined us and the space was starting to feel crowded. We all kept looking around in anticipation of the judges entrance. 

I was just finishing the last bite on the final dish I needed to try, when I turned around and found Padma Lakshmi standing right in front of me. Here's what you need to know about Padma. She is so beautiful that it hurts your eyes. I'm not kidding. I really thought I had been blinded. She's also tall obviously so the whole thing is very overwhelming. Anyways, I picked my jaw up from off the ground and tried to play it cool. Tom, Gail and guest judge Richard were also there and walked past us to get to the bar. No big deal you guys.

From here on out, the judges split up into two groups and then went around to all the stations. Here the producers would ask a few of us to stand in back of them looking like we were next in line. Ohhh the magic of TV. Now you know HA I had already tried that dish.....fooled you guys!
After tasting the food and commenting on it, the judges would then turn around and be suddenly cornered by all the super fans pretending to wait in line behind them. Here was where awkward/awesome conversations began. 

My first time in a 'talking circle' involved me, my sister and some overly chatty girls AND Padma and TOM. Yes. Tom and I's moment had come at last. He smiled and shook all of our hands and we introduced ourselves to them both. I had a really hard time trying not to drool and look good on camera at the same time. Except----NO cameras were around! OK so maybe some hidden ones caught this magic moment but what gives? How could I brag about my friendship with Tom if there was no video proof? Sham. Overall I got 1 or 2 words in. I slyly told Tom that my lamb chop was insanely underdone and he nodded in agreement like, "You ain't kidding that shit was raw" and then I died a little on the inside. Soon our pow-wow was over and I melted into the floor. 

Throughout the rest of the taping, my sister and I realized that we were probably not outgoing enough to get on camera. The closest we got to victory was when my sister forgot the safety instructions relayed to us by the producers and she got in the blindspot of a camera man. She was briefly knocked out by the camera and Gail touched her arm and made sure she was OK. No, my sister has not washed that arm since (gross). Other than that, we were constantly overshadowed by all the people who DID have the balls to go up to the judges and talk to them about nothing. It was like being the quiet/shy girl on the Bachelor. We had one awkward full on interview with the camera but it got interrupted when the judges decided they were ready to start tasting things. I believe the entire interview went like this:

Producer off camera: So what do you think of the TC kitchen?
Me: It's.........*stares dreamily off into space*
Producer: What food have you tasted so far?
My sister: We had the Shrimp Dish
Me: Yeah.
Sister: It was..... weird.
Me: *Drools*

Boy, I can't wait to see that. Please god let it be burned.

So since, we were A. Not outgoing enough and B. too embarrassed to walk up to the judges and start up conversations about nothing, we decided to take matters into our own hands and make sure we were behind Gail and Richard at every tasting station. Keep a close eye for me sometimes looking at the camera by accident a la Pee Wee at the end of Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Obviously this was our moment to shine.

We also had a special moment where we crowded around Gregory while he cut open one of the jack fruits and taught us how to get the 'flesh' out. All in all we figured we might get in maybe 2 shots. Success!!!!

The day overall was long. The judges tasting and commenting lasted for maybe 2 hours. Then they all went into the bar area to shoot the 'after tasting' scene where they all recount what they thought. During this, most of the other super fans left, but the producers had ask some of us to stay and mill around a bit. We got to explore the pantry and where they keep all the pots and pans. I put my hands on the immaculate barrel of lemons and limes they always have in the pantry. Stood in front of the towering array of spices. Cried a little when I saw the 20 spotless Kitchen-Aid mixers lined up on a shelf. One of the other super fans got a little rowdy and stole a bottle of cooking wine out of one of the fridges. We planted ourselves strategically in the background during the entire 'after tasting' shoot and maybe just maybe they'll catch a glimpse of me leering through the little windows. No one seemed to be paying any attention to us. It was exhilarating but also a little bit sad. 

Finally, they wrapped up filming and said we could go. We walked back to the original office space but were stopped midway so the judges could exit out a side door and walk ahead of us. We took off again walking some feet away from the judges. Finally as we crossed over to the mini-vans waiting to cart us back the 30 feet to where our cars were parked, we took one last look at the judges. Padma's daughter was wrapped around her and then they both turned back around and waved to us all. Magic. 

The day was over more or less. The last few remaining super fans were interviewed by the 'Digital Web' person, where I once again stood awkwardly and silently next to the more talkative superfans (including the lady who stole the bottle of wine and was now probably drunk). We then headed in to grab our checked belongings and took one last bathroom trip. A girl in there with me was venting with her friend, "How can they expect us to keep such a GOOD secret for SO long?" I thought the same. How would we ever make it to December, without telling a single soul that the best day of our life just happened? 

How indeed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Vacuuming is My Cardio

A lot of people take vacuuming for granted. Sure it's all nice and easy when your vacuum works properly. Your apartment has 2 rugs? No problem. Done in 10 minutes or less. But what happens when your vacuum doesn't work? What happens if your vacuum NEVER worked but you were too lazy to bring it back to Target or track down an antiquated 'Vacuum Repair Shop" (do those still exist? OK Google tells me there is one about 5 minutes away but in my on-going quest to completely eliminate human contact and face to face interactions I'll just pretend I never found that out). Well my friends, you might just find yourself taking about 2 hours to vacuum your apartment's two rugs. You might just find yourself dripping in sweat while your arm falls off from trying to 'scrub' the sticky white cat hairs from the rug fibers. You also might find yourself waking up the next day wondering why on earth your body is aching so badly. And then you'd say, OH YEAH I was vacuuming.

This past weekend I felt bad about myself for ordering take out and eating Lucky Charms. But an hour into my vacuuming routine I suddenly realized, who needs the gym when your vacuum is broken? Since the upright portion of my vacuum does not work, I have to detach the brush attachment, get on my hands and knees and use scrubbing motions to vacuum the 2 rugs. Think of yourself vacuuming a fairly large rug with a Dustbuster only.

And then reduce the size of the dust buster to this

and add the presence of your two cats' hair which is ingrained into the rug fibers so strongly, you need two hands to move the brush attachment.

What you get is a very exhausting form of un-fun cardio. Plus frustration because you realize it's probably time to get a new vacuum but you'd rather spend money on wine and cookies.

Oh well.

Side note: I successfully spelled vacuum wrong throughout this entire post and still don't really feel like committing the correct spelling to memory. Perhaps this is symbolic of my overall feelings about my vacuums.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Public Transportation Tales

Stop Hustling Me

I really wish people would stop hustling me down the stairs. You got places to be. I get it. But I don't get why you need to breathe down my neck. It stresses me out. Maybe you're not aware of this but once when I was little I had a phobia about falling down the stairs. I guess that's technically everyone's phobia because it would be terrifying and you'd probably be dead. But anyways, when I was little I used to go down the stairs very slowly and with both feet on one stair at a time. Is that the right way to describe that? Probably not. I used to step on a step. Both feet. Then one foot would go to the next step. And then the other foot would come to meet it. It was like my feet were two 13 year old BFFs who can't go to the bathroom without holding hands and giggling. I continued to do this until one day the class lesbian made fun of me. She was 7 and she knew who she was (a 7 year old lesbian) and here I was walking down stairs like an old lady with glass legs. But even after I kicked the slow step habit I still like to take my time you know?

One time this girl hustled me down the stairs to the subway. I could hear her huffing and breathing and letting out sighs of anguish. I got the feeling that the only way to make her happy would be to die so she could sled down the stairs on my body. When she got to the bottom of the stairs after finally blowing past me she missed the train. And then we both had to ride the same train while I sneered at her and silently congratulated myself for winning the slow stairs race. Take that biotch.

Look Ma, No Handlebars!

On just a regular summer day after work I was walking to the subway. Traffic was lined up. Fake homeless people were counting their dimes. Hip co-workers were mounting their bikes with their hip pant legs rolled up. I was stopped at a crosswalk when I heard a man yelling, "Oh! Oh God! Oh no! Oh no! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh" I looked up to see a man on a bicycle holding his handlebars in the air. Apparently his handlebars had come off his bike and he couldn't stop. He was still moving and getting closer and closer to the head of the traffic and he had no handlebars. I figured I was about to witness a horrific accident but then I looked around and realized that no one else was even paying attention. It was just me staring dumfounded at a guy whose handlebars came off and was screaming about it. I'm still confused about what was happening here. Was it all an act? Was he the 'guy whose handlebars come off' and he pretends like it's the biggest crisis in the world?

Oh. Right yeah he was OK. My mind though? Still confused. If you have any information about the man with no handlebars, please contact me.

Here is a brief list of people I didn't know but instantly hated after riding at least one stop with them on the train.  

1.  Guy with trench coat who was wearing a fedora and had an umbrella clipped into the belt of his trench coat.

Guy: Have you ever seen that movie 'Taxi'?
Girl: No!
Guy: Well it's with Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise has gray hair and is an assassin. Jamie Foxx is a taxi driver who drives him around places while he kills people and (Guy proceeds to tell Girl and the rest of the passengers the entire plot of the movie 'Collateral')

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2. Asian lady who watches classical music concerts on her iPhone and hasn't yet discovered the joys of headphones.

Bonus--everybody gets treated to a Youtube video of an orchestra on the way to work.

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3. That really tall guy who decides that he A. needs to sit down and B. has to cross his extremely long legs. I assume he does this so he can be touching at least 4 people in all directions at once.

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4.  Little girl who plays with her Mom's iPhone and takes selfies and videos of herself singing nonsense into the camera. I checked and I successfully photo-bombed at least 5 of these. I was hoping that when her mom went back and watched them she'd notice how annoying her child was being because the nice lady next to her is making growly faces in the background. Here's hoping.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Woman Holding Flowers

Everyday ends like this. The woman holding flowers. She smiles and hands unsuspecting passersby a flower. Sometimes she even goes so far as to tuck the flower in their hair, or into the strap of their backpack. The people smile and say thank you, not knowing why but thankful just the same. Then the woman asks for money. The flower costs money? The people apologize but the woman doesn't give in. Demanding money for her flowers that aren't even real. Plastic red flowers. There is symbolic meaning in this but I don't know what it is yet.

She tried to give me the flower once but I refused to take it. Why would I want a plastic flower? They are the cheap kind you find in craft stores. Where the stems are already connected in a loop so that you can easily attach them to whatever it is you're making. I think this bothers me most of all. A plastic flower should at least try to look like a real flower.

Does anyone ever buy the flower? Out of embarrassment or an unwillingness to say no? And what do they do with it? Do they throw it away immediately, or keep it? Leave it on the street or somewhere inside their house? Does it sit on top of a bureau, or a bookcase, out of sight but not forgotten? The plastic red flower forced upon them in a moment of weakness. Tucked away reminding them of the woman holding flowers. Waiting.

Everyday ends like this. The woman holding flowers.

The plastic red flower. What does it mean?

You'll never really know--- unless you take one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Jesus Letters

Dear Jesus,

What’s up? Mom doesn’t take us to church anymore so I figured I would write to you in case you were mad. Today Billy Stevens came over and he told me that his Dad shot a tiger in his backyard. I don’t know if I believe that. Billy makes a lot of stuff up. One time he told me that once a giant panda came into his living room while he was watching Power Rangers. Billy told me he morphed into the green ranger and then kicked the panda. The panda never came back. But I don’t know if I believe that. My brother Carl says Mom doesn’t take us to church anymore because they ask for too much money. Why does the church need money anyways? I didn’t like church that much (sorry), I usually just thought up good stories to tell Billy Stevens, but I’m writing you this letter because I don’t want you to get mad at me for not going. Hope you are having a nice time in heaven.

Your friend,

            Todd folded his letter up and placed it in one of his mother’s envelopes. She kept them in her desk, next to the box with the gun in it and below the porcelain jewelry box with the condoms inside. On the outside of the envelope he scribbled the word Jesus and hid it underneath his shirt. Outside the weather was warm and inviting and Todd could just scarcely make out the figure of Billy Stevens playing in the next yard over. He darted behind the house quickly as he didn’t want to explain to Billy what he was doing.
It had been yesterday that Todd had spotted the tree. It had always been there of course but as he approached the tree walking home from school on Friday he had noticed something different about it. The tree’s branches were intersecting in such a way that it looked like they were forming the shape of several crosses. The knothole in the center of the tree was still there but next to it, in the bark, was the face of a man. Todd had remembered his mother telling him about a lady who had seen the face of Jesus in a tree, and even though this face looked more like Willy the bus driver, Todd decided that it must really be Jesus. He walked to the tree and placed the letter in the knothole. Suddenly a Nerf ball collided with his face and he fell to the ground.
            “Ha Ha Todd you idiot!” It was Billy Stevens and Todd suddenly regretted coming outside.
“You looked like such an idiot when you fell down you were like, “Ahhh I’m falling down cause I’m an Idiot”, Billy began reenacting Todd’s fall and seemed to add several exaggerated screams and body spasms.
“Hey wanna come over and see the tiger my Dad shot?”
            “Shut up Billy, your Dad didn’t shoot a tiger.”
 “Yeah he did and it’s in our garage in a trash bag. My dad had to put it in two extra large jumbo trash bags because it was so big and so Sammy wouldn’t go eating it.”
            “Why would a tiger even be in your backyard?”
            “I don’t know it’s weird there’s like animals everywhere. Last week a giant panda came into the living room when I was watching Power Rangers and I kicked it.”
            “Right…well-- I have to go, my Mom’s coming home soon.” Todd still did not believe Billy but he feared that maybe he did have a tiger in his garage, and that would only make Todd look like a fool. He began walking back to his front door and snuck a peek at the Jesus letter still hidden discretely in the knothole.
            “Hey idiot!” Billy’s voice yelled loudly from the tree.
“Don’t fall like an idiot anymore! Ha Ha! “Ahhh my name’s Todd and I fall and I look like an idiot ahhh!” Maybe you should try wearing a helmet you idiot and then maybe you can”-
The slam of the screen door cut off Billy’s voice, and Todd ran into the kitchen to finish washing the dishes before his mother came home.

 “And then my Dad turned his back and the hyena ran at him and jumped on top of him. And my Dad kept yelling at me to get his gun and shoot it, so I ran and I got my Dad’s gun and I shot the hyena! It was awesome! Way cooler than the time I kicked the giant panda.” Billy and Todd were walking home from school. Billy hadn’t seemed to notice that this was the third time he was telling Todd the story. Todd decided it would be easier to say nothing than risk getting hit in the face with a Nerf ball.
            “Hey what’s that piece of paper in that tree?” Billy was pointing at the knothole in the tree and Todd’s pulse began to quicken. Todd reached for the paper- there was no envelope, only a piece of paper folded up with the word Todd printed on the outside.
“What is that?” Billy asked, but Todd was busy reading the letter and completely lost in thought.

 Hey Todd,
Not much is up with me. Thanks for writing it can get pretty boring up here in heaven. As annoying as Billy is I’m afraid he’s telling the truth, except that the time the giant panda came through the living room door he was watching Barney not Power Rangers. I don’t mind if you don’t go to church, and to be honest I don’t really like it either. like I said heaven is pretty boring, so feel free to write as much as you want.
Keep in touch.

 “You got a letter from Jesus?!” Billy had been reading over Todd’s shoulder and his face looked even more shocked then Todd’s.
 “How did he know I was watching Barney? Only my Mom knows I watch that show! Wow! Did you ask for anything sweet?”
 “He’s Jesus Billy, not Santa Claus.”
 “Whatever, I told you all that stuff was true and you didn’t believe me! What else have you been telling Jesus about me you idiot!” Todd didn’t really care what Billy had to say and for the first time Billy seemed to be the one who was jealous of somebody else’s story.
 “Nothing Billy look I have to go…” Todd started to run to his house.
 “Hey wait! Wait! Tell Jesus I didn’t put the cat in the washing machine!” Billy’s voice became lost once again in the slam of the screen door.
The next day Todd’s head was filled with excitement and anxiety over what his next letter to Jesus would entail. The first few hours after getting the letter were more of a shock. Todd had moved around the house like a possessed and smiling zombie. When Carl had asked what was wrong with him, Todd only shrugged and went to his room to smile in private. 
In school, Todd’s class was reading Tuck Everlasting, a book that previously Todd had found very interesting, but now only seemed to get in the way of his daydreaming. At first Todd had thought about the obvious questions, “Is there a hell?” “What is God like?”, but then he decided that those must be the most boring questions in the world to Jesus. He was probably asked ones like that on a regular basis.
As the teacher called on different students to read aloud, Todd dove deeper and deeper into his mind to find the most interesting and perplexing questions he could think of. Just when Todd had been deciding the correct way to ask Jesus “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” , and more importantly what that actually meant, the teacher had called on him to take over reading. Todd quickly found his place and read on,
"I was having that dream again, the good one where we're all in heaven and never heard of Treegap." Todd read on but decided daydreaming would have to wait until after school.
            After school was out Todd ran home as fast as he could. By ignoring Billy’s shouts and wheezes from behind him (Todd had avoided him all day), he had made it home in no time. He ran into his room, startling Carl who seemed to have been just rolling out of bed, and opened his backpack to take out a fresh piece of paper.

Dear Jesus,

What’s up? I just got home from school and couldn’t wait to write you a new letter. Billy was so jealous of the letter you wrote me, he started shouting to everyone about his hyena story from on top of the jungle gym. I guess maybe he thought more people would believe him if he said it louder. Anyways I’ve been thinking a lot and I really want to know, who is your favorite baseball team? Do you go to any of the games? What do you even do up there in Heaven? Oh and also my brother Carl is really lazy, is that going to happen to me when I get older and start growing facial hair? I think that’s it for now.

Your Friend

            Todd took the letter and put it in another of his Mother’s envelopes. He then quietly snuck past Carl in the bathroom, and out the front door. When he was certain there was no sign of Billy he hurriedly stuffed it into the Jesus Tree and ran back inside to watch from the window.
 “What are you staring at?” Carl had suddenly come into the kitchen, making Todd jump.
            “What? Oh. I uh thought I saw a weird dog.”
            “A weird dog? What the hell does that mean?” Carl looked out the window with Todd, “All I see is that loud fat kid. What is he doing?” Todd reluctantly looked over towards Billy’s house, where Billy was jumping up and down and yelling something that could not be heard through the glass. Carl opened the window.
            “TODD!!!! HEY TODD!!!” Billy was getting more and more tired after every jump. Carl stared unaffected at Billy’s antics.
            “You better go out there Todd, it looks like he might have a heart attack soon”, Todd rolled his eyes and stomped outside.
            “What do you want Billy?”
            “Did you get anymore letters from Jesus?”
            “No. And you better not have told anyone about this.” Todd had previously thought about telling other people, but realized that he wanted his alone time with Jesus. Other people like Billy would just ruin it with dumb questions about tigers and hyenas.
            “I didn’t I swear” Billy looked scared for a minute and Todd stared him down. “OK fine. I told Walter”.
 “Don’t worry he just thought you were a weirdo”.
 “Great”, Todd felt a wave of dread come over him.
 “And..also no one might talk to you for a while” Billy was rubbing his feet in the dirt, a smile slowly creeping on his face.
 “Great Billy. That’s just really great.” Todd began walking back to his house.
 “Hey want to come see the hyena? It’s probably still in the garage.”
 “No.” Todd said his back stilled turned to Billy.
 “I’ll show you the gun I shot it with”
 “No. I don’t care”
 "Sammy keeps pooping everywhere I could show you that..” Todd stopped in his tracks.
 “No..gross. “
 “Well I just thought we could find like bones in it maybe.” Todd shook his head and ran back inside his house.
 It seemed to take twice as long for Jesus to write back this time. The only window Todd could look out of was the kitchen window, and Carl would always ask him questions if he stayed there for too long. So Todd distracted himself and periodically stopped to wash dishes that had already been cleaned just so he could look out the window. A few hours later, Jesus’ letter arrived.
Todd ran as fast as he could to the tree, and back to his house. Just as he closed the screen door, he could hear Billy trying to make a run for it. He took the letter to his room and read it over.

Hey Todd,

Let’s see... I don’t really have a favorite baseball team. Actually I don’t really have any part in baseball at all. People think me and God help out their team but it’s not true. Baseball is just fun to watch, and I like all the teams the same. Picking favorites just wouldn’t be fair, helping teams win wouldn’t be fair either. Have you ever seen “Angels in the Outfield”, pretty bogus if you ask me. And if Christopher Lloyd was an angel I’d go insane. In Heaven I pretty much do nothing. I walk around and talk to people, and sometimes I watch TV. It’s very relaxed and a great place to live, but I like to visit the earth for more excitement. Well anyways, there is no easy way to say this, but God has decided that there will be an Apocalypse. That’s why there was a panda and a hyena in Billy’s yard. The animals know it’s going to happen so they go a little nuts. I’m sorry this has to happen, I’ll fill you in on the details when I know more. Sorry again. Oh. And no. You don’t suddenly become lazy once you get older. Carl is just a lazy person. You should tell him to start going to school or he’ll have to become an auto mechanic.


 Todd put the letter down and racked his brain trying to figure out just what an Apocalypse could be. After some time he gave up and threw his bedroom door open.
 “Carl! Hey Carl!” Todd was shouting wildly.
 “What do you want?” Carl emerged sleepily from his room, despite it being so late in the afternoon.
 “What’s an Apocalypse?”
 “Why do you want to know what an Apocalypse is?”
 “Just tell me come on.” Carl looked confused but then made his way to the kitchen where he began pouring himself a large bowl of Corn Pops.
 “The Apocalypse is the end of the world. It’s when God comes down and judges everyone”. Carl stopped to ponder and pour in the milk.
“But pretty much everyone’s gonna die because no one is really good anymore. Especially us because we don’t go to church, and especially you because you say mean things to fat kids”
Todd was aghast. The end of the world? He couldn’t understand why God would make this happen now, especially when his friendship with Jesus was just blossoming. He hurriedly got another piece of paper and ran back into his room.

Dear Jesus,

Are you sure there is going to be an Apocalypse? I’m not sure I want to die just yet because well I’m only ten years old and my mom promised me I could get a new bike for my birthday next year. Also the end of the world sounds kind of scary. Why is this happening? I hope maybe you can tell God to not come down and judge everyone. Thanks.

Your friend,

 This time he didn’t put it in an envelope, but just ran outside as quickly as he could and stuffed the letter into the knothole. He wondered how long it would take and he worried that the Apocalypse would happen before he got his answer.
He waited patiently the next few hours, periodically checking to see if a new letter had been placed in the knothole, or if the world was coming to an end. Finally just after dinnertime Todd spotted it. A new piece of paper folded neatly and tucked away in the knothole. Todd wondered how the letter had appeared without him noticing, but then quickly realized he was dealing with Jesus and Jesus had to have ways. Todd ran out to get it and began to read.


I’m afraid there’s nothing I can really do. When God wants something done he tends to get it done. But I told him about you and I think you’ll be okay. The apocalypse is supposed to happen soon, but if you want, you can meet me at the playground at 7:30 and we’ll talk.

P.S. Don’t bring Billy.

 Todd ran inside to look at the time. The flashing blue light on the microwave had said 12:00 for months, and the clock on the wall only had four numbers which Todd felt was too complicated to read.
          “Mom!” Todd’s mother was talking on the phone and shot him a look.
          “What Todd?”
          “What time is it?” His mother glanced at the clock and told whoever she was talking to, to hang on a moment.
          “Almost 7:30- Todd? Todd! Where are you going?”
          “Uh I have to- meet um the playground, I’ll be back...I think. Ok bye!”
          The screen door slammed shut, and Todd ran off towards the playground.

 The playground was deserted and Todd stood for a moment at the entrance. The squeaking of metal and the wind rushing past his ear made him shiver as he scanned the playground. A figure was sitting on the swings. He looked exactly like Jesus was supposed to look like, only different. He wore a baseball cap and a plain white T-shirt; he was smoking a cigarette and kicking his feet gently into the dirt. Todd walked over slowly, unsure of how best to approach. He stood there with his hands in his pockets and gathered up his courage.
          “Hey Jesus”, Todd said quietly and Jesus leapt from the swing. He threw his cigarette to the ground and then immediately grabbed another one. After lighting it and inhaling deeply he looked at Todd.
          “Hey Todd” Todd smiled weakly, and felt like he might throw up. “What’s up?”
Todd thought about this question. What did he mean “what’s up?” Todd felt it was pretty obvious what was up. The world was about to end, and Todd and everyone he knew was going to die.
 “Nothing.” Todd replied, the strange smile still imprinted on his face.
 “Are you okay?” Jesus asked, and Todd felt it best to be honest.
 “No.”,Jesus sighed.
“Well let’s sit down. We can talk.” Todd nodded in response as he and Jesus took a seat on a wooden picnic bench. There was a heavy silence and Todd felt like he was in his guidance counselor’s office, trying to explain why he didn’t want to be Billy Stevens’ friend. All the thoughts in his head came bubbling up. He had so many questions, so many fears that he didn’t know where to begin.
          “Jesus?” Todd asked, a hint of fear in his voice.
 “Mmm?” Jesus replied, getting out another cigarette and struggling with his lighter.
          “Am I going to die?” Jesus inhaled for what seemed like hours to Todd. Finally after exhaling a monstrous cloud of smoke he replied,
          “It’s complicated.”
          “One time I asked my Mom why she keeps a gun in her desk. She said it was a little complicated. Is your answer a lot or a little complicated?”
          “Hmm.” The question seemed to puzzle Jesus, as he rhythmically breathed in and out his smoke.
          “Your Mom keeps a gun in her desk because she has intimacy and trust issues.”
 “Oh”, Todd said quietly, trying to wrap his head around what that meant. He watched a bird fly into a sleeping tree. “That doesn’t seem so complicated.” Jesus half shrugged and half smiled. Todd continued on.
          “ dying or not is more complicated than that?”
 “I think” said Jesus while stomping out his cigarette on the ground. “That you will know what I mean when the time comes. - And I know people always say that”, he quickly said as Todd opened his mouth. “But trust me. I can’t explain it. Unless it’s happening.”
          “Is it going to be scary?”
 “I don’t think so.” Jesus stood up to leave and patted Todd on the back.
          “Don’t worry so much. You’ll do fine. I have to do some things. When things start to happen come back here to find me.” Todd nodded, and then looked suddenly at Jesus.
 “What kind of things?”
 “Animals mostly, tornados, red skies that sort of thing.” Todd nodded his head slowly and felt like he may faint. Jesus reached for another cigarette.
          “Why do you keep lighting cigarettes and putting them out?”
 “I like the way it feels when I light them.”
          “Okay, see you Todd.” And Jesus walked off, whistling a song, his cloud of smoke lingering behind.
          The walk home had Todd more scared than ever. Around every corner he expected a wild animal to jump out and rip him to shreds, or a tornado to come and suck him up. He had almost reached his front door when Billy Stevens ambushed him, the severed head of the Hyena clutched in his arms.
          “Hey Todd!” Billy yelled despite the close distance between them, and shoved the head closer so Todd could get a better look at it. “Look. It’s way cooler than your Jesus letter.”
          “Oh shut up Billy.” Todd walked straight into the house, the screen door slamming shut in Billy’s stunned face.
Three days had passed, and the end of the world had still not come. Todd walked through his days with a constant feeling of dread and fear. He no longer cared what Billy Stevens said to him, or that he got bad grades on his reading quizzes. These things didn’t matter because soon Todd’s life wouldn’t matter. His thoughts were consumed with dying. He tried to imagine what it would be like to die. To not have any thoughts and to not be a person any longer.
Todd remembered going to see his grandfather at the hospital on the day that he died. He had gone to get a drink at the cafeteria and when he came back his grandfather had passed. When his mother wasn’t looking, Carl had dared him to touch the body. He remembered how cold his hand had felt, how plastic and dead it had felt only minutes after he had died.
On the fourth day Todd sat at the dinner table picking at his cold peas. His mother never let them leave the dinner table unless they ate some of their vegetables. Todd had tried to eat the peas, but his heart hadn’t been in it. Todd’s mother looked up from the end of the table while she balanced her checkbook.
 “Todd did you want the red or the blue bike for your birthday? I can’t remember.” She started to shuffle through the papers and bills in front of her. “I must have written it down somewhere but it must have been on the back of a bank receipt or something because I can’t find it.”
          “It’s okay. I don’t need it anymore”.
          “Don’t need it anymore? But it’s all you’ve been talking about since your last birthday.”
          “It’s fine. I can just use my old one”
          “I thought that fat kid popped your tires” Carl said from the living room, his head still focused on the TV.
 “Yeah- well I fixed it OK?” Todd got up from the table and ran out the door.
          “Todd! Your peas!” His mother called after him.
          “There’s no time for peas”, Todd mumbled as he left his house and began to walk towards the playground again. He couldn’t stand it any longer. Why did this have to happen now? And why was it just him that would be saved?
Todd was so consumed with his thoughts that he barely noticed the two lions creeping out from the woods near his house. They looked at Todd and then made their way towards the back door of the kitchen. Todd set off in a run ignoring the gunshots coming from Billy’s backyard, and what he took to be his mother’s scream echoing from the kitchen. He didn’t stop running, not even when Billy came running from his house trying to punch a gigantic black bear.
          “Todd! Hey Todd! You never told Jesus about the cat in the washing machine did you?! I told you to tell him I didn’t do it!” Billy struggled with the bear then gave up and ran towards the Jesus tree.
“Todd! I was just kidding about you being an idiot!” Billy’s yells became quieter and quieter and as Todd looked back he could just make out Billy’s round body making its way up the tree and trying to avoid the bear that was slowly edging closer.
By the time Todd had gotten to the playground, the wind had started to pick up. Pieces of trash were tumbling across the ground, and the sky was getting darker. Jesus sat on the swing just as he did before. Todd ran over and this time kept his fears of speaking behind him.
          “Why? Why not my family, why me?” Jesus turned to look at Todd as the rain started to fall, and the sky turned a light pink.
 “Because you wrote me the letter. No one writes letters anymore. People are too busy with their lives. But you were different. ”
          “So? I just felt bad and I didn’t want you to be mad at me”
 “And so it worked”, Jesus smiled. “While people were busy worrying about their money TV shows, you were worried about something far more valuable. You were wondering about me, and if I got bored, and you helped me. Everyone else is too consumed.” Jesus said as he got up from the swing. “I know this is a terrible thing.” Todd felt that was an understatement, as the sky was now as red as blood, and he could hardly see through the rain.  “But it had to be done.”
          “Why do I have to go alone?” Todd thought he could see Jesus thinking this over.
          “Well I suppose the other option would be for you not to come”.
Todd stood still. Dying was too terrifying a concept to face. Todd thought of his mother. He thought of the way she smelled and how her hands felt against his head when she would tell him his hair was getting long. He thought of her scream that had come from the kitchen, and how she probably had not had enough time to get the gun from her sock drawer.
          “Todd?” Jesus had walked to the entrance of the playground. “If you’re going to come, we have to leave now before the tornadoes start.” Todd turned his head towards Jesus and saw two bicycles at the entrance.
          “Is that the bike I was going to get for my birthday?”
          “It is.”
Todd took one last look around. The streets were a mess, and the rain was so heavy the ground look like it was about to collapse. Todd looked at the bike and took a deep breath.
          “Do I have to wear a helmet?” Jesus laughed and got on his bike.
          “Not anymore Todd.” Todd closed his eyes and got onto his own bike. His fears dissolved as he gripped the bike’s brand new handle bars. He imagined he was back on his street and riding his bike home from school; with the wind in his face and the realization that he was free. Free from Billy Stevens and his annoying stories and free from the world. Leaving on that bike would mean leaving the fears of dying behind him. That to Todd made him feel safe and less anxious. Jesus had been right, the decision would be complicated, but in the end, Todd knew what he had to do.
Todd looked over at Jesus who nodded and they began to peddle off down the road.
          The red sky was opening slowly and the rain continued to thunder down. They had just peddled over the hill as Todd looked behind him and saw the tornadoes shoot out of the sky. Jesus and Todd talked about baseball as they rode off into the red sky, and away from the end of the world.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Clubhouse: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

After I graduated from College I settled comfortably into my 'unemployed phase'. Not wearing pants became a regular event. I moved in with my older sister in Jamaica Plain temporarily until I could move in with my other sister in Brookline. Our apartment was in a shady area. Not tree lined shady more like-- don't leave the house after 8PM or you'll get stabbed shady. I heard gunshots my first or second night there. I imagined myself cowering and crying in a corner like Tom Hanks when he moves into that hotel/apartment in NYC. Another night we were awoken to two guys shouting and looked out our window to see one of the guys beating the absolute shit out of the other. Welcome to the real world.

I was unemployed for about 3 months. I applied to just about any job that I could without any actual 'real job' experience. Evidently scooping ice cream for 7 years doesn't allow for a lot of skill building. Or does it? I'm pretty sure my ability to prevent myself from barfing when an adult orders a large cone of bubblegum ice cream is admirable.

Anyways. A normal day was.
1. Get up
2. Don't put on pants
3. Apply to 5 jobs (using the same cover letter)
4. eat a sandwich.
5. watch TV.

After 2 months of this routine I had heard nothing back and decided I better apply to one of those temp agencies. Doing this was essentially going to a job interview…..for no specific job. Was the interview to determine if I could do any job? Or was it to find out if I was a loose cannon? Who knows. I don't remember too much except for the fact that I found out I'm not as good at Microsoft Word as I thought (I mean honestly does anyone actually use the mailing features? Didn't think so) and also that if I had a choice, yes, I would maybe go on a date with my temp agent. I soon discovered that temp agencies were a bust. I almost got a job but then some weird last minute decision kept me out of the running. I blame my low Microsoft Word score.

Then one pantless day sometime in August I got a call from a woman about a job I had applied for. Her voice was semi-muffled so I missed the actual company. All I knew was---I applied somewhere and someone called me back. Progress. I listened '"intently" to the job description (AKA not intently at all because I was still too excited that someone had actually called) agreed when I was suppose to. Enthusiastic, polite all that jazz. One last thing she mentioned---the position would require me to work with adults suffering from a variety of different mental illnesses would I be comfortable with that?

I was still only half paying attention but decided it was best to say yes now, and think over the details later. She set me up with an in person interview at 'The Clubhouse". Thank God. I thought. The company's name that I can Google and figure out what the hell I applied for.

It wasn't until later when I was doing the actual Googling that I got an odd feeling that I had missed something critical. What was the last thing she had mentioned? It felt like I was signing off on a weird verbal contract. Something about…….adults? Who knows. Googling turned up nothing. Google Earth showed me a brick building without signage down a sparse side street in Brookline Village. Was this a scam? Who cares, I got a call back!

The day of my interview I came in still knowing nothing. I walked into the front door and was greeted by a nice woman at the front desk who had her purse on her lap and her legs stretched out. She was talking to an older gentleman in the chair next to her desk. I told her I was here for my interview and she got excited and said she'd let them know. I took a seat and took in my surroundings. It resembled a kind of empty school constructed in the 1980s. Old carpets on the floor. Long empty hallways. There was also a lingering smell of stale cigarette smoke and urine.

Suddenly a large black man came through the front door and sized me up.
  "You gonna be a member here?"
   "Oh… no…. I'm here for an interview"
   "An interview! Oh great. That's great I hope ya get it!"
   "Thank you!"
He walked away and was followed by an elderly black woman with no teeth who scowled at me and started mumbling about her lipstick and white women.

Finally the program manager came over and brought me to the interview. It went well. I was calm and collected on the inside. On the inside I was thinking holy shit what is this place?

 Kristi the program manager was friendly and inviting. She told me a little more about the actual Clubhouse and what it was. It was a day re-hab facility for adults with mental illnesses. They came here  as part of the work ordered day as part of their recovery. It got them out of the house, they got to participate in different programs and they got lunch for $2.00. Sounded neat.

I enthusiastically told Kristi about my research about Deinstitutionalization in College and that paper I wrote one time that I probably got a B on but who needs to know? I had an interest in learning about mental illness didn't I?

Finally Kristi asked me how I felt about driving a 15 passenger van to Cambridge once a week. I immediately flashed back to Christmas at my aunts the year before where I started crying when my sister tried to make me drive her back to Boston. Driving in stressful/new situations was not one of my best talents. But then again----I was close to getting a job…..death by 15 passenger van or job?

"I would feel totally fine with that" I said.

After the interview Kristi took me around on a tour and to meet some of the members. The lounge area was filled with members sleeping on couches and waiting for lunch to be served. Some members were busy at work helping in the kitchen. The Communications and Art unit was abuzz with activity. Members were working on the computer or working on art projects in the back. A woman sat at one of the tables reading food menus and taking down orders.

A tall guy with long curly hair walked up to us wearing giant headphones and holding a discman. He started talking to Kristi then asked what my name was.
"This is Andre" Kristi said
"WHAT?!" The man with the headphones shouted.
"Andre" I told him.
"Oh hullo Andres good to meet you. I want to show you something over here if you'd like to come and see.."
Kristi interrupted him and said I was just here for a tour and that maybe he could show me later.

At the end of our tour Kristi let me know that I'd be coming back for an interview with some of the staff and a few of the members. A round table interview if you will. My relief at almost getting a job trumped my worries and I happily agreed.

I called my sister on the walk home and told her that it seemed a little scary. I didn't know if I was brave enough or confident enough to do this. These people were in various states of mental illness--I wouldn't have a real office and would have to do my work in the Communications and Art unit where that tall guy with the big headphones would be 'showing me stuff". I don't know I told her….I just don't know.