Thursday, October 21, 2021

Candy corn

At this very moment, as you’re reading this, somewhere in America, a factory is making candy corn, on purpose. 

A hairnetted worker in a lab coat stands before a giant stainless steel vat, emptying bags of sugar, chalk, library paste, industrial by-products, witch’s tears, and guar gum. The function of the guar gum is a mystery to everyone in the room, but all foodstuffs must have it, by federal law.

(In a faraway corner of the factory floor, another worker salts one single shelled peanut, so that they must put a label on the bag stating the facility also processes peanuts. No one knows why they do this; it seems self-destructive.)

The mixture is brought to a boil, and eventually the bubbling cauldron is tipped into an extruding machine, which poops out the little allegedly-corn-kernel-shaped triangles.

In another part of the factory, deep underground, chained captive demons individually paint each little “corn” with cheerful fall colors while screaming in agony, imbuing each purported candy with sinister negative energy.

The finished product is bagged and shipped across the United States.

At some point I will find myself standing before a small bowl of candy corn. I do not like candy corn.

But here’s the thing: I kind of like it?

I’ll find myself eating the candy corn, in fact finishing the bowl, while thinking “This isn’t good. Is it?“

Friday, October 8, 2021

That Fucking Lost Year

My Macbook’s on my lap and I’m watching a trailer for the new Bond movie that opens this weekend: physics-defying motorcycle jumps, gorgeous scenery and general mayhem, apparently the exact sort of violent and absurd travelogue I’m looking for from this franchise, because I’m thinking to myself Hell yeah I’ll check this out.

The trailer ends and at the moment of Bond’s last gunshot “APRIL 2020” appears on the screen — the month it was originally to have been released — and I shock myself by bursting into tears.

That Fucking Lost Year. That Fucking Plague Year.

I spent 2020 more than chest-deep in Done But Not Divorced Yet, a dense opaque substance as black and viscous as tar; light can’t escape from it; simple movement through it is an exertion. 

I soaked in it, I slept in it. Every morning I woke up dead tired, secure in the knowledge that tomorrow would be worse, that before long this shit would be well over my head.

While my personal world was a shambles, ashes at my feet, the Actual World, the Real World: oh, that was ALSO falling apart!

“APRIL 2020” was a reminder of a Lost World and a punch directly to my heart. Because I need to brace myself when I take punches to the heart, tears formed for a moment before I was able to tell myself Oh jeezus man COME ON.

Which is probably an odd preamble to say that Pat Metheny was a GIFT to me and (based on the audience response) Every Single Person in the Boulder Theater last night. He was nourishing and uplifting and centering. The music was beautiful and surprising and to me profound, but his underlying message was really quite simple: 

“Hey, Everybody: I know we’ve been though THAT — but NEVER forget, there’s also THIS!!!”

Friday, August 27, 2021

Ruby, My Dear

There’s a deal we make when we bring a pet into our lives. We give them love and sustenance, we try to give them full and happy lives.

They bring us sweetness, and moments of giddy chaos. You’re sad? Howzabout if I sneeze in your face?

According to the rules of the deal they love us, in spite of the fact that we are goofballs, because they are also goofballs.

When everything is absolutely terrible, they are blissfully unaware. Even in the face of catastrophe they’re wondering if you’re going to sit down for lap time or toss a treat somewhere. Are you aware that dinner is mere hours away?

The love and companionship you give them is returned manyfold. Though they signed no paperwork, that seems to be part of the deal.

There is another important part of the deal that you can’t get out of, as much as you’d like to: at some point that small and complicated and silly and sweet and occasionally absurd goofball you brought into your life will break your heart.

My dear dear Ruby has broken my heart. 

Rather suddenly, over the past week or so, she started losing weight and seemed exhausted. X-rays this morning showed profound lung damage from cancer. 

To the end, at the vet hospital, even as a very sick kitty, she purred and head-butted me.

I held her in my lap as the doctor put her to sleep. Somehow, as her suffering ended and she was no longer my Ruby, her body became heavier.

I don’t know how this stuff works.

I’ll never forget her.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Potato Head

I’m old enough to remember AND I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP when the purchase of The Toy Formerly Known As Mr. Potato Head did NOT include a plastic potato head: instead YOU HAD TO PROVIDE YOUR OWN POTATO AND AGAIN I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

You got a box of body parts — noses and eyes and mouths and a torso and just a whole jumbled serial killer’s worth of disembodied stuff — and your mom would give you AN ACTUAL POTATO (yes, we were rich then) for you to Have Your Way with.

Each of the parts had a sharp little spike sticking out of it — because toy safety laws back then mandated that if 8 out of 10 children were not maimed or killed by the toy, that was a fine and legal toy — and you’d stick this and that body part ONTO THE ACTUAL POTATO YOUR MOM GAVE YOU.

Hilarity/monstrosity ensued: a nose BELOW a mouth, eyes on the back or maybe even a third eye with a prominent eyebrow, a torso or two sticking out at a random angle above the head. And children back then were VERY comfortable with gender-fluidity when building their very own Potatx Head Entities: the Missus had a mustache and smoked a pipe, the Mister had lovely eyelashes and carried a purse. It was all Good Clean Fun (except for the starchy milky juice that eventually would bleed out of the potato holes you made) and you’d cackle with pleasure at the anatomical indignities you’d put your little potato personage through.

Eventually you would tire of your handiwork and set it aside — and it was THEN that The Toy Formerly Known As Mr. Potato Head delivered important life lessons: the potato decayed, the area around the body part holes would darken and turn slimy. At some horrifying point the mouth might fall off (kindly keeping the potato from screaming), the potato would get soft and squishy and before long downright appalling, an Abomination Unto God: life’s inevitable decline graphically played out before Mom would take the potato away, the now-hated potato, the problematic-smelling tuber, once vibrant and possibly two-nosed, now tossed into the trash.

At some point they started including plastic potato-shaped heads with TTFKAMPH and stole these important life lessons from children. America, like those original potatoes, grew soft.

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