Deconstructed Burns

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WHAT AM I

Even as a child, Pee-Wee Herman’s “I know you are but what am I?” just seemed really lazy, until no doy and the unfortunate “Not!” craze came along. “Not!” is the first popular phrase I remember both kids and adults overusing, which made me hate it even more. I guess it was the 80’s version of today’s “Fake news!” so no wonder it tastes like rancid orange soda in my mouth.

I know you are but what am I? starts off strong by psyching out your opponent with TOTAL AGREEMENT. I know you are. Then it naturally morphs into passive aggressive existential confusion. But what am I?

What am I?

JUST TELL ME WHO I AM.

I know you are but what am I? relies too much on who you’re talking to. Whatever they say – you’re a dink, you’re a pickle, you are way too fucking tall – you just agree (I know), lob back their insult (you are), then demand another round (but what am I?). I KNOW YOU’RE A PICKLE BUT LET’S FOCUS ON ME.

Your opponent gains style points for making you sound like a self-centered, unoriginal asshole.

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Hello | Goodbye | Hello

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FREEDOM IS BLINDING

Psssst. Hey. Hi. Hello.

Been trying to figure out how to present this with as little fanfare as possible, so here goes: This is an update, a confession, two amicable break-ups, and of course a live birth.

So we went on vacation, pictured above, and I promptly had a social media midlife crisis.

What does it all mean? What does anything mean? Why am I doing this, why does anyone do this? Can I ask Facebook for a break, is that even allowed? Can we just get a quiet divorce without anyone in the family finding out? I can’t live like this anymore, something BIG has to change. It’s time to call this what it is: an ill-fated mountain fling that’s doomed to end with “I wish I could quit you,” angry fishing, two failed marriages, and death.

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The Adults In The Room

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Mr. Messy

When I was little, I used to watch my mom or dad after dinner, doing adult stuff in the abstract. Mostly tidying up in that tired way adults do when the consequences of not tidying up will catch up to them later. Wiping down counters, straightening magazine piles, folding laundry, getting papers ready for the next day, taking the garbage bins out, checking homework, sorting through mail, feeding the cats. Every evening, someone called on the phone, but it was before Caller I.D., so it was like being surprised by friends or family on the regular, and not like now, where I see someone call and wonder in anguish butwhy. Sometimes, the phone was handed to me and I answered aunt and uncle questions or told stories to curious grandparents.

As I got older and watched this nighttime ritual of the North American adult, I realized there was a rhyme and reason to the seemingly random clean-up. Garbage was dealt with, leftovers packaged, outfits picked for school and work, slight order restored to a house that exploded every 24 hours with life and human progress. Neither of my parents seemed to enjoy doing these menial daily tasks, but when they were done, one or both of them would turn off the kitchen lights and sink into the couch with a satisfied, weary sigh. I would come to know this as The Ceremonial Sigh of Adulting, where your next move is something you actually want to do: read a book, watch TV, talk to a friend on the phone while matching sock mates, have that much-deserved glass of wine before bed. The sigh signaled a surrendering to what would surely be another night without enough sleep, a tiny white flag waving in the flickering light of our television. Then my parents got up the next day and did it again, and again, and again. The same determined, tired tidying up, every night after dinner; the same sigh of release and ready-preparedness for the days to come.

It was all so goddamn boring.

When I was still a single digit, and filled with BIG IDEAS, I decided my parents were foolish to waste all their time on these menial tasks. Clearly they were doing something wrong if they were stuck in this Groundhog’s Day-like nightmare where your life is just doing chores. I decided I would skip doing all that crap and congratulated myself for coming up with a better solution to living life than my mother. Why didn’t my parents just eat McDonald’s for dinner every night and then do whatever the fuck they wanted? They were ungrateful adults who’d traded what power and freedom they had for nighttime vacuuming. I WOULD NOT BE LIKE THEM, I WOULD ENJOY MY FREEDOMS AND NEVER TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED.

Can you imagine? The fucking audacity of children. So new and dumb and precious and totally unqualified for personhood. Somehow, I knew how to do life better than my 39-year old parents after nine long years on this planet — and absolutely thought I had my shit together when I couldn’t do long division or eat soft cheese. Now I’m older than they were when I decided to do things differently, and even though I don’t clean the house every night, I always wish I had. It sucked when I finally got it, finally understood, and could see – stretching out a thousand miles in front of me – all the tidying up and sighing I would do in the months and years to come.

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Proof of Evolution

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Current mood

We are 286 days into a world on actual fire, and I’m eating pho like it’s the secret antidote. Pho is the steaming security blanket to my current dystopian nightmares; the carbohydrate cure-all for my wintry blues; the delicious, healing constant in a world ravaged by political fuckboys and predatory weather. Eating pho is an aggressive act of self care for me; a chance to administer much-needed soup CPR. Over Vietnamese iced coffee and spicy noodle soup, I talk, brood, listen, heal, think, breathe, and just get right. No matter what state of mind I go in, I always come out better, and ready for whatever comes next.

Given our current political climate and the built-in anxiety, it’s no surprise I’ve eaten approximately 96,000 bowls of pho in the past 10 months (give or take a few bowls). Watching the world burn down around you can have that effect. Pho is the place I remember there are good things in the world while also bracing myself for it.

My first bowl of pho was not a transcendent experience. One of my best friends, Auticia, took me to a Than Brothers in Ballard, where I eyed the plate of garnishes meanly and the plate of cream puffs with confusion. Who ate these things together? There was sriracha on the table, and a giant squeeze bottle of dark mystery goo — all of which would be dumped into a bowl of broth with rice noodles, then paired with basil, bean sprouts, lime, and jalapeno. If the sriracha and jalapeno weren’t enough, there was an ominous jar of what looked like the jam equivalent of a fire alarm on the table. Why not pour gasoline directly into your mouth and then toss in a lit match? At the time, I didn’t even use black pepper because it was kinda spicy, you guys. The whole flavor mash-up was a bridge too far for this zero-star, plain-eating Queen of Mayonnaise.

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The Roaring Twenties

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When I was nine, I couldn’t wait to be in my twenties and all the question marks that entailed. At that point, most of my ideas around being an adult came from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Adventures in Babysitting. People did real-life things in their twenties, like had boyfriends and jobs and cars and stayed up way past 8pm. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I knew I wanted to get there fast. Freedom of choice, late nights, making memories, finding trouble; I couldn’t wait for the future adventures of awesome adult me.

In my thirties, I referenced my twenties like they lived next door. I’d start a story with “A few years’ back…” and later realize it had been ten. I had my first real ma’am in my thirties, where a pimply-faced worker bee scanned my face for way too long before deciding I was old enough to be ma’am-ed. I considered slashing his tires to prove how young and dumb I was, but I wasn’t that young and dumb, so I didn’t. I worried about 40 for the first time and I guess being somebody in what was now a shrinking time frame. Girls at parties said, “Oh my god, I didn’t know you were [whatever age], I thought you were [a much younger age]!” It flattered and annoyed me, these plucky young women who thought 38 was ancient and 25 was some kind of prize. I wouldn’t do 25 again, not for a lifetime supply of cheese. Was age even really that important?

In my forties, I started wondering out loud if age was really that important, and was met with mostly silence and eyerolls. I talked about my twenties with part-awe (how am I still alive after so many bad choices?? oh, me!) and part-wistfulness (remember when I could wear heels?) for all the things I thought would happen but never actually did. No older French lovers, no artist retreats, no picking up at a moment’s notice to travel the world and have adventures or explore the countryside, wherever that was. I never did – not once –  ayahuasca in the jungle with Tom Robbins or some other literary giant. None of these things happened because 1) I’m not a blond chick in a movie and 2) I was too busy barely surviving. I was broke and also broken, or at least in the process of breaking, and not for the first time. I bumbled my way through that decade, making lovely people cringe and simple things harder, never knowing what direction to go in. So far, this is what I remember most about my twenties.

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