Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Napkin

I salt my napkin. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. My husband is used to this, and after years of marriage, after years of going out to eat, he now does it as well. It’s simple: Your drink arrives with a little cocktail napkin. You thank your server, and then you reach for the salt shaker, pick up your drink,
and shakeshake a little salt on your napkin, and for the rest of the evening, your drink won’t stick to that napkin. But when I am with people who don’t make it a habit to dine with me, it’s as if I’ve performed some kind of obscure pagan ritual, something so completely foreign it’s as if they are looking at me with new eyes, like, ohmyjesusgod what else does she do – paint herself with chicken blood? And I say, I do it so my drink won’t stick to my napkin, and there’s this moment of stunned silence. And then – gratitude. Because I’ve given them something. They reach for the shaker, they salt their napkins, and then they pick up and put down their drinks over and over again, thrilled, much like babies who’ve figured out how to transport Cheerios from their chubby fists into their mouths. Every time. I tell them that I learned this from my grandfather. And I realize this is what it means to be immortal.

I raise my glass to Big Neil, and the napkin stays on the table.

Bus stop

We’re all waiting for the bus: The girl who wears rubber boots through the whole winter, the guy who works at the Ruby Tuesday’s, the eight-year-old kid who takes the bus to his school five blocks up. Each morning a group of us, give or take a few, come out here and hover around the bench that ices over in the winter, burns through fabric in the summer. It is useless for any purpose other than hovering.

The guy with the stubble and the red Columbia jacket is late today. He’s always running late, his eyes droopy and his hair a mess that he covers with a hat when he catches his reflection in the window of the Indian restaurant behind us. He and his fiancee have usually been going at it until two or three in the morning, and not in the good way. Not in the way you’d expect a handsome couple such as them to be going at it. I only know this because he’s been getting more frantic, and once I heard him on the phone with who I gathered was his sister. I thought, How sweet, that he was on the phone with his sister. I imagine she lives in the Midwest and stirs pots of boiling soup while her baby brother tells her about the falling apart of his engagement. I imagine picking up those pieces for him. I’d love to meet that sister some day, to have her tell me that she’s so glad I came along when I did. That her brother was going through rough times and she’s never seen him so happy.

I’m listening to a song about a girl telling someone she loves that he should probably start writing love letters to someone else. She’s giving him permission and it sounds sweet, but there’s also a bit of accusation in it, like she expects this is what he wants and she’s blaming him for it. Even though she’s the one telling him to move on, telling him she can’t be in this relationship.

The bus is a block away from us; I’m bummed Stubbly Columbia won’t make it today. I love watching the back of his head rock with the bus, the music in my ear like a soundtrack. Then there he is, rounding the corner with a coffee cup in his hand. He’s running so fast that the coffee’s spilling on his ungloved hand, and I wince, wondering how hot it must feel.

You getting on? the bus driver says.

I step onto the bus in answer. Wait, that guy’s coming, too.

What guy? The driver goes to close the door, but Stubble is so close, so droopy-eyed and covered in hot coffee that I can’t let him just miss the bus. Not today. He was probably up all night, and the stress of being late to work on top of falling out of love with a woman you once thought you’d marry, it’s just too much.

Wait! I know I shouldn’t do it, but I grab the driver’s hand on that lever and I squeeze tight.

Hey, lady! What are you doing? He yells other things, and I’m yelling things and we’re in this dance until Stubble climbs in behind me.

He’s out of breath and trying to shake the coffee off of his arm, so it takes him a moment to realize what he’s walked into.

Get off this bus, right now! The driver has my hand gripped in his in what could be mistaken for a moment of passion, out of context. I retrieve my hand from his, straighten my skirt against my shaking legs. Stubble has stepped into the bus behind me and I step off, back onto the sidewalk. The adrenaline is still in my blood, and the wisps of a migraine stir in the top of my skull.

Haiku Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, part 1

Book 5!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Chapter 1: Dudley Demented

Dudley’s soul almost
face-sucked out. Mrs. Figg knows
Harry’s a wizard?!?

Chapter 2: A Peck of Owls

Harry gets expelled;
his aunt explains dementors;
Dudley voms on porch.

Plus foreshadowing,
yelling, a bit of intrigue,
and so many owls.

Chapter 3: The Advance Guard

Hodgepodge wizard pack
lies to Harry’s guardians
and fly him away.

Moody, Lupin, Tonks,
Shacklebolt; how does Rowling
come up with these names?

Chapter 4: Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place

Who’s a little prat?
Harry is. He’s finally
with friends and flips out.

Chapter 5: The Order of the Phoenix

Sirius explains
the Order, updates Harry
on Voldemort news.

Chapter 6: The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

Summer spring cleaning:
Grimmauld Place dolled up; house-elf
Kreacher hates Hermy.

Younger brother Black
is dead Death Eater. Blacks and
Malfoys: related!

Chapter 7: The Ministry of Magic

Apparently it’s
Take Your Youngest Son’s Best Friend
Harry To Work Day.

Chapter 8: The Hearing

Cornelius Fudge:
pretty much the wizarding
world’s own Judge Judy.

Dumbledore and Figg
to the rescue! Harry is
saved from expulsion.

Chapter 9: The Woes of Mrs. Weasley

Ron, Hermy: prefects!
Mommy Molly Weasley’s fear:
her family dead.

Chapter 10: Luna Lovegood

Only Harry and
Loony Luna Lovegood can
see weird bat-horses.

Chapter 11: The Sorting Hat’s New Song

Who is this Umbridge
joker, and why is Seamus
suddenly a tool?

Chapter 12: Professor Umbridge

Umbridge is a bitch.
She gives Harry detention
for telling the truth.

Chapter 13: Detention With Dolores

Harry gets “I must not
tell lies” tattooed on his hand
during detention.

Chapter 14: Percy and Padfoot

Sirius speaks through
fireplace. Percy sends Ron mail,
condemns Dumbledore.

Chapter 15: The Hogwarts High Inquisitor

Ministry passes
stricter school laws. Umbridge starts
reviewing the profs.

People seem perturbed
by Umbridge’s promotion;
Hermy has a plan…

Chapter 16: In the Hog’s Head

Hermy convinces
Harry to head up secret
dark arts defense club.

Less than legal club
formed in dingy side street pub?
Nothing could go wrong!

Chapter 17: Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four

All Hogwarts clubs banned,
including those recently
started up in bars.

Sirius attempts
firespeaking with Harry, has
near miss with Umbridge.

Chapter 18: Dumbledore’s Army

Start with the basics:
Harry teaches Dumbledore’s
Army to disarm.

Chapter 19: The Lion and the Serpent

Harry and the twins
are banned from Quidditch for life
post-punching Malfoy.

Make sure you come back
next week when we finally
learn where Hagrid’s been!

Fives Rules for Bicyclists

1). Bike with the flow of traffic, not against it. Sure, it’s nice to know when there’s a car coming, instead of having them sneak up from behind it, but you’re also a 180-pound guy riding two wheels on a small metal frame without a helmet. And when you terrify the driver of the car by heading straight at him and he swerves the car in panic and accidentally drives right into you, you’re still a 180-pound guy riding two wheels on a small frame without a helmet. Except now, you’re not only dead, you’re a dumbass.

    1a). Biking the wrong way down the bike lane  when there are (1) directional arrows painted on the pavement specifying the direction in which you are supposed to be biking, and (2) other bicycles going the correct  way down the already-narrow lane — which means they are also heading straight at you and oh yeah if you swerve into the next lane to avoid them you’re going to ride straight into the headlights of an oncoming car — is, well, also pretty stupid.

2). The Idaho Stop is a wonderful new concept, wherein bicyclists adhering to state regulated traffic laws are allowed to treat Stop signs as Yield signs, and red lights as Stop signs.

    Things this means: bicyclists are allowed to continue through a stop signs without making complete stops, only if they are certain there is no other traffic coming. Bicyclists are also allowed to continue through red lights, only after coming to a complete stop and making sure that there is no oncoming traffic from the cross street that currently has the green light.
    Things this doesn’t mean: Whatever fuck those cars anyway man I’m on a bike dude I can totally kick your ass and blow a perpendicular path through six lanes of traffic during rush hours ’cause those stupid cars are gonna stop for me anyway and I don’t care if they have to slam on their brakes or whatever and totally get rear-ended by the guy behind them because he thought they were going ’cause I’m on a fucking bike with a fixed gear and no protection whatsoever so obviously I have the right of way and all you stupid polluting dumbass cars should stop for me anyway ’cause you’re stupid and stuff stupid cars

3). Helmets. They totally fuck up your mohawk, amirite? Just like splitting your skull open on the pavement and having your brains smeared under vulcanized Good Year tires then wiped off like road kill and tossed into a grassy ditch next to the freeway.

Totally sucks, brah.

4). There is nothing wrong a leisurely bicycle stroll on a quaint and lovely Sunday afternoon. There is everything wrong with a leisurely bicycle stroll down the middle of the designated bicycle path with no way to get around you on either side when I’m trying to get to work right now, asshole. There is even more than everything wrong with doing this on a major road without bike lanes during commuter rush hour when I’m stuck behind you and surrounded by a gazillion angry cars with blaring horns of destruction.

    4.5/2). It’s okay to bike at a moderate pace. I realize that not everyone has the same incredibly toned calves that I do. And I do appreciate your efforts to keep to the right and allow me to pass you, like I did on the last block. But see how I’m stopped at a light right now? Oh — wait, no, you just blew through the light and zipped right past me. That’s okay, I’ll just pass you again on the next block, because you’re slow as hell and it’s easy for me to catch up with you. Oh, look! Here I am, stopped at yet another light like a good bicycle. Why, hello there, friend that that I have already passed twice in the last 3 blocks! How are you? Oh, nevermind, you just biked right past me and ran through another red light and caused a three-car pile-up.

    And here I am, passing you again, because even when you’re endangering the lives of others, you’re still fucking slow.

5). But seriously? DON’T BE A DICK.

Warning Signs

It starts (as it always does start)
with a solitary roamer.
Sometimes, it’s someone
you know: the town drunk, perhaps,
which creates knowing
chuckles at first and merits
no real cause for alarm.

Someone hollers at the roamer,
perhaps with jocular familiarity
(and again, this depends on whether
you recognize the roamer).
The roamer lurches and staggers
and as it gets closer you see that
it’s no one you know, or maybe
someone you know, only really
green around the gills, and this is
usually the point
at which


I don’t really have to tell you
how it goes from there.

I will say that a hardware
store is your best bet
in terms of at least temporary
shelter, stocked as it is
with inflammatory substances
and sharp implements.

I will say that your odds
of survival are better if
you’re hysterical at the outset.
Don’t ask me why.

I will say that you can smell
them coming long before you’ll
see them, depending on where
you are, of course, and whether
it’s an open or closed primary.