Category Archives: nonfiction

The Parking Space Saver Vigilante

The narrow city streets were choked off even thinner by the slick, craggy piles of snow browning at the edges, and he stalked along each cowpath like a jungle cat in heat. The streetlights shined down halos on each haphazard parking job that lined the one-way road, and he had trained his eyes to catch the absence of luster from an automobile carcass. And sure enough, he saw a vacant space amongst the parallels. A ten-foot-long box of dugout powder that revealed the slush-streaked pavement underneath. And in the middle of the space sat a wobbling chair with chipping white paint that exposed the weathered wood beneath it.

His eyes hadn’t always been so astute, of course. There was a time when he accepted such strange winter furnishings. But that age of innocence had long been ripped away, ever since that fateful evening when his father had used his mother’s antique rocking chair, the one that had been built by her grandfather as a gift when she was born, to mark his own shoveled-out space while he went off to gamble at the pub. The vigilante was eight years old then, and he had been at the neighbors’ house at the time while mother attended night class at the community college. By the time that father had returned from the bar, he had forgotten about the rocking chair waiting in his space, and he accidentally backed into it with his car. For the most part, the chair remained intact, but the wood had been irreparably warped by the extreme colds of the evening, cracking the grain. It was utterly ruined.

Mother was furious when she came home. She and father spent all night screaming at each other while the young not-yet-vigilante tried to sleep in the next room.

“I busted my god damn ass shoveling out that spot, and I deserve to use it!” father shouted. And mother screamed back “There’s not even any snow left on the ground! You can’t just save your spot indefinitely! And why the hell would you use an antique, handmade rocking chair?!”

It was then that the boy became the vigilante, for he understood that mother and father would have stayed together, if not for that parking space saver. He blamed that folksy practice on his shattered childhood, and committed himself to the cause: as long as he lived, no shoveled parking space would be saved by a furniture marker. He knew that it was too late for him to save his own youth, but he refused to allow that same pain to befall any others.

And so he slinked forward on the balls of his feet, circling around his wood-chair prey, waiting for the moment to strike. When the coast was clear, and all other cars and pedestrians had passed, he lunged forward and ripped the tattered furniture from its asphalt resting place. He gripped its back with both hands, and with a bellowing cry from deep within his gut, he whipped the chair into the nearest snowbank. He watched with satisfaction as its four legs sank into the sleet pile, as little chunks of ice were disturbed from their slumber and fell like boulders from the mount, exploding when they hit the pavement.

The wintery shrapnel littered the previously vacant space, twinkling underneath the streetlights, and the vigilante knew that justice had been served.

Self-Checkout

It feels like forever while I wait for the guy buying three different kinds of organic peppers and one vine tomato to figure out how to punch in the produce code into the keypad and realize that he’s not supposed to weigh all four fucking fruits together at the same time and then I still have to watch him struggle with swiping his god damn credit card and screwing up the system that I start to consider running for office entirely on a political platform that pledges to require  all potential Self-Checkout users at the grocery store to be licensed before they can be let loose in the lines.

When he’s finally finished fucking up my evening, I step up to the machine and swipe my savings card on the score. “He-lloThome.Well-comeback.,” intones a clunky mechanical voice that vaguely resembles some concept of femininity. “How-was-the__Elli-osPiz-za__that.You.pur-chasedAt__two. Twenty-Seven. Aye-Em___To-Day?”

“Uh, fine. Thanks. Yeah.” I say. I glance around quickly to make sure no one in the line is listening to this dumb machine reminding me of last night’s regrettable drunken purchase. Although perhaps it’s not fair to say that it’s “regrettable” being that, well, I don’t actually have much recollection of it.

I scan my carton of coconut milk across the machine and wait while the dumb thing prompts me to, “Please.place-your__Coconut. Milk.___on-the-belt.” like it does every time, as if I hadn’t figured it out myself by now.

But this time, it keeps talking. “I-see.That.You.have-purchased__Coconut. Milk.__My_records.show.that-you-like.to-buy____Garelick-Farms_Whole.Milk.__Is-this.cor-rect? Please-press__*Yes*-or__*No*.” I press the little green button on the touchscreen and I can hear the people in line behind me shift their weight and sigh.

“Are-you.Di-e-ting_Thome?” the machine asks.

“No!” I say, perhaps a bit louder and more emphatic than I should have when speaking to a machine in public. I laugh nervously then turn to the little old woman behind me and say, “I’m actually just, I’m making sorbet at home tonight, for my girlfriend, so, ya know, the, um, the coconut milk is — ”

“¿Que?” she says, which is how I know she hates me.

The machine interrupts again. “Please-press__*Enter*__if.You-would.like-this.Ma-chine-to.keep-track-of-your.di-et-and-off-er-sug.Ges-tions. Press__*Exit*__if-this-is-a.one-time-pur.chase.” I poke my finger at the red button on the touch screen, then keep stabbing with my finger in angry little bursts like a drunken wasp.

“Thank-you.For.cancel-ing-your.Or-der.Please-have.A-good-day.Thome.” the machine says. I can feel the angry eyes behind me burning holes into my neck. I glance around to see if any of the staff is nearby. It turns out the coast is clear, and my coconut milk is already sitting at the other end of the conveyor belt. I smile at the little old Hispanic lady behind me, then dart down the aisle, grab my milk and make a run for it.

I’ll Fight A Whedon For You (Ode To Maurissa Tancharoen)

The first time I saw you in pony tails,
that Horrible Doctor’s fan,
I knew by your groove when you sang that tune
that I wanted to be your man.

But then your Commentary
made me Asian Aware-y
and I knew what I’d have to do:

I’ll fight a Whedon for you:
Zak, Jed, or Joss,
Yeah, you know that it’s true.
There’s more a chance
I’ll see DOLLHOUSE renewed
But it’s true:
I’ll fight a Whedon for you.

Echoes remain from that song that you sang
as Kilo the cutest Doll.
I’m too poor for STARZ or for SPARTACUS,
but you know that I’ll give you my all.

No, I’ll never yield; I’ll back AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
until Agent Coulson dies (I mean, again, like, for real this time)
You’re Pretty In Pink, I don’t care what they think
Then I saw you with another guy.

Even though you have lupus
I thought we could this
but then werewolves devoured my heart.

But I’ll fight a Whedon for you:
Zak, Jed, or Joss,
Yeah, you know that it’s true.
There’s more a chance
I’ll see DOLLHOUSE renewed
But it’s true:
I’ll fight a Whedon for you.

Did you know that our birthdays
are one day apart (except
plus or minus ten years)?
And sure, Jed is hot —
what’s he got that I’m not?
(I mean, other than a career)

So Mo, won’t you go
with me, baby, you know
we’d be cool (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

But I’ll fight a Whedon for you:
Zak, Jed, or Joss,
Yeah, you know that it’s true.
But I’ll still be here
after S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2
’cause it’s true:
I’ll fight a Whedon for you.

In Vino Veritas

My friend tells me
Theres a balance
Beam metaphor

Dont she says
Don’t look down
Those people

Her nod
Imperceptible
And flavored

With two kinds
Of red wine
At some invisible

Group of
Down lookers
They she says

Those people
Look
Down

So as we
Eye our
Prize

Fix your stare
Full steam ahead
Don’t let the whines

Go to your head

Chekhov’s Gun Registration

It’s one of the most important rules of dramatic storytelling: for before a gun
is left resting on the mantelpiece, or hanging on a wall or other inconspicuous location at the start of the story, it must be properly registered, the
characters having undergone thorough background checks before
obtaining such plot devices      and thereby        ensuring
the satisfactory resolution       of the story.        For while
it is true that the gun must       always go              off, it
must also do so with a                                           purpose, a
reason that enhances the story and ultimately delivers
some form of catharsis in
the form of a well-aimed
and well-regulated bullet.

This Is Not Creative Writing

As you may or may not know, today is Patriot’s Day, a holiday that is only celebrated within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the state that I call home. This holiday, observed on the 3rd Monday in April, commemorates the Battle of Lexington & Concord, the inciting conflict of the American Revolutionary War. In the Boston area, it’s recognized as an official state holiday, closing all businesses (and causing lots of complications on public transportation).

This has less to do with the Battle of Lexington & Concord, however, and more to do with the Boston Marathon, which sees every single citizen of the Greater Boston Area pay tribute to the occasion by intensely daydrinking along the race route.

And so “Marathon Monday,” as we locals so affectionately call it (because of the marathon daydrinking, of course; not because of the race), is one of the most highly anticipated days in the Boston calendar. The city descends into utter chaos as everyone commits themselves body and soul to the celebration of booze and America, and also booze.

And so today, free from the scheduled restrictions of my day job, I planned to accomplish a number of things, including write for this website, rather than my usual Marathon Monday routine of drinking 27 PBRs at various locations along Beacon Street throughout Brookline. Unfortunately, my plans for the afternoon were derailed once I came across the news that two bombs had been set off near the finish line on Boylston Street in the Back Bay, claiming the lives of (at this point) 2 people (including a god damn 8 year child) and injuring more than 50 others.

This all less than 4 miles from the house that I own with my partner.

So, you know, I’m rather flummoxed, to say the least. Bevin and I are safe within our home, but we are both rather freaked out right now, in a way that I have never felt before (certainly there have been greater American tragedies within my lifetime, but none so literally physically close to home).

And so I am submitting this entry because the time it takes for me to type these words offers a very momentary respite from the heartbreaking horror of what has happened here in my home city. The plans I had for today’s post shall hopefully make their way into the world next week, but for now, I hope that you and all of your loved ones are safe and well, and I (ever so agnostic despite my heavily Catholic upbringing) pray for the good fortune of those who have been directly affected by this horrible act.

In Which I Note My Reactions To Chicken & Waffles Lays, Chip By Chip

Chip One: I expect a blast of fetid, artificial syrupy-ness to hit me in the face as I open the bag. This is not the case. It smells like a bag of potato chips…and then there’s the slightest hint of maple. Like the base note of a gourmand fragrance. Or something. The first chip is not bad. It actually tastes like chicken and waffles. There’s barely a potato to be had.

Chip Two: This one I give to my husband. He has a similar reaction, except maybe without the comparison to perfume.

Chip Three: I want these chips to win! I check the bag to see if I can vote for them on Facebook. I honestly don’t want to live in a world without Chicken & Waffles potato chips. I can’t believe I am thinking like this.

Chip Four: I’m starting to wonder just what I’m eating. I mean, I’m not hyper-vigilant about my food, obviously, since I have willingly purchased these chips and am eating them as my husband and I walk across the parking lot and get back in the car. But I have to wonder what they’re doing to make these chips taste like chicken and waffles. I read the ingredients aloud. There’s nothing I don’t recognize. But my husband points out that “chicken flavoring” is pretty fucking suspicious-sounding. I am forced to agree.

Chip Five: I was really looking forward to the film version of Les Misérables. I didn’t want to see it right when it came out, because I didn’t want to deal with crowds and lines, so I waited a bit, knowing that it would be just a little more special for my having waited. And then a bit of a ways into it, I started checking my watch (well, my iPhone that I use as a watch) to see how much longer I was going to have to sit there. I guess what I’m saying is that this is how I am now feeling about this bag of chips.

Chip Six: It’s not entirely accurate to refer to this as the sixth chip. What I am facing here are a bunch of umber-dusted chip fragments, which I am forcing myself to eat while thinking that once upon a time, in my twenties (which was about twenty years ago), when I was smoking prodigious amounts of totally non-habit-forming marijuana, these would have been UTTERLY AMAZING. Now I can feel my forty-something body, with its increasingly sensitive digestive system, setting itself up for revolt. Do we still have Pepto in the bathroom cabinet? Think, girl…THINK.

Chip Seven: I hand the rest of the bag to my husband and await lower intestinal oblivion.