Month: May 2016

Pineapple: On Speaking in Love.

(It’s a theory or a truth that when)

We say “I love…” we are rolling out the beginning to test what will follow.  To see if the funny movement that is toppling around our insides can be explained–

if the mouth agrees and perpetuates.

“I love…


I test to see if this formula will solidify my final thought on the matter.

When pineapple ends, does the mouth move around the fruit’s name like it belongs there?  Does it twist with the thought of the tang and smirk at the edges with the sweet?  Does the mouth wish it wasn’t the name but the thing itself?

We test “I love…” out to know that the mouth and the face agree with the heart and the brain.


Like when I tried it on you.

When I told you I love you, the mouth knew instantly it was true, because it did not want only the sound of you hovering in front of its lips, but you.  And the ears agreed, too, because they wanted to hear only you from then on.

And this “I love…” test was the most successful in all of history.  And the heart rests easy.

(because not everything can just be spoken into existence.)

Primordial Goop: On Nobody Burning Forever

I am having trouble with the Primordial Goop.  Maybe in the same way I am having trouble with all of my unborn.  But the bracket of Heaven is fluctuating, again, like some sort of Eternal March Madness, with religions and sciences and pure human emotions pitted against each other for the highest stake of Forever Not Burning.  And it doesn’t seem like any amount of buying the right pennant or concocting the right bet is getting anyone any closer to pearly gates– it’s only keeping everyone else out.  And no one seems any better able to explain it than I am able to use sports metaphors.  Which is to say, it ends here.


“I wonder if Josh got what he wanted, or if we did,” I said to my Someone as we drove from Montpelier to Burlington, Vermont, through a sunset vaguely reminiscent of the one I watched three days after Josh’s death.  I had been fighting that sinking feeling that there wasn’t another sunset I hadn’t seen, not another urge to fight for or against any more religion, not a single meal I hadn’t already eaten.  I was beginning to feel the Earth as a bit of a disappointment, and wondering what exit strategy was being manufactured for me.

“I wonder if when people commit suicide, if they really get to move on and feel nothing and be in the Nothing to escape here, or if everyone who loves them gets what they want– to see them again in Heaven or the After,” I continued, “because it seems like the two are mutually exclusive.”

Then, as if in response to my morbid despondency, a tall, free standing rock formation stretched itself into view in the center of the highway.  It was beautiful– like I had never seen before.  Always when I am close to reconciling Josh’s suicide or my own sadness, out grows another fucking reason to live in the middle of the road.

“Which is better?” my Someone asked.

“I guess if it’s between feeling Nothing and feeling Everything, it’s not a fair choice.”


But even if there is a choice, and Josh got to go to the Nothing and I get to go to see my friends, I worry that we will be disappointed, anyway.  Because if the Heaven I was raised on is right, there will be more love and inclusion happening in Hell.  Sure, the blisters would be significantly more, too, but maybe there would be more consolation in the harmony of screams from ourselves and our loved ones echoing down the fiery cavernous halls than sitting on clouds at a feast they weren’t allowed in.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason some Christians hate the idea of Evolution isn’t because it warps with the idea of how God chose to start the Universe, but because it is already so difficult trying to keep 6,000-10,000 years worth of people out of an already crowded Heaven.  If there are more years to tack on– not just a couple hundred, but millions– how can that floating mass of Heaven actually hold everyone up?  And what do we do about Neanderthals?  If we are going to include the uncountable number of aborted babies and miscarriages and all the other sentimental allowances we make for pre-found-Jesus people, accepting Evolution would force us also to consider the Primordial Goop.  And I am so worried about accidentally stepping on the Goop.  And if we count the Goop, maybe there’s more to All Dogs Go to Heaven than we thought, too.


In a parking lot outside of Burlington, my Someone and I checked in with our wiser-by-the-day pal, Ryan.  I told him about the sadness and the Goop and the suicide.  He said maybe Heaven looks more like everyone gets therapy on arrival.  But God is the therapist.  And then no one is sick in their hearts, anymore, which means we can all be there.  Kind of like we are trying to do here.  Which means Josh will learn to love not being in the Nothing.  And I will learn to love everyone I kind of have a hard time with here.

It’s a tremendous amount of work checking every Heavenly Visa, and I doubt St. Peter gets paid hourly.  I wonder if it might just be worth it to let everyone in.  Goop and all.

Baking Cookies and Writing Songs: On Fighting the Fear of Losing.

“No, no, I can’t do cards.  I’ll pay you later, but I can’t do cards,” Cindy said.  I was packing up the last of my instruments, all smiles and goodwill floating through the small cafe in Utica, New York.

“Just hit us back whenever,” I told her, “the CD is yours.”

“Yeah, you see, I just dug myself out of serious credit card debt,” she explained to me.  “It took me three years– I’ve had absolutely no life.”

“Congratulations,” I said, “that sounds hard.”

“Yeah, see, I got myself into this mess.  I got cancer, you know.  Thought I was going to die.  Spent all kinds of money thinking, I don’t know, someone else is going to pay for it.  Maybe him–” she nods over to who I assume is her partner.  “–so I just keep spending.  I wracked up $10,000 on one credit card alone, just spending it on vet bills and things for my hundred dogs.”

“That’s crazy!” I conceded, not sure if I meant the $10,000 or the hundred dogs.

“Yeah, see I went nuts.  You think you’re gonna die and you got nuts.  So I dug myself a hole.”  And then, with the long pause and knowing look of a good punchline delivery, Cindy looked me in the eye–

“…but then, I lived.”


My Someone and I have been lately rattling around in our own brains trying to singularly create the best song ever written.  Even though we’ve built our little band and our little lives over the course of five years together, lately we spend our time nosing around our own journal pages, jotting down secret entries and zipping up our secret thoughts from our mouths so that somehow we can carve out creative independence.  The process has been exhausting.  We come to the dinner table and the stage and the morning walks in Vermont or New York or Pennsylvania frustrated and gaping, but still unwilling to concede to the other’s help.  Not really. We put on the reuse of asking for each other’s opinion, but the process itself has been divided.  And we are suffering for it.

I have this theory that we are in the process of spying on our Alone Selves.  Since we moved into our little 16′ home on wheels more than a year ago, we can easily tally the hours we have spent apart.  It’s less than 20.  Our new strategy is based on the old fear: the fear of losing.  The fear of being lost.  The fear of alone-ness.  Whereas before we fought the fear by togetherness, squeezing out those bits of words and thoughts with trust and vulnerability, now we fight it with projection and speculation.  We fight it with resignation of the inevitable.  One of these days, one of us will lose the other to the Ground or the Nothing or the Eternal.

How do we cope with this sadness?  We live as though we have already lost.  We prove to ourselves that we can successfully write a song alone.  We tear at the fickle curtain between having it all and losing everything by releasing less of ourselves to the other.  Keeping fewer limbs out in the way of getting hurt.  I keep some things just for me.  He keeps some things just for him.  To store away for our Future Selves– markers and spaces that we were always able to live and write and eat alone.  And all the while we are coping with the loss of our future, we are losing, losing, losing our present.

We are wracking up a debt so big, and hoping the other will clean it up when we are gone.  We are fighting how big our love can grow.


“Aaron’s out of town,” Bryan said, “which means that I am baking chocolate chip cookies.”  And then, as if caught in a lie, he corrected himself, “Even if Aaron was here, I would still be baking chocolate chip cookies.  But, you know, it’s different.”

As I slowly unraveled my anxiety to him over the next hour, I pictured Bryan moving around his kitchen, a slow meditation of baking soda and chocolate chips and flour.  It is different, baking still and quiet with a long distance friend on the line and no one coming through the door to smell what you have cooking up.  It is the same movement, the same recipe as when you have an adoring and salivating mouth waiting in the next room to take a bite.  But, you know, it’s different.  Should Aaron suddenly appear home on a surprise flight, those warm gooey meditations would be shared and appreciated and loved.  Bryan is faithful to the ritual.  But Bryan knows how to make room when room is needing to be made.  And Bryan will wipe down the counters and load the dishwasher regardless of Aaron coming home in minutes or days.  Bryan’s Alone Self doesn’t sneak in to change what Bryan’s Loving Self does.  Bryan’s Future Self look just like his Present Self.


Two nights ago before sleep after a long day of fighting writing and embracing rest, I turned to my Someone.

“What if we wrote songs together?” I said, as if it had never occurred to me before.  As if we hadn’t written every note of our lives in a tangled, wonderful weave.

“What a great idea!” he said, as if he, too, had never thought of it.

And in this way, we are chipping away at that image of our Future Selves, paying down its debt.  Sleeping and waking and still unsure of how to fight the fear, other than to leave less room between us for it to settle in.

Is That Poop?: On Proper Identification

“Is that poop?” I say.

“Hmmmm.  That’s a tough one,” my Someone responds.

“Better consult Ryan?” I ask, pulling out my phone.

“Yeah.  This seems like a good case for him,” my Someone says thoughtfully.

This is one of our favorite games.  Aside from Walk Around the Table, which consists of walking around a table and having our 88 pound dog plod behind us wagging her tail til we are all dizzy, or My Hand’s a Spider, which is just what it sounds like– complete with the ticklish terror of the creature when it finds its way into the unsuspecting armpit– Is That Poop? is a family favorite.

The rules are pretty straight forward.

  1.  Take a walk.  Or just happen to be walking.  Cities, forest– it doesn’t matter.  The game can be all the time.
  2. Accidentally happen upon an unidentified glob in the sidewalk/in the grass/on the side of a building.
  3. Ask the question, “Is that poop?” to your walking partner.
  4. If you are not certain, text a picture to your consenting friends.  If you are incredibly certain, and the audacity of the situation is too much not to share, text a picture to your consenting friends.

Truthfully, once you know about the game, it’s difficult not to see it.  Impossible not to ask the question.


It was a couple months ago when we heard the news of El Caganer.  Our jaws dropped in disbelief.  Translated literally as “the shitter,” El Caganer is a figurine placed in nativity scenes throughout Europe.  Our disbelief was not that it existed, but that somehow, as active shit seekers, we had missed this.  The podcast continued, complete with a long historical rundown of Dutch realist painters including Phantom Poopers (surfacing as dogs or people or even squirrels) in works that hang everywhere from the common household to Buckingham Palace.  Somewhere, propriety ordered that these crass creatures be painted over.  And now, they are scraping back those faux bushes and trees to again reveal the Poopers.  Silence filled the truck.  And then, I turned to my Someone–

“Was that poop?”


Last night we rented a movie that my mom hated as we ate a gluten free version of my favorite childhood pizza.  It dealt with Maggie Smith as a homeless van lady who encroached on a single, not-even-well-meaning writer, wrapped untidily with existential crisis and social responsibility.  And at the pinnacle of the movie, we watched the man scrape Maggie Smith’s shit from his shoe and the side of his trash can.  He concluded that caring means shit.  A lot of it.

I considered how many diapers my mother alone compacted after four children.  I considered how many bags my Someone and I have filled in our responsibility to clean up after our dog.  I considered the two step process we engage in at least once a week as we empty our black water tank into the belly of the earth.  I considered what our futures might look like when we lose control of what other people consider their dignity.  I considered that maybe the presence of shit doesn’t indicate lack of dignity so much as it indicates a fullness of life.  Out and smelly and unavoidably there for us to consider the unpleasant questions: Where did it come from?  Where is it going next?


Those early artists in Europe didn’t just include the unsightly El Caganer as a gag.  Although Poop Jokes are clearly still the funniest.  They were trying to communicate how nothing was off limits.  That Baby Jesus was not above sleeping next to a giant wad of shit along with the rest of us.  Fear not.  And also that everything has an end, that every cycle will run its course, often simultaneously with the beginning of the course.  It’s why we brought our bathrooms indoors as quickly as we figured out running water.  Because for all of our put togetherness, we are always happily among the Pooper.  And, a couple times a day if we eat enough greens, are the Pooper.

Old banana peel, Ryan texted back.

“Dang,” said my Someone.

“Maybe next time,” I said.  Only a minute passed–

“Wait, is that poop?”