Category Archives: Essay

#1 – For Cubs Fans Who Encourage Me to Root for The Cubs in the Playoffs

Today is our third birthday! To celebrate, we have been counting down the top-ten most-read posts from the last year. This one is not only the most popular piece we published last year, but by far the most popular piece we’ve ever published. Never underestimate how big the anti-bandwagon is.

 

Hey Guys!calvin-disc-1-cubs_01

My my my, you have been working over time trying to convince me to root for your Cubbies. It’s cool that you’re excited. The Cubs haven’t given you much to be excited about and I get it. You just don’t know how to handle all of this pure joy. While I appreciate the invite allow me to explain why I am turning down your offer.

Few things first: I am a White Sox fan. I also recognize that the Cubs are a better team than the White Sox both on and off the field. Theo Epstein is a genius that should quit baseball and solve world hunger through the use of sabermetrics. I don’t know how that would work but I’m sure he could do it. The Cubs roster is filled with young, talented, and gritty players that are fun to watch. Joe Maddon is like your neighbor’s cool uncle that comes through town in his hippy van every summer with a different girlfriend and let’s you smoke weed with him while he talks about how Burning Man used to awesome before it went commercial. They are an enviable team set up for long-term success.

That being said, Fuck The Cubs. Why? Glad you asked.

1) I Don’t Care About Your Dead Grandpa.

I’ve heard, “C’mon Cubbies! Let’s do it for Grandpa! I know he’s watching from heaven” or a variation of that quote on Facebook, on sports radio, in person, etc a thousand times. The Cubs are not winning it all for your grandpa. Javier Baez gives no shits about your grandpa. Anthony Rizzo gives no shits about your grandpa. Cubs fans act as if the Cubs winning the World Series will unleash a zombie horde of their dead relatives to help them celebrate the title. I understand the connection between family and sports. I have a lot of great memories of going to games with my grandparents. I also have a lot of great memories of my grandparents that don’t involve sports at all. If the only connection you had with your grandpa was baseball, he was probably a shitty grandpa and he deserves nothing. Continue reading


#3 – Why It Matters That Harley Quinn & Joker’s Relationship Is Abusive

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Our third anniversary is tomorrow! We are counting down the top-ten most-read posts from the last year.

 

Harley Quinn and the Joker’s relationship is abusive. It has been from the beginning, way back in Batman the Animated Series. In her second appearance ever, Joker force-feeds her fish after she tells him she can’t eat it and she throws up. Later in the series Joker gets mad at her for stepping on his joke and he throws her out a window. There is no way to read this any other way. This relationship appears equally toxic in the comics and video games that feature the couple. Joker hits Harley, tries to kill her, insults her and dehumanizes her constantly, then says something sweet the next minute and she believes she’s in love. It’s one of the most honest artistic portrayals of the dynamics of an abusive relationship I’ve ever seen.

In the dumpster fire that is the new Suicide Squad movie, Harley and Joker’s relationship has been edited to appear more progressive and mutually respectful. I say edited because apparently the film was originally written and shot in line with the canon abusive narrative and then because of the studio’s fear of coming across too dark, the movie was re-edited to make Joker seem not so bad. He looks out for her. He tries to save her. He doesn’t try to kill her on camera at any point.
Continue reading


#7 – THIS THING CALLED LIFE – Prince and the Nature of Collective Grief

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As we approach our third anniversary on February 6th, we are counting down the top-ten most-read posts from the last year.

 


When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.


William Shakespeare – Julius Caesar


“Style ain’t sittin’ court side with the owner of the team
Style is owning the court and charging ’em all a fee
Style is not lusting after someone because they’re cool
Style is loving yourself ’til everyone else does 2 “

Prince – “Style”



It was just hours since the news of Prince’s death had been released, and social media was already filled to the brim with shock, news stories, remembrances, and a massive outpouring of grief. I was behind the counter at the shop where I work, listening to every Prince song I had on iTunes, which thankfully was several hours worth, when two women walked in. They were fairly unassuming Pearl District types, which by Portland standards generally means freshly scrubbed, gluten-free, Barre workouts, and a mild aversion to tipping. That’s all fine for what it is, but I only mention it because it tempered my expectations for the interaction. They were around my age and nice, and we fell right away into casual, friendly conversation. We were talking as I rang them up, and just then the song “Purple Rain” came on the speakers. The woman who was paying froze, and her face began to twist with pain, her cheeks flushing and her eyes filling with water. “Oh my God,” she said. “I haven’t heard any Prince songs yet today. Oh my God I’m so sad. I can’t believe it, I’m going to cry.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Real, wet, hard tears, right there in front of the register. She wiped her eyes, embarrassed, but that didn’t stop them from coming. In fact, they seemed to flow even harder. Her friend touched her arm, and said “Oh honey,” and she had tears in her eyes too. And then there I was, raw from too little sleep, and those warm, sweet opening chords filling the room and Prince’s wounded but upright voice singing earnest lyrics about sorrow and pain and laughter, which had certainly made me weep before in other distant personal circumstances, and I too felt my throat tighten and tears burning my eyes. The three of us stood there suspended together for a moment, the only ones in the whole place, as the song rose into its gospel-infused chorus, between us the absolute encapsulation of grace and beauty and loss, and the guts and talent it takes to give such a gorgeous gift to the world.

“Unbelievable,” she muttered, sniffling and doing her best to gather herself. We all looked at each other wiping our eyes and laughed. I handed the woman her change, and she said thank you with a trembling smile that I will never forget, and they turned and walked out together, leaving me there, shaking and laughing to myself as the rest of the song played out.

Later, when I thought about what had happened, there were a number of surprising things about it. Firstly, I had not expected a moment of such unbounded intimacy over the far-out, sexed-up artiste. Not there, certainly not with them. I mean, I suppose when I saw them I unconsciously expected them to not care that much. They didn’t seem like outwardly sensitive or musical people, or that the music of Prince would be anything more than a distant soundtrack to their lives, no different from any other dusty, cracked CD in a box in the basement. But then, of course it was. He was such a massive musical force, his divine gift was to create the kind of music that transcended any and all boundaries. It was so contagious, so potent, so emotionally resonant that it made its way into even the most obscure cracks and corners of the world, filling them with his wild, transcendent soul. Continue reading


Why It Matters that Harley Quinn & Joker’s Relationship Is Abusive

 

the-joker-and-harley-quinnstill-a-better-love-story-than-twilight-for-joker-and-harley-quinn-321zjlyx8qdck0k0p6xhca
Harley Quinn and the Joker’s relationship is abusive. It has been from the beginning, way back in Batman the Animated Series. In her second appearance ever, Joker force-feeds her fish after she tells him she can’t eat it and she throws up. Later in the series Joker gets mad at her for stepping on his joke and he throws her out a window. There is no way to read this any other way. This relationship appears equally toxic in the comics and video games that feature the couple. Joker hits Harley, tries to kill her, insults her and dehumanizes her constantly, then says something sweet the next minute and she believes she’s in love. It’s one of the most honest artistic portrayals of the dynamics of an abusive relationship I’ve ever seen.

In the dumpster fire that is the new Suicide Squad movie, Harley and Joker’s relationship has been edited to appear more progressive and mutually respectful. I say edited because apparently the film was originally written and shot in line with the canon abusive narrative and then because of the studio’s fear of coming across too dark, the movie was re-edited to make Joker seem not so bad. He looks out for her. He tries to save her. He doesn’t try to kill her on camera at any point.
Continue reading


26 Things Emotionally Strong People Do

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1. Emotionally Strong people are less discouraged by the stresses and discouragements of life than people who aren’t Emotionally Strong people.

2. Emotionally Strong people are able to unemotionally express their emotional needs.

3. Emotionally Strong people don’t focus on the hurdle itself, but on the nourishing Light near and around and on the hurdle.

4. Emotionally strong people eat correctly and exercise the right, and correct way.

5. Emotionally Strong people are able to recover quickly from the emotionally harmful nature of emotional wounds i.e. rejection, failure, or when Whole Foods is out of umeboshi paste.

6. Emotionally strong people get the amount of sleep they need, and understand how to best navigate their own specific and Loving sleep patterns.
Continue reading


THE LIGHT LET IN – On Being Sweet and Earnest: A Correspondence With Kelly Sundberg (Part 1)

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Kelly Sundberg and I became Facebook friends a little over a year go, after I read her beautiful essay on The Rumpus, which led me to her already widely celebrated essay in Guernica, “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” (selected by Ariel Levy for the Best American Essays 2015 anthology.) Her blog, Apology Not Accepted, featuring essays by her and occasional guest contributors, focuses primarily on life as a survivor of abuse and the many issues that surround it – from institutional complicity, to dealing with anger and resentment, to finding fellowship, to learning how to thrive as much as survive.

Kelly is an amazing writer and does powerful, important work, but she’s also a lot of fun. She’s self-deprecating and unapologetically silly, and I immediately felt a kinship with her as someone who had lived through some deeply traumatic and painful life experiences, and through arduous self-reflection and courage, emerged kind and whole and full of a certain unmistakable lightness – the lightness of hard-earned wisdom, and having survived something potentially unsurvivable. “Some days, I am the light let in by my wounds,” she wrote in the Rumpus essay. There are those days where everything seems impossible, when the damage resurfaces and makes us raw and uncertain, and it feels like it hurts too much to even exist. But on most other days, life is so much easier, so much less dire, because we have lived through the worst thing we will ever know – or so we hope. And that’s the key here – hope. What killed me faster than anything during my long alcoholic slide was not the shame and guilt and violent recklessness, but the utter hopelessness that it would ever get better.

Of course, living life on life’s terms still always has its share of bumps. Some awkward, painful moments can come out of just trying to have ordinary daily human experiences, but it usually works out just fine if you are willing to find the humor in it. Continue reading


The Wind Cries Stacy

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 IF you are a boy growing up in Cook County, you do not get to pick which baseball team you will become a fan of. It is preordained. If your father is a Cubs fan, you’ll be a Cubs fan. If your father likes the White Sox, you’ll like the White Sox. If your father doesn’t like baseball, you’re probably going to get the shit kicked out of you because you throw like a girl.

My Dad is a White Sox fan, so I am indeed a White Sox fan though I don’t think that’s the only reason. I also hated the Cubs because of all the day games they played. I remember coming home from an exhausting day at Catholic School, looking forward to kicking back with an Aldi brand cola, and an episode of “Duck Tales” only to turn on Channel 9 to find the Cubs losing by 5 in the top of the 6th while Haray Carey went on about how the donut he ate for breakfast reminded him of his childhood pal Hank Parsons who would later be killed in the Korean conflict.

Since my Dad worked nights he was able to take my older brother Matt and I to plenty of day games over the summer at Old Comiskey Park. This was the easiest way for him to drink beer in public while also looking like a model father.

Old Comiskey in the late 80s was a sight to behold. The ballpark itself was fine, the scoreboard was interesting, but the people were awesome. They looked like rejects from a Poison video. The dudes wore tight acid wash jeans and their shirts were forever sleeveless. They tailgated in their Camaro’s , drinking Old Style and playing air guitar along with back to back Van Halen courtesy of 97.9 the Loop. Continue reading


THIS THING CALLED LIFE: Prince and the Nature of Collective Grief

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When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.


William Shakespeare – Julius Caesar


“Style ain’t sittin’ court side with the owner of the team
Style is owning the court and charging ’em all a fee
Style is not lusting after someone because they’re cool
Style is loving yourself ’til everyone else does 2 “

Prince – “Style”



It was just hours since the news of Prince’s death had been released, and social media was already filled to the brim with shock, news stories, remembrances, and a massive outpouring of grief. I was behind the counter at the shop where I work, listening to every Prince song I had on iTunes, which thankfully was several hours worth, when two women walked in. They were fairly unassuming Pearl District types, which by Portland standards generally means freshly scrubbed, gluten-free, Barre workouts, and a mild aversion to tipping. That’s all fine for what it is, but I only mention it because it tempered my expectations for the interaction. They were around my age and nice, and we fell right away into casual, friendly conversation. We were talking as I rang them up, and just then the song “Purple Rain” came on the speakers. The woman who was paying froze, and her face began to twist with pain, her cheeks flushing and her eyes filling with water. “Oh my God,” she said. “I haven’t heard any Prince songs yet today. Oh my God I’m so sad. I can’t believe it, I’m going to cry.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Real, wet, hard tears, right there in front of the register. She wiped her eyes, embarrassed, but that didn’t stop them from coming. In fact, they seemed to flow even harder. Her friend touched her arm, and said “Oh honey,” and she had tears in her eyes too. And then there I was, raw from too little sleep, and those warm, sweet opening chords filling the room and Prince’s wounded but upright voice singing earnest lyrics about sorrow and pain and laughter, which had certainly made me weep before in other distant personal circumstances, and I too felt my throat tighten and tears burning my eyes. The three of us stood there suspended together for a moment, the only ones in the whole place, as the song rose into its gospel-infused chorus, between us the absolute encapsulation of grace and beauty and loss, and the guts and talent it takes to give such a gorgeous gift to the world.

“Unbelievable,” she muttered, sniffling and doing her best to gather herself. We all looked at each other wiping our eyes and laughed. I handed the woman her change, and she said thank you with a trembling smile that I will never forget, and they turned and walked out together, leaving me there, shaking and laughing to myself as the rest of the song played out.

Later, when I thought about what had happened, there were a number of surprising things about it. Firstly, I had not expected a moment of such unbounded intimacy over the far-out, sexed-up artiste. Not there, certainly not with them. I mean, I suppose when I saw them I unconsciously expected them to not care that much. They didn’t seem like outwardly sensitive or musical people, or that the music of Prince would be anything more than a distant soundtrack to their lives, no different from any other dusty, cracked CD in a box in the basement. But then, of course it was. He was such a massive musical force, his divine gift was to create the kind of music that transcended any and all boundaries. It was so contagious, so potent, so emotionally resonant that it made its way into even the most obscure cracks and corners of the world, filling them with his wild, transcendent soul. Continue reading


Darling Nikki: A Mixtape Memory

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Author’s note: This personal essay was originally written for the Literary Mixtape Reading Series in December of 2015.
 
 

Kristen and I were smoking Kools together in her room. Curling iron plugged in and resting on the formica top of her dresser where there were several scorched divots already. Wearing t-shirts and underwear and waiting for the last possible moment before laying down to zip up our acid wash jeans.

Kristen was beginning to tease her hair around her face like a fan, covering one eye, the left one. Her black and silver double deck boom box silent before she flipped the empty tape case to me and pressed play. Kristen was gorgeous and dark. Dark in a slashed jeans kind of way. Dark in a melting the tip of her eyeliner with a lighter kind of way. She used White Rain hairspray because Aquanet was for pussies. She may have already had capped teeth.

The night of the seventh grade dance, when I heard Purple Rain for the first time, when Darling Nikki came on, winter of 1988. I smoked. Poorly (never any of my own, holding them like a dork between first two fingers instead of pinching between thumb and forefinger), but it was enough to give me a little cred with the kids at the pool hall down on Central.
Continue reading


Something Lost

A wise woman once told me: a loss of a thing creates space for a thing to be gained. There have been tremendous gains and losses for the average music listener in quality, variety and especially in accessibility. Listening to music has become a more immediate and personal experience and this process has stripped away layers of curation. Intermediating layers of others’ preferences and choices are no longer as dense or normative as in the past.

When I was about six riding in my dad’s truck running errands in the countryside of Iowa he was tuning in the a.m. radio as we drove thru the spring sunshine. He found a local station. This was 1971. The announcer in a slow drawl said, “Up next, Buddy Holly.” My Dad in a rare aside to me said, “This is music, son.” My father rarely spoke to me. Buddy Holly’s “That’ll be the Day!” came on thru the static and rushing windows. One side of my Dad’s smile tensed upwards. This song meant something to him. Buddy Holly was followed without a pause or pre-amble by Pasty Cline’s “Crazy.”

One tear hung in my father’s crows’ feet on the side that I could see, as he stared straight at the road. He pulled off the country road and into a diner. We ordered fries, BLTs and soda. The diner had jukeboxes at every booth. I stood on the booth and scrolled through the titles. I saw names I recognized, Johnny Cash was the one I knew best. I begged a quarter and played “Ring of Fire,” “A Boy named Sue,”and Cline’s “Crazy.” He didn’t see the third choice. He tapped his fingers to the first two. “A Boy Named Sue” made me giggle in my soda. When “Crazy” came on, he put on his shades and paid the bill. There was no radio played for the rest of the day. That next summer I fell in love with Don McLean’s “American Pie”and wore out the 45; at the end the sound was so bad I had to press my ear against the record player. Continue reading