Four Funny Things

August 24, 2015 § 3 Comments

Sonofabitch!

It is absolutely, 100%, seriously-for-real still summer. It’s August, for damn sake. Yet the other day I noticed a little flock of leaves blowing across my windshield. And tonight, the temps where I live will drop into the 50s. Cool your jets, fall. Stop breathing down my neck.

My spirits always take a little dip when summer ends, probably because deep inside I’m 11 and still think of it as “back to school” — but also because there’s less sunlight when fall comes. Brain science. Luckily, this time I’m prepared. Like a squirrel stockpiling acorns for winter, I’m storing up funny things. Here’s a starter pile, in case you need some, too:

1. Every time he yells, “Sonofabitch!” I laugh.

2. I also laugh every time I hear the line, “You pretend every slot machine is a robot amputee waving hello.” Picture that for a second. That is EXACTLY what slot machines are.

(Actually, that first song is about alcoholism and the second is about . . . Las Vegas and/or emptiness? But still. They make me laugh.)

3.  My friend Sissy sent me this the other day. Either I never watched this when it came out OR I watched it and totally forgot it (the latter of which is just as possible as the former). Watch it while you’re stuck in a waiting room or something. Tig Notaro is what would happen if Louis CK and David Sedaris magically had a baby. Fabulous storytelling:

4. Oh, and here’s a floating owl.

Good day.

Dangerous Woodland Liaisons

August 17, 2015 § 4 Comments

I was just huffing and puffing my way around the bend in the hiking trail — the one where you really have to pay attention, because there are wild turkeys living in the woods here, and if you’re not careful, you’ll make the turn and come face to face with a mama turkey and her baby turkey, and even though they’re just standing there doing nothing bothersome, you’ll involuntarily startle and yell TURKEYS! and then feel terrible for introducing a tacky human scream into this peaceful mother and child silence, as if they didn’t already know they were TURKEYS.

And that’s when I saw the strangest thing.

Flattened on the path in front of me was a creature unlike any I’ve seen before. It had green scales and brown fur. Little paws and a slinky reptilian head. A fluffy patch of white, striated with silver, like a . . .  what? What the hell kind of creature lay before me? Was it Tennessee’s version of the Loch Ness Monster, but freakier and indigenous to wooded mountain trails? I wish I’d had my phone with me so I could have snapped a photo. This is my best (by which I mean “worst”) artistic interpretation of the thing:

mythical creature

Upon further study, I realized that this was not some mythical fur-dragon, but two perfectly common animals, all mashed up together, dead. Somehow, a squirrel and a snake — I don’t know what kind, but definitely the snake kind — had become entangled and then gotten squashed as a whole.

Huh.

Do snakes and squirrels often hang out so close to each other as to get smushed by the same bike tire and/or falling log and/or very large man’s shoe? Or did some sort of Shakespearean-style tragedy go down, like their young star-crossed love ended in a miscommunicated suicide pact — or perhaps a case of mistaken identity caused one to kill the other and the other to strike back before they realized in their final dying moments that they were actually friends and O, YE FATES! then they bled out? Or maybe this was some kind of kinky psycho-social power experiment gone wrong, à la Les Liaisons Dangereuses?

There was definitely something going on between these two. Murderous or amorous — OR BOTH? — the embrace was total: limbs around snake around tail around head around hair around skin, all entwined then flattened. I just wished I knew what the story was. Because you know there was a story there.

Literature is everywhere.

How to Be an Awesome Golf Caddy: 6 Tips

August 11, 2015 § 14 Comments

Last week, I had the opportunity to play some golf. Well, not so much play golf — I’ve never played golf in my life — but I got to play caddy.

My spouse invited me to come along in his cart on a pretty day, and I decided, hey, why not? I like nature and making ball jokes, so OK. After a quick flurry of wardrobe consultations (“Is this outfit good for sportsing?” Dress, no. Shorts, yes.) and a liberal application of sunblock, I was ready to go. If you ever find yourself in this situation, here are some tips I can offer you from my first caddying experience.

 * * *

1. Practice patience.

The original idea was that I’d drive the cart all day. But yikes — the slopes were steep, and sometimes we had to drive practically sideways. Although I didn’t see any flipped carts, I become convinced that I’d crash because SOMEONE has to be the exception (and because I’m so hardcore at caddying). I gave up on zooming around and drove verrrrrrry carefully. So carefully, in fact, that after hole 4, I was relieved of my driving duties and moved to the passenger seat.

There was more stopping than I had anticipated as well. I didn’t realize how often I’d be called upon to make a visual note of where the ball landed. “Are you watching?” the golfer would call. (I’m calling him “the golfer” here to keep things professional.) To which I’d answer, in this voice:

 * * *

2. Bring a book or perhaps a craft.

Luckily, I was prepared for some waiting, because hooooo, is there a lot of sitting-and-waiting in the caddying biz. This didn’t bum me out, though. On the contrary, I was psyched, because I’m always behind on my reading and it just so happens that I drag a little bookbag around with me everywhere I go. (I actually like waiting rooms and reception areas for this same reason.) So I pulled out my bookbag and made some pretty decent progress. If you have an activity you like to do and which is small and portable, I highly recommend bringing it along. Knitting. Origami. Sock puppets. Maybe not whittling, because that makes a mess.

Part of my job is to read ahead to know what books are coming out next season, so both of these were in my bookbag. Jenny's book comes out soon (September) and made me laugh at inappropriate volume for a golf course. Ruth's book is one of those I-can't-believe-this-is-real true stories that made me miss a few putts.

Part of my job is to read ahead to know what books are coming out next season, so both of these were in my bookbag. Ruth Wariner’s book, which comes out early next year, is one of those I-can’t-believe-this-is-real true stories that made me miss a few putts. Jenny Lawson’s second book comes out next month and made me laugh at a volume that was “inappropriate” for the golf course, according to some.

 * * *

3. Take advantage of every breeze.

One thing that really surprised me was the presence of these enormous airplane-engine size fans on a few holes. Whether you’re the golfer or the caddy, the right thing to do is to pause your game to cool off for a bit. I’m proud that I introduced my golfer to the Beyoncé wind machine pose, and I hope my demonstrations proved useful to others.

These greens got me actin' so crazy right now.

These greens got me actin’ so crazy right now.

 * * *

4. Respect the course.

My favorite responsibility of the day was filling the divots. Every now and then, when my golfer whacked a big chunk of earth out of the course, I got to hop out and fix it. To fill the holes in, I just poured sand from a little tube that came with our cart. I have a strong internal need for order and tidiness, so it was deeply satisfying for me to smooth the ground over until it looked perfect again. This is a great fun. Even a child could do it.

dirt tube

Do not tell me you wouldn’t yell, “DO YOU NEED ME TO FILL YOUR DIRT HOLE WITH MY TUBE?” every time. You would. I did.

 * * *

5. Take your job seriously.

When instructed to get out a particular club — the sand wedge, say — I enjoyed pretending to be a scrub nurse handing it over to a surgeon while saying grimly, “SCALPEL” or “PLIERS.” I only got to do this twice, though, because then the golfer just started picking out his own clubs. So I guess my advice here is that if you’re going to make a joke about what you’re doing, make sure it’s a joke that your golfer finds funny. My golfer doesn’t watch many medical dramas, so that was my mistake.

This is no time for foolishness.

This is no time for foolishness.

 * * *

6. Pack a small cooler.

Here’s what you do: Load a little cooler with ice, then pour in a few cups of water to create an icy slush. Toss a few hand towels in there. When you get so hot you think you’re going to die (or the golfer might), just pull out the icy cold towels, wring out the water, and ice yourself down. You can also put a few Diet Cokes and beers and frozen Twix bars in there, whatever suits your fancy.

Look, I have too many things to do and not enough time. So if you want to run with the idea of ICE PANTS and trademark it, be my guest.

Look, I have too many things to do and not enough time. So if you want to run with the idea of ICE PANTS and trademark it, be my guest.

 * * *

I hope these suggestions will save your ass whenever you’re called up for last-minute caddy duty. When I do it again — and I feel sure I’ll be invited to do this again very soon — I’ll take note of anything else I learn. In the meantime, happy golfing!

One Thing Even a Total Wuss Can Learn from Ultimate Fighting Champs

August 5, 2015 § 3 Comments

What could a wimpy little scrap like you or me learn from UFC champion Ronda Rousey? Plenty.

Just some ladies fighting in a cage, you know how it is.  (Photo via The Washington Post - Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

Just some ladies fighting in a cage, you know how it is.
(Photo via The Washington Post – Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

First of all, after seeing “UFC” all over the headlines, I’ve finally figured out it doesn’t stand for Ultrafast Fieldmouse Carriage or Unscented Fruit Candles. It’s a sport called Ultimate Fighting Championship. (That’s the thing Monica’s boyfriend did on Friends. Remember, when Pete was like, “I’ve conquered the business world. I’ve conquered the intellectual world. Now I must conquer… the physical world,” and then he got the bejeezus beaten out of him?) Rousey’s in the news right now because she keeps knocking people out so fast that her fights are over before even they even start. Shazam.

Personally, I’m not really interested in getting clobbered on the regular. I think the worst fight I could muster would be a purse fight. It’s like a cage fight except you just slap your handbags at each other until one person’s bag spills all over the floor and then you kick their lip gloss across the floor and you win. Then you get a giant fancy belt.

Tee hee. I'm a winning machine.

I think she’s giggling because this new belt is going to look fabulous with a blazer and some dressy denim.

I do, however, think I could learn something from the way Rousey sets goals. She said this to a reporter last week:

“Here’s pretty much the plan: I’m going to beat up [my opponent] Bethe. Then I’m going to take a couple of weeks to rest. And then I’m going to go beat up Miesha. And then I’m going to go to Thailand, or wherever we decide to film [a movie with Mark Wahlberg]. I’m going to prep for a month and start filming for 8-10 weeks, and then go beat up the next chick. That’s pretty much my plan.”

Damn, that’s resolve. She doesn’t envision herself stepping into the cage and then wondering if she’s made a huge mistake and then tapping on the cage door until someone lets her out (which is what I would envision in that scenario, because I don’t really like touching strangers and I’m very afraid of hitting). She pictures herself doing exactly what she set out to do, and then she DOES IT. She even accounts for rest! Genius! Now, I’m not into beating people up, but I do have some stuff I need to get done — so here, let me try:

Pretty much the plan is: I’m going to start making coffee at home instead of ordering it from that dumbass who yells WHAT? every time I say my name. And then I’m going to sit somewhere — not sure where? maybe somewhere tropical with Matt Damon? probably just my office by myself? — and work on some rhymes and shit. And then I’m gonna sort this stack of mail like a boss. And definitely go to bed by 11. So yeah. That’s the plan.”

Bam! I’ll channel my inner super-fighter, do some intentional thinking, and kick some (metaphorical) ass. What’s YOUR plan? World domination? Whatever the case, let’s all get big fancy belts that say “CHAMPION GOAL-SETTING MOFO.”

This article also appears on the Huffington Post.

* * *

coverPS: If your plan is to coast through the end of summer without having to make any decisions, you might consider obtaining a whole stack of Penguins with People Problems. This little book comes recommended by sources such as The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Travel + Leisure, BookPage, and Glommable, which called it, “so adorable and true that you just want to share it with everyone you’ve ever met in your life.” Then you can use it for everything:

  • Perfectly rectangular gift for easy wrapping
  • Thoughtful pick-me-up (as long as the recipient has a sense of humor and is not a child)
  • Surprisingly productive book club choice — after all, who *doesn’t* have people problems?

Get it here!

Check Your Baggage: 12 Tips for Handling Handbags

July 31, 2015 § 7 Comments

Ladypeople, listen up. Are you carrying the right bag? And furthermore: are you carrying that bag right?

If you’re unsure, don’t fret. I’ve studied the latest fashion ads for instructions, and the great news is that there’s a style to suit every one of us, no matter our needs or personal tastes. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Family doesn’t have to mean frumpy.

Chanel-pre-fall

So you’re a mama now? Congrats, homegirl. But listen: Don’t let your diaper bag drag down your sense of style. Your outfit’s not about sippy cups. It’s about knee-high gladiator Mary Janes with seven bows apiece and bold-as-fuck layered knee socks. Pack what you need into a stylish satchel that can sit worry-free on the floor while you pose with the fam, and let little Lionel’s lederhosen take center stage.

* * *

2. Be all your YOUs at once.

Versace-Fall-Winter-2015-Ad-Campaign03

Are you industrial chic or Sesame street? Why choose? Climb up on that scaffolding in your fuzzy monster blankie and boldly proclaim your bothness. Add a sporty bikini top and a glam metal choker featuring your favorite letters of the alphabet, and you’ll dazzle the haters senseless. But by all means, match your crossbody mini-tote to your shiny patent thigh boots. You may be a bundle of contradictions, but you’re nothing if not attentive to the little things; and your bag choice is what ties this whole adventure together.

* * *

3. Make that bag work for you, ladyboss.

purses

Busy womenfolk need accessories that know how to multitask. A sassy satchel should stash your cash and help you catch a cab. Watch and learn, sisters — this is the hitchhiker’s guide to the girl-power galaxy. You’ll never stand around waiting for an Uber again.

* * *

4. Embrace the symbolism in every choice.

serie3-louis-vuitton-fall-2015-1-770x998

Guard your goods, girls. Lock up that beautiful box. Keep your valuable treasures away from the prying hands of strangers. Take the key, hide it in another bag, and safeguard that bag, too. Is this a terrible metaphor for making smart sexual decisions? You bet. That’s why it’s all wrapped up in snow-white fur.

* * *

5. Get whimsical with purse alternatives.

o-KENDALL-JENNER-FENDI-900

Don’t have time to pack a bag? Don’t worry. Throw your essentials into the pockets of your long fur vest, and leave the rest to the giant wooden bird marionette that follows you everywhere. Can’t find your chapstick or gum? Don’t freak out. That’s the puppetmaster’s problem now. After all, that’s what you’re paying him for.

* * *

6. Catch his or her eye with details, details, details.

Remember, when you're trying to get someone's attention, details are everything. Art deco leather futon? check! Fireplace that actually might be a painting of a fireplace? check! Your grandmother's rug? check! Prop a cheek on the edge of a shiny chair and stretch those pasty gams as far as they'll go. Now as you wait for your paramour to walk past and take notice, place that darling lavender handbag front and center, like,

Remember, when you’re trying to get someone’s attention, details are everything. Tattered leather futon? check! Fireplace that actually might just be a painting of a fireplace? check! Your grandmother’s rug? check! Prop a cheek on the edge of a shiny chair and stretch those pasty gams as far as they’ll go. Now as you wait for your paramour to walk past and take notice, place that darling lavender handbag front and center, like, mmm-yep this little purple pouch IS exactly the right size to hold a pair of Braves tickets or four bites of sushi, why dontchoo come and see?

* * *

7. DON’T: a warning

Gucci-Fall-Winter-2015-Ad-Campaign04

Left: Don’t use your purse as an excuse to slouch and pull that disrespectful manspread posture on the train. Right: We get it. Your bag is so neutral it blends into the sand. Stop it.

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 8.48.39 PM

This is melodrama, Janet. Get up.

* * *

8. Another DON’T: also a warning

Gucci-1160x700

And now an important note about personal grooming: At first glance, this broad has it all together, right? Adorable pink cuffs on a fabulous tailored coatdress with a pop of color in an aqua secretary bow. Her business-glam bag would be the perfect finishing touch, if only you weren’t distracted by one thing…

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 9.09.56 PM

Wax your heels, darling. Basic hygiene.

* * *

9. Take what you please from man-style.

Miu-Miu-Pre-Fall-2015-Bag-Campaign-5

Speaking of business, here’s the work-bag done right, times two. Don a ladylike blouse and bermuda set, raid your dad’s sock drawer, and pick a python pump to go with the rich leather of your bag, because guess what, alpha females? Feminism’s back, and it’s all about carrying your grandpa’s briefcase.

* * *

10. Supersize it.

Some ensembles just don't work with a bag, and that's cool. Fishnets and a leather leotard? Yeahno. Don't muck up that elegant simplicity with a bulky pocketbook. Instead, let your furniture bear your burden. Keep a bold leather beanbag chair in every room of every establishment you frequent, and fill it with a mix of down feathers, metal BBs, and ziploc baggies of your essentials: cash, cards, mascara, and mints. You'll have what you need everywhere you go, PLUS you'll never have to stand.

Some ensembles just don’t work with a bag, and that’s cool. Don’t muck up the simplicity of fishnets and an elegant leather leotard with a bulky pocketbook. Instead, let your furniture bear your burden. Keep a beanbag chair in every room, filled with a mix of down feathers, metal BBs, and secret inner pockets with all your essentials: cash, cards, mascara, and mints. You’ll have what you need at arm’s reach, PLUS you’ll never have to stand.

* * *

11. Survive at all costs.

Prada-Pre-Fall-2015-Ad-Campaign-1-600x800

Never underestimate the power of a big bag to save your life. What can you fit in there? Water. Medicine. Sandwiches. Train tickets. A new identity. FREEDOM. Grab your brother, Sulky Hans, and run. RUN, I SAID. THEY’LL NEVER CATCH UP IF YOU LEAVE NOW.

* * *

12. Remember: One is never enough.

Take it from RiRi: One is never enough. Before heading out for a night on the town, grab your favorite clutch. Then grab your second favorite clutch. Make them fight tiny battles on the restaurant table to see who's the best. Tuck one under each armpit. Stick a hand in each and wave them around like flippers. The point is: Double your fun whenever possible.

But back to fun… Before heading out for a night on the town, grab your favorite clutch. Then grab your second favorite clutch. Make them fight little battles with forks on the restaurant table to see who’s the best. Tuck one under each armpit and spin around like a dizzy chicken. Stick one hand in each and wave them around, flipper-style. The point is: Double your fun whenever possible.

In summary:
Life’s a grab bag. Reach in with both hands, girl.

8 Postcards of Generally Positive Gratitude

July 13, 2015 § 28 Comments

Lately, there seems to be a lot of fussing about how some entertainer/artist/creative person didn’t give everybody exactly what they wanted 100% of the time.

Sigh.

There’s a thing where people seem to think, well, if you put yourself (or your work) in the public eye, you should be prepared never to make a mistake or do anything that’s less than pure genius ever again. And that’s a bit much. It’s not really fair, you know?

I’m not saying we don’t all have a right to discuss people’s missteps and examine what we could all learn from them, or that we shouldn’t criticize stuff we don’t like. We do, and we should, and I will — OH YES, MATT DAMON’S PONYTAIL, I WILL — but it sure would be nice if we could also remember that all these things we pick apart are made by real people. It peeves me when I see posts that start, “he should have…” or “why doesn’t she…?” from people with opinions about stuff they’ve NEVER EVEN FUCKING TRIED TO DO THEMSELVES.

So, in that spirit, I present a few postcards that might be used in situations in which someone doesn’t deliver the [album / book / meal / comedy routine / etc.] of our dreams, but in which we can still be human beings about it.

gratitudecards.001

gratitudecards.002 gratitudecards.003 gratitudecards.004 gratitudecards.005 gratitudecards.006 gratitudecards.007

Also, this seems like a good time to remind ourselves: If we don’t end up liking Go Set a Watchman, it’s OK. But it seems like there are a lot of posts popping up saying that Harper Lee has “killed To Kill a Mockingbird” by publishing a book in which some of the characters we were used to are different/worse. (And yeah, the details are kind of fuzzy about how all that happened, aren’t they? But there it is.) Maybe let’s remember that (a) Atticus Finch is not a real person, he’s a made-up character — a character who got written one way and then another — and (b) this “book” we’re holding was a draft. A draft that was initially set aside in favor of a different draft. As the great Anne Lamott told us way back when, drafts are important. Drafts are how we get where we’re going. Ain’t nobody gonna produce perfect drafts every time.

And really, to have access to multiple drafts or versions of someone’s work is a gift for those of us who enjoy studying the creative process. To be able to compare the iterations of a book (or a stand-up act or a painting or a song) is to learn something about how stuff gets made. Maybe we’ll look at it and understand why Lee’s editor told her to put it in a drawer and start over. Or maybe we’ll get to see how Lee stumbled her her way toward the true voices of her characters. Maybe we’ll love it. Maybe not. But hey, she’s written at least one fabulous novel and one maybe-or-maybe-not fabulous one, and in my life I will write a total of zero novels. So:

gratitudecards.008

A Podcast for Dummies

July 1, 2015 § 5 Comments

“You should put a leash on a tiger and walk down the sidewalk naked except for your luxury handbag.”

. . . is the kind of thing I say when there’s a microphone in front of my face.

Like this. . . . but with a tiger. (Photo: Chanel)

Like this. . . . but with a tiger. (Photo: Chanel)

It made sense in context, I swear. See, Stephen Usery of WYPL — a Tennessee-based station that runs a radio show / podcast called Book Talk — was talking with me about Penguins with People Problems, and the conversation just sort of wandered. We ended up talking about books; writing advice; pervy co-workers; overpriced biscuits; and all sorts of other stuff. Then he brought up the subject of fashion ads (which you know I love), and that’s when I started describing an imaginary fashion ad involving tigers and handbags and nudity. It made sense at the time, it really did.

You can listen to the whole thing if you like. Meanwhile, here are two other little snippets:

Stephen said he noticed that, “If there’s kind of a theme that ties all your humor together, it’s that we are ridiculous things.” And in my head I was like, well, shazam — that’s true — I never thought of it that way before. So I said:

“We are totally ridiculous things. We’re all just idiots… But if you can find your own idiocy and sit there with it peacefully and co-exist with it, it’s really very funny.”

Then a little later, he pointed out that there’s also “a slight strain of melancholy” in my humor writing, which — DAMN, STEPHEN. He’s right. So to that, I responded:

“Just like you have to be able to sit with your idiocy and be comfortable with it, you have to be able to sit with your mistakes or sit with your losses or whatever hole you’ve got in yourself and just know that it’s there and sort of . . . be with it. But I also feel like if you can possibly laugh at whatever you can laugh at, and roll with what you can roll with, you can save up your emotional energy for the really big stuff that matters.”

And that’s the reason for silly birds who say bad words. Because we’re all dummies, and laughter is good for you. Deep thoughts.

There's my friend Flat Liam in the studio.

There’s our friend Flat Liam in the studio.

Anyway, there’s about a half hour of that kind of chit-chat on the podcast, and it’s worth a listen if for no other reason than to experience Stephen Usery’s radio voice. (I’m thinking about having him record a voicemail greeting on my phone: “Hello. You’ve reached Darth Vader’s brother, Garth Vader, the famous intergalactic jazz musician. I’m off recording some smooth tracks right now, but if you’d like to send me an email or a text like a normal person, I’d be glad to respond.”)

Listen to the whole thing here. *

(* if you can tolerate some giggling and the times when you can’t hear talking because I’m flapping my hands around in some sort of gesture that I forget radio listeners can’t see, and also the time I say “the American Cancer Society in Nashville” instead of Atlanta)

fabulous prizes!

What you could win: A signed copy of Penguins with People Problems for you and a friend PLUS a matching set of posters commemorating the book launch. (The poster is a signed, limited edition letterpress collector’s print, designed by Sawtooth Print Shop here in Nashville — really cool.)

Meanwhile . . . a giveaway! To enter, all you have to do is share the video below with a friend you think should win, too! You can just reblog this post or share it on whatever social media you use: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. There’s even an Instagram-friendly version. Just remember to TAG A FRIEND when you share and use the hashtag #PENGUINSWITHPEOPLEPROBLEMS. This Friday I’ll do a random drawing and announce a winning pair of friends on Twitter!

Now get out there and walk your tiger.

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