I apologize for the radio-silence.  I’ve been a terrible blog-neglector.  My only defense is that I was too busy writing for school to write anything for personal use.  When the term finally ended, I had written so much prose that I lost the desire to write more, and turned to poetry instead.  I debated whether or not to post poetry on here, as it didn’t feel in-keeping with this blog’s format, but the original idea for this blog was merely an outlet for my writing and this is what I’ve been working on, so here it is.  You and I will just have to tolerate the discomfort that a lack of uniformity brings–although, that’s probably more of a me problem.


Prescott, Arizona

Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe


My mother is kneeling on the bathroom floor
like a statue of some greek goddess
Patron of small favors
Today’s special; home repair

She is dressed in linen
and a fine sheen of sweat
Her olive skin bronzed
from the scorch of desert sun

It is so unlike my own skin–my father’s
pale, with a constellation of dark freckles

I have always envied the way she tans in summer
that perpetual, aureate glow

She is wielding a pipe wrench
an old relic, weighty
and thick with rust
scoured from the detritus of antique row

She fits gasket into J trap
and tightens down the slip nuts
looking far too elegant
for the mundanity of plumbing

A hard line of muscle
ripples beneath the taut flesh of her arm
and she looks powerful
Feels powerful

In this moment, I wish I were a pipe

A thing she could grasp in her hands
and examine for cracks
A thing she could twist, and tighten,
and fit together like a puzzle

If my damage could be squared away
with step-by-step instructions,
with elbow grease and a set of tools
her ministrations might empower her

Crack fixed
Leak stopped
Job done

But I am not a pipe
I am water without containment
The river that bucks the levee
I am all cracks

And my mother,
though she cannot stem the flow
will not stop trying
to hold this raging river
in her aching fists


A Recipe


Chopping vegetables
in my mother’s kitchen
she teaches me to peel garlic
with the broad side of a knife

Strike the bulb
palm against metal
split the paper husk
and strip the lucent skin

I rock my knife
through tender onion flesh
mimic her nimble strokes
the studied curl of her hand

The pungent scent draws tears
that I brush away
with the back of a shirtsleeve

She passes me a wooden spoon
a baton

I stir and stir

Two thousands miles away
the scent of onion
browned on a rental stove
catches in my throat

It tastes of sweetness and sorrow
the acrid brine of tears

There is an ache
in the pit of my stomach
that has nothing to do with hunger

I brush a shirtsleeve
across my eyes
I carry on
I stir





Tuesday morning
I am crouched on the bathroom floor
delighting in the red welt
of the cabinet ledge, etched
across the skin of my knees

I curve spine to match J trap
slip thumb and forefinger beneath pipe
and slide the plug from its socket
with a squelch of damp rubber

Above, the drain cap pulls free
and the sulfurous sludge
tar-black, congealed
slides from the throat of the drain
and spatters like ink blots
upon the pale, acrylic basin

Did Rorschach know
there is nothing ambiguous in the beauty
of the excavation of muck
from a bathroom sink?


Of Foreign Winds


The autumn wind howls
across the sweep of dusty trails
and the stout pines tremble
like the slackening of bow-strings
upon arrow’s release

It sunders leaves
from cottonwood trees
and stirs them into eddies
Hennaed flocks of birds
startled from their perch

They gather in the crooks
along the dry wash of arroyos
rustling like the specter
of waters that won’t run

How strange the wind should blow here
with no sails strung to catch it
no heaving stretch of water
to roil beneath its touch


Chama, New Mexico

Driving Through New Mexico at Day’s End


On the road, south of Española
through undulations of land
cast out with a careless hand
like the toss of quilt across bed
not tugged flat at the corners

The scrub is winter-brown
yet to be adorned for the season
with the jeweled drape of snow
And withered stalks of chamisa
chatter like teeth in the wind

But that New Mexico sky
wider than any sky I’ve known
Like an act of nuclear fission
Like the bomb at Alamogordo
cleaved the sky in two
and the atoms carried on dividing
surging out across the state
until the sky swelled
with the immensity of it

That sky burns amethyst tonight
in atonement for the dreary chaparral
And in the rearview mirror
threads of cloud have settled low
across a darkening horizon
to kindle in the claret glow
of waning desert sun


House Crickets


All night long
the house crickets cry out
bowing the black violins of their legs
chirping across the valley
of the sunken living room floor

Perhaps they’re telling stories
exclaiming of the small delights
of sun-baked concrete
and the comfort of their refuge
tucked within the half inch seam
at the base of the stairs

Or maybe they’re giving thanks
for the sustenance of dried oatmeal
apportioned from my uncle’s breakfast
and laid on strips of wax paper
for their daily feast

They carry on with their stories
undeterred by the creep of light
across the silhouettes of mountains
past the thresholds of windows
along that concrete valley of floor

They chat idly through morning coffee
only breaking come lunch
and for those quiet hours before dusk
the house aches with an emptiness
louder than their song


December 23rd


December 23rd
and the snow has scarcely fallen
Only a day or two of flurries
ashen clouds lumbering over the mountains
wayward guests shooed away at dusk
by the firm hand of the sun

The sheath of ice atop the pond has fractured
water welling from the cracks
beckoning the elk to slake their thirst
where once was offered nothing
And the chaparral is absent
its usual cloak of snow
shimmering like frit across the fields
Only a thin crust of hoar remains
lurking in the shadow of pine trees
tucked along the northern edge of scrub

For the first winter
I can see the way the grass has dried
flaxen, like the pale yellow of butter
rustling in waves down the sweep of the valley
beneath the graze of arid winds
It releases burs that cling to the nap of my pants
hitching their fate to the wrong beast
their potential left unrealized
gathered in the folds of laundry
heaped upon my bedroom floor




From the corner of my eye
I catch the tawny breasts of robins
pecking through the chaff of dried leaves
beneath my bedroom window

They are foraging for food
while I am foraging for words
We are both seeking sustenance
for the long winter to come


Tierra Amarilla, Gris


Tierra Amarilla, land of yellow
like the sweep of honeyed grass
now starry with frost, glittering
in the silver wash of dawn
as we drive south on 64
early Tuesday morning

Smoke curls from chimneys
of adobes and tumble-down trailers
sown across the rancheros
tangling with nebulas of ochre dust
stirred from the fields
by a sere and bitter wind

But soon the yellow fades
Tierra Roja, land of red rocks
where grass cedes to the thorny march of chollas
standing guard atop the wind-worn pate of bluffs
and cliffs rise like castles
hemmed with a crumble of roadside rock
all that russet majesty
returning to earth

Before long sidewalks creep
along the flank of asphalt road
Town of Española, streets lined
with the waxen brown of luminarias
their paper sacks crumpled, prosaic
no longer imbued with the wonder
of candle glow burning
through the blackened veil
of Christmas night

90 miles to Albuquerque
and the whine of Boeing jets
I will find my way home
with no luminarias to guide me
from the land of enchantment
to Tierra Gris, land of leaden skies
and the steel glint of waters
across the churn of wintry lake
where snow doesn’t glitter, but melts
to murky slush beneath the whir of tires
and the sun is held at bay
by the grey that rules
with an iron fist


Chicago, Illinois

New Year’s Eve


New Year’s Eve
at my parent’s home in Chicago
and the night is city-dark
The ersatz glow of street lamps
casting an eerie pallor
upon the downy underbelly
of monolithic clouds

My bedroom window radiates
with this ethereal light
like one of those B movies
where the aliens transport their victims
into the bowels of a mothership
with the pitiless flash
of an ineluctable beam
All of this unfurling
just beyond the window frame
while, unaware
I sleep


Chicago Winter


Already home one week
and the temperature has finally
crept above zero degrees
For the first time, I venture outside
cloaked in the anonymity
of fleece balaclava, damp
with condensation of breath
four pairs of thermal leggings
thick like seal skin

Chicago winters
have an air of mystery
All those closed doors
strung with with twinkling lights
drawing the eyes outward
shielding the intimacy of bodies
huddled ’round wilting firs
or bathed in the semitic glow
of dwindling menorah light
All those downy coats
hoods drawn, masks donned
shielding the intimacy of faces
obscuring recognition
All those rolled up car windows
people mouthing conversations, lyrics
nodding heads to radios unheard
the notes trapped
behind fogged glass




I am not home
until I’ve toed the threshold
where concrete apron slips
beneath eager tongue of shore
and the grit of snow and sand
scrubs the Arizona red
from my boots

The temperature
has barely crested ten and
a thin vein of white rims the horizon
where cold lake meets colder air
clouds huddled low against water
breaking toward bluer skies
that rarity of winter sun glinting
off the slick crust of ice, growing slicker
beneath the steady churn of waves
lumbering barrels, torpid with slush
surging across the cantilever
of shelf ice

To walk along Lake Michigan
in the bitter grip of winter
is a ritual performed
the way one wakes early to tend a farm
without weighing the pleasure of sunrise
nor the pity of those last hours’ sleep, lost


The Sweetness of Morning


On mornings when the wind
drums up the fetch of the lake from the south
the beach air is laced with the sugared scent of baking
chocolate chip cookies, or maybe waffle cones
some discordant note of warmth
from a factory unseen
clanging across the icy blue
of rugged winter shores

I remember those first high desert mornings
where the cream soda balm of ponderosa pines
snaked through open windows
coaxing me down unfamiliar streets
to the hem of a forest
parched air choked with amber dust
swimming with the disparate
and heady perfume
of maple

The sweetness of morning has followed me
from shore to mountain
the dislocation of candied aromas
wafting over wilder climes
softening the slap and spit of waves
and the cragged peaks of granite
enfolding me in the familiar
the nostalgia of childhood kitchens
and Sunday morning pancakes
like a loyal specter, always at the heels
to ease the scrape of waking
and walking through these untamed lands


Prescott, Returned

The Natural Order


In the three weeks I’ve been gone
new trails have been forged through the park
darkened by the dampness of freshly turned soil
and lingering winter rain
They are lined with the detritus
of unearthed rocks, still caked in ochre dust
and piles of sundered branches
verdant with patchwork lichen
I stop to inspect the alligator junipers
drawn by the startling orange of their phloem
exposed where branches have been hewn
to make way for passage
Crystalline sap bleeds from the wounds
hardening against reptilian bark
dripping from the branches
like wintry strings of icicles
luminous even in the diffuse light
of cloudy skies

I ramble through these scars
carved across the land
by the heedlessness of human hands
and can’t help but wonder, why?
When one trail will do
two seems an abundance
three, an overindulgence
four, the glut of human greed
In viewing nature, first
we view our own desire
then form land to vision
never questioning the irony
of nature man-made


Arizona Winter


Yesterday, I strode beside the creek
exalting in the warmth of Arizona winter
sunlight skittering across the slow trickle of water
catching the sheen of sweat wrung from my brow
sleeves pushed back, wan arms exposed
in the hopes that they might warm and brown
like the dried leaves, now ground to chaff
gathered between the cottonwood roots

Today, the sky will not shake the grey pallor of morning
though the sun has crested the mountains
and it’s nearly noon
and lucent droplets seed the trees
crystal beads stitched upon the branches
their silver gleam effulgent
against the dreary brown of winter grass
Below, the tawny earth has paled
beneath a feeble patchwork of snow
already dampening to slush as light strains
against the sterling veil of clouds
and the air hovers
just shy of freezing


Ebb and Flow


Sick in bed for days
I subsisted on the alchemy
of water and flour, rationed
from the freezer’s store
and poured over the sizzle
of cast iron pan

Beyond window slats
snow gathered on the hill
like rumpled sheaths of batting
its cotton bulk settled
upon the porch one day
come noon the next
melted inch by inch

Today I shook loose
the fetter of tangled sheets
and eased open the door
to greet the slap of fresh air
rousing capillaries
across my sallow cheeks

The creek had frozen
in the cottonwoods’ shade
fogged carapace of ice
water welling at the fractured brim
but where the sun
had skirted trees to strike the creek
it drew a deft line
snow melt trickling
from beneath the lip of ice
thin rivulets, at first
caroming between worn fists of granite
catching light on rippled crests
then, cohering to a steady surge
burbling below the slatted span of bridge
before pooling in the morass
of creek bed carved too deep for passage
its surface broken only
by the metronomic drip
from trusses overhead

How fine the balance
between surge and stagnation
a ray of light, a cut too deep
the careless rush of doing
before the ache of illness
settles in


The Grind


Standing before the kitchen sink
scrubbing the burnt caramel of molasses
from the heft of a cast iron pan
Overhead the thwack, thwack of the dryer
drums a steady beat through the floorboards
and from the corner of my eye
I spot the heave of raven’s wings
in the red gleam of a kitchen stool

My eyes flicker to the window
to catch it as it crests the lip
of faux adobe brick along the patio
and threads the needled arms of pines
before blinking into cobalt ether

The tap water runs warm
against the ache of chapped hands
as I let my mind drift, untethered
towards the lofty heights of a life
bereft of the terrestrial grinds
of coffee eddying toward the drain
before the sound of the dryer’s buzz
sinks its teeth through the image
like a saw, I think
the hedge out front
needs pruning




Pancakes: 20; Coping Skills: 0

DSC_8815 copy

This past week, I had a break from classes for something the school has termed “student directed days.”  Supposedly, it’s a time for reflection on our academic journey thus far, though I suspect its true purpose is to allow those students who’ve been backpacking for the past 21 days to settle into their dorms, reacquaint themselves with civilization, and hopefully take a months’ worth of showers before they’re unleashed upon the rest of the student body.  Biblically speaking, the timing of this week was incredibly apt as it aligned with the “Days of Awe”—the ten days spanning Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur dedicated to reflection, introspection, and repentance.  Given my propensity for self-examination (as evidenced by this blog) and my abiding (clinically significant) love of ritual, you might assume I spent this time deep in thought, ruminating over my first month of classes and my first year on ketamine and meditating on the new direction my life has taken.  Well, you’d be wrong, so quit making assumptions.   

Rather than being physically or psychologically productive, or fostering any modicum of self awareness, I chose to hole up in my house—stubborn, depressed, and devoid of all motivation—where I spent countless hours consumed with making friendship bracelets (the preferred craft of twelve year olds everywhere) and marathoning all seven seasons of Suits (not the preferred show of twelve year olds, anywhere).  This might sound like a giant leap backwards, and I did entertain some alarm at the prospect of a Flowers For Algernon situation where the ketamine is concerned (the once miraculous drawing abilities it endowed me with have begun to regress and this is the first thing I’ve written in weeks—soon I’ll be listening to The Cure and scribbling shitty poetry with a stick of eyeliner again), but I also believe sulking is an important and oft-overlooked form of processing.  I needed this time to mourn the parts of my life left behind in Chicago and to rail against the new ones for the mere sake that they’re new and unfamiliar and—to quote the family motto—change is bad.  One of the most important truths someone with depression can realize is that it’s okay to be unhappy.  You’re allowed to wallow and rage and lie face down on the floor until the carpet pile etches a temporary tattoo upon your face.  Sure, it’s not healthy when that’s your only mode of existence, but if it’s not at least part of it, I would seriously question your humanity. 

I’m not sure why we have this idea that unhappiness is some sort of moral failing, but its existence is pervasive and can wreak havoc on your psyche.  So often we’re taught to only express our happiness and other, so-called, “positive” emotions and, in turn, we come to believe that these are the only acceptable emotions to have, period.  When we dare to express anything “ugly” we are quickly shut down.  It’s understandable that we don’t want to see the ones we love suffering, that we should have the urge to fix things for them and the desire to make them happy, but ultimately, these well-intentioned attempts to dispel one’s unhappiness act as a dismissal of those feelings.  They signify that unhappiness isn’t an acceptable thing to feel, heaping guilt upon already difficult emotions.  Yes, it’s an important tool to be able to reframe your thoughts in order to find the value in all things, but joy is no more valuable than sorrow and there is room enough for both.

It’s beginning to dawn on me that all those parts of myself, certain proclivities and dislikes that I attributed to mental illness, might just be me.  My decision to return to school hinged, in part, on my belief that my dislike of school was rooted solely in the depression and anxiety I experienced during the time I was there.  I figured, stripped of those mental roadblocks and with a clear lens, I would be able to enjoy school because I so enjoy learning.  Well, school and learning aren’t the same thing, and while I’m making a concerted effort to reserve judgement until I’ve had more time to fully experience academia, it’s very possible that school isn’t for me.  For one thing, I’m a Hammerman and I don’t do well with being taught.  It’s not that I don’t trust teachers (I would never be so biased—I don’t trust anyone) or that I don’t believe they have valuable information and experiences to offer—and despite the Hammerman tendency toward know-it-all-ism (don’t even try to deny it, guys), I certainly accept that they’re far more knowledgeable than me—I’ve just always fared better when left to my own devices and given the opportunity to discover things on my own terms.  Also, I have a deep, irrevocable contempt for authority that I can’t really explain other than to tell you that my mom was kicked out of the Brownies for “having a problem with authority” and, for her and her offspring alike, that was just the beginning. 

It might be worth mentioning that I once had a psychologist attempt to diagnose me with a condition called Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  I say attempt because my mom and I found the idea so patently ludicrous that we nearly laughed him out of the room.  But despite the absurdity of that diagnosis (I was a teenager—if you’re not oppositional and defiant, you’re doing it wrong), it’s possible he wasn’t so far off the mark, personality-wise.  I suppose I do harbor an inherent opposition to anything required of me by the powers that be, regardless of whether that opposition is warranted.  And, okay, maybe I am defiant in a manner some might describe as compulsive, or even symptomatic.  But, who doesn’t love a little rebellion for rebellion’s sake?  The problem is, I’m finding that, despite my love of writing, when someone else instructs me to write my initial reaction appears to be, “Fuck you, man, you’re not the boss of me!”  Admittedly, that might not be the most practical mindset when you’re taking a stab at a writing degree.

These revelations might sound like cause for alarm, or the preamble to an onslaught of regret, but actually, I’m okay with all of this.  It doesn’t mean I made the wrong decision in coming here—how could I have known until I tried?  When I express dissatisfaction with my current situation, people are quick to tell me I’m not being open enough, I’m not giving things a fair shake, or I’m looking at them the wrong way.  And these are all valid theories that warrant examination, but you know what?—I’m allowed to feel this way.  I will always strive to keep an open mind and refrain from making judgements in haste or from a place of fear or stubbornness, and I accept that the way we feel about things is fluid and should never be set in stone, but I reserve my right to feel this dissatisfaction and to form these opinions, even if they’re sentiments that aren’t popular or easy.  I refuse to see my emotional state or personal preferences as psychological failings and I won’t allow myself to be convinced otherwise.  I believe that success lies in the attempts made, not necessarily in their results.  So, I will continue to try new things and explore the wild array of experiences life has to offer, but I will not let you begrudge me my right to decide that some of these things suck, and might warrant a period of desultory brooding in the process.

Of course, I would prefer that I was in the midst of discovering a latent love for school, rather than cultivating a morose fusion of self and hammock, but I’m going to accept this turn of events and do my best to embrace it.  It’s okay that I’m not looking forward to class tomorrow.  If I need to don my combative and acerbic nature like a suit of armor in order to get me there, that’s fine, so long as I show up—I can recalibrate from there.  And I don’t regret allowing myself this week to shirk my responsibilities and eat with reckless abandon without an ounce of judgement.  Sure, that means I spent Yom Kippur eating twenty pancakes, six cookies, two lattes, and two vodka cream sodas, instead of fasting in service of atonement—but, so be it.  Only god can judge, and from what I understand, god’s a little busy helping people win sporting events and reality TV competitions.

Taking The Long Way Home


So often I write about the beauty of running, but truthfully, I don’t always love it.  Upon waking each morning, the negotiations begin and a parade of excuses whirls through my mind as to why I’d be better off staying in bed.  Occasionally, the excuses make such a persuasive argument that I inch the covers over my head and allow myself another half hour’s sleep.  But when my conscience wins the fight, I stagger out into the brisk, morning air and set my feet to pavement, praying they find rhythm.  With those first footfalls I feel every ache and twinge in my overworked body and my breath comes in uneven gasps, my lungs searing in protest.  The whole endeavor feels slow, laborious, and ungainly.  My mind screams, Why didn’t you just stay home?!

The negotiations continue for the first mile as I consider turning back with each step.  I make deals with myself—if you push yourself to keep going, you can allow yourself to walk the trail section—knowing that I’ll feel like a failure if I do.  But eventually, something miraculous happens—I give in.  I let go of all that cacophonous chatter in my head rattling off lists of reasons why I shouldn’t be doing this—why I can’t.  My breath begins to steady until I’m no longer conscious of it.  My stride feels smooth and powerful, my legs working like pistons as I skim across the pavement or flit over a stream, springing nimbly from rock to rock.  My body and mind quiet down, accept this action, and fully commit, working as one synchronous machine.  In this state of grace, I no longer question what I’m doing or where I am any more than one would question a jaguar carving sinuous trails through plains of Serengeti grass.  By the time I arrive home, awash in endorphins and pride, completing my measly two and a half mile run feels like winning a marathon.  It is a far different experience of home than it would have been had I never left.

Even more than the sensation of flying, this is what I love about running—the idea that pushing through all those doubts and concerns and continuing down a path, no matter how effectively you’ve convinced yourself you ought not to, will always have the potential to surprise you with its value and reward.  It’s a lesson I’ve employed over and over as I slog through this first month of school. 

I arrive on campus each morning, reticent to emerge from the safe, solitary world of my headphones, hardly eager to be there and questioning each moment why I am.  There have been so many days that I’ve piled reluctantly into the van for a field trip, feeling like a caged animal, knowing that once those doors close there’s no turning back.  And god do I want to turn back.  But the doors close, the van rattles on down paved streets, then dusty roads, and finally we arrive at some destination that would be breathtaking were it not for the context of witnessing it in the midst of a gaggle of people.  My eyes drink in the views while my mind drifts backwards in time wondering if I could have said no, could have walked off the bus, could have simply not shown up.  At the mercy of our young instructors, I plod along with the group, all the while calculating escape routes no longer viable or counting down the minutes until departure.  My mind is flighty in that way, so loath to stay with me in the present moment and just be.

Then, at some point, my mind begins to settle and I’m able to accept my surroundings and engage in the day’s activity.  In this present state of being I discover gratitude.  It’s not often that an academic course has you traipsing through a riparian corridor tucked between granite bluffs with the directive to find a quiet place and meditate on nature.  I slip away from the group and find a perch among the limbs of a sprawling tree, a spiral-bound notebook resting in my lap with my pen at the ready.  I pause to notice, to soak it in, body and mind still. 

The river is calm, stagnant, its surface skimmed with the emerald green of algae, coalesced like tatters of lace.  In its few bare patches, the water is a mirror reflecting the flat white of an overcast sky.  Water bugs dart across the surface casting ripples that undulate in small bursts like drops of rain.  Traffic hums in the distance, but here it is quiet save for the twitters and sharp trills of birds tucked among the shivering leaves.  A cool breeze carries with it the scent of damp vegetation and petrichor, that earthy perfume invoked after a hard rain.  The banks of the river are lush, the cheerful yellow of black-eyed Susans peeking out from tangled beds of grass.

I have always found nature to be a balm for the weariness of life.  The trappings of our daily routines—all those responsibilities and concerns—are carried off by the winds, bleached pale by sunlight, humbled in the presence of such grandeur.  Some intangible sense of wellbeing, often lost to the modern world, reawakens in us when we connect with nature.  At its core, it is the original act of homecoming. Because I was patient, because I weathered my doubts and allowed myself to continue on this path until I was able to let go of anxiety and judgement, I was rewarded with this moment of beauty and clarity—this small, glittering gem tucked into the bedrock of an ordinary day. 

I try to remember this when I find myself questioning why I moved here.  Whether it’s something as small as leaving the house for a run, showing up to class, or moving half way across the country, that doubtful voice in my head is always the same—Why didn’t you just stay home?  But, my experience of home, of Chicago and Lake Michigan, of family and friends, wouldn’t be the same had I stayed.  It would be an extra half hour’s sleep in the morning—easy and unaware, deprived of mindfulness and gratitude.  I could never truly grasp the value of what I had from the midst of it—a view lacking in perspective—nor would I have discovered the value to be gained in experiencing something new.  It often seems that turning back will bring us closer to safety and comfort, but it is only through endurance, through persisting on our journey, that our minds and our bodies truly find home.

Fish Out Of Water


After learning the old sailing center was soon to be torn down, those of us who held any claim to it set upon it like vultures and pilfered what treasures, relics, and scraps of memory we could before our once beloved kingdom came to ruin. I walked away with the key to the tower, a flake of old paint—that distinctive, muddied sky blue—and the hooks that raised and lowered the flags. My brother took the bright, yellow Exotic Species Advisory sign that hung over the front desk and left it in my parents basement where I found it years later and decided to “borrow” it for my new home. It now sits on the bookshelf in my bedroom, its bold, black lettering warning of the dangers of the zebra musel, the spiny water flea, the round goby, and the Eurasian watermilfoil.

I can’t help but feel sorry these invasive species—they didn’t ask for the relocation. They were ripped unceremoniously from their homes—whether unintentionally, after affixing themselves to the slick hulls of visiting boats, or purposefully, through the foolhardy intervention of selfish humans who valued their own recreational desires over the wellbeing of an entire ecosystem. Either way, they soon found themselves in foreign waters with no choice but to adapt and survive lest they perish. Unfortunately, their survival came at a great cost to the natives.

I empathize with these creatures even more after my own transplantation, though I am not innocent in the matter. I was that foolhardy human who dove willingly into foreign waters and now my only choice is to adapt—but at what cost? Having been raised on Lake Michigan, orienting myself with the steadfast knowledge that water lies to the east, forever beckoning me towards shore, I now find myself paradoxically at sea in this arid, desert land. In the mornings, rather than running along the lakefront, I sprint down dusty highways and rugged forest trails, the parched air searing my lungs so that I often return home with the metallic tang of blood on the back of my tongue. As I wander these unfamiliar paths, something twists inside me like the needle of a broken compass, something seeking water that isn’t there.

But, while the natural environment requires some acclimation, it’s the locals of my own species I fear I won’t adapt to—and honestly, I’m not sure that I want to. We might be the same species, but we are undoubtedly a different breed. And while diversity lies at the heart of all things wonderful in this world—survival, beauty, interest, expansion of thought—there’s a certain point at which I’ve got to take a step back and go, Whoa, that is too much fucking expansion. Call me narrow minded, but I have no desire to open my world to High Country Guns and Knives with its “Make America Great Again, One Gun At A Time” poster, or Bucky O’Neill’s Gun Store with its “Team Glock” banner, or any number of gun stores, pro-Trump lawn signs, NRA stickered cars, and gun-toting, cowboy-loving, god-fearing Americans roaming the streets, longing for the “good old days” with romantic notions of the wild west swimming in their eyes. Let me tell you something about the wild west—there was nothing romantic about it. Like the rest of this country, it was founded on a legacy of thievery, genocide, and oppression of indigenous people. Nostalgia for the days of yore requires a certain privilege and blatant disregard for true, un-whitewashed history. It’s like that inane question: “If you could live in any past era, which one would you choose?” That’s a question for a very specific type of person: straight, white, cisgender, Christian males. Because if you’re a person of color, a minority religion, queer, trans, non-binary, or a woman, the correct answer is, fucking none of them.

I may be the exotic one here, the hapless invader, but I doubt I’m wreaking much havoc on the ecosystem. Rather, I think this place might be eating me alive. To be fair, the people here hail from a surprisingly broad range of backgrounds and schools of thought for a small town in a red state—the area attracts a decent amount of crunchy, outdoor types and every pro-Trump rally inspires an even greater counter-protest (though, I think liberals are much better at this whole protesting thing, because that’s not an accurate reflection of the actual liberal/conservative ratio here)—but there’s no denying the majority of the population is exceedingly old, white, Christian, and conservative. Sometimes, as I’m wandering the streets, I can’t help but feel as though I’ve got a tattoo stamped on my forehead announcing, I’m one of those liberal Jews you fear so much.

I suppose what it all boils down to is this: I feel out of place, a sore thumb, a crooked tooth. It’s uncomfortable, yes, but is that a negative? It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone and experience new ideas and people, if not for the sake of expanding your horizons, at least to expose yourself to the reality of what so many people in this country believe. Perhaps some mutual empathy and understanding can be fostered, bridges crossed, white flags extended. Or, failing that, at least I’ll have new fodder for this fake-news blog of mine.



I am officially a college student–words I never thought I’d say.  Orientation began on Sunday and the sudden flurry of activity has struck a jarring contrast to the isolation and languor of the previous week–a week spent wandering aimlessly through town as I explored the local trails and businesses.  The mileage on my phone may read the same (a feature I only recently discovered and have since grown obsessed with–I feel a shameful lack of adventurousness if I don’t, at least, approach ten miles a day), but my hours are now filled with meetings, lectures, and classes held in rooms packed with a veritable sea of people.  It’s going to take some time to adjust to such profuse socialization–if that’s even possible.  In the meantime, you can find me tucked behind a building, hiding in the shade with headphones clamped firmly around my ears and a book of crosswords in my lap.

I shouldn’t complain, though.  As much as I prefer to be alone, there is a limit to how much seclusion I can take.  The other day I found myself lying on my bedroom floor under the guise of exercising, but mostly scrolling through my Facebook feed, listening to the crackling of wasps writhing in the ceiling.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of the story, The Yellow Wallpaper, in which a woman exiled to an attic room by a paternalistic husband “concerned for her health,” begins to obsess over the room’s yellow wallpaper until she slowly descends into madness.  That feeling of being relegated to a life of isolation with nothing but four walls (or, in my case, an admittedly charming townhouse) for companionship and entertainment is achingly familiar and, as portrayed in the story, has the cruel effect of amplifying the horrors lurking in the otherwise mundane.  With nothing else to occupy my mind, the benign goings-on of a colony of yellow jackets (whom, despite my overactive imagination, most likely won’t chew through the drywall and lay siege to my bedroom) were transformed from a prosaic act of nature into something malevolent.  Patches of sunlight bejeweling the bedroom floor danced with their shadows as they crawled from the eaves, and their sonance, no more menacing than the the snap-crackle-pop of of Rice Krispies, took on a haunting quality that whispered in my ear, “We’re here, lurking just out of sight, biding our time…”  Fortunately, I don’t have a patriarchal spouse with prejudicial views about mental health enforcing this self-imposed cabin fever (nor is mental illness at the root of my reclusiveness, as it once was), so I was able to step outside and shake myself from this grotesque reverie.  It’s miraculous what fresh air and a healthy dose of perspective can do–reality reasserted itself and the wasps reverted to their former innocuity, making it almost comical to think that I—purported lover of insects—could ever have been so rattled.

Still, transitioning from no company at all to an overabundance of it is exhausting, and in the midst of this shake up, waking in the early morning has become my respite–a small window of peace and clarity before the tumult of the day kicks in.  These early hours are ripe for reflection and I often find myself missing my usual morning haunt, Lake Michigan–particularly at this time of year as summer creeps toward autumn and the nor’easters begin.  These storms send ferocious winds howling down the fetch of the lake, drumming up waves that unfurl, creature-like, from a seething mass of water.  They buck and rise before rushing headlong to meet the shore, breaking with a hiss and spit of white foam that sends small rocks tumbling in the shallow surf, clacking against one another like billiards. In the aftermath, bits of driftwood wash ashore, gnarled hunks of labyrinthine root and sinuous, skeletal branches, wave-worn and wind-beaten, bleached white like whale bones.  It’s one of my favorite times of year and this is the first season I won’t be there to witness it, or to rig up the 470 and take advantage of these tempestuous winds.

Of course there is beauty to be found here, too.  The cream soda scent of ponderosa pines is strongest at dawn, while the air is still cool and crisp.  It snakes through the open windows and beckons me outdoors before the heat of the day gets underway.  I follow White Spar Road as it transitions from parking lots and gas stations to cabins of log and stone nestled in the thickening trees.  At Limberlost Lane (a name that really trips off the tongue), a small trail leads into a forest preserve where the aroma of ponderosas grows overwhelming and patches of prickly pear cacti and dusky blue spiderwort emerge from a blanket of fallen pine needles.  Scattered among the trees are the polished red branches of manzanita and the glossy leaves of scrub oak.  Everything is still save for the ravens, startled from their perches in the trees, their lustrous, black wings held aloft as they take flight.  It took nearly two weeks to acclimate to the altitude and the rise and fall of a rock-strewn, earthen trail, but the first day I ran the entire two-and-a-half mile loop without needing to pause and catch my breath felt like a benediction after the disquiet of having uprooted my life and attempted to resettle on such foreign ground.  I may miss the water, but bounding through a sun-dappled forest at day-break without another human in sight is no small consolation.  In fact, it’s kind of the reason I moved here.

And that’s only a small piece of the beauty.  While not having a car is a significant hindrance when it comes to enjoying the bounty of natural resources Prescott has to offer, Acker Park is only a mile walk from the town square.  The trailhead lies at the far end of the historic district, an area comprised of small and quirky victorian houses lining the kind of southwest street where Jesus and Kokopelli adorn the same lawn.  There’s also enough American flag bunting bedecking the porch rails to weave a sun-shade across the entire state, which they really ought to do—at least then it would be useful, rather than a garish and inane display of patriotism.  Mercifully, the red, white, and blue of combustible, synthetic fabrics soon transitions to azure skies, juniper greens, and tawny earth.  Acker Park is a beautiful, mile-long forested oasis nestled between highways and residential neighborhoods.  Sure, I could hear the reverse warning of a backhoe as I hiked, but the crickets kept time and I turned up the volume on my headphones and wandered the dusty trails in a state of bliss, admiring sweeping views of Granite Mountain and Thumb Butte along the way.

So, as nature and humanity duke it out for a time slot in my newly hectic life, I’m attempting to strike a balance.  The days may be long, but rather than going stir-crazy, I now relish the mornings and evenings spent alone.  And after this first week of orientation is over and my schedule shrinks to a more appealing length, I might even welcome some companionship, rather than resenting it.  Who knows, maybe someone interesting will unfurl themselves from the sea of people and come crashing my way.

Guns, Germs, And–More Fucking Wasps

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(Help Me)

I don’t think I accepted quite how difficult it would be once my mom left Prescott and I found myself alone in an unfamiliar place, until I spotted an errant black sesame seed on the kitchen floor–a remnant of her morning toast–and felt the hot sting of tears at the corners of my eyes.  I may be 27, but damn it, I miss my mom.  And more generally speaking, I miss not being the sole inhabitant of a home.  I miss not rattling around these rooms like a loose tooth with only my vaguely disturbing thoughts for company.  So, like any reasonable 20-something who finds herself alone in a strange new land, I joined Tinder.

Well, first I downed an entire box of sugary cereal and went for a run in the blistering Arizona sun, nearly puking due to the aforementioned cereal-binge, dehydration, and the ever-present fear that I would accidentally stumble onto private property and be picked off like an extra in a back-woods horror film.  Then I wandered aimlessly through town, longing to stop for an afternoon beer in a shady dive bar with the hard-bitten, leather-skinned, small town Arizona, day-drinking crowd, but ruefully recognizing that I was still just barely keeping the cereal in check.  Then I joined Tinder. 

I was mostly curious to see what the local dating pool had to offer and was horrified, but certainly not surprised, to find an inordinate amount of photos of men clutching guns with all the pride and admiration of a father cradling his first-born.  This foray into the murky depths of Tinder didn’t have the desired effect of bolstering my faith in the prospect of future companionship–if anything, it made me feel even more alone–but it did lend credence to my fear that I might one day wander off trail and into the crosshairs of a hunting rifle.

While we’re on the subject of semi-rational, Arizona-based fears, here are some others:

I’m afraid the desert sun will dry-roast my pallid skin until it crackles beneath my fingers like an oversized pork rind.  I’m afraid that, as a result, I’ll make a staggering leap from looking like a twelve year old to looking like I’m one hundred and twelve in a matter of months.  And yes, I do wear sun block.  And no, I don’t wear a hat, Dad, because I’ve inherited your colossal forehead and can’t stomach the mortification of walking around with a human-sized hat perched atop my comically large head like the live action version of Hey Arnold (though his head was oblong laterally, rather than vertically).

I’m afraid I’m going to be infected with bubonic plague, because I read an article about fleas testing positive for plague in an Arizona county 200 miles away and now I’m convinced they’ve rounded up all of their plague-infected friends and are making a bee line (or is it a flea line?) this way (because of course they are).  I’ve begun viewing the cats and dogs in my neighborhood with the utmost suspicion–but mostly the cats because they can transmit plague through their saliva and god knows they’re just lying in wait to take you out.  Cats are shifty as hell.

I’m afraid the local bartenders already know me as, “That strange girl who always orders the same bizarrely flavored cider and refuses to drink from a glass as is customary in polite society.”  But listen, I don’t care how uncouth it is to swig a 22 oz cider straight from the bottle, take a good, long look at the rim of your next bar glass and tell me you don’t see someone else’s lip marks.

I’m afraid the crackling noise I hear in my bedroom eaves is the wasps I’ve seen crawling into the gaps in the siding and they’re biding their time until they’ve eaten away enough dry wall to  break through the ceiling in a shower of plaster and writhing yellow bodies at which point they’ll engulf me as I lie in bed, vulnerable and unsuspecting, and sting and sting until I die a horrible, gruesome death.

I’m afraid I’ll never find out what all the electrical switches in my house do.  I’m even more afraid that the switches that don’t appear to do anything are, in fact,  doing something–something that might one day start a fire.

And now I’ve rambled on about semi-rational fears long enough that I have, once again, quit Tinder.  What an exciting 24 hours it’s been.  Thank for tuning in to this week’s installment of “Perpetually Neurotic And Indecisive Loner Attempts To Deny Her True Nature With Little To No Success.”   Tune in next week as I delude myself into thinking I’d like to make friends before tossing my phone off a mountain (the lake is no longer an option) and returning home to drink alone.  (Or, as alone as one can be with a ceiling full of wasps.  What is it with me and the wasps?)

I Don’t Think We’re In Kentucky Anymore


After two weeks spent helping me get settled in my new place in Prescott, Arizona, my mom just left and I’m pretty sure she ripped my heart out and took it with her. I know that at 27, most mothers and daughters aren’t quite so attached at the hip, but not everyone can be as wildly cool and dysfunctional as we are. It takes a certain level of dedication–to all-day Gilmore Girls marathons, junk food dinners, and early morning lakefront walks—it takes a willingness to shirk responsibility in favor of bonding time, it takes a measure of incurable neuroses and a generous helping of sarcasm, witty banter, and general disdain for the rest of humanity. And, above all, it takes boundless, unconditional love and admiration–something we’ve got in spades.

I could sit here bawling my eyes out, ruminating over the fact that these next three months will be the longest we’ve ever spent apart (not that I haven’t lived alone for the past eight years, but we spent an inordinate amount of time together because, well, see above re: the rest of humanity–no one else measures up), but instead I’ll choose to be grateful that I have a mother so wonderful as to inspire such intense levels of separation anxiety. Few, if any, are so lucky.

Also, it’s less than three hours until noon and I have a fridge stocked with WASP levels of alcohol, so that helps. In fact, in a feat of impeccable timing, my daily planner–ruler of my life–ends today and my new one doesn’t start until Monday making today a glorious, lost day. No niggling compulsion for productivity so as not to leave blank spaces in my daily breakdown, no accountability for a shameful amount of time spent binge-watching Netflix, no written record of cooked meals eschewed in favor of downing an entire box of maple pecan crunch cereal with a pineapple cider chaser—basically, I’ll be reveling in my natural state of being when left unchecked.


But first, I will attempt to cover at least a portion of what’s transpired these past few weeks, though, I can’t promise much in the way of skillful writing or accurate recall–having the memory-span of a goldfish makes things tricky. Between packing a Dodge Grand Caravan to the gills in a truly incredulous feat of Tetris-style mastery, a three day cross-country road trip with stops in Lawrence, Kansas (surprisingly charming) and heaven on earth (my Uncle’s house in Chama, New Mexico), finally moving in to my new place, a preposterous amount of trips to a number of chain stores that forced me to temporarily table my ethics in favor of affordability (the guilt runs deep, but I will admit that it’s nice to own such extravagant luxuries as unbroken furniture not rescued from alleyways and bobby pins not pilfered from the circus-studio floor), and settling in–these past two weeks have been a real whirlwind and I don’t think I could possibly begin to fill in all the details. Instead, I’ll provide you with a stream-of-conscious collection of musings and reflections on the big move and life in this new town. It will likely be somewhat indecipherable and utterly disorganized, so if you choose not to continue, here’s the short version: I’m here, it’s beautiful, it’s strange, I’m happy, I’m heartbroken, I’m everything in between, and the journey goes on.




(Chama, New Mexico)

The town of Prescott is a weird and wonderful hodgepodge of all manner of existence–let’s start there. It’s filled with a spectacular olio of natural beauty–the cream soda scent of Ponderosa Pines wafts through the air like something out of a Willy Wonka fever-dream and stunning vistas of mountains and buttes encircle the town like the jewels of a behemoth crown. To the north, drip-castle formations of granite boulders surround Watson lake, undulating outward across an alien landscape while, to the west, Thumb Butte rises from amidst a forest of alligator juniper, ponderosa pines, and prickly pear cacti, presiding over the town like a benevolent ruler. To the south, nestled in an idyllic pine forest, the perfect mirror of Goldwater Lake reflects a vivid cerulean sky and cotton wisps of clouds like something out of a fairytale.


(Prescott, Arizona.)

Much like the nature here, the neighborhoods, buildings, and people are also a motley crew. Walking through town square provides a kaleidoscopic view of humanity–greased-up, leather-clad bikers, aging hippies with bare feet and tie-dye shirts, bleach-blondes with overly-coiffed hair, pancake makeup, and skin baked to a crisp by the harsh Arizona sun, soccer moms with gaggles of tow-headed children, herbal tea-drinking, crystal toting, new-agers, retirees enjoying their golden years in lawn chairs beneath the shade of the statuesque courthouse, and, much to my horror, no small number of gun-loving, Trump-voting, conservatives. Not that that comes as a surprise–this is Arizona, after all–but I won’t deny that discovering one of my new, neighborhood businesses is a gun shop with a sign that reads “Make America great again, one gun at a time,” caused tremendous culture-shock and a fierce desire to rant, rave, pull my hair out, and throw up in my mouth a little, before calling for an air-lift out of here.


(Prescott, Arizona)

Mercifully, my new home is truly an oasis. Situated on a private street at the foot of the pines, my quirky, 80’s, two-story town-home is quiet and charming with panoramic views of forests, streams, and a glimpse of Thumb Butte through the branches of an imposing pine. Its cozy interior was designed with my signature blend of mid-century modern, southwestern, and vintage style with a smattering of Mexican and Chinese folk art. Already, it feels like home. This is such a childish thing to say, but, I finally feel like an adult. Wait, that’s a blatant lie, I’ll rephrase–I finally feel like I have an adult apartment. No more easy-bake oven and Barbie dream fridge that cooled so unevenly I could only use the front half lest my food be turned to ice. No more eating on the couch (a borrowed one, at that) for lack of a dining table, or even room for a dining table. Here I have a life-sized stove and fridge, a real dining table, a desk so that work needn’t be completed while sprawled across the floor–I even have his and hers closets which seems wholly superfluous for a perpetually single hermit like me, but turns out to be quite useful as someone whose neuroses dictate the need for a halfway home for clothes that have been worn and can no longer live with the clean clothes, but aren’t so dirty as to necessitate relegation to the laundry bin. In fact, this house is so far beyond the realm of places I intended to find (the rental market out here is a nightmare and my options were few and far between), I’m having trouble feeling I deserve it. This is a running theme in my life given how much I’ve relied on my parents when mental illness made supporting myself infeasible, but, excessive or not, I am exceptionally grateful to my parents without whom nothing in my life would have been possible.  So, I will attempt to quash the guilt and focus, instead, on that gratitude. They went above and beyond what any parent could reasonably be expected to do for their not-so-adult woman-child and I can’t believe my good fortune in having two such supportive, generous, and loving parents with a saintly amount of patience and an impeccable eye for design (a major bonus when they’re helping you furnish and decorate your house).


There’s so much more to say and I have too little patience to write it, so I’ll leave you with some dribs and drabs and other assorted miscellany.

The title of this post refers to the fact that I kept calling Kansas “Kentucky” on our drive out here–much to the annoyance of my parents, and to the point where I then found it impossible to refer to Kansas as anything but Kentucky, before finally deciding that any state we drove through would henceforth be known as Kentucky.


(The beautiful views in Kentucky)

I’ve had surprisingly few meltdowns during this whole, exhausting process, but I will cop to sobbing into a shower-beer the first night because, despite holding it together through the extreme chaos of the actual move, stepping into my shower to discover that the water smelled “weird” (the hot water tank just needed to be flushed after disuse) was the last straw for me. I’m very smell-sensitive.

After moving in, I went into such an industrious frenzy that I woke up at 5am one morning and spent an hour rearranging my entire bookshelf by spinal color.  Best decision I’ve made thus far.

My mom and I discovered an abiding love for blood orange cider drunk mid-day at our favorite local bar and proceeded to work our way through their entire stock. We also discovered that dehydration and blazing sunlight will get you good and toasted in more ways that one–that is to say drinking in such a hot and arid climate makes us real cheap dates.


My three hour excursions (round trip and including treatment time) to the Ketamine clinic in Chicago have turned into a cross-state, ten hour Odyssean slog out here. Granted, it would have been nine hours had we not missed our return shuttle, but it’s still a marked change from the ease of receiving treatments before. Making the trip worthwhile (aside from the obvious necessity of the medication) was the extraordinarily kind staff and Turbo, the therapy dog, who gave me the best hug of my life before slobbering off all the coconut oil I’ve been using to plaster my face back together (my skin does not agree with the aridity out here).

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I worried disproportionately about a number of bees seen crawling into the woodwork above my balcony before remembering I just survived the world’s most heinous wasp infestation without batting an eye. Funny how being in a new environment can magnify worries that might not manifest in a place that’s familiar.


Things I’ve broken since I’ve moved here:
-A bottle of coconut oil in the aisle of the Sprouts, after deciding that late-night, high-speed grocery shopping in a fit of delirium, following a nine hour car ride and two hours of unpacking, with only an hour to go before the store closed, was a serviceable idea.
-A brand new plate, after dropping it in the kitchen sink post-ketamine odyssey, whose shattering prompted a bout of drug and exhaustion fueled weeping and muttering about, “uneven dish sets.” Obviously, unevenness is a totally valid thing to cry over.

Things I’ve fumbled, almost broken, and had removed from my grasp by my watchful mother:
-Nearly everything I’ve touched. I blame the altitude. And maybe the cider.

Things my mom has fixed since I’ve moved here:
-A leaking pipe under the bathroom sink–turns out you can Amazon prime yourself a J-trap. What a world.
-A running toilet which she deduced had a defective fill valve through a series of Youtube tutorial guided explorations and attempted remedies. You can also Amazon prime yourself a Fluidmaster 400ARHR High Performance Toilet Fill Valve, which she installed in mere minutes with the aid of an antique pipe wrench (scoured from a row of local antique shops, after discovering that this town has no hardware stores in walking distance) and her general, innate, ingenuity. What a woman.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m sure more will come to me later as I process things during this upcoming week of limbo before school starts. For now, I’m off to eat sugary cereal and get day drunk. Let the emotionally maladjusted fun begin!

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