Am I being punked?

…or just harassed?

…or maybe this lady’s just lonely, clinging to the only person who’s given her attention this month. To her, I’m just a faceless eBay seller. So WTF?

All I know for sure is that I’ve received 21 messages from this person over a $12 item, a little plant we are calling Fred.

Here’s Fred:

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He has to be the most messaged-about crested graptoveria IN ALL THE LAND.

Communications from the dread mellificent started with an innocuous request for details. What size was Fred exactly? Could she get more photos?

I wanted to make the sale. I sent photos and details. And thus were the dark portals to hell opened.

Could she get a side view? Sure. Did Fred come from a plant that produced both crests and rosettes?

Note, I was already exhausted by this interaction at this point. I tolerate people pretty well, I think, but in small doses, please! Three messages from this one had maxed me out.

It kept going.

Message 4:

So cool, and beautiful!! Thanks for all the pictures, and info. About how tall is #1 (the greener, dinosaur looking one)? I cant remember if you said they are rooted or not.

I had already given her a photo with a tape measure in it for reference. Had already told her the plant was rooted. This was also in my item description. Ire flared. But I wanted to make the sale, so I responded AGAIN.

Message 5:

Yay for plant mutation!

I softened. I love plants. I tolerate plant-lovers quite well. She just wanted to talk plants! Surely she wasn’t *pure* evil.

But then, messages 6 through 11: a blur of repetition, wheel-spinning, and requests for general plant advice:

Fred would be put in a pot (no yard, just a landing overcrowded by succulents – would that be okay? Would direct morning sun, and afternoon shade be okay, or would he need more shade than sun?

I’m not sure why someone with a landing overcrowded with succulents would need to ask any further questions, but…

What size pot do you think the 5 inch one would need? What does sunburn look like?

Freds can grow solely indoors?

and…

My dentist says I’m like a kid, because I ask so many questions!

I say she’s like an asshole, because WHO NEEDS TO ASK ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS? This was message 12:

Last question (for now) I promise: if you accept my offer, can I contact you to ask about caring for Fred after (if ) I get him?

I hope you feel the feels I was feeling. I honestly considered blocking her right then and there. But I wanted to make the sale.

I made the sale, and oh how the questions rolled in.

Will he be kept in soil until you ship him?

He isn’t very crooked is he/how crooked is he?

This is after multiple photos being sent.

The package is in Santa Clarita according to the tracking, so I might receive him tomorrow, and definitely by Friday. When Fred gets here, I imagine I put 1-2 inches of his “trunk” under the soil line, or ? Do I water him right away? If so, how much at first, and then how often and much after that? Do I keep him indoors for a few days, or put him outside 24/7 right away?

At this point I wondered which of my friends was punking me, cuz ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?

Some messages I fantasized about sending to mellificent:

Do I wipe front to back, or ?

Do I breathe in, then out, or ?

Do I avoid your messages by offing myself with a gun, a blade, a rope, or ?

But actually what I did was stop responding. The messages kept a-rolling in.

Oh, and I think I mentioned the temp down here. The coolest it’s been, and will be for the “summer” is in the low 90’s, and it’s frequently been, and will be in the triple digits, so I don’t know if that will change your answers.

and…

Also, what do I do with the root ball as far as planting it. I’m reading not to stick the trunk under the soil, but this: Dig holes or beds wide, not deep.
Keep the root ball intact.
Plant level with surrounding soil, spreading roots outward.
Fill around roots with native soil.

What do you suggest?

and…

Now I just read something that said not to water for a few weeks ..totally confused.

I sent one last reply, this morning. (I fervently hope it will be my last.) I encouraged her to seek local help, gave brief advice on planting Fred, and closed with “Good luck and enjoy!”

…ENJOY THE SILENCE, YOU CRAZE-BALLS NIGHTMARE!

Of course I got another message:

…there is literally dirt all over my floor, and he was very difficult to get out of the box. If you would, please let me know what to do with him now, re his root ball, and watering, etc. I’d appreciate it.

There will be no response from me, unless she dares to give me negative feedback, in which case my response will be the link to this post.

Here’s a photo of Fred’s beautiful mother!

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Positive ways to deal with post-election grief, shock, and horror

If we learned one thing from the Bush years, it’s that incessant fantasizing about the gory death of the monster in the White House (or in this case, the monster-elect) does little to mitigate said monster’s impact on the world. Here are a few suggestions for more productive avenues for our energy.

  • ACTIVISM
  • Give money to any of the many causes that are certain to be harmed by the monster-elect. This would include anyone not white, male, and immorally wealthy.
  • It’s a great time to get out into nature. First because nature is a kick-ass stress-reliever. Second because we will not have it for much longer.
  • If you have a kid, enroll them in some kind of apocalyptic survival camp.
  • REVOLUTION
  • In the fine tradition of the Reagan years: start a punk band.
  • Writer friends: Keep writing! Scathing political satire seems appropriate, but if you prefer escapist fluff, that’s good too. Market outlook for escapist fluff appears strong for at least the next four years.

For no good reason on this Election Day, here’s something I dreamed in 1998.

A co-worker and I look out our office window onto a huge plowed field of eucalyptus trees. “It’s the next big thing in crops,” she assures me. She’s right–the trees are humongous.

We go down into the field to see the trees. “While we’re here, we may as well leave flowers,” she says, and I see we are at Kurt Cobain’s grave.

When I place my hastily assembled bouquet on the grave, I hear him snoring. Brushing away a little soil, I uncover Kurt himself: naked, dirty and skeletal, but oddly refreshed and ready to return to the music business. “What’s Courtney up to?” he asks.

I can’t let him go back to her, though, so I dye his hair and eyebrows black and convince him to pose as my new boyfriend.

 

The beautiful freedom of relinquishing power, or, How I learned to love #OwnVoices

I watched the most repugnant video on the YouTube last week. Correction: I watched part of it, threw up in my mouth, and then read the transcript. Not gonna link to it, not gonna give the woman’s name. I don’t want her to get any more views on that piece of racist crap. She’s a white author of paranormal romance who’s having tantrums over the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. I had to stop watching when she instructed her viewers to stop calling for diversity in books, to stop criticizing authors for writing books with all-white casts of characters.

THEN I had to stop and admit to myself how annoying I find it to be a white author caught between, on one hand, the push for diverse characters in books, and on the other hand, the #OwnVoices movement, which can be interpreted to say: If you’re a white author, you shouldn’t write from a non-white perspective. Those stories don’t belong to you, you’re not entitled to make money off them, and you’re doomed to get them wrong.

I need to stop pretending that this isn’t annoying. It is. It’s super annoying. It’s annoying that more and more agents and editors are looking for writers who aren’t me. It’s annoying that there is an increasingly large readership who will criticize my books if I write from a white perspective AND if I write from a non-white perspective.

It’s kind of an annoying time to be white.

It’s also kind of a deadly time to be black or brown, and has been for the entirety of our nation’s history.

________

<SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU WHINING DIAPER BABIES YOU ARE NOT BEING OPPRESSED>

…is what I want to say to everyone complaining about #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Including myself.

________

Seriously. If an agent doesn’t want to see your query because you’re white? THAT’S NOT OPPRESSION.

I bet you got an excellent education, probably free, at a school that was well-funded, clean, and not gang-controlled. You never worried about getting jumped on your way to school, you did not suffer crippling PTSD as a result of seeing relatives and friends gunned down in front of you, your family didn’t require you to work or provide childcare, and it was taken for granted that you’d go to college. You did in fact go to college, where you had the luxury of studying literature and creative writing, then got a great job with healthcare and benefits that allowed you the free time to write your awesome novel.

If you then experience some challenges in getting that sucker published because there’s all these agents who’d suddenly prefer to represent people of color, see above on shutting the fuck up you whining diaper baby you are not being oppressed.

________

Back to the repugnantly vlogging writer of paranormal romance: I have to wonder if she’s ever actually been criticized for writing books with all-white characters. Her work doesn’t even pretend to have social relevance or literary value. Does anyone give a shit if some escapist fluff is filled with white people? I don’t. I bet she’s never disappointed a single reader for not putting people of color in her books. Honey, there was no need for you to join that conversation. It was none of your concern.

I mean, we all know why she joined the conversation. For the views. All of a sudden, people know who she is, they’re watching her vlog, they’re hitting her blog, her name is known to people she never would’ve reached otherwise, all for saying We’ve never had diversity before in the history of humans, so stop this right now, it’s annoying me.

________

Let’s be honest, the prospect of giving up some privilege and representation and power is frightening. It’s disingenuous to pretend the publishing world isn’t competitive. The more emphasis is placed on #OwnVoices, the harder white authors will find it to get published. There’s a finite readership and a finite number of dollars available and it looks like more and more of those dollars might end up in the hands of people of color. If you’re white, this can feel threatening. Get over it. Breathe. Accept it. EMBRACE IT.

I’m sick of people like Ms. Repugnant Vlogger whose message boils down to I’m fine with whatever you people of color want to try to achieve, as long as it doesn’t threaten my position of white privilege and power.

The balance of power in this country has shifted some in my short lifetime, and I look forward to more change. More people of color in positions of power, more diverse voices being heard and published and getting paid for it. And yes I do believe that should happen at the expense of white people. We have to be prepared to give up the privileged position we’ve held for centuries. Accept it. Embrace it. IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME.

Repugnant Vloggers of the world, go ahead and have your tantrums if you need to, but don’t pretend that #OwnVoices or #WeNeedDiverseBooks are censoring you. Looks to me like they gave you an outlet for your hate and a shit-ton of blog hits.

Now let’s look at a photo of some flowers!

SAMSUNG

I love putting naked ladies in my blog.

 

 

Emotional Manipulation of the Pet Chicken

You raised her. You’ve given her the tastiest treats she’s ever known. You’ve cuddled her. She’s six months old. She’s starting to lay eggs. LAY EGGS. She’s emotionally needy. She wants to fly up on your arm and have you pet her feathers. She wants you to cradle her under your arm, casually, as you survey the yard. You’ll idly stroke her under the beak, along the wattle. She’ll make little sounds.

URBAN CHICKENS
You provide them with a lush dense garden and they make a royal Wallow out of it. They go all Serengeti and shit. All tender green growing things disrespected. Everything pecked and tasted and/or scratched up.

CUTE
Running (“pell-mell”) across the yard with her head down, looking like a serious little quarterbacker.
Ferociously wagging her tail because a bug is itching her bum.
Fighting over a slug. Tigra steals it from Bunny and Bunny back again and so forth nine or ten times in five seconds.
Falling asleep in your lap.
Falling asleep on the fence.
Reaching down down with her long stretchy neck between her legs to snag her brand new egg with her beak and move it up to her warm warm breast feathers.
Buk Gahk!
Being shy when there’s guests around, and hiding in the quince thicket.

SUBMISSION
You are gentle and all-powerful.
You are her rooster, approaching from above.
She hunkers down in her breeding posture when you advance.
You’re the bringer of treats.
You make her come to you. You never chase. She knows the treat-whistle.


You eat her would-be offspring, except when she does.

chickens

 

The true meaning of irony

One day while teaching a lesson on irony to ninth graders, I told this story:

“OK so, this past weekend I threw a party at my house. The main bathroom has a faulty doorknob that no longer turns, so we secured it in the unlatched position. There’s a deadlock on the door too, so you can still lock the door. But just to make sure guests knew the deal, I wrote a note: Please use the deadbolt to lock the door since the doorknob is broken. You are not trapped – just give the door a firm push to get out.

“I stuck this on the bathroom door, confident I had solved the problem. But midway through the party some guy came up to me and was all like ‘I broke your bathroom door!’ and I was all like ‘No man it was already broken’ and he was all like ‘NO, I broke your door.’ So I went with him to look at the bathroom door, which was indeed freshly broken–the doorframe was busted off the wall. He had seen my note, pushed firmly–very firmly–and broke the door open. And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t written that note to prevent it from happening. THAT’S irony!”

I crested to the top of a pure  wave of triumph. Damn, did I ever know how to teach a concept! “Any questions?” Hands shot up. “Ronaldo?”

“Ms. Gruner, was there alcohol at this party?”

 

*Personal definition of irony revised.*

How to harvest honey from a top-bar hive

  1. Shut the chickens in the coop. You know it’s a good idea. Those bitches will be all up in your ankle space if you don’t.
  2. Consider the husband’s advice re: wearing the goddamn beekeeping suit. Reject it. Reconsider after he points out that you missed a day and a half from work after getting stung on the nose. Settle for putting on just the goddamn headdress.
  3. Light the smoker. Wait for flames to die down. Re-light the smoker. Puff smoke around the hive entrance. Lose interest in the smoker. It’s not like it ever stopped you from getting stung.
  4. Open your hive. Examine the combs. Give heavy-ass slabs of honey-rich wax to the husband for processing.
  5. Coo at your bees. Look for the queen. You will not find the queen.
  6. Tell the chickens to shut up, it’s only a few more minutes.
  7. Take off the goddamn headdress and toss it on the woodpile. It’s cramping your style.
  8. Rearrange the top bars, interspersing empty bars with full to increase a feeling of spaciousness in the hive and encourage the building of fresh comb.
  9. Make kissy noises at your bees and close up the hive.
  10. Crush the combs in a sieve and strain the honey into jars. Spend twenty minutes licking your hands. Gloat.

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Heartened by the failures of great people

That may sound mean-spirited. I don’t intend it that way. There’s just something wonderfully uplifting about successful people’s failures. Here’s my latest example.

I had the great good fortune to get a tour of the Pixar campus (thanks Jonathan!!) and a handy synopsis of Pixar’s history, which was all news to me. (Errors and omissions are mine.)

It seems Pixar began as a little nugget of joy inside Lucasfilm. George Lucas didn’t see a future in CG animation (FAILURE #1) and sold the tech to Steve Jobs, who’d recently been fired from Apple (FAILURE #2). Jobs ran the company the way he knew how, which was as a maker of hardware (FAILURE #3). The hardware didn’t sell (FAILURE #4) but Pixar developed a relationship with Disney, who helped fund Toy Story. (COUGH, HUGE SUCCESS.) Disney looked at that success and decided that the reason adults in particular enjoyed Toy Story so much was…3D animation. (FAILURE #5.) They tried to recreate what they perceived as the formula for success in [insert your least favorite CG Disney garbage here, or if you can’t think of anything, I’ll suggest The Polar Express].

Cue gleeful cackling and the rubbing together of palms.

Granted, it’s easy to look back and roll your eyes at all the mistakes. Obviously Pixar movies are great because of the great stories (though as Jonathan pointed out, it helps that they don’t look like crap). I’m no cheerleader for Lucas or Jobs, but I do respect their successes, and I love them for their failures. [Insert some blah blah blah here about success springing from persistence and resilience if you feel you need to point that out.] I think it’s also worth noting that Disney was smart enough to buy Pixar and then pretty much leave them to do their thing the way they know how.

Here’s a photo of some dork with a unicorn!

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POSTSCRIPT: I consider it a small personal failure that I didn’t have the nerve to bust  Jonathan up with “Hey, can we see the Minions?”

 

Eight stories for EI8HT, continued

Eight

My favorite uncle opened a spa. He claimed that with his specialists’ help you could taste an ultimate pleasure drowning in his oxygen-rich tanks. There you lay in a glass coffin filled with translucent green fluid. A transmitter or something beeped out a pitiful orchestra; then these 20,000-volt cables swung down out of thin air to turn all the electricity green. I knew sooner or later he’d ruin that tank and its beautiful electricity-singing liquid. His slight lisp and the atmosphere of amoral characters and their enigmatic activities which permeated his office did not discourage his success in the slightest.

My favorite aunt breezes down the highway in her Audi TT. Little and blithe and pink, she’s returned from spinning her lipstick on snowy slopes; now she’s on a collision course with the tanks of green, and who can blame her? Those boys in huge fur coats? Those girls with very little on underneath? No. Relentlessly toward the spa she drives smug and perky—now plunging through the guardrail, off the overpass, through the roof of Uncle’s spa, into that tank of singing green. Later we dip hot perfumed water from the still-entitled wreckage of her silky body, once swaddled in furs, now no longer perky, driven to ruin by shabby passengers.

My uncle’s reign of fey symphonies shudders to a wild resolution. Accordingly, he leaves off his crackling compositions, his Q4 business plan, to preside over legions of such beautiful angels. I can see him now: rolling inexorably toward some uncertain but doomed conclusion.

Stagger to the kitchen, he says, and get me the gasoline.

Friday, feelin’ cocky.

Today I complete five months of riding my bike to work. I’m feeling pretty full of myself about it. I’d wanted to start for yeeeeeears but something always held me back. Mostly a legitimate fear of riding through the Posey Tube, an underwater tunnel that connects my home island (Alameda) with Oakland. Bikes and pedestrians share a *very* narrow walkway that slopes downhill for about half a mile. You’ll get going super fast, brakes on the whole way, sweaty-palming it because if your handlebars catch the guardrail, you’re gonna flip into traffic going freeway speed. If you need to pass anyone, you have to stop and squeeze by–often one person has to swing their bike over the rail for this to work. If someone’s pushing a shopping cart through the tube, you’re not getting past them. On top of all that, it’s fucking helluv loud and stinky.

But my PTSD around taking AC Transit got too bad in November after I was attacked for the second time. First time, this crazy man punched me between the shoulder blades as he got off the bus. No reason. Maybe I was in his way. I didn’t expect anyone to do anything, but no one even fucking said anything to me about it. Unbelievable. Second time, maybe a month later, I brushed a woman’s arm with my tote bag as I squeezed past her. She turned and smacked my ass. I lost it. (And I know better than to engage.) I turned around and yelled, “Don’t you spank me! I am not your child!” Of course she got up in my face and threatened my death. No one around us reacted. I had stopped reacting. (I really do know better than to engage.) She eventually got off the bus, still screaming, “Bitch, come get some of this…I’ll kill you, bitch…” And again, no one made a comment. No one said a thing. Amazing.

So fuck you, AC Transit, your surly drivers, your erratic schedule, and all your crazy-ass riders.

Now I ride my bike to a free shuttle driven by a wonderfully koo-koo dude named Rafael whose classic Friday afternoon goodbye is  “Have a great weekend guys, ride safe, I love you!” Can you beat it? No stinky tube, no crazies besides awesome Rafael, no one has attacked me in over five months, PTSD lessening steadily, thigh muscles rock hard, sense of superiority over all the suckas in their single occupancy vehicles high, and I feel FUCKING PUNK ROCK.

Here’s a photo of a ranunculus!

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