When Veronica tells me she’s leaving, as she’s saying the words, I begin to imagine all the ways she might die before I get up the nerve to tell her I love her.
At first, they’re your average, run-of-the-mill death-scenarios. Appendicitis. Meningitis. Brain Aneurism. But then they become more specific, more uncommon. Black Widow Spider. Anthrax Exposure. Freak Nuclear Explosion. There are so many possibilities. I know them all by heart, every last one of them. These facts and statistics used to give me a certain sense of control, but now they’re turning against me. They’re making me feel helpless again. (more…)
It’s my first night of welding school. I’m standing in a simulated shop with twenty-three men. We’re all in our twenties, all go-getters who’ve taken the initiative to learn some skills to get better jobs.
But they’re all standing in a huddle as far away from me as they can get; unified in a wordless pact to freeze me out. It’s clear that they resent my intrusion—playing with fire is a macho way to spend your Thursday night but the badass factor drops down to zero if there’s a pussy in the posse who’s trying to pretend she’s one of the guys. (more…)
Every year at about this time I teach Romeo and Juliet to a new crop of freshman English students, and every year, I fall in love with the play all over again. As a general rule, I’ve found that my female students are much more forgiving of Romeo’s streak for the melodramatic (this is especially true after I show them clips from Baz Luhrmann’s version of the movie, where Romeo is played by a very young, very sexy Leonardo Di Caprio). The boys, on the other (more…)
I loved Julie Sadowski because she sat next to me. I loved Ilana Shabanov because she shared a sandwich with me once. I loved Eileen Dougharty because I saw her at the dime store and she might have waved at me. In my community of Arcadia Valley, Missouri, there were 42 girls in the fourth grade class and that year I fell in love at least 50 times. (more…)
Of all the days, it was on my birthday when I realized that Steve had a crush on the pretty girl that worked at Dunkin Donuts.
“Come up to the counter. I don’t bite unless you’re into that sort of thing,” she said.
“Sometimes,” he said to her. (more…)
You should know that if you ever go to Japan, you will never, ever pour your own drink. A carafe of crystal clear sake will be sitting on the table in front of you, and should your hand even flinch in its direction, should you even glance at your glass – your Japanese friend Emi, sitting next to you in the booth, or her kind-of-sort-of boyfriend Haru-san, sitting across from her, or perhaps your date, a ladies’ man with a glittering smile named Katsu-san, will immediately take the carafe (more…)
I’m going to make an embarrassing confession here. In seventh grade, I was majorly obsessed with a boy. Now, when I say majorly, I mean majorly, and when I say obsessed I really mean obsessed. I know being a bit dramatic about a crush at that age isn’t exactly shocking. Unless you get all puberty fueled psycho about the whole thing. (more…)
I’m six-foot-three. It’s a fact. My official medical records prove it: Matt Martin is six foot three.
I’m just tall enough to get poked in the eye by a low-hanging tree branch while shooting a coy smile at a girl. Just tall enough to resist the urge to strangle every person who puts their seat back on an airplane and just tall enough to sometimes get uncomfortable when I have to sleep next to a girlfriend. (more…)
I was almost a Navy wife. And by almost I mean that I was dating a Navy guy for a while, say two and a half years, and the two of us would talk about our inevitable marriage over and over again, never tiring of the topic. By the time I turned nineteen, we had planned our small, backyard wedding that would take place in my quaint suburban town in New Jersey. Our friends and family would be dressed in their nicest clothing and they’d all smile and give nice speeches, toasting the two of us, the love we’d sustained, throughout (more…)
May 28th 2007
Mason comes over to my mom’s house and we watch M in the basement. His hair is short, and he’s wearing a pink button-down shirt. I keep thinking that he’s way too attractive to be hanging out with me. When he walked through the door, my mom silently mouthed, “He’s cute.” (more…)
Let’s talk about love. It’s what all the cool kids are doing, right? It is February; time for love stories and big plastic heart-shaped things swinging from store rafters. But let’s really talk about it for a second. Let’s talk about what love means to you. To me love is a fucking huge concept. It’s this stretchy, luminous thing we strive for every day. Whether or not we’re apt to admit it, love or the desire to find loves tends to be one of the biggest driving forces in everything we do. My first attempt at love was with a guy named Ethan and we were together for three whole years. That’s great right? (more…)
When I was 16 or so, my dad started suffering from seizures and strokes. In the middle of the night I would hear commotion outside my room and immediately know it was my brother calling the ambulance while my mom smoothed down my father’s hair as if it was expensive silk.
But this is an essay about love, you’re thinking. I know that. Bear with me. (more…)
Dan Deacon was playing the Logan Square Auditorium but I wasn’t feelin’ the dance floor. Instead, I was hunched over the bar, sipping on water, elbows propped on the U-shaped countertop. Concert-goers pushed past, shouting out drinks and moving on. Behind me, what seemed like hundreds of people drank, danced, and flirted to Deacon’s set, lost in his dense electro suites.
“Hey!” My friend Jeff materialized out of the crowd. “It’s crazy out there!” (more…)
“Are you coming in with me?” Nicki asks.
“Nah, I’ll wait in the car. I’ll look like an idiot in there.” Jace avoids Nicki’s gaze as he says it, tinkering with the radio.
“Whatever,” she says, slamming the door, walking across the parking lot. Between the doors, she wipes the tears that have streaked lines of mascara down her cheeks. (more…)
It usually happens in crowds, usually when I’m not even thinking about it, maybe a young woman outside of Water Tower Place shakes her head just so, just enough to make her long black hair shuffle over her shoulders, tips becoming tiny brushes painting the world around her so full of promise and possibility, head turning to reveal a soft smile curling in such a way that it’s her, I tell myself. It has to be her.
Except it’s not her. Because it’s never her. So I keep heading south on Michigan. (more…)
Going Clear by Lawrence Wright is largely a history of both the Church of Scientology and the one and only L. Ron Hubbard, its eccentric and obtuse founder. It also explores the membership of some of Scientology’s most well-known followers, like Anne Archer, John Travolta, and Tom Cruise, as well as filmmaker and screenwriter Paul Haggis, who left the church in 2009. Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a 2006 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower, couldn’t have been more thorough in relating how this star-studded, richer-than-God religion came into being and remains relevant in spite of its notoriously repressive history and unsurprisingly thin following (according to Wright, a recent ad claims that Scientology welcomes 4.4 million new devotees every year—and yet, as was mentioned in a recent PolicyMic article, the number of Scientologists in America is less than half that of Rastafarians in America). (more…)
By Emen William Garcia
To review a book about Africa while knowing very little of Africa is at once a gift and a curse. My response, both in writing and in thought, is by default, limited in breadth and in depth; I happen to be suspended at a distance better suited for lobbing the broader, flimsier generalizations typical of outsiders. And yet, paradoxically, my writing and thought on the matter are still valid precisely because I am an outsider. There’s a reason why this book’s author prefers (and at once laments) to describe Africa as an “invisible continent”; there’s a reason why Africa has always been “invisible” to me.
As the great Christopher Hitchens once prudently suggested in a debate before an institution of higher learning, shedding the “appalling burden” of cluelessness “is something we all have to take on.” (more…)
By Emen William Garcia
Much like the travesty of me and Hitch, my newfound hero of journalism and intelligent conversation, I hadn’t known anything about the late David Foster Wallace before his death (by hanging, in 2008). I hadn’t read any of his novels, and admittedly, given my aversion to even literarycontemporary fiction, I likely won’t any time soon (at this stage, I prefer the stories of authors who’ve been dead much longer). I first learned of him by accident; it had begun with a spur-of-the-moment viewing of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s disarming though undeservedly underrated Prozac Nation, an unabashed look at a prodigious Harvard writer’s bout with severe depression (played by an, again, equally disarming albeit undeservedly underrated Christina Ricci). I learned that what I was watching was an eponymous adaptation of a memoir by New York writer Elizabeth Wurtzel—whose Wikipedia page links to Wallace.
Like Wurtzel, Wallace suffered from severe depression. On one hand, Wurtzel more or less eulogized him in a New York article a little more than a week after his suicide; on the other hand, she seized the moment to opportunely highlight the reality of depression, an exploitative gesture I’d implore the article’s readers to both understand and forgive. Of Wallace, Wurtzel writes, “I don’t think he exactly told me that he was a genius, but I must have gotten that impression, because I believe I was instantly impressed by something about him.” (more…)
Prior to Dwarf: A Memoir, the only book I ever bothered to read (and finish) about “little people” was The Hobbit. Unlike The Hobbit, Dwarf is not epic medieval fantasy, nor is it about hobbits or “actual” dwarves, neither of which exist I think. For the sake of political correctness, it’s rather a biography of a “little person”: one in whom we observe the sort of dwarfism—more or less obvious signs of slowed, stunted, or otherwise abnormal growth—that can result from any one of 200 to 300 or more distinct medical conditions.
To put politically incorrectly, I’ve read a book about a “midget.”
Co-written by People.com editor and author Rennie Dyball, Dwarf is the autobiography of Tiffanie DiDonato, who at birth was diagnosed with diastrophic dysplasia. For readers unsure of what that is exactly, DiDonato goes through the trouble to “save you the trip to Wikipedia”, explaining it as “a very rare type of dwarfism that results in short stature, joint deformities, and very short arms and legs.”
“From birth to the age of twelve,” she writes, “my arms were so short that I couldn’t reach my own ears, or other parts of my body for that matter.”
Starting at the age of 12, Tiffanie underwent a series of then-controversial bone-lengthening procedures, which essentially involved breaking/sawing the bones in her arms and legs into segments, using external metal pins and braces to align them, and regularly separating the bones a millimeter at a time (by turning a screw)so that the bones regenerate in the negative space between them and fill in the gaps—effectively lengthening the limbs. (more…)
By Meredith Grahl
I want to preface this story by saying that I love my mother.
“There is a hole in the yard,” my mother says. We are unpacking the U-Haul at our new place. John’s parents and mine are spending their Sunday helping us bring in boxes and our moms take turns watching the baby.
“Watch out for that hole,” she tells us, pointing. “Be careful.” (more…)
Valentine’s Day, 2009. It’s Saturday night, and since my relationship fell apart six months prior, I’m alone. I sit at my desk in my home office. It’s really just a small space something like a walk-in closet, but since it has a window, it seemed only right to upgrade it. There’s just enough room for my card-table desk, folding chair, and waste basket.
A few months ago, when I was happier, I put up shelves. Having never gotten around to using them, my books still fill the stolen milk crates along the wall of my bedroom. (more…)
It was twenty below, one of those horrible Chicago winter nights with the snow advisory, the blizzard advisory, three layers of gortex and still your fingers are ice in your mittens and every breath freezes your insides. If you’re smart, you stay home, wrapped under afghans with hot chocolate and thermal socks—but me? (more…)
It was September, that saddest month, and his favorite time of year, and it was a Sunday, and we had the best breakup ever that wasn’t filmed. Get out the popcorn and kleenex and picture it now: We stand outside his small white house next to my green Ford two-door, parked in the driveway (which in itself says something, because to be parked in (more…)
I began taking piano lessons when I was six years old. My teacher, Ms. Lombardo, was a large, lumbering Italian woman who favored flesh colored stretch pants, and whenever she leaned over to turn the page of my sheet music, she exuded that spicy scent that clings to your sweater when you go out for fondue. (more…)
For once my math was spot-on. Which wasn’t so much of a surprise given I was just quoting back the cost of 330-square feet of ship-lap boards to the heir apparent of Sigfrigson Wood Products, henceforth referred to as son-woodsman, a figure father-woodsman had quoted me on the phone. My nimble arithmetic to answer the question, what do you think 330 square feet of ship-lap runs? momentarily impressed son-woodsman. Perhaps he wasn’t dealing with such a rube. (more…)
I’m somewhat recently divorced. People keep bugging me to start dating. It’s annoying. Please stop telling me to start dating. The conversation usually goes like this:
“Are you dating anyone?” says well-meaning friend.
“No,” I say, steeling myself for the inevitable. (more…)
“I like your stretch marks,” she says, crisscrossing the space between my shoulder blades with a chilly fingertip. The marks have been there since I was 14 and my pubescent body tried its damnedest to outgrow its own skin. She places her palm flat against my back. “I like that I can see them and you can’t,” she says. “It’s like I know a secret you keep from yourself.” (more…)
As writers, we get to learn interesting and trivial facts like the marshmallows in our Lucky Charms are leftover circus peanuts; or that Goethe’s grandmother gave him a puppet theater with which he played furiously, training to be a playwright; or that the game “Seven Minutes of Heaven” started with teenagers in Cincinnati in the 1950s.
In case you didn’t know–the winner in “Seven Minutes of Heaven” has the privilege of choosing any girl in the room, taking her into a darker room, closing the door, turning out the lights and the two can do whatever they please for seven freaking minutes. In fumbling, make-out years this seems like forever. As an adult this feels like a casual greeting. (more…)
My mom always told me that if you don’t like what you’re doing in life, change it. If you can’t change it, accept it. And if you can’t accept it, go get a drink. Some choices you can’t change once you’ve made them. Sometimes the results are hard to accept. I realized this just a few weeks ago.
Gout. Say it out loud wherever you are reading this. Whisper it if you’re embarrassed.
There. I feel like when you say it, you can get over it. You cringe less. (more…)
The rigors of modern life can get depressing, especially as fall comes to a close and we find ourselves draped in winter. At such times, my garden is far away as I crunch down our snow-covered sidewalks. It’ll be a long while in Chicago before I can toss open a window and turn off the heat. Or pick one of my tomatoes from the vine and chew it outside. Sometimes, hefting a sack of shredded mail to the blue recycle bin on a frosty night seems too much work for my hibernating sensibility. Then I wonder if it really matters anyway; it’s going to take everyone working a little more to make a big change. Is that even feasible? And I wonder if my dad was right—living like an environmentalist is just as effective as yelling at the moon. It’s too late. But then I get slammed with a surprise or revitalized by the work of others in my community. Real change is ringing across the countryside. If we’re keen enough to notice it. And it’s not just progressive places like Chicago. (more…)
It’s bad enough that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is raising property taxes, water bills, and parking fees but he also continues to solicit the corporate agenda at taxpayers’ expense. If you’re a teacher, a cop, a firefighter, or a rank and file city worker in any department, most recently the Chicago Public Library, you’re taking an additional pounding from Rahm Emanuel. If you also happen to be a supporter of Occupy Chicago, he’s stomping on your First Amendment rights.
Emanuel, a Third Way politician, supported the Glass Steagall repeal, dreamed up NAFTA, and set himself up to rake in $18+ million at Wasserstein Perella in the two years following his stint at the Clinton White House. His unwavering commitment to corporate interests continues: Mayor Emanuel, along with police “Super,” McCarthy (a “Dah, that’s right, Boss” guy), refuses to allow demonstrators their First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble to protest corporate influence over government. What a surprise. (more…)
“What about buttons for favors? Here look at this one, I Heart Science,” Kara said.
“Hmm… my vote’s for I Shotgun Zombies.” I replied.
“Let’s get ‘em all! It’s our wedding!” And we did, adding several other designs like Old School (which depicted the planets inour solar system but still included Pluto) or Go Big or Go Gnome (complete with yard gnome). One of my favorites was a silhouette of an Iowa prairie bursting with a cartoon rainbow. We scattered the button favors on the checkered tables of the reception on my Aunt Joan’s lawn. And they looked perfect, perched next to the vases exploding with wild flowers Martha grew.
It was hot and on the verge of raining that day. But our guests said that the minute we stood on the lawn for the ceremony, the clouds actually parted and dripped us with a ray of sunshine for the vows. The folks standing on the sidewalk said that two hawks played in the sky above our heads; they dove and spun around one another as we kissed. Of these things I can’t say. Honestly, from my spot on the lawn, I was just trying not to breakdown into a fit of crying buffoonery, and the only way to do that was focus on Kara’s face, her crystalline blue eyes. Beyond that was a colorful blur, faces mixed into the lawn in peach, red, green and yellow. All the best people from my life on a menagerie of blankets, radiating nothing but good vibes to us. Hands down—the best day ever. (more…)
With five minutes before sundown, a whitetail doe stepped into the lane that separated hardwood forest from apple orchard. She stopped and bent her head, nosing through what was left of acorns fallen from the oak trees above her.
I immediately pulled the shotgun up. I focused on shooting fundamentals there in the ground blind; more or less a camouflaged tent with windows, I had been listening to snow and the last of the leaves fall around me for over seven hours that day. The walnut stock of the shotgun pressed cold against my cheek, and I closed my left eye to sight down the barrel, focusing on the front sight, the doe’s back shoulder in blurred distance. Slowly, I exhaled through my nose, blowing the steam away from my eyes, and squeezed the trigger. (more…)
There’s a scene at the dinner table in E.T. where young Elliot is trying to convince his family of E.T.’s existence. They don’t believe him and, tired of his older brother’s teasing, he jumps up and shouts, “It was nothing like that, penis breath!”
My five-year old has adopted this phrase. This is the second time he’s seen the movie but the first time he’s picked up on the sophistication of language. My wife and I have seen it as many times as the number of years since it was first released(1982).
As the landmark movie of our generation, E.T. bonded us decades before we knew each other: we both cherished our E.T. action figure. Who knew that could make a baby?
OK, it didn’t make the baby but the iconic alien will forever be associated with our nascent family. Six summers ago, E.T. was playing in Grant Park when my wife leaned forward to tell me she was pregnant. And now, E.T. has introduced our family to penis breath.