There’s this lady named Mildred and she’s in the corner of a coffee shop with a name she can’t remember because all she can think about is how gassy she is. She’s farting a lot and thinks maybe it could be from the Banoffee pie or the pistachio cake she ate earlier, but she’s not sure. Out of ideas, she relaxes back into the wall. She lets it support her for a moment, giving her head a rest too, brains and skull and all. Mildred’s wearing a dress because this morning she decided she doesn’t like being a ghost anymore so when she looked in her closet, she pulled out the girliest and most unconventionally un-Mildred piece of the lot and resolved to undo herself today by doing herself up. She treated herself to those pies and cakes because she thought the dress was bringing her good luck- based on the looks she’s getting from the guy on the other corner of the coffee shop it’s still happening- but all of a sudden everything is going downhill and she can’t stop farting.
They aren’t huge farts, though, or silent-but-deadlies (SBDs), but she can feel her dress ripple in the wake of the wind she’s creating in her corner and she laughs a little because really, it’s quite funny- the speed and rhythm of them. She tells herself she’s grateful there’s such loud music so no one else can hear but then she sees the guy on the other end of the room wedge himself out of the space he had not too long ago lodged himself into. He’s walking over to her and he’s smiling but oh shit, Mildred can’t stop farting. Maybe it’s the soymilk? she wonders, but there’s no hard proof, just poof. And in what Mildred counts as the moment she wishes she were a ghost again the song ends and the man is before her, in the path of a tornado he doesn’t know is about to hit and in that freckle of a moment that could have been sneezed over, the air that once sat between her legs has now floated up to her nose and she breathes in so much embarrassment she could package it and sell it for a hundred bucks to the bully who needs to use it at some tough school nearby.
She’s hoping he doesn’t notice, but his nose starts to wiggle to one side and then to the other and she’s thinking that’s a really great skill, to be able to move your nose like that. Mildred tries to do the same but she can just flare her nostrils. She becomes self-conscious that this flaring is making her nose look wider than it is so she stops and re-routes her breathing through her mouth, letting it hang. He’s looking at her and she’s thinking, hoping, he hasn’t gotten a whiff yet but from his body language she’s thinking he has. She prays, instead, he’s just nervous because he is about to ask her on a date and by the looks of it, he doesn’t have much practice, so she says, Yes, with her eyes to relieve the tension. He’s holding his breath, becoming quite white, and reaches his hand out towards her. She’s thinking, Wow, he’s fast. He’s confident; he’s a man. But then his hand cuts just shy of her to grab the sugar from her table and to Mildred’s dismay he just nods his head, Thanks, and walks away.
The smile, the gaze, the hands: now imagine Wonder Woman, Hillary Clinton, Raggedy Ann and Rosa Parks as The Mona Lisa.
Very excited to be interviewed on Australia’s ABC National Public Radio this Friday morning, 3 May, at 10am (aussie time) on Books and Arts Daily with host Michael Cathcart for a discussion with Valerie Patterson on the Mona Lisa in popular culture. You can find details of how to listen off-air here (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/), or you can also listen online as a live audiostream. I will post the MP3 when it’s archived online, too!
My mom’s got a paraplegic bird in her pocket. He ate through her cashmere dressing gown and now gets fed tiny treats for his tiny beak. Not too bad for a bird who can’t fly.
I’m reading a story I wrote called “The Gymnast” tonight at Stories Bookstore in Echo Park, CA alongside some awesome writers.
Thailand! You were more fun when I was retoxing than detoxing, but I do love to look at you. Even though I got pink eye and a cold, I managed to look at you with love and fondness. Even though I spent a few hours in a Thai hospital with an empty stomach and a body freckled with mosquito bites so that I could get antibiotics for my it’s-a-girl-colored eye, I still think you’re hot.
For the last 7 days I’ve been expelling shit so that I can feel light and free. But I don’t feel as light or as free as I’d hoped. I feel tired and this psyllium husk is a bitch. I’ve only lost a few pounds and have tortured myself by spending all my free time devouring restaurant menus, youtube cooking channels, and an array of recipe sites like Epicurious, One for the Table, and Skinnytaste… imagining, waiting, dying for the 8th day when I can eat again. It turns out I’m not the only one who fills her time with temptation. I met a lovely German lady who’s spent the last few days drawing recipes and planning what she’ll cook when she gets home, and even dreaming as I have been of binge eating. So it’s not just me! I guess fantasy and anticipation are what keep us all going.
I must have teased my tastebuds too much on Koh Phangan (a place I thought I could pronounce until I met a group of Thai ladies in the sauna who kept trying to correct me. We went back and forth so many dizzying times that by the end I could barely recognize the words I was saying. ‘Paang-annn,” they coaxed. “Paang-aang,” I tried, but my tired tongue couldn’t do it. “No, no, no… Paaaaaaan-aaaaaannggg…” and on it went). In Haad Tien, I ate chicken laab and fresh barbequed seafood like red snapper and prawns with roasted sweet potatoes and salads. I had fresh coconut and mint milkshakes and homemade yogurts and lime spritzers. I met enchanting people, did healing therapies and yoga classes, and climbed to the peak of the locals’ treasured “Viewpoint,” a spot so high I thought I’d never get down. All at the same time, I admired a breathtaking view while imagining my fateful fall. I wondered who’d come to my funeral, if it would be fun or sad, and that made me miss all my friends and family. But then, I got down (in the dark, mind you), and I danced! I danced until 9am in the morning and until I couldn’t dance anymore.
Now I’m in Koh Samui, a place I can pronounce easily (phew), and I’ve made it through this cleanse WITHOUT cheating. It’s not so bad when you arrive on your last day because you’re so close to the end you can taste the food that’s about to hit your tongue. There were a few times I wanted to just say, Sod it, and run across the road for some “fresh tropical coffee” but I didn’t. It’s amazing how talking to someone (anybody!) can make you feel better. I went from being shy to trying to chat up everyone in sight, even the Thai ladies working in the restaurant below me who can’t understand me but smile anyway. I’ll ask for housekeeping just so someone will be there to talk to even if I don’t know what she’s saying. I’m kidding, they speak great English. And despite my less-than-fantastic experience of detoxing, this place is gorgeous and there’s an old lady on the beach in a hut who gave me the best massage of my life. So, good deal, I suppose.
Up next, Chang Mai in the north. Home of what I hear is the real deal. Hey, Chang Mai, I can’t wait to have some of your green curry and pad thai!
My wooden creature Jim striking a pose with the owner of AR4T Gallery Torrey Cook in the pages of Laguna Beach Magazine! My work was on display as part of the “Where the Sidewalk Ends” show curated by Chantal deFelice. Congrats, Torrey, on the feature!
Here’s the link (page 116/117): http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/publication/?i=143804&pre=1
At some point, you realize your parents are getting old. You look at them with concerned, sympathetic eyes. It makes you sad when you see how long it takes them to climb up the stairs. Your phone conversations usually include noticeable gaps of silence during which they fervently search to remember why they called you in the first place; their views of how the world works are becoming increasingly less sound; their rationalizations of logic don’t quite add up. After a lifetime of abhorring all things related to group travel, they start to have second opinions about the benefits of cruises. They high five each other when they fall into the 60 plus seniors discount bracket at the movie theater, but their high fives usually miss. You start to receive forwarded emails containing a plethora of sex after 50 jokes they think are hilarious, followed closely by emails wherein the subject lines read a variation of: “[insert your mom’s name] wants you to take action to ‘Tell Congress Military Working Dogs are Not Equipment!’”
But then it hits you: If they’re old, it means you’re old, too.
This violent realization hit me, not when I turned 30, but when my mom scheduled a colonoscopy for herself and my dad. They happened to book it on the morning after their 30th wedding anniversary. When I called to find out how they were celebrating, my dad took the opportunity to tell me how, instead of eating steak and drinking wine over a candlelight dinner, they’d be fasting on a horrid concoction of doctor-prescribed laxatives. I think my dad’s exact words were, “We’ll be on the toilet all night, shitting our brains out.” How romantic.
So if they’re “seniors,” it must mean I’m an adult, right? I look around though, and I don’t see any adults. I see young people doing things adults do, but not really. HOA sounds more to me like a disease than an association I’d like to be a part of. My friend’s kid comes up to me often and says, “Ask your mom if you can have a sleepover.”
I hear it’s a good outlook, this kind of perennial, unceasing idea that we are in the process of getting older, of dying, without ever being old. My nana just turned 90 but she has been telling everyone she is 39 for the past 30 years. But if the adults think of themselves as kids until it’s time to schedule their first colonoscopy, then who are the adults?
Illustrations for a story I wrote called “The Gymnast,” published in Issue #3 of the awesome literary journal for humor called Kugelmass. Check out excerpts, illustrations and my audio recording (backed by original music by Michael Cera) online here:
Painting for my show last September at PAS Gallery in Fullerton.
Little Wooden Cutout CBGB Groupie Boy