List-ish: Five Awesome Moments in Pop Cultural Coffee

Happy National Coffee Day!

Everyone claims that non-holiday holidays like this were started by the correlating industry and card companies in order to get you to buy more of your stuff; however, I think these holidays were started by social media managers needed content and hashtags in order to make their brand, product, company seem Just Like You TM. This site says it’s also World Heart Day and National Biscotti Day.

Thus, I’m feeding into the hype. Here’s to coffee. Without which, I’d be the soggy, soul-crushed, non-productive animal I truly am. Now where can I get some biscotti to dip into you?

Most Ridiculous Outfits Worn While Serving It

Winner: Roseanne in Roseanne

Runner up:  SNL Coffee Talk

coffee_roseanne

The Americana housewife apron, girly colors and sexy ruffles looked so wrong on Roseanne it was so right. Especially for a show about the changing structure of families, women and work.

Most Wonderful Repeat References to It

Winner: Twin Peaks

Runner up: Gilmore Girls

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. And a slice of cherry pie. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

The mundanity and simplicity and homeyness of “coffee and pie” is an intentional contrast to the topsy-turvy, mysterious world of Twin Peaks — where home is anything but “Home.” The contrast is meant to confuse your deepest subconscious even further. That’s if the most unsettling scene in TV history didn’t already do it for you.

(I almost don’t want to publish this video on my blog. It is so quietly discomforting. Hands down the most disturbing thing I’ve ever Netflixed. And I have watched some weird stuff. Shiver.)

Best Oldies Song About It

Winner: “Cigarettes and Coffee” by Otis Redding

Runner up: “No Sugar” by The Guess Who

This song’s about nothing and everything all at once — smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and talking about anything your souls connect on at 3 am with your lover. Otis Redding seemed to know the overlooked moments in life were the ones most worth singing about.

Most Random Correlation Between It and Chick Flicks that Defined My Adolescence

Winner: That Cruel Intentions Scene With the Escalator

Runner up: The She’s All That coffee shop reunion that happened in September

“I am colorblind. Coffee black and egg white.”

The escalator scene is memorable because of the escalator, sure, but I was always obsessed with the Counting Crows song that played with it. What an odd, perfect choice. The dissonance of the lyrics, the dissonance of losing your virginity. Imperfect. Beautiful. Strange.

Best Glamorization

Tie: Sex And The City

coffee-satc-2 coffee-satc-3 coffee-satc

Ladiiiies! Talking ‘bout flicking the bean while sippin’ on it. This show (and the proliferation of Starbucks on every corner in real life) was essential in making to-go coffee an everyday (sometimes hourly) experience in the early 2000s.

Tie: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

coffee-breakfast-at-tiffanys

I mean, damn. Look at that: Of course this scene’s iconic. Holly Golightly made drinking coffee out of a crappy throwaway look impeccable — worth every 14-carat paper cut.

List-ish: My favorite summer photos 2016

This spring I moved to Chicago and had the best, most revelatory summer ever. Here are some of the reasons why.

jm-train-stop

Me and 95th. Everyone who has been here a while makes fun of the CTA because it’s gross. It is, I guess, but what do you expect from public transportation? I love that it’s so easy to use and makes me less weird about going out. I wish this for every city — occasional pee smell and all.

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Mermaids make good soldiers. This tattoo shows my friend who she is and what she fights for. It’s beautiful and so is she. Summer is the best. More inhibitions, cares, and clothes get shed.

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Savage the muppet. Summer’s for the Marion dogs.

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Capone’s bar. Justin performs at Green Mill, a cultural institution, where slam poetry was born and Al Capone partied. Every place in Chicago has some kind of gritty story turned glittery in the lens of time.

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Caught in bed. This summer has been about rebuilding our friendship. These little moments of total comfort around one another and in each other’s spaces are my favorite. Those moments are the ones you don’t remember but wish you could. I plan to capture more of them as we move along.

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Sox and 35th. The Cleveland Indians (the team I root for by hometown proxy) played the White Sox. Chicago won and there weren’t many people there, but we took a lot of selfies and got to bicker over who was eating more of the nacho cheese, thus ruining any chance of fair distribution for the chips.

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Kid toss. My brother-in-law, niece and nephew nail farm parkour.

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Mary’s room. I was home for my grandma’s funeral. After the calling hours, I went to the farm house where she had lived her entire adult life and where my dad’s family all grew up. Everything inside was frozen for a moment by the gravity of the day. Trinkets and totems covered this old dresser in my aunt’s room. She was recovering in the hospital after a brain hemorrhage that happened months before and couldn’t make it to the funeral for her mother, a circumstance that made the unpredictable cruelty of timing twist a quarter turn sharper.

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Grandma’s room. The bed’s gone. A dresser and trunk and a rocking chair and lamp are all that’s left. The shell of the room is covered in reminders of their family, their faith or both.

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Missy. I didn’t expect how sad I’d become inside the empty house. My sister and cousin were coming to join me but not soon enough. I headed to the barns looking for a kitten my dad had been telling me about, hoping to distract myself from what was coming up from deep inside me. But in the barn, I ran into one of the farm’s employees working that day — someone I was startled to see, I just figured I was alone. The surprise made unrattled everything and made me burst into tears. Dressed up in heels, sweating and sobbing inside the milk house. He was so patient as I gasped and sobbed gasped and sobbed gasped and sobbed trying to explain who I was and that I was looking for a “kitty my dad likes.” “Oh, that’s Missy!” he said. He took me to her. It was as if she had been waiting for me all along.

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Dad and Honey. No one works as hard as my dad. His rough hands tell the working class hero story I worship, but he’s always so tender with animals. He’s got a farmer’s realism but respects an animal’s power. A few months after this was taken, he was thrown by several spooked cows and spent weeks in a hospital recovering from having his insides crushed, ribs snapped. He will always be the person I respect the most.

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Chicago zen. There’s a circle of Buddha heads along Lake Shore trail. They’re part of the Ten Thousand Ripples project, an art-based program to spread peace in Chicago. They are there to remind passers-by to pursue calm and understanding, socially and psychologically. Lake Michigan geese love it as much as I do.

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Spotted. I was shooting these photos from far away. This guy saw me though. He watched for a second to determine if I was a bringer food or if I was a threat. I was neither. He went back to pecking the dirt.

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Concrete jungle. After a day at the Art Institute, I headed outside not totally knowing where I was or where I needed to go. Luckily, I exited the side that neighbors Millennium Park. There was a garden full of wild flowers going toe to toe with the skyscrapers for best scenery. As I kept walking, I happened upon an orchestra doing a dress rehearsal for a show later that evening. The city’s full of excellent surprises.

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Dive in. A free beach volleyball tournament near my neighborhood.

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Land ho. All summer long I’ve run along the lake. I’m alone here in a way I needed and sought; I’m making space so I can ask myself questions I need to answer so I can set the course of my life. This has been the perfect place to stop running from myself. Also, the view is unfailingly interesting. To one side you have a dangerous blue blanket covering secrets and seaweed. On the other you have a great American city’s towering skyline pulsing from the heat. It all makes chugging through two miles in 85 degree sludge feel not so silly. I always take an intermission at one of the beach houses and watch the water. (I still am giddy about the concrete stadium seating and open spaces for the public to use.) Seagulls fight for food or bob along the waves, a picture of peace. Sail boats dot the horizon in lonely, sunny succession. Each remind me of things I want to remember.

Inspo: Secrets in the pavement, Miley and Odetta, talking about poverty respectfully, and Tide by Tide

Walked-all-over love notes

I walk about two miles at least each day. To get around this town, you have to rely on your two feet and a well–curated podcast roll. While I walk, I see so many notes in the pavement. Every 15th square in the sidewalk has something wonderful written in it. I like to imagine how good the cold wet goosh must feel on your finger as you write your forever note.

But, oh, what to write? I agonize over what I would choose. I like this one:

you-are-loved

Sometimes pigeons get in on the act. I hope their little bird feet are OK after walking through wet cement. Was this the grisly scene of a pigeon on pigeon murder? Was he forced to walk through this for botching a bird seed robbery and his pigeon body is telling no tales at the bottom of the river?

sidewalks-pigeon

But mostly the notes are things like this:

sidewalk-annie-and-ryan

I imagine a coupling announcement is popular because it’s the first thing that comes to mind. You probably don’t have a lot of time, after all, to cement your statement, lest it dry or a construction guy spot you before you get in your partner’s full name.

I definitely have a favorite gray graffiti message. It’s brilliant. But of course, as soon as I started taking photos of these to track my favorites, I couldn’t remember where it was.

For weeks, I sought this note as if I were Ahab and it my infuriating white whale. I was determined to find it again. I grew increasingly discomforted by how looking at sidewalk squares over and over again is a lot like writing a word over and over again — the reality of that thing even being a thing becomes completely fuzzy and suddenly you’re questioning if this word, this path, YOU! are even real.

And then one morning, the sky split open, and there she was, letting her brilliance rip and her blow hole spout gloriously on my morning commute.

fart

 

Miley + Odetta = <3

I’ve always been on Team Miley. She reminds me of me as a wee young lad-y wearing sequins and ruining all the decent pictures with an indecent tongue thrust and generally just doing things that make most people uncomfortable.

Buried in the silly celebrity junk piled on top of Miley is the root of her story: She’s a really, really good singer. I love her smoky, badass voice. She’s country twang turned soulful pang. That voice is as drrrrrrty as dish water and I hope she never, ever cleans it up. Her recent cover of cover of Odetta’s “Baby, I’m in the Mood for You” with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon’s show knocked my sequin socks off.

Sidebar: Favorite lyric in this song:: “And sometimes I’m in the mood, I wanna live in a pony stall!”


Oh oh oh oh oh oh… Don’t miss the Odetta version either.

The importance of telling our own stories

Family Story is an incredible program started by activist Mia Birdsong that shares stories of people living in poverty, as told by the people living in poverty. The point is to show that the story we think we know about the lower class has countless more chapters that are rich with love, hard work and promise. The big takeaway though is that it’s most empowering to let people–of any circumstance–tell their own story. Her Ted Talk is just the inspiration you need on a Tuesday.

Word choice matters

Move along if the phrase “word selection” doesn’t get the bespectacled little worm inside your head to turn on his lamp light and sit up straighter in his velvet armchair.

OK, for those of you still here, I bought this pack of Tide pods on the right a few months ago.

Having done enough laundry to need new pods (hooray, adult choices!) I picked up what I assumed was the same product.

tide-by-side

Well, it is, but there’s one very important difference on the packaging.

Older version = Brightener

tide-brightener

Newer version = Color Protector

tide-color-protector

Ah-ha! I don’t know if one version is newer or older, but I think “Color Protector” is such a subtle but smarter word choice for this aspect of the product. “Brightener” makes me think it will brighten my clothes, which is not good for certain colors. “Color Protector” makes it seem powerful but neutral—instilling a sense of need for this piece of the formula that “Brightener” just doesn’t evoke.

With a “Color Protector” I feel like my skivvies are free to be whatever color they want/ were born to be – and, really, that’s all this modern girl wants.

Plans-ish: Be back at the end of September!

I’m pausing on posting. There’s something big just around the corner.

This will all make sense soon.
This will all make sense eventually, said everyone always.

I’ll be back on here the end of September with new essays, -ish, interviews, and cool stuff you should probably definitely follow up on. I’ll also be announcing the aforementioned “something big.”  The suspense builds!

See you soon.

Story: Tags Are for Body Bags

Do you ever think musicians, like really talented serious musicians — hunting-down-the-dream musicians — ever think about or care where their music will be played if it becomes a hit?

These songs, something they uncovered from the dark recesses of their interpersonal ache, one of the most intimate personal experiences ever encountered, become the soundtrack to lost virginities, bar mitzvahs, DMV line waiting, or, like now, an Applebee’s happy hour.

Alice thinks about this as she hears the restaurant’s music loop start all over again. Queen. All soundtracks at chain restaurants start with Queen. Who would have thought a rock band singing gay anthems would be the least-offensive music in 2016. Do you think Freddie Mercury was reincarnated? Alice shifts to lean her other elbow on the bar and watches Maddie Ryan.

Maddie Ryan is sitting in booth 32. She went to high school with Alice but was one of those students who had mental issues but was 90% with-it, so you weren’t really sure what was going on up there.

The ridiculous soundtrack of ‘80s and ‘90s soft rock hits on loop, curated by a chubby man in a cubicle most likely, used to be the most unbearable part of her double shifts. Right now though, more miserable was having to watch Maddie Ryan wait for a blind date. And at Applebee’s? Come the fuck on.

Alice is projecting and she knows it. She adjusts her name tag and sighs. What she’s really disgusted by is herself. Past the point of outrage and quickly sailing past sad, Alice had just nearly reached the precipice of acceptance. And acceptance of one’s fate is a form of survival, a sedative for a broken heart.

Hers felt like it had been shattered beyond repair two years ago. It had been her sophomore year at Rutgers. Almost done with second semester. Chosen child. Ms. Has-Her-Shit-So-Together-It’s-TSA-Approved. And one day. Snap. Panic attacks, sleepless nights, and too many Red Bulls sent her back to her parents’ house.

No more scholarship. No more plan. No more bright future.

She felt like her life was a musician’s most epic, most moving, most personal song stuck on loop in a purgatory of half-price appetizers.

Alice had shone too bright too fast. She fizzled. She had no idea how to salvage anything that had once made her feel great.

“Alice,” Maddie Ryan called from her sticky corner booth, waking Alice from her new happy place of feeling bad for herself.

“Can you bring an iced tea so it’s ready when he gets here? He said he likes iced tea with two lemons. Can you do that? Can I order that even though he’s not here yet? He should be here any minute now. He said he lived here…”

Maddie Ryan trailed off and twisted her frail neck to look at the door nervously.

“Sure,” Alice said softly. “Would you like a refill too? You’ve been nursing that Coke for over an hour. I hate when it gets all watery from the ice.”

Maddie Ryan smiled and nodded so hard that Alice made a mental note to refill her glass as soon as it was empty. Maddie Ryan was the kind of woman who had learned not to ask for things.

“That retarded girl’s been in your section forever,” said Alex, another server whose cool androgynous name belied her redneck cruelty.

“She’s not retarded. She’s waiting on a blind date and I guess he’s running late,” Alice said, avoiding eye contact by looking very busy making a salad she snuck from the fridge without ringing it in.

“He’d have to be blind. And, what, is he stuck in traffic? Because you know Mayberry has a ton of that. So busy here in this thriving metropolis,” Alex scoffed, smiling with a set of teeth made for eating corn and punching in.

Right now, and usually, Alice wanted to do the latter. What the fuck was wrong with the people in this town? Why condescendingly call it Mayberry when you, and Alex was a definitely a “you” in this case, were going to have to live here your whole life?

Ignoring Alex, she padded in her black Keds to Maddie Ryan’s table. What Alice didn’t want to tell Alex or really even admit herself was that Maddie Ryan was being stood up.

When she came in a few hours ago, Maddie Ryan told Alice she had been chatting earlier that day with a customer service rep on one of those outlet store websites. Returning some undershirts, Maddie Ryan whispered. Their tags were in the front of the shirt instead of the back. She tried to wear them because she didn’t want to make a fuss but they were itchy.

Because this was the kind of situation where Maddie Ryan felt like she might get pushed around, she decided to set up the return via the online chat services the website provided.

It was this way she met Lionel. Or at least his name on the chat messenger was Lionel. It seemed too random to be made up, Alice thought. Regardless, Maddie Ryan and Lionel began talking about things other than shirts that had been tagged on the wrong side.

Somewhere in the ether of internet loneliness these two met and a spark lit. What were the chances that Lionel also lived near Blanford, Indiana? How perfect! Meet for drinks at Applebee’s? Prove to one another that the desperate fight to survive didn’t have to be done alone? Prove that there was hope for the Maddie Ryans and Lionels of the world? Yes! 4 pm!

“Here, I thought you might be hungry,” Alice said as she slid the salad across the honey colored table top.

“This Is It” by Kenny Loggins play for the third time since Alice got there.

Alice was cut about 45 minutes later. The restaurant was slow tonight, its openness a poking reminder that Maddie Ryan had drank three Cokes and eaten two salads alone in booth 32. The iced tea sat across the table from her, the lemons buoyed and staring like unfeeling fish eyes. Iced no more, a puddle of disheartening sweat gathered at its base.

She took her time rolling silverware, knowing Alex was getting her section when she left. She didn’t want to know what shitty things Alex would have to say behind Maddie Ryan’s back.

Everyone always rushed through rolling silverware at the end of a shift. Alice had consented to this chore’s stifled suffering months ago. She hated that it was called getting “cut” anyway. It was more like you were mercilessly trimmed loose from your shift. You weren’t really cut free from this place until you were five minutes away and flicking ash from your second cigarette out the cracked window of your speeding 2000 Toyota Corolla. That’s when it was safe to come back to life.

“This Is It” round four began and Alice knew she couldn’t stall any longer.

“Sorry, Maddie Ryan,” she muttered, wiping rouge ranch dressing from the expo line. “I must save myself.”

Apron wadded under her armpit and purse slung over her shoulder, Alice turned slowly out of the kitchen to tell Maddie Ryan she was leaving.

And, then, as sure as there were molding mozzarella sticks stuck in the creviced bottom of her shoes, as sure as she hated Kenny Loggins, as sure as she missed college, there was a man sitting in booth 32.

“I’ll be damned,” Alice said.

She watched as Alex begrudgingly took the couple’s order. Maddie Ryan and Lionel. There they were. As sure as the sun rounding a purple sky.

Alice put her Toyota in park and climbed out and into the dark garage. Her parents let her park in there, keeping one of their Civics in the driveway. She walked to the house door and put her hand on the heated hood, thanking something bigger than her that she was safe and probably always would be. Alice felt for the first time in a long time that she was going to be OK.

That evening, she wrote an email to her advisor at Rutgers. She didn’t send it. Not yet. But she wrote it. And that was something.

Inspo: Gene Wilder on creativity, words in a Bronx hotel, and new audio goodness

Gene Wilder shares why he is creative

Gene Wilder creeped me out as a kid. Willy Wonka as a man is pretty strange, even to adult me. But the movie sparked particular fears of abandonment and guilt over seemingly innocent but reckless behavior. Like, was that little cowboy kid and his mom stuck in the alternative universe forever?! What kind of kid’s movie is this?? No follow-up. No nice little bow wrapped around its candy-coated package. Oh, we are not in Disney movie land anymore are we? Literally no happy ending here. Just a sort of OK one. Also, you couldn’t get that golden ticket without luck and relying on luck, even as a child, seemed wasteful.

That’s what made Gene Wilder so special though. He was thrilling more than anything else. The way her performed archetypes you thought you knew could make you feel a new way about them or about a situation. Even things you were pretty sure you had a firm grasp on, he could shift your vision of them a degree or two: Frankenstein, Hitler, candy.

After he died, this clip made the rounds on my social media pages. Tick, tick — shifting how you think about what makes you creative. It’s pretty perfect.

A Bronx hotel

I’m in NYC for a commercial shoot and my team is staying at a hotel with some gem-y copywriting moments.

Like this line on the room key card. “It’s not a room. It’s a Residence.” Technically, yes, this is a Residence Inn, but it’s also indicative of how the rooms feel. Good line. Subtle but effective.

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If you’ve stayed in a hotel in the past five years, you’ve seen signs asking you to reuse your towels so you can save water, power and, presumably, the environment. So, it’s not really necessary to say why anymore, but hotels should still give direction on what to do with your towels if you don’t want to have them washed each day. I like that this copy gets that message across in a new, clever way.

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I saw this poster in the hotel elevator. The 4, 5, and 6 are names of trains/subway lines and the hotel bar made drink specials based off this for $4, $5, and $6. In a place as overdone as NYC, sense of place can still be fresh and unexpected.

jm-4-5-6

Audio goodness

My new favorite podcast: The Author’s Voice / New Fiction from The New Yorker.

Authors read their short stories that have recently been published in The New Yorker magazine. Of course the caliber of short fiction is top notch, but it’s interesting to hear the author emphasize certain words or read dialogue quickly that you might have read slowly. It adds a whole new level of character and, thus, intrigue.

This one’s great: “My Purple Scented Novel” by Ian McEwan

And so is this one: “The Bog Girl” by Karen Russell

It’s like having a stockpile of audio books without having to wait to be in your car to listen to them. One CTA ride with silvery voiced Ian McEwan in your ear, and you won’t even notice the talking hot dog riding next to you. (Yes, I’ve been in Chicago six months and have already ridden the train with a talking hot dog. I love it here.)

New favorite album: “And the anonymous nobody” by De La Soul

Yes, De La Soul is back thanks to huge financial backing pulled in by a Kickstarter campaign. That makes it interesting enough (they got $600k from fans to make this ablum). But damn the music makes me feel like smoke rings puffed from jade-hugged dope.

Love it. Spotify it. They still got it.

Essay-ish: Made You Look

It dawned on me about three-quarters of the way through Ghostbusters that this movie is about fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of being ridiculed, disbelieved. Fear of, well, ghosts.

It was about fear in reality too. Fear of women. Fear of sexism. Fear of childhood movies being subverted because of ladies taking rightful male roles. <sarcasm. insert eye roll>

Ghostbusters is not a scary movie. It’s not really even that funny. It’s a kid’s movie after all. However, I found myself enjoying it more than I would have if it had been a movie about four men. I wanted to love it. But nothing about it was that extraordinary. Nothing except the fact that the Ghostbusters were women. And to some people, that meant everything.

But what I think those MRA guys and others who were angry about lady Ghostbusters don’t understand is that women are so used to pretending. We’ve always been the ones subverting roles, re-shaping superhero costumes to fit our frames, and re-imagining storylines to be from our perspective.

We’ve done it so much and so often it isn’t even something we think about, really. There was no flinching on my end when it was announced red-haired Mary Jane was to be played by African-American Zendaya.

There’s not much that is too precious about these roles that makes them untouchable for revisions. We’ve become so accustomed to the make believe that pop culture so often makes us play and, honestly, we’re better for it. But that’s part of why the new Ghostbusters were so appealing. Not just because ideologically it felt empowering. It just felt, at its purest movie-watching level, exciting. It was exciting to transcend one less wall of suspended disbelief while watching a movie.

Is this how little boys have always felt? It makes a little more sense then why they would love these movies so much, why they would have such an allegiance to their original form.

And they’re entitled to that. I don’t like the rhetoric that they need to tear down all their beloved pop cultural idols for the sake of equality. That kind of talk is more scary to me than ghosts.

But we do need to equal the pretend playing field, make more and better roles for women in movies. Representation matters, especially for children. Equaling the pretend playing field is beneficial to all of us. Learning to pretend you are in a role makes it easier to empathize with others when you’re older. Placing yourself in their shoes isn’t something you must try hard to do, because you’ve been doing something similar in a lot of different ways all of your life.

The next step is creating a franchise where a band of four women scientists is totally original—one that need not prop itself up on the success of something performed brilliantly by four men decades earlier—one that would sell out and cause a media stir because it was so damn good. Or maybe it’s a movie franchise of a black female superhero who is interesting because of her own storyline, not just because she took the spot of a white woman as the love interest of a man who turns into a spider.

I fear that as we become more and more out of touch with each other, we lose that empathy that can come naturally; an empathy that movies have the super power to re-instill or at least bring to our attention time and time again.

It’s similar to the way we can become out of touch with what normal bodies look like if all we see are specially altered or selected ones in the media or our daily lives.

Body image transformation without representation.

The other day I was riding the train and noticed how much I was noticing other people’s physical appearance. Not in a vain way. No, it reminded me more of how you notice and know other people’s bodies when you’re playing on a sports team or working out together.

I remember girls who were on my high school basketball team by the way their calf muscles curved — or didn’t. I think I remember their legs the most because when you’re defending someone in basketball, you spend a lot of time look down at feet or knees or calves. You also spend a lot of time across from each other on benches in the locker room during halftime, avoiding eye contact with your coach. The only natural place to look without seeming weird is at the freckled right knee with a dimple on the left side of the girl sitting across from you.

I guess it was the same way in classes too. Sitting in desks so close to one another, you had time and proximity to surreptitiously steal curious looks at classmates’ necks, hair, backs, arms. It was never erotic. It just was interesting. It was real. Raised red bumps on the backs of arms or ensconced birthmarks on napes of necks visible only between curtains of soft brown hair: This is what humans look like.

And knowing what one another look like, feel, or have to pretend is important.

We’ve always had the capacity to be terrible to one another at worst, ignore each other’s experiences at best. I don’t glorify the old days. But I do tense when it feels like we’re swinging too hard one way in order to crucify the other. We tsk-tsked with tepid tongues as news announcers made any kind of mention of female athletes bodies at the Olympics but then laughed with delight when an artist openly body shamed Donald Trump because we hate him. We have to afford what we stand for to both genders, even if the victim of our shaming has done the same thing over and over to us. Rising above. That’s how good change really happens.

Not taking the time to really look or pretend to be someone else for a moment, even the people we dislike?

That’s what I am afraid of.

Inspo: Coffee shop branding, an Olympian you’ve never heard of, and “Dick Cheney”

Two Hearted Queen

Funny story. One time when I was about, eh, 14 maybe?, I got a brand new writing desk! It was so exciting and I couldn’t wait to sit down and make a magazine. (Kids these days will never know the incomparable joy of getting to spend study hall flipping through an issue of Cosmopolitan or Vogue, pilfered from someone’s mom’s coffee table. Magazines represented all the possibilities of life after high school. A few years later it would be SATC that we all obsessed over, imagining all our fabulous lives could become if we could just get out of this town.)

I outlined the sections and wrote fake articles and even a precocious little Q&A with a teenage business owner who had “Made It and You Can Too!” I designed the front cover and had little cover lines to go with each of my stories.

THEN. I had to come up with a name for my little book of womanly dreams! I called it “Queen.” Because, you know, every woman should know they are a queen or something.

My mom, happy to see me enjoying my new writing desk, came in all Miranda Priestly. “Queen,” she informed me quietly, was a term applied to men who dressed like women and I should maybe just forget the whole thing.

THE SHAME! I tore up my magazine and threw it in the trash. Not because I was weirded out by men dressing as women. Whatever. They could probably be a target demo for Queen magazine and we could share clothes. But I was so bummed I disappointed my mom by not knowing what this word meant!

Alas, old wounds, old wounds.

But that dumb story makes me love Two Hearted Queen for sentimental reasons. All queens welcome!

The Chicago coffee shop’s branding makes me love them for creative reasons.

Every time you order, you get to make a royal draw. You pick a card from a deck and if you get the queen of hearts, your order is half off. Here's the loyalty card. <3
Every time you order, you get to make a royal draw. You pick a card from a deck beside the register and if you draw the queen of hearts, your order is half off. Here’s the loyalty card. <3

th email list th homepage th tale of two hearts

And their iced chai latte with whole milk makes me love them for taste bud reasons.

Looks like I made it to the Queen magazine dream after all.

Located suspiciously close to a cleaners. Cinderella is that you? #queen
Located suspiciously close to a cleaners. Cinderella is that you? #queen

Wrestling wisdom

Helen Maroulis is the first American to win gold in women’s freestyle wrestling at the Olympics. A lofty accomplishment in and of itself, but the best part of her story is that to get it, she defeated Japan’s Saori Yoshida, a fully packed powerhouse who has only lost twice in her 14 years of stepping to the mat.

Maroulis seems like such a rad chick. There’s wisdom behind that takedown. Look no further than her answer to a question of if she was upset about the media focus on Ryan Locthe’s bro ass instead of her accomplishment (which is why you probably didn’t hear about her big win).

“I didn’t come here to win a gold medal for the media attention. I didn’t come here to win a gold medal in order to find something within myself or some peace within myself. I found that self-worth before I stepped in the mat. I think that’s why I won the gold medal.

Like the old saying goes, one has to love oneself before one can topple a Japanese wrestling legend.

“Dick Cheney” writing for This Recording

This oldie but so-fucking-goodie about the TV show “The Americans” starring Felicity Keri Russell popped up in some social media sphere of mine the other day. I can’t for the life of me remember who posted it, so I must just assume it was a gift from the writing gods. A reminder of what is possible despite the repetitive drudge of pop culture writing in an era of clickbait and masturbatory bylines.

Some greatest hits:

“In which we attempt a vision quest of the first order”

“In which Jared Leto’s existential crisis troubles us all”

“In which Felicity did it for her country”

This whole lede:

dick cheney this recording

And these amusingly astute first few sentences and then the heart-wrenching child psychology in the follow-up. Damn, Dick:dick cheney this recording 2

Interview: 10 questions for Ann C. Barham, past life regression therapist

A number that a man keeps dreaming about turns out to be the identification number of the weapon he used in the Vietnam War.

Another realizes his neck pain in his current life is located in the same spot where his neck broke in a fatal accident generations earlier.

Another client sees how her interactions with her mother’s soul in past lifetimes could be contributing to co-dependent problems they’re having now.

These are just a few stories from Ann C. Barham’s new book The Past Life Perspective: Discovering Your True Nature Across Multiple Lifetimes. Barham is an internationally certified regression therapist.

She breaks up the book by client story, giving a high-level look at what the client experienced while undergoing a regression. At once professional and empathetic, Barham delivers an incredibly balanced, entertaining, and informative look at what exploring one’s past lives actually looks like — and the many ways the past can help an individual’s present.

She also offers practical ways to apply what she and her clients have learned to your own life. Whether you’re a believer or not. (Which, by the way, more and more of you are. According to recent Harris and Gallup polls, about 25 percent of American adults believe in reincarnation and another 27 percent don’t disbelieve ((raises hand)).)

At the end of each chapter Barham lists the Essential Truths Uncovered through a client’s work.

For example, a woman named Natalie was struggling with feeling comfortable leaving her home. In her therapy, Natalie saw that in one lifetime she was forced to leave her home in China as a child of war and in another her little sister was killed in a windstorm while their parents were away from the house. The Essential Truths from Natalie’s story included learning to forgive yourself and move on and valuing time you get to spend with your children. Knowing the potential source of a problem is always immeasurably helpful in solving it or letting it go.

As Barham writes, “People often come away with a greater realization of the eternal nature of their being, their connection to others, and a closer experience of the love-filled energy that underlies all life.”

This book’s worth a read, whether you’re just curious or convinced you were Joan of Arc. (Sorry though, you probably weren’t… Think how many everyday people have lived throughout the ages. Although, the book does cover experiences with a couple historical figures.)

The Past Life Perspective is full of stories of how past lives can affect current relationship dynamics, explain physical pains or birthmarks, or provide guidance for pursuing untapped talents.

Below, Barham expounds upon a few key outcomes of The Past Lives Perspective and what she does to relax when this work gets too challenging.

You can purchase the book here. Just try to read it and not itch to find out where and when your soul has been…

Ann C. Barham, MA, LMFT (and former viking).

What made you want to study and practice past life regression therapy?

Past life therapy is an unusual specialty for a Marriage & Family Therapist, and many people wonder how this came about. I write about it in more detail in my book, The Past Life Perspective, but here it is in a nutshell:

I was raised in a conventional Catholic home, but that religion just didn’t fit for me. I embarked on a spiritual quest and did a lot of investigation into other traditions. When I stumbled upon the concept of reincarnation, it just resonated for me. It made total sense that we lived more than one human lifetime and we had multiple opportunities to master our lessons on the human plane.

After I had focused on more conventional therapeutic modes for some years, I found myself restless for something more. I wanted to help people more rapidly and on more levels simultaneously (emotional, relational, physical and especially spiritual). It occurred to me to pursue training in past life therapy as a specialty. I was lucky enough to train with some of the world’s foremost experts in the field at that time, including Dr. Brian Weiss and Dr. Roger Woolger (now deceased). I introduced past life work into my counseling practice and found it so rewarding and so helpful to clients that it soon became the main focus of my professional work. I believe that this is something that I bring forward from one of my own prior lifetimes.

Would you tell us about your breakthrough revelations from your own prior lives?

I’ve had a number of startling healings of physical symptoms thanks to my own past life work. The most dramatic, which I share in my book, happened in graduate school when my professor used me as the class ‘guinea pig’ to demonstrate when a client might come up with past life imagery. By going to a lifetime as a young Asian woman whose feet were bound, I was able to release a chronic problem in my feet literally overnight. I have also connected with some of my own prior personalities that were significantly different than my current personality – the most dramatic of these being as a Viking raider who loved to rape, pillage and plunder. He eventually met death from an axe through his skull in a dispute over a woman. Seeing life through the eyes of these prior personalities really advances the understanding of other people’s worldview and belief systems. It helps us to gain greater tolerance and compassion toward those different than ourselves. Probably the most fun for me has been to plug into past life memories while traveling. There are certain areas of the world that powerfully affect me when I’m there. Visiting sacred sites in both Egypt and Israel have evoked spontaneous past life recall for me.

 Do you have a go-to example of how confronting a past life issue can open the door to forgiveness and emotional healing in a person’s present life?

There’s an interesting story that I explore fully in The Past Life Perspective about a woman who consulted me about her relationship with her husband, in which she felt like she was “fighting for her life.” We explored a series of lifetimes in which he did cause her death – but we also discovered that she had done the same to him. She was able to forgive him and herself, unhook from this unconscious dynamic and greatly improve the relationship between them.

This story also demonstrates the point that oftentimes the work is to forgive ourselves for past life transgressions or losses; people who battle with guilt or depression in the current life may trace this back to events in prior lifetimes that have not been fully processed and released. We are able to do this in session and help them move forward more freely in their current lives.

Past Life Perspective book cover

How can past life therapy contribute to overcoming prejudice and other forms of social injustice?

One of the things I love about past life work is the fact that we experience ourselves as having lived as a different race, religion, nationality, gender or sexual orientation, and having held dramatically different belief systems than we do now. This leads to a greater understanding and compassion for those who we may disagree with or have a hard time understanding in the present time. We find out that, many times, we have actually walked in their shoes and believed what they believe just as strongly as we hold our beliefs now. I like to call past life work “the great equalizer.” It points out the commonality of our human experiences, which transcends temporary differences. 

How can confronting a past life issue open the door to healing a current life physical ailment? Do we often see physical problems or marks transcend lives?

This is always one of the most fascinating areas, when injuries from our prior lifetimes seem to come through and manifest in our current life. This may be seen as pain or injuries in the same location in the body, or it may come through more benignly as a birthmark in the same location as a past life injury. In my work I have found that when physical issues are carried through, they are typically also connected to an emotional or relational issue. At times, when we unearth the past life origin and work with the physical trauma and the emotional/relational aspect, we can actually release the physical issue in the current life, as I described with the issue with my feet. Other times we are able to at least understand more about the physical challenge, and work with the associated aspects that the recurring physical symptom is asking us to resolve. There are a number of client stories in The Past Life Perspective that include fascinating physical aspects.

Does this work ever get too intense for you? Some of these memories are horrific… What motivates you to keep doing this work?

Many sessions do get quite intense, and I pace myself so I’m always fresh and able to be fully present for each client. Sometimes that means playing a lot of tennis to get grounded again! The very fact, however, that we often see so many examples of man’s inhumanity to man over the ages is one of the things that keeps me motivated. The more we are able to unearth these memories and release their hold on individuals, the more progress we will make as a whole. You can’t go to a lifetime where you were the victim of extreme violence or prejudice and not be convinced that this should never happen to others. At the same time there are also many wonderful stories and profoundly fulfilling lifetimes that we visit. Working with people on such a deep level and helping them to be more effective and more spiritually connected in their current lives is my true motivation.

Where do you think our souls go in between lifetimes?

Most clients experience going to a wonderful, profoundly peaceful, joy and love-filled realm where they reconnect with ‘source’ – be that god or whatever you want to call it – and with other beings who are significant to them. I believe there is a non-physical dimension in which our souls reside and from which our human personalities are animated. Each individual human personality merges with that soul identity after death.

You stress in the book that all the stories are real even if a client’s memories differ from the historical record. Can you clarify the difference between real and factual?

As we all know, memories of events even in our current lives are variable and not always 100 percent accurate or factual. If you ask four different observers of a traffic accident what happened, you will probably get four slightly different versions of the ‘facts.’ However, our memories are ‘real’ to us because it’s how we experienced and remember the event. What is important in past life work is to uncover how a lifetime was experienced by the client who lived it, what the feelings were, the attitudes and decisions adopted, what meaning the individual made from the experience. That is ‘real’ to them and that’s what counts. And, we also know that history was written by people who often had a bias, so how completely accurate are our historical accounts anyway?

Seeing life through the eyes of these prior personalities really advances the understanding of other people’s worldview and belief systems.

Do you have any practical advice on how and where to begin if someone is eager to access their own past lives? Is it possible to DIY past life regression?

There are a number of exercises and suggested practices that you can do to expand your awareness of your own prior lifetimes in my book. There is also a guided past life meditation on my website, pastlives.org, that people can access. It is possible to retrieve some past life memories on your own, however they typically will not be as detailed nor as effective in releasing stuck places as you will get in an individualized session with a professional past life therapist to guide you through the process. And if the material is difficult or challenging, you probably will run into blocks that the therapist would be able to help you negotiate successfully, that you probably would not be able to do on your own. However, many people find that it is fun and at times insightful to experiment on their own.

If you could invite three people to a dinner party, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Well, if I wasn’t concerned about how the three people would get along, I’d have an eclectic mix. First I would invite Jesus of Nazareth because I would like to meet and talk with him in person, to know more about the man and experience first-hand his transformative loving kindness. I think another guest would be Queen Elizabeth I who ruled England in the 1500s. I don’t know if I’d like her particularly, but I think she’d be fascinating to observe and interact with. What an amazingly strong woman and leader from a time in history where women were not so highly regarded. Finally, I’d invite John Stewart for his wit and humor to keep us all laughing at ourselves – something I always try to remember!

Inspo: Words in the fro-yo parlor, Kadenze, and the 1936 Olympics

Frozen Yogurt copywriting

frozen yogurt

Thirsty fro-yo is the tastiest fro-yo.

Kadenze

This online course provider has been around for a while, but I recently enrolled for a few courses as an auditor (meaning I don’t get any certificate or college credits but I can watch all the course videos and access any additional resources for free).

The classes are led by instructors or professors from elite arts colleges and universities. It’s an excellent resource for broadly exploring creative subjects or software. I love that there are options like this available to 1) continue to democratize education and 2) give prospective students an idea of whether or not to  pursue a field of study. Having a featured professor is a great non-traditional marketing tool for the educational institution as well.

kadenze

My next class is “Comics: Art in Relationships.” I’m no illustrator, but I’m looking forward to hearing a professional break down how this powerful form of storytelling lives and breathes. Check out all the upcoming courses here.

The 1936 Olympics

When you need a break from watching the actual 2016 Olympics (*cough* biking *cough*), check out these two documentaries about the foreshadowing games from 80 years ago.

America’s nine-man rowing team beat the pruned-to-perfection Germans in the race for gold, but more interesting is their story of getting there. This ragtag group of hard laborers turned college boys defeated the East Coast’s upper crust crews and overcame a whole lot of personal struggle spawned by the Great Depression to become the team to represent that States in ’36. In an era when potential American Olympians are plucked early for glory grooming, it’s fascinating to hear a story of regular blue-collar boys working together to become bonafide athletes—athletes who gave, if even for a second, Hitler and his Nazis a sense of doubt of their disgusting illusions of superiority. (Watch the entire American Experience episode here.)

Jesse Owens did this to Hitler (and a very racist America) too. That’s the story most of us know from this Olympics. The documentary Hitler’s Olympics on Netflix gets into a few others, including the fact that the relay with the torch that we still do today was a Nazi Germany invention and not one of Ancient Greece. There are also, obviously, sad and scary stories of Jewish German athletes intimidated into telling the national press that they were being treated kindly and then, eventually, stripped of the chance to compete, even though some of them were breaking records in the trials. A few got redemption much, much later, but most didn’t, their lives taking violent turns soon after the games ended. The least we can do is remember their stories today.