Sunday, November 29, 2015

“As the parent of a gay person…”

I told my parents I was gay on St. Patrick’s Day in 2005, effectively ruining a pleasant corned beef dinner. I was three months away from graduating college, and I wanted to integrate the worlds I lived in. My college friends knew, but essentially no one from home did. I blame the closure of the bowling alley in my hometown; with no alternatives, the favored pastime there had become discussion of unplanned pregnancies, divorces and the various other ways young people had disgraced their good family names. In any case, I knew I had to tell my parents before someone else did.

More than ten years later, those worlds still aren’t integrated. Here in Los Angeles, I’ve constructed this Neverland of gay nerds with whom I can talk to about Chun Li and Barbara Gordon and Princess Zelda in the same sentence and not get looked at like I’m some kind of space alien. When I go home, I revert. I don’t pack the cutoffs. I leave behind the purple V-neck T-shirt and take the blue one. My life as I live it in Los Angeles does not get discussed unless I force it.

I went home earlier this year, and my mom asked how I was doing. “This guy I used to know in Santa Barbara passed away, and also I got dumped,” I said. Mom: “Oh, I’m sorry your friend passed away.” That bait dangled, untouched. I chose not to force it. Because the divide has remained over the past decade, it is hard for me to make that drive up Highway 5, knowing that I’m going to sit through days and days of questions about what’s growing in my garden, the activities of college friends I haven’t kept in touch with and the name of my apparently singular female friend — “Megan? Stephanie? Which is it? Wait, there are two?” — at the exclusion of anything more personal.

The single best example of this refusal to talk about the gay son’s stubborn gayness occurred while I was helping my mom clean out the liquor cabinet, which had been chiefly stocked over the years by visiting New Zealanders landing at SFO with duty-free offerings and the belief that my family drinks the hard stuff. I stood on a step ladder and handed bottles down one by one, and my mother, who often narrates what she’s doing, read the labels out loud as I passed them to her. “Smirnoff Vodka. Bombay Sapphire Gin. Beefeater Gin.” Then I passed her a bottle of Mount Gay rum. Mom: “Oh, it’s…. it’s rum.” The bottle later vanished.

As I do on most holidays at home, I spent this past Thanksgiving dutifully working — the big turkey dinner, raking leaves, getting ahead of freelance assignments — with the closest connection I have to any other world being Scruff, usually sitting unattended on the dresser in my childhood bedroom. Having come off from being the only gay at a wedding the previous weekend, I desperately felt like I needed something, even if that something wasn’t much of anything. At home, Scruff is mostly glimpses into the sad life I’d have led if I’d stayed in town: torsos that can’t host. I don’t really engage. It’s just a window on a world that reminds me that I’ve made good choices for myself. Well, that and an occasional invite to go up to San Francisco, unsolicited and politely declined. (Me: “I live in L.A. and I’m really only interested in dating,” and every time I say that I feel like I might as well be saying “I live in Chicago and I hate wind” or “I live in Maui and I’m allergic to sunsets.”)

With all that said, you can appreciate my surprise at what my mother said when she and I got into an argument about politics — why I can’t vote for a candidate running on a conservative social platform and why liberal politicians are apparently ruining the country with wasteful economic policy. I countered with all the examples of the good that liberal politicians have done in the face of conservative opposition, and the conversation eventually turned to the point that it was liberals, not conservatives, would made it possible for me to get married one day.

Mom: “Well, as the parent of a gay person, I understand that.”

It was followed by a “but” about taxes, of course. I was stunned that it happened at all. In the ten years since I told my parents I was gay, I’d never heard either of them ever refer to me as a gay person. (My grandmother referred to gays as “people who are that way,” and that euphemism has endured in the family long since.) I got hung up on that one sentence to the point that I think I lost the argument, just because my brain wouldn’t process anything aside from the fact that my mother acknowledged something that’s fairly important to how I live my life but which had gone unspoken, at least when I’m in the room.

I hugged my mom and told her it was good talking to her. It was the least acrimonious ending to a political argument in the history of my family.

It may not seem like much, especially to those weirdos with enthusiastically supportive families, but it was the single marker of progress I’ve had in a struggle that’s been going on for ten years. There’s still a lot to do yet — I recently mentioned that I was hoping to adopt a dog soon and was quickly cautioned against getting one that is too small — but it’s my single greatest takeaway from this Thanksgiving trip home.

(Yes, picture is unrelated. I needed a picture. It was this or a display shelf of Mount Gay rum.)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thirty Thanksgiving Questions for Which I Have No Answer

Excluded from the list: the traditional and constant “Why are you making that face?”

1. “Why aren’t you using a placemat?”

2. “But if you’re eating at the table, why aren’t you sliding the placemat over so your plate is on top of a placemat?”

3. “Well, what is a placemat for, then?”

4. “Why are you wearing a jacket and a sweater inside?”

5. “Also, why does everyone keep saying it’s cold in here when it’s clearly so hot?”

6. “Doesn’t it feel better to be eating dinner at a reasonable hour?”

7. “What made you decide to grow a mustache?”

8. “Did you have that at the wedding?”

9. “Did the groom say anything to you about it?”

10. “Did the bride say anything to you about it?”

11. “Did the bride’s parents say anything to you about it?”

12. “Well then how long are you keeping it for then?”

13. “Is this something all of your friends are doing?”

14. “Why are you using two kinds of mustard on your sandwich?”

15. “Why isn’t anybody eating the lemon pie that I bothered to go out and buy at the grocery store?”

16. “Why doesn’t your phone make the typing noise when you’re writing a text?”

17. “Why are you sitting in your bedroom watching your iPad rather than talking to your family?”

18. “Who is this Jessica Jones and is she your friend from L.A.?”

19. “Is she related to John Ritter?”

20. “Are you sure?”

21. “Didn’t they try that with Wonder Woman in the ’70s and no one watched it?”

22. “Why was that new James Bond so violent and also why were the women in it so unattractive?”

23. “Why don’t you see if any of your friends from high school are in town?”

24. “Do you use the placemats I sent you?”

25. “Do all your T-shirts have V-shaped necks now?”

26. “Isn’t that shirt too small for you?”

27. “If you get a dog, where is it going to sleep when you come home to visit?”

28. “Won’t that make the outside dogs jealous?”

29. “Who took the toaster out again after I put it away?”

30. “When are you coming home for Christmas?”

BTW, unsure but willing to guess that this is the “Why are you making that face?” face. It is actually just my face.

Friday, November 13, 2015

How to Buy Your First Suit When You’re an Idiot

You are thirty-three years old and don’t own a suit, not because you’ve been attending weddings and funerals in cutoffs and flip-flops but because you live in California, where rules about formal dress are bendy like yoga and palm trees. Should the need for formal dress arise, you have been cobbling together Frankenstein suits from old slacks and blazers you’ve accumulated over the years, from your dead grandfather and from the dead grandfathers of others, and so far this has been enough.

This, however, will not be enough for your college roommate’s wedding. Despite the fact that he wore cutoffs and flip-flops when you first met in the dorms, he has made the improbable decision to marry a woman of fashion, who actually even works in fashion and who has big ideas about clothes and the way we should wear them. As such, you have been told that you must acquire a suit — like, an actual suit, one that is comprised of especially garment-pieces that, when united, add up to more than the sum of their parts, and yes that’s a fantastic wedding metaphor.

In short, your college roommate’s bride will drag you kicking and screaming into a new phase of adulthood, the color scheme for which is apparently tonal gray — and yes, that’s another great metaphor.

This is how you get your first suit (by which I mean how I got my first suit, but I assume the process works identically for everyone).

One: Pout. The suit will cost money that you could spend on other things that would be more fun — for example, several T-shirt cannons with which you could enliven your college roommate’s wedding ceremony. “What, Nathan? You said she likes fashion,” is what you’d tell him after he wrestles you to the ground and while his family attempts to restore some semblance of order.

Two: Throw up your hands in despair. You are gay but not, like, suit gay, and the process of just going out and buying an appropriate suit is a task on the level of, say, building a working automobile out of sticks and tape. This is a subject to which you have literally given no thought over the course of your life, and your friends (who are also not suit guys but are closer to that than you are, perhaps) ask, “Well, what kind of suit do you want?” you can only say, “I don’t know. A wedding suit? A nice one that doesn’t cost that much money.”

Three: Get lost in all eleven pages of the bride’s PDFed suiting guide. (Yes, eleven. Yes PDFed.) This document lays out all suit-related possibilities. You are overwhelmed and cannot imagine how you could make tonal gray work for you without looking like a lower-tier member of the Power Rangers who specializes in legal affairs.

Four: Recall that you have friends who actually own a tailor shop specializing in bespoke suits. Recall that they live in New York. Recall that New York is not in California. Contemplate writing them a note in crayon that reads “U MAKE SUIT?” with a recent picture of yourself stapled to it. Decide against it.

Five: After much procrastination, go to Macy’s and find the men’s suit department to be a windblown shanty town without hope or light.

Six: During a visit home, you begrudgingly go to the Men’s Wearhouse, the place your parents recommended as having given your brother great deals on several suits that you imagine coming stuffed in some sort of KFC-style suit bucket. You regret being so judgmental when the salesclerk turns out to be well-versed in suitology and able to explain it to a dolt such as yourself. He measures you. He tells you that your shoulders are wider apart than they would normally be on a man of your height, and that your hips are unusually narrow. Even though this would be a compliment in a different context, it comes across as something you apologize for. You stand in front of the triple-mirror and compare your shoulders to your hips. “No, I think this is normal. This is okay, right?” you think. You decide to purchase a formal suit from a mall chain whose name is a pun.

Seven: You take the suit back to L.A. and find a tailor. He takes your measurements, checks your crannies. He gets all up in there like a T.S.A. agent trying to get a promotion. You wonder if the pants are being restitched based on a relief map of your balls. He asks what you want, and you say “It feels baggy. I’d like it a little more fitted.” He assures you this can be done, regardless of the spacious nature of Men’s Wearhouse garments. “We can do whatever you want,” he tells you. “I want T-shirt cannons,” you think but do not say aloud.

Eight: Days later, you try on the altered suit. “How do you like it?” the tailor asks eagerly. You can’t tell. It’s different, yes, but it’s nowhere near the fit to which you’re accustomed with jeans and T-shirts that have been tumbled and re-tumbled in the dryer over the span of years and maybe a decade. “Yeah, I’m not sure,” you say, remembering the comparison to the automobile made out of sticks and tape. You realize you have no idea what a properly fitted suit feels like. “It’s supposed to do this where my butt is?” you ask. The tailor seems annoyed. “It’s a suit. It’s not going to fit like jeans,” he explains. You can’t actually protest. You really couldn’t be any less out of your league here, and though you remember him saying that “whatever you want” part, you can’t think of a way to voice your concerns without implying that you understand suits — which, again, you do not.

Nine: You see the suit hanging in your closet every time you open it to retrieve one of the garments you do understand. You fear the suit. You may hate the suit. You think back to your brother’s wedding, when a tailor took your measurements for a rented suit and then delivered you a formless, baggy thing that you hated silently and then, after drinks, not so silently. It was chocolate brown. You looked like a zoot suiter in a Hershey’s commercial.

Ten: Finally, you try the suit on again. Your roommate is unable to advise if it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. You suppose that you just own this thing now. Maybe you should wear it to the grocery store and see what happens?

And this is how you’ve come to acquire your first suit.

Am I doing it right? Is this how tonal gray works? Am I an adult now? Is this what adulthood looks like?

Another take:

(And yes, by the way, this is in fact the same college roommate who declined my awesome suggestion for a song to walk down the aisle to.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

With “It” Being Dated Businesswear

Sometimes you wake up in the morning with an epiphany that you must share with the world. Other times, you wake up realizing that Jill, the businesslady frog from The Muppets Take Manhattan, looks like Nasim Pedrad.

No, there’s nowhere to take this realization, really, aside from just leaving it here. But you must admit: Now we know what it would look like if an evil wizard transformed Nasim Pedrad into a Muppet frog, and for that we should be thankful.

Who Wore It Better? — previously:

Friday, November 6, 2015

All About Octopussy

Yes, this is another post about Bond girls. I had to write about them for work, and the research yielded a few surprises, and the best of these by far is an explanation for why the hell anyone ever thought “Octopussy” would be an appropriate name for any human character, to say nothing of Bond’s love interest.

In Octopussy, Maud Adams plays the character whose nickname is “Octopussy,” thereby making this one film the only in the entire series to be named for female lead. Even separate from that name, she’s a standout character: She’s a moderately villainous businesswoman and jewel-smuggler who also happens to own a circus and live on a floating palace in India. Hey, get stuck with a name like “Octopussy” and you have to compensate somehow.

The film is loosely inspired by an Ian Fleming short story titled “Octopussy,” in which the name refers not to a human character but to someone’s pet octopus. And doesn’t the name make a lot more sense in that context? The story actually begins with its antagonist addressing the octopus directly: “‘You know what?’ said Major Dexter Smythe to the octopus. ‘You’re going to have a real treat today if I can manage it.’” Smythe later goes on to call the octopus both “Pussy” and “Octopussy.”

However, in reworking the story for the thirteenth James Bond film, the writers apparently thought, “No, this is a name that a human female should have. I see nothing wrong with that.” Dexter Smythe is already deceased at the outset of the film and seen only in photograph form. He’s mentioned as having been an octopus aficionado. Octopussy explains her name, kinda-sorta, with a single line that ties the film back to its source material: “My father became a leading authority on octopi. He loved them. His pet name for me was ‘Octopussy.’” Her actual name is never actually spoken within the film. (This Bond wiki page alleges that it’s Octavia Charlotte Smythe, but it’s apparently not her official real name.)

Awkward though it might be, that’s how Maud Adams ended up playing a character named “Octopussy.” The fact that she owns a circus might also be notable just in that the other Bond girl to have the word “pussy” in her name — Pussy Galore in Goldfinger — also leads a circus of sorts: Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, a group of female aviators who may or may not all be lesbians.

Adams had already appeared as a secondary Bond girl in The Man With The Golden Gun: Andrea Anders, a character with a name so non-ridiculous that it’s shared by a sitcom actress. (She’s half of the trashy neighbor couple living next to Phil and Claire on Modern Family.) Adams also makes an uncredited appearance in A View to a Kill, which probably set s a record for any non-Moneypenny, non-Judi Dench Bond actress.

And that end note as as good as any to point out that Duran Duran’s theme song for A View to a Kill might just be the best Bond theme song of all — yes, even better than Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I Am an Expert in Matilda

Hi. This is Matilda. She is a dog who has spent more time at my house than most of my human acquaintances have.

You may remember her as the dog who is an affront to my masculinity and who also was once the victim of a skunk attack. I am watching her for a week because her owner had to go to Venezuela for some weird operation, and I feel I am now an expert in all the facets of this dog’s personality.

You can be one too! Here are all the sides to Matilda.



Winking One Eye and Then the Other

Dozing in High-Foot-Traffic Areas of My Home

Sniffy Curiosity

Licky Curiosity

Rolling in Dirt

Having a Butterfly Land on Her Head and Completely Shutting Down Emotionally as a Result

Checking Hourly on the One Spot She Once Saw a Cat to See If the Cat Is in That Exact Spot Again

Making Concerned Whimpering Noises That Kind of Sound Like She’s Trying to Say Either Her Name or “Macaroni”

Arbitrarily Refusing to Walk Down Certain Blocks in My Neighborhood

Peeing on the Lawns of People Who Are Currently in Their Front Yards or Otherwise Able to Watch Her Pee on Their Property

“Wait, Is This Food or Not?”


Farts (or, If You Will, Butt-Sighs)

Thrusting Her Head Beneath Your Hands (or Sometimes Feet) in an Effort to Get Pets When You Are Not Actively Petting Her

Running Into the Room Seeming Alarmed, Then Looking Around and Returning From Whence She Came in a Vaguely Disappointed Fashion

Begrudgingly Consenting to Being Held Like a Baby

Leaving Blond Hairs on Black Floors

And that is everything Matilda is. You’re an expert too now.

In closing, a moment of classic Matilda:

Literally the first ten minutes of dog-sitting: Matilda finds an arch-nemesis. ATTN: @katherine_spiers

A video posted by Drew (@kidicarus222) on

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lesser Bond Girls

No one can hold a candle to Pussy Galore, of course. That seems dangerous, first of all, but in the history of James Bond women, no one has a name that is quite so on-the-nose perfect-awful.

However, I have learned that there exists a whole harem of Bond girls who only appear in the books written after the Ian Fleming era and who have ridiculous-amazing-exceedingly awkward that the world needs to know about.

Here is a list of them. No elaboration is needed, I feel, just the news that these characters exist.

Lavender Peacock

Persephone “Percy” Proud

Sukie Tempesta

Ebbie Heritage

Clover Pennington

Elizabeth “Easy” St. John

Hera Volopoulos

Heidi Taunt and her sister, Hedi Taunt

Felicity Willing

Ophelia “Philly” Maidenstone

Edua Blessing Ogilvy-Grant

Jeopardy Lane

Rosebud Spreadeagle

Okay, one of those I made up. But is it really that implausible? All these seem on par with the sex pun-laden Bond girl names from the actual movies. Also, once tried to Weird Al all the James Bond movie titles with limited success. I have no idea what work I was avoiding in doing this, but it must have been really heinous. I cannot think of a way to make a food pun for Spectre and feel like a failure.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Mystery of Adjective Noun Road

Among all the other problems I have with my family, I frequently feel like I’m the only one who remembers things. The rest of them might state the problem as “Drew doesn’t remember important things,” and that’s true — I don’t, resulting in awkward situations such as “No, I don’t recall the directions for how to get to this place I haven’t been to since I was a kid” and “What do you mean she died?” and “Louise who?” However, the one thing I have on the rest of my family is the ability to remember the weird stuff — stories about strange, unexplained happenings that I can relive vividly but which everyone seems to have pushed out of their minds.

For example, I have the clearest memory of playing on the lawn with my brother when I was maybe seven. It was late enough to be dark, and my parents were in the midst of a dinner party inside. I spotted the family dog hurrying off into the recesses of the property with something in his mouth. My brother and I chased after him, but the dog wasn’t having it; whatever he had he wanted to keep to himself. Eventually we cornered him and got a look at his prize: I said out loud, “I think he caught a bird,” then reaching down to pull it away from him. It wasn’t a bird. It was a deer’s head. And the head had been cleanly removed from the rest of the animal’s body. I remember dropping it. I remember the noise it made on the grass. My brother decided we should probably tell our dad, and I even remember standing on the edge of the dining room while my brother went over to my dad, at the head of the table, and discreetly told him what we’d found. I remember the look on my dad’s face.

But here’s the weird part (and no, in this version of the story, finding a deer’s head that had been cut off from its body, clearly by a human clearly using some kind of sharp instrument, is not the weird part): My brother has no recollection of this happening. My mom doesn’t either, though to be honest we may never have told her. “Don’t tell Mom” could have been stitched on a sampler and hung above our fireplace. Only my dad retains any memory of this incident — he thinks he tossed the head over the fence, washed his hands and then returned to dinner, but he’s not even sure — and to me, that seems so very strange, because the whole scene, start to finish, was surprising and horrifying and mysterious. It left a big impression on me.

There are larger implications to this incident. I, uniquely even in the context of my extended family, am the only one who seems to think that anything out of the ordinary is immediately more interesting and probably better than whatever standard-issue thing everyone else has. This has likely shaped my life to some degree. This has likely shaped my family’s opinion of me to some degree as well

I have written this lengthy preface just to get to a weird, vaguely Halloween-appropriate story I have that I, once again, am the only one of my (surviving) family members who remembers anything about. And while yes, that does seem like something an unreliable narrator might say, that’s the case and I blame this uneven distribution of memories on my family’s preoccupation with sports, dynastic families in my hometown, people whose relatives I apparently attended high school with and this Louise person, whom I’m not sure I’ve met.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents — that is, my American grandparents, my mother’s parents — and this is not strictly a result of the fact that they had a pool which I loved dearly and now miss dearly. On more than one occasion when I was at their house, I heard my grandmother answer the phone and speak something along the lines of the following: “Hello? Oh, hello, Sam. No, we don’t want any potatoes today. But you have a good day!” And the she’d hang up. Her response would vary from call to call. Sam would be George or Bob or Joe, and potatoes would be pineapples or rutabagas or cabbages. This happened a lot — like, over the span of several years — and every time I’d ask, my grandmother would dismiss my questions. The most I ever got was, “Oh, that’s just someone who calls a lot, and that’s how your grandfather told me to deal with him.” This quickly became a mystery I fixated on, Nancy Drew-style — and yes, I realize the implications of that phrase and shut up — but it was something my brother had literally never noticed. I’d point out to him, “That guy called again,” but he never seemed to retain any memory of it having happened before.

One day, I was swimming in the pool without my brother, and my grandmother, who was watching me swim (and covertly napping), had to attend to some friend who was delivering some parcel that apparently required the cooperation of two old ladies to bring inside. My grandmother told me, “Don’t use the diving board and just be safe,” and left me in the pool alone. For grandchildren-watching purposes specifically, my grandparents had had a telephone installed by the pool — like Hollywood movie stars or something — and while my grandmother was out on the street, helping her friend, the phone rang. It was in the same early afternoon span of time that the vegetable man would always call, and I realized that this provided me a unique opportunity.

I got out of the pool and answered the phone, and to this day, I can remember the conversation vividly.

“Is Ray there?” the man on the other end eventually responded when I picked up.

I lied. “He’s busy. Can I take a message?”

“Tell him that I have something for him, and he should come out to Old Stage Road.”

“Where on Old Stage Road do you want him to go?”

“There is only one house. He knows where.”


Then there was a pause. And then the man spoke again. “Which one of his grandsons is this?”

I hung up the phone and ran back to the safety of the pool. To this day, when I think about the man on the other end of the call knowing that Ray had grandsons and that I was one of them, I get goosebumps.

I need to break the narrative for a second and point out that the street the man mentioned isn’t Old Stage Road, which is an old country backroad that connects San Juan Bautista and Salinas and which has many houses on it. The street the man said sounded similar, however: It followed that pattern of [adjective] + [noun] — like Lone Pine Road or Red Oak Road or Big Rock Road or something. I’ll get back to my inability to remember in a moment.

Eventually, I got out of the pool and dried off and told my grandmother I’d talked to the vegetable man, and she was visibly disturbed by this. She asked what he’d told me and what I’d told him. “Don’t tell your grandfather that you spoke to him,” she said. “And don’t tell your mother either.” (See, I told you this was a recurring theme.)

A few years later, my grandfather was driving me back from a golf lesson — this was a thing that some family members believed I should do, at one point, for reasons I still don’t understand — and I asked him about the phone calls, which to my knowledge had stopped. My grandfather asked how I knew about these, and I explained everything I’d overheard. He told me the calls had become less frequent but still happened from time to time, still with the same message, and that I shouldn’t worry about them.

My grandfather died during my sophomore year of high school, shortly before I got my driver’s license, and I can remember sitting in the pew at his funeral and thinking that as soon as I could drive myself, I was going to find Adjective Noun Road and knock on the door of the one house that existed there. And I’d go in — maybe with a friend, maybe with a cover story, maybe like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar in I Know What You Did Last Summer, when they lie their way into interrogating Anne Heche (and hey, come on, it was 1997 and I was a dumb teenager with a narrow frame of pop cultural references). And once I’d gotten enough out of these people, I’d demand they tell me why they called and called and called and what they could possibly have had to do with my grandfather.

After I got my license, however, I didn’t think about those calls again until later in high school, when it suddenly popped into my head that I’d never Nancy Drewed this mystery. One catch: I could no longer remember the name of the road. (I told you that I forget the important stuff.) I got my hands on a Thomas Guide and scanned the list of streets. Nothing. Not one of them jogged my memory with “That’s the place I need to go.” I asked my grandmother. She told me she didn’t know.

Just today, this whole weird story popped into my head again. I have no idea why. I texted my brother, who still lives in my hometown and has a better memory for key details such as street names, and I asked if he knew of any Adjective Noun Roads with only one house of them. He didn’t, though I realize that it’s been more than twenty years since the call I answered and there’s more than a small chance that this mystery road might now have more than one home on it. I asked my brother if he remembered the strange phone calls that our grandparents used to get. He said he didn’t.

Today, I’m thirty-three years old and I live in Los Angeles. I write for a living, and in theory I have the time to investigate mysteries and find out everything about them and then write it all out in an engaging fashion. It is very strange to me to be sitting at my kitchen table — which, notably, was once my grandparents’ kitchen table — and recall all this and realize that the mystery is essentially unsolvable. I can look over maps and ask my family if they might remember anything that could be helpful, but it hasn’t proven effective in the last decade, and I’m not hopeful that it will suddenly jog anyone’s memory as time moves forward.

It still have a profound reaction to thinking about when that man asked which grandson I was.

I’m glad I did’t tell him.

I hope he’s dead now.

I don’t regret saying that.

And there’s part of me that wonders if it was self-protective that I couldn’t remember the name of that road. Having it be hopelessly on the tip of my tongue for the last seventeen years could have easily prevented me from walking directly into a place that one or maybe both my grandparents seemed to take pains to dissuade me from visiting.

It may be better to forget. I still remember that deer head vividly, though.

(Something to contemplate.)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Guys, It Has All Come to This

Those of you who know me well in real life understand that I’ve spent the last five years falling through the high-energy rabbit hole of Italo disco, the ’80s music genre that combines New Wave synth, disco beats and delightfully broken English. It’s not a phase. This is just who I am now, and I’ve spent more than a few quiet nights wandering around YouTube, clicking from one video to the next in hopes of finding some new (to me) track that I can like ironically and then not ironically and then force my friends to listen to.

Last night, I found something that made all that clicking worth it. No, it’s not a particularly memorable song, even.

It’s Nina Pee.

I know, I know — this is a lot to take in. Foremost, it doesn’t seem to be a joke. I have found very little about Nina Pee online, but nothing about her music seems to suggest that this name was intended as anything other than a legit, appealing name for Europe’s next big pop star. It’s like “Ding a Dong” all over again, only with the poorly chosen word being baked right into the artist’s name, inescapably.

An imagined origin:

Producer: Hey, Nina — what’s your last name?
Nina: Pentrandolfino.
Producer: Oy. That’s going to look like dogshit on an album cover. What if we abbreviate it?
Nina: Yeah, cool. Whatever you decide is fine with me.
Producer: BTW, I don’t understand American slang at all.
Nina: Who cares? I’m-a gunna be famous! [dances offstage]

Look at that pose. Notice how happy she is to be a person who sings. She’s practically bursting. Unfortunately for her, because her last name is Pee, it’s hard not to imagine her bursting with pee instead of bursting with happiness.

Consider that this, apparently, was the best photo they got from the shoot.

Consider bracelet placement.

Now look at those song titles. The first, “You’re the Sun of My Life,” could almost pass as something a native speaker would title a song, but that second one is just beyond even the most minimally fluent speaker could ever dream to come with. I think it’s the hyphenation of “fire-bell” that clinches it. Also? “Wait, why do you need to ring the fire-bell, Nina? What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO, NINA PEE?!?!”

(I imagine that she burned down the home of however encouraged her to perform with a last name that means “urine.”)

This amuses me to no end. I shall hold Nina Pee in my heart always. Last night’s Italo disco adventures also turned up that video that your parents made, but it’s Nina Pee who has told me that I am, in fact, moving in the right direction.

(EDIT: A Soundcloud posting of “Now I Must Ring the Fire-Bell” indicates that Nina’s last name may have been Pée and not simply Pee. You can just barely see the accent mark in the album cover. I am unsure whether to shame or praise the graphic designer for not making that accent mark more prominent. In the end, I don’t care. This changes nothing.)

Italo disco, previously:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

This Is a Post About Undo Dog

Warning: This post is a fairly deep drill-down on a minor footnote in video game culture. If obscure Nintendo lore is not your thing, kindly move along and wait for a less niche post.

One of the most insignificant video game characters ever has recently returned to my life: Undo Dog. He’s technically a Mario character, though only in the loosest sense of the expanded Marioverse. He first appeared in 1992’s Mario Paint, a sort of Nintendo approximate of Photoshop that came packed with the Super NES Mouse and allowed players to draw and paint images and create crude animations that couldn’t be uploaded or transferred off the game pack in any way. Mario-branded but not really all that Mario-specific, the game came out when I was only ten, and I loved it. And one of the things I loved most about it was Undo Dog, the game’s equivalent of CTRL+Z.

Clicking him undoes whatever disastrous aesthetic decision you made, and he makes a crude bark noise when you click. If you let the mouse sit idle, he also dances about in the tool tray in the bottom of the screen, and if you opted to create your sixteen-bit masterpiece without background music, he’d occasionally sneeze. (He was allergic to silence, we gathered.)

Here, watch and listen.

Even at ten years old, I was a sucker for anything canine, and the fact that Nintendo chose to imbue one of the most functional aspects of Mario Paint with a dog personality is a great example of why I am a lifelong Nintendo loyalist. And the fact that the icon border around Undo Dog’s face was revealed in his “dancing in the tool tray” animations to be a weird, square collar? I was in love — with the character design but also with whatever clever person who implemented it.

I felt catered to — and that rarely happened when I was younger.

Given my history on this blog writing about various Super Mario games, it shouldn’t surprise you that even back then, I had an encyclopedic knowledge of them. I knew everything that a North American fan could know, and I was a strong supporter of the series’ also-rans. When Super Mario Kart came out in September 1992, the only thing that seemed more pressing than beating the game on every conceivable level was dreaming up ideas for the inevitable sequel, and I sank hours into this task. I drew maps for tracks based on levels from Subcon, the setting of Super Mario Bros. 2, and Sarasaland, the setting for Super Mario Land, and handpicked the characters that would join the roster of Mario Kart racers. No lie: I even drew new versions of the Super Mario Kart box art that featured then-unknown characters like Princess Daisy (the ruler of Sarasaland and a character most players wouldn’t have recognized back in the day), Birdo (Super Mario Bros. 2’s Yoshi prototype, essentially, and also the most gender-complicated bipedal dinosaur in the history of video games) and Wario (the minor Super Mario Land 2 villain that no one cared about once upon a time).

All of these characters eventually did become playable in later Mario Kart games, I should point out. However, my never-distributed, beyond-unofficial concept art also included characters like Pauline (the Donkey Kong damsel who has since been made to look like Sofia Vergara), Wart (the Super Mario Bros. 2 villain who has subsequently showed up as a Zelda character but never again as a Mario character) and an ultra-obscure Mario D-lister named Heavy Zed, who was in retrospect not a character in any way.

Heavy Zed was a big, dumb owl that Mario would hop onto in Super Mario Land 2 and prompt him into waking up and fluttering in a single direction until Mario encountered a second Heavy Zed, which he’d then hop onto. Essentially, he was a platform lift, like the dolphins in Super Mario World, but ten-year-old me didn’t care: He had a name and therefore deserved realization as a playable Mario character. Yeah, I had some big ideas.

Included on this wishlist was Undo Dog, just because he also had a name and I had seized on him as a thing worth paying attention to, and I drew him into my terrible mock Super Mario Kart 2 art, stockade collar and all. In retrospect, it seems silly and misguided in the way most fan fiction seems to anyone not at the heart of the subject matter’s core fandom. Time passed, and although I admit to being guilty of jotting out the occasional dream Mario Kart roster during my free moments — E. Gadd from Luigi’s Mansion! Dixie Kong! Captain Syrup! — I forgot about dumb ol’ Undo Dog.

And then Super Mario Maker came out. For those who don’t know, Super Mario Maker is essentially the game that Mario Paint should have been, and it allows players to create their own Mario levels and then upload them to be enjoyed by others. Presentation-wise, the game owes a great debt to Mario Paint, and this includes the implementation of Undo Dog as the CTRL+Z function, twenty-three years after the fact.

Here is a trailer to help you understand why Super Mario Maker is weird but great.

But there’s an additional reason I’m writing about Undo Dog today. One of the more fan service-y aspects to Super Mario Maker is that its Super Mario Bros. mode includes the ability to “costume” Mario as various characters from other Mario games — Bowser, Dr. Mario, Rosalina, etc. — as well as characters from other franchises — Zelda from Zelda, for example, or Kirby from Kirby or even the Wii Balance Board from Wii Fit.

This is remarkable is that it plays into the new Smash Bros. style Nintendo is applying to all its franchises, in which characters from games that have little in common get to interact. I mean, hell — Super Mario Maker allows you to sub in Ness from Earthbound, the squid-kid from Splatoon, Foreman Spike from Wrecking Crew and even Lottie the Otter, from and Animal Crossing game that hasn’t even been released yet. And mixed up into all this is Undo Dog.

Per the game’s instruction manual, which doubles as an art book:

I’m not saying this makes Undo Dog a shoe-in for the next Mario Kart, exactly, but my inner ten-year-old is gratified to see the most minor of video game characters resurrected in my adult life, in a new age where Nintendo has gone Crisis on Infinite Earths with every game. I don’t think my placement of Daisy, Wario and Birdo in the Mario Kart karts was prescient, necessarily, but I’m currently placing more money on Undo Dog than I am on Heavy Zed, were that a bet to be made in some dank corner of the nerdy internet. And that is a surprising thing for a longtime video game fan to say, twenty-three years later, just like it was surprising to get a new Kid Icarus game after so many years and finally see a Super Mario Bros. 2-themed track in a Mario Kart game.

Go Undo Dog, you sneezing marvel, you. May your video game career be long and unusual.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ten Things I Can Tell You About Los Angeles

As of this week, I have been living in L.A. for five years. I have learned next to nothing about the city and therefore have no business offering opinions about it one way or the other. Go ask someone else for practical advice. However, while this more knowledgable person is thinking, read these ten bits of non-advice and non-entertainment that don’t matter toward anything or anything else.

One: If you see Reese Witherspoon in a coffee shop, don’t make eye contact with her. She will slap you to the ground without hesitation and then force you to give her the names and address of your parents, whereupon she will threaten to find them and slap them to the ground should you ever dare to make eye contact with her again. Yes, this really happened. No, I am not joking. Witherspoon’s iron talons control this city. We must rise up.

Two: Sally Field, meanwhile, is a tiny little bird who shops for produce in a methodical, precise manner that only makes sense to her. You will conclude this exact thing when you see her in the produce aisle — and yes, this will eventually happen to you because it happens to all L.A. residents. The Sally Field Bird is your aunt, you will suspect, against all reason. You will grasp her hand tenderly as she picks through a stack of bananas, and without speaking a single word you gaze into her eyes and know that you should take her home, toss an afghan on her and bring her a piping hot mug of Constant Comment, at which point she will regale you with stories from the set of Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. Yes, this also really happened. It happens every time I go grocery shopping. Grocery shopping here is weird.

Three: There exists a series of “secret stairways” that connect much of residential Los Angeles. A holdover from the city's bygone streetcar transportation system, these stairways today allow residents in the know the opportunity to see a homeless man take a dump and then act like you’re the rude one for intruding on his personal space.

Four: The air quality is, in general, poor, but it’s at its worst at a Los Feliz brunch, where it will be just dripping with asshole. You will sit there, desperate for food and too hungry to speak, and eventually the conversations of nearby tables will ring in your ears — one woman with pendulous chandelier-earrings telling a story that has no beginning or end. It’s just the middle of a story that will be interrupted by another middle of a story told by another chandelier-earring. “Can you believe it? It was Kelly, and she was wearing a yellow hat,” says one, in reference to nothing. But then says another: “And then the door opened and I was like ‘I’m not sure you’re even really Persian.’” Says a third: “Pineapple preserves. Spackle. Grackle. Hinge joint.” Your brunch never actually comes and you die on the spot.

Five: People ask where I live, and when I tell them, some respond with “Atwater? I’ve never even heard of that.” This is the best possible hint that this person and I will probably not have much to talk about.

Six: The quickest way to elicit sympathy from your fellow Angelenos is to say, “I actually walked here.” They will immediately assume some sort of financial or legal calamity has rendered you a pedestrian, and nothing you can say to the contrary will relieve them of this suspicion. They may ask if you need a place to crash. This sort of misunderstanding is how I imagine the majority of the city’s guesthouses and poolhouses have come to be occupied.

Seven: The west side is a myth — a foggy limbo where the once-living shuffle about aimlessly in the service of malevolent entities known as children. They say it’s great, but their accounts are unverifiable: No one who’s been sent to investigate has actually gone and returned, and come on — if they live there, can we actually trust them? Affirmations about the west side from someone who lives there is like an eight-year-old who only eats bologna sandwiches saying that bologna sandwiches are the best food. You shouldn’t be questioning the taste of the bologna kid. You should be asking yourself why the hell you’re discussing food with someone who only east bologna.

Eight: Wherever you end up in the city, you will have arrived too late. Before you got there, the neighborhood was better — had nicer restaurants or cooler bars or attracted a different sort of person or offered more for less or had houses that could be bought more cheaply or had this awesome house with this big front yard that the owner filled with these, I guess, totem pole-like wooden carvings that everyone loved, but a few months ago one of the carvings toppled over and hit a pregnant lady and now they’ve all been taken down and really, the neighborhood lost a piece of its soul when that happened. Yeah, the sculpture should have been secured or something, but there are a lot of theories about what the fuck that pregnant lady was doing there in the first place, and it’s still a loss for the community. I think you can see some photos of it on Google Street View, but it still wouldn’t be the same, you know?

Nine: You will happen across houses and other buildings that you recognize from the movies you love. You will get excited about it. You will tell your friends about it. Even if they’re not half as impressed as you are, you never want that enthusiastically nerdy little kid inside you to go away, because how is it possible that you have come to live in the place that made all the stories that you loved so much?

Ten: You will happen across the Mulholland Drive house and face a moment of introspection over whether you've become a Betty or a Diane.

Full disclosure: Some of the stories described may not have played out precisely as I have written them here. However, each grew from a kernel of truth, and when those kernels generated corn plants, I took them and synthesized high-fructose corn syrup.

Here’s to another five years of ignorance and uselessness.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street (Abbreviated)

When Wes Craven died, my first thoughts were of Scream and how much that movie had shaped my understanding of pop culture. However, the only piece I wrote about Craven this week focused on the outlier in his filmography: Music of the Heart, Craven’s single non-horror feature and the movie he made in the break between Scream 2 and Scream 3.

And now, along similar lines, another one of Craven’s most unusual legacies: 1993’s Mahakaal, also known as the Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street.

I actually watched this a few nights ago. It’s something I’d only recommend for hardcore Bollywood fanatics and diehard Freddy Krueger fans. (These groups must share some overlap, and I’d guess that Mahakaal is a godsend for these people.) For me, the film was interesting when it chose to cleave especially close to the source material and when it chose to diverge drastically from it.

Mahakaal runs nearly two and a half hours long, and a lot of this time has the characters singing and dancing for no reason, even after they realized they’re being stalked by the monster. Bollywood movie rules trump slasher movie rules, I guess. As a result of the lengthy run time and the long, long spans when nothing particularly interesting happens, I did a quick and dirty recut of the film, in case you also are mildly curious what a Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street might be like but don’t have two and a half hours to spend watching Indian youth sing about how great it is to be in love.

Here, then, is a eleven-minute version of the Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street.

In making this, I tried to highlight the scenes that were most directly inspired by the original as well as the weirder additions — like the unsettling Michael Jackson impersonator, who may or may not be speaking English.

Some notes:
  • The weird mix of horror and whimsy make me think this movie’s DNA has about as much in common with Hausu as it does with A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • It should be noted that the main character, Anita (but pronounced ah-nee-TAH rather than uh-NEE-tah) frequently dresses like Rosie Perez probably did around the time this movie was made.

  • The villain doesn’t speak — and that’s odd, considering that even in the first film Freddy Krueger gets a few great lines and this remake seems interested in stuffing in comedy as often as possible.
  • The only character whose name bears any similarity to its counterpart in the original is Seema, the main character’s best friend. In the original, Amanda Wyss plays the role and the character’s name is Tina. Seema lasts longer than Tina does, and instead of dying at a sleepover she dies at a hotel, where the group of young people is staying only because they get stranded. I wonder if there’s some cultural reason that the group was forced to spend the night together rather than just choosing to shack up.
  • For what it’s worth, the death of the Rod character — the main character’s best friend’s boyfriend — may actually be creepier in this version than it is in the original. I always thought that bedsheet snaking around the actor’s neck seemed hokey. Mahakaal literalizes the scene.
  • Notably, the main character’s parents aren’t divorced in this version, and both Anita’s cop dad and housewife mother help vanquish the bad guy in the end. Sure, Mom doesn’t do a whole lot, but she’s there in a way Ronee Blakley’s checked-out, alcoholic character isn’t in Nightmare.
  • Though there’s a scene with a waterbed in Mahakaal, the Johnny Depp analogue doesn’t die in it. He survives to the end of the film, in fact.
  • I wonder if the appearance of Anita’s dead sister is supposed to mimic the white-clothed “ghost girls” who sing the creepy jump rope rhyme in the original.
  • There is, tragically, no Mahakaal 2 that’s rife with homoeroticism. Are you listening, Bollywood? Because I would watch that movie.

I’ve done this public service before, in case you’re interested in the Cliff’s Notes versions of movies you’d otherwise not bother to watch. My first one was actually an early Wes Craven movie: 1984’s Invitation to Hell, which features Susan Lucci as the devil and Robert Urich as a dad who has to kick the shit out of Punk Brewster and Bastian from The NeverEnding Story. The second was The Visitor, which I kind of hated but which still has some moments of primo WTF-ness that are worth watching. And finally I made a nine-minute version of the most David Lynchy moments from the one bizarrely Twin Peaks-themed episode of Darkwing Duck.

And in case you have two and a half hours to spare, the whole of Mahakaal is currently posted on YouTube here — with subtitles.

In closing, please enjoy the full discotheque sequence, just one of the many musical scenes that had me asking “Why are you singing and dancing still? Did you forget that your friends just got butchered?"

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Best Entree-Ordering in a Lead Role

Early in the series run of Tiny Toons, there was an episode that took place in Hollywood. Just like the old Looney Tunes shorts once did, this episode features caricatures of the real-life celebrities. Also just like with the old Looney Tunes cameos, most of the references went over my head. I was eight. What can I say?

However, I came across one of them just recently, and it’s worth noting that it’s one of the few jokes in the episode that is not dated. Meryl Streep orders dinner in a restaurant, then promptly receives an award for ordering dinner in a restaurant. She yawns through a “thank you” and then stuffs the statuette into her purse, which is already full of awards.

I’m fairly certain that this would have been my introduction to Meryl Streep’s reputation as an award magnet. It may have been the first time I’d heard of her at all, really. (She-Devil came out in 1989, but I can’t remember if I saw it in theaters or not.)

The joke is that Meryl Streep is such a good actress that it’s nigh impossible for her not to collect awards left and right. When the episode aired in 1990, Meryl Streep was the best. Twenty-five years later, she still is. Yes, I heard you muttering about your Julianne Moores and your Cates Blanchett, but Meryl is just one Oscar away from tying Katharine Hepburn’s record for the most ever won by a single actor, and she’s already the most-nominated actor ever. Every other actress of a certain age starring in a somber film about people coming to terms with things is just lucky that Meryl is not springboarding off their corpses, squashed-Goomba-in-Super Mario Bros.-style, to reach even greater heights of success.


There’s no big take-away here, just a quick observation that in an industry defined by change and in which women especially cycle in and out of fashion with alarming speed, Meryl Streep is a constant.


For the record, there was one celeb joke that little, pea-brained me got right off the bat.

Do you get it? It’s because Roseanne is fat. I cannot recall if eight-year-old me found this funny.

The sequence also burns off a Cher cameo just to make a “compact car” pun.

The joke that would end up having the greatest significance in my adult life, however, is a teeny-tiny background one appearing on the valet sign.

Twenty-five years later, this Los Angeles resident can tell you that this has also has not really changed.

Tiny Toons, previously:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Saved by the Bell: The Expanded Bayside Universe

If you know diddlypoop about Saved by the Bell, this image should strike you as very strange. Do you know why?

One of the more popular posts on my blog concerns Saved by the Bell and the Tori Paradox — the idea explained in Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs about how final season of the show seemingly takes place in two realities. In one, Zach, Slater, Screech and Lisa are friends with Kelly and Jessie. In the second, the first four are friends with Tori, but Kelly and Jessie don’t exist and maybe never existed.

Of course, there’s a reason for those random final season episodes that feature Leanna Creel but not Tiffani Thiessen or Elizabeth Berkley — it’s all in the original post, if you haven’t had it explained for you — and Klosterman posits that this odd split is actually one of the more realistic things about Saved by the Bell: In his high school experience and mine is well, there were certain people who simply never overlapped. When I went to my ten-year reunion, I met a number of people for the first time. We’d graduated in the same class and had mutual friends but had simply made it through the end of senior year without having met each other. To this day I’ll have conversations with the four or five people from high school whom I still talk to where they’ll insist that I must have known one person or another and I’ll have to convince them that no, their fancy-ass friend simply never crossed into the circles that constituted my high school experience.

Today, my blog is now the No. 1 Google hit for “tori paradox,” and I get a considerable number of hits each month from people who want to know why the hell the last season played out the way it did. I also get hits from people trying to find the image I included in the post and the thing that made be write about it in the first place: a DVD boxed set for the fifth season of the show that seems to include all seven Bayside students — including Kelly, Jessie and Tori — in the cover art.

saved by the bell season 5 dvd cover tori paradox

Since posting it, I’ve gotten comments and emails from people telling me that the image is at least Photoshopped if not from a bootleg version of the boxed set, and that Leanna Creel would have never been in the same promo photo as Thiessen and Berkley.

Today, I stumbled upon what appears to be one of those promo photos.

That is most definitely Tori, with her curly hair and leather jacket, her hand being cupped in a creepy fashion by Mr. Belding’s.

For all I know, I might have scanned right over this image before and not noticed why it was unusual, but yeah — apparently Tori did meet Jessie and Kelly, at least offscreen. According to Google Image Search, this photo is attached to this Time story about the Saved by the Bell cast, but it doesn’t actually appear in the article itself.

I don’t think that DVD box art was faked. I mean, what are the odds that the entire cast was present for a group photo and then someone would digitally insert Leanna Creel into the one shot where everyone is positioned in almost the same arrangement, wearing the exact clothes? I just wonder how this shoot was proposed to Thiessen and Berkley: “Yeah, you’re not on the show anymore, but we need to take this photo so ten-year-old Drew Mackie will be able to rest his mind that the final half of the final season taking place in an alternate dimension where you never existed.”

That’s how I want it to have gone down, anyway.

There is one more weird aspect to Leanna Creel being on the Saved by the Bell that I’m not sure gets raised often enough in discussion about the last season — and I don’t doubt that someone, somewhere, probably drunk or stoned, is bringing this up, asking “Dude, do you ever wonder about what happened to Kelly and Jessie that they just never mentioned them again? Do you think Tori killed them and everyone was too scared of her to say anything?” Back when Saved by the Bell was Good Morning, Miss Bliss, it starred Hayley Mills as the title character, before she too was blinked into nonexistence and the setting of the show switched from Indianapolis to L.A.

Keeping that in mind, isn’t it very suspicious that this exists?

Before she played Tori, Leanna Creel played one of the triplets in The Parent Trap 3, Mills’ next project after the end of Miss Bliss. Creel and her two identical sisters appeared opposite Mills again just a few months later in The Parent Trap 4: Hawaiian Honeymoon, the whole of which is viewable on YouTube.

Clearly, there’s some conspiracy involving clones, abduction, false identities and Tori being a sleeper agent being sent to Bayside to make sure the populace abided by the terms of various residents’ permanent removal. 

But perhaps I’ve said too much already.

One more bit: Have you ever seen the unaired pilot of Good Morning, Miss Bliss that features Brian Austin Green, Jaleel White and Jonathan Brandis but not Zack, Lisa, Screech or any of the original Saved by the Bell characters? And a schmaltzy theme that I’m pretty sure is sung by Hayley Mills herself? That suggests Olivia Newton-John having too much red wine and getting uncomfortably wistful?

Because that is totally a thing.

Weird TV, previously:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

“Hey, What’s With You and Squirrels?” (or — Drew vs. Nature)

So I was looking at your Instagram feed. You’ve been posting a lot of photos of squirrels.

This is an accurate statement. Thank you for monitoring my online activities so closely.

Oh, I was just wondering if you, like, got a pet squirrel of something.

No, I am neither cool enough nor crazy enough to get a pet squirrel. Here’s the deal: I’ve been working a lot this summer. Like, a lot a lot — whole Friday morning-to-Sunday night spans of writing. And I either work at my kitchen table or in my garage, and both of those look out onto my backyard. That is where the squirrel lives.

And he is your friend!

Well, not exactly. I would say that he has boundary issues and an unhealthy interest in my activities. That said, he does seem a lot more invested in me than the neighborhood cats are — except in one specific way that I will get to in a moment.

peeping tom aquirrel

Didn’t you name him, though?

I did. His name is Phillip Alexander Phluffytail, but that was really more for convenience’s sake than for any other reason. Name aside, he has been aggressive on a few occasions. I’d been outside without shoes on and he was almost directly underfoot no matter how I tried to get away. I had serious concerns that he would bite off my toes. I had to run inside.

But he came inside, I thought…?

He did, just the one time. He walked in through the dining room door, completely uninvited. That was alarming enough, but it was even worse that he did so walking on his hind legs.

I didn’t know squirrels did that.

Me neither. I think he was trying to pass as people.

Did his ruse work?

No, I was aware that it was just a squirrel. God bless him for trying.

So those videos you keep posting on Instagram…

People seemed to think the “squirrels with soundtracks” videos were funny, so I keep making them, but the relationship between director and the talent is, at best, strained. He is not the most reliable actor I have worked with.

A video posted by Drew (@kidicarus222) on

A video posted by Drew (@kidicarus222) on

Ah. So weird that he keeps trying to get in, right?

Yes, weird, but not exactly uncharacteristic of how this summer has gone down, honestly. There’s been this feeling I haven’t experienced since I was last in Australia, when I stayed at my aunt’s house on the edge of town, and there were no real boundaries between her property and the wilderness beyond. It was great, but always a little threatening. Kangaroos would just roam by, and on every window screen there was some alien nightmare insect trying to get inside. Whenever you opened the sliding glass doors, frogs that had been hiding in the wheel wells would fall out. Even at night, in bed, I’d just lie there and hear scores of birds singing unfamiliar songs and think about how I was somewhere far from home, hiding in a tiny bubble of civilization that nature was constantly trying to break into.

You’re being dramatic.

Maybe. But this summer has just been ants and wasps and cockroaches and moths and the like, all of them sneaking into the house at every opportunity. Just in the last few weeks, I have been seeing cats that haven’t been by previously — new strays, I guess. And this has all been happening while Los Angeles steams under unusually humid weather that makes the city feel strange, that makes it feel like even the air itself is asserting itself in ways it hadn’t before. Believe me, I get the irony in claiming that I’m being assaulted by nature when I’m a member of a species that is basically punching Mother Nature in the womb on a daily basis, but more so than I have in the last year, I feel like nature is trying get in.


Of course, you’re talking to a guy that was literally entered by nature when a sharp tree branch punctured my nasal cavity and caused what’s in me to end up outside in a very literal way. I’m fine now, but that was a scary experience. It has lingered with me.

It’s maybe weird to think about that incident in light of the “She Everywhere” story, isn’t it?

It is. I have thought about that a lot, actually. Getting twelve stitches really sucked, but while I was in the E.R. the doctor told me that I was lucky. Considering how deep the branch got, he said it could have been a lot worse: If it had hit me in the eye or neck instead, I actually could have died. I suppose it doesn’t take much, really.

But you ended up okay. You escaped the fate that befell that poor woman.

In most senses, yes. One thing that I didn’t share in the initial blog post was that when I finally got home from the hospital early the next morning, my first thoughts were about how much I didn’t want to clean up the blood. I just wanted it to go away. And while I did have to clean up all the blood in the kitchen and living room, when I walked out on the back driveway to the initial crime scene, I was surprised at how little blood there was, considering how much I’d seen gushing out when I pulled the branch out of my face. That’s when I noticed the cats — two cats I’d seen in my backyard many times before, and two cats that would generally flee as soon as I’d spotted them, because they’re scared of humans. They weren’t running away this time, however. They were actually busy licking up the blood.


Yeah, the neighborhood cats ate my blood.

I… didn’t know they did that.

Again, me neither, but I suppose it makes sense. Cats eat meat and blood is basically meat soup. I was horrified, I guess, but it had been a long night of strong emotions, and at the time I just didn’t have it in me to give a big reaction. I just decided to call this one a freebie and go lie down.

So the cats know what you taste like.

Yeah, in the same way the raccoons know what the “She Everywhere” lady tasted like.

What a weird thought.

Yep. And it is what I think about when I wake up and one of those cats is staring at me through my bedroom windows.

Okay, you win. It’s been a weird summer for nature.

One of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about a spot on the edge of where I grew up, where the territory in which humans can comfortably live gives way to nature. This spot isn’t particularly well-tended, and to me it’s always felt like a place where nature is taking back the land from people, and the things people leave behind just rot and transform into something less tidy and more primal. I guess it’s of interest because I keep thinking about the barriers we perceive between where we live and where it’s just wild animals and plants. They’re not actually real. We might like to think they exist, but animals and plants don’t see them. The wilderness is right there, and it will eventually get in one way or the other.


I mean, yeah, it has been a weird summer for nature. Do you want to go watch TV?