I was human

Here’s something unpleasant: every time I see my teenaged self in a book or a movie, or on TV, she’s a corpse. I mean, not every time, but I’d say ninety, ninety-five percent of the time. There I am, dead and naked, and my mum comes along, or a detective, to point out I was human.

(Thanks. Most charitable. Bugger off.)

I don’t think I’ve seen a setup where my transgressions are incidental to my story. Like, sure, I’m a criminal—but this week, I’m learning to drive. I don’t know it yet, but I’m dead in the water. I’ll hit a STOP sign and a squirrel, and I’ll scratch my neighbour’s Rolls. But the lessons won’t be wasted, ’cause I’ll meet a college boy. We’ll see Trainspotting. He’ll make moussaka. I’ll hate it and eat it anyway (because my mother will remind me to be a good guest before I go, and also because this is a date, and of course I’ll bloody eat it. I want to have sex after.)

I like it now, moussaka. Most things with eggplant, really. That guy used to call me “snackpants,” not in a smarmy way, but in a “what’s the goofiest name I can give you?” way. He died. I’m still alive.

If someone made up a story about me, I’d want it to be more Ghost World and less Law & Order: SVU. Maybe they could use that religion we invented, me and my best friend. We sacrificed bad books to Charles Dickens and rubbed toothpaste on trees. We used seven whole tubes of it, and got in trouble.

Maybe the plane’s a better story—that time I snuck onto a jet, but there was nowhere to sit, and I got chucked off. (Is that a crime? I’m not sure that’s a crime. I got arrested and banned from British Airways, but I wasn’t charged with anything. I am, of course, white.)

Most of what I did as a teen was totally weird and totally harmless. I wore silly hats. I made mousetrap cars. I got locked in a toilet on a youth orchestra trip and had to watch some guy piss. I let Mother buy my school clothes every year. She liked to see me in Northern Reflections. I was fifteen, sixteen, and she’d buy me shirts with ABCs and apples on them, gingham blouses, frilly socks. I had five loonie jumpers, and one with a dog on the front. Most days, I left my jacket on. (I wanted those jingly trousers, those hippie-looking ones with the bells on the cuffs. I also wanted Doc Martens, dangly earrings, and everything in red. Northern Reflections did teal and pink and baby blue. I looked like a sunrise on Lake Erie.)

What I’m saying, man…what I’m saying is, I had one bitchin’ childhood. I wasn’t bad all the time, and neither was life. An acknowledgement of my humanity wouldn’t have sufficed, had that been all there was. Everyone’s human. Mussolini was human. I was better than Mussolini.

They always tell you, when you’re writing fiction, don’t put anything in without a compelling reason. It’s good advice. But any character can live out any story. You don’t have to pick the most obvious one. A bad kid can have a fun week at driver’s ed. A hitchhiker can tour the galaxy. The devil can bring his cat to Moscow. Yes, he can.

(I just want to be remembered.)

Hashtag memento mori, dude.

(PS – a jump-rope rhyme, from when I was wee:

Hitler was a berk! Hitler was a berk!
Mussolini bit his weenie! Now, he doesn’t work!
)

I don’t think I got what that meant.

29 thoughts on “I was human

  1. Most of those things are written by bitter old people who wish they could still be young and *transgress*. So of course they’d get back at their own characters. ….At least, that’s a compelling explanation (teenage horror movies are morality tales in disguise, and those are always bs).

    I think most parents have an unconscious urge to make their children look “uncool”, keep them closer to home/out of trouble sort of thing. So all the pastel colours were protective colouration/camouflage… Maybe that’s why most older people wear beiges and grays, it’s clothing designed to conceal what you are.

    And anyway, I refuse to accept anything you describe doing as “bad” (“living” would be more like it), not even the rampant book stealing (and biased opinions like that count for more… maybe). ❤️

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    1. Oh, well, I wasn’t talking about the book-stealing. Nobody ends up a corpse on TV because they nicked a few…more than a few…reads. I meant, y’know, proper bad behaviour, the sort that gets you taken away from your parents.

      Mine really were trying their best, but I think Mother’s love for Northern Reflections had as much to do with the price as the look. The clothes I wanted to wear weren’t expensive, but Northern Reflections was downright cheap. I don’t know if they have it outside Canada, but it’s like, hmm…a downmarket version of the Gap, with a Canadian theme. (And the Gap is already downmarket, so this is like…it’s like, if you want to start dressing like an old lady, but at any age.) Still, it didn’t much matter. I like to dress for comfort, anyway. Northern Reflections does cater to that.

      Ha, I bet Northern Reflections has TOTALLY updated their look, in the last 25 years. I bet I’m bagging on them for shit they don’t do any longer. They probably have fantastic clothes now. Or at least, clothes that don’t look like a granny ‘50s nightmare.

      To be fair to my mother, she also let me get a leather jacket. Not the cool motorcycle jacket I wanted, but still a nice jacket, soft black leather, no zips or chains. I’d just leave it on over my Northern Reflections, and only look like a dork from the waist down.

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      1. Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’d expected. I had one dorky shirt like that I’d clung to, because it was given by the best school I’ve been to and reminded me of better times. No idea where it is now though.

        Re grackles and burgers, consider that it might’ve been the only burger it had in its life (probably not, but still). I once found a roach on a pizza, which rendered all of it inedible. Still don’t kill roaches, just unceremoniously throw them out the window (not with my bare hands, in a plastic cup) and hope they get the hint.

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        1. Very true. I suppose a grackle’s life expectancy (and burger ceiling) is far lower than mine. I shouldn’t begrudge the bird its treat. I’m just annoyed because I can’t eat a burger unless I want to suffer through days of heartburn. I don’t even like burgers that much, but it’s the principle of the thing.

          Depending on what kind of roach you’re dealing with, some of them are just too big to squash. The mess potential is too unholy. Those big palmetto bugs they have in Texas, for instance, you don’t want to squash those. Disgusting. I wish they’d just stay out of any indoor areas, or build their own little roach cities…like anthills, but for roaches.

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          1. Just googled what a grackle looks like (after realising I’ve never seen one). Much more handsome than expected, I imagined something dishevelled and creepy (kind of like the accompanying doodle). It does not look like a bird that steals burgers.

            You’re right about the principle thing though, one of the main reasons for eating burgers is that they feel indulgent (there are many things you can easily make in the comfort of your home that would taste better, but burgers have that decadence halo… …or maybe it’s just marketing?).

            At least palmetto bugs don’t have wings. I’ve seen grown men getting terrified at the moment a roach decides it had enough skittering on the ground and begins to fly (clumsily, and with a high chance of colliding with humans). I think that unfortunately, they already have their anthills – our apartments… Alas (it’s nature’s way if getting back at us for being an invasive species). At least, if we do destroy ourselves in nuclear catastrophe, the surviving roaches may mutate into a new intelligent form of life that will try to make a sense of the ruins we’ve left behind (someone probably already used that pitch – multiple times).

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            1. Ha, ha, ha…what kind of weird palmetto bugs have you been looking at? They most decidedly DO have wings, and they can certainly fly, at least far enough to snarl themselves in your hair. We had a plague of them in Texas (at work, not in my home). Every time I’d turn the light on in the back room, a palmetto bug would fly in my face. Man, I hate those things,

              I think it’s that slightly burnt, condiment-slathered taste that makes burgers so identifiably bad for you, and thus so tempting. I once ate a burger where the entire patty was a giant mushroom. It was all fried and crispy around the edges, and it came on a sourdough bun. Something like that just HAS to be a treat. You know you can’t have that every day.

              Actual grackles are, indeed, quite lovely. They’re in the same group as starlings: beautiful, but trash. They absolutely love burgers, and indeed, anything that isn’t theirs. They hang around schoolyards and picnic areas, nicking what they can. Wankers.

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              1. When looking up palmetto bugs I’ve got two kinds of results. Normal looking winged roaches like the ones we have, and those giant wingless ones that look like creepy brown pillbugs. I assumed palmetto bugs were the latter since extra creepy appearance deserves a special name. It seems I was wrong. Back when I was small the only thing that terrified everyone more than roaches were crickets, because they look about the same but black, they JUMP, and everyone assumed the long ovipositor to be a stinger. We thought they were special killer roaches from hell, despite the fact that no one ever was bitten by one. I stopped being terrified of them once I’ve found out they were, actually, crickets, and then tried to convince anyone else (it didn’t work).

                My favourite kind of burger comes with the patty topped by a fried egg (with runny yolk) and a few drops of tabasco, vegetables optional. Pretty much a cholesterol bomb. Fried mushroom sounds good though. One thing I really got addicted to recently is miso soup, it takes about five minutes to make, all you need is a store that sells miso and dashi, and you can be as liberal or sparing with the vegetables you add (it does take longer to make if you add shiitake mushrooms though). I’ve also found a supermarket that sells authentic, sour kvass, so now I can make okroshka, which is probably the best Russian soup, or probably “soup”… It’s fresh vegetables (sometimes with finely cut pastrami) in cold kvass blended with horseradish and mustard. Very refreshing, especially in these days of global warming (we’re alredy above 35° temperatures in May, usually you have to wait for July and August).

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                1. Palmetto bugs ARE brown and huge, but they most definitely fly. (And they don’t look like pill bugs. They look like roaches. Maybe there’s more than one kind of palmetto bug. Or maybe people mistakenly call roaches palmetto bugs, and palmetto bugs ARE giant pillbug things. Anyway, whatever we had, I hated them. They could bite you, too, which made them doubly irritating. You’d be trying to help them out of your hair, and they’d bite you right on the face. Ungrateful fuckers. Bugs are the pits.

                  I like crickets, though. Crickets always meant summer to me. The sound of them, anyway. I used to catch them and make complicated terrariums for them. (Mother always put them back outside. It’s not nice to keep bugs in cages.)

                  You know what I like with a fried egg? Pumpernickel bread. You get two bits of pumpernickel bread, a fried egg, bacon, and tabasco sauce. Do you eat bacon? If you don’t, that part’s optional. You can put vegetables instead, and it’s still just as good. It’s just, if you’re being shameless, you COULD put some bacon.

                  That soup sounds brilliant, by the way. I haven’t had it, but now I want it. I notice cold soup isn’t so popular here, though. There’s not even one restaurant in Vancouver (that I know about) that sells gazpacho, which is probably the most popular cold soup.

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                  1. One single adorable roach fact: they groom themselves, just like cats… Which doesn’t prevent them from being a filthy nuisance.

                    Here in the summer you get crickets at night and cicadas during the day. Cicadas have that loud insistent hum/grinding sound, as if a medium sized motor is turned on nearby, but good luck finding the actual cicada. I brought home mostly grasshoppers, which could be kept in jars and fed lettuce. They were eventually let go once they began laying eggs and threatening to overpopulate the container (local grasshoppers mostly look like/are small locusts, all in drab browns and grays that blend with the ground, but – three particular species have bright colourful wings that “flash” when they jump, either yellow or red with a black stripe along the edge, but the rarest is a bright tourquoise/sky blue… Finding one felt more magical than a four leaf clover). Also once have brought home an oleander hawkmoth pupa and watched it hatch.

                    Fried egg with pumpernickel bread and bacon sounds delicious (both would require a trip to a specialty shop here though, dark rye breads just aren’t a thing in pita-land, and pork, well, is frowned upon by the religious sector… They tell that the pigs that are being raised in Israel are being kept at all times on a wooden platform/floor, so that their unclean trotters won’t desecrate the Holy Land… Although that’s probably just an urban legend…). Whenever I visit Russia part of the menu is always a delicious pork shish-kebab, I usually try to cut down on meat, but my father’s side of the family go out and set up a barbecue on any occasion and it is (as noted) invariably delicious.

                    Cold soups in general are a rarity, I think I had gazpacho only once (and it was a hot version). The only other cold soup you get in Russia is rassolnik, which is based on pickle brine and is somewhat of an acquired taste (definitely nowhere as popular).

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                    1. I’ve always wondered about that: why on earth would roaches develop grooming behaviours? It’s not like they have fur to keep tidy. Surely they can just walk through a puddle and be as clean as they’ll ever be. (Or maybe they’re SO filthy, SO attracted to trash, they must groom themselves or end up massive balls of slime with legs sticking out.)

                      I’m not sure we get cicadas here. Grasshoppers, definitely, though I haven’t seen a blue one. (Not that I go around looking at a whole lot of grasshoppers. There could be lots I haven’t seen. We do get these plume moths, though. They look like they just have two stiff wings sticking out to the side, but when they open their wings up properly, you can see that they’re made of long, fern-like fronds. I followed one around all day with a camera, once, hoping to snap it when it opened its wings, but it trolled me for hours and flew away when I turned my back. Stupid moth wanker.

                      I don’t eat much meat, myself. I’m supposed to eat 400g per week, to comply with a diet that’s meant to keep my iron levels from tanking, but meat is expensive and a pain to prepare. I just take a supplement, instead. I’ll have a bit of bacon or a slice of roast beef, once in a while, or a few bites of chicken, but that’s about all. (I realise that’s not a great idea, as you have to eat a LOT more vegetables than meat to get enough nutrition to be healthy, and I’m not physically capable of eating that much, but, hey, that’s what vitamin pills are for, right? Don’t tell me otherwise. I have a vegetable platter with snap peas and tomatoes and celery and cucumber, and I plan on picking at it all day. I like vegetables that are mostly water. Very refreshing, this time of year.)

                      Pickle brine soup…yes, I can see where that would be unpopular. It sounds like something you’d eat if you’re so cheap you won’t throw out pickle brine. I bet somewhere in Scotland, people are eating something made with pickle brine. (Possibly my relatives, even)

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                    2. Roaches probably groom away things that are too tiny for our eyes to see but are still palpable for the roach… Like those mites that live in our eyebrows and feed off dead skin… Or just negligible pieces of debris. There’s that order of magnitude for smallness between hair’s width and bacteria, probably few orders of magnitude.

                      I know exactly the kind of moths you mean. Nature in general tends to be like that… You see the perfect sunset, the moment when the sunbeams shine just right through the clouds, you reach for your phone to snap it, and it’s gone.

                      I’m just like you regarding food. If I didn’t actively remind myself to eat I’d probably end up with severe malnutrition (part of me enjoys the tastes and the textures, another part wishes that all of the nutrients of a day’s meal could be compressed into a single pill, no cooking, no grocery shopping, no hassle*). Watery vegetables are the best. Especially those large, crunchy sweet peppers. Just refrigerate and slice them up, and you’ve got a perfect summer snack. I also managed to try durian for the first time a few days ago. It tastes like a combination of leaking gas from a stove, burnt onions and melon. Not overwhelmingly unpleasant, but still too weird and intense to enjoy in sustained quantities. Definitely not as bad as pure marmite (which, really, isn’t the worst either).

                      *What I wouldn’t really ever give up are drinks. All of my culinary hedonism goes into various teas (trying them, combining them, adding spices or jams) and the occasional beer.

                      Actually pickle brine is considered somewhat of a health thing in Russia, at the very least a surefire hangover cure. So that’s one more reason to use it as soup. I understand the sort of mindset that drives you to utilise every tiny thing you’ve got to the maximum, like those rpg games where you feel compelled to seek out the strongest weapon, even if it just offers you a measly +1 more to strength than the second most powerful one. Compulsive cheapness is probably half perfectionism.

                      I hate it when people use baby-talk to refer to their body parts too, by the way. And in fact, baby-talk in general, even when directed at babies. There’s something really annoying about the idea that everything has to be reduced to the tiny and inoffensive to be lovable (same goes for internet videos where people try to cuddle or pick up some clearly annoyed or terrified animal). The world is not a toy. And yes, instant turn off (“birdie” and “front butt” are particularly loathsome). Got a snicker out of the fart guy though (back in the nineties I put a demonic “I AM ALIVE!” (sourced from one of the old Warcraft games) as the windows booting up sound… It got old rather quickly though as Windows 98 rebooted a lot).

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                    3. And now, I’m thinking about mites in my eyebrows. Ha, ha, ha. Well, better than mites in my lashes. No! Don’t say anything! If you don’t say they’re there, then they AREN’T. (Though, they are. Yes, they are.)

                      I have this recurring dream, by the way, where a brilliant bird lands on my balcony, like an owl or a phoenix (I mean, they ARE dreams), and I grab my camera, and the shutter won’t go off. I click and I click, and I focus and refocus, and the bird flies away, and I don’t get a shot. Man, I hate that dream.

                      My thing with food…I don’t know. As soon as I became an adult and didn’t have to eat what I was told, I went on an eating-whatever-the-hell-I-fancy-and-sod-everything-else kick, which unfortunately continues to this day. “Whatever I fancy” usually translates to “a lot of fruit and vegetables, and the odd scrap of barely-cooked meat, plus bites of dark chocolate, lumps of candied ginger, and delicious mushroom tacos.” Sadly, that doesn’t amount to a proper diet. I’ll pig down an entire plate of roast walnuts wrapped in pickled eggplant, and call that a good dinner. (And, I mean, it definitely tasted good. But what I actually ate was seven walnut halves wrapped in little strips of eggplant and drizzled with tzatziki. And then I wasn’t hungry any more, so that was all I ended up having. And now I want it again. I’ll probably have it tonight.)

                      Pickle brine as a health thing. Huh. You know, I’ve heard it can get rid of heartburn, but I’m too horrified by the idea of sipping plain pickle brine to try it. Maybe I’ll try the soup. That seems a little more palatable than, y’know, sticking a teaspoon in a jar of pickles. (And I certainly understand compulsive cheapness. I was willing to endure an extra two years of black mould and holes in the walls to save about 33% on my home. Not that I HAD that extra 33% to spare, but I could always have moved to Port Moody. What I wanted, though, was to get a place in Vancouver for the price of one in Port Moody. NOT getting that felt like getting screwed. Also, I buy foods I don’t like as much if I can save a few dollars. Like this week, bananas were on special. I hate bananas, but I got them anyway. I’m probably low on potassium, right? Ugh. Fuck. Bananas. I’m tired of them already.)

                      If I had a baby, I wouldn’t use baby talk on it. I read somewhere that if you do, they have a harder time learning to talk properly. Or maybe they…I don’t know. I can’t remember. But there was SOME reason you shouldn’t do it. You can still use that high-pitched tone people use on tots—apparently, that’s good for them. Lifts their spirits. But you shouldn’t do “coochie-coochie-coo.”

                      I just about died at the “front butt” thing, by the way. I pretended I didn’t hear it, but that was a one-of encounter, for sure. You can’t SAY those things to people. It’s…dear God. If I’d been a man, I’d have lost my erection.

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                    4. Think of them as your personal eyebrow gardeners (I didn’t say who they are, so that makes it fair). 😉

                      That sounds a lot like dreams a friend of mine used to have. He composed guitar music and in his dreams he heard the most amazingly sublime melodies, that he couldn’t remember upon waking up. Dreams in general have a tendency towards the evanescent bordering on mocking, how many times did you have a dream that ended right before some greatly longed for conclusion…? You could try drawing that bird in real life though, maybe that’s what it wants (also because now I wonder whether it has antennae).

                      I discovered that to eat normally I definitely have to eat more often than when actually hungry (also, what I usually get is the irritability of hunger without the craving for food, it took me a while to realize that it is, actually, hunger). I also prefer snacking on random stuff throughout the day rather than sitting down to have a meal (dark chocolate and candied ginger are also favourites). What I actually began doing recently is making 10-15 boiled potatoes (with lots of garlic) and just leaving them in the pan to take one or two throughout the day, they’re usually gone within a day and a half. Walnut halves wrapped in pickled eggplant actually sound very fancy, like something a French restaurant would serve. I wish sod-everything diets worked health-wise, shouldn’t your cravings be telling you what you need to be healthy? Like those kids who eat chalk because they have calcium deficiency (… apparently not).

                      It should be noted that home-made Russian pickles are probably much less astringent than commercial American ones. You have a lower concentration if vinegar and more flavourings in the brine like garlic, fennel and mustard seeds. Having to buy discount foods always feels like a dishonest move on the store’s part to me, strongarming you to get stuff you don’t want. You could try frying the bananas, they do that in India to red bananas, specifically, which are sweeter. It probably won’t improve the flavour of Cavendish bananas, but at least they’ll be crispy instead of mushy.

                      21 year old you actually looks like someone from 1921, probably starring in a silent film. That’s not bad as far as fashion choices go. And the sole purpose of those boots was clearly to look cool in photos.

                      I remember the rat serenade clip from facebook, it’s kind of creepy, in a low key, friendly sort of way. You know you’re a troll when you troll even your pets (and providing a website full of creepy art instead of wank material definitely counts as trolling too, see, you’re good at it even without intending to).

                      P. S. The demonic killer mosquito is adorable. Since it seems your mother has washed it off, I will now hold a minute of silence in its memory (not that I talk as I type, it’s a symbolic munute of silence).

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                    5. I’m glad it’s not just me, whose dreams never seem to get to the good bit. I thought maybe I’d become such an old misery-guts my sleeping brain couldn’t imagine how to enjoy itself. Another dream I have more often than I’d like is the one where I’m working, and I think I’m getting loads done, and then I wake up, and I was sleeping the whole time. I have dreams where I’m drawing, and I’m making good time. I have dreams where I’m writing, and I’m solving the problems that’ve been driving me bananas in the waking world. (The writing ones are especially annoying, because I wake up all excited, ready to use the brilliant ideas I came up with in my sleep…only, they’re NOT brilliant ideas. They make NO sense. Last night, I dreamt I put my boss in a novel, and had him talk to the characters and tell them secrets about each other, leading to a giant fight. In the dream, that seemed like an excellent plan. In the morning, not so much.)

                      The walnut things come from a Greek place, rather than French. I usually get those and a salad, and eat the salad the next day. It’s one of the few Greek places in town that doesn’t dump hummus on everything. I’m not sure why it is, but Canadians eat SO much hummus. With all the tasty, tangy Middle Eastern condiments out there, we fill our shelves with hummus. I don’t get it. I mean, I’ll eat hummus. There’s nothing wrong with it. But I don’t necessarily want it with every meal.

                      I’m pretty sure stores just do specials to get rid of the unpopular shit. Bananas go on sale more than ANY other fruit, and honestly, who really likes a banana? Nobody, that’s who. They’re disgusting. They’re barely a fruit. They’re mealy and sticky and not even juicy, and who’d want to eat that? I managed to get rid of two of them by blending them with strawberries and cocoa powder and drinking them. That’s four more to go. Next week, no bananas. I don’t care if they’re a penny each.

                      You’re right about the boots, by the way. I TOTALLY bought those thinking they’d look cool in pictures. But they just made my legs look all skinny. They’re supposed to be skin-tight, and then when you tie them up, the laces criss-cross down the front. But the legs were too wide, so when I laced them up, there was still space round my calves, and the front bits closed all the way so the laces didn’t criss-cross. LAME! (But I couldn’t resist the colour. I have a hard time turning down anything red.)

                      I think it’s mostly my appearance that makes the rat serenade creepy—my giant hands have that Nosferatu vibe, especially when I’m cast in silhouette, like that. Plus, there’s my voice, and the six-pound rat…okay. The whole thing’s pretty creepy. I was genuinely fond of the rat, though I’m not sure she enjoyed being in the video. She seemed sort of bamboozled, and I had to do several takes because she kept escaping.

                      I don’t believe Mother was able to eradicate the mosquito entirely. The nail polish wouldn’t come off, or the googly eyes. But she did get rid of the wings and legs, so it was just, like…disembodied eyes with a bloody dissection pin between them. MUCH better. (She doesn’t still have that bookcase, though. I think she sent it to Goodwill. Whoever has it now probably scraped off the rest of the mosquito.)

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                    6. It’s probably because hummus fits the “imaginary health food” profile so well. It’s relatively bland-ish, it looks “organic”, it’s Mediterranean*. Tangy food is divisive and polarising, just how many people you know that like blue cheese? (probably quite a lot, in fact… But the cheddar fandom would be much bigger)

                      *Not a huge fan of it myself, unless the garlic content is through the roof.

                      That one photo did look good though, although now you mention it, the boots really don’t fit perfectly, but it’s not that bad. Red, by the way, is the one colour that I never wear. It does look good on other people, but in my little personal symbology it’s a war colour used to intimidate or challenge. I’m all about midnight blues and blacks and turquoise… Cold, night colours.

                      Nosferatu hands, for some reason, is invariably an attractive feature for me (like a hand fetish…? But not an overtly sexual one), although I understand why they’re objectively creepy… You could probably startle a good deal of people by singing like that while standing behind them though (“if you ever look behind, and don’t like what you find”👻). The rat seems to have a mild case of stage fright, being isolated on a cushion like that, and she’s probably not a fan of your singing either.

                      I’d like to think that whoever bought it was charmed enough by the mosquito to leave it there. Back when we had a library, almost every shelf had tiny figurines or curious rocks in front of books, a small family of wooden wild boars, a piece of quartz, netsuke buddhas… It’s all shored up in an attic back in my hometown now, and there’s probably no recovering it. I wish I had enough money to rebuild something like it.

                      P. S. I don’t remember any interesting dreams right now. The idea to put the boss in the novel is kind of entertaining though, in a meta, postmodern kind of way.

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                    7. Isn’t hummus just squashed-up chickpeas? I mean, sure, they’re high in protein, but they’re hardly some miracle food. (I do like a good flavoured hummus, though. Garlic is always a good choice, or thyme, or any strong-tasting herb that can cut through the blandness. Mint, too, that works. But, really, if I can get any of those flavours in a non-hummus base, I’ll go for that instead.)

                      Maybe that’s why I like red so much. Because I’m not in the least intimidating, and I need SOMETHING to scare the monsters away. (Actually, I like it because it’s one of the few colours that stands out clearly to me. My vision isn’t great, especially my colour vision. Blue, green, and yellow all sort of run together. But red, I can identify right off. And I like it. It has a warm feel about it, like bricks, or a fireplace. A good colour, all in all.

                      In fact, I didn’t sing directly to the rat. As you surmised, she DID hate my singing voice, and in fact, she protested LOUDLY whenever I’d sing. I let her play in the bathroom while I sang the song, THEN I made the video, and I composited the two together. That way, the rat got to play on the bean bag without having to listen to me sing, and I got to chase her all over my apartment seven or eight times. Win-win, sort of.

                      My mother REALLY hates my hands, especially when I let my nails get long. She says they remind her of big, pale spiders. Which, yeah, I can see it.

                      The way you describe your old bookcase, I want one just like it. Something I could look at and enjoy, lots of little treats for the eye. Sounds like something that would take a while to cobble together. Could be a worthwhile endeavour, though.

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                    8. Hummus is just squashed up chickpeas with some tahini and miscellaneous spices which are barely felt. There is a fair bit of amusement about the way hummus is perceived in the US as some sort of trendy health food… Here it’s ubiquitous and cheap. Much like butter or even margarine (restaurant artisanal hummus is much higher quality than supermarket fare though, and it’s usually served warm with cedar nuts or spicy pepper paste mixed in, which improves things significantly).

                      I think you managed the intimidating* bit quite well in the updated karaoke video… That’s some “Silent Hill” level creepiness. Partly because of the veiled face and the wheelchair, partly because you’re directly addressing the viewer, and the inexplicability of the rat statuette… For anyone uninitiated that probably should be the final straw, the one truly unexplained bit of weirdness that would haunt them with unanswerable questions. The wobbling walk into the camera was also a really good touch (I expected you to lean in from above, face still hidden, and cover the camera with your hand, bringing the video to an abrupt end, but lying down on the floor behind the camera’s “ear” was perhaps even creepier).

                      That’s some great effects work on the original, I would never have guessed the rat isn’t there. Especially since she does appear to be genuinely uncomfortable, running back and forth on the beanbag. I would guess because there was no comfortable way for her to jump off. Still, ten out of ten rat acting.

                      Usually parents have two modes of commenting on your appearance. They either assure you that you’re the handsomest person to ever walk the earth, which clearly comes from bias and is patently untrue, which only serves to erode your self confidence, or they brutally and matter-of-factly point point out some flaw(s), which clearly any loving parent should tactfully keep quiet about, which means it’s much worse than you think, which erodes your self confidence even more. There is no win.

                      Anyway, I like your creepy spider hands. ❤️🕷️

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                    9. Now, that sounds like something I’d WANT to eat, warm hummus with spicy pepper paste. Or cedar nuts. Anything but the bland, mealy hummus you get over here. Maybe people just want to eat something familiar, though. Everyone knows what a chickpea tastes like. And mushy food can be comforting. Maybe that’s the root of the hummus plague: the desire to eat like a child.

                      You know, I wondered if anyone would notice I ducked down at the end of the video. I was hoping it would look like I simply disappeared, if I dropped down quickly enough, but of course, I didn’t. You could totally see me hiding. (And you can also see that great, stupid ladder. I thought, in the dark, it might be hidden by the glare on the window, but no such luck.)

                      As far as the original goes, it seems I explained that badly. The rat WAS really there. I just wasn’t singing, at the time. I recorded the audio first, then pretended to sing to the rat. In truth, I waved my hands at her in silence. I couldn’t really touch her, as she liked to bite, so that was how we usually played. It was a funny thing with that beanbag, though. When I didn’t want her on it, it was the only place she wanted to be. The minute I did, she was interested in ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ELSE, and would not stay put. Animals, man. It would’ve been so much easier if I could just have explained what I wanted.

                      I don’t think my mother EVER told me I was good-looking. I can’t remember her complimenting my physical appearance even once. She’s made pleasant comments about my clothes, a new haircut, that sort of thing, but she’s never said anything positive about my face or physique. Maybe I’m ugly. Maybe she doesn’t put much value on those things, or recognises that I don’t. She does compliment me on the things that matter (to me).

                      Speaking of compliments, thank you! It’s nice to get a positive hand review, for once. 😉

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                    10. Mushy foods make me think about being either old and toothless or a toddler, neither of these are terribly desirable states. The thing about hummus though, if I remember correctly is that it has all of the amino-acids, or proteins (and generally high protein content), that you usually get by having meat. So it’s very important for vegan/vegetarian diets, and it tastes marginally better than soy. So that’s probably the main reason for its popularity.

                      You know, if you haven’t mentioned the ladder, I would’ve completely tuned it out, now, I can’t unsee it. Thank you for ensuring that it looms supreme. 😶

                      That tentative poking of the rat just looks like another way of messing with her so it still contributes to the overall Theme… Maybe the beanbag was, in her mind, a bastion of solitude where she wanted to ruminate on the deep questions of the universe, so, whenever you paid attention to her when she was on the beanbag she immediately wanted to be somewhere else. Talking to animals would certainly make things easier… Ages and ages ago we had a giant schnauzer. He was quite docile and obedient, yet every once in a while he forgot himself when being walked, and you had to be ready for these moments, or else get yanked off your feet. On the plus side though, when you were walking him practically everyone you met crossed to the other side of the street. The world was yours.

                      I would bet on your mother knowing you well enough to expect which compliments matter, or maybe not wanting to create a false sense of entitlement by complimenting something that doesn’t take effort. Between strangers though, a compliment about a haircut or a dress is usually an indirect compliment about physical beauty (by implication, they wouldn’t look good on someone who doesn’t already look good). Oddly enough, compliments about personality feel the most intimate, since they directly say what compliments about appearance only imply (something like “I really appreciate your being here/existing”).

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                    11. Ha, well, with my teeth, mushy foods are a mercy. I like all sorts of soup and fruit, anything potatoey, anything that won’t choke me. I mean, I liked all those things BEFORE my teeth got ruined, but I like them more now. As far as the health benefits of hummus go, I’d imagine you could get the same benefits by eating chickpeas in any other form. There are plenty of ways to eat them other than squashed into paste. (There’s a restaurant here that makes them into fries. I can’t imagine that’s HEALTHY, exactly, but it’s very tasty.)

                      If I have to endure the ladder, so does the Internet. The day they take it down, if they ever do, I’m going to, like, livestream it. So the whole world can celebrate its demise.

                      You know, the idea of the rat seeing the beanbag as her own private bastion of solitude could well be right. She used to get on it and sort of wriggle around till the middle sank down. When it sank enough, she couldn’t see me. She probably though I couldn’t see her, either, though I TOTALLY could. Having me looking down on her probably ruined the illusion.

                      Are people really afraid of giant schnauzers? They always seem quite harmless…sort of big and doofy and friendly, hardly something to worry about. It’s Alsatians that tend to inspire terror, for some reason.

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                    12. Oops, that was an arabic-ism – “hummus” literally means “chickpeas” in Arabic/Hebrew. And they’re indeed better just boiled and then perhaps lightly roasted with spices, or mixed into salad. They take forever to boil though and have to be soaked for a long time beforehand.

                      It’s difficult to believe that the ladder is anything but a giant middle finger to everyone. That’s what all tall buildings really are, the main reason for building them is “just because we can” plus Freudian symbolism. I’ll be waiting for that livestream (but then of course, it will be a bit sad, since we tend to get attached to every fixture, even if it is only a looming bother).

                      That’s a very cat thing to do, this sort of ineffectual hermitting away. Although sometimes… Friends used to have this cat who liked to hide in the most inaccessible spaces between tall wardrobes and floor or in the pantry, basically any place where you’d look last and accessing which is a bother. She could stay there for a day and a half. The problem was, she also could go out, and sometimes had to be rescued from the street cats who chased her up a tree. So catsitting her was an affair of constant vigilance. Is she outside? Is she hiding in the house? It was oddly rewarding to search for hours only to find her behind a laundry basket everone forgot, or to go on involved rescue missions (there were quite a few trees).

                      The schnauzer was doofy. I think part of it was that it’s a very rare breed here, so all people registered was “large, shaggy unfamiliar looking dog” without looking any closer. He also sharted all over a bookcase once. It was an imposing bookcase with rows and rows of gilded encyclopedias, and he just stood there looking very sheepish, although nobody said a thing, because it was a stomach bug. The thing is, the schnauzer is long gone now, but my parents in India still have the besharted encyclopedias. The pages have those brown stains at the top and stick a little at the edges, but at least they don’t smell. Some items of nostalgia are odd like that.

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                    13. Ha! I had no idea “hummus” just meant “chickpeas.” I thought it was called that because it’s one letter removed from “humus,” which is the decayed-organic-matter part of soil. And it looks like dirt. And whenever I offer someone hummus, I feel compelled—no, obliged—to make some type of “nos habebit hummus” joke. Nobody laughs. It’s not that funny.

                      I’m holding out this vain hope that when they do take the ladder down, they’ll replace it with something better. Something that’ll improve the view, rather than detracting from it. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A bloody tree would do. Or a proper sculpture, an appealing one. But they’ll probably put a great awful streetlight there, or an even worse installation.

                      You know, my mother had a budgie that did that, though not on purpose. He landed on a rat cage in his youth, and a rat jumped up and bit him. He survived the bite, but his leg withered away, and he became a one-legged budgie. When he got old, his balance got bad, and he kept falling down behind the bookcase. Mother always rescued him in time, till one day she didn’t, and he died there. The other budgie got depressed and stopped flying. She’d open up her cage in the morning, flutter down to the floor, and just walk around there all day, looking sad. Mother should probably have got her a companion, but she didn’t want any more birds. Poor thing hung on for years, walking about like that.

                      Thanks very much for the mental image of the schnauzer shart, by the way. Ha, ha, ha. Funnier than “nos habebit hummus,” but far more disgusting. Snort.

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                    14. My day (or rather, night) was eerily similar to yours. There, too, was beeping. Only, it were outside, somewhere… Haifa is built on a fairly steep mountainside, so every sound from below carries far. It might have been a car alarm, or something, not too loud, just there in your background… Only, it – would – not – stop. Add to that a still, sticky night air without any hint of movement and the temperature of lukewarm soup and a headache that stays just this side of “I want to curl up and die” territory.

                      It’s now past one o’clock in the afternoon, and I think I can still discern the distant, but through the hum of cars – incredibly faint, beeping. Of course, it might be just my traumatised imagination.

                      Thank you for the incredibly sad budgie story. Apt revenge for sharting schnauzers*. That’s how we all will end up, forgotten behind a (proverbial?) bookcase, hum(m)us will have us all (your joke is a solid (macabre) dad joke, most people are just not familiar with “Gaudeamus”).

                      Here’s to no headaches and no beeping.

                      *the encyclopedias still look very impressive on their shelves, so guests pick them up to leaf through and admire, and of course, invariably ask about the stains… Talk about “indelible memory”. He was a good dog.

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                    15. That’s even worse, a car alarm. A smoke alarm, you can change the battery, or force someone else to do it. A car alarm, short of hunting the car down and destroying it, there’s not a lot you can do. Any repetitive noise, really, it’s such an irritant. A dripping tap, even. A fridge with an ice maker. Anything like that can fuck off and die.

                      Sorry about the budgie story. I forgot how sad it was when I started telling it, and by the time I remembered, I’d almost finished. I suppose I could’ve erased it, but I didn’t. If it’s any consolation, they were total garbage budgies, both of them. They weren’t friendly, and indeed, they were openly hostile most of the time. The computer was in their room, and they’d divebomb anyone using it, land on their heads and peep in their ears. They’d cling to the Venetian blinds and peck them to bits. Every so often, one of them would wriggle under the door, go in my parents’ room, and whistle up the other one, and they’d have a filthy little bird party in there, shitting all over their canopy bed and pecking holes in the curtains. That’s birds for you. Not good pets. They belong outside.

                      You know, all my jokes are dad jokes, these days. Though, I’m not sure that’s a function of getting old. I have a feeling my jokes have always been pretty dire. Ah, well. I think they’re funny.

                      Are encyclopaedias still a thing? Like, actual printed ones? Doesn’t seem like something anyone would buy, any more.

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                    16. I remember you telling about budgies that adored your mother, but no one else (there was also something about wet budgie smell). If that’s what adoration looks like, may we all be spared. It does however, brighten things up a bit. They had fun terrorising the house before things went bad (now the lone remaining budgie assumes the character of an old gangster who lost his partner in crime to prison, and now he’s strolling the streets while mournfully smoking cigarettes and going to seed, but at least there’s a blaze of criminal glory in his past, throwing rays like a setting sun on the last few years of his life… …you see, melodrama makes everything bearable*).

                      *I am not sure why, maybe because it both acknowledges our feelings by blowing them up to ridiculous proportions but at the same time makes us take a step back and chuckle at those same overblown ridiculous proportions. Sympathy and irony in one package.

                      My mother had an adored cat who insisted on pissing in shoes, specifically those that have been outside… That was more obsessive territory marking though rather than any outright malice (apropos your dude at the wall). I have a theory that’s that what littering in general is. Those people leaving cigarette butts everywhere in blissful unconcern? They’re *marking territory*. It makes littering not just reprehensible fuckery, but atavistic reprehensible fuckery.

                      Sometimes, a joke is funny not because it’s terribly witty or clever, but because it’s just so, so bad… This *sometimes* applies to your jokes. Maybe. 😉

                      Those particular encyclopedias were printed back in Russia in the 90’s. They were taken to India out of certain sentimental inertia, and because they look good on shelves (that’s their main purpose these days)… That house in general had an interesting decor. My mother had a mask of Yama, the Indian god of death, hanging over her bed, but then her boyfriend complained that it was creeping him out, and the mask was moved to the living room, to creep out guests. There was also a huge terrace where you could put several large tables with room to spare for a dancing floor.

                      Would an extra long reply help the bad-dog mood go away, or on the contrary, provide too many irritating, squiggly letters to read?

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                    17. Ha! There’s but one cure for the bad-dog feeling, and that’s the good-dog feeling. I need a pat on the head, preferably from the same person who smacked my nose with a rolled-up newspaper. (Not that my boss actually hit me with a newspaper. That would be entirely inappropriate. But, you know.)

                      I think I’d have liked that house, Yama mask and all. I tend to appreciate homes that are obviously lived-in, homes with a clear sense of the owner’s personality about them. I like to walk around and examine everything, and feel like I’ve reached some understanding. You can’t do that in my place, say. I have a few rat figurines, but that’s about it for personal touches. You can’t get much sense of who I am or what I like. I’d change that, but it would take forever, finding all the right things, finding space for them, keeping them clean and dusted…it’s just too much.

                      I do appreciate a so-bad-it’s-good joke. Y’know, I actually told a “yo mama” joke, recently. It went, ah, “yo mama’s jokes are so bad, she’s yo dad.” Terrible. Really. I couldn’t resist.

                      You might just be right about littering. Some people do seem to do it with great deliberation, like they’re enjoying it, and enjoying everyone else’s discomfort. That pissing guy even FILMED himself, like he wanted to remember his act of urban spoilage. (Or maybe it really WAS some kind of porn thing. Maybe he does that all the time, and puts it on Redtube, and gets…do you get paid for that? I don’t know. I’d presume so. Otherwise, why would anyone bother?)

                      It’s true, the budgies DID treat Mother better than the rest of us. But most of all, they liked each other. They weren’t into human beings. They’d perch on Mother and sing in her ears, which was more than they’d do for anyone else, but I don’t think even she could pet them. Maybe she could. I don’t know. But I don’t think so. I can’t remember ever seeing such a thing.

                      I like the idea of them as a pair of tragic gangsters. Or pirates, maybe, with the one having a withered leg. Pirates and parrots rather go together, anyway. And budgies are parrots, sort of. Parrotlets. Parakeets. Same general idea. Loud little birds with interesting colours. Some of them even talk, though those ones didn’t. I think they only talk if you keep them singly, if they don’t have other birds to talk to. Then, they’ll pick up human speech out of sheer loneliness. That’s cruel, though. You’re not supposed to keep birds alone.

                      Oh, the bad-dog feeling also goes away with time, by the way. So don’t worry too much. I won’t be snuffling around under the table forever. (Nor am I literally doing any such thing, right now. Ha, ha.)

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                    18. You know, whoever tries to guess your character from your apartment might think that you deliberately chose to live with a direct view on the ladder… Which would lead to a lot of puzzled pondering.

                      That house, by the way, was huge, the living room was the size of a small church and it had four(!) floors, each with its separate bedroom. It was actually fairly empty of stuff, considering its size. And whenever there were electricity cuts during the night (which was often), you had to wander through the whole cavernous thing with a candle, like a character in a Poe story.

                      There was also a defunct fountain in the middle of the living room/hall, which my mother filled with earth and turned into a small garden. The cats liked to hide in it and watch everyone from their leafy camouflage, sometimes committing short assaults on your legs. I think they got the most fun out of that house.

                      One of my high school teachers had a lone parrot. Whenever she laid an egg he fried it up and fed it to her. Isn’t that fucked up?

                      I’m glad someone else acknowledges the existence of farty music… There usually are those trances with one specific synth that makes those rhythmic fffrp-fffrp-fffrps. They’re not quite lifelike enough, but farts are the only thing they remind you of.

                      I might steal your “yo mama joke”, it’s quite good.

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                    19. It is RIGHT in front of the ladder. Like, if I’d wanted a ladder view, I couldn’t have picked a better apartment. Well, unless I picked one of the penthouses. Those ones have two floors, plus a roof garden, so you get THREE TIMES the ladder exposures. (You also get two flights of stairs, which is why I don’t live up there. That, and I can’t even keep my windowsill plants alive. A whole roof garden’s too much responsibility.)

                      I’d do anything for a house with a fountain-turned-garden in the living room, by the way. That’s absolutely brilliant. Four floors, I’d need to have a lift put in, but it’d be worth it for the indoor garden. Well, maybe. If I kept it alive. If I didn’t, it’d just be a depressing dead fountain, filled with dirt and brown leaves. Gross.

                      Feeding a bird its own eggs is, indeed, fucked up. I doubt the bird was any the wiser, but still, what a thought! Who would do that? (Well, he would, obviously, but, man, what an idea! How does that even cross one’s mind?) Ah, maybe the bird needed protein. Who’s to say?

                      This music, by the way, was SO farty I had to play it back to convince myself it wasn’t a fart, and even when I DID play it back, I wasn’t sure whether it was a particularly flatulent wind instrument in the background, or if they’d actually sampled in a fart. I can’t remember what song it was, but if I find it again, I’ll let you hear it. You can judge for yourself. SO farty.

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