The Rip [short story]

The first hole opened up on a day so hot and bright you didn’t know where to aim your eyes. Even looking down at the sun-baked pavement was painful; looking up was out of the question. The only sensible approach was to squint straight ahead at what was in front of you. Maybe that was what it was counting on.

The five of us had finally all reached the age where our respective parents were ready to send us off to the pool by ourselves. Kendra had been showing up by herself practically since she was old enough to get in alone, while Toby’s protective parents hadn’t cleared him until that summer, with high school just around the corner. At ten years old, Blake’s little sister Melanie was the wild card. She’d been begging and ingratiating herself for weeks, and their parents had finally insisted that Blake bring her along, much to his dismay.

We’d been swimming for most of the afternoon, and the heat and the splashing had worn holes through all of us. There’s a peculiar exhaustion you feel after enough time in the water, when you step on land and feel your full weight once again. We were chlorine-sapped, feeling what little breeze there was on our strange new bodies. Melanie had reached the point of complaining about how hot it was, how hungry she was, how she didn’t want to leave yet, somehow all at once. Blake had already snapped at her twice, as the rest of us swapped glances and tried not to interfere.

All of this is to say: we were just young and hazy enough not to be as alarmed as we should have been when we rounded the corner, our minds vaguely set on the promise of milkshakes and air conditioning.

In the center of the parking lot, a perfect circle stood on end, about seven feet around.

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Who knows where the time goes?

*looks at date of last post*

Hey, so, about that: I’m not dead. Shortly after that post, my old laptop’s hard drive imploded. I had been most of the way through my next Fuller House recap at the time, and when I lost that document, I lost momentum.1

Over a year later, we have a second season of Fuller House, which I haven’t watched because I don’t want to hate myself more until I get through the first season of hating myself. Also, I’ve moved twice (the second time from Chicago to Philadelphia), have done a few dumb things, and am turning 30 on Sunday. Let’s be real, though. We all know what you’re really here for.

I’m reckoning with the passage of time pretty strongly these days. It’s hard not to look back at my old LiveJournals2, or at the huge gaps in this very blog, and feel like I haven’t missed something. Part of it is the sinking suspicion that I’ve been wasting too much of my writing energy on other platforms.

Yes, it’s time to embrace my approaching status as An Old and complain about Facebook. I accept my deep hypocrisy in doing this, as I spend truly disgusting amounts of time there most days. In fact, it’s been responsible for a huge number of the friendships I’ve built over the past several years.3 It’s also one of my main lifelines back to the friends I left behind when I moved. That said… oh my stars dear readers it is so exhausting

Say what you want about LiveJournal, but although you could (and often did) write as many vague two-sentence posts as you wanted, there was never the sense that everyone was trying to get in their patented Hot Take™ as quickly as possible. You also weren’t constantly having to argue with your friend’s Confederate-flag-waving uncle if babies born out of wedlock deserve to die of quadruple cancer.

To be clear, I’m not viewing the bygone days of the internet through rose-tinted glasses. I’ve been diving deep since before the turn of the millennium, and as a once-teenage girl, I remember all too well, with the sensation of several roaches crawling up my spine, how it used to be. Still, there are things I miss. What used to feel like an escape now feels like a panopticon. Everyone you have ever known and everyone they’ve ever known is there, all at once, and they all have an opinion, and most of them have no goddamn idea what they’re talking about. Chop and hash and regurgitate every original thought anyone has nowadays; tear it from its context; screenshot and repost; put your watermark on something you had no hand in. Eight hundred jokes about covfefe in twelve hours. I’m as complicit as anyone.

Look, I’m by no means anti-social media. I use Facebook, I use Twitter, I occasionally poke at Tumblr. All of them are vital communication tools, and Twitter in particular is great for disseminating breaking news and helping people coordinate. A platform’s a platform, and new and amazing things are being created everywhere by people who have more access to an audience than ever before. I just wish for more creativity and less consolidation. I don’t want Mark Zuckerberg holding a stake in every cool thing I write.

I read a discussion the other day in which someone was warned away from starting a blog on a subject they were passionate about, because “nobody reads blogs anymore.” Other avenues were suggested: a podcast, an Instagram page, Facebook videos, and so on. None of these are bad ideas. I love a good podcast. I don’t want blogs to be dead, though, because I think they represent a more nuanced and deeply felt form of communication than we often see nowadays.4

Long story short: Things are changing. It makes me a bit sad. That said, this is my little corner of the Web and I think I’m going to clear out the dust and stay a while, whether any guests choose to visit or not.

———-

1After losing two laptops in spectacular fashion in one year, I have taken to working in Google Docs almost exclusively. I suppose I could have been drafting that post right here in WordPress, but that would have required foresight.

2No, I’m not linking them.

3Remind me to write about chochachohood. It makes sense in context.

4That is, when they’re not an endless array of virtually identical exercises in branding and thinly-veiled product placement. But that’s for another entry.

Things I Have Put in My Mouth Lately: 7-11’s New Jones Sodas

On Sunday I found myself at 7-11 buying cat food, because that’s what happens when you forget to stock up at the grocery store and then find yourself in the throes of a Meowing Emergency State. I’ve been trying to cut way back on my soda consumption, so of course I made the mistake of looking at the beverage coolers. My eyes were drawn, as they so often are, to the most x-treme ‘90s looking stuff in the case. The black-and-white photos on the labels looked awfully familiar. Sure enough, a closer look revealed a familiar name: Jones.

Jones Soda is a smallish soda company based out of Seattle, known for unusual flavors (approach their holiday packs with caution) and featuring customer-submitted photos on their labels. In my preteen and early teen years, a bottle of Jones was a regular treat on nights my brother and I spent with our dad. I have particularly vivid memories of selecting a flavor and suitably cool label picture on our runs to the supermarket on the way home. I have Ideas about kids of divorce and our weird food attachments, but that will be for a later entry.

Anyway, Jones has been tapped by 7-11 for a line of store-brand sodas. There are five flavors, including unusual-in-the-U.S. fruits like lilikoi and rambutan. I bought them all, because I have no self-control. In my defense, I brought them to a Fiasco session that night to share with friends, thinking a group taste test would be fun. However, my friends are smarter than I am and drank almost none of the soda, leaving me to play Drink Roulette while stabbing everyone in the back and getting off almost scot-free. Jones Soda makes you a character in a Coen brothers movie; pass it on.

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Things I Have Put in My Mouth Lately: Malört and Irn-Bru

This past weekend was one for the ages as far as swallowing strange liquids is concerned. Top three for me, at least.

For the uninitiated (i.e. most folks outside the Chicago area, where it was formerly produced and is primarily distributed), Jeppson’s Malört is a type of bäsk, or Swedish wormwood schnapps. You may recognize wormwood as “that stuff in absinthe that’s supposed to make you trip balls,” if you’re a teenager or an ill-informed, pearl-clutching moral guardian. Neither absinthe nor Malört contain anywhere near enough thujone to make you hallucinate and/or die. The one time I tried absinthe, all I got was a mild buzz followed by a faux-consumptive cough that lasted for a week afterward. I guess you could say the experience was historically accurate in that sense.

Anyway, the worst you can say about wormwood in distilled alcohol is that it’s super gross. Not long after I first came to Chicagoland in the summer of 2005, I saw the famed Malört face for the first time. I don’t have a funny story to tell about the circumstances because my long-term memory is a sieve that strains out virtually everything that isn’t personal humiliation or obscure trivia, but suffice it to say that I was not the one making the face. My friends who were native to the area filled me in and, like the true champions they are, never tried to subject me to that particular rite of passage.

As the years passed, I started to consider it something of a point of pride to have dodged the Malört hazing for so long. Every time I missed a round of shots for the out-of-towners, I gloated a bit. I confided in others that, despite all my years in Chicago, the stuff had never crossed my lips. More than once, I was told I was tempting fate.

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I Watched Fuller House So You Don’t Have To: Episode 4

After a week of freaking out about an event and attending said event, another week of horrible depression, and a laptop implosion, I’m back! This was the most low-key episode of the season, which means it was both the most bearable and the hardest to eviscerate. I have done my worst.

Episode 4: The Not-So-Great Escape

Another morning in the kitchen. Baby Tommy keeps looking up at the ceiling, tricking Stephanie into following his gaze only to see that there’s nothing there. Steph, you’re my favorite. Please don’t let a baby mindfuck you. It’s only been a few months since he gained sufficient muscle control to look up in the first place. (This gag will keep coming up throughout the episode for little good reason. I have a feeling the writers needed some padding.)

Kimmy is still calling Stephanie “sister-wife.” “It’s your destiny to spend your life with me,” she tells her, with a smooch on the cheek. The scene that launched a thousand fanfics.

We get a glimpse into DJ and Kimmy’s different parenting styles. DJ packs turkey wraps for lunch. Kimmy packs $20 bills. She tells DJ (and us, by proxy) that she feels guilty for all the upheaval she’s put Ramona through lately. DJ rightly points out that bribery isn’t the best way to deal with your kids. Except if you’re bribing them with milkshakes and chocolate cake, that is.

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I Watched Fuller House So You Don’t Have To: Episode 3

A late-night post for a late-night episode! Kind of.

Episode 3: Funner House

Stephanie and Kimmy are all dressed up for girls’ night out! The audience hoots lasciviously, finally free to sexualize the child stars we grew up with. Did Kimmy just say “on fleek”? Kimmy just said “on fleek.” Of course, the only possible way they can follow that up is to commemorate temporarily not being at odds by posting a selfie to Instagram. Steph has to unblock Kimmy, though. Bet she’s jealous of all those fly-ass accessories that look like food. DJ comes downstairs and “kills” fleek with a “You look fleek!” to the ladies, which is like throwing a drowned horse in a woodchipper.

DJ tries to get out of the girl’s night, which was planned for her, with the old “I have laundry” excuse and assurances that she still has fun because sometimes her baby son sticks his tongue out at her. You know she’s that friend you have on Facebook who has never posted anything that isn’t about her children. The others aren’t letting her off the hook that easily, though. (Kimmy dubs the three of them the She-Wolf Pack, complete with hand-ears and howls. Bitch, you’re not Shakira.) Nothing to wear? They bought DJ a dress. No babysitter? Joey flew in from Vegas, and probably bought a seat for Mr. Woodchuck. You have to go upstairs to change? Screw you, change in the Uber. “What if Uber sees my boobers?” “Well, then you won’t have to tip.” Gross, Joey. Stephanie tries to reassure DJ with a memory of car-changing into a hideous bridesmaid dress after a wild night out. Oh no, it was Kimmy’s wedding! Do those two hate each other or not? Does anyone care?

Stephanie calls the kids out to say hi to Joey, but look, they’re absorbed in their gadgets! KIDS THESE DAYS GET OFF MY LAWN RABBLE RABBLE. The ladies leave and the kids run off. Joey drives the point home with a brick, lamenting about “kids today with the video games and the electronic devices” to Tommy. Of course, he immediately gets a text and wanders off. Hypocrilarious.

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I Watched Fuller House So You Don’t Have To: Episode 2

Okay, so it took me a few days to get this one up. My brain has already begun the liquefaction process. Let me pace my decline. Have mercy on me. oh no it’s beginning

Episode 2: Moving Day

The episode opens with Max tiptoeing down into the basement and jumping on Stephanie’s bed to wake her for Sunday brunch. She is remarkably calm about telling him to come back at dinnertime. I probably would have used a few more profanities in the same situation. He is persistent, though, excitedly telling her that the pancakes are made with duck eggs “for more nutrition and a deeper flavor profile.” Clearly, the extra protein has left him swole as fuck, because he’s somehow capable of physically dragging his aunt out of bed.

Upstairs in the kitchen, DJ presents Jackson with a seat at the head of the table and a pre-breakfast milkshake. Jackson, possessing basic observational skills, informs her that she’s acting weird and takes the opportunity to ask for hot fudge on his pancakes. Kid, you’re going places. Max finally gets Stephanie upstairs, where she fondly recalls her life as a night person, only for DJ to cover Max’s ears and scold her when she gets to the part about people hooking up. That seems like a slight overreaction, Deej. It’s not like she said “people doing blow and screwing like rabbits in the bathroom stall.” At seven years old, I doubt it would have occurred to me to think that “hooking up” meant anything more than “people making friends and maybe doing smooches.” In fact, six-year-old me thought a virgin was someone who didn’t have their ears pierced, which led to a rather awkward moment with my mother after we got back from the ceremonial trip to Claire’s. So, you know, take anything I say on the subject with a grain of salt.

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