Categories
thoughts writing

Q+A | Imposter!

“Wondering how you (Mike and/or others) have managed feeling like an imposter when sharing work? I’ve been out of the game for a while and never truly got IN the game and sometimes it feels like I’m sort of a wannabe. It doesn’t help that I did a deep dive into the all-consuming parenthood adventure and it’s so much harder to find even basic words some days. Not necessarily looking for validation, but definitely some advice on navigating the ebb and flow of creativity.” —J

J,

I have been thinking a lot about this subject lately. Over the last decade, I have spoken with very dear friends of mine who have accomplished a variety of successes in terms of their art and/or their careers, and all of them have confided in some way that they still struggle with bouts of imposter syndrome. Most of them find that no matter how “successful” they might be in one aspect of their field, from time to time, they still feel as though it’s unearned, ill-gotten, or fraudulent. I feel it as a “comedian in poet’s clothing,” especially as a spoken word artist/slam poet approaching the worlds of publishing and academia. I’ve never fully felt as though I was universally accepted as a good poet by everyone who has heard me, but that’s life. Not everyone ever will. It’s good to have some folks who are critical of your work, because it forces you to take a third look at what you are creating. To ask yourself why you created it in the first place. To ask yourself about its place in the world. But that imposter feeling is critique on our character and the artist in us. It probably stems from our own self-image and a large part of our identity. So much of it probably comes from guilt and a need to have a simplified self-representation; ‘I am [insert role/artistic identity here]. I am wholly THAT and I must eat, breathe and sleep THAT, because it is what people expect of me. It is what people need from me.’

Guilt may be one of the most destructive forces against even the inception of art. How many folks have given up being an artist because their parents wanted them to be a doctor? How much art never had a chance to exist in the world because being a lawyer pays so much better? I believe that our perception of being unworthy of utilizing the time necessary to create art is influenced by the guilt we may feel because that time must be borrowed from our responsibilities. On top of that, when we do finally borrow time from our commitments to others, we then judge our art to an unfair higher standard. ‘I used this time to make this, but was it a wise use? Will my commitments suffer because of this piece of art? If it is seen by others as poorly made art, then I have wasted my time, and I have now less time for my commitments.’ This is a fallacy. If the desire to create exists, it is imperative to your mental health—and the health of those you are committed to—to create. To be an artist. To identify with art and generate it at a rate that fits your desires. It is also imperative to study the difference between what is good art and what is bad art, and in my convoluted opinion, more importantly, what mediocre art looks like. The world can handle good and bad art. One we hang on the wall, the other ends up at thrift stores. Mediocre art gets saved in garages and attics because, you know, so-and-so made it and they put a lot of time into it and… I don’t know what to do with it.

It comes down to time management. I always have to ask myself: Do I have the time to do both things AND can I negotiate the values between responsibility and desire? How do I destroy the guilt I feel when my desire to create is as strong or stronger than my commitments to others? Can I make a commitment of my desires and create a balance between them and my responsibilities?

I am a funny person. I am a serious writer. I love to cook. But really, deep down inside, there is a huge part of me that wants to dance. If in ten years folks were to say, ‘yeah, you know Mighty Mike McGee, the funny, dancing poet,’ it’s because I managed my time and did what I NEEDED to do. In my 20s, no part of me was prepared to let that become part of my identity. There was no way anyone was ever going to see the dancer waiting to be born. Because I was stuck on this notion that I had established everything I was going to be. I was a stand-up poet. A funny performance poet who only did just THAT. I could dip into just stand-up comedy, or I could slide over into straightforward poetry, but I should not delve into anything else, because. Because? Because what? Because I might jar someone else’s perception of my identity? Because I might have to explain my newly restructured time management to folks?

So if you’re a mother, that becomes a major role for you and those around you. If you were writing before you became a mother, you may find yourself at a crossroads and find it difficult to maintain the practices of writing while also keeping up with the responsibilities of motherhood. If you are a firefighter and you decide to venture into theatre, it pits your identity as first responder, maybe even a selfless hero, against your desire to express yourself and to be seen doing it. Nothing of who we are now should be a hindrance to the fact that our identities are far more fluid than we tend to recognize and that our future selves should only be dictated by responsibility and time management.

It’s becoming more and more unusual and even uncomfortable to me that the things we DO must become the thing we ARE. I “am” a poet, but it really isn’t my identity. I am a primate called Mike who writes all sorts of things (including very long responses to FB posts.) I like words and I play a mean game of Scrabble. I can live without poetry, I don’t want to, but I could stop writing. Over time I do believe it would have a negative impact on my life. As a baby poet in my 20s, I wrote A LOT of poetry. I was hooked. From 1998 to 2003, I wrote about 300 “poems.” Now, I write maybe a tenth of what I did back then. I was confused by this. I recently took a long foraging look into those old poetry files to see what I was writing. I wanted to figure out how in the hell I wrote so much, but just couldn’t be bothered to spend that much time on it now. What I realized was that 90% of those poems were mediocre at best. I was still learning. I was exploring and experimenting. I was falling in love with words and letting them fall in love with me. I was having fun and letting it all out to see what would stick. I discovered that I have 20 more years of experience at not just writing, but at being a better judge of my own work. Twenty more years of being constructively critical of what I can make. In 2001, I would write something, share it with friends and read it at open mics and wonder if it was any good. I don’t wonder 90% of the time now. I am confident that I have developed the skills needed to be a good writer. There is and will always be room for improvement and change. Much like my identity, there will always be shifts in what I need to develop further as an artist. But what there isn’t room for any longer is guilt because I just don’t have time for it. There is writing to be done. Between laundry and gigs and bathing and Scrabble and feeding my cat and visiting loved ones, there is so much writing to be done. As long as I am honest with myself and my work, I cannot be a fraud, because no one else is me.

I highly recommend that you gift yourself whatever amount of time you can every day in doing something with words. You know what inspires you so immerse yourself in those things regularly. Make it inclusive! Bring your family with you if you can. “Fam, I love words and I want to fall in love with them again. Will you join me on this romantic journey?” Re-evaluate your desire to create and explore the idea that the time you spend on your expression is just as valuable as the time you spend with your commitments. You getting better at your craft is a boon to those around you as well. No one else is you, so how can you be a fraud?

Truly,

Mighty Mike McGee

Categories
fun music thoughts

(s)talking to a stranger

One of my favorite song discoveries of the forsaken-year-that-should -never-be-rementioned-by-number (last year) is this 2013 disco-punk rework by The Avalanches. They took Hunters & Collectors’ 1982 song “Talking To A Stranger” and avalanched it into “Stalking To A Stranger.” Both links will take to you their respective 7+ minute videos, of which the latter is also remixed to splendid effect. Both songs are dope and the remix introduced me to veteran Australian new-wavers Hunters & Collectors, and for this I am glad.

Categories
blog fascinating fun thoughts

Don’t Throw Away Your Calendars

For as long as I can remember, I have been deeply fascinated with calendars. I am sure it is based in part on my deeper fascination with time itself—as a concept, as a construct, and as a constant. I think it may be the false sense of predictability calendars offer—they give a glimpse into the future, but aside from holidays and plans, that glimpse is ultimately always a bit empty and never guaranteed.

Several years ago, I discovered the concept of re-using calendars thanks to their predictable repetition. So far, mine is a new, strange, tiny collection. As years come to an end, I take down the calendars off the wall over my desk and the one in my kitchen, then pack them away to be used again. On the back, I write the coming years in which they will sync up again, giving them the potential for future use for anyone who comes across them.

For example, in place of a 2011 calendar, you could have used any Gregorian calendar from 2005, 1994, 1983, 1977, 1966, 1955, 1949, 1938, 1927 and 1921. That is a great line of available calendars. I am trying to track down a copy of a 2011 Betty White calendar I used to have so that I can use it in 2022. I recycled mine before I fully understood I’d be able to re-cycle it in eleven years. To be clear, your holidays and time changes won’t always line up, but the days and dates will be just fine.

I can imagine my mom hanging this calendar the year I was born. This one can be used again in 2032 or 2060.

Due to 2020 being a leap year in which February 29 landed on a Friday, this year’s calendar is only reusable three times in the next 96 years, in 2048, 2076, and 2116, when leap day returns to Friday. And only four calendars from the 20th century could have been used in place of one from 2020—those from 1992, 1964, 1936 and 1908. This is the same story for every leap year, they’re spaced apart a minimum of 28 years.

It’s a simple fascination that I don’t spend too much time on. I do wonder, though, if it is possible to build a permanent collection so that I have all the calendars I will ever need. Then again, do I really want a complete collection? There is something so morbidly finite about that.

Here are my two resources on this subject. The best, no frills site for quickly looking up which calendars to reuse is whencanireusethiscalendar.com. And one of my favorite sites to waste time on all thing time and dates, and even repeating calendars is timeanddate.com

I do think it would be a nice trend to write the future years of re-cycle on the backs of our calendars from now on. Even if you don’t keep them, a like-minded collector will be glad you donated them to a thrift store. I now have a 1993 calendar I plan to use in 2021, 2027 and 2038.

To be honest, I am seriously considering burning my 2020 calendar at 11:59pm on December 31. No one should ever have to spend another calendar year with 2020.

Categories
fascinating fun thoughts

Picture This

I was cleaning my house a couple of years ago when I found a small travel bag I didn’t recognize. Smaller than a fanny pack, bigger than a wallet. Maybe a pencil bag? It had some random items in it, pennies, a gum wrapper, a lozenge, and a few empty film canisters, but one of them included a completed roll of film. It must have been left behind by an acquaintance who attended one of my Kitchen Sessions. This film roll now sits on my desk as a tiny mystery full of possibility. I am certain it is not mine, but I’ve staked a claim on it like finders keepers. Out of sheer curiosity, I want to develop the film inside, but I am worried about being disappointed. What if the images are boring? What if they depict a crime? Will the images tell me who took them?The mystery is likely more salacious than the actual negatives. Another part of me wants to throw it away and enjoy the mystery forever.

I just noticed that the film roll is Kodak Professional black and white…

While Shannon Harney performed at a Kitchen Session, circa 2017, said mystery film was probably being left behind in my couch cushion. (Taken with my crappy phone.)
Categories
blog memoir thoughts

Mike McGee, Non-smoker

Today will forever be a reminder that I was once the heaviest smoker I knew. I rolled tobacco and smoked constantly. On average, I smoked the equivalent of three packs a day of pre-rolled cigarettes. I smoked my final tobacco cigarette on November 11, 2011, ending my habit just two months shy of 19 years. I realized a little later that day that I had put out my final cigarette at 11:00am, coincidentally stopping my tobacco habit on 11/11/11 at 11:00am. Had I realized the date and time, I would’ve had one more and put it out at 11:11am, although, the last cigarette I did smoke wasn’t very tasty or the least bit satisfying. And it’s much more satisfying to have had the universe schedule it for me without my knowledge.

Growing up, I loved the smell of my mom’s Virginia Slims and my dad’s unfiltered Camels. In my house there wasn’t much of a concentrated effort toward making sure it looked unappealing. I was fascinated with smoking. It looked so cool to me. I was destined to smoke. I recall my grandmother having smoked for 30 years before stopping sometime around 1983. When I was a little older, she recommended I quit before I became too hooked, but it was too late. I had already been smoking a pack a day within the first few months of my habit. I had always thought she had quit cold turkey, but my mom confided in me that Grandma had had a procedure done—she had some sort of small metal BBs surgically embedded over some nerve inside or near her earlobes. Whenever she craved a cigarette, she would rub the BB lump behind her ear until the craving went away. I never confirmed it, but I watched out for ear tugging a la Carol Burnett.

In the spring of 2011 I was in Vancouver, BC for a few shows. My friend and old touring partner Shane Koyczan and I were backstage and I asked him to join me outside for a cigarette. He told me he hadn’t had a cigarette in six months. I was dumbfounded. Gobsmacked. This was a dude who had matched me smoke for smoke, pack for pack in all the days we spent together on the road and at home. The only thing left to fall out of my mouth was, What!? How!?? Shane told me that a few years earlier he had bought the book Easy Way To Stop Smoking by Allen Carr. He kept in his desk and tried reading a few times. The last time finally stuck.

I figured if it worked for Shane then I had to at least read the book. I had wanted to quit, but never saw much light in the possibility of succeeding. I bought the book on my mobile device and I read it over three days on a ferry trip from Vancouver to Victoria and back in BC, smoking the entire time. After completing the book, I smoked three more cigarettes and suddenly knew I was done. The book’s re-brainwashing had worked, but the feelings of anxiety and dread to come were horrible. Nearly everything I ever did throughout my adult life had been followed by or rewarded with a cigarette or three. The book itself is not an incredible example of the English language at its best. It’s redundant and repetitive, but that’s pretty much the prerequisite for brainwashing. Carr included some analogies that really hit home with me and helped me to visualize stopping my habit, including using the word stopping in place of quitting. Once you can see it, you know what you’re looking for. He also used a minefield as a smoker’s map. Once you smoke your first cigarette, you’ve stepped into a minefield. Every cigarette is a step within that minefield. Technically, a smoker never leaves that field and if they are lucky, they never set off any number of disease mines. This worked very well for me, but what convinced me it was time to stop was the realization that I had promised myself I’d stop smoking before I reached five years in, then 10 years in, then 15, then 20. I couldn’t believe I was a year away from 20 years of smoking. I finally kept my promise.

In 1996, my bandmate Kelley Mayne was the first friend I knew who stopped smoking and seemingly never looked back. He was 21 and dead set on discontinuing the habit. We’d meet up for band practice and he would join us outside between songs, just staring at us or into the void while the rest of us smoked. I’d ask him how it was going and he referred to it as feeling like he was in “Gumbyland.” I’d ask him to describe it, but he never could. He would just monotonously reiterate I’m in Gumbyland.

Now, much like my grandmother, I too didn’t quit cold turkey. I never could quite get the hang of having empty hands or a mouth that wanted so badly to suck in smoke, and a trachea that wants to catch it all. After a couple of weeks of feeling like I was losing my mind, a friend recommended that I try rolling herbal cigarettes. Living in Portland, Oregon at the time, there were a few paraphernalia shops that sold blends of smokable herbs like skullcap, chamomile, passionflower, marshmallow, mugwort, mullein, rose, damiana, mint and so much more. All I did that winter was loiter around my living room binge-watching Parks and Recreation, waiting for someone to come over who smoked so I could join them and bask in their second hand fumes. When my friend Eirean came over and realized what I was rolling, he told me couldn’t associate with someone who “smoked tea.”

Now, there’s a certain way a drag of smoke had to hit the back of the pharynx that made me feel like I was getting the full effect of smoking a cigarette. I would wager that most smokers know what I am talking about. I knew a number of especially heavy smokers who agreed that if it didn’t hit the back of the throat just right on the first two or three drags, it was very difficult to fully enjoy the rest of the cigarette. After about five months of smoking my herbal “tea” blend, I just stopped. There was no intentional weaning myself off of it, it just faded away. I had no interest in it anymore and the oral fixation had finally disappeared. I was full-fledged non-smoker by spring of 2012. Shane and my then partner Leia were pivotal in supporting me as I put an end to such a stupid habit, along with my entire family for not commanding me to do it, but simply supporting me throughout. Shane checked in with me a lot to pep me up. He recommended that I start the stopwatch on my iPod, since it would run for a very long time. Then, whenever I needed a reminder, I could see how long it had been since I’d had a cigarette. It helped. Leia may still have my last cigarette butt.

As a smoker, I remember crashing with friends at their fifth floor walk-up in Brooklyn. Taking wheeze breaks half-way up, then spending ten to fifteen minutes catching my breath in their hallway while dreaming of a cigarette. I’d climb out to their fire escape to smoke to avoid the five awful floors to the outside. Within days of stopping, my lung capacity felt greater. Within weeks, I had much less trouble breathing, I slept better, and after a couple flights of stairs I could catch my breath within ten to fifteen seconds. 

The winter months following that last cigarette were about detoxing my body from nicotine, tar and thousands of other chemicals, but also, and seemingly moreso, it was about reconditioning my thinking and my hands. What do I do when all I want to do is the thing I no longer want to do? Fifteen years after Kelley tried to explain it to me, there I was in my own private Gumbyland. I wish I could fully describe it here, but the best I can say is that suddenly everything is at about 65% reality. What’s there isn’t fully there, especially thought processes. The realness and truth of anything—consciousness, matter, identity, air, purpose, connectivity, joy—can just suddenly fade to nearly half of its natural state. And there’s an inaudible hum-buzzing that commandeers one’s head, maybe to fill in the desire that cannot be achieved or a side effect thereof. Gumbyland is less a place and more an in-between. Where one might go when a massive bandage is torn off.

Halloween 2002, I came to work as The Hunchback of Kinko’s. I was always sure to have a cigarette in my hand whenever a camera was pointed at me. I don’t quite know why I so willingly promoted my habit.

Smoking was thoroughly enjoyable to me. I miss it. The aroma of a freshly lit cigarette is one of the most intoxicating scents and it sends me back to great and horrific moments in equal measure. The draw it has on me still is fascinating. To say I was addicted to smoking tobacco is an understatement. I knew it would kill me and I certainly didn’t need added assistance. In 2003, I began traveling a lot on poetry tours around North America and Europe. There were so many times I booked flights based solely on not wanting to have to wait more than a few hours before my next cigarette. I would catch the first leg of a flight, land at my layover airport, rush out of security to the smoking area outside to chainsmoke as many cigarettes as possible. Then I would rush back into the airport, through security to my new gate. I must have reeked of smoke. I feel bad for the non-smoker passengers around me. At nearly every show or visits with friends, I would stand outside of the venue or house because it was more important for me to smoke than to engage with whoever I was there to see.

Funny how the one thing I thought was the coolest thing I could do was least cool thing I ever did. Smoking will still likely be a culprit in my death.

In 2016, I helped convince my father to stop smoking after living 40+ with the habit. My mother has switched to vaping her nicotine; not optimal, but a start. I am impressed with all three of us. If you want to stop, I give you my word that you can absolutely do it. You just need support and all the right reasons to quit.

Categories
blog thoughts

BOOK LAUNCH: Jack McCarthy’s “Allow The Light”

Jack McCarthy was very dear to me. He helped me get closer to sobriety, guided me on my stage presence, and was pivotal in helping me develop my stage and page voice, and lured me into streamlining my choices in storytelling.

Jack died January 17, 2013, just 13 days after I moved up to Bellingham, Washington to be nearer to him. I was lucky to see him one last time and say goodbye.

On October 15, 2020, Write Bloody Publishing is releasing his new collection of poems and writings called Allow The Light. It’s a beautiful tribute to a man who was a beacon for many poets of all ages and all walks of life.

I’ll be hosting three online book launch events where a number of special guests will join me in reading selections from Jack’s book.

Wed, Oct 14, 4pm Pacific: Jack’s East Coast Launch
Thu, Oct 15, 7pm Pacific: Jack’s Pacific Northwest Launch
Fri, Oct 16, 7pm Pacific: Jack’s California Launch

A picture I took of Jack after performing a set in my Worcester, MA kitchen, 2009.

Jack was the sweetest, yet, most honest person I knew. He was always so patient with his critique, moreso the more one needed constructive criticism. To borrow a phrase from my wise and also-departed friend Lara Ka’apuni, Jack would “issue gentle corrections” to folks who were heading the wrong way. Plus, he only man I ever called with regularity on Father’s Day. 2013 was a doozy for me. It’s gotten easier since, but I often ask myself in times of uncertainty, what would Jack do? Well, a lot of those answers are now in this book.

Categories
blog thoughts

Digital Detox (Part One): Leaving Instagram

This began as a response to a comment on my final Instagram post.
I thought it might be interesting as an ongoing series.

Until March, like many self-employed artists, I used social media to promote my events and my work and to stay connected to friends and family. It occurred to me at the onset of the pandemic that isolation + social media were going to be a bad combo for me. Considering I’ve had significantly fewer events to promote, I found myself absorbing social media without much interaction. As addictive as I can be, I find myself unwittingly and mindlessly scrolling and scrolling (and scrolling)… Out of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I decided I would need to give up one of them, if not two. Having left FB once before, I know I can do it again.

My #1 favorite app is Twitter—it’s where I get most of my breaking news, confirmations, and some of the best things to read and learn about. Twitter is my favorite combo: jokes, news and links to more things to read. It can be interactive, but easy for me to put down. The problem I have with Twitter is that I get very little interaction from followers. I’ve used it pretty consistently since 2008 and all I seem to do is hope people will like my tweets. If I stop using it to interact with folks, it becomes a text version of Instagram or Tumblr (also no longer using) and them all I’m doing is scrolling and liking posts.

My #2 account is Facebook. Most (90%-ish) of the people I love are on FB, whereas the percentages of my loved ones using IG and Twitter are closer to 30–50%. This is the main reason I decided to hang onto FB for now, however limited since I’ve been deleting my pages and promotional tools in an attempt to streamline my use. I can reach nearly anyone I need to either through my phone, email or FB Messenger. I only use FB on a browser having deleted the app from my phone a couple of years ago. This is a critical step in controlling addiction. (It’s the same reason I don’t keep Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the house.) I get no FB notifications at all except for direct messages. For me, FB’s the most socially interactive of the three and while it can generate negative interaction, at the very least, I can say I’ve met the people I am having that interaction with and “fine-tune” my connection to them thereafter. I have invested time and energy into those friendships. Facebook is where I can just be Mike/Michael and post about personal things and get real feedback or post about events and get the word out in a socially acceptable way..

#3: Instagram. If you had asked me in May 2020 which account I was most likely to hold onto, I would have said Instagram. It’s a wonderful app and serves my eyeballs like no other. I have enjoyed it since the first time I downloaded it. However, no app distracts me more than IG! Isolation and a lot of weird, sad and frustrating downtime has found me scrolling aimlessly on my little phone, clearing my mind of whatever my intended goal was for opening the app. Instagram serves me far less than FB. I am not saying I will leave it forever, but I want to close the account and take a long break. When I left Facebook in 2011, I came back a year later with a renewed focus. There’s nothing like a much needed reboot. Plus, FB already has so much of my data as it is and IG is merely an extension of FB’s data mining operation.

This isolation has been the catalyst for a number of reboots, reassessments and analyses. I have been diligently re-sorting my priorities. I am writing more and starting new projects, so I need to make room. We stop going to cafes when enough people stop showing up or something more inviting comes along. It’s weird to leave a social thing I’ve relied on for eight years, but I left Friendster and Myspace too and I gave yet to regret it.

Categories
blog fun thoughts

You Are What You See

Someone I know recently posted an image of what I assume was their lunch on Facebook with a caption that implied the food pictured was delicious and that anyone who viewed it should be envious. Thanks to the photo, the only thing I envied was their appetite.

I generally don’t post images of food, especially meals I’ve prepared for myself because I feel that in many cases they probably look horrific. Not probably, definitely, because I’ll gladly mix three foods that taste great, but don’t belong together just to conserve dishware. Since the dawn of my own adulthood, every single one of my housemates has given me a look of pity as I plate my meals, like I’m a fat racoon setting down to eat garbage cannolis: tubes of dollar store American cheese slices filled in tapioca, lint and coffee grounds. Believe me, I get it. On more than one occasion I have thought, I know what’s in this meal and that’s THE. ONLY. reason I am able to consume it. There are so many tasty things in the world and yet their appearance would suggest otherwise. In my grumble opinion, too many people take pictures of the otherwise. Dang! I made a tasty thing and I ‘plated’ it ‘just right.’ I have a can opener! I have different salts! I make sauces!! I chef now and I share delicacy with world!

Like flavor, the visual aesthetic of food is a subjective thing and the world would be better off without images of your dish. I say this coming from a place of understanding: I too feel the world is missing out on the incredible flavors I’m constantly inventing with tremendous ease, however, when people who love me aren’t willing to be in the same room with me while I masticate my creations, that’s saying something. Heck, that’s saying two things, minimum.

I make delicious, ugly foods. I have no business taking pictures of my gastric risks so that my followers online may/will lose their appetites. I feel we share images of what we eat with the world via social media for two reasons. First, we share because we genuinely believe we are going to impress someone with our culinary skills/ordering prowess and we want to show off. Second, we share images when we would probably rather share the actual food. I believe most people want to feed others and want others to enjoy the foods with them.

I do know folks who know how to take pictures of food—they understand food prep and presentation. Those are skills most of us do not have. Just because you’re willing to eat it, doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to see it. Like people who love Roman columns on their houses, or paint everything in fake gold, or wear scarves in the heat: Thanks, but no thanks. Just like them, most of us have incredibly poor taste when it comes to how our food looks day after day. The occasional meal might come out looking quite presentable, but if your food receives little to no social media approval, consider that an outcry from people who might actually care about you.

To get a sense of how I feel when I see folks sharing images of their “meals” with the world, I will leave you with with a link to one of my favorite dead blogs. For those of you who get a kick out of judging other people food choices, this link is a goddamn gift. Whoever started this Tumblr has stopped updating it and I miss their sense of humor greatly. They stumbled upon a way of making an inside joke with us as strangers, mocking the food while keeping the chef anonymous. A minor warning: While nearly every image contained within is a picture of edible food, the meals are all very questionable. Each image is one that makes me quietly think Someone Ate This, which is a perfect name for the blog. I am aware that I’m ending a rant on how we should not post pictures of ugly food with a call to visit a photo blog of ugly food. The irony is not lost on me and this is different. And you’re welcome.

Categories
fascinating fun thoughts

Dialogue While I Make Soup In My Empty House

SASSY ME: What’s better than a butt?
REGULAR ME: Oooh, I don’t know! What?
SASSY ME: Three butts!
REGULAR ME: So true…

Categories
blog thoughts touring/travel

Thoughtsgiving

I recently spent a day at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. It was unforgettable, horrific, and ultimately life-affirming. There were thousands of displays of personal effects—pocket watches, paintings, brushes, knives—items that survived the Holocaust and their owners. A placard told a brief story of the people who owned these items. Every single placard gave a date or estimate of when the person was murdered. I was initially surprised by the frequent use of the word “murdered.” It kept coming up. It seemed like it was on every display. More and more. Then it was the only word. I wondered why they couldn’t just say that they “died.” Just then the purpose of that word finally filled my obtuse, fat, stubborn, American brain: they didn’t just die. The point was that they were most certainly murdered. I was taken aback by the notion that at 38-years-old I am still very stupid. I knew I was dumb, but wow am I also a stupid.

I’ve come to the realization that I want “give thanks” this year, but I want to state that I knowingly reap the rewards of murder, slavery and of the nation-building over the nations my ancestors destroyed. We mourn the dead, but never all of the dead. We still root for greedy skeletons. My team—The Visitors—still ignore the mass graves of the Home Team. I am the result of sad, unearned victory. I have some pretty awful ancestors and some rotten, way-too-recent relatives I wish I could shake from my tree. But they’re there, in my face, and I want to learn from their lives, their crimes and their mistakes. I feel fully obligated to correct their silence.

Thanksgiving should be a day of remembrance AND dialogue, along with our appreciation of who we have surrounding us every day. Many Canadian friends of mine offer a version of this during their Thanksgiving in October. If we can raise a spoonful of mashed potatoes to the too-much-shit we own, can’t we own up to our past in a way that somehow heals? Can we not also raise our thoughts to the millions of families who were forcibly removed from their lands so we could over-eat, over-buy and over-forget? Couldn’t this help us stop doing these excessive things?

We shouldn’t forget the millions of people and lives that were stolen and murdered to acquire this country. Their bodies could overflow arenas and stadiums. They could dam our rivers. We may not have been the actual murderers, but we are killing their memory and spirit if we don’t CONSIDER AND DISCUSS them today, and by not doing so we are potentially sowing the seeds of repetition. I am grateful for the right to express myself, my anger and my sadness for these things and those people. I see the paradox.

What would make me most grateful is if everyone who thinks pilgrims or Columbus were adventurous heroes would read the better accounts of history. It’s time to get repulsed and mortified. It’s time for less fiction, more honesty, and way less turkey. It’s time to craft new, peace-based, inclusive traditions. It’s okay to say that the past mostly sucked for a lot of people and that we don’t want to suck in the future.

Why is this dinner only once a year when there is so much work to be done? My concept of Thanksgiving is a group effort pot-luck EVERY MONTH. I often call them Kitchen Sessions. Bring your best dish. Same day each month. My house. Your house. White House. Bring a hungry friend and a good story. Discussions about the past and the future are mandatory. And so is lots of dip. Who’s with me? I am very serious.

As Jake (Andy Samberg) says on the hilarious show Brooklyn 99, “the pilgrims were murderers and turkeys taste like napkins.” But enchiladas, lasagna and phở are wonderful.

I am so sorry for many of the methods that were used to get us here, but I am also very grateful that you are alive at the same time I am. I see the paradox and I hope to discuss it over dinner sometime. Truly.

Love,
McGee