Wednesday, March 30, 2011

a long stupid story about a small stupid fish.

the day before my 29th birthday my dear friend andy grammer happened to be in town.

i first met mr. grammer many years ago on a costa rica service trip. not only did his new york accent, knowledge of magic tricks, and tube socks make a lasting impression - he felt the need to solidify our kismet connection by stuffing a wriggly hand-sized cockroach down my shirt. after burning my clothes and borax-ing my skin, i made sure to push him off the mountain, and laugh in his face. we have been friends ever since.

andy is the best buddy a girl could have. he is a guys guy, has a flare for hysterical self deprecation, and is one of the most entertaining human beings i've ever encountered. oh, and he makes music videos in his spare time. basically he's an an ego boost pack. just add water, stir, and enjoy. instant awesome.

as we walked along the water front, catching up on life, andy decided i should have a pet. he demanded to know where the nearest pet store was, so he could buy me a puppy for my birthday. i explained that though the thought was irresistible - it ultimately was a horrible idea. looking back at the history of our relationship, i can confidently say this sums up andy in a nutshell: irresistible ideas with potentially disastrous consequences.

with the dog acquisition behind us, we went back to my apartment.

i don't know if it was the eminent nauseating taste of 29, or the fact whimsical andy was there, or that i was miffed since dogs aren't permitted in my building -  but that sunday night around 9pm the persistent phrase screw this shit, i am an adult kept weaseling it's way back into my conversation. the truth was i wanted a pet. it was my birthday damnit. andy and i downed a bag of nacho cheese doritos and set out on our journey in the black of night.

for this specific whim, only one retailer would do. enter, the illustrious 24hr wal-mart. i know. many of you poo poo this multinational super giant (i understand why and i don't disagree with you), but please have compassion. as many aspects of my southern upbringing present themselves, i embrace some, and distance myself from others. but there are those that aren't worth the effort. when you require socks, a snow shovel, and 40 ft of rope at 2am, the wal-mart is there. when your wife kicks you out after finding tanya's panties and his-and-her KY in your truck, don't be troubled. you may sleep peacefully knowing surveillance cameras watch over you in the wal-mart parking lot. if you were me last week, and blew all your money on organic chard and planet friendly bathroom cleaner solvents - in and effort to 'live the kind life' - $4.50 for 32oz of shampoo looks real good. it's sick and it's real and i welcome it.

if you don't do cool things and go to the wal-mart in the black of night, let me tell you something. wal-mart not only sells fish, but also fish accoutrement (please say that in a French accent). putting myself in the fish's place, i thought it better to err on getting two, than just one. un poisson seemed so awkwardly friendless. no one to stare at. no one to swim to. no innocent bystander innocently seduced by your codependent fantasies. after all, one is the loneliest number. i chose two goldfish (one big one small), a large bowl, fish food. checkout. done.

may i please introduce you to my fish. tina and ike.

tina is camera shy.

ike the publicity whore.

andy and i got home, put the fish in the bowl, sang happy birthday and called it a night.

monday morning mr. grammer was driven off to live his normal life - this week consisting of a west coast radio tour, his guitar, and magical vocal stylings. i of course, applied bus face, and prepared for the reenactment of my very own groundhog day: an office job where before 8:45am i microwave myself a bowl of quaker oats with raisins and banter with rock and math nerds. at some point before 10:30am an unofficial game of: now that's inappropriate! ensues (imagine jovial harmless fun of the penis game from jr. high with participants being middle age educated professionals). however this day would be different. it was my birthday. i was a now 29 year old pet owner of wal-mart fish. someone congratulate me. pat me on the fucking back.

now about le poisson.

the fish started out great. each morning as i fed them, they swam to the top of their bowl, eager to see me and say bonjour. at the end of the day, they welcomed me home and recounted cutesy forgetful stories of blowing bubbles and bathing about in a bowl of love. soon after that, they started talking. i first noticed the 'talking' one nite as i sat on the couch in silence, lotioning my feet and researching grilled cheese recipes. studying the sound, i found my fish made a sweet bubble licking noise as the they repeatedly kissed the top of the water. awesome i thought. it's like i have an imaginary cat. content with my pet purchase, i closed my eyes and lived out my extensive dreams of pet ownership some more.

later that week, my friend cheney - the only vegan who visits me - came over and noticed the curious fish talking. she seemed alarmed. 

elizabeth, why are the fish making that sound?

huh? because they are just goofing around....see?

with that comment, i noticed my fish weren't traversing around the bowl as they had before, but were concentrated skimming the top of the water with their mouth. 

cheney jumped on the computer and researched the behavior. 

45 seconds later.


cheney was abhorred. her eyes filled with overwhelming sadness, giving way to grape sized tears tumbling down her cheeks. she looked at me for guidance.

by this point i had lost all feeling in my face. i turned to the poor fish. there was no talking or kissing,  but languid swimming, gasping for air. i had become the most horrible human being ever born into this world. in that moment it had been decided.  

in an emergency effort to save them and aerate the bowl, i emptied out 25% of the water, and poured in fresh water from the tap. this would have to do until i could buy a pump after work. in doing so, however, it seemed my worst nightmare had come true. adding the fresh water had disrupted the million particles of debris (read: fish shit), which now ubiquitously floated around their universe. this had in turn traumatized my fish so acutely that they could only now drift. not move. not go belly up, but just exist. i guess if some asshole put me in a glass cage, forcing me to live and breath in my own excrement - i'd be traumatized as well. all of this proved to be too much for cheney, who apologized for her intense reaction, but thought it best to leave. i didn't think an apology was necessary. wanna come over tonight and watch me kill my fish? anyone??

i said goodbye to my friend and watched ike and tina begin their floatathon for 10 more minutes. in the end, i felt defeated. i said the long healing prayer and went to sleep.

the next morning, they were actually alive and moving about.

feeling the guilt of a jew attending catholic school, i went to the pet store to purchase whatever was necessary to not kill my birthday fish. after speaking with candy the pet lady - i learned their bowl was too small for their size, and i would need a 16 gallon 40$ tank.  40$ WHAT??! no thank you. i told candy i would get a 10 gallon, and they could pretend to live in a 6 floor walk up in nyc. i also procured an air pump and filter. with my goldfish guilt still in the forefront, and my ego determined to not project vacant-tank-of-water shame - i bought gravel, plastic trees and bushes. i was banking on the hope that ike and tina's love language was receiving gifts. this for sure would make up for the attempted manslaughter.

after 60$, and one heated discussion highlighting how none of my purchased items were returnable (if by some ironic twist of the universe where i arrived home to find my fish had in-fact died in the 45 minute outing i took to save their life) - i made peace with the fact i now had no food money,  but my goldfish would survive. in a moment of desperation and future planning, i studied ingredients on the fish food canister. good to know if worse came to worst, i could throw back a few flakes. or just eat tina.

putting together their new fantasy suite, i cursed andy grammer under my breath. what kind of man flies around the country - bringing goldfish home from the wal-mart - and then abandons his responsibility. no emotional or financial assistance. no fish support. what sort of person tortures young females with cockroaches and then is amused by his own jokes and good natured acts of kindness? a good for nothing prankster, that's who. i should have known this idea was ridden with shoddy repercussions, which i would be made to suffer through alone.

finally with the drama gone, the fish took to their new home swimmingly (sorry), and life began running much smoother. i researched tank cleaning, feeding tips, and behavioral warning signs. in my seeming regulatory conversations with candy and the pet store customers, i learned more about goldfish than i have ever cared to retain in two lifetimes: they are dirty and expensive. i believe it has something to do with the fact that they speak french. one gentleman informed me ike and tina will soon outgrow this current tank, and will become so massive - they will be impossible to flush if.they.should.die. i now have the email of a fish farm in north seattle - which adopts coy sized goldfish from owners who are unable to care for them.  my non fish friends laugh and threaten to buy me more tank-life. heartless bastards.

and then it happened.

this past weekend, while passing through the kitchen i spotted an orange body floating belly up. it was ike. 

i began screaming at the tank. NOOOOOOOO!! NOOOO! You stupid fish!!!! You can't DIE! not this week! I have spent so much money on you! What is TINA going to do?? he bobbed up and down atop the green tree. tina gave him one last fishy kiss goodbye and swam away. i had never noticed how big ike had become. he had bulked out considerably thanks to the larger tank. fins of silky orange fabric hovered around his body like a cocoon. what a beautiful animal. i would miss the circles he swam around tina - showing off for her. she would now be lonesome without his companionship. reflecting upon this was particularly gloomy. i couldn't help but feel i should have given them both away when i had the chance. at least then they could have grown old together on the fish farm. but no, i was selfish, at ike's expense. tina has been widowed. their romance only lasted 5 months. everything i had done: the research, shopping, food, prayer - was for nothing. i became enraged.

i grabbed a spoon off the counter, whispered stupid fish, and poked ike in his side. 

and then, like harry potter magic, ike came to life and swam away.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

he didn't sink, or float, or run. he speedily swam to all four corners of the tank, and then to the bottom, and then to rub up against tina, and then swam by my face and pooped in it's general direction - as if to say sukkkkkaaaaaaaa! 

stupefied, i picked my heart up off the floor. incredible. i don't even remember teaching him now to play dead. i congratulated myself  for being a fabulous pet owner. 

the only downside of ike being able to resurrect from the dead? he most certainly will out live me. 

i need fish support.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


breakfast this morning was struggle. in the end, i just couldn't do it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

wanted: more sweaters

with my 2011 push to propel myself into adulthood, i organized my closet by color, and discovered a whole lot more about myself than i bargained for.

15 grey sweaters.

JCrew loves you

15 grey sweaters, that i actually love and wear, and have no intention of ever giving away.

this unearthed sweater guilt is a bit difficult to admit. one, because that's an inordinate amount of the same color for any one person's needs. two, because when i arrived home from india i had three sweaters. none of which were grey.

anthropologie i hate you. i love you. i hate you. iloveyou.

as far as material possessions go, i grew up identifying as under-complicated. not uncomplicated. just under. simple. give me a coat and a toothbrush. i can make it work. stock my fridge with simple pleasures, i am happy as a clam. i once visited vermont for two weeks, with only what fit inside my backpack. a more dramatic excursion involved a baha'i winter school in the mountains of valencia spain for eight days - where i survived with the clothes on my back. somewhere in between an intense training workshop- sleeping in a linen closet - washing my hair with bathroom hand soap - and using paper towels to dry off - i knew my capacity to do without was larger than most. i saw this friendship as a positive, and treasured it as such.

i assume part of this came from max and i being raised without a lot of excess, which is easy to do when you don't have money to spend on vanity. why own a hairbrush in your early 20s when you don't (want to) brush your hair? who needs a second lipstick in college when you have one from hs prom circa 1999? i was branded with the ability to identify need vs. want, carried it with me through high school, and then onto college. i associated spending money on pure wants as wasteful. and in my gut, it sort of still is.

even though i make my own money, and pay my own bills, and have a 401K, deep down i am petrified of the wanting enslaving my life. this reaction isn't just limited to big ticket items or buyer's remorse. i'm speaking of irrational thoughts on simple purchases. little devil whispers lurking in the isles of target.

put the body lotion back, it's 10$.

but i want it, i use lotion every day.

then buy a cheaper one.

but i love this one - the fragrance reminds me of a tuscany romance.

fine. one pump. once a day. (eye roll).

the ludicrous continually harps that somehow people would see my 15 grey sweaters, and identify me as a grey natured gal. this of course would be completely accurate. they then go on to perceive me as being frivolous and shallow. good thing my boot addiction is still under wraps.

somehow this unhealthy relationship with my own personal stuff, bled into the ish i have with your belongings as well. ooooh i like your purse doesn't mean i want to borrow it. please don't try to lend it to me. help yourself to anything in my closet is a phrase more or less wasted on this girl. there are others in this world better suited for this friendship. with balls of fire, let me introduce you to anna 'the absconder' kiani. she'll take borrow anything. your sweater, your purse, your child, your heart. and then proceed to 'pull an anna'...where she keeps it. for herself. forever. however, since i see this as her one and only flaw, she is forgiven.

i will attribute this particular conditioning to my best girl friend-sisters emily, juliette, and rachael. more commonly known as the cholas of la mia. since the age of 7 i watched on as three girls fought dirty over every possession imaginable. clothes, hair product, territory of the 'front spot' during bath time. yes they are beautiful. yes they are talented. but don't let their web of charm fool you. lose her hairbrush? gurl knows how to cut-a-bitch. i will never borrow juliette's belt ever again. i am so so sorry.

[side note: if any of the sisters have a different story, i really encourage them to start their own blog. we then could begin a blog war. not only would it be a thrilling glimpse into the pathology of opposing familial gangs (yes? its a word), it would give siticom and tv series writers everywhere enough material until 2100. not to mention - lead the way to a major book deal. head out to your local barnes&noble, scoop up their best selling memoir, Champagne Wishes and Ketchup Sandwiches...which can be found on the shelf next to my very own, How to Paint Your Mother's House: A Story of Life and Loss]

in closing, though my sweater collection is an embarrassment, i will be keeping all of them. my boots as well. it's winter time over here and a girl gets cold easily. justification trumps sick childhood hang-ups.

here's a sweet vid from cindy on skype, showing off her new square dancing boots.

suddenly everything seems so clear.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

deals with God.

this morning i awoke to the sound of rain hitting my window. again.

day number: whatever nine-months-worth-of-cloudy-days-is-equal-to.

my eyes still shut, i flirted with the idea of going back to bed for only five minutes more.
then, unexpectedly - yet understandably - God spoke to me. 

get up elizabeth. clouds are out today, so put some pep in your step and get movin'.

(eyes still closed) pep. really God? i scowled respectfully.

yes need to have pep. zest. pizzazz. vitality. fire. effervescence....panache. 6:30am?

what's wrong with you today? why the extra 'tude?

forgive me, but i just don't think i have the capacity today. i have an intense intense desire to wear all black polyblend...and communicate in sporadic heavy allow the excessive buildup of cat hair on my sweaters...and adopt a bloated sense of paranoia, which will resign in the same cave along with my masochism. enveloped by my own trickery, i will forgo all ruffage - existing as the fattest skinny girl ever - and will continue to roll around in my pity puddle until the smell can be detected a mile away.

(unfazed) OK Vonnegut listen, i'll make you a deal.

a deal??

yes. a deal. 

(thinking) ....

i'll carry your burden today. i'll take on the clouds, and the rain, and the - tired - and frustrating imagined drama. you just work on being elizabeth. sounds good??

yes. sounds perfect. thank you.

glad you agree... now i have a song for you to get your morning off right. look over here so i can sing it to you.

i rolled over, and to my amazement found this little guy...smiling at me...

...ready to perform the greatest morning song ever.
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