Mama always told me to face my fears. Actually, no, she never once said that. But I know someone's mama said it, and whatever anyone's mama says is canon. Frankly, if my mama knew I was going into urban niches photographing vandalism, she'd tell me I'm going to get raped and robbed and tossed in some bushes to die. But the world is not always the bloodbath that the media paints it to be. In fact, most people die at home in their beds. So I should be as far away from my bed as I can get. I was safest when I flew off to Africa by myself because I was as far away from my bed as I'd ever been.
I'm pretty good at facing most of my fears. I don't even flinch at the sight of a spider anymore. But I have one fear that I absolutely do not want to face. I recently came across a book on Twitter called A Child-Free Happily Ever After by Tanya Williams, and as I read the title I knew this woman had me and all my friends in mind. Of my five closest girlfriends, four do not want children and one is unsure. I also don't want them; it's my worst nightmare.
Pregnancy and parenthood are my number one greatest fear. My second greatest fear is being ripped apart and eaten alive by wild animals. Number three is revolving doors. The ten minutes between pissing on a stick and peaking at the results are like the ten minutes in the electric chair before the executioner pulls the lever (or however they do it now; forgive me, I'm getting this from The Green Mile). It's an irreversible transition.
I don’t know why this generation of American women doesn't want children, but I can't deny that I'm one of them. Maybe it has to do with our sense of disconnectivity from other people, or maybe it's new opportunities that women never had before. Maybe it’s the unreasonable stresses of modern parenthood, the lonely nuclear family, the rigid school system, pressure to maintain a perfect body. Whatever the reason, good or bad, all I know is that I want a Child-Free Happily Ever After.
The way society is headed with women not wanting to have children, we might undergo a kind of population implosion. We will be an entire generation of old people wandering around horribly confused, undernourished, and pissing ourselves because the few young people will be hooked up to a supercomputer living in a matrix, and there won't be enough of them to look after us. I have no research or data to back up my theory, but I'm pretty sure this is the future.
I'll be alright, though. I'll be a little old lady of 99 years living in the mountains with Pajamas VI and a bow and arrow. I'll be tripping on weird mushrooms and wearing a loin cloth, fending off the beasts of the wild and working on my bird calls. I might be senile, but I won't be retired and I won't be living in the matrix supercomputer. I also won't be a grandmother or a great grandmother. I fear many things, but I welcome the barren womb.
Spring is charging into the Midwest like a horny stallion, but I'm still a fat sleepy bear hibernating in my cave. I don't want nice weather, I want an excuse to use my fuzzy blankets as a strait jacket while I lay on the couch. I want to eat pizza, drink beer, and watch documentaries on Youtube so I don’t have to go out and subject myself to normal social behavior and subsequent judgment.
But you can only stay inside and follow the rabbit hole of Youtube Illuminati New World Order takeover clips until you're under the covers playing dead because you KNOW that Big Brother is watching and listening. They probably already have you under MK Ultra, and you're never going to Walmart again because it's definitely an Agenda 21 FEMA camp, so you'll have to drive an extra four minutes to get to a Target for cat litter and toothpaste because there' no way Target would be involved in such a conspiracy.
Hunkering down like this means I've lost my beach bod. I don't exercise often and I eat entire pizzas and whole cheesecakes regularly. I get out of breath just walking down the stairs. I could get my summer body back, but it would mean giving up my one reason for living and my one source of joy, which is binge eating on sugary sweets and take-out.
Eventually one of my friends will wonder, "what ever happened to that peculiar girl I used to know? The one with the fat cat and the tin foil hat?" And then after they check on me, they'll call for a crane to lift me out of the building and take me to the local zoo for a weigh-in.
Yesterday I went for a 2-hour walk. Walks by themselves are something of a lost art. People don't go for a walk unless they have a specific reason like walking the dog or going down to the bar. I steal books from Little Free Libraries and take pictures of vandalism. That's my reason. Sunshine and walking gets the brain moving, gets ideas flowing. When I got back I felt like the fat kid in gym class after running the mile, so I had a beer and a box of Girl Scout cookies and went through all the new photos for the site. Some are good and some are not. Anything, at this point, is progress.
Now is probably a good time to get out and get some exercise despite my inclination to stay inside, eat fatty cakes, and pop zits instead. Especially since Pajamas and I need to spend more time apart. He's almost always in the same room as me, and sometimes he even wants to be pet. While I'm pooping he sits outside the bathroom door and sticks his paws underneath, and I tap them with my toes. It's his new favorite game. This is why I have a hard time with relationships. I'm easily smothered. One thing we have in common is that we're both growing horizontally. He's about 12 pounds now; he might actually be a snow leopard.
So I got the stupid cat. I named him Pajamas, and I'm preparing him for the internet as a meme sensation. In fact, this site might slowly transition from graffiti and street art to cat memes. But peace no longer reigns. This wild teenage animal that I brought into my home has established himself as the dominant being by napping on the kitchen counter, knocking everything off my shelves, using my bike tires as a scratching post, staring me down from across the room, trying to eat my toes, and demanding I fill his food bowl every 45 minutes. He's about 12 pounds of rambunctious, snotty and sarcastic adolescence. My downstairs neighbors even reported me under suspicion of bringing a water buffalo into the building.
I think I adopted him out of depression. I'm still in my millennial blues funk and deeply entrenched in bad habits. The list of things I do while in job transition is hardly extensive. I throw scrabble tiles around the apartment for my cat to chase because I don't have a laser pointer. I found my car on Google Earth. I listen to My Dad Wrote a Porno and The Power Trip Morning Show. I talk on the phone, eat bowls and bowls of oatmeal, lay on my couch watching British reality television series' on Youtube, and search for funny memes.
I spent hours looking at memes until I learned how to make them, and then I forgot about the memes already polluting the internet. Now I create my own and aggressively market them to my friends and family. Most of them are esoteric ironies that only specific people will understand. At least I don't have a relationship through all of this to distract me from meming and blogging about meming. Boyfriends just get in the way of existential quandaries and Time Wasting Activities (TWA), anyway.
Boyfriends are like beans. I enjoy them at first. Then they make me uncomfortable, and I wait for them to go away. Keeping lovers at arms-length is the least dramatic solution to having a sex life. Never let a fling develop into a relationship. We can talk about our hopes and dreams, go to the movies and batting cages, have romp, but at the end of the day I can say, "Alright go home now. Talk to you next week." I don't have time for more than that. I'm a parent now. I'm a cat mom trying to reestablish peace and stability, and I've already learned that Pajamas does not like men. Especially when they sleep with his mother.
In a recent spur of transition, in worrying myself to paralysis over finding something meaningful with which to pay the rent, I tried to sell insurance. So with no sales background I took a commissioned-based position selling life insurance, which has been my worst idea since scaling down the icy switchbacks of the Grand Canyon by myself and getting lost for a day (and telling no one where I was going). Fun but dumb in hindsight. My fling with sales was a prime example of an antisocial loner trying to swindle people over with charm, charisma, and exemplary phone etiquette, and I did all my sales calling naked and drunk to do so.
I like to try new things, but selling is not my game to play. It takes a special set of genes, and I could not sell a fire extinguisher in a burning building. I am better at talking people out of things. In fact, I think my ideal career would be a military sniper. Just hide in a bush for several days. Be very quiet and still. Wait. Stare at things. Forget what I'm supposed to be doing and play with little twigs and grass blades and weird bugs. Look for shapes in the clouds and take long naps. Before long even I won't know I'm there.
I felt like I had to break up with my job so I could be with the one of my dreams, the one that offers a lot less money but a lot more heart (or is at least cute). What that is, I don’t know. I'm on a pinball trajectory with no place, no purpose, and a general sense of dissociation. I'm in a terrible rut in which I act like a millennial. I curl up under my covers and scroll through ironic memes; I send them to my friends so that they worry about me. I haven't even photographed any new graffiti. I might have to get a cat just so I have someone to make me get up in the morning.
I've discovered a new affinity for the world of mathematics, at least at its most elementary level. I think I might want to change my occupation to mathematician. I started reading the Grapes of Math by Alex Bellos and plowed through a third of it before I had to return it to the library with my usual late fee. I got stuck on logarithms.
I suppose I can consult my brothers, who are world-class mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, astronomers, and welders. They orbit the earth in homemade spaceships. They've got to be able to show a girl how to make sense of logarithms. But their intelligence supersedes my most basic understanding. It would be like Ray Dalio and Ben Bernanke trying to teach economics to a a pair of underwear. Of the three of us, I am the odd one out. If they are Sign and Cosign, I am Abednego. Or if they're Shadrack and Meshack, I'm Tangent. We are a threesome that got mixed up with some other threesome from some other analogy.
They are smart, successful, famous and wealthy, and I am a hiker and a blogger. And we know what they always say, because they, the great mythical pronoun, say it over and over again: those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym. Those who can't even teach gym, blog.
Early morning is the best time to go vandalism hunting. Like six a.m. All the rapists and murderers are tuckered out by that hour. It's also a great time for observing wildlife.
The other morning I was watching a rabbit. I noticed how small the rabbit head is compared to the rest of its body. It's mostly just eyeballs and a nose. And giant ears. There's not actually much to the rabbit head; it's narrow. So narrow that you can't even see it looking straight on. It's like one of those trick mirrors that makes you look like a skinny green bean and then disappear.
There can't be much going on in the rabbit head. They are probably a long way from developing a space program, but not far from developing a bipartisan political platform on which to govern each other.
I do a lot of things in the early morning hours, like go to the farmer's market on Saturday morning. It's from 8:00 to 1:00, and I take that very literally. So I'm there promptly at 8:00 when they're still setting up, and I feel like a jackass, which is normal, and I apologize and make up a story about how I have to work early so this is the only time I can come.
At 8 on a Saturday morning I've been up since 5:30, which to me is a reasonable time to wake up. I've already had my coffee, sat on my roof watching airplanes, painted my nails, cleaned my apartment, gassed up my car, and went to the ATM. And I'm wondering why everyone is so silent. It's like walking into a library full of dead people.
Here's to the few. The proud. The lonely. The morning people.
Lately I've been riding around on this rickety old bicycle and photographing graffiti art around the city, all of which is better than the atrocities you'll find at the Walker Art Center. I'm trying to get around to it before the white paint goes over.
I'm a recovering workaholic trying to find things to do instead of working myself to stress-induced heart arrhythmia. So unorthodox hobbies ensue like urban foraging, vandalism photography, and backpacking in the remote wilderness with almost no preparation. I guess that started when I was seven and running around the woods with a flaming beacon of rolled up newspaper that I set on fire and used to light my way through the forest at night.
My dad gave me a pocket knife when I was nine, but I was afraid to use it. I didn't think I had the authority because it was a Boyscout knife, and the first thing I did was cut myself. Once I got over that hump of hesitation, I started using it to whittle sticks into spears that I threw at my brothers. My dad always took my brothers on Boyscout expeditions, to places like Philmont, Denali, and Seabase. I was left at home alone with my mother to watch bad 90's RomComs and foster a budding sugar addiction. So I kind of hated them.
As an adult, I'm glad I was never partisan to the world of Boyscouts. I did finally get that whole knife thing under control, and I feel pretty responsible about it. Unless I'm cutting up butternut squash. Then there's blood splatters on the fridge and all over my clothes and on the floor and just fucking everywhere.
But I digress. A lot. So now I ride around Minneapolis on my bicycle snapping pictures of graffiti wherever I find it. All I'm missing is a little basket and a bell. I'm out of place on the LRT, getting passed by serious bikers: buff dudes in really tight clothes going faster than I drive my car. Which I guess makes me a bad hazard since I'm not always paying attention to where I'm going or what's behind me.
Catfish in the Mud
I went to Namibia and took a tour of Sossusvlei, where it hasn't rained in 6 years. The river is completely dried up. My guide told me that even in the six-year drought, catfish are hibernating deep down in the mud and will surface again when the rains come back and restore life to the desert. I didn't believe him at first, like I didn't believe in the mysterious fairy circles on the dunes. But now the idea of catfish in the mud has become a metaphor for the things trapped on the inside and down below that wait for the rains to give them some vigor and life. Catfish in the Mud is a pretty standard millennial blog in which I say mostly nothing in about 300 words.