15 November 2006

41. Sundance

Dear Sundance,

I stopped by the warehouse on Monday 13 November, only to hear from Ron that I'm no longer welcome to begin training for the stocker labor pool, due to concerns about my customer service abilities after my conduct during the apple, pear, wine, and cheese tasting of Sunday 5 November. What an unpleasant surprise. I'll be the first to admit that I spoke too soon and too loudly that Sunday, within earshot of customers as well as coworkers, and that my word choice was poor. That said, and speaking of unpleasant surprises, I would like to explain the heat of the moment in which I spoke.

I did not work a full week before the tasting, only the preceding Tuesday and Wednesday, and I believe that the fax orders I placed that Tuesday were lost in transmission, including one for Willamette Valley Cheese, one of the companies whose products we had planned to sample on Sunday. I left Oona a note to this effect on Wednesday evening, after having been unable to reach anyone at WVC by phone to determine whether or not the orders had been received. Oona had said she would call me that Friday to let me know if she had successfully hired a new cheese person (I wanted to train my replacement and do whatever I could to smooth the transitions in the department). She never called.

When I arrived at the cheese department the Sunday of the tasting, I found out that Oona had ordered from Willamette Valley Cheese to replace the lost Tuesday order, and that Liz had driven to Albany and back to pick up the new order. What we got, in addition to the WVC cheeses we already carried, were four brand new products, none of which were programmed into the scale or Expressions, and no invoice from which to determine their price. Furthermore, all the WVC cheese was in blocks too big to sell — they would have to be cut and rewrapped. I called Oona about the unpleasant surprise, but she was busy with her daughters and there wasn't much she could do from home anyway. Liz and I were on our own. Now fortunately, the other two companies we had planned to feature at the tasting, Fraga Farms and Silver Falls, had sent us not only products but people, actual human beings to help with the tasting. We could have been fine sampling out their wares and the already-programmed WVC cheeses (many of which were still in stock and could have been sampled without an emergency order or Liz's heroic retrieval efforts). Unfortunately, Liz had already prepared all the cheeses for sampling, including the new ones which we literally could not yet sell, and which customers were thus unable to find as the tasting got into full swing.

Those were the circumstances when I said what I did that Sunday. Maybe I should have just gone home. Instead, I invented prices for the four new cheeses by guessing based on WVC's other products, programmed them into the scale and Expressions, cut, packaged, and stocked all the new products, all while trying to help with the tasting and perform a semblance of a normal cheese shift's responsibilities.

By the end of that day, I was ready to compose, choreograph, and perform a major song and dance of complaint to Renee. Some kindergarten-level notions of not being a tattle-tale helped me wait almost three days to cool down before visiting Oona in person last Wednesday. She was very brief with me, essentially saying that the tasting was a big success, so everything that happened on Sunday was worth it. I wish I could say I'm glad the ends justified the means, but I don't believe that's true, and I'm certainly not glad about it. Based on that exchange, which also included the fact that a new cheese person had been hired, I guessed that Oona wouldn't be calling on me for cheese labor pool any time soon. It didn't occur to me to guess that I'd been disqualified from the warehouse labor pool as well. That unpleasant surprise came on Monday, as previously mentioned.

The worst part about everything I've described here is that so much of it feels exactly like the kind of problems I was worried I would cause when I resigned the cheese buyer position, and which I wanted to prevent. I wanted to be the cheese department's labor pooler so we wouldn't always be stretched too thin staffwise; I wanted to take shifts so that Oona wouldn't have to cover all of mine on top of her other responsibilities, including interviewing my replacement, whom I wanted to train. Most of all, I wanted to leave Sundance on good terms. I'm sorry I failed to the exact same degree that I'm not sorry I tried.

I always want honesty, respect, and good communication. I did not want tears and a tattle-tale letter, but I feel better for having written. Thank you for reading.

I still love you all.


Written in the early morning hours of 15 November 2006, when I couldn't sleep, and delivered to my former place of employment at a more reasonable hour later that day. I know, I've been really good about only publishing unanswerable and in most case unaddressable letters here, but I'm making an exception for this one. Maybe someday I'll write a letter about breaking rules I made for myself, but meanwhile this letter will stand as a reminder that I can do it, even if I'd rather not. Title abridged 1 December 2011, last reformatted 6 June 2014.

14 November 2006

40. Passive Aggressiveness

Dear passive aggressiveness,

Bite me.

Oh wait, you won't, because then you wouldn't be passive anymore, now would you?


Started 14 November 2006, last updated 1 December 2006, oh so very to be continued. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

08 November 2006

39. Apple

Dear Apple,

You're a dream, I know. But sometimes I still think it would be cool to get together with my friend Allison to start a punk rock teahouse, and we both agreed your name would be Apple, in honor of Eugene Mirman's "Punk" sketch, and there you go. On a scale from one to ten, how punk are we? You guessed it.

I daydream that you would be a huge old Victorian house, like the Pied Cow in Portland, with a yard that we could use for extra seating when the weather's nice. Live music could happen outside, too, and how extra-mega-super-awesome would it be if we could garden parts of the yard and make teahouse treats using fruits and veggies grown on the premises? Aw, yeah. The ground floor would be the teahouse, serving fair trade, preferably organic tea, and of course scones, and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and other treats. For people into occasionally eating things bigger than the palms of their hands, we could run meals Moosewood Daily Special-style: soup, sandwich, and salad. I would be in charge of the soup, which would almost always be vegan, because I'm so proud of the many vegan soups I made or invented during my time as prep cook at Sundance. Sandwiches would be a little trickier, but I think I could manage them, too. We'd have to hire somebody good at baking for the scones and similar treats, especially the sweets. Penny maybe, while I'm dreaming, since she's good at both the vegan baking and the punk stuff. Also she's up for just messing around with food till it works, and we could sell her less-successful experiments at half price, or at least make a display case of them as decoration because a sign that says "eat me at your own risk" is punk rock. (Hell, we should sell T-shirts with that slogan.) Also of course, Apple, you'd be an art gallery, if only for Penny's stuff and whatever else we feel like sticking to the walls. Damn, I really get into dreaming you.

Besides Penny's spectacular baked goods, we would of course do high tea with all the trimmings. Allison would be in charge of costuming, hats and gloves and safety pins and zippers and of course lots of black eyeliner (she pointed out that since I'm the hippie, Penny's the punk, and she's the goth, we have to keep an eye out for a kickass raver to join our crew... of course, we're all giant geeks). Back to the food, because I'm obsessed. I wonder if a cup of soup would balance on one of those three-tiered high tea serving contraptions. We'd have to hire kickass waitstaff, I guess. Not that I'd want anything else. I can't really fully express my high opinion of kickass waitstaff, nor do they ever believe me when I tell them they're awesome on a level that I will never achieve, so I mostly just tip really well. But I digress. Apple, only your ground floor would be the teahouse and restaurant (we'd have coffee, too, something locally roasted and organic and fair trade, like Eugene's Wandering Goat, only I don't think you'd be in Eugene) because Allison and Penny and I would live upstairs. Ideally we'd also have an attic, nice and roomy enough for someone to live in (or studio space?), and a basement for storage, although mostly deep storage --- it would sort of be a logistical nightmare if we had to put the kitchen or walk-in fridge down a flight of stairs. Eek.

Before I forget, back to the staff. Like I said, they'll be awesome. So awesome that I wouldn't ever need to talk to customers, except of course if we needed to bounce someone. That kind of customer service I'll perform with pleasure. At Apple, we'll explicitly reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. Period. First of all, we could hardly be punk fucking rock without being able to tell people to go to hell (with spitting if necessary), and second of all, it's in our religion. Allison and I are the founders of the First Discordian Church of Don't Be A Jackass, after all, and it seems only fair that all of our enterprises, including the fantasy businesses, proceed in accordance with those principles. (Did I mention that our menus will be more like manifestoes? They'll change a lot, with waitstaff of course fully authorized to edit them with black marker whenever we run out of stuff or they get sick of describing the specials, and would include lots of room for people to draw and color and whatever. Crayons on the table for everyone, and paper tablecloths in case the menus aren't big enough. In my "unlimited funds" daydreams the tablecloths are fabric and we give everyone markers and paint pens, but I digress.) In keeping with our proud Discordian heritage, we'll serve hot dogs on Friday at Apple. (Yes, your name is very fitting here, too.) The special should be veggie dogs with bacon, for extra bonus points. Hail Eris!

What else? Well, Apple, you love cats. My Iggy Pop and Otis and Allison's Lilith and Penny's Samantha all live in and around you, in whatever way we can get away with and not get busted by the health department. (Penny's law degree could come in handy all over the place!) And because you are a dream, I hereby declare that any and all cats associated with you will live forever, which is all the more reason for you to magically come true already because Samantha is not doing very well, but she is a fantastic sweet lovable kitty and I love her and don't want to miss her in a permanent way and if I'm saying this having only met her the once, you can probably imagine how much I'm freaking out wanting to hug Penny every time I hear about how Sam is doing. Wah.

And while I'm complaining about reality, Apple, I should probably mention that it's the biggest obstacle standing between you and me. Stupid reality, what with the fact that restaurants run super-tight margins and all our fair trade and organic and local ideals aren't exactly the cheapest around (and do NOT get me started on how fucked it is that ethically raised animal products are so expensive). Our ideal clientele couldn't afford to patronize us, and even if we lucked out and punk rock "the customer is wrong, bitch" service was trendy for like a week, that'd mean we'd what, break even for like a day? Yeah, that's not so good. Stupid reality.

But enough ranting about reality. Apple, you're a beautiful dream, and I enjoy fantasizing about you to escape from stupid, stressful, boring old reality. Thank you for always being there, in my imagination, and for growing steadily more awesome with every re-imagining.


Started 23 October 2006; published 8 November 2006, way early in the morning, when I should have been sleeping, last updated 6 January 2007. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

16 September 2006

38. Management

Dear management,

I saw a bumper sticker about you the other day that made me laugh. It said:
The folks who brought you the labor movement.
I'm sure you probably recognize this as a parody of the slogan: "The labor movement: the folks who brought you the weekend", but I like that saying so much I repeat it every chance I get, so there you go.

But here's the really funny thing, and the thought I'm not entirely sure that funny bumper sticker was meant to inspire: When I think about what was needed to bring about the labor movement, I think about organization, motivation, and a sense of fairness adding up to a collective pursuit of social justice. But organization, motivation, and fairness... these are all qualities I want in anybody I work with, not just the managers but maybe them especially.

Maybe that is what that bumper sticker is all about: the fact that it took awesome managerial skills to direct a movement that created major political change. Maybe it says, enough with the "us versus them" rhetoric. Or maybe it's a little more ambiguously corporate newspeak than that, something like: "Bad management makes you want justice; good management helps you create it." Heh.

Either way, thought-provoking stuff, in that ha-ha, only serious way I seem to have about me all the time lately. It's been four months since I started my new gig (like a new job, only at the same employer) and people are still referring to me as a manager, although I keep explaining that really, I'm not: I just do lots of paperwork, I can't hire or fire or even schedule anybody. And I try to do my job the same way I've always tried to work: responsibly, with intent, good organization, and fairness. And I guess to be completely honest, I should admit that I saw that bumper sticker over six months ago, before my job was anything that could be described with the word "manager", before my sort-of promotion, which more than anything else was just an escape from a department in turmoil brought on by — you guessed it — new management.

I don't know what else to say. I'd like for this letter to end with some kind of clever remark, maybe a quotation from whatever philosopher or philosophers famous for discussing the difference between "should" and "is". But (since I'm writing this letter mostly for myself, and you're an abstract concept, and thus unlikely to complain), as manager, employee, and customer of my little writing project, I'm willing to let well enough alone for this particular chapter. If nothing else, there's nothing to stop me from coming back and fixing the ending later.


Started 8 March 2006; rediscovered, rewritten, and published 16 September 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

09 September 2006

37. Internet

Dear Internet,

(or internet, if you agree with what Wired has to say about you; I'm guessing the jury's still out),

You are awesome. I mean that both in the late-20th and early-21st century meaning of "super-cool" as well as in the more old-fashioned "fear-inspiring" kind of way. That said, thank you for helping me keep in touch with friends scattered far and wide, old and new, close and just-this-side-of-acquaintance. I suck at talking on the phone, and it's hard for me to finish paper letters, let alone mail them, and even my emails have a habit of going unfinished for as long as years before getting sent, but thanks to this new-fangled "blogging" that's all the rage, I can (metaphorically) talk to myself in public, or a semi-filtered facsimile thereof, and be (again metaphorically) heard if people are bored enough to (metaphorically) listen in. Also I can read what other people have to say to themselves albeit in this same self-conscious "somebody might look at this" kind of way, and I like to think that as a result we all grow closer as a group, to borrow a phrase from the late, great Bill Hicks ("it's cathartic, it's a spiritual thing"). But I digress, or do I? I like the fact that you make it difficult to determine what, exactly, is a digression. Sure, it's distracting as hell sometimes, but so is life, so whatever.

I seem to be waxing philosophical, to the point of boring myself and wandering off to look at other websites than the one that hosts this and other unanswerable letters of mine, so I'll finish this letter and get to the real point. Internet (if I start sentences with you I need never worry about the capitalization issue because unlike so many of the punk kids using you on MySpace and beyond, I still give a semblance of a crap about grammar), thanks to you and Title 9, I need never shop for bras in normal stores again. For that service alone, I will honor you forever.


Started and published on 8 September 2006; last updated 9 September 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

22 July 2006

36. Feminism

Dear feminism,

I have a lot to say to you, but the idea that got me to writing this particular letter, its point, is a pet peeve of mine: the incredibly stupid way in which people talk about you as if you're just one thing. For those parts of you with a bit of a background in linguistics or grammar-wonkery, I'll put it this way: feminism is a mass noun. There is no singular feminism, just like there's no singular weather. Just like there's lots of kinds of weather, changing day by day, place by place, just like there are lots of schools of thought but not so much just one thought, there are lots of different flavors of feminism. Duh.

You know this and I know this. And I wish to hell I had a clue-bat big enough and powerful enough to beat this idea into all the heads that need to learn it. Especially the idiots who talk about postfeminism without meaning it as an abbreviation of postmodern feminism, the latter phrase being shorthand for a cloud of ideas I actually often kind of dig (ooh, this weather analogy is useful!) Post-feminism. Hah. Post what feminism? Usually it's about the aftermath of the so-called second wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s, wherein relatively privileged mostly upper and middle class white women decided they wanted the same privileges as upper and middle class white men instead of staying home as mom-bots. Never mind that the job of mom-bot was a relatively recent invention, historically speaking, and one that wasn't really a readily available option for minority women like the ones whose families couldn't afford to have a full-time mom-bot staying home, many of whom also happened to be not white. But I digress. I think if the second wave refers to that particular sociopolitical storm (and look at me again cleverly tying things back to that awesome weather analogy!) then suffragettes and suchforth were the first wave, but from when and where I'm sitting in the third wave or whatever, I have to say this numbering system is pretty stupid since I'm pretty sure as long as men and women have been different, people have generally been making more of a big deal about those differences than is really entirely necessary, and some people (some of them even the same people making the aforementioned big deal) have been complaining about it (in case it wasn't obvious, I'm personally of the "really not such a big deal" school of thought, but not all of the complainers, not even all the ones who describe themselves with the word "feminist" in some way, agree with me). All of which is to say, albeit run-on-sentence-style, that postfeminism, even just in the sense of whatever comes after feminism, has been around since, oh, maybe about a second after the first feminist thought was expressed. Again, duh.

I have a lot more to say to you and about you, feminism, but that idea, and in particular the clever mass noun phrasing/framing thereof, and also the weather metaphor I'm digging on so deeply, was suddenly so loud and clear in my brain that I had to write it down before I could forget it. But hey, we're always in touch, even if I don't always have time to write, so I hope we're cool. As always, sweet sisterhood to the fantabulous bell hooks.


Started and published 22 July 2006; last updated 9 September 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

21 July 2006

35. Green Beans

Dear green beans,

I love you. According to my mom, I always have — when I was a little kid, our garden never seemed to produce you, but I always seemed to make happy little crunching noises when I came back from picking you only to report that I hadn't found anything. Now that I have a garden of my very own, I can't seem to plant enough of you to bring in more than a handful at a time, but I still make those happy little crunching noises, so it's all good.

When I do manage to bring you inside, sometimes I cook you like my mom did, and my grandmother (although I usually make you a little crunchy for Oma's taste) — simple boiling or steaming. I'm also a big fan of garlicky green beans, sautéed in olive oil or butter, and often a splash of balsamic vinegar as well, which is what led me to the preparation I can't seem to stop snacking on tonight.

To start, we got 1 1/2 pounds of you in our CSA box this week --- oh darn. After much snacking, I think we had a pound left when I got around to cooking this afternoon, and because I was feeling lazy I skipped the boiling/steaming step in favor of a mix of sautéing and steaming, like so:

After I got the beans and garlic cleaned, I heated a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a pan big enough to hold all the beans. I added the garlic and cooked that until it foamed and the smell reminded me why garlic, like David Bowie and purring cats, is proof that the universe can't be all bad. Next I added a splash of water and the green beans, lowering the heat as soon as I saw the water boil. I let everything cook for a total of maybe four minutes, stirring occasionally and testing the beans frequently for doneness (by eating them, of course; quality control is Job One!) At the end of this arduous task, the beans were bright green, and I added a splash (a few tablespoons) of balsamic vinegar which dulled their color somewhat but the deliciousness gained more than justified the sacrifice in appearance. I let everything cook for another minute, so the beans could absorb a bit of the vinegar, then lifted them out of the pan into a bowl, only to discover that quite a bit of watery, garlicky vinegar was left in the pan. It seemed a shame to let it go to waste, so I did a trick that makes mediocre balsamic taste much better, and left it cooking on the stove while I pondered how to turn it into a sauce, which I eventually did by adding maybe two tablespoons of honey and a little more water and letting the whole mess boil and thicken into a stickily delicious glaze. The glaze was done after another minute or two, after which I returned the beans to the pan, where a quick toss coated them nicely (and got the pan pretty clean, too, although I still hurried it over to the sink to soak after I finished putting the beans back in their serving bowl).

I call this latest incarnation of you Garlicky Green Beans in Balsamic-Honey Glaze, and I'm thinking of eating it with a garnish of toasted nuts, perhaps on a bed of salad greens, maybe even as part of a salade Niçoise if I'm feeling fancy later. I'm also thinking it might be time for me to plant more of you in my garden, because making happy little crunching noises while I pull weeds and tie up tomatoes ranks right up there with David Bowie.

Thanks for everything, green beans. You're great.


Published 21 July 2006; last edited 9 September 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

22 May 2006

34. Alcohol

Dear alcohol,

I think I love you. Not just because you come in many forms which are delicious, but that doesn't hurt. No, I love you because I have learned to coexist delightfully with your effects as a drug, by which I mean your mood-amplifying qualities. I wish I could call them mood-enhancing qualities, but the phrase "mood-enhancing" has come to describe substances whose effects are generally positive, which in your case isn't necessarily true. You see, I've managed to figure out that you take whatever mood I'm in and make it more so. Which means I don't get to use you when I'm in a crappy mood, or even when I'm in a so-so mood, but you're fine when I'm happy, or even (like today) when I'm tired but otherwise okay, because you make me even better. And that's just groovy, baby.

I like that being aware of your effects makes me feel like a super-genius, because I can avoid being a total asshole simply by avoiding you when I'm in a lousy mood. Now if only I could spread my genius to the entire world and furthermore instill everybody with the wisdom needed to prevent themselves from using you as an excuse to be the assholes they secretly are all the time... but I digress. I like how you lower my inhibitions, although to be fair I was already in a silly talkative saying whatever's on my mind kind of mood today, so perhaps your effects were even more entertaining than usual. Or maybe I'm only funny to me. Whatever.

I also like how you make me feel good about riding my bike everywhere. Tonight, for instance, I would not have been safe to drive a motor vehicle home after a long shift at work and delicious grilled tempeh sandwich and a quart of beer over the course of dinner at the pub (and note how it sounds much scarier to say "a quart of beer" instead of "two pints" — what's up with that? I digress. Again.) However, because I was riding my bike, I felt fine. Who was I going to hurt, really? No one, that's who, except maybe myself, and the latter probably not so severely as to adversely affect the lives of the people I love, which is of course the point at which self-injury becomes unacceptable, and yet again I digress. Back to my recent bike ride — as an added bonus, you made it feel like I was going really, really fast at a piddling 13 miles an hour according to my nifty bike computer/odometer toy. That was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

I thought I had more to say to you, alcohol, but I seem to have forgotten them in my glee at riding home safely tonight. That's cool. I'm going to sit around drinking lots of water to stop you from giving me a hangover, and perhaps meditate on how incredibly easy you are to consume in the form of Anderson Valley's summer solstice ale. It's like cream soda with a beer aftertaste, I tell you what — but I'm sure you already knew.

Much love,

Published 22 May 2006, title abridged 1 December 2011, last updated 6 June 2014.

21 May 2006

33. Hail

Dear hail,

Please for to not have just completely destroyed my garden, okay? As always, you came and went quickly, but I'm not used to hailstones being much bigger than peas, and many of these were as big as grapes, so it was actually a little scary for a few minutes there. Also, I definitely wasn't into the part of the storm where it would have hurt to go outside and so I had to just stand and look helplessly out the window while my poor little sunflowers got bent in half. Finally, you were loud enough to make at least one of the cats go hide under the bed, so I hope you're happy with yourself. Me, I'll only be happy with you if my plants recover. Dang. Maybe I should build those cold frames after all.


Title abridged 1 December 2011.

13 May 2006

32. Mad Cow Disease

Dear mad cow disease,

I love you. Not just for your name, although it is fabulous, and not just for the beautiful poetic irony of your very existence. Seriously, thank you for pointing out the almost mind-numbingly obvious fact that maybe forced cannibalism is a bad thing, especially for herbivores, and even more so when those herbivores are livestock that's intended to be slaughtered for eating... seriously. It's pretty much impossible to write to you without snickering a little.

Speaking of snickering, I love you despite the fact that people's fear of you leads me into stupid conversations like the one I had at work today with a woman who won't buy our macaroni and cheese because it's made with cheddar that comes from England, home of the original cases of mad cow disease in humans if you don't count all the cannibals who've gotten it throughout history. I mean, good lord. You're awesome and all, mad cow, but the prions thought to cause you are still found mostly in brain and nerve tissue and only very occasionally in muscles and so the odds of them turning up in milk are pretty miniscule, right? I'm going to do more research just to make sure I'm not being some kind of crazy Pollyanna optimist, but really. Like I told the well-meaning lady at the hippie grocery store today, if prions are getting into milk, we have bigger problems than you, mad cow disease. (And it's not like you're only happening in England, but it's probably a good thing I didn't remember to mention that this afternoon, because there was enough to worry about in that conversation as it was.) Anyway. I can understand prions getting into ground beef, because slaughterhouses are basically sweatshops and mistakes are hard to prevent even under humane working conditions, but I don't want to imagine what the hell kind of dairy could slaughter a cow while milking it, and in such a splattery way as to get brains in the milk. There's a whole new book of kosher rules to be written about that problem, I tell you what.

But back to my love for you, which is also not just because prions are awesome in the good old-fashioned fear- and awe-inspiring kind of way. I mean, proteins gone wild! That's terrifying and beautiful and pretty much completely beyond my comprehension to the point where I give up and revert to making sand castles — oh wait, that's the ocean, but it's similarly huge and amazing and I mean the analogy as a sincere compliment to you both. I love you for a combination of these reasons and more, mad cow disease, like how I could have you and not even know it, so I'd better hurry up and write these and all my other letters because my brain could sprout holes and turn even spongier than usual any day now if you've been incubating in there for years. Sometimes I worry that humanity is going to destroy itself by something as crass and boring as war or pollution, and then something like you happens, and I realize that I haven't even begun to think of all the ways the universe could easily help us along to our demise by using our own incredible stupidity against us. And that's a grim thing to laugh at, sure, but I don't know how else to respond. So thanks again for being one of my very favorite dark jokes, mad cow disease.


Started 8 March 2006, published 13 May 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011, last updated 6 June 2014.

11 May 2006

31. Uterus

My dear uterus,

Thank you for more or less making peace with the new foreign object inside you. I know you've been wondering about it, or at least I've felt you cramping, and I choose to interpret the resultant discomfort as bewilderment and confusion on your part, which is about as good as our communication ever gets. You seem calmer now, and that's great. Please don't go back into uncomfortable spasms just to spite me for writing that; I've left this letter unfinished for over a month because I didn't want to jinx anything by getting too optimistic. Maybe I should have gotten up the courage to write sooner, but I was worried, and also I didn't want to interrupt what seemed like some pretty productive discussions with our mutual friend ibuprofen. Now that it's been a few weeks and a menstrual period since we got what I've been calling our radical new piercing, and as of yesterday the awesome nurse lady at Planned Parenthood says everything looks and feels perfect, I'm finally feeling confident of everything I have to say in this letter.

I'll start with the basics: helpful information. The copper and plastic contraption you feel is called a Paraguard IUD, and it's supposed to keep us from getting pregnant, even if nobody's exactly sure how. I know, that's a little freaky, but so are all the side effects we've experienced with hormonal birth control, and I'd rather talk to you and ibuprofen about cramping than to my head and even more ibuprofen about migraines. Also I'd prefer to make my own mood swings instead of going crazy from drugs for awhile, and as an extra bonus, the Paraguard could be good for as long as ten years, which is pretty freaking sweet. If you hate it too much, I guess we could switch to an IUD with hormones in it, but really if I'm going to go back to messing with my biochemistry I think I'd prefer to use drugs that I can quit myself, without the help of a nice nurse lady.

Speaking of which, wasn't it great to see the nice nurse lady again yesterday? Remember how much it hurt when she gave us the Paraguard piercing last month? Since I sort of doubt you were listening to her at the time, much less understanding, I'll just tell you that she said that cramping then was a bit like a labor contraction, and joked that if I'd thought I didn't want to have a baby before, that pain probably made me more certain. She was ever so right, and I hope that you're coming to agree with me. Meanwhile, I'm still here to help however I can. I don't have a heating pad, but I can always fill my belly with nice warm tea, and sometimes I can persuade one of the cats to sit on my belly and purr. I'm sorry if it was wrong of me to go on a big bike ride when you were still in the first throes of shock, but maybe you'd been freaking out all along and the ibuprofen wore off at an inconvenient time? I owe exercise a thank-you note at the very least, but I could probably turn it into a whole letter without too much trouble. But I digress.

Back to you, uterus. Are we cool? I don't want to jump to conclusions or take you for granted or anything that might send us back into a world of not severe but persistent and annoying pain. Like I said before, I'm here to help. But meanwhile, in a spirit of cautious optimism, I hope you don't mind if I thank you once again for being awesome, as always, in this exciting time.


Started 5 April 2006, published and last updated 11 May 2006. Formatting edited 8 April 2014.

05 April 2006

30. Ibuprofen

Dear ibuprofen,

Please address yourself to the discomfort in my lower abdomen as soon as possible. It's been an hour since I took you at noon, and I know I should've gotten around to that earlier, since I've been awake since 9 AM and my last dose was at 8:30 last night, but I did get some pretty glorious sleep in between those times and I'm sort of a macho idiot about pain, especially the kind that's more annoying than incapacitating, which is what I've got going on right now. Still, we've got about two hours before I have to go to work, at which point I'd really like for my uterus to be less of a distraction, but until then I can take it easy and sit around folding laundry and drinking tea and watching trash TV on DVD while you kick in — hint, hint. Also I can walk to work instead of riding my bike if a little exercise is what you and my body need in order to get along. Just start working already, wouldya?


Title abridged 1 December 2011, formatting edited 8 April 2014.

22 March 2006

29. Fertility Treatments

Dear fertility treatments,

Quite frankly, you give me the heebie-jeebies. Not just because my experiences with hormonal birth control suggest that modern medical science might be even more mystified by my reproductive system than I am, but that's a good place to start. I could go on for longer than even I care to read about how said medical science reflects a culture that's ambivalent at best about women exercising control over their own bodies, but I'll try not to go there too much. After all, you're part of a whole cloud of technologies that for better or worse are changing pretty much everything about reproduction for people who can afford the state of the art, and now that the metaphorical genie's out of the bottle I've got to learn to accept the good as well as the bad, just like everybody else.

Speaking of that cloud of technologies, it occurs to me that you're in many ways the flip side of contraception, of which I am a big fan, and it's an interesting thought, maybe even a useful one. What would it do to discussions of birth control if they addressed the kinds dedicated to causing births as well as preventing them? Intellectually, I'm forced to recognize that true reproductive freedom should include both, even if my emotions aren't quite on board with the idea. Maybe my knee-jerk negative reaction to you isn't all that different from the feelings driving the so-called "pro-life" activists who want to ban contraception as well as abortion, even when it seems painfully obvious to me that the former prevents the latter more effectively than laws or protests or any of a number of things that make me so angry I don't know if I could even write a letter about it. Then again, it's not my goal to impose my beliefs on others — I write letters to abstract concepts instead of people who might answer, and that mostly because it helps me to express and understand my own feelings and opinions, which are so obviously and sarcastically always right. But I digress. I wish I had something clever to say about how I hate that modern medical science inflicts you — and your mirror twin contraception, for that matter — almost exclusively on women. Sadly, I don't see a way around that problem until some badass invents the artificial womb, and I don't have the money to sponsor that research or otherwise help make that kind of thing a higher priority everywhere. Dangit. Also, I really didn't mean for this letter to turn into such a rant about patriarchy in medicine, but it was hard for me to avoid the subject. Sorry about that.

Where was I? Right, getting the "patriarchy in medicine" rant done and over with as quickly as possible, so I could move on to other stuff. Really, even so-called natural reproduction is fraught with dangers and weirdness, so I shouldn't be surprised that the artificial kind is problematic, too. A big reason you're so upsetting to me, of course, is that I can't shake the feeling that there's already enough people in the world, maybe even too many, and it feels like a terrible waste to devote the aforementioned state of the art to making more people instead of learning to get along with everybody who's here already. As always, I'm trying to speak only for myself here, just like I was with all that scary radical feminist stuff in the last paragraph. That said, I can't get behind the idea that my genes are so special that they need passing on, even if a nagging voice in my head screams, "I could shit a better baby!" at the sight of some little darlings I meet. No, I'm not particularly eager to add to the teeming mass of humanity that so often looks to me like the source of all the problems in the world (by which of course I mean my world, because I'm completely self-centered like that). Speaking of those world problems, don't get me started on how you're only available to a small and incredibly privileged segment of the world's population, fertility treatments, and how if everybody consumed resources at their incredibly privileged rate, we wouldn't have a world left or we'd all have starved to death already or something equally dire and irrelevant because in reality we don't all live the same way and there's still a long way to go before we can even say that everybody lives well. See? Don't get me started, or I go off into run-on sentences and useless apocaphilia.

I think it's a good thing that we don't all live the same way, and it's an especially good thing that not everybody thinks like me, or I probably wouldn't have made it to the point of writing all this, for lack of ancestors both close and distant. Furthermore, whether I like it or not, some of the people who think differently than I do are women so determined to have children of their very genetic own that they'll submit to you, fertility treatments, even if just the idea of that is alien and horrifying to me for all the reasons I've described in this letter. Sigh. No matter what else I say on the subject, at least I can hope that you and the aforementioned insane-to-me determination produce people who feel loved and wanted, even if I'm still more concerned about the unloved and unwanted people currently inhabiting the world than with anyone who might potentially come to share it with them someday.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again, fertility treatments. If I ever decide I want to be a parent, it won't be with your help. In fact, given my ambivalence about my own genes, and aforementioned concern for the people who are already here, I might enlist the help of an adoption agency. While using what I've got might be cheaper, if that doesn't work out for any reason I'd rather pay the cost of adopting than the price of technologies I don't trust — especially who knows what risks with my body. Besides, as far as I can tell, kids, like all people, are complicated and expensive no matter what.


Started 25 January 2006, published 22 March 2006, last updated 24 March 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

13 February 2006

28. Biscuits

Dear biscuits,

Turns out I've been wrong about your savory form for some time. Too much Bisquick and its ilk will do that to a person, I suppose, and you're the kind of starchy bland food I'm prone to being snobbish about anyway. But enough excuses: I don't mind being wrong when I'm disproved by tasty treats, oh no, and tonight my housemate made you according to the Flaky Biscuits recipe in the January/February issue of Cooks Illustrated, and well, wow. I guess if you're at all into self-knowledge you were already aware that you're completely wonderful in that form, with a bit (okay, a lot) of extra rolling to give you an almost croissant-like texture. We ate you for dinner smothered in the leftover mushroom-leek gravy from a meal I'd made earlier, and it was fantastic.

Given the less-than-kind things I've had to say about your mediocre savory forms, I feel I should make it clear that this incredibly flaky and delicious version of you was easily good enough to eat on its own instead of just as a vehicle for rich, creamy sauce, and this is high praise, because (if I do say so myself) that gravy is almost good enough to eat as a soup, except for how it's maybe just a bit too thick. All of which is to say I have once again seen the error of my overgeneralizing ways and sincerely apologize for all the times I talked trash about the savory sorts of you for so many years, biscuits. I know this kind of revelation shouldn't be news to me anymore, but like I said before, it's the kind of thing I don't mind being wrong about, even to the point of publically renouncing my past mistakes. Hence this letter, in which I'm happy to admit that as with just about every food I've ever claimed to dislike, you have ways of being awesome.

Now your sweet forms, to those I owe no apologies, except maybe for whatever part I've played in the dialect confusion between U.S. and British English as to whether or not those are cookies. Tea biscuits are a thing of beauty and a joy forever and I promise I'll continue to enjoy them with delicious tea wherever I live, regardless of whether it's a country that's biscuit-literate.

Finally, and along a similar line of thinking, biscuits, it occurs to me that the recipe my housemate followed tonight could be probably adapted to create sweet scones, the thought of which fills me with a joy so great it's a bit difficult to express. Suffice it to say such an invention could be the best of all possible worlds, biscuit-wise, and delicious with tea and clotted cream and jam on top of all that wonderfulness.

Here's to many happy future teatime experiments!


Title abridged 1 December 2011.

27 January 2006

27. Flowers

Dear flowers,

While I prefer you outside, as part of living plants, even the chant of "look what's dying in a vase in your living room!" from the most sarcastic parts of my brain isn't enough to stop me feeling like you brighten things up a bit even indoors. And while those morbid thoughts are more than enough to stop me ever buying you (also I'm a cheapskate) I've still been known to scavenge through the dumpster by my work when the florist next door gets rid of the less-than-perfect specimens of you at the end of the day, and this week it's paid off with four or five very happy days of thinking, "Yes, they may be dead but they're still nicer here than in a dumpster and unlike the flower place I'll compost them afterwards."

So thanks for being pretty even as you slowly die in my living room, flowers, and though I can't promise I won't cut any of you from my garden this year, I think I can keep it down to a reasonable minimum. Just a few of you are often enough to make me smile.


Title abridged 1 December 2011.

21 January 2006

26. Pasta

Dear pasta,

I love you. My housemate Allison doesn't, which is why I haven't been eating you several times a week as was my usual practice for years. But tonight I was home alone, and that meant I could make whatever dinner my greedy little heart desired, and that turned out to be you, oh yes.

I love many things about you, pasta, but one of my favorites is how I can usually whip up a sauce or sauté of some sort to accompany you in the time it takes to boil water and cook you in it, which is to say quickly. Since I'm the kind of person who gets a little freaky when her blood sugar is low, this particular attribute of yours can be a lifesaver, to put it mildly. Tonight I was a little stupid with hunger, which meant I prepared you with an even more haphazard approach than usual, but the results were spectacular nonetheless.

I love how hunger makes everything taste extra-good, but I think the way I cooked and ate you for dinner tonight would be delicious even under less urgent circumstances. I started by putting a small pot of salted water on the stove, enough to cook what I thought was a smallish handful of spaghetti (more about that in a bit). While waiting for the water to come to a boil, I found a frying pan and used it to heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, into which I sliced slightly more than a handful of cremini mushrooms. Next I added a small onion (diced) and several cloves of garlic (crushed). I also had a green bell pepper and some pesto, discovered in the fridge when I first started foraging for dinner, but I decided against these after I had the idea of using sundried tomatoes.

I love the fact that cooking is one of the few things I'm intuitively good at. My original vision for dinner was pasta with mushrooms and onions and peppers and pesto, probably with some feta and maybe asiago cheese as well, but when I lit on the idea of sundried tomatoes, I threw out most of my original plan without looking back and tossed a big handful of sundried tomatoes into the pasta water, which was now almost at a boil. (The sundried tomatoes I get are cut finely enough that I probably could have gotten away with adding them right to the other sautéing vegetables, but I figured softening them up in hot water couldn't hurt, since they do get a little chewy and dry sitting in their jar on the shelf. If they'd been the oil-packed kind I probably would have just cut them into the sauté, but whole sundrieds definitely require cutting up and usually softening with boiling water as well. Then again, I prefer the taste of sundried tomatoes to their texture, and tonight I was cooking explicitly for my own idiosyncratic tastes.)

I love making impulsive decisions that turn out to be awesome. As the sundried tomatoes softened in the boiling water, they gave it a nice little reddish tinge, and when I fished them out with a slotted spoon and transferred them to the sauté, the water they brought with them turned quickly to steam that helped everything cook (a cheap trick but a good one). Since the water was boiling, I added the spaghetti, and then gave the sauté a generous sprinkling of oregano, thyme, salt, and a fresh grind of black pepper. I also added a little more olive oil, since the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes had absorbed most of the original few tablespoons. Then while the pasta was still cooking I diced up a regular-sized Roma tomato and added it to the sauté. Finally, I crumbled in a few tablespoons of feta cheese (less than a quarter-cup) and used all my self control to keep from stirring the mix one last time, because it was fast threatening to turn into mush. Fortunately, the pasta cooked quickly, so I didn't have to be self-controlled for long.

I love how, if you're undercooked, pasta, and then added to a pan with hot sauce, you finish cooking there and absorb the sauce and get extra-flavorful. Tonight's spaghetti already had a headstart on tastiness because it had been cooked in the sundried tomato water, some of which I added to the sauté along with the noodles when I combined the two (another cheap trick; I just didn't drain the pasta completely). Wham, steam, melting cheese, deliciousness, and a very good dinner was had by me. I'd gotten out some asiago cheese, but I ended up just putting it back in the fridge since the melted feta was more than salty and creamy enough for me (though not unpleasantly so, oh no). Of course, it turned out that I'd made too much food, but I might just be a greedy pig and have a dinner and a half tonight.

I love you, pasta. Thank you for being awesome.


Published 21 January 2006, last updated 22 January 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.

20 January 2006

25. 2005

Dear 2005,

I wasn't sure about writing you, what with having already done a year in review letter for your predecessor (and also I could whine on for pages better used in other letters about writer's block and how the dead of winter is generally a slow time for me to put it mildly but I will limit myself to this one parenthetical comment here). Then Merriam-Webster Online released their top ten most-searched words of the year:
integrity, refugee, contempt, filibuster, insipid, tsunami, pandemic, conclave, levee, inept.
I mean, damn. Even given the fact that the south Asian tsunami disaster was actually in 2004, and you didn't produce anywhere near that kind of nasty last-minute surprises, it was impressive enough to rock me for a day. (The taking weeks to finish writing about it, I did that part all on my own, along with plenty of whining about having no motivation to write.) Don't get me wrong --- it's not that the word lists for previous years haven't been sadly telling as well, in a "check out the state of U.S. news and especially politics" kind of way. But even discounting "tsunami" from your list, you've still got Hurricane Katrina and the abandonment of New Orleans, avian flu, a scary new Pope, and in general entirely too much political obnoxiousness of the sort that makes me say "no more stupid please, I am full." Now if only I could say something to undo the resignation of Sandra Day O'Connor from the U.S. Supreme Court, maybe the 2006 word list wouldn't reflect quite so much of that last... but no, we've already had plenty during the Alito confirmation hearings. Dangit.

But of course, life keeps going on in any case, and I'm personally still glad I saw you through, 2005. I traded the best job I'd ever had for an even better one, successfully converted large chunks of my front yard from lawn to garden, and generally lived really well, to judge by the various scribblings on the calendar and Slingshot planner I used during you. I'm oddly fascinated by the contrast between those scribblings and my memories, but if I come up with anything more interesting or coherent to say about this phenomenon, it'll probably be fodder for at least another letter. Speaking of writing, I'm quite pleased with many of the open letters I've finished over the course of a year, and a little intimidated by the number of letters I started but have yet to finish. All of which is to say that it's about time I finished addressing you, 2005, and got on with a new year of living and writing.

Thanks for everything, and goodbye.


Title abridged 1 December 2011.
Started 29 December 2005, published 20 January 2006.