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Tag: non-fiction

Deliver Us Some Evil: Attack of the Seven Foot Flying Podcast

My best friend Elijah Newton and I are an odd pair. He’s a Millennial malcontent, I’m a Gen X spinster. He’s obsessed with horror movies, true crime, and the antics of serial killers. I’m scared of my own shadow. So what’s the obvious thing to do?

Host a podcast, of course.

And thus was born Deliver Us Some Evil: a show where dark humor meets the macabre and reveals the absurdity of human nature. Urban legends, cryptids, hauntings, murders, unsolved mysteries, little green men, nothing is sacred. Like a jaded coroner straight out of an 80’s detective drama, Eli peels back the white sheet to reveal the horror on the slab. I gasp and groan. I cover my eyes. He chuckles as he points out some gruesome detail, some blackly comical bit of trivia. And before I know it, I’m peeking between my fingers.

You will too.

Join us every Monday for a brand new episode of Deliver Us Some Evil. Available on Spotify or wherever you find your podcasts. Follow us on Twitter for news, episode teasers, and Eli’s unapologetic artwork.

a meditation

life is pain, suffering, confusion, disappointment, impermanence. death.

it can’t be fixed, changed, redirected, repaired, improved, perfected.

life is unfair. it can’t be made fair, equitable, just.

to believe otherwise is an illusion.

we still have moments of choice. pivotal moments.

but they mean less than we think they do, less than we hope they do, less than we need them to.

you can forcibly change the narrative. you can fool people, fool yourself.

but you can’t fool human nature. it goes on without you. the rest of life on earth goes on without you. the universe goes on without you, continuing to expand long after you and your politics are gone.

make peace with it.

make peace with your life, your vulnerabilities, your illusions. with all the needs you can’t fulfill. with the happiness you can’t achieve, the failures you can’t explain, the successes that didn’t ease your despair.

let go.


be humble.

even if you don’t understand, right now, in this moment, be still.

take a deep breath.

to be alive, to be human, to be conscious, is to suffer. so rethink your assumptions about suffering. about pain, about confusion, disappointment, impermanence. death.

let go.

step down.

bow your head.

you can’t understand it all. you can’t control it all. you can’t make every right choice, or even know what every right choice is.

in the end, it doesn’t matter.

you will suffer. you will die.

i suffer. i will die.

everyone we know suffers, even if it’s alone, in silence. and someday they will die.

in light of all that, what really matters?

what matters to you?

May 15, 2022

Then, there was a next day

Sometimes when two people each have half of something, you don’t get a whole when you put them together. Sometimes you still have two halves.

May 14, 2015


I work at a supermarket. I’m officially in Produce, but I pick up shifts with our to-go unit to make forty hours. Our customers are generally a sedate lot. Elderly people, families, office workers on their lunch breaks. In the nearly four years I’ve worked for the company, I’ve had only a couple of minor confrontations with customers that required managerial assistance.

Today was different. Today brought America’s ugly political landscape right into my workplace, right into my face. It hit hard. As a former feminist, former progressive, it left me shaken.

I was working a to-go shift. That means it’s my job to wheel a clumsy metal cart all over the store to shop for people wealthier than my broke-ass self. I get into a weird headspace when I’m shopping, so focused on finding the right products that I lose track of where I am unless a customer interrupts me. This happens often. I mean, I’ve got the uniform, the hat, and the name tag, and because I’m a shopper, people assume I know where everything is. (If you want shelf-stable pudding cups, I got your back, but if you’re looking for horseradish you’re on your own.)

So it wasn’t unusual for a customer to stop me while I was in the meat department. I was fixated on 80% ground beef, which I was pretty sure was out of stock, when a woman asked me a question about lamb. Knowing zip about meat, I apologized in that bland retail fashion, and suggested she ask at the meat counter. She turned away. But as she did so, I recognized what she had been saying around her generic question. Now my attention was divided between whether or not 81% ground beef would be a good substitute (and frankly why we need both 80% and 81%, and what that means for us as a species) and her muttered, passive-aggressive words.

She was accusing me of following her around the store.

Logically speaking, this makes no sense. It’s my job to shop, pretty much just like a customer, but with a huge rolling table and an rf gun that bleeps and bloops. I’m also at the lowest end of the retail hierarchy. Believe me, we’re not trained to do anything more than stock shelves and press buttons. Management is just grateful when we show up, much less do our jobs.

I was speechless. I probably had a blank look on my face, my brain only reluctantly letting go of its debate over ground meat in favor of a more important decision. Do I react? Or do I ignore her and continue with my job?

It only took a split second, but it was a conscious choice.

“Excuse me?” I said.

She turned around and laid into me. She said it’s suspicious when a white person follows a black person around a store. She said it’s racist. She said that if she sees me again she’s going to report me to management. Her voice was raised, strident. She wasn’t mentally ill. She wasn’t high or drunk.

She was angry.

We exchanged a few more words. I tried to explain that I was a shopper, that it’s my job to walk around the store. She interrupted me, repeating her accusations.

I had another decision to make and I made it, lightning fast. I didn’t just say that she was welcome to speak to management about me. That’s a little bold, maybe, but still polite. I didn’t just point to my name-tag which, again, is a little snarky, but still within the realm of acceptable behavior.

I leaned toward her.

It wasn’t the sort of lean that put me in her face. We weren’t even standing very close. But it was deliberate. I watched myself do it. I didn’t entirely understand why I was doing it, even granting the fact that it’s always been easy for people to push my buttons. Triggered, right?

My hands were shaking. But I wasn’t angry, or afraid. I made a third decision as she continued to raise her voice. I told her I was going to get my manager. I walked away as she kept right on trying to argue with me.

I went to customer service and asked them to call the MOD. I paced while I waited, my mask pulled down so I wouldn’t panic. By the time the manager arrived (for once I was glad to see the stony-faced assistant store manager who’s either a very hard drinker or a serial killer) I wasn’t alone.

The customer had followed me to the desk.

She yelled at me, saying she didn’t need me there, accusing me of being condescending. She told me to leave. I said I was going to do what my manager wanted me to do. When I turned to him he told me to go back to my job.

I did. My hands were still trembling, but I was able to get back into the groove (and 99 cent chicken thighs). When I finished scanning my meat department products, I pressed the required buttons on my handheld, looked up to see how hard it was going to be to navigate through the afternoon shoppers, and felt a strange internal shock.

What if I turn the corner into aisle 11 and she’s there? Will she accuse me again of following her? Yell at me in front of other customers? Call me a racist? What if she demands to see another manager? Should I choose a less trafficked route?

And I suddenly understood why I leaned toward her. It was a signal from one animal to another. I was telling her that I wasn’t intimidated. I was standing my ground. This job — as shitty as it is sometimes (and believe me, it’s shitty sometimes) — is my livelihood. It’s how I support my family. It’s how I maintain my independence. I don’t care who you are. You’re not going to take that away from me. And when this woman, this stranger, threatened to report me to my superiors, that’s exactly what she was doing — threatening me with the loss of my job.

She targeted me for two reasons. One, I’m white. If I’d been black she wouldn’t have said a word. Two, I belong to a vulnerable class — retail workers. We don’t make a lot of money and none of us can afford to be fired. That makes us easy targets.

The irony is rich. This young woman, filled to bursting with indignation, can’t understand that it’s her privilege keeping her blind to the nonsense of her accusations. She’s never worked a shitty job in her life. She doesn’t know what it’s like, that we’re trained to look at expiration dates and PLU numbers, not customers. I don’t get paid enough to do that. Hell, we’re not even trained to do anything if we see a customer stealing. That’s not our job.

Her job, on the other hand, was obvious. She was there to intimidate a white woman. She wanted to make me afraid.

I’m not even angry. I just feel sorry for her. Why? Because I used to be like her.

I grew up upper middle-class. I soaked up the righteous indignation of feminism and progressivism in the 90’s as if it was my birthright. I wore it like a shield. I went to college to keep from having to learn what it was like to live on retail wages. I marched in D.C. I listened to Democracy Now! I read the right books, watched the right films, attended the right lectures. It was all real — the wage gap, institutional racism, the misogynist media. I was one of the enlightened ones who was going to change things, make a difference, and anyone who disagreed with me was a knuckle-dragger too dumb or too brainwashed to see reality.

Things look different from this side of the fence. I even thought for a moment, Oh no, what if she’s at the bus stop? Only to realize she’s hardly the type to ride the bus. Around here it’s only poor people who take public transit. Black, white, Mexican, all of us with our masks on, sitting shoulder to shoulder, with good grace or not, headphones, earbuds, grocery bags, babies and little kids, cigarette stubs. It’s a melting pot of wet socks and bed bugs, smartphones and lottery tickets. We all pay the same fare (well okay, except senior citizens, but my point still stands). Just one overheard conversation on a public bus can teach you a hell of a lot more about the real problems in this country than any college course.

I have to get up at 5am tomorrow, leave my apartment at 6am. If I’m lucky I’ll have a spare fifteen minutes to write before I clock in at 7am. I’ll spend the day lifting 50lb bags of potatoes and stocking broccoli and apples. I won’t be following anyone around the store, black or otherwise.

I’m grateful in a hippie-dippy sort of way for the confrontation. I can’t keep the grotesque legacy of progressivism at arm’s length anymore. It’s not just a depressing theme of conversation with my best friend. It found me at work, where I’m confident and comfortable. It rattled me in the guise of a woman whose genuine rage over phantom discrimination was generated by the same intellectual machinery that ignited my own rage thirty years ago.

This isn’t about where we’re headed as a country. It’s about where we’re at, right now.

I’ve always been the kind of person to step off the sidewalk for someone else. I make space for people, literally and figuratively. But I have a much clearer understanding of where I stand these days, as a white woman, as a retail worker, as an American.

And I don’t have a whole lot of ground left to give.

Excuse me, sir

I wrote She Might Know as a personal challenge after hearing myself say “I can’t imagine a man finding me attractive.” It was fun and I can’t say can’t anymore. But the story is a fraud. Like many feminists, I believed I could have it both ways. I could attract a male without risk. I could move through the world as an ugly, sexless, mannish woman, incognito, invisible to men, and yet still be seen, as if via a magical inner light, by one man only, by the right man, by the only man who could survive the circular reasoning — he sees because he’s the right man, he’s the right man because he sees.

I’m seen when I wear a dress. I walked half a block to the park, sat at a picnic table. I wasn’t looking up. I rarely look up. I started reading a friend’s blog post. I wasn’t at the table for more than a minute when a man on a bicycle pulled up. He said something that may have had the word “mercy” in it.* He sat down. He played an R&B song on his phone. It was comical. I got up and walked away.

Why would I not want male attention?

Ambivalence is built into the female psyche. We’re ambivalent about sex, reproduction, motherhood. Contrary to what I learned as a young feminist, women and men are not fundamentally the same. We are in fact vastly different. We’re different because our investment in offspring is dramatically unequal, and thus our reproductive strategies are dramatically different.

Male strategies are simple: find ’em, fuck ’em, and forget ’em. Straightforward, uncomplicated, easy to understand. They spread their seed like junk mail: even if only one percent provides a return, it’s a jackpot with zero effort.

Female strategies are complex. Devious, conniving, manipulative. Those who survived the rigors of the ancient world were those who made calculated decisions about how much to invest in which offspring, how best to monopolize the resources of males, and how and when to provide access to their fertility.

When it comes to reproduction, males value quantity and paternity. Females value quality and security.

Thirty years ago I was studying for finals in a college library. A young man walked up and told me I’d be prettier if I smiled. I was confused at first, processing the interruption. Ironically, I may have smiled, that primate signal of appeasement and submission. The young man walked away. I went back to my books. But my concentration had been broken. I was annoyed. What right did a stranger have to interrupt me? Because I was female I should have no expectation of being left in peace, to negotiate courtship on my own terms? This young man’s need to make his presence known — to “shoot his shot” as my best friend would put it three decades later — took precedence over my pursuit of academic excellence and a degree, what I saw then as my future security?

Or is that the issue? Males provide resources to females in exchange for reproductive opportunity. Females play along with the game, securing resources both on their own and through manipulation of males. We are primates after all, always looking to fuck or eat.

Feminism told me I could opt-out of that system, an idea that appealed to my ambivalent female brain. But feminism was wrong. It was like trying to opt out of a wasp hovering around my face. I never could escape it. The system just kept on moving around me. I was playing the game whether I recognized it or not, whether I wanted to play or not, whether I knew how to play or not.

And I didn’t.

I was raised by a timid woman who never learned how to play the game, though she excelled at being devious, conniving, and manipulative. Feminism was the only alternative. I embraced it. I thought living life on my own terms meant picking and choosing the rules that suited me and ignoring the rest. But that wasn’t living. That was suspended animation. 

“Excuse me, sir.”

I hear it every day, working retail in a men’s shirt with a buzz-cut and a baseball cap. I move through the world largely invisible as a woman. The disguise allows me to focus on what I need to do to survive instead of being a target, instead of being prey. It fools the unconscious brains of the animals around me. They misinterpret what they see, the signals my body gives away about my fertility — my sex, my age, my physical condition. Maybe that’s why I’ve always wanted gray hair. Maybe that’s why I’ve never spoken much. Body shape, limbs, motion, eye contact, nuances of facial expression, breath, scent, a voice that drops when I’m confident and rises when I feel vulnerable. I can’t stop it. I can’t control it.

It scares the hell out of me.

We’re social primates. We’ll negotiate, compromise, sacrifice, manipulate, say or do almost anything to avoid being alone, outside the group, unsheltered by familial bonds, especially children, especially females. It’s never been safe. We don’t have ancestors whose skulls were pierced by the teeth of megafauna. When we grow up alone, insecure, without guidance, some of us withdraw, hide, sell out the present day for a possible future. It’s human nature. It’s the nature of woman.

She Might Know was a daydream. I held onto it like I held onto so many other fantasies, something to get me through the day until the day came when nothing could get me through. I negotiated those compromises moment by moment.

I still do.

But I don’t lie to myself anymore. I don’t pretend we’re anything other than upright walking animals. Even our cynical post-utopian cyber-culture is rooted in natural selection, in whatever gave our flea-bitten ancestors a reproductive advantage over their flea-bitten neighbors.  I can’t say can’t anymore. But, as with so many other great mythologies of feminism, I’ve moved on.

I’ve let it go.

Further reading: Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (1999)

* I’m unattractive but men will say anything to get pussy.

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