Monday, April 25, 2016


In 2012, over 6 million Americans visited Mexico. I’ve never been to Mexico, but I imagine that it is terrible. Full of escaped convicts and kids with fatal cases of affluenza—it would just be too much for me.

I imagine warm beaches, soft, sandy turf, punctuated by snub-nosed men in white shirts, half-unbuttoned and flapping in the breeze, proudly flaunting their nearly-hairless chests and supple, puffy man boobs.

The locals are nice—warm, convivial, always ready to offer a helping hand when needed—just stay out of the prisons and cartel paths and you’re golden. But the tourists…now THEY’RE the ones you need to look out for. Always jabbering in sacrilegious attempts at Spanish, bitching the whole time about how “no one here speaks damn English in this country.” Haggling with local vendors over their chotchki prices (is $1.50 American really too high?) and filling their bratty children with the poison of their choice: sugar, alcohol, hookers—anything goes.

And then there are the convicts. Prison escapees, or so the movies tell me. Corrupt bankers, murderers, rapists—Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary’s finest, just ready for their next golden opportunity at freedom and perversion.

No, I have never been to Mexico, but I would not like to live there. There are, after all, too many Americans for my comfort.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Ocean

The drive up was uneventful, for the most part. Your typical Kentucky drivers, interspersed with the occasional larger-than-average roadkill, rolled into little more than a bloody hide and some legs. A coyote? A deer? One could only hazard a guess by the size of the smear.

When I die (although, of course, I hope it is a long ways off), I want my ashes returned to the ocean. Not the beach-- the beach is some soft, weak little thing that gently laps against the sand, while you sit twenty feet away, sipping your third margarita.


I want to be given to the ocean. Those powerful, ivory-capped waves, riding atop a gunmetal gray berth that itself hides more than man can fear.

I say "returned," as it has already tried to claim me once. When I was 9, a sneaker wave crept the shore, and for all the world a mini tsunami tried to well up and take me home.

Although it elicited fear for years afterwards, I now see the strange, natural complement it had given me. I was a part of it, and will be again someday-- once my contributions to this land are done. We will rejoin, and, one day, the sea will have the tribute it tried to claim so many years ago.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Snail's Pace

When I was a child, we lived in an apartment complex in northern California that was inundated with snails. I was only three or four, but I still remember not even being able to walk down the sidewalk without accidentally crunching a few.

Eventually, my dad was able to get rid of them all (milk jugs + beer = snail death), but not before they showed me a little game. A game with snails.

The game was simple, easily-learned by someone with my (arguably limited) cognitive ability. You find a snail, lay down next to it, and poke it's eye stalks over and over again, watching them extend and retreat, over and over again. Eventually, even a snail is capable of catching on, and they no longer ventured their eyes out into the world of 4-year olds. That's when the end of the game began.

Carefully, you grabbed the snail on each side of his shell, and proceeded to pull him from the sidewalk. Oozing slowly, he hung there between my thumb and forefinger, dreading...waiting.


With all the force a small child fueled by curiosity and slightly rabid excitement could muster, the snail was hurled across the yard and into the fence.


Snail, after snail, after desperate snail followed his brethren, unwilling and yet completely incapable of resisting their fate of peeling through the air at what must have been (to them) unthinkable speeds, before finally shattering their homes and bodies across a steadily-growing, vertical graveyard of crushed shells and dismembered bodies.

Hours, I would spend doing this, and for hours my parents would hear the tiny, echoing deaths of hundreds of unlucky participants. Finally, my mother or father would pull back the sliding glass door, and (now possibly a bit concerned with my newfound fervor) urge me to come inside, wash my hands, and go watch Cinderella.

An obedient child, I would reluctantly oblige, but quietly, with the patience of a monk, I would await the next day, when the backyard would be full of new victims, blithely living their lives, mere feet below their eventual, eternal damnation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Spider

There's this spider in our window.

It was just a small spider, at first. Long, spindly legs emerging from a dark, bulbous body--unpleasant to look at, but probably not deserving of the hate it has received. I hate this spider more than I should. I hate it more than my job, I hate it more than my ex, I hate it more than people who change lanes in intersections and then slow down to fifteen miles per hour under the speed limit. Every time I see this spider, my hatred for it grows exponentially. I often contemplate lifting the window and drowning him in raid and maybe a little fire, and would readily carry out my threat, if not for the off chance that it would scuttle away, and find some way to hide in our house.

It occupies our small kitchen window, this spider, carefully nestled between the screen and glass, so that if we were to open the window, we would expose ourselves to it. 

My first encounter with it was late in the morning on a Saturday. It had spun its careful little web between the two "walls," and, while still small, was patiently waiting for its trap to be sprung. I snubbed my nose at it, and continued washing the dishes, trying not to think about the endings that would be faced in that web.

Later that night, I saw it again. A firefly had stupidly wandered in past the screen, and had flown at exactly the wrong angle at exactly the wrong time of night and enticed exactly the wrong type of attention he had been hoping to attract. As my spider spun, the bug flailed desperately against the threads, flashing his last means of communication in a final attempt at rescue. Around, and around, and around he spun, how close must he be to the thing's face? Did his exoskeleton crack as its fangs sunk in? I kept the window closed.

Several days later, my spider had grown. Its abdomen had swollen, and now ended in a visible point at the end. Each of those long, spindly legs were connected with a small ball of tendons and blood--or whatever passed as such. A few more gray, muted bodies now lay wrapped in their cocoons, although none as large as its first attack.

A newcomer had joined in the mix. Small, orange, but otherwise strongly resembling My Spider. Same long, thin legs, same bulbous, sagging abdomen, laden with threading. He had found a place of plenty, and was quick to establish a small section of the window for himself, brandishing a few, small husks of his own. 

He was quicker to hang with the firefly.

It is now fat and slow, this spider. Its abdomen is dully spotted, and its legs can now easily wrap around prey that once had to be handled with the caution and precision of a crane operator. It will die someday, hopefully due to exposure to the elements, or perhaps by another, larger spider that has decided to impose upon the lovely little safe haven it has found. Perhaps soon. 

Two new spiders have moved into the window. Small, bulbous bodies, with long, spindly legs...

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Shawna ran up to me, eyes glittering.
“Leah's dad bought her new scissors. The sharp ones. The ones without the rounded edges!” Judging by her look of satisfaction, I must have looked as elated as I felt.
“Have her go to the back and cut there. Those vines are huge!” Shawna nodded and ran off, orders memorized.
I stepped back for a moment, surveying our progress so far. Impressive, but not yet complete. It would take several months' worth of recesses to reach our goal, and that was if we didn't get rained out most days—which we did. But still, victory was close. We could smell it. Smell it in the rotting blackberries beneath our feet. Smell it in the green, sticky sap of the fresh-cut vines and in the sun-warmed leaves above our small heads. This was the fourth grade, and this was our freedom.

Before the planning, before the work, before the multitude of stinging scratches covering our arms, legs and faces, there was a fence. Not a particularly unusual fence, to the untrained eye. To teachers, parents, and anyone else over the age of eight, it was just a long, low, chain-link fence that surrounded the school yard, corralling those of us who soon grew bored with tire swings and picking out quartz from the playground gravel. There was a narrow gap, just where the two ends of the chain-link met, but (due to poor planning on the part of some half-cocked engineer) did not line up. The poles they had used to stabilize the fence were placed close together—too close for someone to escape, perhaps, but far enough apart to stick a daring arm or leg through, if one were so inclined. The breeze in the forest was cool and soft. The hairs on our arms stood up as it kissed us, reaching out desperately as we were, and we inhaled deeply, breathing past the metal scent of the fence and inhaling the scents of moss and fresh, growing trees.
Beyond the fence were the woods. Tall, dark pines and fir trees crowded up against each other, choking the warm sunny days down to little more than a shady grove. There were things in those woods, bad things. Ian's brother said so, and he was a year older than us. Things like “bear traps” and “wild dogs” and “pedophiles.” We surmised the last one to be some sort of robber, garbed in black and white-striped pajamas with a sack of money over his back. Whatever they were, they were all in that forest. And we wanted out.
The Seventh Day Adventist church—to which our school belonged—encouraged a life of modesty and veganism. Women wore dresses, jewelry was strongly discouraged, and the land of milk and honey is roughly translated into something like the land of Boca Burgers and tofu. Carob was a daily tragedy. Once a week, we would walk to the church across the street and listen to a sermon. Daily class activities included bible-based based board games, and it was here that I was subjected to Veggie Tales instead of classroom movies.
Obedience and placidity were enforced above all else, save God. Once, when the younger students had started to become “too rowdy” on the bus, the driver went from class to class, preaching about the dangers of distracting the bus driver and not sitting quietly in your seat. He was armed with a double chin, the vice-principal's blessing, and a PSA-style VHS that showed multiple reenactments of students causing their entire school to crash tragically into the swampy abyss—if only they had just read their book and waited for their stop!
At home, situations were similarly restrictive. Parents who send their children to private school expect a certain type of behavior, not the kind typically seen in children who attended public school. The term itself was nearly filth in your mouth, after all. When a school bully—who proudly referred to himself as “Bubba”—refused to stop teasing me, I told him God didn't love him, so when He made him, he put his head between his legs so he could kiss his own ass. He was in the eighth grade, and he cried. I was kicked off the bus and grounded for two weeks.
Many of us accepted our fates with the kind of weary patience seen only in prisoners and the elderly. Day in, day out, do our time and just get out of there. A few, however, were not subdued so easily.

             Eventually, we devised a plan. A dirty, mischievous, stupid little plan that only fourth graders or failed supervillains could come up with. Along one part of the fence, there was a section of overgrown blackberry bushes. An invasive species, these monsters quickly overtook any open space available, turning fields into endless brambles, and fences into walls of thorns and snapping vines. The logic was that, since the woods had always been there, the bushes had, too, so the fence must have been built around them. If we could find some way to cut through the vines, we could eventually reach through to the other side, and travel that magical land of bear traps and pedophiles. Our own secret tunnels, just like in Mexico!
Implementation didn't take long. All that was required for our plan were scissors and a willingness to become bruised, scratched, and mildly dehydrated. It started out small, but quickly gained steam. Five, sometimes six of us at a time would spend their recess feverishly hacking away at the vines, with two or three (usually new recruits) being forced to carry away and dispose of the debris. Such determination seemed to be frowned upon, however, so the rest of us set out to distract the teachers—pulling hair, starting fights, flattering their egos. Soon we had a cave of vines big enough to hide almost all of us, and still we kept cutting.
The teachers grew suspicious that this was more than just a passing fad. This was no “members only club” that lasted for a week and was based off of your love of horses and hatred of Matt Formby. No, we meant business, and this time, we little bastards were organized. They began cracking down on our plans, hoping to avoid parental involvement (and potentially a lawsuit). They chased us away, we'd quietly sneak back. They'd pat us down for scissors, we began hiding them in the bushes before we left. Eventually, they stationed a teacher by the bushes, but by then we had recruited the third graders, and their recess was on a different schedule than ours.
At this point, our parents had started asking us how the hell we were going through scissors so fast., and where were we getting all of those scratches from? We lied. For a bunch of elementary-schooled kids stuffed into a private school without their consent, this was our best chance at independence. From school to the bus to home to back to school again, our lives were rarely our own. Even church was not an escape, as the school belonged to the Seventh Day Adventists. While we were nowhere near physically capable of taking care of ourselves, none of us really cared. This was our dream, this was our project, and it was so much more than a game.

Finally, the teachers struck their killing blow. “Recess is a privilege, not a right,” they told us, and those who abused the privilege were to be punished by having it taken away.
We weren't hard to spot: grass-stained clothes, peppered with minor flesh wounds, and guilty, terrified looks plastered on our faces whenever the topic of scissors was broached. The other, more “well-behaved” children would be allowed to go out and play, while the rest of us stayed inside, organized our desks (books from tallest to shortest, they told us) and twiddled our green-stained thumbs. There is always weakness within the resistance, and the teachers were able to pick out the weaker ones in the class with startling ease, manipulating them with sweet, toxic bribes of extra-long recess and volumes of praise. Soon, our forces had dwindled, until only Shawna and myself were left. When we had finally “earned” back the privilege of recess, the ravenous blackberries had grown back to nearly their full glory, and their knotted traps were even too much for most grown men to handle on their own, let alone two small girls.

A few feeble attempts at revival were made: we tried to build a fort out of old grass clippings by the runner's track. Escape was no longer an option, but perhaps we could hide ourselves, glean some privacy even as we gleaned the freshly-cut soccer field. We were scolded and the clippings were removed. After a while, the dream had caged itself, giving up on any chance of success or escape to the world beyond our own. Sometimes, though, we would wander back to the chain-link fence, slipping our arms through the gap, relishing the cool forest breeze, and wondering about bear traps and pedophiles.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hunter Davis

On Monday, October 20th, at 10:55 PM, the world got a little bit darker. 

Nicholas “Hunter” Davis passed away from complications from glioblastoma, a brain tumor that had plagued him for over 3 years. Author, music hound, wanderer, companion, lover, dreamer, spiritualist and seeker of the unknown—a few words from the volume that describe this great man.

Hunter would give you the shirt off his back, even though it was his last one, and fraying at the seams. He would flip back his hair, whistle a tune—slapping his thigh to the beat you would never recognize— take instant mashed potatoes (probably the only thing he had left in the pantry) and turn them into a culinary, gut-bombing masterpiece for you two to share. You would always get the larger half.

As with all dreamers, sometimes you would have to reel Hunter in. Anyone who knew Hunter was familiar with his penchant for getting stranded in Portland late at night—too busy catching up with friends and exploring downtown to bother with things like public transportation schedules. He was never without a place to sleep, though—the circle of people who loved him and offered him their couches for the night were outnumbered only by those who would themselves be out and about, exploring the city with him.

Husband, son, brother, friend – Hunter was one of those people that you never forget—even if only met in passing. His death has affected us all more than we would like to admit, and are each working hard to remember him for who he was, and who we will see again someday.

"You feel, nothing ever stays the same as it was
You'll take, no more remedies to force yourself true
You say, every motion and fall fail you too
This song is not about you
The life that stands without you
Your body and blood
Your body and blood
You're leaving us all."
-Black Rebel Motorcycle Club “Head Up High”