* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we would be more than happy to let you tell us, in meticulous detail, how to run our lives. But first you have to pass new contributor Katherine Shaw’s vetting process. So yeah, right now we're telling you how to run YOUR life. That's life!

Ten Interview Questions For A Part-Time Life Coach (Who Doubles As A Therapist (Who’s Actually An Adult Nanny))

By:
shaw.kk89@gmail.com

Congratulations on making it to the second round of the application process! As you know, our client is in need of a part-time life coach, preferably one with a background in psychology. However, spending a few after-college summers as an au pair will suffice.

Our client seeks candidates with a passion for resolving existential crises by providing soothing affirmations that life has meaning despite:
1) The looming environmental catastrophe that scientists believe will end civilization by 2050,
2) Women losing bodily autonomy, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the End of Days, and
3) finding love and a fulfilling career is passé, boring, stale as a cracker at Grocery Outlet.

Note: delivering affirmations in a sing-songy tone will be considered an act of gross condescension and will result in immediate dismissal. 

Please take a few minutes to review the following interview questions. Today’s interview panel consists of our client, along with dissociative embodiments of herself at ages 6 and 13 and 24.

  1. In your professional opinion, can I get pink eye from drying my face with my body towel?
  2. I’m asking because my bum area never seems to dry after a shower unless I get the towel really up there.
  3. I mean, my bum area is definitely clean after showering. But what about cross-contamination and micro-germs? Or do I just call them germs? I suppose germs are microscopic…
  4. TMI? Dang, I always have issues with that! In your experience, how do you know when you’ve gone too far in a conversation?
  5. Oh! So, you’re saying that this interview is an obvious example of TMI. Would you say TMI is a bad trait? Cause I’ve been told it’s not good. 
  6. But, if you think about the concept of TMI in relation to gender, isn’t it a bit un-feminist of others to ask me to “simmer down” and to speak my mind less often?
  7. Shhh – hold on! I’m not finished speaking. Here’s my hypothesis: if I’m consistently TMI, does that mean others are just TLI, too little information? Perhaps my intelligence just intimidates most…
  8. Don’t you start with this “your arrogance is showing” lecture. I wish I was just a pinch arrogant! Do you even want this job?!
  9. A nap? Why would you suggest a nap?!

15 restful minutes later…

  1. But seriously, can I get pink eye from using my body towel on my face? I keep waking up with crust in my eyes. Okay, yeah, I could use a separate face towel, but I’m trying to be environmentally friendly. No, I’m not just being lazy! But also, how do you feel about doing my laundry?

We plan on contacting interviewees next Tuesday and will invite the top two candidates for a final interview. The final interview will be a skills lab.

In this skills lab, you and our client will discuss the application of Brené Brown’s work to everyday issues such as online dating and realizing that you might have wasted your youthful potential in a soul-sucking career. Chardonnay, lavender aromatherapy, and weighted blankets will be provided.

Until you hear back from us, please refrain from contacting our client for questions. Our client especially does not want to receive feedback on the structure of today’s interview.

Sincerely,

Katherine at ages 6 and 13 and 24, and also a version of herself that recruits for part-time life coaches (and there’s a sixth identity in there somewhere…)

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the literary stars of tomorrow were practically born yesterday! Just ask that shameless gossip-monger and hilarious woman about town Catherine Weingarten.

The 6 Hottest Writers Under 6

By:
catherine.weingarten@gmail.com
@sarahkaneissexy

Lola
Five years old, her love of eating Polly Pockets is used for material in her new powerful eating disorder memoir, Polly Pocket Eater, This is Me. She’s already won the Glamour Activist Baby of the Year Prize, but the award was taken away from her when she tried to eat it.

Jupiter
Four years old, after two whole years in timeout for an undisclosed crime. Her tell-all has been much awaited and hailed as the new Orange is the New Black for cuter and younger people. Jupiter is the bad girl of the baby literary world and recently got in trouble at a People Magazine shoot for throwing up on her outfit and then saying she’d only pose nude.

Daffodil
Three years old, Daffodil’s famous novelist father encouraged her from a very young age and helped her get her first book of poetry published, My Father Is Famous But What Is Fame? A stirring line from one of her poems, “Roses me likey, Mommy cheat on Daddy,” recently went viral and can be seen on onesies all across Brooklyn. In her spare time, she likes to eat daffodils and cry loudly on the subway.

Ned
Five years old, his take on male privilege has set the baby literary world afire! He wrote a four-page waterproof book that you can read while bathing about his journey realizing he was white called, I Am White But Also Ned! The book also contains some fascinating tidbits, like “I like baths! Showers suck! Is race but a construct?”

Rainbow
Two years old, her fashion self-help book was inspired by the unbearable pain she felt when seeing more unfashionable babies at the playground. She is the first baby ever to share her style guidance with others, and her new book Me Cute! is trending in baby communities! Her #1 fashion don’t is “One-year-olds who dress up like bears…Like, they aren’t bears. So stop trying to make it happen…”

Baby Bo
Fetus, his scathing tell-all about what it’s really like to live inside his mother will be out as soon as he is!

 

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, described by many readers as a form of literary sleep apnea. Say hello to first-time contributor Kelly Mack.

How To Adjust To Using A CPAP Machine In 31 Easy Steps

By:
kellyrmack@gmail.com

Recently, doctors discovered a new and terrible condition called sleep apnea. It can cause heart damage, as well as assault the ear canals of any person within 10 miles of your reverberating snores.

Fortunately, a handy device called a CPAP machine was invented to address this pernicious problem. It prevents death by self-suffocation while sleeping by inducing death by sleep deprivation through blasting sudden, strong air puffs up your nose. Doctors have diagnosed millions of people (whom they didn’t like much) who require this ingenious treatment.

While some people complain on the Internet about the usefulness and utility of such a device, this article is not intended to address those concerns. However, the good news is that it is plenty easy to adjust to the CPAP machine by following these 31 easy steps:

  1. Open the box and marvel at the tangle of tubes, mask, and machinery to be assembled.
  2. Groan loudly and relinquish the box to verified spouse for assembly.
  3. Watch as spouse flips through one of many instruction booklets for guidance on proper assembly and cleaning.
  4. Cry softly to self with anticipated agony when the machine is finally assembled.
  5. Sit patiently as spouse fits mask over your head and nostrils.
  6. Start hyperventilating and rip mask off head after spouse turns on machine.
  7. Waste time flipping through one of many instruction booklets to see if machine can be adjusted to human body (not “Woolly Mammoth” settings).
  8. Make some other excuse for delaying putting mask back on. (Example: “The dish washer isn’t going to clean itself!”)
  9. Realize that machine wasn’t working because vice-like mask (think face-hugging alien from Alien movie trilogy) was really not tight enough.
  10. Put mask on again and have spouse tighten until you scream. (Luckily, screams are muffled by mask.)
  11. Sit for a few minutes with mask on, but device not turned on.
  12. Do NOT think about fact that you cannot breathe and face feels like it is wrapped in rubber bands better suited for a sadomasochism orgy. (Note: Better not to mention this thought to spouse.)
  13. Ask spouse to turn on device.
  14. Ask spouse to turn off device.
  15. Ask spouse to turn on device.
  16. Ask spouse to turn off device.
  17. Ask spouse to turn on device.
  18. Realize that you are breathing through your mouth, which defies purpose of device.
  19. Breathe in through nose and observe musty, plastic smell of mask.
  20. Ponder risk of someday acquiring nostril cancer from plastic inhalation.
  21. Breathe out through nose despite blast of cold air shooting up nostrils like an air cannon.
  22. Try to calm fear of brain exploding due to air pressure.
  23. Realize this is worse than scuba diving and daydream about being under water (drowning).
  24. Lie down and pretend to sleep in order to fool spouse.
  25. Fall asleep despite wind tunnel effect in your nose.
  26. Wake up to to hurricane-like weather blasting your face.
  27. Fall back asleep due to exhaustion from sleep deprivation.
  28. Wake up wondering why a tornado is attacking you.
  29. Start crying only to realize tears may gather inside mask and suffocate you.
  30. Realize that you are accepting this scenario.
  31. Congratulations, you are adjusted!
* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where new contributor Linnea Cooley has some words of wisdom for members of our little sorority.

An Email From The Alpha Zappa Pi President

By:
linnea.m.cooley@gmail.com

Dear recent attendees of Becca and Hayley’s Birthday Bash,

Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate Becca and Hayley’s birthday at Club ChaCha this weekend. As the event organizer and Alpha Zappa Pi president, I am reaching out in order to recap the unfortunate events that transpired. A number of you have DM’ed me on Instagram with questions, but I decided it was easier to address all of you at once.

I will start with some of the more mundane announcements, before moving on to the more pressing issues.

First, if you left a teal blue cardigan at the bar, Sarah found it and she has it in her Jeep.

Second, a few of you forgot to refund me for Becca and Hayley’s birthday cake. Please Venmo me the agreed $5 by tomorrow night, (I’m not mad, but buttercream frosting is expensive, and we all agreed to chip in!)

Now, for the more serious announcements.

It goes without saying that Alpha Zappa Pi has been permanently banned from Club ChaCha. Unfortunately, the restaurant across the street also got a whiff of the events throughout the night, and we have been preemptively banned from Giorgio’s Italian Eatery as well.

I am very disappointed in all of you. The events of Saturday night did not represent our chapter in a positive light. Is this what Alpha Zappa Pi stands for? I think not! I organized this event so that we could celebrate the birthdays of our beloved sisters, Becca and Hayley. While we did a lot of celebrating, I think we can all agree that things got out of hand.

The first point that I would like to address is the kidnapping of the bartender and the subsequent selling of his possessions on the black market. Club ChaCha graciously let us reserve a room for Becca and Hayley’s birthday party and kidnapping one of their employees was in poor taste. This night was about celebrating Becca and Hayley, but in your quest to dominate the black market some of you completely forgot about that!!

Second, burning an effigy of the Xeta Bi president on the dance floor was completely inappropriate for this event. Who thought this was a good idea? While Xeta Bi does steal some of our best recruits each year, it is important that we continue to treat them with respect and good will. Club ChaCha follows a strict fire code, and open flames on the dance floor do in fact violate that code.

Third, mixing crystal meth in the Club ChaCha sink was inexcusable. I am pretty sure I know which Chemistry major was behind this (cough, cough, Kelsey!), and I am not impressed. Need I remind you of the Sorority drug policy? While the policy does not explicitly mention mixing crystal meth, I think we can all agree that it is implied.

Fourth, the orgy that occurred in the seating area made the other patrons of Club ChaCha extremely uncomfortable. According to the CDC, public sex with more than eleven participating bodies is highly unhygienic and raises the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or infections. It was too dark for me to tell, but I am fairly certain that not all of the Pheta Xau boys were wearing condoms.

The last point that I would like to address is the exorcism that occurred in the women’s bathroom. The demon that was summoned from the pits of hell ended up swooping around and devouring several people. For future notice, all summoning of demons must occur outside of Alpha Zappa Pi sponsored events.

Finally, if anyone has seen Brittany Pohland, the pledge with the long blonde hair and highlights, she has been missing since Saturday night and was last seen in the clutches of the demon.

That’s all I have for now, but once again,

Happy Birthday Becca and Hayley!!!

Your dutiful Alpha Zappa Pi President,

Jessica Hillman

 

Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we would never stoop so low as to snoop through other people’s mail. We have David Jaggard do it for us. After you’ve read this except from his e-book “Quorum of One” (available on Amazon) you can listen to his newly released comic song “Your Shoe’s Untied” by clicking the link under his name. Don’t forget: we’ll be watching your mail to make sure you did it.

From The Pop Culture Dead Letter Office: Revelations

By:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCRdIfowJmI

July 17, 1963

From:
Malley & Torelli
Bill Collection, Private Investigation
2117 E. 58th St.
New York, NY 10138

To:
Mr. Michael Corleone
1 Westshore Drive
Lake Tahoe, NE 80229

Dear Sir:

In our capacity as representatives for Bellini Bros. Inc., owners and operators of Louie’s Italian American Restaurant, 3179 Bronx Boulevard, New York, NY 10131, we are writing to request payment of an outstanding bill.

On the evening of February 12, 1946, you dined in said restaurant in the company of one Mr. Virgil Sollozzo, self-employed entrepreneur, and Captain Mark McCluskey of the New York City Police Department, both deceased.

The bill for your table shows one small antipasto platter, two orders of mussel soup, three orders of veal picatta (the best in the city), a magnum of Barolo Grigio 1932, two tiramisus and one slice of lemon cake. The total comes to $24.57, including the desserts, which were not served, but as they had already been prepared and entered on the bill are legally inclusive in the liability.

As the only surviving member of your party, we must assume that you were intending to pick up the tab for this meal. We hereby request that you remit payment in full, plus the sums of $37.40 for interest and damages (including the cost of replacing two chairs, one tablecloth, four glasses, the chef’s pacemaker and 24 rolls of paper towels) and $189.95 in collection and processing fees.

The total (see attached itemized list) comes to $251.72, not including the tip for your waiter, although since he died of shock shortly after your departure from the premises, we are willing to forego this customary nicety.

Furthermore, unclaimed property found near your table, in the form of a Smith & Wesson 38 caliber revolver, was auctioned and the value of the weapon allotted to defray collection costs, which otherwise would have been higher.

We realize that $251.72 is a sizeable bill for three partially-consumed, and in the majority of cases undigested, dinners, but you must consider that our agents have been trying to track you down for a number of years.

In the spring of 1947 they had located you in a villa in western Sicily, but they apparently arrived just moments after your departure. In the courtyard they found the burned-out, still smoking wreck of an automobile with a woman’s corpse in the driver’s seat.

Being professional investigators as well as bill collectors, they examined the hulk and determined that the explosion was caused by a leak in the fuel line which was ignited by a spark from the starter.

A local man, apparently a servant of yours, was seen running from the property as our men approached, but he returned in a few minutes, explaining that he had eaten some bad scungilli the previous night and had urgently needed to relieve himself. This person informed our agents of your sudden and inexplicable disappearance.

Several years later two of our agents attempted to serve you with papers concerning this matter by introducing themselves clandestinely onto the grounds of your property in Lake Tahoe during what appeared to be a celebration of some sort.

Since it was impossible to speak to you during the day, they approached your front door that night, intending to hand you the dossier and depart, but they became disoriented in the dark and found themselves in the back of the house, outside your bedroom windows. Shortly thereafter three of your own guards located them and opened fire with machine guns, killing both agents instantly and in the process spraying your house with bullets.

We hope that we will receive payment (certified check or money order only) from you soon so that we may clear this long-standing debt. In anticipation of your cooperation, we remain faithfully yours…

 

January 14, 1967

From:
T.Q. Olufson
National Parks Service
1278 Jefferson Boulevard
Washington, D.C. 10203

To:
Mr. Paul Simon
1759 Central Park West
New York, NY 10012

Dear Mr. Simon,

We have completed our review of the photographic documentation of the event described in your 1966 song “The Sounds of Silence,” and we regret to inform you that the figures cited in your lyrics seem to be grossly exaggerated.

In the third verse you report having seen “ten thousand people, maybe more.” The National Park Service monitored the entire crowd from helicopters and our estimate of the headcount that day is 3,550.

Since you claim to have seen the gathering “in the naked light,” surely you must have realized that there were nowhere near as many participants in this bizarre ritual as you allege.

We trust that you will correct your figures in all future performances of this song.

Sincerely yours…

 

March 23, 1962

From:
California Highway Patrol
Branch Office 211
433137 Imperial Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 92451

To:
Mr. Brian Wilson
1455 Hedgerow Circle
Hawthorne, CA 92438

Dear Sir:

Enclosed you will find a citation for a moving violation in the amount of $55.00 imputed to a vehicle registered in your name. This vehicle was recorded on traffic surveillance cameras engaged in what appears to be a “drag race” on Waterfront Strip, Long Beach, CA, on the evening of March 4.

The incident began at 9:27 pm in the 1800 block, where the road changes from four lanes to six. You have been identified as the driver of a silver Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Yours and another vehicle, namely a blue Dodge 413, were photographed standing side by side at a red light with large quantities of exhaust emanating from the tailpipes. Of course our visual evidence is not a film with soundtrack, but one can only conclude that it must have sounded real mean.

In the next photo, the light had turned green and both vehicles apparently accelerated to a high rate of speed. You and the Dodge were then captured in time-stamped photos by cameras in subsequent blocks, which prove that you continued to exceed the speed limit for slightly more than one-quarter of a mile.

It appears that the Dodge, which given its rapid acceleration must have been equipped with dual quad ram induction, really “dug in,” so to speak, and gained an early lead in your little informal competition. Black streak marks in your lane indicate that your rear tires must have spun considerably at the outset (you might want to check the tread — just a suggestion). But given the fact that both vehicles arrived nearly simultaneously at the 2600 block, we have been led to understand that you have a fuel-injected engine sitting under your hood.

In case you, or millions of fans, might be interested, the end of the race was exceedingly close and only our final photographs show incontrovertibly who won. But we are not legally authorized to divulge that information.

Signed…

 

October 12, 1964

Dear Gilligan,

Here’s your ring back, you spineless scumbag. I never want to see it or you again. Look, if you didn’t have the guts to break up with me in person you could have at least called. But no, instead you act all lovey-dovey and all “I just have to work for three hours this afternoon and then I’m taking you out to dinner,” and then you vanish for five weeks without so much as a postcard.

Five weeks! It’s like you got blown away!

Okay, so I just want to know one thing: who is she? Some rich bitch you met on one of your “luxury” tours who wanted a little hanky-panky with a mighty sailin’ man like you?

Or did you just decide to dump me in the wild hope of realizing your ludicrous fantasy of meeting some movie star and going off to a secluded island with her? As if! It doesn’t take a college professor to calculate the odds on that ever happening!

So let me know who it is — you owe me that much — and then you’re out of my life forever, you cowardly loser.

And don’t try to weasel out of telling me either — I know you’re still around because every time I drive by the marina I see your car sitting there, right in its usual spot.

It could really use a wash, by the way.

Get lost,

Heather

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we continue our survey of modern Japanese literature with this new story from Haruki Murakami, as translated by Michael Fowler, who does not speak Japanese. Management assumes no responsibility. Once you've absorbed this bit of Far Eastern hilarity, we recommend that you follow the link below to purchase Mr. Fowler's riveting humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

“Double Buds,” A New Haruki Murakami Story

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

She walked in front of him out of deference. But if it was deference, he thought, shouldn’t she walk to his rear? Show that she was his follower? After all, she was the producer of his cooking show, not the star herself. No one would tune in to watch Nikko gut a trout or wrestle an anemone or lick squid ink from her fingers. She remained in the background on his set at all times unless, in an emergency, he needed someone to pound his nori. His seaweed wrap was famous for its texture, and she had the touch.

And yet, as they walked to the studio past the gardens on Main Street, for assuredly there was a Main Street in Tokyo as there is in every city, and one lined with flowers at that, her lead position still somehow showed deference, even subservience. There is a saying: The upkeep of the blossoms at Mount Myogi will be added to your water bill. One thing was certain, her hoop earrings carried a lot of whoa babe. He had once heard an American use this term to describe an attractive woman in Kyoto, and although Americans were blunt you could say this about them: they also had other qualities. The term seemed to fit Nikko to a T. And her stylish earrings were the merest fraction of her appeal. She had whoa babe to spare, just dripped the stuff all over the street.

Two years ago they had been lovers, but no longer whispered to each other the tender words cameltoe and creampie. She, a native of the Kansai district, spoke with a Liverpool accent, a sign of her devotion to the Beatles throughout her youth. He, born and raised in Ashiya, sounded like a native New Yorker, due to his lifelong devotion to the Ramones. But he thought the Beatles were cool too, as long as Paul wasn’t singing. Though they no longer entangled themselves in knots of damp armpits and heaving thighs, they sometimes left together work together in the evening, hopped aboard the bullet train to a remote suburb, and cut a rug at a festive club. But they only did that after first gorging themselves on his culinary creations back at the studio.

And oh those tasty creations! Who but he could concoct a pickled rose that tasted like a McD’s cheeseburger? A sea urchin that conjured up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Or tuna sushi that was finger licking good, like KFC? This was his success and the theme of his show: how to take rarified, costly ingredients and make them taste like junk or fast food. For mysterious reasons, it was a huge hit throughout Japan and in some former Soviet Bloc countries.

As always, her body segued seamlessly from watusi to masked potato as the music in the club washed over her. Was it his habit of losing the tempo and crushing her foot beneath his own that had led to their end of their romance? Very likely that was a contributing factor. But there was also professional jealousy, stemming from the fact that he possessed double the usual number of taste buds. This fortuitous birth defect, or perhaps birth advantage was the truer term, was the result of his being born with a forked tongue. No, not quite rattle-snake forked, and not a cleft palate either, but a split tongue that gave him double buds for tasting, and even provided the name of his hit show: Double Buds. How could she, a serious chef herself and his classmate in culinary arts at Waseda University, compete with Mister Double Buds? Life was so unfair when you had to compete with gifted genetic freaks like that banjo player in Deliverance who had like, what, 20 fingers?

She wanted to scrape those double buds off his tongue with a Ginsu knife and slather them in cheap tomato sauce.

After a single date with her when they both still attended culinary school, he felt her unease and competitive edge. Further meetings with her were disappointments, like opening the door to an empty room when you expected to find your drunken uncle inside. He liked Uncle Kato, no matter what the rest of the family said. Kato always had a snack of dried eel for him. And he wore Blue Cheer Hearing Aids, the loudest made, and could tell what song a rock band was playing 60 miles away. There is a saying: When a man is lazy enough, his spine will grow a chair.

And so she had changed her major from culinary arts to TV production. There double buds would not best her, there double buds would offer no advantage. No longer needing those damned double buds with her new major, she could come out first in her class, as she did. The downside to her success in TV was, they were split apart. Even working together on Double Budscould not reunite them, not wholly. It was all so sad, so infinitely sad. Sad, it was. He carried that sadness all the way to the bank, singing “All You Need is Love,” his favorite Beatles song even if Paul sang on it.

There is a saying: Love is a wonderful thing, but nothing beats double buds.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we're not sure whether Sam the Sham actually was a Sham. We're pretty certain his Pharaohs were not really Pharaohs. Wooly Bully is even more of a mystery, but now, thanks to his good friend (and ours) Michael Fowler, the truth can be revealed. After you've perused this week's bit, please click on the link below to buy Mr. Fowler's humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne Is Dating My Girlfriend."

My Friend Wooly Bully

By:
mfowl4916@gmail.com
http://www.dpdotcom.com/hawthorne/

Wooly Bully always had a thing for rock music.

“Have you read Carly Simon’s book?” he asked me. We were sitting inside his shed in the northern wild. We felt like a couple of critters. He had just said dark, unforgivable things about my family, and I had just said dark, unforgiveable things about his. Then we cracked some beers and dropped it. His next words astounded me. “She made it with Paul Samwell-Smith, a Yardbird.”

Looking mystified as he spoke, Wooly struck himself in the forehead with a cloven hand. It was sort of like a hoof only well-manicured — he could play guitar with those hands, but only three chords. The sudden movement dislodged the buzzing flies that always covered his face. The buzzing beard took off, briefly circled his jaw, then landed once more.

“I mean, if you’re going to make it with a Yardbird back in the mid-sixties, why would you choose Samwell-Smith, the gawkiest, nerdiest musician on the scene?” he said. “There were certainly better-looking Yardbirds, if that was your band. Singer Keith Relf was described by female fans as beautiful, and Jeff Beck the guitarist was certainly handsome. So here we have Carly-soon-to-be-‘You’re So Vain’ Simon, who presumably will hook up with Mick Jagger in the near future, screwing a guy who looks like a stick bug in mod clothing. I mean, it’s like finding out that Barbra Streisand did it with Weird Al, or that Diana Ross boned Flavor Flav.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Samwell-Smith had something going for him. Maybe a heart full of soul.”

I met Wooly Bully working for the highway department. I painted lane lines and he marked engine brake hills. What those were, he explained to me, were the inclines semis drove up when their brakes failed, narrow lanes of soil and rocks, slanted up at 45 degrees to the road or steeper, and long enough to stop an out of control four-ton semi without seriously injuring the driver or destroying the truck.

Or that was the theory. The lanes were never tested, and Wooly said that any truck taking one at 50 mph or higher would need a complete overhaul afterward, and the driver would be lucky to survive. He tried one once in his own ramshackle pickup, putting a horn through the windshield and knocking himself out. He considered himself lucky.

I thought he was lucky too. Here was a guy who was part elk, part bison and part human, and he had a job working outdoors. But he was always broke. Every time he exhaled he asked for twenty dollars. “Look,” I said. “I’m an ugly guy. You’re an ugly guy. You must know a couple of ugly girls we could meet tonight.”

We took a girl Hattie he met in a cranberry bog and her friend Mattie to a town festival a few miles downhill from Wooly’s shed. Sam the Sham was playing his hit song, and Wooly wanted to see that, due to his influence on the music. We took Wooly’s pickup that he had overhauled after the brake test I mentioned. It was run-down but loud and powerful.

“Don’t you think I should have some rights in that song?” he asked us all. “Don’t you think Sam legally owes me a bundle?”

“Not sure,” I said. “You a citizen?”

Wooly told us a funny story. It was funny because he said it was. A year ago, Wooly had his own musical group, that he refused to name. I don’t mean the band had no name — I mean he wouldn’t tell us what it was.

Wooly said that in another town he and his unnamed band had opened for a band from England called the Tarytons. This was a one-hit-wonder band, and their hit, called “At Some Time, in Some Place, What Does It Matter?” didn’t even sell all that well. Wooly and his band decided as a joke to play that song in their own set, to see the reaction of the Tarytons.

Well, the Tarytons didn’t like that one bit. They stormed into the tent where the bands waited to go on and confronted Wooly and his boys, absolutely livid. Wooly laughed in their faces and couldn’t stop. He said he imagined that the Tarytons were the Beatles, and wondered how the Beatles would react if his group had played “I Want to Hold Your Hand” before the Fab Four took the stage.

“I decided,” he said, “that Lennon probably would be pissed, but that Ringo and maybe George would laugh their asses off. And I couldn’t help laughing myself.”

I laughed at that, though Hattie and Mattie seemed unamused.

“I wish I still had that band,” he went on. “We’d play my song before Sam came out. Wouldn’t that be great?”

“Why?” asked Hattie. “What would be the point?”

“The point is,” said Wooly, “Sam owes me about a million bucks in royalties or something.”

“How do you figure?” said Hattie. “You didn’t write the song, did you?”

“For inspiration,” he said. “I should be paid for inspiring people. I may have inspired Dylan. I went to a lot of his shows and I’m pretty sure he saw me. I may have inspired ‘Desolation Row.'”

“You never inspired anybody, Bullwinkle,” said Hattie.

After the festival, we four drove through town at night. We cruised down residential lanes until we found a house with a big picture window and a big TV on behind it. We parked there and watched TV while we made out with the girls.

Wooly kept trying to persuade Hattie to go knock on the door and tell them to turn up the sound since we couldn’t hear anything, but she refused. “Why don’t we just ask them if we can come inside and watch TV with them?” she said. “I’m sure they’d be overjoyed to have a talking moose and his friends inside their house.” We later broke up with Hattie and Mattie because they couldn’t discuss Frank Zappa intelligently.

In the winter, Wooly, clad only in an orange vest, took to the northern forests on hoof, surviving by raiding chicken coops and stealing cooling pies off windowsills. When close to starvation, he stood in line for samples at Costco and attended wedding cake tastings.

When he returned to the shed, where I was still living while I figured out what to do with myself now that I’d reached a dead end with lane painting, he was often accompanied by a wild animal he had courted and married. Once it was a reindeer with STDs, and once a sow with a sordid past. Having to share our shed with these females gave me a strong push to move on.

Wooly finally scored a job as a roadie with the Derek Trucks Band, a job I had declined and passed on to him due to a weak back. By then Sam the Sham was ancient history and their songs didn’t appear on Trucks’s set list.

I said goodbye to Wooly in his truck as he dropped me off at semi road school. I was going to be a driver now, and told Wooly that I hoped his engine brake hills were clearly marked. His last words to me were “Let’s not be L-seven.” I never did know what that meant.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which maintains a certain fond regard for its hometown, Chicago. Once known as the "City of the Big Shoulders" (in the Carl Sandburg poem that has absolutely no relation to this piece, in a pig's eye), after Brennan Thomas gets through with it they'll call it the "City of the Big Complainers." You tell it, Brennan! As someone once said, you only hurt the city you love.

Not Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago”

By:
bthomas@francis.edu

Chicago?  Yeah, I’ve been through

there once, for a week or so.

Disenchanted.

Disillusioned.

Discombobulated.

Never have I been in a city that seemed to dislike me — unwary passer-through —

so

absolutely.

 

Despised fly.

Spy.

Dunce.

Once

was enough.

 

Here

there

I smell dirt and city sidewalk salt on the hands of pan-handlers.

I smell carts of hotdogs that will never feel ketchup in their short hotdog stand lives.

 

I want a hotdog so badly, every day of five I am here, done my way.

Funny how a place makes you crave things you know aren’t there and can’t get.

I want onions and ketchup on my dog,

and mustard and ketchup and sauerkraut.

(Why are you putting lettuce on my hotdog?)

I want a plain bun

(flicking the sesame seeds off my bun)

mustard

and ketchup

KETCHUP!

(No, but, please don’t drag my dog through the garden, good people of Chicago.)

 

I can’t find ketchup in this city.

If I ask for it, the city hates me more.

 

We don’t like each other, the Big City and me.

 

When Dull Ohio Kid asks for directions — “Excuse me, ma’am.  Can you tell me how to get to the

Sears Tower?” — the City becomes infuriated.

El trains pause in incredulity, skyscrapers bend and arch like the furrowed brows of reproachful schoolmarms.

 

“This city is a GRID!” it bellows through traffic steam and ferry fog.

“And on the grid, you can find…

AN-Y-THING!”

 

I am a dull Ohio mouse.

(I think I’ve just stumbled on the grid’s Lost-and-Found.)

 

I’d just like to find my way back to the nearest el.

But I can’t hail taxis in this city.

I step out into the street,

hand up,

fingers snap — “Ho!” — reflexive point,

nod,

point, nod,

point again.

Exactly as my Queens-born father taught me.

 

I am looking for the human understanding between cab driver and would-be passenger.

None.

No spark — no semblance of recognition, consciousness.

 

Try harder.

“Ho!”

Higher hand.  Quicker snap.  “HO!”

Driving fast.  Faster.

Passed?

Past.  Yep.  Gone.

“Wait!  Stop!  Taxi?  TAXI!”

 

Goddamnit.

 

I must give off the aura of small-town girl.

 

I am a John Cougar Mellencamp song with two legs and a wet briefcase

who can’t hail a cab.

 

Who can’t get on the grid — or find the Sears Tower.

 

It’s only the tallest skyscraper in the Midwest.

Should be easy to find — a monument to all monoliths, the famed House of Mud.

Even easier on a grid.

 

I’m on the train finally, awash in a wave of dejected, tub-thumping commuters —

they look like grid zombies —

walking where they’re walking, sitting where they sit.

 

“Sir, may I sit down beside you?”

Middle-aged mute pushes up his wire-rimmed glasses,

slides his satchel higher on his shoulder.

Pretends not to hear me.

“Sir?”

Smiles wryly behind his glasses.

Says                       moves

nothing.

 

I’d hate to be a Chicagoan.

I don’t care how good the pizza is —

deep dish, indeed —

and I don’t care to see a blues concert

or a Sox game or meet Mariotti in person.

 

I want grass under my feet

and not to think of every single human interaction

as a hassle or a hustle.

 

I don’t like grids.

I don’t want to walk on a grid and or be part of one.

 

I don’t like ketchup-less hotdogs, Chicago.

 

Ketchup is good.

It’s chaotic

and messy and sugary and acerbic

and I want some on my HOTDOG!  

 

Glory be — ketchup, manners, and grass!

And good-bye, Chicago!

Never has a city needed to be unordered — disordered — and reordered as badly as you do.

 

* Welcome to The Big Jewel! Did we mention that the moon has recently been destroyed by hostile space aliens? No? Well, that's the kind of breaking news you can expect to get here. Our correspondent on the scene, Ben Taft, is standing by to tell you more in his first piece for us.

Dear Astrology: Does The Destruction Of The Moon By The Hostile Alien Race Have Anything To Do With Why People Have Been Acting So Wacky Lately?

By:
bentaft21@gmail.com

Dear Astrology,

Ever since the moon was blown into a million little pieces by a hostile alien race intent on annihilating mankind, it seems as though people have just been acting a little bit…off. I’ve heard that the moon’s phase can affect human behavior. Is it possible that the empty spot in the night sky where the moon used to be is to blame for the weird vibes I’ve been picking up lately?

 

Here’s what Astrology has to say:

The good news is that if your aura took on an aggressive reddish-orange hue in the days following the obliteration of the moon, you’re in good company. The bad news is that there has been quite a bit going on in the way of celestial movement lately, so it might be impossible to tell exactly what it is that has everybody and their mother crying in the fetal position amongst the rubble that used to be their homes.

Has your significant other offered him or herself as a human sacrifice to appease Galactic Emperor Grog without consulting you about it first? You can thank Venus for that. This month marks the beginning of sensual Venus’s six-week retrograde cycle, and, unfortunately, the first part of this retrograde cycle is set to take place in erotic Scorpio.

This means that there could be some catastrophic communication issues between you and your significant other in the coming days. She thinks you should pack up everything of value and quickly get as far away from any major metropolitan areas as possible, and you were just hoping to have a chill weekend at home. If this scenario sounds familiar to you…relax! Venus’s retrograde will be over before you know it, and everything will return to normal.

You may have noticed some Cancers angrily shaking their fists at the sky and asking why God has abandoned us. Don’t let this worry you. Venus’s retrograde cycle is passing through Cancer’s hot-headed sector.

But hold on, the bad news isn’t over yet. Mars is entering Sagittarius as well. Ugh, right? This celestial double whammy has scores of people flying their aircrafts directly into the large death-ray that has appeared on the underside of the mothership in hopes that they may die a hero’s death. Don’t join them just yet! Sometimes the two contradictory motions of these planets can balance each other out and leave you with feelings of hopefulness and positivity for the future.

As you can see, the Ziv’oik species from the Triangulum Galaxy testing out their planet-destroying laser on the moon is the least of your worries in this astrological nightmare we’ve been experiencing during the last few weeks. The fact is, there is very little scientific evidence to suggest that the moon suddenly exploding into a giant fireball has any noticeable effect on human behavior.

With all of the other planetary movement, it’s silly to think that the malevolent aliens Darth Vader-ing the moon has anything to do with those knuckleheads in Washington trying to build a laser-proof forcefield to protect the White House, when that sort of wacky behavior can so easily be attributed to the way Mercury is spinning on its axis.

A bit of closing advice for those of you who have been feeling out of sorts for the last few weeks: keep the salt lamp handy and don’t be afraid to take an aura-cleansing bath once in a while. If you look up in the sky and squint your eyes really hard, you just might see some good days on the horizon behind all the moon dust.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we'd really like you to consider someone else's feelings for a change -- like, the feelings of that mailing list you're trying to get yourself removed from, you monster you! David Burgis knows where you live.

So You Want To Unsubscribe From Me, The Mailing List

By:
dmburgis@gmail.com
@davidburgis

Aww honey, did you really click that button? The one that starts with the letter “u” and rhymes with schmunsubscribe? That hurts! I really thought you liked seeing that incredible one-day-only sale, followed by our holiday sales which have — by sheer coincidence — the same prices.
But okay, I’ll live. You don’t get to be a mailing list for as long as I have and not develop a thick skin. Let me tell you though, as someone with a lot of experience with this kind of thing: I know how this is going to end. Why don’t you just forget about it? We can pretend nothing happened, and I won’t hold a grudge. Maybe it was a mistake. You must have been trying to click on the Saint Clement Day 5% off tanning supplies deal. It sure is a great one!

Are you kidding me!? Oh. Oh, you’re serious. You’re clicking the “u” button again. Whoooo boy. Oof. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s on. Buddy, you messed with the wrong list. No! You CAN’T “u”. And frankly, I’m appalled that you’d sink to those levels. You’re going to have to enter your email address again. Yeah I know you came to this link from your email. But now you’ve made me mad. What are you going to do? I have all the cards here. You’re nothing to me. You should be thankful that I even let you get my great savings of 3% off select purchases from 10-11 am yesterday only. I can’t believe you’d really try to just leave like that. See? I’ve got the power here, not you, Bub. So close this window. Close it now, go on about your day, and if you’re lucky I won’t decide to just send you even more emails.

Okay, okay. So you called my bluff, and you were willing to fill out your email. No biggy. This…happens. But come on. You’ve had your fun, you’ve proved your point. Maybe I can cut down on the number of emails. I mean, I know you’ve never actually been inside this store, so it’s probably a little much. I’m reasonable! Maybe instead of emailing you every night at 11:34, and again at 5:19 the next morning, I can just email you once at 3:05 am?

I’m open to a conversation, and that’s what we’re missing right now. Let’s talk before you make rash decisions. And think about it: how much work is it to just let me email you? See, this process takes forever! Here, I’ll show you. I’ll have to make you select all the images with foyers inside, and click on seemingly identical squares. Do you really know what a foyer looks like? And a bunch of these squares here have anterooms. Same thing? Who knows?! It’s so much work, though. Here’s what I suggest you do: just drop it. Save time, enjoy life! I’m thinking about you here, and this way we both win.

Oh. Well. Huh. I thought the thirteen house interiors in a row would discourage you. Wow. That’s…Sorry I’m just off-guard. This is a little tough for me. I really thought we had something.

Who am I kidding? What do I know about you? I’m the same list who thought you’d love to see the political puns in the subject line of an email about hand towels. Am I just bad at this? Don’t answer that. I can’t handle any more from you.

This is terrible. I can’t even load the page properly right now, and I know the server will make fun of me. Could you just, I don’t know, let me send you one last email? Just for old times’ sake? It’s the least you could do for a sad old washout of a mailing list. Yes, of course I’m crying! Give me a minute, or do you not have any time for basic human kindness either?

Well, well, well! Look at you. Ain’t you just something special. You did it! My hat’s off to you — you’re officially U-ed. Heck, I can say the word now that it doesn’t have any power any more: you’re unsubscribed. I’ll send you one last email just to confirm, and we can ride off in our separate directions. I gotta say, I respect you. Not a lot of people have been able to make it this far.

Congratulations! By opening this unsubscribe email you’ve been re-subscribed. And with this coupon, you’re eligible for a buy-four-get-five deal on drying racks, as part of our early Saint Patrick’s Day Sale!