All it Takes is One Horse


There came a time when I found myself needing to drive from Boulder, CO to Taos, NM. My friend Jack kindly offered to go with me, which was welcome company, and extra-convenient since he had a car and I did not. It’s a 315 mile drive and takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours depending on things like traffic and how much you speed. I prefer to make the trip at night because there are fewer cars on the road. Turns out there are more horses though, and all it takes is one horse to upset a perfectly good road trip.

We were probably minutes from the New Mexico border, but around 15 miles from the nearest town, when there it was, casually ambling left-to-right, across our lane; a grayish, brownish, roughly nighttime-colored horse. Jack was driving, but I spotted the interloper before he did. “Gah-uh-ah,” I said helpfully, waiving my hand in its direction. “Ah, yes,” Jack probably calmly thought, as he carefully and with great skill jerked the steering wheel too hard to the left. Realizing his mistake as we careened at highway speed towards the brush on the opposite side of the road, he thoughtfully slammed on the brakes and wrenched the wheel back to the right. My suddenly overactive neurons just had time to signal, “No, that’s too far,” before the car started to roll.

I had vivid and distinct impressions of each of the four stages of our single revolution.

“Oh, we’re sideways,” said my brain, sounding quite relaxed, and frankly unimpressed at being suspended in the air above Jack.

“Upside down now, eh?” it yawned next. “Huh.”

“Oh, and sideways again? How original.” Out of sheer boredom it knocked itself against the car door.

But the car had one more trick up its proverbial sleeve. As we returned to the upright position, my brain was actually slightly taken aback by the shower of dirt which now found its way inside the car and, subsequently, my mouth, nose and ears.

Jack and I sat silent for a moment, waiting to see if it was over. When the literal dust began to literally settle, it seemed reasonable to assume that we had stopped moving, so we started to cough and splutter, and check ourselves and one another for injury. Once satisfied that we were fine, it was time to take stock. We stumbled from the car, which was surprisingly still mostly car-shaped, minus a rear window, and suffering from two blowouts and some cranial damage. Unfortunately the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night is really damn dark, and our knowledge of our surroundings was limited to what we could make out in the car’s headlights. We could hear the horse snickering at us, somewhere off in the blackness, but we didn’t even know which way the road was until another car happened to come along some minutes later. It turned out that we had come to rest about thirty-five feet off our own side of the road, pointing back in the direction we had come from.

Jack’s phone didn’t have service, but mine, which had jumped to the back seat in all the excitement, did. We called AAA, and after some back and forth we found ourselves waiting for a tow-truck from San Luis (that town I mentioned that was about 15 miles back. Population 631), and one of the two active state troopers. Two troopers. For the entire state. Anyway, while Jack talked to various people on the phone, I chatted with a somewhat less helpful, if entirely well-meaning individual. The driver of the car that helped us find the road was also good enough to stop and check on us. He was a burly gent in a burly truck, and he sipped from a burly cup of soda while he asked me what had happened. When I explained that there had been a horse in the road, he said “Hmm. Probably an elk.”

I assured him that it was, in fact, a horse.

“There are a lot of elk around here this time of year,” he said. “Doe elk look a lot like horses.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well this was definitely a horse.”

“I’m sure it was an elk,” he said.

It became clear to me that there was no point in explaining that I a) was not an idiot, b) had actually seen both horses and elk in my lifetime, and c) was pretty sure the latter didn’t whinny. I just shrugged and thanked him for stopping.

“You want some soda?” he said, offering me his giant cup.

“No thanks,” I said. Fortunately, at this point Jack rejoined us with the news of help on the way. We thanked Burly again for stopping but assured him that we would be fine until the others arrived, and he needn’t delay his own trip on our account. He didn’t need much encouragement, and soon we had almost forgotten where the road was again.

The tow truck arrived in about half an hour but, since this was an accident, he couldn’t do anything until the law okayed it. The three of us waited another hour for the state trooper, who was patrolling the northwestern quadrant of the state that evening. When he arrived he gave the tow truck driver the go-ahead, and asked us a few routine questions (how fast were we going, had we been drinking, etc.) before explaining that free-range horses were pretty common here-abouts, and we were certainly not the first motorists to run afoul of them. Take that, Burly! The tow truck took us, and the car back to town where the proprietor of the San Luis Inn Motel got himself out of his bed to provide us with a couple of them. After we got the dirt out of our hair and teeth and whatnot, we found ourselves still too flush with adrenaline to feel very sleepy. We crawled into our beds anyway, and compared notes on the events of the past few hours. After approximately three minutes, we passed out.

The next day, after replacing the flats and tweaking the alignment, the gentleman at the auto shop had us on our way. We drove the last 60 miles to Taos where we taped plastic over the rear window and went about our visit. When the time came, we drove the car all the way back to Boulder, too, where it was totaled out for structural damage, and bid a fond farewell. The only visible injury sustained in the crash was a dime-sized bruise on the back of my right hand. It’s not that I recommend rolling your car, but all in all we came out okay, and given the choice between colliding with a horse and colliding with the ground, I’d choose the ground every time. So, if you find yourself up against a horse, on a lonely highway, at night, this is my advice to you: let the horse win.

Face Off


Turns out the movie Face Off is just… unbelievably bad. I realize that this isn’t exactly a newsflash for anyone. Or maybe it is, as I have just discovered that it rates an 82/100 on metacritic. Bizarre. At any rate, I remember seeing Face Off when it came out; even at the relatively unjaded age of twelve I was skeptical and unimpressed. This is all old news at this point, but rewatching the movie as a semi-mature, fully grown human I discovered it is actually impressively bad, from the science to the dialogue

Now, just in case anybody actually cares, SPOILER ALERT. I’m talking full-on ruiners. I am definitely going to be telling you how the movie ends. Because it is messed up. There’s also some cussing.

The film is positively laden with symbolism, primarily biblical and Latinate to my eye, but to do with the more global concepts of good, evil, identity, family, and, for some reason, a lot of damn pigeons. I’m picturing Mr. Woo calling out, “I need more pigeons in this scene! No, more! I’m going to need at least three times as many pigeons!” Which brings me to another point: the cinematography of the film is much too heavy-handed and overwrought for such a tragically frail and unconsidered screenplay. The latter simply can’t carry the former, instead collapsing into a disjointed mess of stilted dialogue interspersed with flashy action sequences which can’t quite pretend to form a sensible whole and which culminate in a grotesque ribbon-and-a-bow tie-up ending. We’ll get to that.

I don’t even know where to begin tearing apart the “science”. If I tried to point out every flaw, this would be a very long, very boring tirade. Let’s go for one out of two and keep it short. I’ll just go with the most obvious problem: even if we allow that medical science might advance to allow for perfect face transplants and super-fast healing processes and pretending Travolta and Cage are the same height or have remotely similar teeth… all that jazz! Anyway, ignoring that, if you put a piece of molded plastic between a person’s skull and their face, where do the muscles attach? Think about it. Can’t make those patented Nicolas Cage crazyeyes (or even open your eyes) with no motor control.

On the plus side, the acting is good, for what they had to work with. I enjoy Joan Allen. Nic Cage is made out of crazy. John Travolta… he mystifies me. He doesn’t look quite real, does he? But he did his thing. Gina Gershon manages to charm, despite her character’s under-development. Nods also to Nick Cassavetes and Alessandro Nivola.

And the “happy ending”? Your previously troubled daughter is suddenly well-adjusted, and we got you a new son! Castor Troy may have taken your child from you, but it’s cool;  you can have his! Never mind the fact that the boy will never be able to watch The Wizard of Oz again without suffering PTSD flashbacks of his two dads shooting the shit out of each other’s posses. He also has sociopath genes! Now I’m not suggesting that the theoretical Sean Archer shouldn’t have taken in the theoretical Adam Hassler. Good on him, that kid needs a home. I’m merely questioning the storytelling that ignores just… everything in its obedience to the neat-little-package ending.

And hey, what is with all the face-petting? It’s supposed to be this tender gesture. Has anybody ever done that to you? It is very annoying. Try it on somebody some time. If you really want to patronize and antagonize them, try it when they’re upset about something (Archer does this to his wife). If somebody pulled that shit with me I’d want to punch them right in their accessorizable face.

Why a Blog


Who I am and why I’m here:

I’m just some lady.

I write. Then, historically, I second-guess and reexamine and edit and reword and rework in a frenzy of never-good-enough until I ultimately tuck the piece away in some dark corner of my hard drive, ostensibly for a brief resting period before I’m ready to revisit it. But once a piece of writing is out of sight, it’s only too easy to leave it there. Like the cousin you think about now and again, and you hope they’re doing well, but whom you never call. Basically, my writing never sees the light of day. And the light of day might be just as happy with that arrangement, but it doesn’t really help me to improve or grow in any way. So I decided to start a blog. Something I might feel accountable to. Somewhere to put things that are as good as I can make them right now without all of my habitual, interminable re-ing, so that I can move on the other things that might be better. Endless editing is not as helpful as ongoing practice.

Similarly, I am using this “zero to hero” exercise as a motivational tool. I foolishly started my blog right before the busiest month and a half at my work, so I’ve been very lax on creating content. This seems like as good a way as any to jumpstart the process. Being required to post something each day will force me to curtail my editing compulsions. And since I got to the game a few days late I have some catching up to do.

So far I have found it easiest to draw on personal anecdotes in an attempt to be amusing. I have grand plans to expand my blog to include opinion pieces, short stories, maybe even poetry (yeah, nobody wants to see that), and who knows what else. This blog is going to be eclectic. I hope it will be interesting, but I’m focusing more on its efficacy as a motivational tool than I am on getting a bunch of followers. That is the frame of mind from which I might actually achieve productivity. However, if I can give any of the people whose writing I enjoy something to enjoy in return, I will consider myself fortunate. It would be nice to be considered a contributing member of the blogging community. Or something.

This post is part of the Zero to Hero 30-Day Blog Challenge: Day 1 – Who I am and why I’m here

Oh. Christmas Tree.


We got our Christmas tree the other day. One of my sisters, we’ll call her “Three,” had the charming idea this year to get a live Christmas tree. Sounds great, right? I remember we got one once when I was little. It was tiny (even when I was like 8 it looked tiny), but it came in a pot that was almost as big as the tree and probably weighed at least 300 pounds. Well, obviously not really, but dirt is heavy, and this pot was full of (literally this time) about 3 gallons of it. The pot was made of that sort of shredded cardboard-looking material that eventually degrades and becomes one with nature, or whatever, the idea being that, after Christmas all one had to do was dig a hole in the ground and drop the whole assemblage in. We were all pretty excited and downright heartwarmed by our spindly little friend, and feeling pretty good about ourselves. The trouble is that it’s just goddamn difficult to dig a hole in the ground in Taos, NM in January. Our mother fought the good fight, I’m sure, but in the end the poor tree ended up sitting rootbound and exposed in our yard for several months before it finally went in the ground. It survived, but it didn’t look happy and I’m not sure, frankly, that it thanked us much for our consideration in keeping it alive.

Still, I do like the idea. Chopping down a bunch of trees for the hell if it seems unnecessarily wasteful. So when Three proposed it this year, despite our history, my other sister (“Four”) and I were on board. On the plus side we don’t have to dig a hole for this one because it’s more like a tree-renting service. (Who knew you could rent a tree?) Still, we’re having mixed feelings about our decision. Three took it upon herself to call the gentleman in charge and discuss what kind and size of tree we were looking for. They purported to need to know in advance so that they could bring a suitable tree to the lot and reserve it for us. Fancy. Three figured she could then go on her lunch break the next day and pick it up from his lot and drop it off at our house. Unless Four and I would rather just go get it. Sure, we said, we could get a tree from a man at a lot. All we had to do was call the man and make sure he had a tree for us and find out where he was. Of course that’s where things started to unravel.

Four called the gentleman who turned out to actually be in a neighboring town, but said he could meet us at 3:45 at an intersection which he specified. Call it 30th and Virgil. Alright. Did he need to check our name against a reserved tree? He did not. Okay. Four and I arrived at the meet a few minutes early only to discover she’d missed a message telling us they were running late. The intersection turned out to be next to a church in an otherwise residential neighborhood. We sat across the street in her car, eyeballing passing vehicles in the failing light. After about twenty minutes of lurking we were feeling a little sketchy. We began to wonder if we should flash our headlights at likely candidates who might then pull alongside and palm our sixty dollars cash and twenty dollar deposit check and slip us some “holiday cheer.”

When the gentleman called her to ask her where, in relation to another street, Virgil was located we began to suspect his sanity. “It’s one block south,” she explained. “So you’re two blocks north? Okaaaay.” We drove three blocks and pulled over next to a rental truck, two men, and a tree, and popped the trunk. One of the men silently attended the hand truck upon which the tree rested, tied head to toe, it’s roots bound in a burlap bindle crisscrossed haphazardly by twine. The other man greeted us with what we would quickly come to think of as his characteristic effusive vagueness.

“Should we put down the seats?” we asked.


We’d been told to bring towels to use as a sling to maneuver the tree, but when we asked if we should use them Chatty shrugged and said “If you want to!” Instead they lay down a trash bag in our trunk upon which they rested the root ball while the rest of the tree stood straight up out of the trunk.

“So we give you a check for twenty dollars for the deposit?” asked Four.

“Yeah,” he said.

“In case we decide to steal the tree?” we joked.

“Nah, but sometimes something happens. It’s only like one out of a hundred trees, you know, but I’ve got to be sure!”

“And we owe you…?  Sixty dollars for the actual tree?”


“Is it actually sixty?”

“Yeah! Yeah!”

“Okay… And we give it back to you… at some point?”


“We just call you again?”


“And we’re supposed to return it by… the 6th? The 5th?”

“Yeah! Around then!”


They provided us with a bucket lined with a black garbage bag which was, in turn, lined with “cotton” (strips of what looks like the snap-fronts of a series of Dr. Denton pajamas) and explained how to line it with another garbage bag before we put the tree in it.

“So that the tree isn’t actually sitting in the cotton,” I clarified, and received a high five.

We carefully drove away, thankful that we only lived thirteen blocks away, and counting each one as the tree listed steadily to the right.

We did get the tree home without mishap, though the trunk tried to close on it. It took both of us to haul it out of the car and into the house, hoisting the root ball by hanks of twine, and get it situated in its bucket, rags, and series of garbage bags. It’s a charming enough little tree, I’m pretty sure it weighs at least 300 pounds. And it’s still listing to the right.



So I was a sophomore in college before I got my first cell phone. Audible gasp. What? Impossible! Dinosaur! I know, I know. Shocking though that may be, it isn’t actually the point of the story. When I did get my phone I figured, well, I spend most of my time at school in California, so I guess I’ll get a local number. Apparently my particular local number used to belong to a girl called Ashley, because a couple of people called me looking for her. I tended not to answer calls from numbers I didn’t recognize, hoping that my decidedly un-Ashley outgoing voicemail message would effectively dissuade her followers with minimal effort on my part. However, after I wound up with a few confused and distressed-sounding voicemails, some of them in Spanish, I thought it might actually be easier, and kinder, to pick up a few of these misdirected calls.

One of these calls (actually two of them) came from a man called Carvey. “Like ‘Harvey,’” he explained, “but with a C.” Carvey called me up one evening looking for Ashley. Aren’t they always looking for Ashley? But anyway, he called and we quickly established that I (a) wasn’t Ashley, (b) had only had the number for a short time and (c) didn’t know why Ashley had discarded it. Possibly because she kept getting calls from some guy called Carvey. Anyway, we had a moment of banter, a quip or two, and hung up. Perhaps a half hour later, he called back. We established that I was still not Ashley, and that he had indeed dialed the digits that he had intended. After a moment he admitted that he hadn’t really expected a different result, but had apparently been charmed by my exceptionally charming vocal charms and wondered if I’d be interested in talking more, or meeting.

Upon reflection, I suppose that Carvey should be commended for being interested in talking to me based on, well, talking to me, regardless of what I might look like, but at the time I was compelled to decline. First of all, how enchanting could I possibly have been, really, in the maybe two combined minutes of our association? Secondly, Carvey? You may as well tell me your name is “Stabby” or, like, “Slash”. Sorry, guy, but in the immortal words of Hall and/or Oates, I can’t go for that. I suppose you’re also going to tell me that this ill-lit alleyway is a shortcut to the malt shop. Or, for that matter, that a “malt shop” is a real thing.

To his credit, Carvey took me at my word and never called again. He probably totally wasn’t even an ax murderer.

Thanksgiving. A restaurant. 11 hours. 578 customers fed.


“I want to buy you flowers,” said the man at the counter, but he quickly reconsidered. “No. I want to buy you a country, so they’ll put your face on a postage stamp, and then when I send you a letter I get to lick the back of your head.” I might have been alarmed by this bizarre progression if I hadn’t been so impressed at its sheer ingenuity. I found myself laughing over-loudly and cocking my eyebrows at the man’s wife, who was sitting next to him trying, half-heartedly, to quell him.

The same man had been asking me for half an hour if I worked for the CIA. I’m not positive, but I presume this was because restaurants, like any industry, have their own jargon, which mostly sounds like code-talking to the rest of the world. And I guess it technically is. Ours is especially mysterious because it involves seemingly random combinations of numbers. And nobody actually cares what we’re saying. When we get going — really going — like on a night like Thanksgiving… well, we probably sound more like crazies than spies. Especially 8 hours into an 11-hour shift, when our voices and smiles start to crack, and we can hardly string a sentence together… and people are still hungry.

The gentleman’s next trick was to fashion a rabbit hand-puppet from his linen and peekaboo it over the edge of the counter.  I realize that I’m describing this encounter as somewhat ridiculous, and, well, it kind of was, but I don’t mean to ridicule the man. It was actually kind of refreshing to have somebody trying to make me smile in the middle of the storm.

So, yeah, that guy threw me for a loop with his talk of postage stamps and head-licking, but in actuality he also kind of made my Thanksgiving.

It’s Purplefoot Season


I am of average height for a man. Of course, I’m a woman. I realize that still doesn’t exactly make me a giant or anything, but I have what you might call “gangle,” and when it comes to my extremities… well, they are indeed extreme. I mention it because it’s been just extraordinarily damn cold outside this past week or so, and when it gets cold outside, my body suddenly has to carefully reevaluate the allocation of certain valuable resources. Like blood. The ghettos of my body are the first to feel the strain, of course, and suddenly my poor, marginalized hands, finding themselves outcasts, become charming little five-legged icemonsters who, in their desperate struggle for survival, make no distinction between friend and foe. Frantically they roam their surroundings in search of heat, falling upon and consuming all that they discover, sucking the very lifefire from any body foolish enough to come within grasp. Since my particular body is tethered to these fiends by 2 ½ foot meat-ropes, it is particularly difficult for me to avoid them. Especially in bed. Have you ever awoken in the night, every muscle already tensed with that terrible apprehension that has managed to infiltrated your sleeping mind, the sick sense of dread that there is something unwelcome, even malicious, in the room with you? Nay, something in the BED with you!

And the hands aren’t even the worst of the bedfellows. At least they are contented to burrow under a pillow. But if my heart thought my hands were far away, imagine, if you will, how much farther the feet! How remote! How desolate! These hopeless heatsinks, each the other’s only unkind neighbor in the frozen southern wasteland. These sluggish lumps emit no signs of life, indeed palling to a gruesome purple. Feebly they attempt to nestle against each other’s calves and are cruelly rebuffed again and again. Because, ew.

“Pajamas?” you might be asking. HA! Pajamas are no match for these wretched varmints! Even through flannel, even long johns, they draw the heat from flesh and bone, never growing warmer themselves, but only spreading their endless, hopeless chill… No, pajamas can’t help me. The sad fact is that I cannot generate body heat. I have no choice but to steal it.