Saturday, October 28, 2017

Shameless Autumnal Self-Promotion

GUUUYYYYSSSS I'm still living and doing comedy things. I've got some more movie live-blogs in the chute that need illustrating, but I'm going to try to get caught up while I am unemployed (sort-of-mostly-on purpose). But in the meantime, here's a correspondent piece I did for Minnesota Tonight back in August on Minnesota's labor movement. Can you guess which parts were my contributions? (The energy drink and Newsies jokes, duh. Also the shirt and signs because I'm AN ARTIST.) The show is on hiatus until January, but things I helped write or am in and also other stuff that is fine I guess will be continually posted on YouTube in the off-season, so subscribe and shit!

In case you've forgotten, the Beard and I are still doing our podcast, Couple's Book Club (also on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher). We're reading our hero, Detective Lieutenant Joe Kenda's book I Will Find You for our next episode and have some special guests booked for the hate-read we have planned for episode 10.


My last Harold show with my group House of Whimsy (as featured in the Star Tribune--a photo of our group made the print version, which I bought two copies of) is tonight, Saturday, October 28 at 8pm at HUGE Theater. COME SEE US, WE ARE HAVING SO MUCH FUN. BTWs, this is an improv show.

I'm also writing for and will be performing in a sketch revue called "Strike This!" at Strike Theater two weekends in November (10-11, 17-18), so keep an eye out for that. I'm very excited about what we've got going on and obvi one of my sketches is energy drink-themed. LYLAS! Have a great fall!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Horror Classics: Candyman

This movie is so incredibly from the early '90s. I am pretty pumped. Let's do this!

Someone is whispering about blood under a bunch of bees. He's got a hook hand and wants to split you from your gut to your gullet. Now bees are attacking Chicago. Okay. Extremely young Virginia Madsen smokes and tells a story about a babysitter who invites over an old man Bad Boy to fuck her. But before they do, the teen says they should summon the Candyman in the mirror. They say his name four times as her date gropes her boobs. She stops him, saying, "No one ever got past four." She sends him downstairs, and then says "Candyman" one more time. She is killed and the baby too, and the boyfriend goes crazy. Some girl says her roommate's boyfriend knows him. VMads is like, "Okay." She goes to another room in the high school where some creep is telling another lady the babysitter roasted the kid. The ladies share cigarettes.

VMads walks into a large lecture hall where a dude talks about alligators in the sewer. He starts to talk about "modern oral folklore" (is that what they're calling it now? GET IT--ORAL?) and then a bell rings like it's high school. Apparently it's her husband and she interrupts "Stacey" who is a little flirty with the prof. His name his Trevor. VMads is pissed he's talking about urban legends this semester at the same time they're trying to collect data from the freshmen.

Later, at a real old computer with a blue screen, VMads transcribes her own interviews. At the sight of the computer, Isaac says, "He's a ghost and he writes to us." (Ghostwriter) There are lockers in the hall, so I keep thinking it's a high school, but it's clearly meant to be a college.The janitor lady overhears the interviews and knows about the Candyman. She calls her friend in from the hall to talk to the folklore ladies about someone they knew who was murdered by the Candyman in the Projects. VMads looks through microfilm at news stories of unsolved murders. She finds the story about the lady these women mentioned, Ruthie Jean, who was killed at Cabrini-Green. VMads has discovered that her swanky apartment building was originally built as a low-income housing project. She proves it to her pal by pointing out that there's no wall between her apartment and the next one, just two medicine cabinets, back to back. The Ruthie Jean story had a killer crawling through walls. They goad each other into repeating "Candyman" into the mirror. Only VMads says it the fifth time. VMads is sleeping. She hears a noise and asks if it's Trevor. There's no response but then he jumps on her in the dark and she screams until she realizes it's him. Fuck that guy.

Daytime: VMads' friend Bernadette has a bunch of mace and a taser in her purse as they return to Cabrini-Green. She thinks they're dressed like cops, which is bad since the neighborhood is held by gangs. They're going to write their thesis about everyday horrors being cast upon mythical creatures blahblahblah. Amazing multi-colored jackets on the youths that stare at them and then catcall them and ask them who they're going to see. The guys yell that they're police and they hear people running away. VMads takes a picture in the heavily-graffittied staircase. She takes one of some of the words: "Sweets to the Sweet." A woman with a vicious dog scares them off. They find the murder apartment. The door is ajar and apparently abandoned. Bernadette does not like what VMads is doing. Oh, I guess her character's name is Helen.

They go into the bathroom and open the cabinet. Helen takes a photo of the hole in the wall where the murderer came through. Helen's going to crawl through to the other side for some reason. She thinks it's abandoned and goes to explore. Oh man, film cameras. The '90s! Helen climbs through the hole in the wall. A face has been painted around it so that the hole is a mouth. There's some sweet keyboard music and Helen finds a stash of brightly-packaged candy. She finds a bloody razor blade inside one of them. Urban legend alert! She's run out of film and Bernadette says they have to go. The lady with the dog came to give them some shit about nosing around. Helen gives her her card and follows her back to her place where her baby is crying. VMads is giving me a strong early-seasons-of-The X-Files-Scully vibe. Anne-Marie is the neighbor's name. Her baby spits up on her. The lady knows they want to know about Ruthie Jean. Anne-Marie heard her screaming and called 911, but nobody came. She's scared of the Candyman.

Later at dinner with Trevor and some other douches. Helen and Bernadette chainsmoke. Academic Longhair calls them "beautiful graduate students." He wants to "review" their "data." Bernadette lets slip that they went to Cabrini Green. Longhair wrote a paper on Candyman TEN YEARS AGO, YOU STUPID GIRL. The legend is from 1890, he was the son of a slave and became a portrait painter. He knocked up a rich (white?) girl and was murdered at the command of the father. The mob sawed off his hand at Cabrini Green and threw the man to a hive of bees. He was stung to death, body burned, and ashes scattered on the land. So of course Helen goes back to the projects to take more pictures.

Anne-Marie isn't home, but Helen sees a kid in the hall and asks him about Ruthie Jean. He says he can't talk about it or Candyman will get her. He tells her she isn't safe alone there. She convinces him to show her "where Candyman is." They go outside where a bonfire is being constructed. The little boy says Candyman is in a public restroom outside. A little disabled boy was murdered there, horrifying a man who tried to intervene. The little boy was apparently castrated. "Better off dead," the kid tells Helen. She decides to go into the bathroom. Bad idea. Also, gross. "Sweets to the sweet" is written in what looks like shit on the wall and last stall. A shit arrow points down at the toilet, which is full of swarming bees. Outside, somebody comes up behind the boy Helen was talking to. The kid says "Candyman." Don't know if he's explaining or that guy IS Candyman. The guy has a long leather duster jacket and a hook. He's got youths with him and they surround her. "I hear you're looking for Candyman, bitch. Well, you found him." He has a funny accent. They beat her up.

I should clarify that Helen and her colleagues--besides Bernadette--are white and all the folks at Cabrini Green are black, so there's... kind of a lot going on here. A police lineup. Helen's eye is massively swollen shut. She identifies one of them. The cop says they knew he called Ruthie Jean and attacked the kid, but nobody at Cabrini Green would testify against him before because the police can't protect anybody living there. But now they have a white lady witness! Jake (the kid) says the Candyman is going to get him, but Helen says he wasn't real, just the name a bad man took. A while later, Trevor comes home to a fancy dinner. Her eye is just black now, hardly swollen anymore.

Helen goes back to work. Bernadette has some photos for her that apparently survived the attack. They're in slide form. Later, Helen is alone in the campus parking garage. Somebody in checkered pants and a sweet long pimp jacket walks towards her. "Helen," says a disembodied voice. She sees him standing across the parking lot. It's the real Candyman, bitch. "Do I know you?" He walks towards her and she's transfixed. He speaks without opening his mouth and she silently cries. She sees that the hook is crammed into his bloody stump. "Be my victim. I am the writing on the wall." Now we see bees. "Come with me." Helen wakes up and is all bloody. Anne-Marie's dog's head has been chopped off. Her baby is gone and there's blood everywhere. She chops Anne-Marie with the hatchet she's holding. Helen gets arrested. She cries as a lady cop orders her to take off her bloody clothes. She wants to shower. OMG.

Later she is in an interview room and the detective from her assault comes in and tells her she's been arrested and reads her her rights. Helen says she doesn't know where Anne-Marie's baby is. She wants to call her husband, but that bitch ain't home. He's off fucking Stacey. It's 3am. Helen smokes in her cell and flushes the butt. She has a vision of the baby with the Candyman. Trevor finally shows up. The press is crowded outside. They cover her in a jacket. On the news, they talk about Baby Anthony still being missing. She tells the lawyer she blacked out and doesn't remember anything. Trevor claims he was home last night, asleep. He's going to "stand by [her]" but he's got to go fuck his grad student now.

Helen drinks a delicious Budweiser and lights a cig. She decides to look at her slides from the apartment. These snapshots are very (suspiciously) artistically composed. In a shot of herself in the mirror, she sees a man in the background. She shuts off the projector and opens the curtains back up. She decides to go confront her own medicine cabinet. Suddenly a hook busts through. Helen runs outside and sees him in the hall. "Believe in me. Be my victim." She goes inside to call 911. He has the child, who will die in her place. She's destroyed his "congregation's" faith in him. I don't know why she has to come willingly, though.

Bernadette shows up with flowers. Helen tries to warn her away, but is incapacitated in the Candyman's presence. Bernadette comes in and Candyman kills her. Trevor finds Helen on the floor with a bloody knife. "Don't let him kill me, Trevor." She's been revived, handcuffed in her bed. She runs out and sees Bernadette in a pool of blood with some of the slides thrown on her body. "Why do you want to live?" says the Candyman. He claims being a legend is pretty sweet. Blood runs down the walls of the abandoned apartment and the baby cries. Helen leaves Trevor as she's wheeled into a psych ward. They've strapped her down. You're not going to get out of those restraints! Candyman floats above her and she screams that he's in the hospital room. They sedate her.

Fucking yes.
Back in the projects, Candyman hovers his hook over Baby Anthony and is maybe letting him suckle blood from his finger? Helen wakes up in the hospital and the orderly dude is a jerk to her. They're taking her to meet with someone named Dr. Burke. He looks like a psychologist. She's been in the hospital for a month while they stabilize her on thorazine. He's working for her defense. She's being charged with first-degree murder. He wants to know what happened in her apartment. She won't talk. He turns on surveillance footage of her screaming that the Candyman was there. Of course he's not on the video because of how he's a spectral presence and/or hallucination. She says she's not capable of doing what happened to Bernadette. Helen claims she can prove it and tries to call Candyman in the office mirror. He appears behind the psychologist and slices his back open. Oops! He slices her restraints, too, and she follows Candyman out the window. She then crawls in another room and steals a nurse's outfit after knocking her over. She uses the nurse's keys to open the elevator as cops run past. She wipes the blood off her face and runs back to her house.

She gets there and it's being painted pink. Stacey is there painting. Trevor tells her to get out. Stacey is scared. Fuck that bitch. "What's the matter, Trevor, scared of something? I hate the color scheme." She throws some pink paint at the wall. She tells Stacey to call the hospital and she cries. Fucking Trevor. Worthless piece of shit. "You were all I have left... It's over." She's gonna go to the Candyman now and help him with his congregation. He is way hotter than Trevor. TBH, she doesn't really have any options left. She can go back to the hospital and hope to get sentenced to a psychiatric facility forever. So she goes back to the projects and climbs through the ol' mirror.

Classic dead probably evil possibly past-life love Nice Guy move.
She finds a bunch of candles set up and some hooks hanging from a chain. She grabs one and crawls up into a hole in the ceiling. Another abandoned apartment, I guess. She finds an old mural of the Candyman before he got lynched back in the day. Candyman is sleeping on a table, apparently. Is she going to attack him? He wakes up as she tries to get him. She asks to exchange herself for the baby. She surrenders to him. He promises the pain will be "exquisite." He lifts up her skirt with the hook. He promises her immortality as bees come out of his mouth and his empty chest cavity. He open mouth kisses the bees into her. He goes and gets the baby who is apparently FINE, even after a month. Helen wakes up in the abandoned unit, also apparently fine, no bees to be found. Now there are candles everywhere and the words "It was always you, Helen" written over the mural. She sees her own face in the mural now. SHE WAS THE LOVER HE GOT LYNCHED FOR IN A PAST LIFE, I GUESS?

She goes outside into the bonfire junk pile, following the baby's cries. Jake wakes up somewhere and looks outside. He says, "He's here." Helen loses her hook as the residents come outside with gasoline and torches. She finds the baby in the pile. "I knew you'd come," Candyman says, covering her mouth as the fire rises around them and the crowd chants, "Burn him." Candyman claims they're already dead, but she wants to save the baby. She stabs him with a burning stick and tries to escape. She's on fire now, but manages to crawl out of the fire as he screams, "Come back to me!" Bystanders put her out as she hands Anne-Marie her baby. The Candyman screams and burns. How is he burning, isn't he a ghost? Bees burst out of the fire. Jake sees him in the fire.

Helen is buried. Trevor and Stacey and like two other people are at her graveside. It's the department douchebags. Suddenly Anne-Marie and her neighbors show up to the funeral. Trevor is confused about why there are a bunch of black people there. Jake has an adorable bowtie, and no family, apparently. He drops the hook into her grave.

#NeverForget the "murder by bees" subplot.
Later, Trevor is sad or something. Stacey wants to know if he's okay. God, that apartment is so pink. She wears no bra and a basically see-through shirt. She's pissed and he's hiding in the bathroom. Who could've predicted that this relationship wouldn't work out that well? He misses Helen. He cries against the medicine cabinet as Stacey angrily cuts meat in the kitchen. He says Helen's name five times into the mirror and a bald, burnt Helen shows up behind him. "What's the matter, Trevor, scared of something?" She guts him with a hook and really, really enjoys it. Stacey finds him even as she holds a giant kitchen knife. Now there's a sainthood painting of Helen in the abandoned apartment. Nice.

I thought that was going to be super-cheesy, but it was actually pretty good. Yea!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Still Alive

Hey guys, I'm still alive and doing things in the world. I have a few movie live-blogs pending still/always, but in the meantime, here are some updates!

I helped make this 48-Hour Film Project movie last month. I'm in it and it was so, so fun to make!

Here's some more of my character Whitney, who I could play all fucking day forever:

Also, the Beard and I are doing a podcast together! It's called Couple's Book Club. We read a book and then talk about it together and we are smart and funny and charming and whatnot. We've got two episodes so far. You can find us on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

An Extended Vomit-Based Metaphor for Our Current Political Moment

Barack Obama doesn't WANT this kid to throw up on his face, but he wouldn't really be mad at her if she did because she's an adorable baby and sometimes they do that, though it is definitely gross and he would have to change into one of his other identical suits right away.

I like to tell people the story of election night 2008, very early in our relationship, when my now-husband celebrated a little too hard* at Obama’s victory and vomited all over my bed. Luckily, I was not in it at the time. I sent him to the shower, gathered up my bedding, and threw it straight in the dumpster outside my apartment building. (Drunk me thought this was the best choice, and I stand by it, I had more sheets.) I opened the window, shut the bedroom door, and slept on the couch as he passed out on the living room floor and definitely still had some vom remnants in his hair the next morning. And though I made him clean the mattress the next day and it still bore a big stain when I finally brought it to the dump a couple of years ago, I knew this thing with us was legit because I still really, really liked him. Loved him, in fact! As I reflect upon (probably) my greatest act of selflessness NOT TO BRAG, I think about how Donald Trump has never once in his life cleaned up vomit. From anyone, much less from somebody he loves.** Not even his kids. That’s somebody else’s job; a woman's, definitely, and almost certainly someone who doesn’t get paid enough for that shit. And I bet he'd punish the offender for throwing up near him (AKA being a human person who gets sick sometimes) in some emotionally cruel way.

You know who has cleaned up somebody’s throw-up? Barack Obama. You know he’s done dad vomit duty in the middle of the night (Michelle is too classy to vomit, ever), and though it was gross and smelly and maybe he gagged a little bit as he put the sheets in the washer and they never did smell quite right ever again, he still loves the shit out of his kids. It’s just one of those things you do for people you care about sometimes because human bodies are awful and we have to take care of each other.

Anyway, he’s been cleaning up America’s vomit for the past eight years (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), and though I didn’t always agree with his methods, I’m grateful that he did. And even though we ruined the nice new furniture/healthcare he picked out for us and yelled “I hate you!” and slammed our bedroom door on him because this country is extremely racist, he loves America anyway. I think some of the recent surge in his poll numbers and this outpouring of affection for him at the tail end of his second term is everybody being like, “You know, I resented him at times, but I can see now that America’s dad is a fundamentally a good guy and he did his best and was always there for us.” (Joe Biden is our "cool" uncle who has def. cleaned up a LOT of vomit and was also chill about not telling on us since the hangover was "punishment enough." I mean, I have no cool uncles, but this seems like something Uncle Joe would do.)

These are some thoughts I have as one of the only presidents who is definitely a better person than me leaves office (in addition to St. Jimmy Carter, obvs, but that was before I was born). Most politicians are garbage people, but Barack Obama is kinder, more generous, more hopeful, and more humble than a piece of trash like me could ever aspire to be. And we elected him president--TWICE!*** I guess one upside(?) to tomorrow’s nightmare disaster scenario we have somehow chosen for ourselves is a sense of moral superiority I haven’t felt towards our nation’s executive leadership in several years. But even now, as the horrifying results of some kind of geopolitical game of Would You Rather (the other options were, I guess, “have your skin slowly peeled off by giant sentient beetle-men while been force-fed Four Loko and listening to Billy O’Reilly scream his erotic poetry to the tune of Nickelback songs” or “a lady I don’t like, for reasons”) takes office, Obama’s all, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” And it stings. I'm sorry, Dad. We didn’t deserve you.

Postscript: Maybe our Trump resistance efforts can involve bribing a White House employee (or somebody’s cat) to just throw up in random, hard-to-locate places in the West Wing and the residence, so it always smells just a LITTLE BIT nasty in there for the next four years.

*Definitely lots of drinks involving blue curacao and a champagne circle happened.
**Discussion point: can narcissists love?
***Good job for once (twice), guys!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Horror Movie Classics: The Fog

[Editor's note: I watched The Fog several months ago and have not been able to get myself to finish editing and picture-captioning this post until now. Here you go, you ungrateful bastards.]

Guys, I've had some drinks. I'll be honest with you about that. But when else am I motivated to do this shit? It was the Super Bowl and the team I sort of wanted to win didn't win, but our friends brought over their 14 month-old little girl and she was adorable and really enjoyed being buried in a pile of all our stuffed animal buddies, so really it was a good night overall. My sleep last night was minimal because nocturnal schedule + morning soccer game. I napped for a bit this afternoon after cleaning the house, but for real I'm a bit tired. That's why I've decided to pour a new beverage involving the only (?!) energy drink I've got left right now, which is a Rockstar Orange Whipped thingy with vodka. And anyway, I'm sure this movie was on a list or something and Netflix eventually sent us the disc and here we are now it's time to drink more and watch it. For posterity. The Fog is a 1980 film (co-)written, directed, and scored by John Carpenter. I CAN'T WAIT.

Two young girls with awful Dorothy Hamill haircuts sit under a blanket in flickering light. A stopwatch hangs from something and some kind of ship sailor dude comes and tears it down and informs them that 11:55 is "almost midnight." Thanks for the heads up, brah. The skipper thinks he can fit in one more story before midnight, before the 21st of April. Beach campfire. 100 years ago exactly, Spivey Point, a small clipper ship. Fog rolls in. A bunch of '80s kids wrapped up in blankets. the ship saw a bright light. A campfire LIKE THIS ONE. Ship crashed against the rocks blahblahblah. All them bitches died. Some other ominous shit.

Now a VERY early morning on a small coastal town. A church bell tolls. Oh, I guess maybe it's still night, just the beach looked light. The radio says it's 12 midnight. A dude in a vest smoking cigs who just rang the bells turns off a radio and the lights in the church. WHAT--JAMIE LEE CURTIS IS IN THIS? Bless your heart, JLC. Vest tells the priest he's all done. Mustachioed priest pours himself a drink. Vesty McCoolGuy wants his paycheck. Father says come in later tomorrow. Vesty is "Bennett." Father goes to look for him, but he's gone. Something falls down in the other room and a radio starts to play. There's an old radio playing jazzy music and there's a hole in the rock wall. The priest has found the journal of another priest from the 1940s. He turns to an entry that I assume will mean something:
April 30
Midnight 'til one belongs to the dead. Good Lord deliver us.

I'M SURE IT'S NOTHING. CARRY ON. Antonio Bay, the town, is 100 years old today. OMG I'm still in the credits part of the movie but keep pausing for details because of how I'm already drunk. The drunkenness can go either way on these: increased intoxication can lead to me caring less and leaving unnecessary stuff out, but other times I get hyper-aware of everything I'm missing and pause it too much and then I'm a slave to the letter of the movie, not its spirit. (LIKE GHOSTS, GET IT?)

All the pay phones ring off the hook. A guy in tight jeans sweeps in a convenience store, drinks out of a bottle from the cooler, and just puts it back because he is awful. More sweeping. Glass breaking. All the bottles in the building shake and Jeans just kind of looks around. Wow, the tucked-in flannel to jeans where the fly kind of sticks out because they're so tight and a shiny belt buckle. Outside, the lights go on at a clearly-closed gas station. The handle hops out of the pump and starts to spill gasoline all over the ground. Behind some bars, a car gets lifted almost to the ceiling and alarms go off. Elsewhere, all the cars in a lot have their lights go on and their horns, too. A lady gets out of bed and looks exasperated, but somehow not creeped out. Her lights and alarms go off, a chair moves and she's but slightly perturbed.

This is fine.
12:06, Stevie Wayne on the radio says it's still the Witching Hour. A guy drives down a dark two-lane road. He sees a hitch hiker and decides to pull over. It's a young woman. JLC. The old-timey car driver offers her a sip of beer. She's says she doesn't hitch hike usually and asks him if he's weird. He says he is and she is glad. He's her thirteenth ride. She's come from at least Santa Barbara. Something breaks the back and driver's side windows. They reassure themselves that it's midnight, and I guess that's why. Radio Stevie's using serious creaky voice up in the obviously haunted lighthouse. Some creep named Dan calls her and asks if she's coming to a party later, but she's apparently the only DJ, so she can't. He's got a tip about a ship or something. Stevie's radio voice is dumb.

The dudes on the ship say there's no fog bank coming. Her kid plays little league with one of the sailors' sons. They were skeptical there would be a fog bank actually out there (because a lady warned them), but there is. They see it now and decide they're drunk enough for their ship jobs or whatever. Is this a maritime movie? Boat movies are dumb. We are not meant to be upon the seas, so really we deserve what we get if we linger. Up on the the deck, drunk flannel dudes see some kind of ghost ship maybe? Guys, it's the witching hour on the anniversary whatever, so I'm sure it's no big. Out of the fog they see the outlines of some men (& etc.). Then a noise, then some giant hook and also knife stabbings. Captain flannel falls upon the deck, his eyes still open. Other folks on the ship get big hook murdered, too.

Stevie with her dumb scratchy radio voice seems tired. She lights a cig. Apparently she owns the lighthouse. Dan calls back in. He claims that her fog bank is blowing the wrong way or something and tries to ask her out. In a house somewhere near the light house (the oscillating lights), truck driver and hitch hiker have clearly fucked. They're Elizabeth and Nick. She's from Pasadena. Her rich parents won't let her do what she wants. He's a lot older than her. Somebody knocks at the door. They've been looking through a sketch book or something. Nick put on pants and goes to the door. Somebody with a hook is knocking. The clock strikes one and the glass breaks. Nick opens the door, but nobody's there. Stevie's off the air until 6 p.m. tomorrow now.

Daytime beach. Looks cold. Is this supposed to be the Oregon coast? The Pacific Ocean is so cold, my throat starts to close up if I exert myself at all in it for longer than a few minutes (jumping over waves, etc.). That's how I found out I had asthma as a kid. HAHAHAHA FUN. A kid on this beach going fishing finds a chunk of  washed-up wood that says "JANE" on it. That is my middle name because I am classy. Oh, this is Stevie's kid. She sleeps in sexy nightgowns. He tells her that old Mr. Macon tells ghost stories and the kid loved hanging out with him. Oh, the wood says "DANE." Forget what I said before a few sentences ago.

Elizabeth and Nick come to the dock where a guy smoking and writing/drawing tells him he's overreacting, worrying the Seagrass hasn't come back in. Elizabeth's goal is to move on to Vancouver (eventually). Now, here are some ladies in a park looking at a statue under a sheet. What is happening? This station wagon has fake wood paneling, so that's always a plus. Stevie's driving in some topless orange jeep thing, playing (Beta?) tapes. She drives around a windy coastal road and hears that at 1:57 p.m., the Coast Guard still hasn't spotted the Seagrass. Elizabeth is out on a boat with Nick, who's looking for the boat. "She can get real mean." (Presumably "she" is the ocean.) The ladies are Mrs. Williams, whose husband is out on her faulty boat, and some much-younger chick, Sandy. Oh, it was her car alarm last night. Elizabeth's tan-colored leather jacket doesn't look unlike the sheepskin leather jacket from the '70s I inherited from my mother that I should wear more often.

Mrs. Williams wants to restore the local cemetery. They knock at the church for Father Malone. They call for him and of course he comes through to startle them. He decides to show them the old journal, which is actually from 1880, but I guess I just read some numbers before that I'm trying not to spend too much time on now. Oh god I better drink this caffeine quicker. Father Patrick Malone (this dude's illegitimate ancestor) wrote this. The old journal talks about political intrigue, I guess? Old Father Malone has discovered somebody with leprosy or something. Now in 1980, though, Nick and Elizabeth find the Seagrass abandoned. Apparently, fishermen drink a lot. Nick says it's like the ship's been turned over in the water now. Old Father Malone was involved in some kind of murder plot.

Nick tells a story about his dad finding an 1867 doubloon. In the meantime, a locker basically explodes and a dead body falls on Elizabeth, right after she announced she's on her way to Vancouver now. Old Father Malone, the current Father Malone's grandfather, confessed to being involved in the assassination plot or whatever. The living priest tells Mrs. Williams and Sandy that tonight's centennial celebration honors murderers. Father Malone says something about Antonio Bay's curse and the time the six conspirators met 100 years ago. The ladies want him to give a benediction at tonight's events, but he's obvi reluctant. Okay, but GRANDfather? Two questions:

  1. If the priest's grandpa was also a (presumably) Catholic priest, somebody released their little wigglers into an unauthorized zone (a vagina) back in the day.
  2. The priest here looks perhaps in his mid-40s. When I, one of the youngest children of the youngest child of my maternal grandfather,* am 45, it will be 100 years from the time my grandpa was, like, in kindergarten. Perhaps we'll get more info on this whole forbidden reproduction timeline that will help me with  my misgivings, though. MATH IS HARD. Oh, I paused for awhile. A problem. Stop drunken stop-jobbling, Mr. Drunkface (which is me) and watch the movie. okay again start thing

Mrs. Williams' peach turtleneck under an off-white pantsuit is a bold, very 1980 look. Stevie listens to her own station broadcast itself while the DANE board fills with water and starts to leak onto her counter, fucking up the tapes she's using. Now we hear creepy low voices and the board says "6 MUST DIE" now. She has a giant fire extinguisher, which she uses on a small fire but once it goes out, it seems clear that nothing really happened.

On a boat back to shore, Nick contemplates how that dead dude could've drowned when he's not all wet or seaweed-y.  Back onshore, Andy the kid answers the phone. His mom wants to know where he found the wood. He says first it was a gold coin, and now it's a piece of wood. She tells him to stay away from the rocks, don't pick up anything else, don't leave the house, and stay at home with the babysitter who just got there. Stevie's hair has an awful lot of volume for a seaside environment. In her dumb scratchy radio voice she talks about it being Antonio Bay, California's 100th anniversary and plays some dumb old-fashioned no-words music. Andy asks his babysitter about the clouds on the water.

A medical examiner records the injuries to the body Nick and Elizabeth brought back. He's always wearing flannel. PLAID PLAID PLAID. His wounds are covered in algae and shit. It's like the ship was underwater for a long time. Elizabeth is kinda freaked out, but she's determined to go through with this really long one-night stand. It's gotten really cold in the building. The body is doing a thing under a sheet now. Elizabeth's lil mullet-y hairdo and high-waisted bell-bottom-y things are pretty textbook.

DRINK REFILLLLLLLL (and other break)

Elizabeth is maybe gonna be attacked by a sea zombie. The coroner thinks the body looks likes it's been down underwater as long as some missing kids. She yells for Nick, but all they find is a "3" written on the floor. Sea horns blow, I guess. Not sure what those are for. Centennial celebration thing. Looks pretty lame. Horns blow. Talk of the town's charter. Mrs. Williams' hair is still helmet-y, nothing out of place. She keeps thinking of her dog barking all night and she wants her husband to come home. She won't cry, though. IT'S A BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIOOIONIONOINIONON!

WHYYYYYYYYY is Stevie's radio voice so insubstantial? Like, I don't know much about radio broadcasting, but I know a bit about talking in a microphone for money (hosting trivia). The last think you want is to reduce sonorousness.

Nick calls the station to ask about the fog. Stevie says the Fog was (IS) glowing and flowing in. Something weird happened last night. Stevie says she’ll be consulting with the weatherman soon. Dan, driving in the dark with the radio on, refers to himself as “the weatherman.” Are there any attractive men in this movie? Listen, I don’t want to be a dick, but pale, doughy 40-something dudes with no discernible personality may be wonderful people in real life, but this is a movie. I expect a SUSPICIOUS number of sexy sailor-types in this town. None. NONE! So far. The glowy blue-white fog appears to have come to shore now. On the phone, Stevie tells Nick about the driftwood her son found.

THERE IS A BLACK PERSON IN THIS MOVIE! A dude in a navy blue cableknit sweater is covering the weather station or whatever. Nick arrives to take over. Elizabeth takes her unfinished beer with her to follow Nick to check out the lighthouse. Dan calls in to tell her there’s another fog bank rolling in. GOD THIS MOVIE IS DUMB. Fog horns blow and Nick pulls erratically onto a side road. Stevie’s still talking to Dan. She turns out the light and sees that the glowing fog roll in. It’s coming in past Dan’s window. His lights have gone out and his instruments are freaking out. He thinks there’s somebody shining a light in the window, calls her “sweetheart,” and tells her to stay on the line. A ramming sound at the door. He thinks somebody’s playing a joke. She yells for him to stay away from the door. So much smoke as he opens the door and asks if anybody’s home. He yells back to the phone (still connected, but the receiver’s sitting on the table) that some drunk asshole’s taking the anniversary too seriously. OBVI now he gets attacked by the Creature from the Black Lagoon guy while Stevie yells “Dan!” while engaging her diaphraghm over the phone.

Dumb fog and lights. Stevie listens helplessly while shitty lyric-less jazz-adjacent music plays. The glowing fog approaches the shoreline. Stevie stop the music? Back at the celebration. Are there ever moments when there are no foghorns? Stevie issues an emergency bulletin. Mrs. Williams talks about their "vital, thriving community." Somebody grabs the sheriff to call Stevie. Glowing fog envelops the telephone lines and breaks them, I guess. This citizens of Antonio Bay light candles for the dedication of the statue or whatever. But back at the POWER PLANT, the fog apparently talks the turbines or whatever into sparking and dying. At this point, Mrs. Williams encourages folks to proceed to the statue. NONSTOP FOGHORNS.

Blahblahblah something is happening. Stevie yells that her kid is trapped by the fog somehow. He and the babysitter are being surrounding. Why are you so bad at closing the curtains? The mysterious doorknocks. Do not answer. Stevie yells over the radio for them to run. ASK WHO'S AT THE DOOR, BABYSITTER LADY! The glow-y fog is all that's there. She tries to tell the kid to go to his room. As soon as he walks away, the guys in the black frog suits attack her. The fog leaks under his bedroom door. Door banging. DON'T ANSWER. Stevie keeps broadcasting that her son is trapped and their address. The kid helplessly says the babysitter's name while just SITTING THERE and one of the things breaks a hole in his door with the hook. Nick and Elizabeth arrive. Nick breaks a bedroom window and manages to pull the kid out. Elizabeth tries to pull out of the driveway quickly, but the truck's stuck in the mud. WOMEN DRIVERS, AMIRITE? Hook dudes approach the truck through the fog, they still can't get going. Suddenly, they're able to reverse away.

 Back at the celebration things seem to be okay. The sun seems to be rising over the hills? Stevie apologizes over the airwaves that she couldn't come for Andy. She has to stay there. "The Fog is moving inland, away from the beach, towards Antonio Bay." YA THINK? Back on the road, it's completely pitch dark again? Stevie is describing where the fog is now. Elizabeth and Nick are going to run into it again with the kid. They have no windshield. They reverse and turn around. Stevie tells everybody to close windows and lock doors. "There's something in the Fog." Whatsername and Mrs. Williams try to turn away from it. Stevie tells everybody to drive towards the old church. The ladies arrive just as Nick, Elizabeth, and Andy get there, too. They come inside. They ask the priest if there's a cellar. He seems to be mustachedly drunk. He claims they "can't hide any longer." IS YOUR MURDEROUS ANCESTOR STILL AROUND?

They close all the windows and shit. Why do some/half the outdoor shots of the beach make it look like it's dawn, but it appears to be the middle of the night elsewhere? Stevie tries to describe where the fog is going from her high vantage point. The priest says "Blake and his men" are here now and his grandpa's journal can't help them now. Nick goes to retrieve it from the sanctuary anyhow. Is this movie supposed to be either good or scary? It is neither. Stevie goes downstairs and the Fog has reached the lighthouse's first floor. At the church Mrs. Williams finds something about some missing treasure (guess I missed that part of the story before but who cares).

Stevie knows the Fog is there, but blockades her doors. At the church, zombie hands break through stained-glass windows as Nick and Father Malone break a larger hole in the wall. They pull something out of the cache. It's a gi-fucking-gantic gold cross. A zombie pulls that one lady's hair from a window. Father Malone goes into a closet or something by himself with the golden treasure-made cross, despite Andy saying he shouldn't do so. Back at the lighthouse, Stevie is cagey, I guess. Father Malone carries the cross into the sanctuary, where the Black Lagoon Fog creatures wait for him. He yells, "Blake! I have your gold!" The figures approach him. Stevie tries to climb on the lighthouse's roof in impractical heeled boots, sliding on the slippery surface. The priest says his grandfather stole the gold, but must answer for it. "I'm the 6th conspirator, I'm father Malone. Take me." He attempts to hand over the gold to the Fog Guy. Meanwhile, a Fog guy with some kind of lil scythe attacks Stevie. She tries to fight back as two come at her. She catches a glimpse to see that they have green, rotting flesh.

At the church, the figure grabs the cross. It glows while both the living and dead hold it, shaking and smoking. Nick pulls Father Malone off of it. Lights increase and things escalate and I think now they're gone?  Elizabeth hugs Andy. Nick is wearing a leather jacket. Father Malone has survived and the church is now empty. On the lighthouse roof, Stevie clutches one of the baby scythe things as the Fog quickly retreats. The Fog evacuates out of the town. It's still real dark. I guess the red over the hills I saw earlier wasn't sunrise, it was sea ghosts? Stevie says some nonsense into her radio mic. To the ships at sea, "Look for the Fog." Father Malone still has a mustache. I think he wanted to be taken by the Fog creatures? Fog and lights under his door still. Okay, here they are. One of them with red-glowing eyes chops his head. Okay, but I think there were already six of them? WTF? Would it have helped if I paid attention to the diary/conspiracy part before? I suspect not. But like, how did this become a movie? And more importantly, why? Did they really think anyone would get scared or even care about any of this shit at all? It's SO BAD. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BAD. What even.

*though admittedly Mormons/people in the past breed young.

33: The Jesus Year

GUYS, today is (was) my 33rd birthday. I spend a lot of time agonizing over my wasted youth (Stay out of school, don't do academia, kids), but if I were a half-deistic man this would be my greatest year yet. So I've decided this is going to be my Jesus year. Will I die for your sins? OF COURSE NOT, THAT IS UNPOSSIBLE. Also, I'm extremely selfish. However, 32 was a lot shitty, so I'm going to set some goals inspired by Jesus' last year (or so, records are not-so-accurate, shall we say). I consulted the first few hits on a cursory Google search and here we are with the bullet points of the best parts of Jesus' third year of ministry. (The part before betrayal/torture/execution/resurrection stuff.)

Jesus feeds 5000 people

BAKING! We've been watching a lot of the Great British Bake Off and everyone is so charming and kind and the food looks so good. I once did a decent bit of baking when I lived with roommates and such. I keep saying I'd like to get back into it and my fellow bought me baking books from adorable former GBBO contestants for my birthday and I am going to do some baking and invite friends over and bring baked goods to everyone. I have many times in the past given fudge or cookies or something as a gift with a thank you note. I used to say that if there was anything I learned growing up Mormon, it was that true gratitude is expressed through baked goods. I should do more of that. It is good for you to make things and good for us all to eat homemade stuff.

Jesus walks on water

SWIMMING! Or exercise! Or enjoying nature in general! Those are all wonderful things. I should do more of them. This is a great goal, even if I will probably not manage to walk atop the surface of water, personally. More cabin weekends. More soccer.

Jesus prophesizes his own death

SEIZING THE DAY! Now that I am about out of my early 30s, it's time to face up to the specter of death. While trying not to focus on what I haven't done yet, I'm going to try not to waste any more years. Step 1 was this spring deciding for sure not to write a dissertation. Now I just need to create, write, produce, and star in my own TV series before it's too late (35?).

Jesus is transfigured


Jesus talks about humility, Jesus talks about forgiveness

BE LESS OF A DICK, PROBABLY. Sounds hard, but it's a good goal.

Jesus heals people, raises Lazarus

HELP PEOPLE, I GUESS, UGH. I'M NOT A WIZARD, but I guess I could try.

Anyway, some of these should come true. I guess maybe my life is not so much like Jesus'. RUDE. To my most(?) Christlike year yet!

Friday, August 19, 2016

America's Killer New Epidemic: Secondhand Whiteness

[Editor's note: It should be obvious that white people are not actually the real victims of racism. Those horrors are large and small and you should go read the many smart people of color writing online and follow anti-racist activists and support them.]

A scourge is rampaging through our nation’s cubicle farms and family reunions. What once may have been described as some kind of “race-related social awkwardness among white people” finally has a name: Secondhand Whiteness™.

Firsthand or Primary Whiteness is, of course, a person of color being on the receiving end of ignorant white bullshit, but Secondhand Whiteness is another tragic side effect of white privilege. It occurs when more or less “enlightened” white people witness other, clueless whites doing embarrassing white shit re: race/ethnicity/nationality/religion. Secondhand Whiteness is not the same as being horrified by overt racism. No, it is that sinking feeling of shame you get when you see suburban white moms get “sassy” when “joking around” with the black lady who works in Accounting or when your father-in-law tells the Latino host at the (non-Mexican) restaurant that you need a table for “cinco.” You are mortified both for and by them. As a fellow white person, you feel somewhat responsible for your race’s ignorance and feel guilty about the unfortunate people of color caught in the crossfire. Speaking up may or may not be worth the trouble depending on the situation, but either way, you are incredibly embarrassed by proxy.

Goddammit, white people.
Some instances of Secondhand Whiteness could rightfully be classified as microaggressions. Others are just severe social missteps the offenders don't even realize they're making. Secondhand Whiteness is cringing at other whites who generally mean well, but just don't fucking have a clue that they don't have a clue. The precipitating acts that lead to Secondhand Whiteness are often directed toward people of color, but can also be statements made about them to other white people. 

Secondhand Whiteness may affect you in situations like the following:
  • A white bartender asks your friend “Where are you from?” when he sees an unusual name on the credit card. The server is confused when your friend says, “Here.” Bonus points of your friend has stopped trying to correct people after they can’t get the pronunciation right after a couple tries. 
  • You overhear your white coworker ask your black boss if she can touch her new hairstyle. 
  • An older white relative keeps talking about all the super-smart Asian kids he’s taught over the years ever since someone in your family started dating a Filipino. 
  • Your friend’s white mom pretends she doesn’t know where your friend’s little brother picked up those racial slurs. She’s got a black coworker at the store she’s friends with, after all, and boy is she a HOOT! 
  • A white guy in your improv class puts on a wincingly stereotypical accent in a scene. You can tell he thinks he’s being subversive and “not-racist” because he makes the character smart/kind. 
  •  In real life, white strangers come up to your mixed-race friend and ask, “What are you?” 
  • Your white family member won’t stop pronouncing it “MOO-slem.” 

Do you feel like climbing inside a rocket ship and launching it underground while reading these? If so, you may in fact be experiencing Secondhand Whiteness. While certainly the horrible effects of systemic racism and bearing the full brunt of Primary Whiteness is a much greater burden, let us not forget the more or less innocent white bystanders who are right now super-uncomfortable.

This is not happening.
Symptoms of Secondhand Whiteness may include:
  • Extreme embarrassment 
  • Bruises from your jaw dropping onto something hard 
  • Shame over one’s shared cultural/racial background with the offender 
  • Eye strain from rolling them too much 
  • Liberal guilt 
  • Jim Halpert Face 
  • General squirminess 
  • Muscle strain around raised eyebrow(s)
  • Feelings of smugness over knowing better 
  • Neck pain from excess head-shaking 
  • Financial loss when you feel like you need to go donate to an anti-racist cause to counteract what you just witnessed 
  • Incredulity that no one else seems offended 

Secondhand Whiteness is akin to those moments during any Ricky Gervais production when that “I want to crawl under a blanket to hide and also die from the awkwardness” sensation rolls over you, overpowering any comedic value to the situation. It’s pretty much like that, but for real people in real life and also with (more) casual racism.

Girl, for real?
Locations where you are likely to be exposed to Secondhand Whiteness:
  • Work 
  • The suburbs, in general 
  • Cable news 
  • Family get-togethers 
  • America 
  • Just anywhere white people are, really 

Now, those of us on the receiving end of Secondhand Whiteness are not perfect. We are all products of a racist society, and even if some of us have taught college level Ethnic Studies classes, we say and do stupid shit, too. We have almost certainly been accidental dicks to people of color and exposed others to Secondhand Whiteness. But we can all do better! And if the person white-ing all over the place is someone you know and will probably not punch you in the face for doing so, maybe direct your Jim Halpert Face directly at them to let them know they are being Not Cool. Or, pull them aside later and say, “Hey, not cool.” If somebody tells you that you are being Not Cool about a racial thing, try to take it in and consider that perhaps they are right instead of automatically getting defensive because you don’t want to be racist, because racists are Bad and you are a Good Person. Even Good People can do racist stuff. But Good People can also learn and change.

Let’s get back to the matter at hand, though: Please, other white people, consider whether you should make that “joke” that contains a “positive” stereotype. Maybe think twice before you get a little too invested in somebody else’s culture or take a Free Pass in All Social Situations to Make This Particular Joke because you have that one first-gen American friend and she thinks your impressions of her immigrant parents are hilarious. Yes, you’d be perpetuating a white supremacist culture--but also, think of the other white people.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

When Bennie Met Mallory: A Short Story



The two esteemed statespersons sat across from each other for the first time since the last of however many godforsaken debates they’d had. Right before I destroyed him in New York, thank god, thought Mallory Roadhouse Clemmons, former cabinet secretary, former senator, former First Lady, former also-ran. They both shifted in their suits in the not-very-comfortable chairs in the lounge area of a nice but not excessively nice hotel suite commandeered by the Clemmons campaign for its pre-convention headquarters. Mallory suppressed the urge to verbally crush him, the “indie” Senator Bennie Saunders, hero to idealists, revolutionaries, and also a bunch of assholes on the internet. She wanted to yell out, “Who’s unqualified now, bitch?” She didn’t fancy receiving one of his moralistic scoldings, though, so she decided to rely on her tact, AKA her hard-won battle to completely destroy her own gag reflex.

“Bennie, weren’t we once collegial colleagues in the United States Senate?” Mallory asked, a little too ambitiously.

“I suppose we were, Mallory,” Bennie replied, his voice suddenly rising to “Grandpa talking on a cell phone” volume. “Until your friends on WALL STREET bought you the Secretaryship of State-Funded Cronyism.”

“That’s really unfair,” Mallory said. Her castrating blue eyes glistened with tears. Hurt? Anger?

“I don’t mean to impugn your character,” Bennie said, lowering his tone but raising his Wagging Finger of Justice. “But, like, it’s true. Why do you think all the superdelegates are loyal to you? You’re all beholden to the same corrupt influences.”

Mallory composed herself and sighed heavily like she had to do every single fucking time she spoke to a man. “If that’s what you need to believe. But we don’t need to be friends, Bennie. We need to hammer out what you’re going to say when you endorse me next week at the convention.”

Now Bennie sighed, running his hand through what was left of his signature free-flying white Doc Brown-style locks. “IF I endorse.”

“You can’t NOT endorse me,” Mallory snapped. She wished one of her millennial media managers was here to call up one of those amazing gifs (jifs?) of her looking Exasperated But Presidential during that last 11-hour show trial hearing. “You at least have to concede. That’s how these things work. If you want to join in on party politics so you can get media coverage and into debates, then you have to PLAY party politics when the time comes. So. What do you want in the platform?”

Mallory sat poised with her pen ready at her legal pad, an aged Tracy Flick, finally Getting Hers. Bennie took a sip of seltzer water, savoring the brisk bitterness. For just a few months, he’d felt what it was like to be in the In Crowd, approved-of, popular, even winning at times, and he would Get His before he returned, tired but not trampled, to his Righteous Caucus of One. Mallory stared at him and picked at some nonexistent food particle in her teeth with her tongue.

“If I were to endorse you. IF... Slavery reparations.”

Mallory cackled. “Mmhm. Sure.”

Even Bennie had to smile. She knew he was fucking around. “JK, JK. But for real, we gotta break up these big banks. That’s my number one.”

“Bennie, you can’t even tell tabloid editors how we’re supposed to do that.” Mallory was unsurprised but still annoyed.

“You’re the policy wonk. You tell me.” Bennie’s eyes wandered to where French doors opened on a king-size bed strewn with beautiful mandarin-collar jackets in all the colors of the rainbow. Wardrobe planning for the Big Moment. One thing he could be grateful for: they’d told him in the general election, he’d have to get a haircut and start wearing new, non-rumpled suits or some bullshit. The General. The real beauty contest.

Looking up from her notes, Mallory offered dryly, “I’ve got an advisory group I can talk to about possible modest reforms we might be able to insert into our economic plank. I mean, we are going with the nationwide $15 minimum wage and can emphasize giving Dodd-Frank more teeth. We could probably punch up some of the bank stuff in there.”

Bennie knew she couldn’t realistically offer more than that. Still, he couldn’t resist. “You know these big banks you love giving speeches to are a real scourge! The middle class in this country...”

As he launched into his stump speech, in tiny letters, Mallory wrote “KILL ME” over and over again in the same spot until she tore the page with her pen, which was custom-made from Arkansas oak that an especially sexist and curmudgeonly old colleague had given her when she became their firm’s first female partner. She’d been buying expensive replacement ink for it all these years, dreaming of holding it in her capable hand when yet another powerful man would have to concede that yes, she could, yes, she DID do it after all. Her dreams had been dashed eight short (long?) years ago by that Chicago upstart. Terrible, awful timing. But they’d both moved past their bitterness over the nasty campaign and become something like friends. She knew the President would expect her to call him later and he’d laugh as she recounted the meeting in detail, leaving out none of the meanest jokes. He loved hearing gossip. Stored it all up, never spilling a word--too high-minded to indulge in that--but everybody knew that he knew all the dirt.

Mallory finally interrupted, “I’ve heard the pitch, Bennie. What else do you want?”

Bennie hesitated a moment. He knew he often came off as impractical, whimsical even, in his ideas, but this was important and he needed to plant the seed. “I want federal funding for an educational cartoon series starring me, but as a bird: Wrennie Saunders. You know, like that time a bird landed near me and everybody acted like I was fucking Snow White? That was the best day of my campaign. I think I could harness that joyfulness to inform the public.”

Mallory stifled a laugh. “You want, like, a PBS series?”

“Sure! Or a web series. On Netflix or whatever. You know, my campaign staff tells me a lot of young people don’t even own televisions anymore. I mean, I haven’t had one since I marched with MLK myself. But I’d do the voice. Of the bird. We’d teach kids about corruption and corporate greed and Citizens United and--”

“Yeah, okay. That’s going to be a tough sell with the other Dems after you refused to help fundraise downticket, but I’ll do what I can to help you get the funding in the next congressional session. We’ll tack it on to something bland. Modest infrastructure funding. But for real, what else do you want in the party platform?”

“That’s it.” He savored more of the room temperature bubbly water from the can he’d brought with him.

“Seriously?” Mallory was sure he was playing her. She pushed back a nonexistent stray hair into her impeccable blonde bubble.

“You’re running against a literal circus clown! Why bother pushing left?”

“But isn’t that why--” Mallory stopped. She stared and tapped her beloved pen on her notepad. “You’re not even going to show up to the convention, are you?”

The left corner of Bennie’s mouth betrayed the flicker of a smile. “I may have some urgent family business in my home state.”

“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” Tact Time over.

He really had considered falling in line properly, but that just wasn’t him. Always the contrarian. Happy to be unpopular. Principles are the most loyal friends, after all. “I’ll send a proxy endorser.”

“Who. Susan fucking Sarandon? You’re completely fucking me.”

“Well, like you, I’m not sure I’m even a Democrat.” He smiled to himself and finished the can.

Mallory tossed her pad and pen on the coffee table between them. So tired. So, so tired of this. “Get the fuck out. My staff should’ve taken this meeting for me to begin with.”

Bennie shrugged and got up to leave. “I wasn’t kidding about the bird show.”

“Go pitch it to Viceland, asshole.” (She could thank her daughter Kelsey for that reference.)

He looked at her, bemused, but quickly left, satisfied to be on the Establishment’s shit list once again. After all, he’d been in it to inspire, to provoke. He’d never really wanted to be the next Jimmy Carter. A single aide met him in the lobby--he was finally free of Secret Service detail--who traded him his empty La Croix for a full one.

Back upstairs, an exhausted Mallory went over to the bed and collapsed on top of her fine silk jackets, fingering the cuff of that gold one she loved so much but people told her she wore too often. She’d call in the team in a moment. She'd pretend to care what her husband had to say, call the President and talk it out, and just keep gritting her teeth through the next few months still between her and the throne. But right now she needed to just sigh for a bit. Men.