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Archive for August, 2009

Bryan Richards

A Thousand Words: One Fat Baby

August 31st, 2009
by Bryan Richards


I was a fat baby.

My mom loves to remind me of this fact. I was so large that strangers used to ask why this toddler of hers was having such a hard time sitting up on his own. It pained my mother to have to tell them that this toddler was actually a six-month-old baby, barely old enough to digest solid food.

Apparently, not only was I something closely resembling a small hippo as a baby, I was also riddled with terrible skin; acne so bad that she had to keep a hanky on hand to collect the ooze and scabs that would erupt throughout the day. She frequently recalls the many times that she would carry me home after a day of shopping or a long walk, crying in shame and anger at the fact that so many folks felt compelled to remind her of my minor deformities.


Jessica Anya Blau

A Thousand Words: Smoking With an Asthmatic Baby

August 31st, 2009
by Jessica Anya Blau


You might remember my mother, Bonnie Blau, from the interview I did with her about a year ago.  We talked about the fact that she thinks she looks like Bruce Springsteen.  You can read that interview here.  As a follow up, here’s an interview with my mother where I ask her about one of my favorite photos.  It’s the only picture I have of me as a little kid with my mother.

Do you remember where this photo was taken?

It was taken by your dad in Watertown, Massachusetts. 

What was that time of life like for you? 

It was nice.  We lived in a nice place.  All our friends were the same age and had children the same age. And life was pretty simple.  We didn’t have any money but life was simple because taking care of kids is simple.  And everyone was in the same situation so it was one of those nice situations.  If I needed someone to take care of you, someone would come over.  And the kids could go in and out and run outside.  Although you didn’t go out much, you mostly stayed with me.  And when you went out you took off all your clothes.  You were bad.  You were good, but funny.  It was a nice time of life.  Everyone was equal.  There was one family the Dugans* that lived two houses down.  They were kind of out of place because he was an alcoholic and


Gina Frangello

A Thousand Words: A Decent Proposal

August 31st, 2009
by Gina Frangello


I’m in an elevator, with my 10 month old twin daughters in their obtrusively large twin stroller. We are headed to the pediatrician’s. Several other people are in the elevator with us, and most of them are staring at my daughters, which is a common response to babies in general, twin babies in particular, and Chinese twin babies with a Caucasian mother most of all. Though I have only had the girls for a few weeks at this point, I am already used to the stares. My husband says that going out with them is like going out with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (who are still married; it is 2001) because of all the attention. We make jokes like this; we think we are unflappable. We think people who adopt children from other countries and then freak out because people stare or ask questions are freaky and uptight.

A woman in the elevator turns to me and says, “Oh, they’re darling!” and I smile. I am still smiling when she says loudly, “How much did they cost?”


Ben Loory

Twenty Dollars

August 30th, 2009
by Ben Loory


When I was in fifth grade, I was in love with Shirlene DuJack. We used to draw pictures of TIE fighters together. It was the ideal relationship. The only problem was that the school bully, Wayne DeCourte, was also in love with Shirlene DuJack. A fact which I found annoying. Apparently he felt similarly, because one day he announced that the two of us were going to have to fight after school for the hand of Shirlene DuJack. This made sense to me, so I agreed, with one stipulation: I had piano lessons that day, so could it be tomorrow? Wayne said sure, and we shook on it. It was all very gentlemanly.

Kip Tobin

Mil Palabras: Guadalajaran Trees

August 30th, 2009
by Kip Tobin

August 30, 2029


In those days, I was finishing up a degree in the Spanish language in Guadalajara, Mexico, riding the wave of what was left of my mid-life postponement, wedged between two countries, two languages, girlfriends, professions, et al. I remember I turned 36 there, straddling the fence between youth and middle-age, having just moved from Madrid where I had lived for almost six years, and the six weeks in Mexico was an understated adjustment, preceded by the initial shock that Mexico was not even second but third world.


D.R. Haney

How I Became Human

August 30th, 2009
by D.R. Haney


Growing up working-class in a small Southern city, I early acquired a racist vocabulary. This was by no means encouraged by my parents, who were mortified when, at four or so, I referred to a fellow customer at Sears as a nigger. I have no memory of doing that — I was told about it years later — but I’m sure I was baffled by the punishment I received. The kids in my neighborhood used the word “nigger” as a matter of course. To them, it was an appropriate term for a person of color, and I followed suit, even after the Sears incident. Why punish someone for calling a bird a bird? And why would a bird object? So, I think, my reasoning went.

Lenore Zion

There Have Been Many Lies

August 30th, 2009
by Lenore Zion


I had a friend in grade school named Krista.  I didn’t like when she came over to play with me because when she was around I had to eat dry cat food.

It was my own fault.  I told her I ate dry cat food, that I enjoyed it.  It wasn’t true.  I don’t know why I said it.  She didn’t believe me, so I had to prove it to her by, indeed, eating dry cat food in front of her.

It’s not that the taste is so horrible.  It’s really a texture thing.  It crumbles dryly in your mouth, and because the flavor isn’t fantastic, your mouth doesn’t respond with much saliva.  The result is a mouthful of paste that tastes very little like the “Chicken Dinner” it claims to be. (more…)

Christopher Eaton

Dressed for the Occasion

August 30th, 2009
by Christopher Eaton


Growing up in New England, the winter season was always reliably white. Snow thick and rolling on the hills, limning the streets, topping every traffic light with a nightcap. It has colored memories of my childhood: snow angels, ice sculptures, toboggan runs, rimed windows, white-dusted trees, icicled eaves, snowmen with the obligatory carrot marking the front.

Since Mom believed strongly in the restorative powers of outdoor play, I spent part of everyday outside, even in winter. Equipping myself for the rigors of winter recreation meant encasing my frame in layers of cotton, wool, rubber, and nylon.


Simon Smithson

The Dumbest Thing I have Ever Said

August 29th, 2009
by Simon Smithson


Not the dumbest thing I have ever thought, mind you. That honour goes to a moment when I was walking down Castro Street in San Francisco, glanced across the street, and saw a burger joint called Sliders. And into my head came the thought Huh. I wonder if that’s a whole place themed after that Jerry O’Connell show from the mid-90s?

This was followed, instantly, by There it is, Simon. Right there. That’s the single stupidest thing you will ever think in your entire life.


Jennifer Duffield White

How a Girl and her Dog Drove from New York to Montana

August 29th, 2009
by Jennifer Duffield White


The barefoot summer is nearly over.

My soles are dirty, maybe permanently so; they are also thick and somewhat wiser than they were when this summer began 2,714 miles east of here.

There are certain things one learns (or doesn’t learn) when driving the highway between New York and Montana



Pillhead, by Joshua Lyon - Book Trailer

August 29th, 2009

Please enjoy this book trailer for Pillhead, the riveting memoir by Joshua Lyon, available RIGHT HERE.

TNB Photo of the Day

Pillhead, by Joshua Lyon

August 29th, 2009
by TNB Photo of the Day

The acclaimed memoir by our very own Joshua Lyon is now on shelves and can be purchased RIGHT HERE. Go get it!

Joshua Lyon

The Thirteenth Victim

August 29th, 2009
by Joshua Lyon


A recent hangover found me still under the covers at 2:00 PM. I called out to my boyfriend Casey, but instead of asking for water or Advil, I asked him to look up details about the murder of Konerak Sinthasomphone, Jeffrey Dahmer’s thirteenth victim.

From under my pillow I’d been half-listening to Casey talk about the death of Ted Kennedy. Casey is young enough that Ted’s incident at Chappaquiddick, in the news once more, was a revelation. He was reading aloud about the crash from my desk across the room, and it got me thinking about the guilt one must feel when responsible for the death of another human. That in turn made me remember that after Jeffrey Dahmer was caught, reports surfaced about a fourteen year-old boy who had briefly escaped him. (more…)

Doug Mulliken

If Any Guy in His Mid-Twenties is Qualified, It’s Me

August 28th, 2009
by Doug Mulliken


2:45 AM — In my mind, it’s hard to write about heartbreak at age 26.  It’s one of those intricacies about the writing profession - a musician writing a song about heartbreak at age 26 is rarely questioned, yet a writer writing a piece about heartbreak at 26 is deemed, at least by me, to have not experienced enough.  How can you write about heartbreak at 26?  You’re still a kid.  A 26-year old can’t possibly have enough worldliness to know how truly bad it can get, how painful it really is.  That’s the view I tend to take - writers, unlike mathematicians, improve with age, and the more you live through the more you are capable of writing about.  I suppose it’s a hang-up from being constantly told to “write what you know.”  As a fairly normal suburban white kid, that didn’t make for very interesting writing, but nobody ever told me anything else. (more…)

Zara Potts

A Thousand Words: The End of Summer

August 28th, 2009
by Zara Potts


In the morning, there are tui. Native to this land of the long white cloud, they call to each other with the sound of bells.

Their feathers look black but if you happen to find one carelessly shed; you see that it is made more of the sea than the air. The colours are iridescent green and violet and they shimmer before your eyes.


Matt Baldwin

E-mailing the Hurricane

August 28th, 2009
by Matt Baldwin


Note to the reader: I lived in New Orleans from 2001-2005. For the last six months of this period I held a position both on the security team and as an ER intake/administrator at the Oschner hospital, the largest medical facility in Orleans Parish and one of only two to remain open in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. As a member of the Disaster Relief Staff remained within the city for the storm and the first few weeks of the aftermath. The following document is a collection of the emails I mass-sent to friends and family during that time. I have edited out some bits of personal information of no interest to the casual reader and have made some minor corrections to the spelling, but have otherwise left the text unchanged, grammatical warts and all, so as to preserve the immediacy in which these were originally written. Some of the second-hand information reported herein was later proven to be hearsay, and some of it turned out to be worse than originally thought. I was very torn as to whether I should publish this at all, and am doing so largely due to the encouragement of some friends and fellow TNBers.

The paragraph titles are taken from the subject lines of the original emails.


Irene Zion

I Paint What I See

August 28th, 2009
by Irene Zion


Sara and Ben were really good, dependable kids. Lonny and Timothy and Lenore were entirely different. They were dependable only insofar as you could count on them screwing up.  By screwing up I do not mean small things. These were kids who regularly required the involvement of the police.


Alexander Chee

Learning to Love Long Duk Dong

August 28th, 2009
by Alexander Chee


When Long Duk Dong appears for the first time during Sixteen Candles, a gong rings, and if you’re of East Asian descent, as you see his face swing down over the bunk bed and the halo of black hair appear around his head (and Samantha screams) you experience a moment of PTSD, remembering every time anyone ever followed you on the street softly muttering “ching-chong-ching-chong-ching-chong”.

The experience I have of Sixteen Candles is a complicated one. The pleasure for me is being in love with Jake Ryan right alongside Samantha, her story an allegory for my own awkwardness and desires as a gay teen back then. Being overlooked on your birthday because your perfect sister is getting married—even if she’s marrying someone no one likes—is a metaphor for being gay in America in the 80s. There’s a reason Molly Ringwald became a gay icon for life after this film, in other words. (more…)

Brad Listi

Unsolicited Advice

August 28th, 2009
by Brad Listi


First things first: Be careful not to worry too much. But don’t worry too little, either, because then you might wind up with even more to worry about than you originally bargained for. And it’s important to bargain. It’s important to be frugal and exercise caution. And it’s important to exercise, too. You have to stay fit. Because if you stay fit, your mind will be sharp, and that will help you bargain well. Otherwise, you’ll get taken for a ride.


Rachel Pollon

A Thousand Words: I Like This Photo Because My Hair Looks Really Good

August 28th, 2009
by Rachel Pollon


It was the night of my dear friend Clara’s birthday party. I can’t quite remember if it was a momentous year - a round number, the beginning of a new decade - but I do recall having party nerves and that I’d be going solo. I wasn’t seeing anyone at the time or, if I was, it wasn’t serious. Or maybe I was seeing Mark but he was out of town. None of these details matter, really. This essay is about me and how good I looked at Clara’s party.