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We speak jive

Archive for the ‘Inertia’ Category

Simon Smithson

On Change

November 8th, 2009
by Simon Smithson


A friend of mine doesn’t meet new people easily. It’s possible he may be suffering from a touch of Asperger’s (if there is such a thing as a ‘touch’ of Asperger’s). In familiar situations, he likes to dominate - by putdowns, by attack, by withholding attention. But as soon as a random, unknown element - a new person, for example - is introduced, the strength and the bluster vanish from him. He goes strangely quiet; backs down like a loudly-barking Chihuahua suddenly confronted with a pit bull. The more distinct and different a stranger, and their appearance and lifestyle, is from my friend and his, the more difficulty he has meeting their eyes. In the absence of common ground, my friend becomes unsure, and intimidated. He has no way of bridging the gap, and suddenly his confidence in his own position collapses like a house of cards. Those of us who know him well can see the uncertainty and the fear creeping up in him until, finally, when we are alone, he will confide in us ‘I didn’t like that guy.’ (more…)

Paul A. Toth

My Siamese Twin

November 6th, 2009
by Paul A. Toth


This has been what I call the Year of Ice. Colder than a shaved polar bear. Sayonara 2009. It’s been a year of pills, pills and more pills, until finally I seem to have reached some kind of treaty with bipolar disorder, which barely warrants discussion given that virtually everyone is now diagnosed as bipolar. Still, it’s important to note that when I write “ice,” I mean anxiety, yet when I write “anxiety,” I do not describe all attributes of “ice.” (more…)

J.E. Fishman

Hair Today

October 7th, 2009
by J.E. Fishman


By happenstance or predilection, I am generally surrounded by people who embrace change with the enthusiasm of a koala hugging a porcupine.  For example, my parents stayed on the same floor of the same hotel every winter in Boca Raton for more than a decade before moving there from Great Neck.  And for the past ten years, they’ve stayed in the same hotel in Great Neck every summer when they’re not in Boca. (more…)

Meghan Elizabeth Hunt

All that Junk, Rattling around My Brain (AKA, the Ramblings of a Constantly Musing Woman)

October 6th, 2009
by Meghan Elizabeth Hunt


I grew up in a small village on the Connecticut River in northern New Hampshire. There were more trees and cows than there were people and up until I was a surly teenager, I loved it.

Then puberty hit and I despised my little hamlet. Outside of my family, there wasn’t a single reason to stay and every day brought me closer to college and escape.

Now I’m 10 years past that day and 4 years past the day I left New England completely behind and every fall my heart hurts. It’s like the ache you associate with an old injury, the kind of pain cold weather and rainy days bring.

Leaving New England was like breaking up with a childhood romance.

I often wonder if I’ll ever get over it completely.


Jennifer Duffield White

Riding Towards the Light on a Red Bicycle

October 4th, 2009
by Jennifer Duffield White


It’s the cliché metaphor of the last century: The light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe the guy who hammered and dynamited the railway path through the mountain knew just what it meant.

We think we know, after burying ourselves in whatever misery or work that elicits the oft-used metaphor.

But this isn’t about that. (more…)

Lenore Zion

Sunday Morning/The Party’s Over

October 4th, 2009
by Lenore Zion


I call it the “Sunday Morning/The Party’s Over Depression.”

When I was a kid, my parents let me have birthday parties. An entire gaggle of prepubescent girls would swarm my house and play stupid games on Saturday. Most of these games don’t have official names. There was the one where we pretended to put each other into some sort of supernatural spell, a possession of some kind, and even though we all faked it, we also all thought it was real when another girl was possessed. This always made me think there was something wrong with me. Why can’t I become possessed? All the other girls can.


Ben Loory

Tarnishment of the Living Apparatus

September 15th, 2009
by Ben Loory


There is no point to this. The point is that I’m getting sick. I just noticed it an hour ago. Suddenly I am blowing my nose. Out of nowhere. And now feeling a little wonky. So I took some vitamin C and ate about 14 pounds of sautéed spinach and now I am sitting here waiting to die. If the pig flu gets me tell them I was an okay guy. Kind of quiet and not very good at tennis, but basically decent.

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.


Meghan Elizabeth Hunt

Never Ask a Woman Her Age…Just Give Her Cake

August 18th, 2009
by Meghan Elizabeth Hunt


In approximately 5 days, I will be a year older.

This seems somewhat impossible, this gain in age, and yet the calendar refuses to budge on it. A year ago, at this very moment in time, I was waiting in distaste for my birthday to come.

Not today, though. Today, for the first time in what feels like forever, I am welcoming my birthday with open arms.

Well, only if it brings cake. Should my birthday forget to bring cake, I’ll be forced to lock it out of the house. (more…)

Brandon Gorrell

Most of the People I Know on the Internet

August 11th, 2009
by Brandon Gorrell


I have written small reflections on most of the people I know on the internet. Most of the people are associated with the “Internet Literary Scene”. I didn’t use the internet while writing this. People are listed alphabetically.

ADAM J. MAYNARD: Runs “My Name Is Mud”. Continually slightly confused about his age. Like the design of his website. Seems to like me.

ADAM ROBINSON: Feel like he edits Publishing Genius but also feel unsure. Have “kind of no idea” of his opinion of me while worrying, slightly, that he dislikes me. Watched a video of him singing and felt really confused.


Aaron Dietz

A Thousand Words: I Have a Fear of Heights; I Went Skydiving Anyway

July 26th, 2009
by Aaron Dietz


I’m at the airport, confident. I’ve never had vertigo in a plane before, so I’m not worried about jumping out of one.

Besides, my dad is jumping, too, and I don’t want to wimp out on him. Mom is here, too, documenting the whole thing in photos, so if I wimp out, there will be photographic evidence of my cowardice. (more…)

Kristen Elde

In Transit

July 8th, 2009
by Kristen Elde


Knowledge is learning something every day.
Wisdom is letting go of something every day.

—Zen Proverb

Against the dull roar of eight-million-plus, I’ve often felt a shadowy sense of loss as another train whizzes by me, the faces in the windows clear for a few seconds before fading into the future. I find myself thinking about how unlikely it is that I’ll ever see them again, or if I do, how there’s not a chance in hell of recognition.

Enter Craigslist. An unlikely credit, perhaps, but along with equipping me with temporary housing, a kitchen table, and cake decorating classes, the venerable 12-year-old marketplace, has impressed on me the value of transitory relationships.

Take the other day. I was fifty bucks and a lunch-hour meet-up away from landing a pair of Andrew Bird tickets. Should’ve been easy enough, considering the man with the goods worked all of ten blocks from me. But circumstances were not in our favor, and it took several emails, a phone call, a missed opportunity, several texts, and a few more emails before we finally managed the exchange.


Zsofia McMullin

There Are No Dessert Forks in America

June 30th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin


A couple of years ago, when I was fresh out of college and living in my first apartment, my parents came to visit from Hungary. Opening a kitchen drawer, my Mom was surprised to find months’ or even years’ worth of Hungarian snacks, spice mixes, and other food stuff stashed away.

“Why do I keep sending you all this when you don’t use them,” she asked me. I didn’t really know the answer — or didn’t want to admit — that it just felt good to have all those familiar flavors right at hand, even if I didn’t want or need to use them. The shiny packages of meatloaf mix, the crinkle of the chocolate pudding powder package, all reminded me of home.

Kip Tobin

The Electrifying Conclusion to One of the Sloppiest International Moves in Recent History, or Everything (Supposedly) Happens for a Reason

June 16th, 2009
by Kip Tobin


“Passport?” At 3 am I jolt upright in bed. “Where’s my passport?” In 12 hours I’m to get on a plane on an international flight back to the US–to move back after living her for six years–and at that instant a something massive and visceral smacks me awake. I hadn’t seen my passport in a few days. Inés wakes up, asks what’s wrong, says she’ll always lucky at finding things and that she’ll help me look for it. From 3 to 4 am we search all three pieces of luggage and every corner, shelf and nook throughout the apartment. Nowhere. It’s gone. A numbness covers me, because as I think about when I last saw it and where it should be, I can only deduce that I most likely threw it away, inadvertently. Because this final move consisted of giving away, disposing of or recycling all the surplus, I conclude that I either tossed it in the trash, gave it to a friend in some heap of a donation, or it went in the paper recycling bin along with hundreds of other papers that didn’t make the cut.

That’s right, I threw away my passport and realize it 13 hours before my flight.


Doug Mulliken

Wherein, Upon the 65th Anniversary of my Grandfathers not Invading Normandy, I Reflect on What I Have Learned in the Past Year

June 5th, 2009
by Doug Mulliken


65 years ago, the wall was written upon.  The allies invaded Normandy, signalling (for all intents and purposes) the beginning of the end of World War II.  Neither of my grandfathers were involved in those invasions.  One was 4-F, the other was 2-B.  By June 6, 1944 both of my parents had already been born, so even if my grandfathers had fought at Normandy, my arrival on this planet thirty-nine years later would not have been necessarily altered.  But my father fought in Vietnam, my brother joined the Army a month before 9/11, I grew up in Navy Town, USA, and I share my birthday with, arguably, the most important day of combat in the entire 20th century.  So the military has always been present in my life.  By the time this posts, it will be June 6, 2009.  So I thought I would take a look back and see how things have changed, and what I have learned, in the last year. (more…)

Brad Listi

Comment Culture

May 20th, 2009
by Brad Listi


Just read some pretty interesting stuff on “comment culture,” which has become an area of interest over the past few years. A new mutation in the human fabric.

Naturally I’m fascinated by the comment boards on this site. I’m also fascinated by comment boards in general, and the people who populate them, and I wonder how they work, and why.

With respect to The Nervous Breakdown and its boards, I often find myself asking: What is it? And how did it happen? And what is its value? And who is it that’s drawn here? And why? And what might this weird beast become?

And things like that.


Paul A. Toth

Interviewing the Elusive Harrison Ford

May 7th, 2009
by Paul A. Toth


Staring into Harrison Ford’s eyes is like watching Star Wars while mildly intoxicated: One sees stars and something scrolling, words and thoughts that have nothing to do with today. I ask him about his film legacy and he replies, “Which one?”

“How about Star Wars?”

“That was a good movie.”

“And Indiana Jones?”

“Good movies. Those were good movies.”

I struggle with a follow-up. His eyes are piercing, though what they’re piercing is uncertain. We order drinks and he begins to loosen up.


Zsofia McMullin

Leaf Management

April 20th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin


My garden taunted me all winter long. And that’s a long time in Maine. For several weeks, the snow was so high that the small wrought-iron fences that give the garden some sort of organization and form were completely invisible. I couldn’t wait until spring to dig my hands into the soil again.

My husband always corrects me when I call the area behind our house a “garden.” “It’s a yard,” he says, and I think he is wrong. A yard, to me, is some sort of vast expanse of grass, maybe some bushes and hedges. Perhaps a flower bed.  I am sure that there is a dictionary definition that would clear all this up, but frankly, I am just not that interested in the terminology.


Rich Ferguson

Things You Should Avoid Doing When You’re In Seventh Grade, And Your Tongue Is Frozen to the Flagpole In The Dead of Winter…

March 14th, 2009
by Rich Ferguson


1. Learn how to disco.

2. Or semaphore.

3. Study for next period’s oral French exam.


Paul A. Toth

The Case of the Publisher and the Silent Alarm Clock

March 7th, 2009
by Paul A. Toth


Now more than ever comes publishing industry’s chance to redeem itself. It might finally take chances again, though for me “again” means about the time when I was ten years old and watching Dick Cavett interviews with novelists I, even at that age, recognized as culturally dangerous. (more…)