My Crumbling Empire

Careful which hand you shake.
  • scissors
    October 19th, 2012adminUncategorized

    If the phrase“But I’m an artist” were an acceptable thing to say to people and could keep me out of jail, oh the things I would do. For beginners, Urah would have lunches not of food per-say, but of artfully arranged sawdust, cut up poetry and wet wigs. On Friday she would unfold the wrap that usually contains her special Friday sandwich and find a tear stained copy of Everyday Etiquette. Her water bottle would provide her with nothing but the sigh of someone who has just realized how sad life really is. Her teacher would call to complain. The other parents would give me the stink eye in the hallway. “But I’m an artist” I would shout.

    Homework would be easy because I would always hand in representations of the process of my having completed my homework, rather than the finished product. In place of my analysis of Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life, a video of me slogging through a child sized swimming pool full of gravy while wearing shoe boxes on my feet.. “You can’t fail me. I am an artist Goddamnit! “

    When someone catches me shoving pistachio shells onto my fingertips, I won’t have to explain that it’s because I like to pretend that the shells are my perfectly oval shaped beige colored fingernails and I only have 10 minutes to decide what permanent color to paint them. I can just say. “Because I’m an artist, betch.”

  • scissors
    November 10th, 2011adminUncategorized

    Ethan and I went to see David Sedaris at the Hult Center. He is just as charming and enthusiastic about turds as he can be. After the show, we waited in line to meet him and have him sign our books.  He spent a few minutes talking with everyone he met, which made me nervous because I knew I had to think of something cool to say.

    Luckily I was planted smack in front of the open bar and was able to have a few quick drinks before the molasses-paced line moved on. I planned on asking him how he manages to come across as cool and collected when speaking in public, but instead, when I finally got up to him, I asked him what he eats for breakfast and told him a joke he didn’t think was funny.

    “What do you eat for breakfast?” What the hell, Ami? And I did that thing where I pull my lips up over my teeth when I asked. It looks threatening, like I am baring my canines and challenging an enemy: “I won’t ask you twice, David.”

    Things got a little fuzzy for a minute, but I bounced back with my story of the time I tried to take a discrete dump in a friend’s shower because I didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing. It was topical, and the story was invited. It came on the heels of him telling a story about a friend who shits in her hand to avoid the splash in the toilet. He asked if it’s something I do and I said, “No, but I pretend to be showering.” He replied with, “Well a lot of people do that,” and I said, “Yes, but I actually shat in the shower.”

    He looked horrified and delighted, pulled out his notebook and asked me what I did next. I thought, “What the hell do you think I did, David Sedaris?” and I told him how I had to smash it down the drain; that it crept between my toes. It was disgusting, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was young then and have learned a few tricks in my old age.

    He looked at me and said, “The fact that you didn’t realize you could just run the shower and shit in the toilet— it’s solid gold.” “Thank you,” I said. As I turned aside, he repeated “Solid gold.”

    I walked away, beaming from my comeback. Then two things hit me: 1. I just gave away some of my best material, and 2. David Sedaris now knows that I’m the kind of person who smashes turds down a friend’s shower drain.

    I suddenly felt deflated. Whatever chance I had of being invited over for Sunday brunch was gone now. And if for some reason I do make my way into his home and feel the urge to defecate, he’ll know exactly what I’m doing when I jump up suddenly and announce that I “just need a quick afternoon shower.”

    I’ll have to be creative with the disposal of my droppings. I’ll roam his halls looking for the perfect cover. He’ll get anxious and come looking, and there I’ll be, perched on the edge of a houseplant in the guest room. “Just admiring your lovely ficus,” I’ll say, while his boyfriend demands that David stop me; I am, after all, his guest.

  • scissors
    November 27th, 2010adminUncategorized

    One of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in my life was my stepdad chasing two ponies down the freeway. The ponies, Shadow and Blackie, were bequeathed to us from a couple my parents used to do drug deals with, so I can only assume they came to live in our walnut orchard as the result of a deal gone awry.

    Ordinarily, any preteen girl would be thrilled to have not one, but two ponies of her very own. But there was something surreal and depressing about seeing the creatures amid the remains of other desperate payments from deals gone bad: the broken-down go-cart, the mini motorcycle, the crossbow and target. Our walnut orchard was the final resting place of a bounty of ill-gotten treasures.

    The ponies lived there until the day they moseyed on up our driveway and found themselves smack in the middle of Interstate 5. Oddly, they ran a few laps around our house before my stepdad realized what they were up to. He then started to chase them. Just him. No backup. One man—two ponies.

    I remember watching from the porch and thinking, “What the hell is he going to do when he catches them?” and wondering how you’d catch not one, but two ponies. Around the neck? Sleeper hold? He was yelling a lot, but that wasn’t working. You just haven’t lived until you’ve seen a screaming man galloping down the freeway after two ponies.

    Ultimately, the ponies ended up in the pound, and my sister and I missed them, along with our happy days sneaking out to take turns at the salt lick. But the memory of the two carefree animals trotting down the interstate as a wild-eyed, red-faced man ran after them, cursing and screaming, is worth all the salt licks in China.

  • scissors
    September 22nd, 2010adminUncategorized

    Recently I was taken aback when a random woman apologized to me. “I hope you don’t mind my missing teeth,” she said. Actually, she wasn’t that random. The Texan mother of a gal I hired from Craigslist to paint our trim, she had come to take pictures of her daughter painting and decided to snap a few of the kids. “I lost my teeth somewhere and I need new ones, but I’m saving up,” she reassured me.

    “No problem at all,” I replied. “It could happen to anyone.” Once my stepmom lost her teeth in the lake and everyone spent a good two hours looking for her keys as she moaned, “I lost my keeth! My goddamn keeth aren’t here!”

    When did I start to look like the type of person who needs an apology for a few missing teeth? Missing teeth are a pivotal element of the Jerome dynasty. Not only are they usually missing in my family, but once they’re out of the skull, we do unseemly things with them: threaten, harass, smoke. If it can be done with a tooth, a Jerome has done it.

    But of course I couldn’t explain all this to her. I was just coming in from work, dressed in my best, and here she was in floppy, torn dungarees, naked as a jaybird without her teeth.

    Perhaps I am exempt from the family curse that dictates, “No Jerome shall walk among them unnoticed.” Maybe I blend in as a regular person; the kind of person who deserves—no, demands an apology when faced with a toothless mouth.

    My work trousers get the credit for the unwarranted self-consciousness. Had she arrived at any other time, I most assuredly would have been in my going-nowhere clothes, hair all greasy. She would have taken one look at me and gotten the impression that I’d cut her for a chimichanga.

  • scissors
    June 10th, 2010adminUncategorized

    Dear Jake,

    So you don’t like my pink trim, huh? Well, guess what? I don’t take decorating tips from someone who likes burlwood clocks. Burlwood clocks are an inmate’s way of saying “I’m sorry for hitting you.”

    Get your act together, buddy.



  • scissors
    June 8th, 2010adminUncategorized

    Dear Ex-Aunt Stacy,

    When I was 11 or maybe 12, I accidentally left a turd in your toilet. I realized just as we passed each other in the doorway of the bathroom, but it was too late to turn around and flush.

    Things were never the same between us after that. I am certain that somehow this is your fault.



  • scissors
    June 7th, 2010adminUncategorized

    Long before I tricked Ethan into loving me, he was my nemesis. I don’t recall any specific reasons why now, but I could often be found plotting revenge and drafting blueprints for public humiliations. The problem I kept running into was how to humiliate someone who was casual about that time he pooped himself while wearing nylons.

    In fact, the only time I’ve ever seen Ethan really get upset by someone’s prank was when he woke up to Arnica hovering over his cowboy boot like a crusty gargoyle while peeing in it. He insisted that it was very difficult for him to find boots in his size, and that everyone knows cowboys have small feet.

    One night I had a brilliant idea: I would steal his hat and go graffiti up the downtown area, leaving the hat behind as evidence. I figured anyone would be able to recognize his hat—he always wore it, and it was the kind an old-timey detective would wear while solving crimes. At the time this seemed reasonable, but keep in mind that I was young and usually operating under the influence of a drug-and-alcohol buffet.

    Things were going smoothly. After putting the finishing touches on my spray-painted butts and wieners and placing the hat where the cops would be sure to find it, I was crawling over the tall iron fence of a storage unit facility when who should pull up but a police officer. I was literally caught red-handed.

    The officer gets out of his car, walks over to me, glances behind me at the freshly painted walls, looks back at me and asks what’s going on.

    “Nothing,” I reply.

    “You see who did this?” he asks.

    “Fat kid in pajamas. He ran that way,” I say, gesturing to the south with my elbow.

    The officer leaves.

    I have to believe this cop just didn’t feel like dealing with me, and not that he went chasing after the fanciful culprit, though I was ready with more details, should he have asked. 

    His pajamas were striped, he walked with an unsteady gait, and his hair was mostly straight, but curled up a bit on the forehead where things got greasier. He was wearing sneakers with two different colored laces, one neon green, one black—I remember because I thought it odd that he’d be wearing sneakers with pajamas. He looked like his name was Aaron, or possibly Matt. His cheeks were red compared to the rest of his pale face. It looked like he didn’t get out much, and his sensitive skin was reacting to the atmosphere.

    The fat-kid-in-pajamas explanation has, over the years, become one of my favorites. You can use it with anyone, from roommates and employers to pet shop owners and British royalty. Who ate all the Beefaroni? Fat kid in pajamas. Who spilled coffee on the Mancini file? Fat kid in pajamas. Who mixed the betas? Fat kid in pajamas. How did this horse get in the ballroom? Fat kid in pajamas.

    The thing that really tickles me about this memory is the fact that if I had been busted, I’d still be paying the fine—which means that Ethan would be paying, because while I go to school, he’s working. So either way I would have gotten him. That’s almost as funny as the time I swindled him into marrying me and combining our DNA.

  • scissors
    May 18th, 2010adminUncategorized

    Dear Tina from work,

    Everyone at work is scared of you. You ought to know that. The other day, when you didn’t know I was in the next room, I was certain you were about to call me an idiot.

    I’m scared of you too, and if you had called me an idiot, not knowing that I was in the next room, I would have gotten underneath the table and hidden until you were gone for the day. That’s how afraid of you I am, Tina.


  • scissors
    May 15th, 2010adminUncategorized

    Two weeks ago I decided to quit the body-building gym I’d been attending. I had no way of anticipating the problems that would come with this decision. First, I had unknowingly signed up for a year contract. I have a bad habit of simply signing things and worrying about it later. When I got the letter in the mail informing me that I would still be required to pay the $30 per month, I was aghast. That’s a lot of money to go nowhere and do nothing. It’s even more to continue going to a gym where the instructors apply grease before coming to work and the members openly grunt. I had to think of a plan. 

    So I called in to explain that I have a sick family member I’m taking care of and I just can’t find the time to continue with the gym. I pulled out all the stops: low sad voice, heavy sighs, far-off attitude—I even threw in a compliment sandwich: “I love your gym, it’s just a bit expensive for me right now. I hope I can come back.”

    It worked.

    I got out of my contract, but now whenever I walk by this gym—which is often because I live around the corner—I have to pretend to be sad because I’m paranoid the owners will see me and know I lied. Looking sad consists of a slow shuffle while I look at the ground. I was explaining this to my friend Sarah today when she asked what the hell I meant by “my sad walk around the corner.” She encouraged me to write about it, then laughed at me when I explained that I couldn’t because they might read my blog.

  • scissors
    April 21st, 2010adminUncategorized

    Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with my dad and stepmom over brunch. By brunch I mean that they ate stolen caviar with their pocket knives and washed it down with beer. The day started with my dad insisting that we stop at World Market so he could “get” me a Velvet Crumble. I’ve never had a Velvet Crumble; it’s a treat my father used to enjoy as a child in Australia, and I’m told it’s delicious. But the market didn’t carry it, and though I’d love to try one someday, I was relieved, feeling like I’d had a close call.

    Over the past few visits, I’ve come to realize that I can’t take my father anywhere he won’t steal something. In the past, I used to join in on the shenanigans and was mostly too drunk to think about repercussions. But now I have children and school, and while I still find it amusing to watch my dad shake out his pants leg while the loot piles up on the floor, I feel uncomfortable being involved.

    Somehow I have lapped my father in the responsibility race. I find myself in the front seat of the car trying to explain why he can’t have an open container while he mutters that I’ve changed and I used to be cool.

    During his visit in Eugene he stole four leather coats. By the time he was ready to catch his train home to Redding, there was a pile of leather in the corner big enough to make other visitors nervous.

    Antique pocket watches from a museum, bacon-shaped Band-Aids, a shock pen, Oregon Ducks sweatshirts, meats preserved in a variety of ways, oddly shaped marshmallows—you can find these things and more, all falling out of Dad’s pants at any given hour of the day. So, if you’re ever looking for Rick, just follow the trail of LED flashlights and honey sticks. He’ll be there.

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