Friday, June 22, 2018

What Happened on June 21: Cila Warncke • Christopher Schaberg • Mel Hinshaw • Rosemary Smith • Naomi Washer • Christopher Doda • Raquel Gutiérrez

Here we go, friends, with the first of many posts over the next month or so of What Happened on June 21, 2018. More details on the project here, but, in brief, we asked you to write about what happened on one day in June, and are publishing the results, largely unedited, for the next month and change, roughly ten a day. If you wrote something (it's not too late!), send us your work by the end of June (at the latest: earlier is better!) via this submission form (it's okay if you didn't RSVP before: the more the merrier).

—The Editors

DAY 1: Cila Warncke • Christopher Schaberg • Mel Hinshaw • Rosemary Smith • Naomi Washer • Christopher Doda • Raquel Gutiérrez


Today started like all the last days have: reach for phone, check for message from husband, roll out of bed, clean teeth, go downstairs to boil water for coffee. While the red kettle works itself up, I open the shutters in the front room. I grind coffee, spread peanut butter on two rice cakes, then head outside with my cat. She likes have company, or an audience, for her morning dust-bath.
  My landlord stops by to pick up some post. We have a brief conversation about the weather  and pets. He is, as ever, patient with my broken Spanish. 
  Computer booted, I donate to RAICES. I am horrified by what's going on in the States -- children forcibly separated from their families. My cat went missing last week. I cannot begin to imagine the trauma of being parted from one's child/parents. I want to smash things.
  Instead, I watch a Spanish TV drama called Gran Hotel while I do yoga. It's a period soap opera, essentially, with gratuitous stabbings and an abundance of illicit pregnancies. Language practice. 
  The first meal of the day is leftover rice and lentils with tomatoes, spinach and rocket.
  After that, I spend an hour hoovering and mopping the house. I'm leaving tomorrow to go to London for a long weekend and want the place tidy before I leave it to the sitter.
  I shower, then text my husband some photos. He's been away for two weeks, physically, and the last six weeks have been the most emotionally challenging in our relationship. How thick is the ice, exactly? I pull some toys out of the bedside drawer. Taking sexy selfies without getting lube all over your phone is such a 21st century problem. 
  Eventually, I pull on cut-offs and a tee-shirt. I have to hold two online conferences for the writing course I teach, but the webcam is shoulders up. I've been teaching English 1310: Introductory Composition for five terms now. The mid-term conference is easy after that much practice -- thirty minutes of exam tips and research guidance. 
  Back to back video conferences done, I pet my cat, grab my handbag, and set off for Jerez -- a 40  minute drive. My first stop is a supermarket where I stock up on the essentials: greens, water, wine, lentils, and cheese. I continue into town and pick up the house-sitter. We connected through a website, and this is our first time meeting in person. I'm nervous and kill the car three times before we make it out of the parking lot and through the first set of traffic lights. 
  The light is softening as we drive towards home -- around 8:30PM. Turmeric-tinted fields of sunflowers sweep along either side of the motorway. Dark shoulders of mountains shrug in the hazy distance. Arriving home, I find our parking lot packed. My neighbor tells me the school down the road is having their end-of-year fiesta. After unloading the groceries I drive back to the end of our urbanizacion and find a spot.
  As I'm preparing dinner I get a phone call: Someone has seen my cat. I rush through cooking and eating, then leave the sitter with an apology and hurry outside. I'm carrying a canvas bag with a flashlight, tin of cat food, and container of cat treats. When I get to the empty lot described there is one small orange and white striped cat (not mine). 
  A wiry, gap-toothed man, drunk or possibly stoned, comes over. He seems to know all about my cat and insists his friend has it. "Come to his house," he urges. I decline, repeatedly. He finally wanders away and I ask three older women in deck chairs if they've seen the cat. Oh yes, they say. One of them directs me to an empty lot, closed off with warped iron doors. Crouching down, I see a slender tabby. Handsome as my cat, but not him. We've met before. Ever since I put up missing cat posters last week, this girl has caught people's attention. She comes and butts my hand. I tear the lid off the food and leaver her gobbling it down.
  The night is deep, clear Andalusian blue; stars bright. I walk home, still warm in my cut-offs. At 11:30PM I sit down to write my short story of the day (it's a 30-day challenge I'm doing with myself). It posts at 11:59PM. 

—Cila Warncke

Cila Warncke is a writer & teacher. She lives with her husband in Spain.


I awoke this morning at 4:51 to the droning of a small plane flying at around 5000 feet directly over my house in the woods in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, in northwest Michigan. 
     This plane passes overhead several mornings each week, always at this ungodly hour. Yesterday it was 4:45 when it motored overhead. The noise is somewhere between an incessant whine and a guttural rumble. On especially still mornings, particularly when there’s a high cloud cover, it’s loud enough to wake you up. Really startlingly loud. 
     A year ago or so my dad became obsessed with this plane and called the local airport to figure out what it was, as it seemed like it was waking him up every morning. He thought it was taking off from the nearby airport in Traverse City. But it’s apparently a freight plane that flies from somewhere downstate to somewhere in the Upper Peninsula, delivering UPS packages. Or maybe FedEx, I can’t remember. It has to fly a low altitude for some technical reason—I can’t remember that, either. I have an email from my dad from a year ago detailing what he found out about this plane, but I just went through my inbox and I can’t find it. My inbox is a mess: 74,803 messages as of right now, because I’m too lazy to delete them as they come in. I use Apple’s spotlight search to a fault. To find anything on my computer. But lately it pops up mysteriously when I push “command i” to end italicization after an emphasized word. Spotlight pops up when I’m not trying to use it. It’s really annoying, but I’m also too lazy to troubleshoot this minor glitch. 
     On the other hand, this summer the pre-dawn plane is not an annoyance to me. It’s my alarm clock. I roll quietly out of bed, grab my clothes waiting on the bedside table, and tiptoe out of the room. My partner Lara is slumbering on the other side the of the bed, and my four-year-old daughter Camille is there, too—she crept into our room sometime after midnight. I slip out of the room and creep to the bathroom to pee and get dressed. Then I sneak downstairs, where my wallet, glasses, and keys are waiting. I’d set them out the night before so I could locate them in the pitch black. And my jacket. It’s 51 degrees—or that’s what my car tells me when I turn the key to start the engine. Much colder than New Orleans, where we’d all been a few days prior. I coast down the driveway, turning on my lights as I leave the woods. 
     I drive to one of my favorite lakes in the national park, about five miles down the road. I get there before dawn and mist is covering the surface of the lake. I put on my waders and walk into the lake. I haven’t fished this lake yet this year, and its unfamiliar weed patterns and unusually high water level throw me off as I move cautiously into the darkness. Darkness below, darkness above. The frogs are so loud I can barely hear myself think. 
     The surface is mirror calm for the first hour. I am mostly using a black popper the size of my thumb. But the fishing is somewhat slow: I think there was a hatch last night, and the fish are stuffed from gorging on dragonflies or mayflies all night. But I still manage to catch four plump bass and two enormous bull bluegills, protruding foreheads and miniature piranha-like teeth. The water is colder than usual for this time of year, after a long winter. 
     Loons fly overhead and croon in the distance, sandhill cranes do their thing—I even see a pair on the shore involved in an elaborate mating ritual. Green herons cruise above; they have a roosting area nearby. Redwing blackbirds do acrobatics in the cattails along the shoreline. A bald eagle soars over me, and I think how funny and apropos it is that our national bird is essentially a scavenger. I stay on the lake until almost eight o’clock. The reeds mesmerize me. I can get lost in their vertical lines in reality and in reflection. But I can’t go into this much detail and keep this up for the whole day. 
     When I get home my two children, Camille and Julien, are swinging on their hammocks on the hillside. I make a pot of black tea. We have breakfast—eggs over easy, avocado slices, and some kimchi made by my brother-in-law out of the wild leeks that covered the forest floor a month ago. I go for a walk in the woods with my dad, Julien, and Camille. We find the first tiny chanterelle mushroom. There was a lot of rain last week, so the season might be good. I won’t know today. There are also slugs galore scooting along the forest floor—and they tend to get to the mushrooms first. 
     At home Julien and Camille climb back into their hammocks—they have some game they are playing. I catch up on emails and post a picture of the chanterelle mushroom to twitter. I chat with my co-editor Ian on Slack about some things related Object Lessons. Then I begin a prolonged text message exchange with one of my former students, Stewart Sinclair, a brilliant writer who has collected enough material that he is attempting to shop and sell a book of nonfiction. I give him advice—or my philosophy, anyway—on how to put together a book proposal and confidently pitch a book idea. What unspools over the next few hours ends up at around 2500 words. I joke to Stewart that we ought to submit this text message exchange as our contribution to “What happened on June 21”—but he gets all fidgety and anxious about how it would expose him as a fraud, a pathetic chump trying to become an 
‘author’. I try to assure him that we are all frauds, it’s part of the business. But that all happens much later in the day.
     After lunch (grilled cheese and leftover spaghetti from the night before), Julien and Camille play in the hammock some more. The hammocks are really a hit this summer. I pour the rest of a bottle of wine we opened the night before into a glass, and I read a little of Susan Sontag’s introduction to A Barthes Reader. My sister Zane then texts and asks if we want to meet her family at the beach at 2. I reply yes. We start to get ourselves together, and we pack up a towel and water bottles and jackets in case the wind comes up. We head down to the beach and the cousins romp and play in the very cold water then on the beach, collecting driftwood and other detritus. My Lara and I sit on the sand and talk to Zane. Our neighbors Mary Beth and Scott Lowe show up, and we chat with them while their granddaughter Aria runs off with the other kids. I’m talking to Scott when suddenly he says “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT?!?” and I look out in the lake and there they are: a pod of massive carp cruising in the shallows. I immediately, instinctively wade out into the water to see how close I can get to them, but they spot me and dart off into the dark blue depths. We watch several more pods and a few individual even more enormous carp swim by, feeding on something on the sandbar about 20 yards offshore. I briefly contemplate going back to the house and getting my fly rod, but the wind is picking up and soon there are big waves crashing into the shore. The kids have all fled to the dunes to play where it is warmer, and Scott and Mary Beth soon head home with Aria. 
     Finally all the kids are tired and we head home. Back at the house Julien and Camille again head to the hammocks. I crack open a Wayward Owl beer I brought from New Orleans and start prepping dinner, while Lara takes a walk through the meadow. I chop up green onions and sweet peppers. I cut some thin slices of cheddar cheese. During dinner, chicken fajitas and mac & cheese and broccoli, Camille berates me for trying to correct the way she is holding her spoon: “I can hold my spoon the way I want to hold it!” After dinner I rummage through my fly boxes and find a few good crawfish pattern flies in case I decide to go down to the lake early tomorrow morning and cast for carp. And then, another first of the year: we discover a tick on Camille’s leg, the first tick we’ve found this summer (but we’ve only been up here three days). Lara gets the tea tree oil and a Q-tip, and I smother the tick in tea tree oil. Lara gets the tweezers. Camille is whimpering, saying how much it hurts. (We haven’t done anything yet.) After ten minutes of tea tree oil bath, the tick looks woozy and Lara carefully extracts the tick, getting the head all the way out. Oh, I forgot: earlier I rammed my toe into a stick outside and my big toe is all bloody; I think Camille is transferring some of this incident, which she was very tuned into at the time, onto her own condition. Camille goes back outside to play with Julien, and all is going swimmingly until I hear BAM BAM BAM THUMP and Camille has tumbled down the stairs and is wailing on the ground, covered in woodchips. Her legs are all bruised. She was dancing on the deck and spun off the edge of the stairs. We give her some arnica and soon she’s back singing and dancing again. 
     Tick taken care of and bruises attended to, I do dishes and we start to wind down for the evening. Camille doesn’t want to take a bath, but Lara coaxes her in by telling her they can play kitty bath, wherein Camille gets to pretend to be a kitty in exchange for getting in the bath. (It’s really an ingenious move on Lara’s part: it works brilliantly.) After baths and teeth brushing, I read Julien and Camille a fantastically strange book that my mom found somewhere: Speedboat by James Marshall (1976). It’s about two dogs who live together: one has an obnoxiously loud speedboat that he likes to tool around in, and the other is “a homebody” who stays at home and just reads. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but it’s amazing. And bizarre. By the end of the book it’s all blurring into my unconscious. It’s still early and almost blindingly light out, but I’m tired from getting up at 4:51. I tuck them in and give them each a kiss, and go to my room to go to bed myself. Lying in bed Lara and I see two miniscule fawns stroll over the hillside, with the mother deer in tow. I’m getting sleepy. I’ve left out so much here, from today. So many extra details occur to me as I lie here, fading. So much nuance, unrecorded. Before falling asleep I upload this document onto the Google drive where Ander directed me. It’s a partial sample of things that happened on June 21, 2018, orbiting my little family unit in Leelanau county, up in Michigan. 

—Christopher Schaberg

Christopher Schaberg is Dorothy Harrell Brown Distinguished Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans, and founding co-editor of Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series. His most recent book is The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth.


I play one single game on my phone called “I Love Hue” (available on the App Store and Google Play) and every day I get a mobile app notification to log in and collect my prisms. Every day you get fifteen free prisms, which are the tokens required to play the game (each round takes three prisms, so technically you can play five rounds a day without buying anything on the app, though I typically just log in, get my prisms, and use a bunch of them at once once or twice a week when I can’t sleep or have some down time and have already caught up on all my social apps). The actual game involves placing colored tiles—think little Pantone squares or paint chips, but digital—in order on a grid. It’s soothing and I’m very good at it, at least in comparison to my brothers, who are colorblind and “hate shit like that.” At nine a.m. on Thursday, June 21st, 2018, I log in to collect my prisms, close the app, and get back to my computer.
     I’ve been online since eight and awake since seven. I have a call at ten with someone to discuss a potential writing opportunity, but I already did all my homework stalking the company and founders and websites involved earlier this week so I’m off the hook on that for now, which is good, because today’s busy. I have a lot to get done and I’d like to get it all done. This isn’t typical—I’ve had some especially slow days lately, but I thrive on momentum and enjoy the ride of the wave right before it all builds up. You know that feeling in your stomach and body when you’re swimming out in the ocean and the waves come through and you paddle through them before they’ve crested and you sort of drop with the water level? When people ask me how I work, as I’m sure they will during this call, that’s what I’ve come to think of. If I can angle myself just right against the flow of everything coming at me, it’ll feel fun, and I’ll keep going.
     Perhaps I’m thinking of the ocean metaphor because scenes are coming back to me from one of the dreams I had this morning, which involved digging up jellyfish in a shallow bay during low tide, carefully though, in case they stung. I’ve been dreaming heavily lately. Not anything morbid or particularly harsh or striking, but just thick: big concrete slabs of dreams with all sorts of real concrete things embedded in them. The one I woke up from immediately this morning was an improv dream: my best friend does improv in real life, and in the dream I’d gotten roped last-minute into a performance with her and her group. I came into the room full of a live audience and sat in the wrong chair, then ran over to sit with the rest of the group as the leader was introducing the show. Then the show started and the group began a scene where the characters were getting turned into eggs and rebirthed as sacred entities. We all crouched down up at the front of the stage, holding our knees to our chests and pretending we were eggs, and then one by one the members of the group hatched and announced their new being.
     “I’m a sacred wind!” one said.
     “I’m a blue emerald,” said another.
     “I’m a violet star,” said another.
     “I’m Pharrell!” I said, hatching, and no one laughed. I looked at my friend, panicked that I was ruining her performance, and feeling awful, and racking my brain for what few improv guidelines I could remember. Yes and, yes and… but I’d Yes Anded in that scene, why didn’t anyone laugh? What did I do wrong? 
     I woke up sweating and confused. I grabbed my phone to text this friend about the dream, but I already had a text from her waiting: I can’t get up because my feet are cold and gromit is laying on them with a picture of her dog, Gromit, laying on her feet in bed. I relayed more about my dream, she relayed more dog pictures. Eventually my husband started reading me the negative attributes of the dachshund breed, which he’d been reading about on his phone on his side of the bed. 
     “Doesn’t get along with kids, has separation anxiety, tries to escape.”
     “This sounds a lot like Copper. I don’t see what the problem is,” I say. Copper is the dog we currently own already, and I’ve been on a bender about dachshunds for a week or so. I want a long-haired one like Vanessa Carlton has that I see on Instagram, one like my parents’ next-door neighbors have, one like our family friends have. I’ve long liked this type of dog, but I’ve been pushing to get one this week in particular likely because the news has been bad (children separated from their families at the border, white nationalism flourishing, civil discourse disintegrating entirely) and our families are stressful (severe illnesses, major life transitions, relationships ebb and flows) and puppies make you feel better. 
     “Another dog is not going to fix things,” my husband says. He’s not wrong, so I close the internet browser tab I have open about Freckles, a cream-colored long-haired dachshund puppy who’s up for adoption in Northern California. Copper hops up on the bed and back down again seven, eight times. He wants us to get up and let him out and feed him. My husband’s in medical school and usually has already put in a couple hours at the hospital by now, but today he has a test so we’re both home and the schedule’s off and the dog is acting up. And I am, too—I’ve been trying to get in a routine of writing every single morning as soon as I wake up, because I’ve been reading a book by Robert Olen Butler that says if you take even one day off of writing it’s like you haven’t done it for fifteen years, but Trevor and I have only been married six months and most of that time has involved busy early mornings so we take all the slow moments we can get together, like the one we’re having today. I’ll write later, I think, and the list of things I have to do today is already adding up. I tell Trevor about something I read in another book (When by Dan Pink, one of those lifehack/business type of books that people like Malcolm Gladwell blurb) about how having coffee right when you wake up messes with your cortisol production and raises your caffeine tolerance, so you’re supposed to wait until 90 minutes after you wake up to have coffee.
     “Fine,” he says. “Let’s shower first then.”
     For us, shower time is conference time. In the shower we come up with a game plan for our upcoming weekend. Between our families there are two birthday parties, one baby shower, one apartment move, one grandparent visit, and one non-specific-occasion-related friend group gathering to be had. Trevor’s family lives in the South Bay and mine lives in the East Bay and we live up in Sacramento so we’re trying to figure out logistics. It seems best to take two cars, but we don’t like what that means in terms of gas usage and in terms of time apart. After the shower, I sit in my towel checking my email, tracking a package I’m waiting on, deciding to work from home for the morning until this package—my name change paperwork—shows up and I take the call and I get these illustrations I’m behind on in and I get enough momentum on my current work project done that I feel good going in and sitting in the office to work on the final five percent of it. While I’m waiting for Trevor to leave for his test so I can get started on my shit, I read an article/interview about black people feeling pressured to not like white things, but also liking white things sometimes, and analyzing all the shades of nuance in between and around all that. I look up the author and contributors on Twitter and click “Follow.” I also debate whether I really need to be doing this June 21, 2018 project or not given everything else I have going on, but here we are doing it right in the middle of it all, Copper sleeping in a sunbeam on the couch and Trevor heating up coffee before heading off to take his test and everyone already chatting on the work Slack channels and my mother emailing me to get the password to the website with our wedding photos on it and me worrying about writing this June 21 business instead of adding to the other story that I’m working on on my other computer at my other desk every day like Robert Olen Butler says to and deciding well whatever it’s still writing and going to take a final bathroom break before I take this call and get going on everything else already.
     Fuck. I just remembered this is a video call, not a phone call. I put on tinted moisturizer, mascara, my contact lenses, and a better shirt. I check the lighting in the office and living room and decide the living room is better. I set my computer up and go back to snag some earrings just in time. Just as I’m launching the video app, I see Trevor’s car pull up outside and the dog starts going ballistic as he does when someone’s outside. Despite a few minutes of barking and doors opening and closing at the beginning of the call and me being all awkward and apologetic at first as a result, it goes well and I learn a lot, and I shut my laptop an hour later feeling wired and excited. I get up to go bug Trevor, who’s in the other room studying for his next test with headphones in, and he’s got a list of serious questions to ask me about adopting a dachshund puppy. We spend the next few hours working from home, waiting on the package (“Out for Delivery” – so vague), and going back and forth about the dachshund situation—money, time, motivations, whether or not this is just what recently married millennials who aren’t having a baby yet do. We already have a dog, so getting a smaller one wouldn’t necessarily expand our pet ownership workload, after any initial training and adjustments. But then when it comes time to fill out the application and it asks for landlord’s phone number and I remember we pay dog rent per dog and I decide I don’t want to deal with that, but when I tell Trevor that he’s sad because he’d just started settling into the idea of a new dog so we agree he can call the landlord if he really wants to and then he goes and makes boxed macaroni and cheese and I go to reorder birth control online. Did you know—I didn’t, for years—that you can take birth control nonstop, as in, you can skip the sugar/iron pill week and just take the other pills continuously and never have a period? I don’t know how well this works for everyone (periods are like snowflakes, no two are the same, and everyone has their own menstrual cycle hell story), but my new OB/Gyn finally told me they (the people who invented the birth control pill) just invented the sugar/iron pill week in birth control pills so that women would still have a period and “still feel natural” while taking them. I feel like this is something I should have learned way earlier and that more people should know because it means you don’t have to have a period at all if you’d prefer (and I prefer). Anyways, I’ve been annoyed about it lately because the pharmacy still sends you birth control pills at the rate that includes the extra sugar pill week, which means I can’t order a new pack until a few days before I need more, which with shipping / weekends can be tight, so I’m sending my doctor and pharmacy a note to see if I can’t get the prescription re-upped a few weeks sooner each time. Or send me more than three packs at a time, though every time I have to go order more I get to be really thankful that I can get free birth control and appreciate of my health insurance, which reminds me to support all things feminist and humanist and healthcare-oriented, like the rest of my goddamned patriarchally-structured day doesn’t.
     Mid-afternoon: I’ve scrolled through all the assets I’m supposed to write to for work (images/videos of a vodka brand that will need copy) and have sat emptily tapping at the screen. I can get away with this because in creative world, where I work, we like to let things “simmer” and come back to them after a bit and find what’s working when it’s working. While simmering, I read everything ever written by some senior editor at Elle who wrote a review of Ocean’s 8, which I saw last night and liked (the review and the movie). I’m now, however, out of articles to read and things to chat my cousin and friend about, and I’ve naturally stopped going on Twitter as much because it’s directly linked to my anxiety and depression, so that’s at least a good reason to have less things to scroll through. I got a story rejection from a magazine I forgot I’d submitted to because it used a different submission manager than Submittable, the software that tracks the majority of my literary dealings. I downloaded the Tiffany Haddish biography for Kindle, since I got an email that my e-copy at the library was ready. I ate a whole roll of Life Savers. I search my soul and find I’m most frustrated about not having finished these illustrations yet, so I head over to my art desk and pull them out and decide to fester slowly for a while.
     Speaking of goddamned patriarchally-structured days: nearly six p.m. here now and I did maybe one fourth of the work I needed to do on the illustrations before my package got here and I got all involved in the name-change process. I opted for a trendy online program with a cute name—Hitchswitch—that supposedly sends you all the paperwork you need to change your name after you get married and then you fill it out and mail it back in and voila, everything’s taken care of. I don’t think I can complain about it too much since half the pain-in-the-ass of any paperwork is printing forms out when you don’t have a printer or easy access to one, and getting envelopes if you don’t have any laying around, and dealing with postage and tracking numbers—and they included all that. I did, however, need a marriage license (I spent all nine minutes it took to drive from our house to the county clerk’s office worried that it never got actually filed and we’d have to deal with that but of course that wasn’t the case; our officiant was and is a straight-up hustler), so we ran down there before it closed at five and got five copies so we’ll never have to go back there anytime in the foreseeable future. And then we went and got a passport photo because of course my passport’s expired as well. And then we got pie because emotional eating and we’ve been wanting to try this new pie place on Broadway. And then I came back to the mountain of paperwork and realized that all I can do until I go get the Social Security Card stuff taken care of (they closed at 4 and they’re 30 minutes away, so it’ll have to be 8am tomorrow, because while you can mail it, according to the packet, it’s really better if you just go in) is fill out the Social Security Form, get the whole passport packet ready to mail, and then nothing, because mail’s already been picked up for the day and the rest of the forms have to do with the DMV and cars and in California (the packet says) you have to do all that in person as well. I was hoping, when I bought this $90 packet, that it would save me a day’s worth of drivin¬g around. It’s probably only saving me a half-day’s worth of driving around, which, the math really depends on how nice the driving company you’re working for is or how big of tippers your Uber/Lyft riders are or how much you’d (I’d) be making during that time anyway, which I think is more than $90 so—I mean, that plus this packet literally comes with a bunch of super idiot-proof step-by-step checklists so you can make s¬ure you’re not missing anything and feel emotionally stable rather than super stressed throughout the process. All that to say that after a less-successful-than-expected-afternoon I still feel the whole thing’s worth it. Since I’m riled up about namechanging I go big and check to see if there’s any social media handles available with my new surname, and sure enough there are—lucky me, they match on Twitter and Instagram. Just a couple clicks and seconds and I’m different now to all these people that I’ve never met online. 
     “Changing your name is weird,” I was telling my husband in the car on the way back from the pie place, “because when you first got named you never thought about it, it just was.” Having to think—perhaps the biggest burden of being alive and of age. Thinking about it, I think it’s almost too easy to become somebody else. There’s papers, theses, books to write about this topic here, but I’m just telling you about my day.
—Mel Hinshaw

Mel Hinshaw is a Sacramento-based artist & writer.


6:07 a.m. E.T. 

Midsummer begins in Prince Edward County. A cool day, sun peaking out through fluffy clouds, breezy. World Cup ongoing in Russia – fear of beer shortages. Horrendous stories of baby snatching and displacement by US government officials in Texas; locally, 21 women claim sexual harassment and toxic work environment at Norman Hardie Winery; Art in the County opens, a popular juried exhibition of local artworks in Picton. What am I up to? Aquafit at 11, followed by coffee with my buddy, an afternoon of reading and gardening, babysitting the little buggers tonight so daughter and son-in-law can have a night out, and punctuated with brief sorties to my computer to document today’s blessings and rants. Off to bed now and heading to fall at a rate of two minutes a day.

—Rosemary Smith


It never occurred to me that it might rain on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, but here we are and that is how I woke, to the thrum of rain soaking the wooden back porches of my building, piling in puddles of stones in the yard. I woke to a message from Sebastián, a photo from the philosophy book he’s been reading: “We see like in Plato’s allegory of the cave only the reflections of things, so that what we see has lost all reality. We must realize how often we are governed and controlled not by the things themselves but by our ideas of things, our views of things, our picture of things. This is the most interesting thing. Try to think about it.” (Ouspensky, The Fourth Way). I try to think about it as I wander out into the hall and look out at the apartment—so large, and dark, and empty. I turn the kettle on, and I let it scream too long while I stand watching the rain pour inside the open living room windows and coffee overflows from the cup in the kitchen onto the counter and the floor. I am sitting down to write when I remember Daniel’s book, Lake Michigan, is lying in the windowsill of the spare bedroom, and as I suspected, its cover—that expanse of pale blue—is soaked, but its pages are undamaged. The dog whines and stamps his feet a little at my chair, begging to be taken out of doors, but I am unsure what to wear. Now, the rumble of the train. My mother sends an email filled with selfies. This is something my mother does not do. Each selfie is taken from an angle slightly below her face (the mark of a novice selfie-taker) and in each image, her brow is slightly furrowed in concentration. She is trying on new glasses, and wants my opinion. I can see her own reflection lit up in the phone, facing her face, visible to the viewer. She looks older, but the humor in her writing is as youthful as it has ever been. I ride the Brown line train downtown—a boat through the buildings, on this day where water continues to make its presence known. I meet Amy at a reading at the Poetry Foundation and we sit in hardback chairs while several people approach the podium and speak to us about their dead relatives and loved ones. It is both funny and sad, and we laugh a lot and cry a little on this, the longest day of the year. It is still bright outside though it is evening, and I watch the green trees in the garden beyond the wall of windows, behind the poet who is reading a new poem (“…a wall falling into a wall falling into a wall…”). Later, after wine and chocolate-covered strawberries and chatter (Amy and I talk about clothes, how nothing ever fits one’s body in quite the right way), I get back on the Brown line train back home, a dark boat on a dark night with no stars or fireflies. On the train, I can see nothing but my own reflection. I listen to the sound poem collages Sebastián made that, on a day that is not today, I will make into dance videos. These days, I am trying to live inside the day at hand. I try to think about it. But the lingering light in the Poetry garden reminds me of the last time I sat in that room, when I read my own poems at that podium, when I returned to my chair, an intensity full of unexplored possibility. When I get home, I take the dog out for a walk up and down the avenue, first one side and then the other. I listen to Sylvan Esso in my headphones, and I dance a little, hidden in trees on the dark avenue. Back home, I continue dancing opposite my wall of windows where I have left the shades pulled all the way up so I can see my reflection. “We see only the reflections of things,” a reality we can only begin to imagine. A sense of self that remains once-removed. A self I am watching even now as I write, though in the dark glass I cannot see the blue of her eyes.

—Naomi Washer

Naomi Washer is an essayist, dancer, and translator based in Chicago. She has received fellowships from Yaddo and Columbia College Chicago where she earned her MFA in Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in The Account, Interim, The Boiler, Blue Mesa Review, Crab Fat Magazine, and other journals. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Ghost Proposal.


It is 2am and I am still awake. As usual. Insomnia never lets go. My life of lack of sleep is my norm. No amount of pills or supplements of valerian root tea can make me sleep for more than four hours. Got up and read Marathon Man by William Goldman. Got the book from one of the any free little libraries in my neighbourhood. Anyone who says the book is always better than the movie has never read Marathon Man. Or the Godfather, or Rosemary's Baby or the Stepford Wives (thanks Ira Levin for your script ideas!) or Twins (filmed as Dead Ringers). Perhaps plot driven as opposed to character driven books make for great films. Still reading at 4am.
     Woke at 6am. First action. Check the flag on the fire station across the alley way from my terrace. Not much wind today. Low overhead clouds. Should be a good morning for a long walk. Much of the roof on the fire station was destroyed during the storm last week. I stood and watched it from my patio door as the rain swirled upwards and downwards and ripped the top off the left gable. The storm came from nowhere and made its presence felt all over the city.
     Took my usual walk to Prospect Cemetery this morning. As an insomniac I live on what I like to call VST or Vampire Standard Time, so a cemetery is the perfect place to occupy. Past the mausoleums at the gate, the plaque honouring the long-time groundskeeper: "Please walk on the grass." I do every time. Past the many stones of the Woodmen of the World, carved to look like fallen trees, past my favourite names (Willouby Power, Rachel Jane Death, Horatio Sleep), past my favourite stone (the Phillips family, a massive obsidian cube set en pointe, near another Death family buried next to the Coffin family (Jesus I can't make this up), past the massive cenotaph for WWI dead (the largest in Canada), past the massive inlaid cross and sun dial (bearing the inscription "Time and light man abuses, but shadows still have their uses"). Past so many other lives laid to rest. The memorial for those killed in the Oshtima wars in the early 20th century and those killed in the plane crash in Quebec in 1957. A cemetery makes poets out of everyone.
     Read an article by Peter Howell in the Toronto Star about how Rosemary's Baby is the father (mother?) of modern horror film as it gave rise to demonic possession as a theme. This is only partially accurate as Psycho predates it by a decade and Night of the Living Dead is just as influential to another strain of horror and came out around the same time.
     Croatia smoked Argentina at the World Cup.3-0. Croatia, seriously?
     Barry Trotz hired to coach the New York Islanders after winning the Cup with Washington. Will this be enough to keep Tavares on Long Island or will he come to Toronto where he belongs? 
     Have decided I need to see Polish movie the Red Spider. Because, well, serial killers.
     Womp womp. Lewandowski.
     The number of cyclists and pedestrians killed in Toronto in the last two weeks is astonishing. No human being ever won an argument with a bumper. Especially at 40 miles an hour.
     Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language has died. She was the same age as I am, 46. A gorilla knew a language I didn't. I have officially wasted my life. 
     Trent Reznor is in destroyer mode. Especially with Taylor Swift. Seems right.
     Behemoth just pranked the hell out of Lamb of God. Sweet.
     Rewatched Pontypool tonight, a horror movie set around Canada's English/French debate, language as a virus. Will watch either Pumpkinhead or Enemy next. Haven't decided. Still awake. As usual. 
     Such is the day that was.

—Christopher Doda

Christopher Doda is a poet, editor and critic living in Toronto. He is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Glutton for Punishment, a book of glosas based on heavy metal lyrics. He is also the Series Editor for the annual Best Canadian Essays.


Peru loses to France.

  I woke up before the alarm clock set at 7am. The light filled my bedroom which made the thought of catching the early bird special again at Bobo’s possible. I had already enjoyed their $2.79 breakfast earlier in the week and felt that two eggs over medium, crispy potato hash, and sourdough toast should be socialized medicine. I languished too long in bed though and as I made it into my truck at already 7:40am I feared I would be late. I went to another place that specialized more in brunch on the weekend but took my chances. In the creases of my mind’s eye I could recollect that this location’s menu chalkboard had boasted breakfast specials in the past. I took my chance and went there instead.
  I arrived ten until 8am not realizing the restaurant wasn’t open yet. I stood in the already 90-degree heat under some paltry shade the potted trees could muster. Once the restaurant opened I made a beeline for the counter being that it was just me and the real estate of a table felt like a commitment I wasn’t ready for. I also wasn’t sure if I was going to stay considering once I came inside I saw the part on the chalkboard was void of any signal that a breakfast early bird special would be offered. I sighed into a conciliatory smile and asked the barista for coffee and cream, no sugar. The only sugary beverage I indulge in is an ice-cold Mexican Coke. It was too early for that.
  Throughout this conundrum of whether or not to have breakfast alone I texted with a friend about watching the Peru-France match at 8am. We had already exchanged panicked texts about what was happening to Central American children along the Southwest borderlands. My heart was beating fast and I tried to calm myself with the thought of a discount breakfast. But I was already at the restaurant and felt conflicted about spending full price on a giant pancake that is out of the realm of my usual breakfast consumption. I stalled ordering telling the nice barista that my friend is supposed to meet me. I sip some coffee. It’s really good coffee. Bobo’s for being a severely discounted breakfast locale has really good coffee, too. It didn’t make sense that I wasn’t at Bobo’s. I made a note that I would get up early again and go to Bobo’s tomorrow.
  At 8:10am a wave of new customers had entered the restaurant. I was thankful the World Cup was in full swing because as I turned my head to the left I noticed a spiky-haired lesbian sitting alone at a table. I recognized her and felt a tingle in the old nervous system. Her wife had put her hand in my back pocket last Spring at a concert in town and the ick of that encounter flooded my memory bank. I looked up at the nice barista and said my friend wasn’t coming after all—that my friend had the audacity to start watching the game without me—and that I would take my coffee and a scone to go. The barista flashed a knowing look. Peru? She asked, waiting with bated breath at my answer. You know it, I said. Oh good, I was scared I had said the wrong team.
  I drove in my air conditioned truck and took bites of the crispy blueberry scone. It was warm and buttery and really worth mentioning. I knew it would be gone before I watched the World Cup match.
  I arrived at my friend’s condo. The fact of the impending 100-degree weather at almost 8:30am confused me about what time of day it actually was. It felt like it could have been the mid-afternoon but the sunlight was still soft to the naked eye. I took my car key and lightly tapped on the metal door as to not wake her pre-teen children from their summer morning sleeping. My friend opened the door. We hugged hello. I took my wallet and phone out of my pockets and laid them on an end table along with keys and sunglasses. I sat down and began to root for the Peruvian team.
  They lost, 0-1. I could feel tears welling up so I started breathing deeply, one breath after the other. I did not want to be emotional about the cyclical nature of loss before 10am. It was also the beginning of Cancerian season which is my sun sign. And moon sign. My Venus, too. I’m very watery. My friend asked me if I had heard from my ex. It wasn’t a good time to ask me that with it being Summer solstice and all. I took a deep breath and regenerated the crab shell around my soft parts. I’m fine. My friend offered me a burrito. A really small and cute burrito. A small and cute burrito that belonged in the cult of juvenilia. The beef picado mixed with refried beans tasted like home-cooked Taco Bell. This is a compliment of the highest order.
  I started thinking about my ex’s codependence and the fact that each time I logged into Tinder I always got the There’s no one new around you message. I took smaller bites of my burrito. I navigate the choppy waters of that relational spectrum. It amounts to wanting someone for those parts of the day when the panic took hold.
  At least Tinder had the decency to end that with a proper period.

—Raquel Gutiérrez

Raquel Gutiérrez is a poet, performer, and essayist pursuing her MFA degree in poetry and non-fiction at the University of Arizona. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she writes about brown ontology, art, music, space and institutionality and publishes chapbooks by queers of color with the tiny press Econo Textual Objects, established in 2014.

Check back for more dispatches from June 21, 2018 tomorrow. —Editors

1 comment:

  1. fascinating, all of them. so seldom does one get a glimpse of what the teeming other is doing.