Category Archives: More Bullshit

Mrs. DeLillo Spends 12 Hours Inside a Super Walmart

(Start of a pastiche of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Don DeLillo’s White Noise)

It was a few minutes before 7am, and Mrs. DeLillo was fingering the Floral Satin V-Kini underpants that comprised a three-pack in the Intimate Apparel department of her local Super Walmart. The cardboard packaging denoted the underpants as panties, a word that Mr. and Mrs. DeLillo had always avoided on principle in their erotic situations. Mrs. DeLillo had to decide between this floral array and a four-pack of Fruit of the Loom Women’s Stretch Cotton Hipster Panties styled in “Rmnce Boqt,” also predominantly floral, also rolledback, pricewise. She placed the cotton underpants in her metal shopping trolley. Value bundle, she thought. Even though the four garments resembled boyfriend panties more than hipster panties, Mrs. DeLillo felt certain that Don would appreciate them. Tonight they were inaugurating their newly renovated basement fallout shelter with a cocktail party, and Don would be horny afterward, as he always was after shaking hands with a fallout shelterful of random friends and acquaintances.

Mrs. DeLillo had been shopping at the Super Walmart since before dawn and she had already eaten her way through half a cinema-sized bag of Twizzlers, which she had every intention of paying for. The overhead intercom personality came to life again, as it had at regular intervals since Mrs. DeLillo began her shopping expedition:

Attention Walmart shoppers. The current Value of the Hour is Wonder Bread Bite-Size Sandwich Slices in White and Brown. Everyone needs a pile of miniature sandwiches in their naked and vulnerable hands. Spend your day at Walmart, where we save people money so they can live better lives. Stay tuned for the next Value of the Hour.

Mrs. DeLillo couldn’t remember where she had originally entered the store from outside. There were no windows to orient her in space-time. The exits could be anywhere. In the Sporting Goods department she rested her spine on an oversized exercise ball. In Beauty/Hair Care Mrs. DeLillo selected a dozen new hair elastics and a banana clip, then turned all her attention toward growing a tumor in her left breast.

Mrs. DeLillo’s friend Maria would be meeting her soon. Mrs. DeLillo watched for her near the smiley face sticker greeter, who always seemed to have the saddest life in the world. If Mrs. DeLillo followed that smiley face sticker greeter home and shadowed his domestic life for 24 hours, she was convinced she’d die instantaneously of depression. Spontaneous death from sadness and dread was a thing Don thought about a lot.

Mrs. DeLillo watched one of her hairs fall out of her scalp and float away on invisible molecules of McDonald’s French fry grease, finally settling under a bottom shelf of cereal, the generic kind. How long would her single hair reside there? What would become of this organic matter in the midst of so much synthetic packaging? The grayish strand looked dirty and out of place on the linoleum. Suddenly all of Mrs. DeLillo’s living cells felt estranged from this environment. She was not even alive. She was dead matter suffocating twice-over inside a plastic bag. This sensation happened at home as well, especially in the bedroom when she felt herself asphyxiating on Don’s swollen member.

Maria saw her friend Mrs. DeLillo before she herself was seen. Mrs. DeLillo was leaning over her shopping cart, pinching the boyleg holes of a pair of floral underpants. Tonight Maria would attend the grand opening of the DeLillo fallout shelter. She was bringing Lay’s Ruffled Potato Chips even though Mrs. DeLillo had insisted the party was casual and that she should bring nothing but herself. Maria vaguely hoped that everyone would commit suicide at the party, that it wouldn’t be a dry run for disaster after all…

Literary brainstorming in Charlottesville, Virginia

I returned to my beloved hometown primarily to see my older brother graduate from med school and get married, but my secondary concern was generating ideas for my masters thesis, an original novel that’s due in two months. This means that I’ve spent the majority of my southern vacation poaching plots from every local I encounter. People I would never expect to have book ideas have written me outlines and sketched out character motivations. This town is a hotbed of unrealized literary genius.

For example!

My 21-year-old brother and his buddy run a handyman business in town mowing lawns, chainsawing everything in their path, “removing stinkbugs,” “babysitting,” and performing other oddjobs. When I jokingly asked them if they did novels, it took them less than a day to turn over a notebook overflowing with rich material, including fully developed protagonists (serial killers in love), back stories (sex abuse, murder, childhood trauma), themes (municipal corruption) and some thoughts on a prequel. But my little brother had a vague impression that my typical work is more emo, so he was sure to pencil in “(*feelings*)” where he thought my skills could really shine, e.g., “Mom addicted to painkillers, protag always starved for her affection <<—–(*feelings*).” The boys said they’d write the sex and violence scenes, and I could be in charge of all the emotional truths. My friend’s four-year-old son is obsessed with traffic cones. Last week we all went to Lowe’s and while his mom shopped, he spent 45 minutes in the plumbing aisle lining up orange cones in different formations, then routing the Lowe’s employees around them as though the men were cars or airplanes. My friend says, try as she might, she cannot find any children’s books devoted to the wonders of traffic and safety cones. She thought I might write something for her son and other kids like him. I have never written a childrens’ book, but I think I could manage a literary novel about an extended family of traffic cones. Something like The Corrections, but set in a parking lot.

Stumpy and Big Mac, the two men who make the compost deliveries from my uncle’s compost farm, were especially excited when they found out I was trying to write a novel. They told me I could do a ride-along with them in the compost trucks for a week and I’d have more than enough material for my book, tentatively entitled The Adventures of Stumpy and Big Mac. At first I thought they were just teasing me for being a dork, but now every time I go over there they gush about a new plotline worthy of Tom Clancy. Without giving too much away before this thing is published, Big Mac’s latest brainstorm involves a jihadist at UVA’s graduation ceremony. We agreed that the more local landmarks I insert, the better my chances would be of getting my book stocked in New Dominion. Or in the Barracks Road Barnes & Noble. Or in Random Row Books. Or in Daedalus. Is anybody listening?

Also my grandfather gave me a 2011 World Almanac, saying that it was full of ideas.

Also I need all the help I can get, because I have no ideas.

No, I have one idea. Wishter, a 30-year-old woman with few career prospects, laments the fact that she chose writing school over medical school. In a fit of jealousy, she steals her big brother’s med school diploma, and his beautiful new wife for good measure, and opens a private psychiatry clinic in the Cayman Islands, where she makes tons of money by hypnotizing her patients into giving her tons of money as well as revealing their darkest secrets <<—–(*feelings*), emotional truths which will eventually make their way into Wishter’s bestselling memoir.

Taking the story for a walk

When I am struggling to write a short story, I often elect to take it for a walk. I’m like, “Come on Story, let’s get some fresh air.” So the story and I go meandering through Central Park, where my story can inhale the pure-bred piss of other stories, where it can take huge dumps in the grass, dumps which I can then pick up and discard in labeled shit receptacles, where it can try to hump the legs of more attractive stories, and sometimes novels. Occasionally I let the story off the leash, letting it charge across the meadow, kicking up dirt and cigarette butts, delighting me with its freewheeling ways, but then an urban park ranger fines me $100 ($5 for every curse word, $10 for every inapt metaphor), and my story and I return home, both of us tired, demoralized, and hungry for bacon scraps.

In order to horrify my mother, I have devised the following reality TV show

Way back in 2003/04, when my college girlfriend and I were living together in D.C. and bearing witness to all sorts of bad behavior on the infrequent occasions when we’d go to the Black Cat to drink Diet 7Up and meet with our napkin folding club, we devised the following concept for a reality television series. The concept has come a long way since then, in that I finally wrote it down, and I hear that other people are actually filming it for HBO. I’m going to wait and see if the HBO thing makes money before I inform Lena Dunham that I registered Poor Girls with the Writer’s Guild seven years ago. In any event, I now bring you…

————————————————————————————————–

POOR GIRLS

a derivative, tragicomical, reality-based television series about a trinity of emotionally needy, financially impoverished, artistically confused, professionally aimless, aged-twenty-something female roommates in the big city

Treatment by

Wistar Murray

LOGLINE: Sex in the City meets Little Orphan Annie.

SYNOPSIS: We document the various Brooklyn-themed misadventures of three attractive, charismatic young ladies at the height of their seductive powers as they struggle to keep money in their pockets, get consistently laid, and preserve their dignity in a metropolitan setting. All three heroines issue from middling-class suburban families, but appear to relish being poor, slutty, and bohemian in their Five Boroughs personas. They also view their penury as crucial to maintaining their increasingly slim figures. Series includes an undercurrent of competition to reveal who can debase herself the most for free drinks, as well as some elements of frenemy. From episode to episode, we watch the girls largely succeed in getting by on their charm and sexual appetites, but they occasionally surrender to a valley of tears (see E. 5, a.k.a. “The Heartbreak Episode”). All three heroines are actively looking for the Oliver Twists to complement their Pippi Longstockings, with a preference for the former to play an Instrument and/or write first chapters of novels while waiting to claim his family inheritance.

PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS:

We fall in love with Eleanor when we see her updating her private sex diary in a cubicle at FedEx/Kinko’s, where she writes regularly because the staff there doesn’t force her to buy anything, such as bubble wrap or Post-It Notes.

We fall in love with Ashley when she entertains a rare doubt about the long-term propriety of sleeping with so many assholes, and wonders if her new blanket should be electric, like a fence.

We fall in love with Mary-Katherine when we see her make a pit stop in a Midtown cathedral during a Sunday morning walk of shame. We soon gather that she is not there to atone for her sins, but rather to seek the refuge of a clean lavatory, where she can pee and check her hair for cum without having to a buy a Starbucks coffee.

SEVEN EPISODES:

1. We open on frustrated sex between Principal Character Ashley and an unnamed hipster on her air mattress (see Example #1 of Snappy Dialogue). After the gentleman leaves, Ashley plans her search for a real mattress to replace her erotically disappointing Aerobed™. We see an extensive monologue in the confessional room (Eleanor’s closet) about Ashley’s terror of bedbugs, evinced to the degree that she once abstained from casual sex for two months to avoid catching them. “Bedbugs are the AIDS of the 21st century,” she often tells the camera. She texts last night’s unnamed hipster to find out how he feels about street mattresses. She wonders aloud if she can avoid buying a comforter for her bed by investing in thicker pajamas.

2. We see Principal Character Mary-Katherine embrace a new sexual identity as a Craigslist Unicorn. This endangered species is willing to hook up with couples to indulge the wife’s last-ditch efforts to save the marriage. The couple is typically so grateful to its Unicorn that the husband will shower it in gifts and free restaurant dining experiences, often without the wife’s knowledge. Mary-Katherine is empowered by her humanitarian role and we see a montage of her flirting quietly on the internet at a neighborhood cyber-cafe.

3. We watch as Principal Character Eleanor is forced, for an entire week, to wear the whorish boots she bought last Sluttoween because her more practical winter boots are in the boot repair shop and she doesn’t have the cash to get them out. She feels awkward going babysitting in three-inch, transparent heels, although she has to admit that the boots do a fine job of protecting her feet from inclement weather. In this episode’s psychodramatic subplot, Eleanor is disappointed to discover that her new crush’s adult Asberger’s also manifests itself in lovemaking. She had wrongly assumed that her new crush would land on the higher end of the orgasm spectrum.

4. We watch as Ashley copes with the daily trials of being cold and hungry and bored with all her outfits. In this episode she discovers that if she sweet-talks a junior associate lawyer she’s been seeing (“Ryan,” a recurring minor character who fits awkwardly into the Poor Girls universe except on the nights when he’s doling out gratuit lines of coke), she can exchange fitting room blow jobs for cute clothes from Topshop. In a series of rapid cuts, we see Ashley order nothing but hot tea at expensive restaurants and then take the complimentary creams and sugars home to make her lunches with later.

5. Informally known as “The Heartbreak Episode.” When Mary-Katherine meets a man who is poorer, sluttier, and more beautiful than she is on the subway platform, we are right there with her. Three days after their steamy makeout session in the rear of a Dunkin’ Donuts, when he doesn’t respond to her flurry of obscene text messages, she is comforted/vindicated by finding his indie band’s CD in the dollar-bin of a used record store.

6. We watch as Eleanor goes on a quest for cheap condoms, finds Truth along the way.

7. We watch as the girls prepare for an elegant dinner party hosted around their dumpster-dived coffee table. Mary-Katherine, who is responsible for the salad (and bad at keeping up with her laundry), pats dry the romaine lettuce with the same towel that she’d earlier used to dry her hair. We watch with horror as the dinner guests pick damaged, dyed-blonde strands out of their first course. But then the night is redeemed by cheap karaoke around the corner and we rejoice along with the girls, who have by this point become our dear friends.

EXAMPLES OF SNAPPY DIALOGUE:

1.

“This mattress needs more juice,” Ashley says to her latest one-night stand.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” says the one-night stand.

“Don’t worry, doll,” says Ashley. “It’s not as uncomfortable as it looks. It’s like sleeping on a water bed, except with air.”

We hear the roar of the bed’s engine when she plugs it into the wall.

“Voila,” says Ashley, disposing of her bra and panties. “Inflated and ready for fucking.”

2.

“That douchebag came all over my t**s last night,” says Mary-Katherine.

“I thought you were into that,” says Ashley.

“Normally, yeah, but he stained my sheets and you know I just went to the laundromat. Quarters don’t grow on trees in Brooklyn.”

3.

“Who the fuck took my earblugs?” screams a wasted Ashley at 7am after she returns home from a long night of partying.

“Your what now?” says Mary-Katherine, who is making ramen dinner in the kitchen/living area.

“My earblugs! I can hear the family in the wall!”

“Why don’t you just have an orgy with them?” screams back Mary-Katherine. “You do with everyone else!”

Cut to Eleanor’s bedroom, where she’s straddling a groggy, half-naked bartender.

“We’ve got time for a quickie before I have to shower and go to work,” she purrs as she fiddles with what could either be a mole or his third nipple.

The bartender stares up at her blankly, stupidly, as if she is a ceiling tile.

“Did you hear me?” says Eleanor. “I said wake up and fuck me before my babysitting job.”

At his leisure the bartender removes the earplugs one by one from his ear sockets.

“Hm?” he says. “Are you talking?”

“Jesus Christ,” says Eleanor, and jumps up to borrow a condom from one of her roommates.

THE CLINCHER:

Eleanor’s Truth (see E. 6) turns out to be scabies.

Fairy porn for neurotic geniuses

Tonight my sister-in-law JT sent me a link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity, and when I got done cyber-stalking an author I’m jealous of and then messing around on Facebook, I gave it a listen. Gilbert proposes that instead of thinking of  ourselves as island artists who are solely responsible for our work, we should envision creative spirits who flit in and out, periodically inspiring us. Maybe true genius isn’t interior, but exterior. In ancient Greece, when a daemon visited a writer in the night, he took some of the heat off the writer’s sensitive ego. Whether the finished product turned out brilliant or embarrassing, the writer himself was only an accessory to the creative act. To quote Liz Gilbert, your original work is accomplished not by you alone, but also by “the divine cockeyed genius assigned to your case.”

Because I just finished Betsy Lerner’s book The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, the emotional fragility of the average artist has been on my mind. The more neurotic I feel and the more erratic my sense of self-worth, the more I want to rebel against these stereotypical character traits. In Lerner’s book (which I loved, by the way), authors are delicate creatures who frequently need to be coddled and reassured. But according to Gilbert, if we could just reconceptualize our creative bursts of energy as generous fairies who fly in and out of our windows to feed us clever lines and plot points, we wouldn’t be such unrelenting egomaniacs. Sounds good to me!

Although my fairies are stupider and have a weaker vocabulary than most peoples’, I am still hopeful that I can bribe them with the spare change I keep next to my computer. But where do my fairies get their ideas? Maybe there’s another whole tier of fairies, higher-up fairies, who hate my fairies because they’re ugly and dumb, and so the dominant fairies stopped talking to them in middle school and refuse to share any of the hot brainstorms going around. So with or without fairies, I am basically screwed. If the devil stopped whispering in my ear every five minutes, I’d be completely out of the writing game.

Originally I wanted to blog tonight about Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s pornography article in The Atlantic, and to congratulate my friend Lang Fisher on the success of The Onion’s new show, but now Jesus is telling me to get in bed with my husband. Sweet dreams.

I am a good old-fashioned humanoid

Last night I finished Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and began reading Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. When you really think about it, these two books are not so different. Yes they are. This blog post is off to a bad start. QUIZ! Which dreadlocked computer pioneer wrote the following excerpt, Conrad or Lanier?

As long as you are not defined by software, you are helping to broaden the identity of the ideas that will get locked in for future generations. In most arenas of human expression, it’s fine for a person to love the medium they are given to work in. Love paint if you are a painter; love a clarinet if you are a musician. Love the English language (or hate it). Love of these things is a love of mystery.

But in the case of digital creative materials, like . . . the World Wide Web, it’s a good idea to be skeptical. These designs came together very recently, and there’s a haphazard, accidental quality to them. Resist the easy grooves they guide you into. If you love a medium made of software, there’s a danger that you will become entrapped in someone else’s recent careless thoughts. Struggle against that!

Lanier thinks that current technology is inadvertently circumscribing our humanity, limiting users to behaving more like machines than people. A few months ago Zadie Smith followed up on this idea in The New York Review of Books:

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.

You guys understand what I’m getting at here, right? That I have a personal WordPress blog so I’m doing okay, but you, on the other hand, might not be? Good, glad to see we’re on the same page. You should now leave a lot of eccentric comments below or I will consider you further enslaved to the hive mind. This post is so 2010.

Speaking of not being a gadget, my friend’s comedian kid brother (Gidget?) has been messing with people on Craigslist forever. Here is Dregslist, his new website, a compilation of greatest hits.

JOHN DEERE JS46 LAWNMOWER, RUNS LIKE NEW (possibly haunted) – $30

I also like this lady who makes visual art on her typewriter, and this guy who crochets traditionally masculine objects like urinals and handguns. We should all do more crocheting of bullets and less shooting of bullets. Whoa, sorry for that political rant. You know what a crocheted bullet would look like? A tampon for Jared Lee Loughner’s vagina. And I’m out!

I wonder how long it’s going to take my little brother to realize I’ve been blogging about him

Whenever he runs into me in our mom’s house, he’s like, “Oh hey, Wistar. Where’ve you been? Blogging?” All sardonic. And the more I deny it, the more he insists that I blog 24 hours a day, every day of my life, for nameless people in Brooklyn. I told him he could join me and my friend Leslie for dinner tomorrow night and he’s like, “Why? So we can all talk about blogging? No thanks.” And lately he’s been alternating his blog taunting with literary taunting, like, “What you doing today? Writing one of your novels?” He is such a bully. If he knew Stephen Hawking, he’d be going up to him all, “Wassup, Hawking? You doing your hipster physics? You got yourself some theories? By the way, I like your oversized, retro, prescription eyeglasses” [hehe, high fives]. Our situation is exactly like that. Meanwhile my brother is at the gym “getting his swell on” for the spring season, so I shall make fun of him from my secret hiding place on the internet.

Baby brother, you stink and your hair is too long. You’re probably not even the hugest guy on the lacrosse team. P.S. Hurry home I’m making quesadillas.

It’s weird to see a cemetery through a Starbucks window

I’m at a Starbucks in Charlottesville and from where I’m sitting by the window I can clearly see the cemetery across the highway. Which is pretty weird, right? From this angle it looks as though all the cars exiting the shopping center are driving straight into the graveyard, maybe because the passengers just bought some cool stuff at Target that they’re now looking to deposit on some tombstones.

Yesterday I read about Mary Ellis’ grave, which is in a New Jersey parking lot. I don’t know which is better: to be buried in a beautiful, remote place where people trek once a year to pay their respects, or to be buried in the midst of a profane hustle and bustle where your death is acknowledged every day in between shopping lists and rearview mirrors. My dad is buried on his parents’ working farm, so he gets a lot of traffic: dogs and tractors and little brothers and delivery people and my grandmother passing by with her walking stick. That seems all right, but the minute someone installs a coffee kiosk next to the graveyard and people start pacing across the sacred earth, talking on their cell phones and chugging Americanos, I will lose my shit.

Items that I will gratefully accept on my shopping center tombstone:

1) Anything from the dollar bins near the entrance of Target – that’s usually pretty good stuff.

2) Starbucks skinny lattes poured out homeboy style, but please don’t leave the empties.

3) Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons.

4) The giant pastries that Panera Bread employees like to give away at closing time.

5) Magazine subscription gift packs from Barnes & Noble, specifically for Lucky or another shopping-oriented periodical.

6) Anything from ABC.

Items that I will absolutely not accept:

1) McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

2) Blu-ray discs from Best Buy.

3) Anything from Gamestop. Nerds be trying to change me when I’m dead.

This thing still works

Even without me, the internet goes on. In fact, several of my friends have been writing on it. I give you:

Casey Plett! Dai George! Herpreet Grewal! Mary South! Barry Hannah (not actually my friend, but he seems like a wonderful man and I wish I had known him. Plus he scores major points in this interview by defending John Grisham, also not my friend (yet))!

For all the times when I can’t directly endorse the web’s existence with my bloggings, at least you have these other fine people to read online. No one said anything about second best. No one said that. That was just something you were thinking to yourself, but that’s really uncool of you. When, one day, god willing, I mature enough to be able to balance work and play, you will have your blog back. In the meantime my work is going down the toilet. This holiday break I’ve become so paranoid that I will never write fiction again that when I was sick in bed yesterday I refused to think about my novel for fear that I’d start associating it with my nausea and then whenever I wrote in the future I’d throw up. So that’s work. Play, on the other hand, seems equally doomed. On New Year’s Eve, play amounted to drinking wine with my mom until I tried to tickle her feet while she did floor exercises and she promptly kicked me out of her room (at 10:30PM). Last night I lay in bed listening to my 21-year-old brother and his friends play Monopoly for hours and the game sounded incredibly pure and wholesome until I decided that the whole posse must be on drugs. But then one has to wonder which drugs could possibly make Monopoly so fun? Methamphetamines? Steroids? It could be that I have lost touch with what is fun, which, come to think of it, people have been telling me forever. But I’d like to challenge my little brother to live a day in my shoes, to sit alone in front of a window, thinking about bon mots, sipping iced coffee because it contains less stomach-upsetting acid than hot coffee, periodically checking the internet for emails that never arrive, with no access to dice or plastic hotels or meth. HE WOULD BE CRIPPLED BY BOREDOM. And then I would . . . win?

See, this was fun. I should do this more often. Unfortunately I now have to figure out how to make a living as a writer, i.e., how to collect my $200 without having written a good novel, which is going to require more hard-looking out this window, maybe some lunch, definitely some websites.

Swab talk

For my grandparents’ 90th birthdays, we got them Genographic Project kits, which analyze your DNA to determine where your earliest ancestors came from. In order for the science to work, they have to take two saliva samples eight hours apart with the provided swabs. Which brings me to my punchline. I now have the title for my grandparents’ future biopic: “Between Two Swabs.”