A Sunday Afternoon at the Red Apple Motel

You laugh,

and call me silly.


I smile back

point to this pot-belly,

wishing it to be a baby–

the one I’ll never have.


Good Old V is off and reading

on his porcelain lover.


Running back,

little too late–

consider donuts

your salvation.


No bat, no saw,

but only a katana–


upon a pawn’s man wall.


We are redeemed, and

leaving LA this morning.


We are all changed the moment

we see the bullet holes–

Just so narrowly



I am the sweet Fabienne,

just leaning in the wind.


And Grace is what gets us out of here.

Bill Nye, The Author Guy

Be still my heart a man who can discuss energy-saving techniques at length while simultaneously making me laugh. Who is that man? Bill Nye, of course. Nye’s recent work, “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” is a testament to that continued love affair as he, in one eloquent motion after the next, refutes, among many other topics, the theory of creationism in the modern world.

Photo courtesy of St. Martin's Press, 2014.

Photo courtesy of St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

Nye, who studied under the late and great, Carl Sagan, was most notable for his television personality, Bill Nye the Science Guy. However, since that time, Nye’s continued presence has surpassed even that status as demonstrated by his research, development, debates, and lectures. Nye has become more than the eccentric personality of the 1990s landscape, but rather a monument to science and profundity. Brilliant, conscious, and above all, passionate, Nye and his work seek to inform society by asking for our time, our ears, and most of all — our open mind — assuming we are up to the task.

First introducing readers to his younger self, Nye notes where his aptitude for knowledge and curiosity began — around 7-years-old, pondering the subject of bees. What started as small then spiraled into genius. Fast forward decades later, Nye’s nature, as displayed in the book, remains humbling. Readers take note of Nye’s brevity and conversational dialogue, which does not detract from his understanding or his posed questioning to us.

Nye is delicate in his wording, but does not pander to those sensitive about the topics therein, particularly creationism — a theory he believes has no place in education. Facts, after all, are facts, as Nye explains herein: “Inherent in this rejection of evolution is the idea that your curiosity about the world is misplaced and your common sense is wrong. […] Children who accept this ludicrous perspective will find themselves opposed to progress. They will become society’s burdens rather than its producers, a prospect I find very troubling. Not only that, these kids will never feel the joy of discovery that science brings.”

The work is above reproach, with prime chapters including: “Me and You and Evolution, Too,” “My Prom and Sexual Selection,” “Convergence, Analogy, and Homology,” and “Life’s Cosmic Imperative”. Throughout the collection, Nye never comes across as disparaging, but rather enlightening — it is with great sincerity that he educates by instilling facts only after refuting opinions and generalizations. Through it all, he manages to keep to his word: “The more you find out about the world, the more opportunities there are to laugh at it.” So keep learning, and keep laughing.

[Published: 12 November 2014, The Weekender]

Memoirs of a Mortician

Anyone with a proclivity for the morbid and slightly unsettling knows her name: Caitlin Doughty, otherwise known as the captivating mistress of death, curious mortician, and all-around bereavement know-it-all. In her début memoir, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, Doughty discusses life as a mortician through death.

Photo courtesy of, 2014.

Photo courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.

Since the introduction of Doughty’s website, The Order of The Good Death, has come both videos and blogs about every topic navigating the journey of death — from excrement to implantations in corpses. In other words, all delicious, all unfiltered forays into the finer points of mortality. As a result, Doughty has gained quite the cult following, bringing eccentrics and the like together one curious crematorium tale at a time.

In her introduction, Doughty discusses the issue with the preoccupation to escape death: “Looking mortality straight in the eye is no easy feat. To avoid the exercise we choose to stay blindfolded, in the dark as to the realities of death and dying. But ignorance is not bliss, only a deeper kind of terror.” Of course, Doughty soon rips the wool from our eyes, and we find that with death comes permanence. The only thing to fear then is a life unlived.

As a child, Doughty grew up fascinated by death, a journey that ultimately led to her studying Medieval history before taking a job as a crematorium assistant. Realizing she had finally landed her dream job, Doughty returned to school, becoming a licensed mortician and the rest is misery and lots of it — but the good kind. The book then takes readers through that initial period, stemming six years where we come to know Doughty as well as all the strange nuances surrounding death. Of the collection, personal favorites include: “Push the Button,” “Direct Disposal,” and “The Art of Dying”.

The work is incredibly vivid and detailed, and therefore, not recommended for the easily squeamish or offended. All things considered, the book is flawless, written with skill and great awareness as Doughty thrills and enlightens readers, making them laugh along the way. Rather than fearing death or seeing it as some sort of sentimental process, Doughty has a way of comforting her readers by scientifically explaining the process of death while providing a compassionate perspective in knowing that we all will, at one time or another, die the good death.

[Published: 12 October 2014, The Weekender]

Bad Done Right

Feminist. There, I wrote it. Did you flinch in opposition? Did you throw your fist up in support? Or, did you just sit there, utterly neutral? Whenever one hears the word feminist, there seems to be one of those three sentiments that follow. No matter what opinion you hold, sit tight and enjoy the ride as author, Roxane Gay attempts to define what it means to be a bad feminist — bad to the matriarchal bone.

Photo courtesy of, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Harper Perennial, 2014.

In Gay’s clever essay collection, Bad Feminist, she demonstrates resolve in admitting our flaws as feminists and seeing how the movement can progress from misrepresentation to empowerment. While Gay has a lot to say, she is far from neutral. Instead, Gay is fearless in her opinion as to why both radical feminists and anti-feminists are missing the point. Readers find that in order to be a feminist, it is important to admit that we are not perfect and still working to find solutions. Some of those solutions can be found in Gay’s essays: “Feel Me. See Me. Hear Me. Reach Me.,” “How We All Lose,” “Dear Young Ladies Who Love Chris Brown,” “When Less Is More,” and “Holding Out for a Hero”.

The collection analyzes everything from feminist stereotypes to female protagonists in literature and film. Gay even cites strong examples as to why aspects of feminism have failed. In particular, Gay argues that while the movement is continually changing and growing, it has not always been diverse in their ideologies of women. It should not be one feminist decreeing that another cannot be considered as such if they also choose to wear pink underwear and shave their underarms. It is a choice, and those are details, not the overall picture. As Gay seems to skillfully express, Feminists come in all varieties, and the movement is meant for something bigger — to empower men and women as equals — not to place one homogeneous group on a pedestal.

Though the collection does not evaluate feminist history, Gay remains candid throughout, often admitting that since the beginning and even now, there exist many limitations but there is hope for understanding and harmony. Still, Gay continues to try and make a difference — holding true to her introduction — “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m trying not to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying — trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.”

Gay may not intend to be a leader, but among the negative diatribe regarding feminism, her collection is an awe-inspiring and positive example of bringing about some good while being a little bad.

[Published: 13 August 2014, The Weekender]

“The Vastness is Only Bearable Through Love”

Throughout my life, I have known many people who were hurting and would, whether openly or not, express their sadness to friends or family. At one point, I was one of those people–attempting to navigate through what seemed to be a never-ending purgatory of darkness.

As a writer and a teacher, I have always believed that words have the power for good. The power to change. But words can also seem insincere and generic, especially to someone experiencing such darkness.

Smile, it gets better.

But, what if it never does?

While counseling and medication management work for some, it is not a cure-all. Mental illness is a disease, not a series of bad days. In my darkest times, it was not a pill or an inner voice telling me to live—it was the compassion of people who were or had experienced similar situations that helped me through. Someone who could love me, even when I could not.

Photo courtesy of Google Images, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Google Images, 2014.

I write about all of this to shine some light on the recent passing of actor, comedian, and family man, Robin Williams. While I have never known the man, I remain stunned by his death.

The man that made so many laugh, had stopped laughing.

There is a pervasive stigma that suicide—both ideation and the act—are demonstrative of weakness. That if we, as an individual, fail to seek out some inner light or shred of humanity to live for, we are weak. This is not the case.

If you have ever thought of suicide or have attempted (but are luckily with us today), you know it is not an easy task. Contrary to Manic Street Preachers, suicide is not painless.

We are still here. Still feeling. Still attempting to do some good in a world where bad seems to be winning. But, we won’t let it.

Social media plays a large role in many our lives. We are sometimes too quick to click the like button for the good things that happen in others’ lives and only post the good news. We are less inclined to touch base with someone who chooses instead, to share their truth with us: That life can be messy, and dark, and seem totally worthless.

Sometimes it takes one person to acknowledge our existence, to reach out to us and express that they know we are hurting, but are here to remind us that we are not alone. That, as Carl Sagan perfectly summarized: “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love”.

Love on the N from Manhattan to Brooklyn

We reach out distantly—
our arms spreading,
extending over Atlantic-Pacific.

You, Uptown.
Me, Downtown.

We hold the position—
children spinning
in circles, this world is more beautiful blurred.

You, Uptown.
Me, Downtown.

Growing dizzy, arms numb—
falling, it comes
upon us, the heaviness that seemed so light.

Survival of the Wittiest

In 1990, at only 4-years-old, I met my first fear. Short enough to fit under the kitchen table, I was found tightly gripping onto a wooden leg as I screamed: “The tomato is coming! The tomato is coming!” I loved vegetables, but I had no idea they could be this angry. Crazed winds opened windows as our old house moaned, its strength now seemingly diminished by an uncontrollable force. In only a matter of minutes it was gone, and I realized I had not survived a tomato fury, but instead, a tornado.

Photo courtesy of, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Three Rivers Press, 2014.

Life has always coexisted with these types of occurrences — natural disasters, virus outbreaks, and flesh-eating bacterium. Yet, sometimes there is only one way to improve our situation. Author, Andrew Shaffer, has done just that. In Shaffer’s latest fictional survival guide, How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters: Fight Back When Monsters and Mother Nature Attack, he manages to, in vivid detail, inform and entertain.

Shaffer, under the pseudonym of Fanny Merkin, first received success with his parody, “Fifty Shames of Earl Grey,” which focused on the pervasive concerns that plagued E. L. James’s series, Fifty Shades of Grey. Shaffer’s new work, while certainly a parody and ode to many of the ridiculous Syfy films viewers have seen throughout the years, is all about outsmarting the unrealistic.

Just in case you have yet to prepare your own sinking ship manifesto, but find yourself in the middle of a “Sharknado” or “Stonehenge Apocalypse,” Shaffer comes to the rescue. The guide illustrates complex catastrophes and monsters while seeking to enlighten and most of all, prepare readers to turn into the most worthy of opponents. In other words, we learn how to become monster-slaying, disaster-eradicating heroes.

As you might imagine, most of the work is tongue-in-cheek. Still, Shaffer manages to take tales of absurdity and spin them in such a way that the fiction remains sharp. The breakdown of the book includes two parts: Unnatural Disasters and Monsters. The sections are then broken down into further subsections: Fighting Mother Nature and When Earth Attacks (Part I) and Death If by Land and Destruction If by Sea (Part II). Particular favorites from the work include: “Arachnoquake,” “Polar Storm,” “Mongolian Death Worm,” and “Sharktopus”.

While the guide ranges from outlandish to witty, Shaffer’s introduction continues to echo to the conclusion of the work. As Shaffer puts so delicately: “No matter what we do, it’s too late to stop unnatural disasters and monsters. All we can do is survive them.”

[Published: 6 August 2014, The Weekender]