Grinches & Haters

Last week, I heard a few of my coworkers laughing and talking outside my office. Like a dog who heard the word “treat”, my anxious little extrovert ears perked up and I quickly inserted myself into whatever fun was happening just beyond the bounds of my lonely, isolated desk.

They were gathered around a piece of printer paper that read as follows:

I have seen through your deception!!!

You have tried to fool the world into thinking you are a reindeer, but I have seen through the deception and realized you are nothing but a car! Your disguise is really quite obvious when it is closely examined.

You may fool the average man. BUT I HAVE UNCOVERED YOUR DEVIOUS PLAN! I simply ask you to repent of your deceptive ways and put aside the disguise.REVEAL YOUR TRUE IDENTITY TO ALL! In the name of your dignity and the dignity of your owner I say REPENT! REPENT! REPENT! Put aside your nose and antlers so all will know you are but a car.

This is a reindeer

This is a reindeer

This is a car

This is a car






My coworker Ari has now gotten 3 of these left on her SUV, which (as you may have guessed) is currently disguised as a reindeer. Today, she came to me for help. I could no longer stand idly by and let this discrimination go on, so I decided to jump in and help her cause, constructing the following rebuttal, which she then laminated and left on her own windshield:


What do J.K. Rowling, Kevin Costner, and Rudolph have in common?



J.K. Rowling was an unemployed single mother with a dream about wizards. Kevin Costner heard some voices in a corn field and had a dream about building something so they would come (I didn’t watch it). And my personal hero RUDOLPH had a sweet dream about being included in some awesome reindeer games and maybe also BEING ACCEPTED FOR WHO HE IS.

I have always felt like a reindeer trapped in a mid-size SUV’s body and HOW DARE YOU PERSECUTE ME. This is the one time of year that I can don my gay apparel and feel kinship with my true kind—REINDEER. How could you be so hurtful, so mean, so cruel… at CHRISTMAS?

Stop this harassment at once or I WILL contact the American Civil Liberties Union and maybe also PETA.

So, this holiday season, please remember the plight of the trans-car (or “crossovers” as you may have heard them referred to before). Let’s not discriminate, y’all! In this season of love and harmony, let us focus on the age-old adage:

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men and Reindeer Cars.

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Here, Let Me Peptalk You.



Feeling lonely?

Feeling blue?

Feeling like you’re ready to lock your soul into a bottle of whiskey and close the curtains on your own swollen face so that if the light of love indeed never reaches you again, it will at least have been by your own choosing?

Then by all means, get on OkCupid, son! That’s just what we DO now! No sense in wasting away every evening, smoking grass and proving your dog right when she suspects that you might love Netflix more than you love her. No, no, you gotta put yourself OUT THERE. It’s time to show the world that you’re made of more than just crippling student loan debt and clever plots to fake your own death so you can cancel your gym membership. You–YES YOU!– in your American Thunder T-shirt that you bought at a flea market to be ironic, have a LOT to offer and you DESERVE to feel LOVE!

But, “Oh,” you might say. Or, “sigh” you might sigh. Or “Hmmm?” you might purr as you look up from your iPad dreamily because you were looking at cat pictures on the internet and didn’t hear what I just said. Look, there are TONS of people JUST LIKE YOU (kind of) who LOVE cat pictures and also have DEBILITATING social ANXIETY! You could be HAPPY TOGETHER! Or at least miserable WITH ANOTHER PERSON IN YOUR BED!

Sound too good to be true? There are literally DOZENS of people right now, in your local community, who have also lost all faith in the idea that someone might find them attractive because its not even officially winter yet and you already feel like you might not make it to spring time without having actually transformed into Gollum, clutching a box of doughnut holes and hissing, “MY PRECIOUS,” at anyone who tries to pry them from your filthy, clammy hands. Literally DOZENS!

Now that you’re totally on board because of my unique persuasive tactics/shame, you may be wondering, “Great! Where do I sign up!” and the answer is at OkCupid and you just start by making an account or reactivating your old one from the last time you were too depressed to keep going on with your normal life of going to work and seeing your family and friends without squeezing in awkward cappuccino with strangers in your otherwise desolate free time. If you’re a woman, you will feel the positive effects on your self esteem immediately! Get ready for powerfully flattering messages like:

  • hey
  • hi
  • Hi,
  • wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah 😉
  • You’re absolutely gorgeous! My husband and I are vacationing in piegon forge next week and would love to chat if you’re interested 🙂

If you’re a man, get ready to send ’em! Thousands a day! To the same people over and over again! Without regard for anything they’ve mentioned on their profile! Or! Anything! Other! Than! Your! Dick!

Because at the end of the one week minimum time period before OkCupid will allow you to deactivate your account again, one of eight things will happen:

  1. You will be so bombarded by messages from creepy dudes, certifiable lunatics, and toothless yokels that you realize its better to be single than to be subjected to an endless parade of these assholes.
  2. You will go on a few dates with incredibly awkward people who have misrepresented themselves to actually have a sense of humor.
  3. You will go on a few dates with someone that you are more attracted to than they are to you and then you text them too much and ruin everything.
  4. You will meet someone who lied about their height.
  5. You will meet someone who lied about their relationship status.
  6. You will meet someone who lied about their prison record.
  7. You will meet someone who lied about not being dead inside.
  8. Or, you will meet someone who’s nice and you’ll keep seeing them and it will be nice and less lonely and I bet you’ll even both grow as people from it.

See, those are literally the ONLY eight things that can happen! Isn’t that GREAT! So get out there, kid! Take a shower and let’s get you a profile picture! Or find an Instagram filter that washes out pockmarks and weird body hair IT LITERALLY DOESN’T MATTER! TRUE LOVE or TRUE AWKWARDNESS or A TRUE AFFIRMATION TO KEEP LIVING THE LIFE YOU ALREADY LIVE is just a CLICK and SOME TYPING and A LOT OF INVASIVE SURVEY QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR SEXUAL PAST AWAY!

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Nobody Here But Us Chickens.

For Paul and Renee. Happy birthday, twins.

I am seeking.

Because, you know, it’s fair to make me seek while the eighteen-year-old twins, Paul and Renee, and the four-year-old Jacob hide. Where is Josh? Reading a book, probably. Taking apart a VCR. Building a radio station from a circuit board. Just normal seven-year-old stuff.

I run in and out of rooms, scanning, listening for signs of my hidden siblings. Dad is a 1st Sergeant, which means that almost everyone has their own bedrooms. That’s a lot of rooms, especially from the perspective a little curly haired, cherub faced, tiny, precious three-year-old like me. Each room I enter, I pause. Military houses on post are always plain white walled and often a little bare. You move a lot. You purge. Your mom has five kids to wrangle: three little ones and two teenage step ones, though no one ever says step or half in this house. The closets, always with their white wooden slatted bi-fold doors, are stocked with hand-me-downs– unless you’re the baby girl that popped up by surprise just after your parents’ purged your brothers’ baby things.

I step into my own little room, all purple and yellow. I squish down to the floor to look under my white canopy bed.


I turn to leave but stop when I hear something. A shuffle. Maybe a whisper. I look to my closet and step closer. Little and looking up through the wooden slats, I see some movement, some outline. I narrow my eyes. This is a strong lead. I might be on to something here.

“Hey,” I squeak, “are you guys in there?”

A rustle, and then, from a big voice, “Nope! Nobody here but us chickens!”

And another big voice says, “Yup!”

And a little voice says, “Bock.”

And that is sufficient. These are not the droids I’m looking for. I have serious seeking left to do and can’t be bothered with chickens in closets. And so I shout, “Ok!” and continue scrambling through the house, looking for my siblings, who are so sweet and so fun to play with me and will be devastated when I find them because the baby isn’t supposed to be smart enough to catch them. This baby though– she’s a little detective. One smart cookie.

Paul, Josh, Me, Renee. Jacob not pictured.

Paul, Josh, Me, Renee. Jacob not pictured.

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When Your Heart Is In-between

Let’s get real. I haven’t been writing. I came home from Korea and started a fancy new job and a new relationship and because I needed all of it so badly, I couldn’t bear the honesty of writing for a while. Now, the job is gone and replaced by another. The relationship is long gone and good riddance. I feel again happy and on the verge of a new thing though I know not what.

I woke up in the middle of the night and found the journal I was keeping that first summer I came home. This piece stood out to me and I think there’s some key in it as to why it’s now ok to write again. At least now I’m not so scared of my own heart.


Driving after 6:00 am, window down and smoking
like a fool. Crying, trying to find anything that feels
good in Knoxville. Topping the hill of Elm Street and
the Sunsphere juts into the sky like a broken lamp
post, still dull in the pre-dawn light. Turning back to
Central. Old soul on the Fulton Falcon and me, just
wanting comfort, wanting what here is worth loving.

Thinking of Korea. The 60s facades on central looking
busted, gray. Can’t find their endearment. The bums
are riding bicycles but I’m alone. In Busan, I couldn’t
control myself. The lonesomeness ran me down, hunted
me in night clubs, caught me always at dawn, always
breathless in the arms of something desperate. I keep

through the Old City, cut up through downtown, hit
every light on Gay. Cross the bridge and look east,
the sky still purple and no blush on the horizon. Go
down Chapman and feel nothing. Cut back on James
White to cross the river again. See the Vol Navy docked
together like a pile of sleeping mice. Consider sitting
at Volunteer Landing. Realize driving feels good.

Crisscrossing Knoxville before summer is yet gone
on a mild night as it crawls into day. What luxury as
James White becomes 40, takes me to 17th and lets
Mechanicsville lead me back home to Old North.
Still, circling Lincoln Park until I see it, suddenly,
finally, going east on Atlantic my familiar sun hangs
like a hot red heartbeat over Broadway, heavy and
begging the question, what have I forgotten about love?


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My life is pretty satisfying


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Joy, Baby

One of my new life missions is to collect oral histories of my family. I was able to do a small amount of that this past weekend, while visiting Oklahoma for my Nanny’s 80th birthday. I could listen to my Nanny talk all day, about anything. Her life has been extraordinary and I hate the bitter thought that it won’t last forever. And maybe it’s her age and wisdom, but her story telling style is drastically different from mine. I overdramatize everything and riddle the world with too many unneeded jokes. Nanny, on the other hand… well, this is my Nanny.


I was delivered by a midwife. Yes, I was. My brother and I both. She was an old black lady. Old, old, black lady. She delivered us and had been raising us when my family decided to move. She told my daddy, said, “Mr. Lon, I think if you move away and take those babies away from me I’ll just die.” And when we moved, we loaded everything and us into a wagon– now, see how old I am here– and we drove away. You know that midwife was sitting there on the porch in a rocking chair when we drove away, and she sat right in that chair and had a heart attack and died. Yes. She did. They ruled it a heart attack but my daddy always said, said he always knew, he broke her heart when he took those babies, me and my brother Creepy. Creepy, my precious brother. He’s dead now too.

Nanny and I, 1987

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Miss Tennessee

When I left my parents’ driveway at 4:00am just over 14 months ago, I drove through the morning to Atlanta, where I boarded a plane for Korea with a Tennessee-shaped hole in my heart. Throughout the year, as I immersed myself into a scintillating new culture and marinated myself in soju, I silently picked at the bright orange scabs of my homesickness every day. Most things that I missed were not surprising such as my family, my friends, or pizza without yams and mayonnaise on it. However, on several occasions, my homesickness took very startling turns that I never anticipated. For example, I developed a strange relationships with bluegrass while I was in Korea. It seemed that I became ensnared in a vicious cycle through the help of the wonderful WDVX and their live streaming webcast. To illustrate my point, I made this complex flowchart:

It never ended the whole time I was there. At one point during my stay, bluegrass confused me so bad that I accidentally fell really hard for someone not worth falling for. It turns out that you should never combine alcohol, lonesomeness, religious freakouts, and bluegrass into the same evening. Hearts will be smashed to pieces. Eventually, I made a set of criteria for myself that had to be met before I could tune into WDVX:

You see, missing home got complicated. Since being home, I’ve been reminded of several things that I didn’t know I was going to miss until I happily saw them again. Additionally, there were things I thought I’d be starved for that never mattered at all. It turns out Korea has an abundance of passable Mexican food, and my friends in Korea turned out not to be just friend substitutes or placeholder friends, but instead legitimate friendships that I will nurture the rest of my life.

So, if you’re reading this from Tennessee or from elsewhere, I hope that you’re cherishing the particular sweetness of wherever you are– something I strived for in Korea that has made me feel more at home in Tennessee. Now that I’ve been back a while, the reverse culture shock has dwindled considerably and I feel genuinely less psychotic than I did in those first few weeks. I am no longer convinced that my neighbors want to combo-rob-rape me and the sweetness of the season has begun to seep back into my heart, filling up that Tennessee-shaped hole and maybe making it stronger than ever. In honor of my heart and my home, where the heat is sweltering and the beer is cold and there’s always a honky tonk close by, I’ve made a list of the top missable things about East Tennessee:

  • Gardens. The ability to just put some vegetables in the ground in your yard and then, by pure and simple magic, they grow.
  • Porches. Front and back. Lawn chairs or swings and citronella and cigarettes. Until your heart’s content and your mosquito quota is full.
  • Soul Food. Be it Chandler’s or my mama’s. Fried everything and barbecue that kills you. The way some desserts are too rich to eat too much of– I like the soul food too savory to finish, but you do. Fried green tomatoes and okra and squash and collard greens and mustard greens and turnip greens and sweet tea.
  • Baking. Picking mulberries off the tree in your yard and making dough from stuff you can casually and simply buy at the store and baking it and feeding it to your friends because they’re there and you can.
  • Spices. Going to the store and getting whatever you want and making your food taste like anything you like. More than just spicy or soy sauce or teriyaki. You can make any culture’s flavor in your very own kitchen, because this is America.
  • The rare times when you’re at the barn on your parents’ farm and it starts to rain and you have to piss, so you just go outside and pop a squat in the middle of a light summer storm. That simply and naturally. Agree or not, it’s a unique experience that never even crossed my mind until it happened again.
  • Bonfires. Being in someone’s backyard and grilling and drinking (or not) and sitting with people you love and listening to oldies and talking and seeing people in that dim and beautiful light until the fire dies down and then you say goodbye. But you’ll see them again for the same thing, quite soon.
  • House Concerts. Folk Music. Folk Singers. Eating in a friend’s kitchen and hearing a stranger play his songs. The intimacy you have with people you’ve never met and the soft uncertainty of whether you will again.
  • Bluegrass. And feeling happy for the happy songs and sad for the sad and understanding the melancholy like you never knew you could.
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