In the Newsroom.

“Mark! How are you?”

“I’m good, James.”

“It’s nice to see you back.”

“It’s good to be back, Jay… I’m sorry, I mean James.”

“Oh, I thought you were just being street.”

Nonpareil of Favor

“I feel like I ought to thank somebody/so I’m gonna thank you, thank you” … Because it’s Thanksgiving week, here is a requisite list of counted blessings.



Long drives, longer playlists.

Always, always family:

Mom: “How do you like your Netflix? We just got one called ‘Being There.’”   Dad, in the background: “It’s got Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine.”   Mom: “I thought it was weird.”   Dad: “She would like it. She likes weird movies. Remember ‘The Royal Tenenbaums?’”


Friends in sketch comedy troupes.

Saturday weddings.

Little black wedding dresses.

Not being the one getting married.

Catch-up. Not ketchup.

This song, even if the video scares me:

Indie rock/rap mixes, especially involving Sufjan Stevens.

Christmas music, especially involving Sufjan Stevens.

Being home.

Free laundry.

Free wine.

Having a job. Sometimes. 

Getting dressed up for work.

Not getting dressed.

Exercise endorphins.

Phish Food Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Long-overdue haircuts.

Michael C. Hall.


5 Things about Living Alone.

1. Sleep becomes a legitimate time-passing activity — and is indulged in accordingly. This Saturday, I got about 9 hours of sleep at night, lay down in the middle of an early afternoon G-chat conversation (sorry, Rapp) for 20 minutes of rest, then unintentionally fell asleep during “Wristcutters: A Love Story” and had to rewind. Good movie. A surprisingly sweet romantic comedy about a town full of successful suicides with a cameo from Will Arnett as a Jim Jones figure.

2. Human interaction is so limited, I’ve actually started to enjoy customer service calls. The Internet’s not working? Great! This gives me a chance to call up Navesh and chit-chat. If it’s bad enough, the phone company might even send Aaron by to check my connection! I’ve also started to encourage these spontaneous interactions in line at the grocery store and picking up prescriptions at Walgreens. The pharmacist’s daughter lives in Missouri, too.

3. Hypochondria. I’m going to have a heart attack and no one will know. Choke, fall and black out, carbon monoxide poisoning, black widow bite, appendicitis: how long will it take someone to find me?

4. The stress of living is practically nil. I have two things to worry about this week before going in to work: depositing a paycheck and dropping off a mountain of milk cartons at the recycling center. Other than that, I could pretty much sleep all the time (See No. 1). My friend Nate’s to-do list: tidy up his apartment. I was thinking about baking bread for my family for Thanksgiving, but that might be too much.

5. I always have more time than I know what to do with … and then I’m late.


“Who wouldn’t enjoy getting paid for being curious? Journalism allows almost anyone to direct questions they would never ask of their own friends at random people; since the ensuing dialogue exists for commercial purposes, both parties accept an acceleration of intimacy. … If given a choice between interviewing someone or talking to them ‘for real,’ I prefer the former, I don’t like having the social limitations of tact imposed upon my day-to-day interactions and I don’t enjoy talking to most people more than once or twice in my lifetime.”

— Chuck Klosterman

“Things that are not normal everywhere else are normal here.”

It started at the gym.

I was awake and alert for the first time in a long time. Shoelaces snuggly tied, particularly stinky old T-shirt donned, I entered the Ottumwa YMCA looking for an elliptical and motivation. Held the door open for a departing old couple in winter knits and walked into the sweaty sauna of the front room, crammed with neat rows of treadmills and Stairmasters. There are usually one or two fellow exercisers at this time of day – the most common are the indistinguishable tattooed, muscle-bound, sleeveless-shirt-wearing jocks wanting to get some cardio in after bench-pressing small elephants.

Today there is Snow Bunny Barbie.

She is power-walking on a treadmill, blonde pony-tail swinging wildly. And she is wearing a pair of tight denim jeans. And Ugg boots. Mid-calf, fuzzy, probably ridiculously warm right now with her feet stomping away on this artificial motion maker. But she is cool. She is in control. She is making the most of life outside Malibu.


Only slightly rattled, I head to Target to scout around for new work pants. Something comfortable and nondescript that can pass for “I tried to look professional” at budget meetings and still allow for slouching in my squeaky desk chair long into the night.

I pick out two pairs and head to the fitting room. “Two, please,” I inform the red-poloed attendant. (I take some comfort in franchises here. Target, Applebees, public libraries.)

She hands me a number 2 and holds out her hand for the pants. “Can I see those?”

“Oh, sure,” I say, not hiding my confusion.

“I just need to shake them,” she offers in explanation, then proceeds to wave the pants around a bit before handing them back.

Little bit of a petty thievery problem, Ottumwa?

No luck. I didn’t like the fit.


Almost finished with this strange morning, I pull into the Hy-vee parking lot to replenish my pantry. Supplies are dangerously low – basically just eggs, strawberry jam, salad dressing and a quarter-bottle of vodka.

I notice an old couple in the lot having some trouble with their car.

The giant hay bale in their trunk is making it very hard to shut and very hard to see out the rear window.


I might spend Saturday people-watching at Goodwill. Maybe I’ll find pants, too.

Outrageously tall, ridiculously curvy Ottumwa chimney.

Sex and Peppermints.

My friend Drew gave me  tin of mints for my birthday. Feminist mints with Rosie the Riveter stamped on the lid. “Empower-mints.”

The problem and paradox of these tiny pro-woman breath-fresheners is that the tin is nearly impossible for me to open. Something about the angle of the hinges or the friction of the metal means every time I reach for that minty goodness, I face a good five minutes of futile fidgeting with the box, usually before giving up entirely.

Because in honor of the mints’ message, I refuse to ask for help on this, especially from companions of the opposite gender. If “We can do it!” like bandana-ed Rosie says, biceps bulging, than I can open a box of mints. Sometimes. I’ve managed to get to three mints in about the same number of months. But at least I can taste the satisfaction of 100 years of women struggling for equality along with that tingly freshness.