Reasons to be excited

By Cristin - Last updated: Monday, March 3, 2014

I don’t know if this happens in other creative industries, but book people are forever asking each other for reasons to be excited. Anything exciting coming up? Are you working on anything exciting? What are you excited about? I get that last one all the time from Publishing People, and whether they genuinely want my opinion on what they should be reading or are using me as a heat-seeking device to see where other publishers are focusing their attention and whether or not it rubbed off on me, I always find the question flattering. And terrifying. It’s like how walking into a karaoke bar invariably wipes your brain clean of any ideas about songs to sing. During one of the many conversations about karaoke I had with my brother while he was living in Japan, I brought up how hard it is to think of what song to choose and Bud said that one of his friends keeps a list in his wallet, and if he’s ever in a bar or grocery store and a good karaoke song plays he writes it down and then carries the list around with him in case a sing-off breaks out. It took me a year of being stumped by the Excited About question at author events and BEA for me to realize I need a similar system. And so that’s what you’re looking at right now: my cheat sheet for What I’m Excited About for 2014 (March-May).

 

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (March ’14)
Summary: A layered story of three generations leading up to the birth of a girl born with bird wings, and all of the wonder and angst that comes with them.

Why I’m Excited, short version: Magical realism isn’t for everyone, but this book is.

Why I’m Excited, long version: I usually loathe magical realism (people can’t be chairs, Aimee Bender!!) but I truly, truly loved Ava Lavender. This story of three generations of women recalls the sweeping family saga of Middlesex, but without that pesky incest and extraneous sex organs.

Kidding aside, I find myself finally understanding what I thought were bookseller clichés because of this book: I intentionally slowed down at the end of the story to make it last longer, I’m wondering how much time I should give myself before I reread it, and I’m picturing the readers for this book and testing out in my head what I’m going to say to them. I am actively jealous of these customers because they have the experience of reading Ava Lavender for the first time to look forward to. I can’t get over this book- but why would anyone want to, anyway?

 

 

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The Riverman by Aaron Starmer (March ’14)
Summary: Alice In Wonderland is all fun and good until she shows up as the girl next door. 12-year-old Alistair is tasked by his neighbor, Fiona, of writing the story of the magical world Aquavania,  the children who live there, and the man who is stealing their souls one by one.

Why, short version: With one foot in a realistic setting and one in a magical land, this is a great entry into fantasy for kids (and grown ups) who think they don’t like the genre.

Why, long version: Aaron Starmer does an amazing job of setting stakes for his characters, both in the real world and in Aquavania. The last book that was this much of a gut-check for me was Tom McNeal’s Far, Far Away; you know that feeling, where you want to pin a fictional character to the ground to keep them from heading down a path that you’re certain, for some untenable reason, will be bad for them. It’s a challenge for me to get through a fantasy novel (I’m trying, guys!); I not only burned through this one, but wanted to start reading again immediately as soon as I was finished.

 

 

 

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Panic by Lauren Oliver (March ’14)
Summary: A game that’s a series of escalating dares played by teenagers the summer after graduation gets out of control in a hurry.

Why, short version: I love scavenger hunts/ large-scale games organized in secret by teenagers. I’m actively mad I didn’t put one together myself in high school, though that regret is fading fast in light of what happens in this book.

Why, long version: Lauren Oliver is such a goddamned baller. My introduction to Panic came at our YA Trivia Night AKA Cristin’s Greatest Life Accomplishment To Date, where Lauren was kind enough to serve as one of our visiting YA dignitaries and even kinder to read from Panic, which wasn’t even in galleys yet. She was maybe 3 sentences in before I wanted to steal her laptop to be able to read the whole thing. An awesome conceit plus a great writer. I loved every word.

 

 

 

 

aa love lettersLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (April ’14)

Summary:  Laurel responds to her teacher’s assignment to write a letter to a dead person by starting one-sided conversations with Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart- everyone except her older sister, May, who has recently committed suicide.

Why, short version: This is The Big One, people. Really!

Why, long version: This isn’t just Good For A Debut Author (though it is– exceptional for one, in fact– if she isn’t a Morris Award finalist I’m going to have to take up my own one-sided correspondence with the American Library Association), it’s Great For Any Author. All of the hesitations you are having right now (do kids today know who Kurt Cobain was? Ugh, do I HAVE to read another suicide book?) would be valid for any other book- I went through all of them when I was handed this galley- but this isn’t Any Other Book, it is beautiful and amazing and basically everything that you want in a young adult novel. Am I overselling it? TRICK QUESTION this book is impossible to oversell.

 

 

 

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Noggin by John Corey Whaley (April ’14)
Summary: The head of a teenage boy who died from cancer is cryogenically frozen and attached, five years later, to the previously-frozen body of a different dead teenager. So, you know, just your run-of-the-mill coming of age story.

Why, short version: It is incredibly fun to open conversations at your workplace with the statement “you would not believe how good this book about a cryogenically frozen/ unfrozen head is.”

Why, long version: This should be the weirdest book in the world, right? It should be Grasshopper Jungle meets Every Myth You’ve Ever Heard About Walt Disney meets Airhead meets Fururama, right? A frozen head book has no business being this good, and yet IT IS WONDERFUL. After his first book I was already emotionally contracted to read everything John Corey Whaley ever put on paper and after reading Noggin I know I’ll never regret any time I spend with this author’s work.

 

 

 

 

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High & Dry by Sarah Skilton (April ’14)
Summary:  High schooler Charlie Dixon tries to clear his name after being framed for contributing to a classmate’s near-fatal overdose at a party.

Why, short version:  Noir for teenagers in an age where we all could use a little more Veronica Mars in our lives.

Why, long version: Everything about this book is clever and fast-paced and smart and somehow never feels self-aware or put-upon; it is so hard to get wit in YA without having to deal with accompanying pretension, and this book just hits it out of the park. There are great touches throughout the whole thing, including some subtle race commentary when two girls in choir with the same name are referred to as Sound of Music Maria and West Side Story Maria respectively based on ethnicity. High & Dry is also contains my running favorite Hilarious Treatment of High School Cliques. The whole thing is just genius.

 

 

 

 

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Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (May ’14)

Summary: 18 year old Emi has a healthy obsession with movies and an unhealthy fixation on her exgirlfriend, Morgan. While scouting for movie props, Emi finds a letter written by a recently-deceased film icon and goes above and beyond in her attempts to get it into the hands of the rightful recipient.

Why, short version: Everything Nina LaCour writes is exceptional. She could decide to start ghost writing those Nigerian prince scam emails and I’d get mad when they didn’t win National Book Awards.

Why, long version: Emi’s job in film production design–a field I had previously never given a thought to, but now worship because of this book– is fascinating and realistic in a way that eludes all those books about girls with impossibly cool jobs (remember YA’s zoo internship  phase? It was just after the Covers With Empty Shoes phase but before the Characters Who Make You Question What It Means To Be Human phase). Reading about set design now has me looking for meaning in each random object inhabiting any space I happen to occupy; this book is literally changing how I look at things. In addition to being a fantastic story, this happens to be a fantastic story with a teenage lesbian protagonist. We’re starting to get more and more YA fiction that (happily) affords gay characters the same thing we’ve been giving straight fictional teenagers for years: the chance to exist in a story that involves but doesn’t revolve around their sexual orientation the chance to be a character who is gay instead of A Gay Character. Emi is one of the best-written YA characters I’ve ever encountered, and the fact that she’s gay is just one of the many, many exceptional facets of this book.

Filed in Books & Bookselling, Reading is Sexy

Sent to the parents

By Cristin - Last updated: Friday, February 14, 2014

I win at Valentine’s Day.

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 Red Stamp, you guys.

 

Filed in The Gene Pool

Alternatives

By Cristin - Last updated: Monday, February 10, 2014

Things I’d Rather Read Than Another Article About What Dystopian Young Adult Novels MEAN About Society:

Filed in deep thoughts, Reading is Sexy, Things I'm Not Okay With

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings: a journey through videos I have favorited on YouTube

By Cristin - Last updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014

A More Muppet Union

I generally get pretty pissed off when people edit the Muppets into things that I think would anger or even just annoy the ghost of Jim Henson. When the MuppetsStudio YouTube channel started dropping shiz like Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody I got nervous, not because the video itself was bad, since nothing with Animal doing MAMA like that could ever be bad, but it felt kind of like when you first see your 12 year old cousin wearing eye shadow and you feel all oooooh here it comes do we need to have the talk about that Oprah where the girls were Performing Oral Sex on the school bus in 6th grade? THAT SAID and TO THE SURPRISE OF NO ONE: I am fine with Muppets lip synching to my little brother. We are Muppet People in my family. Bud and I regularly fought over who got to use the Rowlf the Dog cup– in fact, if we were both in our childhood kitchen right now and he reached for it I would fight him for it even if I was not even remotely thirsty–and my dad and I have sung along together to Hope That Something Better Comes Along so many times that, were that song not about the inescapable futility of romantic relationships, I would bet he would want to dance to it at the wedding that that he should probably not even want me to have, if those lyrics have permeated any part of his frontal lobe. Having one person alive in this world who shares no DNA with me that  listened to A More Perfect Union and thought “Know what this needs? Muppets.” seems statistically and theoretically impossible, and yet here we are.

Hey!

Easy money here; I am a known sucker for anything in the {(Jurassic Park * SuperCut) x Hilarious Twist} universe.Whenever I show anyone this video he or she, without fail, responds with some version of Okay Yes This Is Funny But Have You Seen {x} where x = another video with dinosaurs in it, but that is not what the Hey! video is about. I want this video to be loved on its own, for what it is, which is a montage of the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park screaming “Hey!” instead of roaring. That said, this did lead to another beloved entry to my YouTube Favorites roster: Jurassic Park Theme Song- Melodica Cover. Just got a melodicia. Here’s my rendition of the Jurassic Park theme song. What do you think?

2008 Tina Fey Emmy Acceptance Speech

I saw this live (which is to say, I was on my couch when my television played this allegedly live telecast, not that I was in a gilded auditorium in a ball gown when Tina Fey got an award) and immediately fell in love with how she thanks her parents, which is “for somehow raising {her} to have confidence that is disproportionate to {her} looks and abilities. Well done. That is what all parents should do.” I love this because she’s right (the ongoing crisis of confidence among every generation of teenage girls is a serious problem and having Taylor Swift is a step in the right direction but we still have a lot- A LOT- of damage to repair from Stephenie Fucking Meyer’s Twilight series wherein the “heroine” literally ceases to exist during Book 2 when separated from her paramour etc etc plus all of that weird vampire rape fantasy crap going down in Book 4 but let’s not get me started on that because I will never, ever stop), and also because it suggests that Tina Fey’s parents and my parents have quite a lot in common, which suggests that Tina Fey and I  either, best case scenario, are the same person or, worst case scenario, need to become best friends and never leave one another’s side. Last year Mindy Kaling gave this interview wherein she pointed out that every person who asks her where she gets her confidence from is basically telling her that she “has all the trappings of a very marginalized person… Why on earth would {she} feel like {she’s} worth anything?” I half-considered printing out that quote and keeping it in my wallet but I didn’t want it to crowd my organ donor card and the elementary school pictures of my brothers that I, very creepily, carry around with me. A couple of people at my workplace routinely exhibit a combination of awe and confusion at my level of professional self confidence, a practice that is not helped by the fact that my mom frequently comes to the bookstore and drops Mad Cristin Love all over it (NB Mom this is not a passive-aggressive request or demand that you stop doing it- if anything, you should do it MORE. You’re retired. You should just come to my job and watch me eat lunch every day, it’ll be great). The first time my mom showed up and met everyone at the store, two people later told me that it “explained a lot” about how confident I am, which (a) I totally agree with- this is all my parents doing, and I am so fortunate for that and (b) drove me a little nuts because in the deepest recesses of my brain that weren’t reached by my parents’ unending love and support, comments like this make me worry that people keep bringing it up because they think this attitude is totally unearned and out of place on me. Then I decide that was horseshit and now I don’t worry about it anymore. In my 20s (HAH I’m old enough to say that like it was a long time ago OH SWEET CHRIST how fun for me) I trained myself out of using the words “sorry” and “just” in emails and meetings after I noticed that the majority of the women I worked with prefaced everything with “Sorry, just real quick-” before going into something that was completely a part of their job that they had every right to be talking about in that moment and that they never should have attached those meek qualifiers to, and then noticed that  men almost never do that. Once you start looking for this you can’t not see it everywhere, and it drives me up the goddamn wall. Stop apologizing for being good at your job, and take all of the goddamn time necessary to get what you need to keep being good at your job. If having more self confidence than my looks or talent deserve mean never typing the phrase “just checking in on this!” into an email and never hearing myself start ANYthing other than an apology for accidentally kicking someone’s puppy with the word “sorry,” then I am effing fine with that.

Taylor Swift- Nicki Minaj Super Bass

I follow Taylor Swift on Twitter because duh and she is the one who first told me that Super Bass would change my life though not in those exact words. I downloaded Super Bass without even listening to the iTunes preview clip (“woah, Cristin, REALLY? Slow down before you hurt yourself!”) because Taylor Swift told me to, and I can say unequivocally that that was the best $1.29 I spent in 2011. I started a text message campaign to get Older Brother Bud to download it (only two other songs in the Venn diagram of Our Siblinghood :: The Existence of iTunes have gotten that treatment, and they were Cee-Lo’s Fuck You and Cruise by Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly. I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that Nelly is getting work. He probably just got his W-2 form for his contribution to that song and good on him for it. You do you, Nelly). It’s not terribly hard to get Bud on board for anything Top 40; this is the man who, while driving in the car with his wife in 2003, became upset about something that none of us can now remember and turned to his beloved to say “it would really cheer me up if you could find Miss Independent on the radio right now.” Any conversation about missed opportunities in any sphere of life prompts Bud to bring up how Miss Independent was originally written for Christina Aguilera, who cut it from her album and thus freed it up for use by one Kelly Clarkson. He can’t believe that this happened the way I can’t believe that Apple Newtons went out of production for a decade and a half (they’re back, thank God). For the two week span immediately following my first mention of this song to Bud, every text message he sent to me was just lyrics from it, as though he was playing it on a loop for 300 hours. I first learned about this Taylor Swift/ Nicki Minaj crossover event from Deadspin, which is weird since they are not huge fans of hollering at my girl. Even Deadspin had to admit this is awesome, which was super-validating for Taylor Swift apologists like myself (I bought her perfume without having smelled it first because I knew I would wear it every day. Which I do.) around the globe, I am sure. Couple of items of note: You need to watch carefully to see it, but Nicki Minaj enters the scene by emerging from a trap door in the stage. Actually, that is the main/ only item of note; anything else I say here will distract from the fact that Nicki Minaji emerges from a trap door in the stage. If you HAVE to focus on something other than that, consider taking notice of the look of pure joy on Taylor Swift’s face throughout this entire exchange.

New York Mets Opening Day Flyover 2008

2008 was the last Opening Day the Mets played at Shea stadium before they moved 500(ish) years east (?) to a new stadium named after a credit card. I have some mixed feelings about this; most importantly, it makes me feel better about using the name Shea for the imaginary/ future daughter that I have, because it is somehow better/ okay to be named after a building that no longer exists than it is to be named after a building that is still standing- please do not ask me to explain this logic, just know that it is AIRTIGHT. We grew up going to Shea, though, so to have it destroyed ranks somewhere between having to see your first car towed to a junkyard and watching your elementary school go up in flames on the yardstick of personal tragedies. My dad and I were at Opening Day in 2007 and 2008, then skipped 2009 because it was at Citi and we felt weird about it, not that we ever actually discussed our feelings on the matter because we’re Irish Catholic. We have since been to every Opening Day; this year will be our 5th in a row. For reasons I will get into shortly, we were provided with 2008 Opening Day tickets, but all of the other tickets were procured by me, on the first day that single game tickets went on sale, within 20 minutes of the start gate. Single game tickets go on sale between mid-January and mid-February, and they name the date a few weeks ahead of that, and then you just sit in front of your laptop starting 5 minutes before the on sale time and the rest more or less takes care of itself. This week it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard about the single game on sale date yet (what do I pay you for, Twitter feed?!), and immediately started panicking upon googling into this article that says they went on sale in November 2013. Thanks, The Mets. Way to assume that I just check your website every day in November, like I definitely don’t have anything else to do. I started trying to calculate how much StubHub was going to ruin my financial life now that I wouldn’t be able to buy tickets directly from the Mets because they had to be sold out by now. You would think, wouldn’t you? I certainly thought that a professional sports team should be able to sell out its Opening Day in two months. I am thrilled and horrified to say that this is not the case: thrilled because my Dad and I now have tickets, and horrified because I love a sports team whose fans don’t even want to go to what is essentially the only game where we are guaranteed to still be in playoff contention. I do know that this will eventually pay off in dividends at some point before I die– eventually, even if just due to the law of averages, they’ll have to get good. Someone at work recently remarked on how cool the new Pope is, to which I responded that finally having a great Pope felt to me the way I imagine it’ll feel when the Mets finally win the Series. Like, “I KNEW I was hanging in long after any sane person would have jumped ship for a reason!” It’s going to feel great.

Our 2008 tickets were acquired in something of a scramble just before Opening Day after it was confirmed that Bud would be doing the Navy flyover at the beginning of the game– the last Opening Day they’d have at Shea. It turns out that you don’t know until the moment you hear the jet engine whether or not flyovers are going to happen; since the stadium is so close to two major airports, it could have been called off for a million different non-emergency reasons. We found out later that it is the actual job of one member of the squadron to stand behind home plate and sing along with the National Anthem into his headset so that the pilot can time the flyover perfectly, and that while the gentleman performing that duty for my brother that day was on the field during batting practice Ryan Howard came up to him and asked if he had been in Iraq, and then stared at him in wonder for a long beat before he thanked him for his service. While that guy was singing the National Anthem, my dad and I were holding our respective breaths right up until the end of the song, at which point my dad started muttering “Come on, Brendan. Come on, Brendan,” under his breath. I started chanting along with him and we got louder and louder and louder until we were both yelling and the people around us started, I’m sure, to worry about their personal safety. We screamed through the whole flyover and afterwards, when the whole stadium was applauding, my dad grabbed the shoulder of the Complete Stranger He Had Never Spoken To Before that was sitting in front of us and yelled in his ear “THAT’S MY SON- THAT’S MY SON FLYING THE FIRST PLANE.” It was such a good day. It was one of my best days.

The Mountain Goats- You Were Cool

When I was in middle school you went skiing and then kept your lift ticket on your puffy coat, oftentimes collecting MULTIPLE lift passes on one coat, just in case people couldn’t tell just by looking at you that you were a rich white kid. In high school everyone stopped doing that and started going to as many live shows for as many bands as possible and then wearing nothing but concert t-shirts to school, which explains, kind of, why in nearly every picture of me from 9th-11th grade I am wearing a Blues Traveler t-shirt. All of these shirts featured Blues Traveler’s logo, which is a cat smoking a joint that I LEGIT thought was a cat smoking a cigarette for a very, very long time. The fact that none of my parents and not one school administrator pointed this out to me was, I now believe, a tacit nod to the fact that High School Cristin in a shirt promoting marijuana use was actually a huge blow to the local pothead community, so not awesome was I as a teenager. This was the age where I came to my It’s Not Fun Unless You Know All The Words conclusion that I have since applied to every situation in my life that has an external soundtrack. People’s Aunts are forever coming up to me at weddings asking how I know the words to everything because I lip synch to everything, and I am forever responding that they should be staring at the bride and not me and PS Between Me And The Champagne is a terrible place to stand, so if you could move to your left that’d be great. Blues Traveler was the first band I loved hard enough to be able to enjoy a live show where they had the gall to play something I didn’t know the words to, Titus Andronicus was the second band, The Mountain Goats were the third, and no one has been the fourth. I was at a show with Maggie, Jesse, and Marisa the first time I heard You Were Cool and I lost my fool head over it. Jesse found a live recording of the show and made us mp3s THANK GOD, because I would have had to live forever without it as it’s unreleased, and given that this song is Every Great Young Adult Novel In The World Set To Music, I was not prepared to do that.

For my 30th birthday I had my A-list over to my apartment to cook dinner for them and by that I mean I ordered dinner from ‘Smac, the greatest place on God’s green earth. 20 minutes in PJ handed me my present, which was a CD with this song title on it. “Do you get it?” he asked. “Yeah, I love this song!” I said, because I do. “No, it’s me. This is me on this CD, singing that song,” he explained, and I made that terribly attractive face I make when I’m trying not to cry.

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FedEx Kinkos: The Office Meeting Commercial

I have a somewhat nontraditional workplace these days but for the decade leading up to that I made powerpoints and wore Ann Taylor Loft pants and used words like “media-genic” and “saleable” and had stress dreams about being locked in a Target overnight and I mostly loved it except for the small but important parts of it that I entirely hated. The thing I loved most about my last job was the four people in my department who had my same job title and who routinely made me feel like I was a part of a 5-headed monster of awesomeness. They made me work for it; when I first started, I would watch the line at the doorway where the Office Carpet changed into Hallway Carpet because, for the first few months I worked there, none of them would cross over it when they had to talk to me– they would stand in the hall, say what they had to say, and then go back to their desk. I once rode at a barn where, when they were introducing a new mare to the mare turnout field, they would take the horseshoes off the back hooves of certain mares ahead of time because they knew the new girl was going to get kicked a lot, so this was not behavior I was unfamiliar with. The first time one of them actually sat down in one of my office chairs I knew I was money, and from that point on, when we weren’t all sick with stress from our jobs/ bosses, anytime the five of us were together it felt like an unchaperoned high school field trip. It’s four years later now and only one of us still works there (great retention stats), so now our only moments of group hysteria are via reply-all text message binges. This should make me sad, that it’s next to impossible to get us all in the same room, but it doesn’t, because I know we have that whole In The Trenches Together bond that you see among war veterans and children’s book National Account Managers. One day I did the thing where you pick up a manila folder and clip a pen and an Excel printout to it and walk quickly to your friend’s office so that it looks you have Important Business that needs to Be Discussed Immediately and not that you are looking for someone to watch YouTube videos with, and when I got to Annie’s office I found out that she had been watching this commercial on repeat, trying to assign each of us to our proper Kinkos commercial counterpoint. I got “Jerome, you’ll talk a big game and do nothing.” “Let’s do it.” which I consider a compliment to this day.

Jodie Sweetin Dancing on Full House

This one is self-explanatory, right? Glad to hear it.

Jim Henson Memorial Service

Of the very few rules Older Brother Bud has imposed on my existence over the years, chief among them is Stop Talking About Jim Henson’s Funeral. Bud is like our mom in that certain words or phrases upset them both so immediately and completely that you can ruin their day easily by casually mentioning how Joe Biden’s family was killed in a car crash going to get a Christmas tree (Mom) or how all the Muppets sang Just One Person at the close of Henson’s memorial (Bud). I thought I was without one of these triggers right up until I read the poem Having a Coke With You for the first time, and now I have to go around in constant fear that some monster is going to quote Frank O’Hara and set me off. The book Street Gang opens with a scene at one of Henson’s memorials (at least, I think it does- it’s possible that I’ve read so many books about Muppets that they’re all starting to blur together. If you’re not quite at that point yet I can’t recommend Street Gang enough. Ditto The New Jim Henson Bio, which also opens with his death (spoiler alert), and Jim Henson: The Works) and as soon as I read that I fell down a dark Internet hole of videos and other various accounts of the memorials. If you’re going to get into this, you should get all the way in and watch Muppet Christmas Carol with the director’s commentary wherein Brian Henson explains that Rowlf has no speaking lines in the movie because it was the first one they did after Jim’s death, and no one felt comfortable stepping in as his voice since he was one of the Original Muppets and had only ever been voiced by Jim. Also great on that commentary: there’s a Punch & Judy show going on during one of the opening songs, and it’s pointed out that they try to do “Puppets Doing Puppets” as frequently as possible, because, duh, it’s hilarious. Once you learn this you will never stop seeing Muppets being Puppeteers- they are in nearly every Muppet movie.

Bunheads Farewell Dance


I can’t even.

Filed in and then PJ grew up to be a rock star, Seriously, how did the dinosaurs die?, The Gene Pool

The Rocky Balboa of our household, with green hair

By Cristin - Last updated: Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I met my hometown friend Marie the summer before 9th grade in some kind of Thirteen-Year-Olds Loiter On Sidewalks And Eat Pixie Stix situation. I remember her throwing out Pixie Stix wrappers that I had left on the ground (my parents were getting a divorce, so I was allowed to litter) and she remembers rivulets of green running from my hairline down my face  (my parents were getting a divorce, so I was allowed to dye my hair green and then sweat it all over myself). I’m surprised that my family doesn’t bring up my Manic Panic phase more frequently; I suppose when it’s considered against the backdrop of my full catalog of adolescent decisions, there are things far worse that are far easier to mock me for, so the green hair hardly ever works its way into conversation at our house. A month ago if you were to ask me if my younger brother, who was 9 at the time, had any memory of me with green hair, I would have said “probably not” and then I would have said “I don’t think he really cared if he did notice.” I would not have guessed that, as Patrick recently told Marc Maron, he saw the whole thing as “my sister’s way of saying, like, I choose not to play this absurd game that you forced me into by raising me” {to our father}.

I cannot recommend listening to that podcast enough, mostly/ entirely because I come off as Downright Awesome every step along the way. (“All I knew was that my sister got this CD {Dookie by Green Day. Questions? Comments?} and, you know, one day she was like a normal girl, and the next day she had green hair.”) Webmaster Kyle, when he is not busy calmly answering questions I could easily address on my own by googling, edits Mr. Maron’s television show, so our whole friend group got into this podcast a few years ago. Kyle was the one who told me Patrick was going to be on it (Patrick either has no accurate concept of how awesome all the stuff he does is, or no innate need to brag about it, like some of his siblings {me. like me.} {also, Bud- like Bud}), for which I am eternally grateful, as otherwise the first word I would have gotten on it would have been from a book publicist who, while emailing me about an author event, commented that she had listened to my brother talk about  my green hair that morning on her commute. Luckily she is one of my favorites so this didn’t weird me out terribly, but had I not known that interview was going up I probably would have locked myself in the toy storage closet at work and refused to come out for days, as is the right of any human whose 13-year-old hairstyle is being discussed in a relatively large venue.

None of this is the important part of this.

The important part is that, three years ago, Will Arnett tweeted this at Marc Maron:

Arnett Tweet

 

Will Arnett’s Twitter has since been closed, so I owe a puppy to the person on the internet who made this screen shot that I have had in my phone’s photo library for lo these past few years. It’s taken me this long to finally conclude that he cannot be talking about anything other than Patrick’s band. Bud and I have had two long-standing Excited Older Sibling games that we’ve played with PJ’s fame. The first one was Does This Return On Our Titus Andronicus Google/ Twitter Search Refer to PJ or to Something Else (whenever it’s summerstage season we always get confused, as there’s always at least 3 companies somewhere in the US putting on the play of the same name. Also, at one point there was a European racehorse named Titus Andronicus who had a strongly mediocre track career before he was retired), and the second one was Does {Name of Seriously Famous Person} Know Who PJ Is? (This grew, as you have probably already deduced, out of a single-human beta version of this game, Does Bruce Springsteen Know Who PJ Is?) PJ gives exactly no fucks about which internet references are about him and what famous people know he exists, so Bud and I have to carry the somewhat-constant burden of thinking about both of these things on his behalf. After years- YEARS- of wondering if Will Arnett really knew who PJ was or if he was going to produce a concept album made by a racehorse, I’m fairly confident saying that he knows PJ’s music.

We all know where this is going.

Arnett5

What kind of a sister would I be if I didn’t take advantage of this information??

 

Arnett6

Arnett7

Arnett4

 

Arnett3

Arnett2

 

Arnett1

Filed in and then PJ grew up to be a rock star, The Gene Pool, Video Killed the Radio Star

The second best bookseller joke I will ever make

By Cristin - Last updated: Saturday, January 25, 2014

Before:

Zodiac before

 

After:

Zodiac after

Filed in Reading is Sexy

The best bookseller joke I will ever make

By Cristin - Last updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014

The strangest benefit/ consequence of the job that I have now is that I am occasionally asked to express an opinion in an official capacity. Someone asks me to say something and then they take the thing that I said and put it next to things that other book people have said and mail it out to book people who are still forming their opinions on this thing that we are all talking about. I believe this is called marketing. In my experience, there are only two reactions you have in my situation during this process: one is to be reticent, the other is to become drunk with power. Which one do you think I generally go with?

Last week a publisher asked me to say Some Things about a picture book for a mailing that they send to a bunch of people who have my job. I love this picture book so what I wound up saying (Have You Seen My Dragon? is the rare picture book that perfectly showcases the power of color alongside the strength of its absence. A counting book, an adventure, an invitation to imagine, and a love letter to cities everywhere) was not only not a lie but very easy to come up with. I mean, look at this thing:

 

Dragono interior

Dragon cover

The second part of the request was that I come up with a list of customers that booksellers should hand sell this book to. When I sent my submission in to the publisher on Monday it was with an impassioned plea that said I didn’t care what they edited out as long as point three stayed on the list, since I will likely never be lobbed such a softball as this when I’m being asked to pander to booksellers.

To whom would you hand sell this book? 
1. Parents and grandparents of preschoolers who are confident about counting to 10 and ready to stretch to 20. 
2. The rough-and-tumble, on-the-go toddler crowd
3. Daenerys Targaryen
4. Children who will grow up to love From the Mixed Up Files and Cricket in Times Square. 
5. City dwellers and city enthusiasts alike 
6. Knee-high architects/ city planners children of architects and city planners

Now I rest.

Filed in Reading is Sexy

The College of William & Mary, Class of 2003

By Cristin - Last updated: Sunday, October 27, 2013

Senior year on the left, 10 year reunion on the right.

 

Final 8

Final 7

 

Final 6

 

Final 5

 

 

Final 4

 

Final 3

 

Final 2

 

Final 1

Filed in who needs enemies

Staff Pick: Stephen King’s Joyland

By Cristin - Last updated: Friday, June 14, 2013
Joyland
Stephen King
9781781162644
Hard Case Crime, $12.95
I have been worried about Stephen King ever since he got hit by that minivan back in ’99 and lost the part of the brain one uses to end stories in a cohesive manner that takes into account, you know, everything the reader has already learned. For the last decade he has (I assume) been relying on some kind of custom 8 ball to end his books; he gets 85% of the way through a novel, then gives it a shake and waits until it tells him Aliens/ Time Travel/ Nuclear Holocaust/ Murderous Ghost and then writes the last 50 pages on that and calls it a day. He’s been bouncing back over the last few years– 11/22/63 made about as much sense as a novel that combines Back to the Future with Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego can– and with his newest, Joyland, he hit the ending out of the park. That would be an awesome pun had I managed thus far to mention that the novel is set at a theme park, which it is. Even better– it’s a haunted theme park. Also there’s a Jack Russell terrier, and a young boy who is both terminally ill and strangely prophetic. Something for everyone!
Filed in Reading is Sexy

Cool, but rude

By Cristin - Last updated: Saturday, September 10, 2011

My mental timeline for how long my mother has been running the teen anger management groups for her high school is based on three things: one is that I can’t remember a time when I didn’t refer to them as The Mean Girls based on that crowning achievement in film (Movies I can’t not watch when they’re on TBS: 1. Jurassic Park. 2. Mean Girls. 3. Love Actually. I know, I know), so that means she started the group circa 2004 when the movie released, and two is that some of her Mean Girls alumni are now old enough to be in grad school. I know this because my mom recently mentioned, offhandedly, that she wrote a grad school recommendation for one of the Mean Girls who wants to get a masters and become a counselor. Did you catch that? My mom took a girl who was required by the school to take anger management classes and turned her into a girl who wants to grow up to be my mom. There should be Susan Sarandon narration accompanying my mom’s entire career, like it’s a HBO Documentary or PSA for the National Education Association.

The third way I know that my mom has been running anger management since at least 2004 is because that is the year I moved to New York and the weekend I moved to New York, my mom gave me two baby turtles as a birthday present. Turtles are illegal to buy and sell in our home land of NJ, where we apparently have Serious Opinions as a state about gas pumping and reptile trafficking, so as soon as I saw them I knew my mom had either gone to Pennsylvania to get me animals I had not asked for (unlikely) or somehow lucked into baby turtles (likely) via the kids at her school. Turns out that Anger Management Travis, who was in her Mean Boys group (mom learned very quickly that she couldn’t have the anger management girls and the anger management boys meet as one big group, as it is difficult to discuss and quell one’s anger in the presence of the opposite sex, something I could have told her at least 8 years/ 6 boyfriends ago), was so angry that his mom was not going to let him keep all of the baby turtles that he had secretly hatched from eggs he had pulled out of a river and hidden somewhere in their house without telling her that he brought it up at my mom’s Anger Management For Teen Dudes group that week, and my mom quickly offered to buy two of them off him. I didn’t ask many follow up questions about this, as I was too busy being excited about my new ownership of turtles the size of poker chips, but I really hope that the rest of the kids in this anger management group picked up on this and tried to get my mom to buy their problems off of them, too. “Ms Stickles, my mom is mad that I totaled her Camry. I can get you 3 dented hubcaps and a broken rear-view mirror for $85– deal?” “Ms Stickles, my parents want me to stop dealing drugs, so can you buy all this weed off me?” For the last 7 years, whenever anyone finds out that I’m a turtle owner they immediately ask what the turtles are named and I coolly respond that they are named after Renaissance painters. Nerds/ people with overpriced liberal arts degrees that they’ll never use (….like me) usually say “oh, which ones?” as if they can remember anything from that one Art History class where the darkness of the lecture hall during the slideshows required a Herculean effort to stay awake, and a select few folks have proved to be 3 steps ahead of me and able to immediately jump to “Let me guess– Leonardo, Donatello–” No. Donatello and Raphael. Leonardo was a total sycophant and Michelangelo is basically Ashton Kutcher. Come on. I have standards. I’m not just going to name my pets based on the order of names in the theme song.

My mom gave me the turtles as I was packing to move into my first apartment, which is the only way I could ever remember how old they were. We are required to measure time in terms of lease agreements here, and lining up your pet ownership on that timeline actually helps a lot if you’re ever in a situation where it’s crucial for you to know how old your turtles are, like if they go into diabetic shock or something and you have to give the EMTs their medical history (…or something).

No one has ever been mean enough to confirm this, but I think being a person who owns turtles is very weird to people who find out about it in a situation where the turtles are not immediately present. I try to not talk about the turtles to anyone who hasn’t been to my apartment and seen them, because I think turtles, like inflatable bouncey castles and certain tattoos, are one of those things that you have to see in order to realize how awesome and not at all indicative of their owner’s weirdness they are. I try to make it so you have to get into my apartment to know that I am the type of person who has intentionally raised more than one reptile while she was in her twenties and living in a gigantic playground filled with, one would imagine, many better things to do over turtle rearing. Once people see the turtles, they pretty quickly come around to how cool they are.

Donatello’s Narcissistic Phase from Cristin on Vimeo.

They have the weirdly hypnotic effect of watching a lava lamp or a jellyfish without the associated dangers of hanging out with hippies or needing one of your friends to pee on you. Girls can go either way in terms of turtle appraisal but, across the board, every dude in my life who has been in my apartment has wound up staring at them for longer than I’m comfortable with. Turtles do something to men in a way that I don’t understand, as being captivated by them doesn’t necessarily lead to the dude liking them. I asked Jordan to come by and feed them while I was on vacation a few years ago, and explained that I would set out all of the food in the right amount by day, and all he had to do was dump it into the tank, and he agreed readily under the condition that “I don’t have to, like, touch them or put my fingers near their fucking weird mouths, do I? No, Jordan. You don’t. One of my former gentlemen callers spent 20 minutes staring at them the way 2 year old boys stare at trains, with an almost psychotic look of joy on his face, the first time he was in my apartment, which should have been my first sign that he wasn’t the one. Not because he loved them, but because it was his first time in the apartment of a girl he was dating and he was watching turtles swim instead of trying to kiss her on the mouth. Months later, I was cleaning the tanks, which involves a lot of kneeling on the floor of my bathroom and moving the turtles from tanks to sinks to bathtubs when I held out one of the turtles, who had recently completed his exercise time in the tub, and asked That Dude to just drop the turtle back in the tank that was 2 feet out of my reach so that I could continue the cleansing process and after a few beats where nothing was done to free up my right turtle-holding hand for other uses, I looked over at the bathroom doorway and he was standing there with his eyes open comically wide, shaking his head slowly. He backed away and I put the turtle in the tank myself. The next time he talked about his time in the Marines I laughed very loudly and didn’t explain what was so funny.

As complicated as human-turtle relationships were proving to be, they were nothing compared to the issues these two had with each other. When they were tiny, they shared a series of tanks of increasing size; I didn’t learn until it was too late that turtles are designed to only grow to be as large as their environment can handle, in order to make sure they don’t get too big for the resources available and then starve. Having lived my whole adult life trying to get over the various ways that being 5’8 in the 5th grade crushed my self esteem and cost me a lot of money at movie theaters where they wouldn’t let me buy child-priced tickets even though I was 5 years from the cutoff, I respect that nature has built these kind of safeguards into turtles. I see it as the other side of the coin that also caused the Jurassic Park dinosaurs to change genders even though they were all engineered to be chicks, ultimately causing the untimely death of many young, promising members of the theme park professionals community. My turtles were growing to fit their space, but they were each doing it as though they were the only turtle who had to live in said space, which, as a middle child, is something I also very much support them in. My brothers take up so much metaphorical space in any room they occupy, at least from my viewpoint, that if I had adjusted my rate of growth so as to not cause a family imbalance I would almost certainly have grown up to be stripper.

The boys would be fine for a few months at a time, and then they’d hit a growth spurt and start biting each other’s faces off as much as possible, particularly during feeding time. I would assume that this is because I was negligent and rush out to get them a bigger tank and they would stop fighting, each gain 4 ounces, and go back to ruining each others’ lives, in addition to mine. They had their few but poignant moments of calm repose, where they would do the Yertle the Turtle stacking move to get closer to the heat lamp, or sit quietly, side by side, staring at the lamp like they were consenting to an alien abduction.

My dad & stepmom turtle-sat for me while my mom and I were on our road trip during the summer of ’08, and Vicki was thrilled to have them for about the first 12 minutes they were in her house. “Cris. One time, I came home, and the one was biting the other one’s neck, and the other one was SCREAMING.” When you love animals as much as Vicki does, witnessing something like this is certain to haunt you for years. The victim turtle wasn’t screaming, as they don’t have vocal chords, but I knew exactly what she meant, having seen it a million times; it was always the same (evil) turtle picking on the other (wimpier) turtle, and the wimpy one would open and close his mouth like a goldfish while he tried to get away. (For the record, both of them exhibited that exact behavior whenever I picked one of them up). For all I knew it could just be a reflex, like how you kick when the doctor hits your knee or throw up when you see your bridesmaids’ dress, but it was hard not to think that he was expressing pain. And while the Darwinist in me wanted to tell him to fucking deal with it or get out of the gene pool, I was still responsible for them being trapped in a few gallons of water together instead of out in the wild, driving fast turtle cars and banging loose turtle women, so I decided to split them up when I moved them (and me) into my current Brooklyn apartment, and that they were going to spend the rest of their lives on opposite sides of glass dividers.

I thought this would be the most liberating time in their tiny, cold-blooded lives, but no one handled it well. Evil Turtle kept being evil, and would thrash uncontrollably in the water instead of languidly doing laps as he used to. Good Turtle stopped eating for 3 months, which infuriated me. “Don’t even tell me that you MISS him,” I would spit at Donatello as he ignored his breakfast while, 8 inches away, Raphael was inhaling half his weight in freeze dried shrimp before moving on to attach his water filter because he Didn’t Like The Way That Punk Was Looking At Him. I came up with a number of ridiculous theories about how maybe I didn’t understand the support that turtles get from one another because I was distracted by their open attempts to kill each other and that Donatello might be suffering in some unquantifiable way on his own, trapped in his own little Battered Wife Syndrome hell. I was pretty sure Raphael was just a dick despite being brought up in a loving home and given every advantage in life, like the Preppy Killer and Paris Hilton, but I was worried about Donatello. I stood over his tank and stared until he managed to eat something every day, bravely overcoming the intense performance anxiety eating disorder issues I was likely giving him.

Feeding Frenzy by Cristin on Vimeo

They both eventually evened out, but they still did weirdo turtle stuff that I didn’t understand. Turtles hibernate in the wild during the winter, but since it wasn’t cold enough in my apartment to flip that switch, as soon as daylight savings time came in the fall they would just turn into turtle zombies, moving a lot more slowly and eating about a third of what they ate the rest of the year. In spring, two weeks before we set the clocks ahead, they would become hyperactive lunatics. Every time this happened, without fail, I became convinced that they were heeding some weird animal instinct to flee the area and thought they were trying to warn me that an earthquake was coming. Whenever I cleaned the tanks, which became a much bigger ordeal after I split them up (I had to rotate them from the tub to the sink to the tanks in turn so they would never be in the same place at the same time, like that riddle about the goat and the wolf and the bag of grain that you have to get across the river. One time I was lazy and put them both in the tub while I filled the tanks with new water, thinking it was a big enough space that they might not notice each other in time to plot the perfect murder, and was leaving my mom a voicemail when I was disabused of that notion. “Hi, Mom, it’s me, I just- OH JESUS CHRIST LET HIM GO. LET HIM GO! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU MONSTER??” I had to turn the faucet on high and hold them underneath it until Raphael let go of Donatello’s neck. An hour later they were both acting like nothing had happened, but I don’t think my mom recovered as quickly considering I had forgotten to call her back and explain) they acted all pissed off at me once I put them back in the clean tanks. They would spend two straight days moving the aquarium rocks around nonstop, being all “I had JUST gotten them set up PERFECTLY. You have no respect for my vision!” I am very used to the scuttling noise they make while they landscape around, but visitors frequently sit bolt upright on the couch at the sound of it, knowing it’s coming from an animal but thinking that it’s one I have not willingly invited to share my home.

Donatello settled down into something of a lap dog mentality, but Raphael continued to convince me that he was plotting my demise, Pinky and the Brain-style. Emla and I were crocheting and watching bad Discovery Health shows one night (questions?) when she looked over and said “He’s trying to climb out.” I was all, Oh, no, the water level isn’t high enough for him to reach, he’ll be fine. Frustrated, but fine. A week later, I came home from work and went to feed them and couldn’t find Raphael. I raked my hands through the rocks in his tank, then checked Donatello’s tank to make sure that Raph hadn’t tried to pull a Talented Mr Ripley on him, but The Good One was fine. I checked the bathtub to make sure I hadn’t left him there, and considered calling my credit card companies to put a hold on my accounts until I knew for sure he wasn’t booking vacations. I left my mom another superlative voicemail: “So, this is weird, but I got home and one of the turtles ran away. He’s not in his tank, or the other tank, and I ripped apart this half of the apartment and can’tAHHHHHHH! Christ. Okay, I found him. Never mind.”

When I came home and couldn’t find Raphael for a second time, I was mostly just annoyed. I shoved the rocks around and very quickly went from annoyed to horrified and hysterical because I had hoped to go as long as possible without having to touch a dead turtle, knowing that all their inherent reptilian creepiness must be magnified once the lights get turned out, and even though I am well versed in the contract that we make with animals we keep as pets, that they are required to make us happy and that we are required to outlive them and deal with the fallout, I had never thought for a second about what to do when one died. In February, I went on a vacation to Miami for College Roommate Allison’s 30th birthday, and spent the weekend with 6 veterinarians. I was the only one there who wasn’t a doctor, and one of the few who had not performed major surgery on a horse, which was mildly humbling. One of the vets also had a pet turtle, and I casually asked her how long they usually live, and then wished I hadn’t when the answer of “at least 40 years” came back. I resigned myself to having these little bastards with me at every stage of my life until one of my kids eventually poured bleach on them or I ran into a CraigsList posting for an elementary school that really, really, really needed a hypoallergenic classroom pet.

A lot of people would later ask how I knew he was dead, and if turtles crawl out of their shells to die, to which I answered that there was no mistaking it and that they had watched too many cartoons as a kid. For the two weeks prior, Raphael had been even more of a nutjob than usual, and was keeping me up at night with all of the banging around he was doing. I told him to Calm The Fuck Down, Weirdo at least 6 times but I’m pretty sure that he saw what was coming and didn’t trust me to take care of the funeral arrangements. When I found him, he had dug a hole in the gravel underneath a rock slab in his tank and then pulled smaller rocks in around him. It was one of the more unsettling things I’ve seen, and I was sorry to have messed up all of his hard work before I realized it was his Sistine Chapel.

 

The emotional onslaught came later, after I had freed up the parts of my brain that were extremely freaked out by the fact that there was something dead in my apartment and I was going to have to be the one to get it out of my apartment. I’ve done fine in scenarios like this where the dead thing is the size of a waterbug or smaller and not something I’ve lived with my whole adult life, but as soon as one of them was no longer living I went from seeing them as small and cute to realizing how prohibitively enormous they had become. In people, the tragedy of death is often inversely proportionate to how little the departed is, but in animals I think it works the other way around. It’s easy when a goldfish dies and awful when a dog does. I thought the turtles would fall more on the goldfish side of things, especially the turtle that I had been openly despising for years, but having to get a potato-sized dead thing out of my apartment immobilized me. Once I was capable of rational thought I realized that I lived in Brooklyn, in a rented apartment, and I would not be able to draw from my extensive background in burying hamsters in my parents’ backyard. It’s probably illegal to put dead things in ground you don’t own, right? If it isn’t, shouldn’t it be? What would I say when someone asked why I needed to borrow a shovel, or why I was out in my building’s backyard, digging holes with my eyes all red and puffy? The only thing I could think was GetItOutGetItOutGetItOut which, in addition to making me concerned for how I’ll handle the process of childbirth, wasn’t creating the most fruitful brainstorming environment. I couldn’t believe how much I needed the turtle to be out of my apartment as soon as possible. When I tried to explain this to a coworker she immediately started nodding. “When my dad died, and they tried to talk to my mom about organ donation, she just kept repeating that she needed to get him in the ground.” This served the twin purposes of making me feel like less of a lunatic while giving me what was, clearly, some much-needed perspective on the death of my turtle. I tell you all of this so you’ll understand why I took my dead turtle out of the mausoleum he had built for himself and put him in an entree-sized tupperware container, then wrapped the container in 6 plastic bags and tied them shut as a concession to the people that go through my recycling bin each week, and immediately put him outside in the trash, and pulled the barrels to the curb for pickup the next morning. As soon as I stepped back into my apartment, now (to my knowledge) void of dead things, centuries of Catholic tradition took hold and I began cataloging all the things I had to feel guilty about. I had raised a wild animal in captivity against its nature, I had spent years telling it how much I hated it, I had ignored all of the warning signs that, I’m sure, are commonplace on any advertisement for turtle antidepressants, I had put one of God’s creatures in the trash because I couldn’t take 3 minutes to come up with a better plan, and I had likely orchestrated a complete nightmare for some entrepreneurial recycling scavenger.

To the credit of every person that’s important to me, people understood that this was a big deal to me well before I was able to admit it myself (“Whatever. It’s a fucking turtle. It’s not even the one I actually like.”), and no one told me to suck it up when I became hysterical. I don’t know why I’m still consistently astonished at how good my friends are at not just being good friends, but at being good friends to ME, which I know is sometimes hard to do. Whenever everyone’s at the bar on Friday night and I have to leave at 9:30 to go to bed, everyone immediately choruses “It’s okay! This is so late for you! We’re so excited that you didn’t go to bed 4 hours ago!” which makes me feel a little like I do when my mom praises me for stuff like getting a haircut or going to Target in order to make sure that I know I’m still good at life even though I am not keeping us safe from terrorists or giving regular interviews to Rolling Stone like SOME Stickles children I could mention, but mostly makes me feel extremely lucky and like I might, one day, be able to stop apologizing to people for things that are out of my control because I’ll know for sure that all of the important people have done the math and decided that I’m worth being around despite the whole REM cycle dysfunction thing. I acknowledge the inherent humor in having narcolepsy as a constant reminder of how lucky I am to have the friends that I do, and the turtle dying fell squarely into that category. No one saw me crying, no one was there when I couldn’t bring myself to touch him, and no one watched me pick out a tiny tupperware coffin as his final resting place, but the entire A Team saw a 160 character Twitter post and knew I was a mess. “Cris! I just saw! I’m so sorry. Seriously” was Jordan’s text message, the first in a series of condolences that ending in “…seriously,” as in, seriously, I’m not making fun of you for your dead reptile even though it was always weird that you had not one, but two, and kept 20 gallons worth of turtle housing in your living space. No one said Just Go To Chinatown And Get Another One or Hey Have You Maybe Considered The Impact That A Duplex Turtle Habitat Is Having On Your Romantic Life, both of which would have been fair points. Everyone was sorry and worried and was happy to let me talk about how darkly funny dealing with this was, because dispatching your deeply evil pet turtle off to the afterlife after years of worrying about who he was going to try to kill next could never not be funny, and no one let me pretend that it didn’t matter, because losing something that you were responsible for, whether it’s a pet or a library card or someone’s respect or an umbrella, is always at least a little sad, and being without something that appeared the moment you finally considered yourself an adult and hadn’t been without since is more than a little sad, especially when having morose thoughts about your adulthood to date makes you question whether or not you ever really crossed that threshold in the first place, as you are only thinking about these things on the occasion of being 30 years old and not knowing if you could emotionally deal with moving forward as “just” a one turtle household.

When I got up the next morning, one of my goldfish was dead. My apartment had recently become a 4-tanker, not because I thought I needed to spend more emotional energy worrying about things that would never love me back because I have the Mets for that, thankyouverymuch, but because I thought these fish tanks were cool looking. I quickly came to the conclusion that I wasn’t a fish person and would likely wind up using the tanks to store my windup toys, so I wouldn’t have cared if the fish had died in a manner that was slightly less Cherry On A Death Sundae way. As annoying as it was, that fish had some amazing comedic timing. I welcomed this as an invitation to make this situation as ridiculous as possible.

Email to Jordan, 3 hours post-goldfish flushing:

I’m pretty much past the point of hysteria, I think. I cleaned the tank out and put all of the stuff away, got the dead turtle out of my apartment. Also and I am telling you this because it s funny, not because it s sad and I want sympathy one of my goldfish was dead this morning, bringing new possible meaning to Bad Turtle s death. Was it a suicide pact? Did Dead Goldfish see me putting Bad Turtle in a Tupperware coffin and just decide Sh!t, if he can t make it in this crazy world, what chance do I have? Did the Good Turtle and the Good Goldfish spend all night whispering to their evil counterparts until they went insane and swallowed their own tongues like Hannibal Lecter and Miggs in Silence of the Lambs? In retrospect, I have also realized that Bad Turtle had seen this coming and was acting accordingly over the last few weeks. I thought he was just being particularly weird and fastidious about the rock arrangement in his tank, but judging from how he was surrounded in death, without getting in the macabre details I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had been preparing his own grave. And I totally missed it, because they do all this other weird crap all the time, but what if the goldfish recognized the signs and spent the last 2 weeks knowing Bad Turtle was going to die?

Scene: Last Wednesday

Cristin, walking in door from work: What the hell is the matter with you? Why are you jamming yourself in under all the rocks? Jesus H Christ, you re so weird. Whatever, sh!thead, knock yourself out.

Now-Dead, Then-Living Goldfish: RAPHAEL! Raphael. Don t do it, man. I know it seems bad out there, but you don t have to go out like this. Listen to me, buddy, it s not worth it. DON T YOU DIE ON ME, YOU CRAZY BASTARD.

And then, last night when I lifted that gross, limp turtle body from the tank (did you think that turtles curled into their shells to die? My mom did. I hadn t considered how they died since I assumed mine, especially this evil one, would outlive me. They don t curl into anything), the goldfish realized that he had failed, and he gave up on life? How do you kill yourself if you re a goldfish? Do you just hold your breath?

In revisiting my first line of this email after typing the rest of it, I concede that I am perhaps NOT past the point of hysteria.

I’ve been living with one turtle for about 10 weeks now, and am concerned that I’m going to give him multiple personality disorder because, even in the present tense, when I talk about the turtle I always say “they.” If I can’t adjust my pronouns, I will eventually just get another Raphael and, even if he displays zero sociopathic tendencies, I will spend his entire life cheerfully convinced that he wants to kill me, and when he dies, and when the next bad thing happens, I’ll be able to handle it like an adult, with all these years of experience in doing so behind me.

Filed in new york, new york, Trees and other things that grow in Brooklyn