“Apparently, according to the letter I received today from the Los Angeles County Public Guardian, I’m dead. It’s been such a sublime, peaceful, extremely bright day today that I’m starting to question it myself. Though, in Heaven, I wouldn’t be out of smokes. I’ll let you know if I resurrect anytime soon in the eyes of the State of California.”
Facebook, September 30, 2013
That was my Facebook post on September 30, 2013. The letter I received wasn’t, as I initially thought as anyone would, a fraud. It didn’t ask for any money or social security numbers or anything we’re told not to give out. It was straightforward and clear. It asked how my funeral and burial expenses were to be paid upon my death. My death. The Death of Mary Knop. After my initial bristling from seeing my name wrong again, I read and re-read the letter. Yes, that was me, the only Mary (Ellen, damnit!) Knop in California. I scoured the Internet for a Mary Knop in California again, but as far as I could tell, I was the one, the only, the top, coolest…the only Mary Knop in this great state of ours. Even Facebook didn’t have one listed in California and Facebook’s got everything. Well, I may not have searched very hard but I did dig a little deeper than Facebook. I even checked MySpace, though that one was a little hard to get to because I had to go back in time to 2005.
I can tell this story because it was long enough ago and I think we can all agree that curiosity, wine and a debit card make for dubious decisions. Besides, you were all thinking about it at the time, I’m just the sucker who did it.
It was a simpler time, circa 1999, I was young and impressionable. The twenties are a confusing age-or so I keep explaining to people armed with photographic evidence. Cell phones were flippy and the Internet was adolescent and still mostly for geeks (and me, but my geekiness is undisputed). DVDs were quickly making VCRs obsolete but not without a fight. Television was usual, though one man named, Joe F, had the flashiest commercials around in the midnight to 4 am timeslot. His sitcom-long, late night commercials were ubiquitous, disgusting and impossible to turn away from.
Those commercials were a train wreck; one where you want to but can’t look away, hating yourself for trying to catch a glimpse of a body part. A gory, pathetic, sexy, my-father-never-hugged-me-and-I-need-validation-from-anyone-who-will-give-it train wreck.
One late, late night, after some arm-twisting, begging, and promises of more wine (it may have only been the wine), I was convinced to call and order a tape, just one, one little teacup from the ocean of money this guy was already pulling in. It wouldn’t be contributing to the delinquency of deluded, rum-soaked Spring Breakers. It wouldn’t even make a dent. No one would know. But we had to know what all the hype was about. Had to, right? It would be doing a disservice to pop-culture and my hip twenty-something identity. It was important to our very own relevance! So, I called. I called that number and slapped down my debit card number like a boss. I was clear and calm and not at all creeped out by ordering smut from a real person over the phone. I was precise and stubborn against the ‘exciting new offers’. I hung up that phone with confidence… and then washed my hands, a lot.
If there ever comes a time where I’m told it’s the end for me, here’s my plan: I’m throwing a huge party and everyone’s invited. Afterwards, while we spike my IV with Diet Coke and vodka, we’re playing the original Trivial Pursuit I’ve memorized by now and Pictionary (I get to win even if I am only drawing sticks). We’ll all be wearing stupid hats and making faces with scotch-tape. Then, I’ll be passing out the lyrics to the horrible show tunes with your names on them in the order you have to do your solo at my wake. During the service, T-shirts, with my huge face silk-screened onto them, will be air-cannoned out to the mourners to the tune of Yakety Sax….or the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati, a true classic. And there will be an open bar. I hope you all make similar plans.
I don’t want anyone to find out I left without signing their yearbook. I want everyone to have the chance to tell me what they want when they know I can hear it. (Good and bad, though that would be a odd time to tell me I was a jerk, you would still get the chance, weirdo) I found out that my old friend passed on as quietly as one could in this information age and it took me years to find out she was already gone, right around the time my search to reconnect with her really began. I wish so much I could’ve told her how much she meant to me and hopefully made her laugh but it was too late and my dear friend perished bravely, though cruelly and tragically, without so much as a whimper. And again, though late, all of my love is sent to her poor family.
I searched for years for you, Jess, only to find I tried just a little too late. It won’t happen again, I promise. I didn’t get to say it then so: Goodbye, my friend, you’ve always been some of my favorite memories. Your wit and humor and kindness and cynicism were a template for my own life. And your genuine awesomeness is always with me. I wish we could’ve cracked-up together again but maybe I’ll just see you on the other side and embarrass you then. I’ve got more ideas for our radio show. Even if my afterlife might be quite a bit warmer than the beautiful place I’m sure you are, we can maybe Skype or I’m sure I’ll have Facebook down there. Whatever the case is, I won’t let the afterlife get in the way. I’ll start looking for you the moment I reach the gate.
It’s 2 am when I finally give up and move to the couch. I’m not going to sleep anymore.
I can’t breathe through my nose. My nose squeaks like a garbage bag full of inflated balloons trying to fight their way out. So I hang my mouth open just inviting flies or a tasty moth. My eyes are bugged out like a chihuahua in a hoover. My left eye is bright red so at least I can still see it because my face is puffing up at odd angles rather quickly. My cornea has filled in the outer corner of my eye with some angry fluid so I’m trying not to move my eye to the left. Or to the right. Or blink on purpose. I’m trying really hard not to blink but my eyelid is rebelling against my brain and blinks in rapid bursts, only stopping occasionally to get stuck to the bottom lid until ripping free again for another round of Blink-fest: Catalog of Screams. Tiny sheets of sandpaper Blinky-left-eye has suddenly grown on the inside lid and by the time Blink-fest 2 starts, the sandpaper is replaced by a cheese-grater stapled to the inside of my eye. It hurts but it just keeps blinking away. I’m not sure but I don’t think blinking is normally audible.
I’m not worried about the trench the constant scraping is creating in my cornea. If fact, it could be quite beneficial that my eye is being sharpened by lava rock and Cholla cactus. I could be developing a multi-faceted eyeball. I could have the first house-fly/humanoid eye. Each scrape of the tiny fishhooks now embedded in my eyelid could create an unprecedented masterpiece that sees further, in more dimensions, through walls and into the future. It could happen. I can’t see my computer screen now but in a few hours, I could be a superhero.
I sneezed a couple of times until the back of my head exploded. I had to pick my eye up off the keyboard but with the help of Siracha and Tapatio, I squeezed it back in. Now, I just suppress the sneezes so that only my eardrums bleed. Though, I’m not sure if blood should be that dark and oily. As long as it leaks out, though, it slows the claw-hammer parade in my head. If it keeps doing that, I don’t mind the color or violently strong smell it has. Now the internal marching sound is less like the anvil tune from Verdi and a little more like Pink Floyd. Bonus switch for me because I don’t know Italian and I haven’t heard Floyd in a while.
When I tried to sing along to “Comfortably Numb”, all the skin ripped off my tongue. It stuck to my teeth after drying out from having to breathe though my mouth. No matter, I can never taste without the use of my nose anyway so I’m not going to worry about it right now. I’m just glad my jaw finally lubricated and loosened up. Though, the foam dripping off my chin is starting to clog up my keyboard.
My lips stopped flaking off at the chin-line so I’m happy about that.
Just gotta wait, so I’m just sitting here petting the cat. He came into the house with some sort of white nest affixed to his head earlier but I think I picked it all off. Part of it pulsed a little before it fell off into the couch but I’ll find it later. Right now I just need to take a Benadryl and try to ignore the crawling feeling and burrowing sounds coming from my scalp. It’s probably dry skin. December’s weather always dries me up. I bumped into my couch and the last three fingers of my right hand fell off. I’ll get some lotion while I wait. A little Jergens and I’m sure I’ll be fine.
I already knew what I was doing wasn’t a smart thing to do but sometimes “smart” gets superseded by “gotta get some”. I was going to his house to fool around with my ex that night and, not surprisingly, it got weird.
Not in the way that you may think. This site isn’t full of porn, it’s full of awkward.
Instead of a night of lusty, hard-earned shame, we got into a huge fight about something ridiculous and I stormed out. I’d been drinking though and, since I’m only self-destructive and not an asshole, I was going to go sleep it off in my car.
June 2013, the Knops and Castillos travelled to Bolivia for cousin Dina’s wedding.
During that trip, we got to visit an eco-lodge on the Amazon River. To get there, we had to float on panga boats five hours up-current. At some point, we broke from boating, landing on some sandy bank, for lunch. I had been holding it for the last two hours so, holding my knees together, I went scuttling off to try to find some hidden patch of ground that was a) wide enough that I could awkwardly squat without touching any plants because who knows what plants or bugs-on-plants are capable of killing/maiming/implanting-in me in the Amazon and b) far enough away from the other people to not put on a memorable show.
I was hiking along for quite a while because those two criteria were harder to find than I thought. Suddenly, I came across:
That’s a pretty fresh print, too; notice that the sand is still pretty wet and the print isn’t smudged or filled in with leaves, or implanting-bugs, or whatever grows in the Amazon jungle yet to terrify me.
And big… probably about 4 inches across (accounting for its two prints-front paw/back paw). Not the hugest cat but I’m sure still very toothy.
Weighing my non-options, I opt to scurry back to the boat. I figured I’d rather wet myself (though that was sort of moot at this point) than get mauled by a jaguar. Fighting a hungry, angry jaguar with my pants around my ankles would be the funniest home video of all time but since it would be me starring in it, not funny in a ha-ha kind of way.
The air was so wet and heavy as I was sprinting back to the boat and my heart was pounding like the heavy paw-falls of a sprinting jaguar that I still don’t know if I was wet from the air or my pouring sweat. I’m sure I couldn’t have peed-and-run because I’m too much of a fucking lady for that kind of uncouth shit.
The guides casually, and far too dismissively in my opinion, said the jaguar I’ll call, “Speckle”, was probably not around anymore. Of course, they’re right but I was convinced this particular jaguar wanted to know me. Probably just to snuggle, I’m sure. They are nocturnal like all cats but that widely-known fact, along with the urge to pee, left my consciousness the second that paw print came into view.
Speckle and his brethren remained mysteriously stalky and out-of-site, like fuzzy Colonel Kurtzes, for the remainder of our stay in the Amazon jungle. Thank God.
We did see other, less overtly-dangerous animals, though. Zoo-worthy animals like capybaras, the giant nerd rodents of the jungle. Capybaras aren’t scary and their most frightening defense is to poop as they run away.
And there are plenty of wild, scrambling, horny monkeys who rain poop and AIDS from the trees that criss-cross the dark river.
Really cute AIDS-pooping monkeys and dorky Rodents-of-Unusual-Size were the most ferocious of the Amazonian wildlife we encountered and, for that, I’m grateful.
Because as cute and fuzzy as any jaguar is at the zoo, having one stare down at you while baring 3-inch fangs as you try to keep what’s left of your dignity, and trying to keep all of the throat you started out with, makes whatever a monkey can throw at you much more preferable. We survived.
The most injury we sustained on our trip was an insane amount of creepy bug bites that seemed to appear out of nowhere and itch like the air was made from attic insulation. And one incident of sun poisoning sustained by my brother-in-law who misunderstood the concept of sunscreen, as usual.
Ironically, the scars that remained on my body were on my neck from someone having tried to stab it open 15+ years prior in what was decidedly NOT the Amazon jungle. And, for a while, very questionable-looking dots all over from the bugs who treated themselves to the smorgasbord that are my legs.
It’s possible there are still some microscopic animals living in my digestive tract that will haunt me for the rest of my life. It was pretty rough nursing that part of my body back to digesting good old American bacon grease and e-coli-ridden Californian lettuces.
Frequently having time to mull it over on my porcelain throne over the next few weeks, I thought, “that jaguar probably would’ve killed me quickly. I wonder how soon I can get one here…”
At least grappling with a huge, angry cat, as violent and scary as it could be, would’ve made for better scars and a more courageous story than being brought down by tiny intestinal livestock.
Either way, I’d still end up with my pants around my ankles.
I’m in the doctor’s office, waiting as patiently as, well, a patient, looking at all the medically things in the cabinets. Just checking stuff out, opening drawers, stealing pens and giant Q-tips, misbalancing the scale, when I finally assess the paper drapes the nurse said I had to wear after I nakify myself.
I can figure out the lap one but there’s another one with a hole for my head in it. The nurse told me to wear it like a pancho. I don’t wear panchos. Never worn a pancho in my life and I’m pretty sure I haven’t been to the Andes recently.
So, I’m sitting there, naked now, trying to figure out which side goes in front. I have it kind of long over my shoulders but it doesn’t really cover anything coverable. My lap is covered. So are my….shoulders. Long on the sides, short in the front. Really short. For the life of me, I can’t understand why my shoulders are something that would need to be covered while everything else is, well, out there. Are they concerned about me being cold? –and I’m obviously cold–because if they were, they wouldn’t leave me in a freezing office with just a paper pancho to call my own.
Is this by design? I’m just confused, imagining bathing suits, dress suits, evening wear designed by the couture. Maybe in Europe. Probably in Europe. In fact, I’m wondering if there’s a new enterprise in my future, a fashion genius hiding behind all this goofiness.
It’s the commotion in the hallway that takes me out of my reverie. I catch my reflection in the mirror that reveals to me how incredibly wrong I was about how to wear a pancho. Believe it or not, it’s the LONG part that goes in front.
The nurse walks in just as I’m turning my paper pancho around. She smiles.
I went to our accountant, Travis’s office, to drop off stuff, which is my daily or every other daily.
Their office shares the same reception area with another. It’s called Whitestone Research. I have no idea what that means but for the last year and 8 months, it has been killing my cat with curiosity. Every time I’m in there I wonder about it. Every goddamn time, I walk into Travis’, pick up a check or drop off the envelope stuffed with bills or things I would rather pass on to more diligent people, and longingly stare into Whitestone Research.
If I’m waiting, I’m looking at the stack of business cards hanging on the wall of all the people that search said re: for Whitestone and I’ve even endeavored to take a few. I’m hoping that my taking the cards will remind me to do some research of my own and find out what Whitestone Research actually does. What are they researching and why do they need such a big office and why is there no one ever in there?
No one is ever in there. It’s quiet all the time, empty, though I have seen shadows moving about, heard a disembodied voice or two. To complete the vacant feeling, sitting alone is an empty desk, lone phone on top. It’s part of a big complex of desks where real humans must sit but this one is alone, abandoned. I’m only ever in the accountant’s office for no more than 5 minutes and that is how long I ponder this.
As I’m clomping down the stairs on the hard Mexican tile, I’m saying to myself, “What do they do? What is it? Why is no one ever in there? Find out, Molly. Find out when you get back to the office. Whitestone research, Whitestone research…”
Down the stairs, I’m repeating, “Whitestone research, Whitestone research.”
I’m getting in my car, “Whitestone research. Oh, There’s that hair thingy. Whitestone research.”
I’m driving back to the office only 6 blocks away. “Oh my god, it’s hot. Whitestone research.”
I’m driving with a mission. I have purpose. I’m holding on to that squirmy purpose as tightly as I can. I will not fail. “Whitestone research. –Oh! Cool! Aretha!– R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to me, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. take out…pee…ly free. What the hell are the words to that song? I should look it up.”
3 blocks to go. “Get the hell out of my way! Jerk. Thinks he owns the whole damn road. Whitestone research. Ah, the office. Good. Great. I’m here.”
I’m running in. “Whitestone research.” Open the door. “Where did all this mail come from? Computer on? Check. Clicking on the browser. Open. Welcome. And….Search.”
Google: lyrics to Respect, Aretha Franklin.
“Oh. It’s, take out T.C.P… Wait. What the? That still doesn’t make any sense. Now. What was I doing?”
There are these fish that swim around on my computer’s desktop all day. If you click on the box, it feeds them. Just a couple clicks and they chase the little yellow dots of “food” and eat them. Well, now every time I open my browser, I have to feed them. I have to or they’ll die.
I spend anxious mornings worried that they’re swimming around their virtual tank searching desperately for their food bits before I return to work each day. It’s ridiculous, sure, but…hey, shut up.
I was gone from work and that computer during Christmas break. When I got back I was almost panicked with worry for them. These computer fish swimming around missing their food, shriveling up, starving, blaming me, cursing my name in tiny animated bubbles. “You killed us, Mollllllllll…glug.”
They were fine. I mean, of course, they were. They’re digital cartoons. Still, it was worrying.
I may be over-sensitive considering that I almost poisoned my cat this weekend from an overdose of de-wormer, I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in my mothering skills.
Yet, like a true Christmas miracle, the fish survived.
I suppose I could use the excuse of having been born blonde though it’s not much of an excuse since I haven’t been a natural blonde for 20 years.
Since there is no excuse for the horror that took place, I’ll just have to admit that this story is where a new blog was born.
I innocently went to get gas one day.
I succumbed to the tantalizing offer of a carwash for a discounted $10. My car was even dirtier than usual and figured I’d give it a gift. Finished filling the spry little Toyota RAV4 with gas, I cruise along into the car-washing cubby.
I pull in carefully. I feel my tires move onto the…tire-holding…clamp-thingy. The light was still green so I think I must not be seated properly. It’s happened before. An improperly seated-seat can cause trouble you wish you hadn’t signed up for. So, I move up, just a little, to where I’m feeling comfortable.
The red light flashes and I brace for impact.
The car-washing Decepticon starts, its violent machinations octopussing its vinyl tentacles up to my car, spitting and grinding giant pipe cleaners towards the sides. I locked my doors because it still makes me nervous.
In the review mirror, I watch, it’s coming, inching up behind me, creeping, taunting me…and it’s…going back! It’s going all the way back. It’s washing the hell out of the air behind me. I sit there for a full five minutes, watching through my review mirrors, as the angry carwash robot vigorously washes the area where my car is supposed to be.
It finally stops, little spurts of water dripping out of it spent. A light turns green, a violent siren blares, and the sign is telling me, quite unforgivingly, to move forward into the air dryer. Which I sheepishly do. Confused, I sit under the dryer for about 15 seconds before I realized how stupid it is to dry an already dry yet still dirty car.
Pulling out slowly, praying no one sees me do this, I notice there is a guy watching me. I can’t tell if he’s smiling or laughing or just concerned. He and I make eye contact until I panic, peeling out long seconds, violently speeding in the wrong direction, dying to get the Hell out of there.
After driving North for about 10 miles at about 85 mph (even though I was headed South), I’m wiping tears from my eyes from the laughter I can’t control, dust flying from my side panels. I resign myself to the fact that I’m going to have to move to a new city and establish a new identity. In time, my family would find a way to forgive me.
I know it’s been said that women are terrible drivers. I’ve always thought of myself as the exception, but after paying ten dollars to watch sprinklers wash the inside of a garage while I sat, dry and helpless, makes me think: I’m more of the rule.
Eventually, I did return home but kept my misstep to myself for about 20 minutes. It proved too much to keep inside.
20 minutes later, the No Toast Zone was born.
True, awkward, and truly awkward=The No Toast Zone.