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I’m Trying to Become Unstuck or Read Y: The Last Man Right Now

11 Aug

I’m going to pretend like it hasn’t been 8 months since the last time I wrote a post.

Here’s a picture of Geoff!

I had a huge post written ready to post a few weeks ago, but it was too negative, and I hated it. So, in short: this year has been really, really hard. I thought that moving somewhere new and totally awesome would make most of the cobwebs keeping me stuck, go away. But they didn’t, and instead I’m left with a head full of even more spiders. I know that so much of this uphill battle is just growing up and getting older. You’re going to have to deal with bills, and sickness, and people you love not being there anymore your whole life. But it’s not always so heavy, right? Or is that just wishful thinking? IDK DUDE. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Chicago is beautiful, I have the best job nannying 3 sweetie girls (4,3, and 10 months ahhh), but sometimes I get sad, and that’s okay.

In other news, I read at an open mic poetry reading back in July, and it was my first time reading without any of my fellow Chickz or really anyone I knew for that matter. Continue reading

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EVERYONE PLUG YOUR EARS > Feminism!

18 Jul

He said:

that girl has a chip on her shoulder–

a goddamn brick on her shoulder.

She’s a with-holder, she roll

like a boulder,

a freight train,

a bed stain .

It’s like she got caught in the rain

or acid. We can see she’s rancid.

She’s unchecked.

She’s a list. She’s in a mother fucking tryst

with power. She’ll devour

your metaphysical, your reciprocal

heart beat. She’ll start beatin’

you at your own game, has been

for too long—you mad bro? You

gonna slap a hoe? Get a hold on.

Yeah get a grip. She’s not a bitch.

She’s a mother fucking

feminist.

PHEW: You mad, bro?

Well, you shouldn’t be. As a feminist woman I’m not trying to usurp your power. I’m not trying to say I’m better than you. I don’t want your pants. Keep em. I hate Levi’s. But, what I do want is equality. I want recognition if I work equally as hard for a job I am just as qualified for. I’m not asking you to slam doors in my face, rather than hold them open and trample my dignity. I’m asking you to hold open a door for yourself, for your dude friends, for the crazy cat aunt we’ve all got. And, while you’re busy doing that. I’ll hold the door for your brother, you dad, your mother. I’ll walk your grandma across the street. I see feminism as equal opportunity kindness. I see it as feet free of the ratty slippers called gender. I see it as asking questions. I see it as engendering more questions. I see it as exploration. I don’t see it as defamation.

I don’t want to de-masculinize you. So stop crying about it on the internet.

The other day, I was at a bar with my friend, Zorn, and our other friend’s mom. The stomping grounds were quiet, so we birthed bloody into the night a raging debate about gender. Only, it took us a while to realize we were on the same side. Zorn—a pretty unique dude, rat prince, runaway, the wiser the better—was trying to explain that mine and Bea’s (the mom) examples of “anti-feminist” behaviors were essentialist and conversely anti-masculine. Initially, I didn’t understand. I was all bent out of shape because I dig that boy and I thought he was trying to tell me that my experiences weren’t legitimate. Also: he’s a fighter, yeller, etc. We had to slow down and learn the rules of listening—all of us. Eventually, once I realized what Z-baby was trying to say, I broke it down like this:

Bea and I both have worked jobs in which we were approached as men typically approach attractive women. IE: Heya baybay…lookin good in that uniform. etc. Yet, when we began to out perform the dudes/demonstrate our personalities—both of us being quite silly, fun-loving, yet take charge ladies—they denigrated us. They maybe called us bitches. And, they made us feel as though unless we are capable of acting like beautiful objects rather than real, hard-working people, then we weren’t fit to be women.

Can you see how Zorn would have interpreted that? He’s right in saying that our sample of men was small, that we might have made it sound as though all men are bad/denigrate women. But, here’s how I rationalize mine and Bea’s experience:

We live in a house. And, in the house, there are some things ok for women to do, and some things ok for men to do. Because we’ve been living in the house so long, it’s a little engrained in us to just naturally do these things. That’s called gender. While some people are perfectly okay performing the tasks assigned to them, others don’t understand the house. Others don’t see the reason for the house. There’s such a beautiful sky out tonight. When women (and men) cross the gender line, no one knows how to react to them. Women doing what was traditionally men’s work have to be framed by men in the only way they have ever learned to interact with women. Thus they are often sexualized. But if they can’t dig that, men don’t know what to do—especially if the woman does the job better. In this way, women (and men crossing lines) get compartmentalized and labeled bitches (or fags.)

So, how do we change that?

The fact of the matter is, a lot of people don’t care. Even women. It’s easier to make something from a box. To use a stencil. It’s less time consuming.

But, for those with qualms, those made uneasy in the shadowy recesses of the house, I suggest certainty. I mean, if you’re off put by gender expectations, then you have to seriously commit to living your life outside the box. Make yourself an example. I’m not saying you can’t be a mama. I’m not saying you can’t be the toughest, hairiest, Paul Bunyonesque dude ever. It’s more about support. Don’t laugh at jokes about women, or sexy queers, or racism. Be prepared to address supervisors who are not acting appropriately. Be prepared to start a million small fires.

That’s how you burn a house to the ground.

I gave myself a pregnancy scare gray hair today

25 Jun

Of course I’m not pregant–being a gay lady, those events are usually pretty well planned. But, I have been reading about the abortion debates as this article popped up on my Tumblr feed and made me feel like this:

If you didn’t read the article, here’s a quick synopsis:

Two female, democratic lawmakers were banned from speaking on the house floor for remarks they made a day prior.

The lawmakers, Rep. Lisa Brown (West Bloomfield) and Rep. Barb Byrum (Onondaga) of Michigan, were silenced after using appropriate medical terms—vagina, and vasectomy (GASP!)—during their turns on the floor. In a heated dialogue regarding an anti-abortion bill, Brown remarked, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no.” While Byrum’s comments were not as incendiary, she spoke out of turn after being continually ignored. Her outburst was described as a “temper tantrum” by Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Jase Bolger (R-Marshall). Which reminds me acutely of an instance in one of my classes in which I rebutted a man’s argument that women are less valuable workers, “Because they take maternity leaves.” As my hand shot into the air, he had the nerve to say (and loudly), “And now the claws come out!” He pigeonholed me in a way that I despise. Would a man have claws? Would a man throw a temper tantrum?

Alder also commented saying that the women were not being silenced for anything regarding gender but rather for their “behavior.” Byrum can’t help feeling otherwise. In a quote pulled from the Huffington post she says, “There have been physical altercations between at least two men on the House floor, and I don’t recall any of them every being banned from speaking. It’s just unacceptable to silence women when we’re talking about women’s reproductive rights.”

Here’s where it might be appropriate to say:

Even Libba Bray (childhood idol and author of A Great and Terrible Beauty) cast her net in 140 characters, saying, “OMG, y’all! I was, like, gonna do some shit today, but then I remembered I have a VAGINA, so I’d better stay home. Bummer. #WombWithoutAView

I think this whole #WombWithoutAView should be trending. I mean, look at the visibility of women who get abortions, key words: who aren’t defamed by conservative press. But on the flip side, after reading a powerful essay by Aubrey Hirsch on the Rumpus, I wonder about the whole visibility thing. I mean, the feminist portion of the pro-choice movement is pushing for women’s right to control their own bodies. To be seen as individuals with power as to the legislation of their most private selves. It seems that in order to have these things, we must put those private selves on display. We have to use words like vagina in order to express our frustration. When our words are limited, it’s even more difficult to explain how and why we feel what we feel, to legitimize those feelings.

Hirsch talks about being a pioneer in the world of pregnancy, describes how her baby will have her last name, how she doesn’t feel the need to wear a wedding band. But, these actions come with an invasion of privacy.

“At my first doctor’s appointment, the student doctor asking me questions looks at my naked left hand, asks, “Was this planned?” I want to ask him if that’s medically relevant, but the power-imbalance of the doctor’s office robs me of my capability for snark. I answer him, but I can’t help thinking I have given him something I did not need to give away.”

In the same way, women speaking for pro-choice accolades often share their private experiences in order to garner support. In doing this, I feel like we fight the battle in a manner that encourages conversation rather than stifles. We do not need a liaison to ban someone from speaking. And, I feel like this is because we have filled our cause with private truths: moments like Hirsch’s doctor’s visit, Byrum’s perseverance, and Brown’s wit. It is rad that these women are using privacy to fight for privacy. They expose themselves in order to one day have the privacy and confidence in their decisions that men have. As Hirsch said in the closing of her essay,

“If this baby is a girl, I am hopeful that things will be different when it’s her turn. That she will read this essay in thirty years and laugh and say, “Mom, you were so crazy.” Because she will feel so in control of her life, her choices, her body, that she won’t be able to imagine a time when any small modicum of control had to be flexed, hoarded, treasured.”

Oh My. I’m Doing This Again…with trepidation

2 Dec

You are so mad at us. You are so mad you want to eat knives and show us your bleeding belly and say, this..this is what you made me do, you damned Chickz. You are so sad you want to chew the hair off our head and swallow it so we will always be with you. forever. You are so happy right now you want to write an epic poem and then make 25 copies, one for each of your best friends.

You are happy now because we are coming back.

Or maybe, I’m projecting. Maybe, I am happy.

Yes. That’s it, dear readers. I am so happy to be here talking, even for a few moments. Even for a breath.

Don’t worry:

“Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible!’ ” -Audrey Hepburn

26 Jul

So.

Here I am at work, trying to figure out my schedule for school this fall. It is pretty crazy: being a full time student, working two jobs, and balancing interpersonal relationships. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be this good at multi-tasking again. Really, truly, more than likely…

this is my golden age of getting shit done.

I’m really enjoying it though. I’ve learned how to take time for myself amidst all the things that need/want my attention. I’ve learned how to balance, something very near to my heart [me being a libra and all].

I wonder if anyone else feels like they can only get things done now. Right now. Exactly here it must be finished and perfect. Ya know?

I mean, I know plenty of pessimistic, procrastinators. I used to be one. But, at this point in my life I just want to excel. I want everyone to be happy with me and what I am doing for them. Sure, that’s a burden and it’s not necessarily even my responsibility. And how can I expect to continue doing things like this [writing, this blog, restoring a house, working, going to school]? Then I am reminded of friends like Christopher Newgent and our own Ashley Ford who continue to do all the things they want and most of the things people want of them.

They are two that truly know the secret to balance. [Perhaps…and even if they don’t, they are certainly putting on a convincing show.]

I suppose our quest now should be to devise a plan for balance, or at the very least, a sort of sketch that each person can take and shape to fit them.

The first and foremost rule: YOU’RE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU.

The second most important thing: Stay active. While it’s ok to take time for yourself and even something that I consider incredibly important, you need to participate in life. INVESTIGATE. Note the word “invest” tucked in gently. By considering details, you are investing in life. You are striving to avoid complacency.

Finally: Organize. Everyone needs a method of evaluating and ranking tasks. Everyone needs objectives/goals. And how you go about deciding what is worth your time is entirely up to you. But, it needs to be done if you are truly going to stay invested in your life and your plans.

What does everyone else do to stay fulfilled and busy and a part of something?

Is it more or less important to you?

Make this a discussion, I’m interested in what y’all have to say.

Blog Commenting as explained by Mean Girls.

12 Jul

The reality is always this: we are pretentious.

It is that inherent thing we are always talking about, the “I just know I am cut from different cloth—maybe paisley or something. But anyhow, my star is like the brightest and I know I’m going to hand the world something fabulous.”

image

I mean, would we be writing, if we didn’t think we had something worthwhile to say? The ambiguity of being a writer doesn’t last. You are no more amorphous than a cherry pie.  And, I suppose the point I am trying to get at is Have you ever noticed how writers approach commenting on blogs?

I was on a writing blog the other day scrolling through some articles and comments, etc. And I was reminded of something I learned in French class.

In France, if you are going to correct someone you begin by apologizing. You use the full and formal title of the person addressed and then you say, “Excuse me, I’m so very sorry but you are incorrect. Civilly and humbly yours, X.”

When a writer comments on a blog with some sort of dispute, they tend to butter up the other writer first. Then, they commence correction. Next, they thank the first writer for being so articulate as to allow them to spot all the holes in their argument, only they do this in a manner that makes those outside the know feel as if the exchange could be nothing shy of civil.

[Here is an example I stole from an unspecified forum]

LANCELOT: “when some asshole publisher and asshole writer decides to take this only thing I concede to holding complete control over and decides I’m wrong and changes it without my say-so, I’m going to fucking flip out.”

WILLHELM: “So, if an editor uses his will and desires to alter my work, especially in a such a seemingly rare and odd way, I can’t imagine myself getting upset over such an issue. Again, I just mean this as what your thoughtful response brought up in my head.”

GENNIVIVE: “I have to default to Willhelm on this. It seems strange to me that one would think of writing as something they can have complete control over. I mean, I suppose you do have complete control over the words you put on the page, but you have no control whatsoever about how a reader is going to receive those words.”

LANCELOT: “Well that’s what I mean, Gennivive. The only thing I have complete control over in this entire fucking miserable world are “the words put on the page.” That control does not extend to a reader’s interpretation. I’m fine with that. I advocate that.

Thanks for the thoughtful response, Willhelm!”

Do you understand what I mean, reader?

Does this help:

I suppose I’m just curious if anyone else has noticed. Is there a specific etiquette one should follow as a blog commenter?

THIS has some suggestions for commenting. What do y’all think?

The Life of a Former Baby Genius

25 Jun

*It feels good to be back. Get ready for our new website design which should go live at the end of July. Love you all. Now read the post.

Lavender is my fave

My best friend is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met.

She got pregnant with my god-daughter, Aubrey, our junior year of high school and still graduated valedictorian. She gave birth to her son the summer after graduating from college (in four years) and started her first f teaching position about two weeks later. Then, she started and finished her Masters degree in two years–all while teaching ESL students full-time. This is normal for Ashley.

When we were seniors in high school, Ashley got in my face. That was not normal for Ashley. We were walking to class, she was telling me she was beginning to worry about another girl in our class who had been steadily creeping up our class rank and was clearly trying to graduate with that precious V. Ashley had held tight at number one all four years, but this girl had recently crept up to number 2. Before the pregnancy, since our freshman year, Ashley told me countless times she was going to graduate Valedictorian then go to Notre Dame, possibly with a softball scholarship. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to work for it. So, when her beautiful daughter came along and at least two of those three goals went out the window, she put all her energy toward the first one–and being a good mother, of course.

I was listening to her that day in the hallway. I heard everything she said about this girl. Ashley is in no way a mean-spirited person, but she is pretty competitive. This girl was coming for her and Ashley wasn’t angry–but she was dangerous. I did not share her love of competition. I mean, I got it. She was raised by a football coach. Our high school’s football coach. I was raised by…well, my mother. Who is also not competitive unless it’s in an argument. A character trait I, unfortunately, inherited.

I always thought a big part of the reason Ashley and I were such good friends was having nothing to compete over, which is why she surprised me so much that day on the walk to class. She played volleyball and softball; I was all about band and theater. She wanted to be valedictorian; I just wanted to get into college. We were both into leadership, but were involved in so many separate activities, we were never trying to be leaders of the same organization. There was never any reason to compete. We didn’t even like the same kinds of guys! The only man we’ve ever agreed on to this day is Optimus Prime.

In-between her hissing venom about the rank-crawler, she turned to me and said, “This is kind of your fault.”

“Um. Huh?”

“You’re probably the smartest person I know and you just refuse to work hard for anything. I shouldn’t even be thinking about her. I should be trying to beat you for valedictorian.”

I was pretty damn dumbstruck. Let’s be honest, my entire educational life, my teachers have been telling me that I was capable of more than I was giving them. Didn’t matter if I got an A or B there was still a note: Good job, but not your best. Specifically not MY best. Maybe your classmates best, Ashley Ford, but not YOUR best. And yeah, they were right. You see those little standardized tests aren’t just used to pinpoint and label the children who are a bit behind, they also stick a big fat gold star next to those students who might be baby-geniuses.

That’s right, Lucky Reader. You are now skimming the words of a bona fide baby-genius.

For all of elementary and middle school, I was given tougher books to read and more difficult spelling lists than my classmates. Then, I had to go to another classroom with a few other kids like me so we could learn at a level that was less boring for us. They eventually had to start busing us to other schools with better programs they couldn’t afford to offer us for part of our school day. I was usually the only black child in my “special” classes and definitely the poorest.

When the other kids brought in reports they’d typed on their computers at home, or had money for lunch and didn’t have to whisper, “free lunch” to the cafeteria workers who then had to look up your name in a big orange binder, I was embarrassed. I made up for my uncomfortable poorness by making the other kids laugh. I spent more time doing that than working hard, which meant I got in trouble for not doing assignments, but these classes were about potential not production so I never reached my goal of getting kicked out of the program. I missed my poor friends at my poor school a lot. I hated being a baby-genius when I was a baby.

Hear this, dear reader: I’m not a genius. I was a precocious child, I was funny, I knew much more about life than I should have or was expected to. I was a child who loved to read. I am an adult who loves to read. When you start reading your mother’s novels in the second and third grade, your ability to retain information is going to be better than your second and third grade peers. I was not great a problem-solving, seriously, fuck a context clue, I was just an exceptional remember-er. This definitely helped in school, but I wasn’t going all Good Will Hunting on the homies, or nothing. I was a smart kid, no doubt about it. Maybe even a little smarter than most, but by no means was I, or am I, a genius.

Still, my teachers, professors, mentors, and best friend were/are right. I haven’t done enough with my potential. I’ve settled in the most terrible way. I’ve settled for myself. I’ve rationalized my way into a life that’s nice, but not great. Instead of seeing stepping-stones, I see flat surfaces to rest on. Indefinitely. Not because I have no motivation, not because I don’t have desires. I do this out of a very real fear.

My greatest fear is actually having all that baby-genius potential firing through me, combining it with my secretly stubborn motivation, maybe even a little new-found competitive spirit, that elbow grease (which may actually just be cocoa butter) and missing every mark. What if I have to look into the faces of every person who pushed me up and up and up and see nothing there but disappointment in a fail investment. People are INVESTED in me. My life, my accomplishments, my failures matter to people.

I’m at this place in my life right now where I’m tired of giving people 75-90%. I’m not an adult genius, but I am kind of smart, and Haven Kimmel winked and told me I was “funnier than most”. I’m ready to try to blow somebody’s mind. Maybe not everybody’s mind, but somebody’s. Maybe even, a few somebody’s. I’m ready to start giving my life a whole lot more 100% investment.  I’m pretty sure that’s what baby-genius Ashley Ford would have wanted, the ability to be smart on her own terms. I’m pretty sure that’s what people who love me want. It’s what I want.

I’ll make good on those investments.

I’m Sorry I’ve Been So Busy or I Miss This Place So I’m Coming Back

18 Jun

Oh wow. it’s been too long since I’ve posted on here. Elysia is right– we’re all in the midst of huge transitions, but we’re not gone.

I spent the night before my wedding dancing for hours with my family in my living room. By dancing I mean yelling Journey lyrics until my throat was raw and shaking my arms and hair more than my hips. Everyone was there– my parents, my grandparents, my sisters, my cousins and their spouses, my aunt and uncle, my college roommate. All singing and swaying, not in unison but still together. I don’t even know how it all started; the night morphed from conversations in the kitchen to a dance circle in the next room with my eleven-year-old sister whipping her hair and shaking in the strangest ways. And then we ran. My sisters and my mother and my cousins, and I. We opened the back door and ran into the pitch black of my backyard, swallowing the darkness into our overheated arms. I ran in circles and squares, and my legs never got tired. It reminded me of the nights I spent playing capture the flag when I was younger. Like I was running that fast to get to the other side of the yard, my side, the safe side, and when I did everything would be ok because I had helped my team to win—that feeling. Except there was no flag, no team, no competition, just me and the women closest to my heart running around in the grass like kids a third of our age. And it wasn’t weird. It sounds like it now, writing it out, but it wasn’t at the time. It was like we were all releasing something, but at the same time clinging onto pieces of our bodies, memories, things we couldn’t place or recognize at the time but we knew were there and couldn’t let go.

So while most brides spend the night before their big day going to bed early and completing the final steps of a beauty regime, I spent hours writhing my body like a drowning fish and running like mad towards some unspecified place, some unspoken but understood level of winning. It felt surreal but necessary, like there was no other way that I should be spending my last single night, except right there with those exact people, doing exactly what was I was doing. I woke up the next day and married by best friend in a beautiful ceremony in which I did not cry  (because I didn’t want my fake eyelashes to fall off, but also because I couldn’t stop smiling). And at the reception, my family and I danced again. It was different that time, I think. More celebratory than theraputic.

All the women in my family are filled with intense strength and unmatched passion.  I have met few women who can handle their lives with as much grace as they do (minus the chickz, of course). I think sometimes they deal with their lives, jobs, and relationships so well, they forget about the joy that lives inside their bellies, waiting for them to let it bubble over. I’m glad that the physical distance we experience on a daily basis doesn’t affect the closeness we feel to each other, and we can still spend a night stomping around my living room and running through the grass with complete abandon, drinking deep from the pool of memories and sorrow and love and hope that binds us so close together.

moving, renovation: relevant (perhaps always)

14 Jun

so, here’s the low down.

Things are happening right now, important things, hard things, big things, things that tire us like the wailing of sirens in the morning. Moving is a theme of our lives right now and that’s making blogging a difficult task for us. I am speaking for all the girls here, but I think they’d agree if I said, we’ve sorta hung a sign on this virtual door saying, “Be back shortly” in loopy red writing.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re here, physically. Ask us things, take us out to coffee, tell us you love us so much. But, seeing as the website is currently under construction, we’ve kinda begun to get our own personal lives in order before getting back into the swing of this here thing. [I’ve mentioned this but we’ve got this cool web designer guy going to town on the site right now. He’s like magic or a man in an orange protective helmet].

Here is a short list of what’s been going on with the Chickz:

*Abby Hines became Abby Grindle and the other five of us dressed in our wedding finery and went out to support the blushing bride.

*Lindsey has found her various game systems: Nintendo, GameCube, Sega, etc and is currently attempting to rule the world of gaming.

*Lindsey and Lora moved into the house, they are sharing the apartment below Ashley and myself (along with Mr. McNelly). Layne has yet to move but will be around August. (She’s just ‘cross town from us other gals). And, Abs is around the block with her hubby.

our house.

*I have been diligently working and searching for more work. I just secured a second job at Tradehome Shoes in the mall (Sean Lovelace, come see me and I’ll sell you some nice hiking boots and running shoes)!

*Ashley Ford has been working on decorating her new bedroom. It looks stunning thus far. She also works two big-girl jobs!

*Lastly, Lindsey, Lora and myself are trying hard to acquaint the three cats in our lives: Sampson, Pol Pot, and Ghenghiss Khat. So, needless to say, a lot of hissing and cat drama.

Dear readers, the darling few of you who have kept with us during this time of slow reading, we sincerely promise to bring you a spankin’ new website with new and stellar material soon.

We love you guys.

No One Belongs Here More Than YOU.

24 May

(AKA: A short review of a short story)

Miranda July.

What a woman.

When I first heard about Miranda July, my friend Amber Sabo was telling me that her favorite quote was, “Live the dream, Potato.”

The quote is from July’s book of stories, No one belongs here more than you. In the second story (Majesty)  of the book , the main character witnesses a dog running away. She says, “But he looked joyful and I thought: Good for him. Live the dream, Potato.”

On the next page of the story, Potato has been hit by a car.

And, this isn’t even the focal point of the story. No. The piece is about a 46 year old woman who is obsessed with Prince William–she dreams that he nuzzles her butt with his face. She determines how to meet him. She works for an earth quake preparedness company. She has a showboating sister.

But, amidst all that ruckus, Potato stands out to me. And, when July ends the piece, she still leaves me thinking of the little care free dog.

stretching for the final lap

“This pain, this dying, this is just normal. This is how life is. In fact, I realize there never was an earthquake. Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy to hope for something else.”

These words touched a nerve yesterday, sent me into tears, into frustration. They’re true and yet, they will never be. How can we go through life without hope?

We are all Potato. And maybe it’s ok to be running carelessly down the street into the hot breath of an engine, the rumbling throat of certain death. Maybe it’s ok because the last thing we want in life is a memory of pleasure: the wind in our hair, the hot pavement on our paws.

**Stay tuned next week for review of Sean Lovelace’s

 “Fog Gorgeous Stag”