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In the Trunk of My Car

An old friend, Keith, posted this on Facebook. I’m so glad there are pictures. I have thought about this trip a lot, over the years, especially whenever I went to Albuquerque. It was starting to take on a fever-dream like quality. Did it really happen? How could I drive to Albuquerque with three people in my trunk? And then sleep through the balloon launch? Because we were up too late lighting farts on fire in a fifth wheel camper?! How was that even possible ? Must have been a dream. But no, here is photographic proof! It really happened!

Durango to Albuquerque in a two-seater Ford EXP. Two people on the trip aren’t in the picture. I’m the driver. I’m told Alice’s mom (Alice is the one with the curls) got her a car, after she heard she rode all the way to Albuquerque in the trunk of my car. At least it was a hatch back.

That car had a long history of having all my friends stuffed in the trunk. This is when it was new (me and my friends in the back, 1982-ish, Grandpa taking us out to ice cream):

Left to right: Rachel, Nikki, Robyn, “Little Shana,” and me, “Big Shana.”

Grandpa would drive us the whole way across Petaluma to Tuttle Drug, with the trunk open, and we would tap the hatch up with our hands constantly, to keep it from closing on us. We had to be vigilant especially going over bumps and railroad tracks, as it would just close on us. We all did our part except for Little Shana. We decided that Little Shana didn’t have to keep the hatch open, because she was little (thus the name), and her arms weren’t long enough. This must have been where I got the idea that you don’t have to just have two people in the EXP.

On the Albuquerque trip, we had five people, including me. One in the driver seat, one in the passenger seat, and then the three in back laid down with their feet in the trunk, their heads up by us. We must have put pillows under their heads- or maybe we stored our clothes under their heads? I don’t know how we had room for any luggage! It was a weekend trip.

The car was a Ford EXP, which looked like a Mustang, but had the engine of an Escort and only two seats. Over the maybe sixteen months that I owned and drove it, I had countless men explain to me that I did not have an EXP, that there was no such thing, that I clearly had a Mustang. Sometimes, I would be in the act of giving the man a ride home when he would explain this to me.

Ah, the good old days.

Twenty-three years ago next week, I was driving the EXP alone across the Mojave Desert, outside of Joshua Tree. I reached down to get my water bottle, accidentally drove the car briefly off the shoulder, where I hit some sand. On the sand, I lost all traction, going 65 MPH on the two-lane desert highway. It sent me into a spin, and then I rolled the car twice over, landing it upright. I was fine. The EXP was totaled- every part of it crushed together flat, except for where I had been sitting.

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Back when I was pretty, then not pretty, then pretty, then not pretty…

When the Zanimal was in preschool and still called Little Z, we used to ride together in the morning. I would take her to preschool, and then go on to work. She went through this phase when she was three or four years old, when she would tell me when I looked pretty, and when I did not look pretty.

“You are pretty today,” she would say.

“Oh, thank you.”

“Why do you say, ‘thank you’?” she asked.

“It’s a nice thing to say.”


Then, another day, she would say,

“You are not pretty today.”

What?! I was so hurt.

“That’s not a nice thing to say. You shouldn’t say that.”

“Why not say that? It’s just a fact,” she said.

“It’s just a fact that I’m not pretty?!”


I was so hurt, I couldn’t respond.

But then, the next day, she might say that I was pretty again. And then the next day, not pretty. And so on. I could never convince her to stop saying it out loud when I was “not pretty.” I resigned myself to the fact that I had somehow produced a monster.

Then, after a long time, I started to see a pattern. I had an idea.

“Do you just say that I’m ‘pretty’ when I’m wearing a dress or a skirt, and I’m ‘not pretty’ when I’m not wearing a dress or a skirt?”

She looked at me like I was the biggest idiot in the universe.

“Yes,” she said. “Pretty ladies wear dresses.”

Oh. My. God.


Not pretty.
I think about this experience from time to time. I wonder how many other things I’ve taken personally that weren’t really meant that way at all?

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Donkey Day(s?)

Donkey Day is a holiday my Grandma Ruth made up, because she’s awesome that way. Donkey Day is that special time of year when you take all of your donkey figurines out of the closet, and arrange them decoratively around your home! Display them proudly for all of the donkey days. (I don’t remember when donkey days begin or end, so you’ll have to improvise on this. I’m not even sure if it’s one day or a week, ask Grandma.) Then, when donkey days are over, put all of your beautiful donkey figurines back into the drawer, and save them for next year. That’s Donkey Day! 

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Coon Skins

My cousin Greg took his own life a few days ago. If I made a list of one hundred people I knew, ranking from “most likely to commit suicide” to “least likely,” Greg would have been about 97. He was so comfortable with himself. He had a great (if wicked) sense of humor. He had a loud and bizarre laugh. He was one of a kind.

His friends called him “Dallass,” but I never did. Partly because I first met him when he was five and I was ten, at a family picnic. He ran up to me and screamed, “I’M GREGORY PAUL TICKERHOOF!” and ran away before I could answer him. So, I always called him Greg. He just called me, “Cuz.” Which was fine.

My favorite memory of him was just a few years ago, when I killed two raccoons on our farm. (The raccoons were killing our turkeys.) I skinned the raccoons, because I felt bad for killing them, and I didn’t want their pelts to go to waste. It was terrible, and I did not tan the hides well. At all. I visited Greg in his trailer in Western Pennsylvania, and I just mentioned the raccoon skins in passing, telling him how terrible I was at tanning hides. Greg was like,

“I’d like those ‘coon skins, Cuz! Send them to me!”

“Are you sure? I’m not kidding when I say I’m bad at tanning.”

“Oh, yeah! Send them!”

I drove home, and by the time I got back to Wisconsin, he had already messaged me three times about sending the raccoon skins. So, I mailed them to him. The skins weren’t really tanned; they were just dried with salt. Also, they didn’t have much hair on them, because I had killed them in summer, which is the wrong season to hunt for hides. I sent them to Greg anyway, thinking that once he saw the state they were in, he would just throw them away.

A week later, I got a Facebook notification that Greg had tagged me in a picture.

He had tacked those two coon skins onto his trailer wall, in the living room. He used thumb tacks to put them up on the dark paneling. It was this grainy, awful picture, and he had tagged me as one of the raccoon skins. I was MORTIFIED. There it was, for all the world to see, my trailer park roots. But I couldn’t untag myself, because Greg was so clearly excited, and he wrote something really nice with the picture, like,

“Just got the coon skins! Luv you, cuz!”

Or something equally nice.

I just had to make peace with the fact that my hipster friends would know my true roots.

As far as I know, he kept the raccoon skins on his wall.


I just tried to find the picture on Facebook of the raccoon skins, but finding a picture from five years ago on Facebook was impossible. I did find this video of him.

Ladies and gentlemen, there have been great explorers. There was Merriweather Lewis, exploring the great American West. There was Vasco de Gama, sailing the world. And then there was Dallass Gregory Paul Tickerhoof, finding where the crick ends (also known as, “Christmas in July Trailer Park Special”):

Rest in Peace, Cuz.

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Ghost Cow, or Something More?

I’ve been keeping the sheep in some flimsy, portable fencing during the day, and then going out before dark and herding them into more secure fencing for the night. This evening, while binge  watching Parks and Recreation, I forgot to go outside and secure them before dark. I went out late, and the sheep were all there, ridiculously happy to see me. But there was something else out there, too, and it freaked me out.

I heard something breathing at me from the east. I pointed the flashlight at it. Nothing there. But still, the breathing, 

Hastily, I secured the sheep, and then hesitated. I pointed the flashlight again towards the east, but there was nothing. Just an empty field. Then, sticks breaking. Whatever it was, it was large and broke sticks when it walked. 

I went inside the big fence, and walked back toward the house inside the fence, surrounded by sheep with big horns who like me. Would they defend me, if pressed to? Or would they let it eat me? I wished I had brought a large stick. 

Still, the breathing. It sounded like a horse. Then the footsteps in the forest again. My neighbors don’t keep horses. Or anything, for that matter. 

I reached a point where I had to go outside of the fence again to get home. I did so, quickly. I pretended to be large and imposing. But I am not large and imposing.

Finally, home! Safe inside, I realized my heart was racing and I was totally out of breath! 

What was it? An escaped neighbor’s cow? A bear? But why couldn’t I see it with the flashlight?

I don’t know. 

It was scary. 

I’m still recovering from the Ghost Cow.

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Dr. H’s Moby-Dick

“Call me Ishmael,” he said. “It’s not my name, but call me Ishmael! Bwa ha!” He tooted the last part, a silly little laugh. He was a smallish guy. He looked like a cute little rat. Cute little middle aged chain smoking coffee drinking slightly perverted but clearly adorable, absurdly intelligent rat. The kind of rat you would want in your pocket while you presented your PhD dissertation, even though he would make you giggle at the wrong times. 

That was the first day of class. It was summer school, so there were about twelve students, ten of whom were bronze, mostly naked off-season snowboard girls. I went to an obscure, third rate college, high in the mountains of Colorado. The summer school uniform was a sports bra and running shorts. The only jewelry allowed was toe rings. 

One of the mostly naked amazonians with a toe-ringed foot sitting on the seat in front of her said,

“This syllabus is all Moby-Dick. I thought this was American Lit?” 

“Moby-Dick is American literature. Herman Melville was an American.”

“Yeah, but…”

“So! Bwa ha! Page one. ‘Call me Ishmael.’,  best opening line of any book ever. But let’s go back to the title: ‘Moby-Dick or The Whale.’” 

Somehow, Dr. H. made the title dirty. I guess it wasn’t such a stretch- with a name like Moby-Dick. But every time he said it, it seemed to have an extra emphasis on the Dick. And yet, he was so charming about it. With his little laugh, Bwa Ha! 

“This is basically a novel about sex, posing as a fishing novel, bwa ha!” 

That summer, we went through every page of Moby-Dick, coming up with endless sexual allusions, metaphors and innuendos. And then there was the occasional Jesus Christ allusion. And then back to sex.

Sometimes, you would see him outside of class. He was like a broken man, hunched over his coffee, cigarette in hand. Oh, poor Dr. H, one might think. Them you would see him again, Monday morning, a new man! Refreshed! 

“Moby-Dick! Bwa ha!”

Summer school classes were four days a week, Monday thru Thursday. It was full sperm whale immersion. 

The best part about Moby-Dick with Dr. H was that Moby-Dick was basically incomprehensible long-winded tuttle fuddy. The whale doesn’t even appear for the first fourteen billion pages! But, once you heard Dr. H’s amazing explanations of each and every page, it was the most fascinating thing ever written. 

In the end, I learned five things from Dr. H:

1. Moby-Dick is full of metaphors, most of them sexual.

2. It’s okay, even great, to laugh at your own jokes.

3. The more you learn about some things, the more interesting they become.

4. Moby-Dick is the best book ever written. (I believed that for a month.)

5. Sometimes, a rubber chicken makes everything better.

It happened two and a half years later. I was in Senior Thesis. It was held in a conference room. We sat around a large table. Dark. It was a darkly held conference room. Squinting, we contemplated primary sources. 

“Blah blah blah blah,” were the professor’s exact words. The professor was not Dr. H. Suddenly, the door burst open and a life-sized rubber chicken flew through the doorway and landed in the center of our conference table. The door slammed shut. We heard a laugh,

“Bwa ha!” And the pitter-patter of cute rat-like feet running down the hallway. 

A long-forgotten joy welled within me. Mysteries of land and sea, life and death, opened up once again. The winter ice around my heart was melting. A large rubber chicken lay in the middle of a conference room table, like a great, white sperm whale. 


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The Case Against Pants

This is a true story. Trigger warning: long wait at the checkout line.

For the sake of protecting the guilty, I shall change some names.

Yesterday, I went to a store to get pants. Let’s call this store JC Lenny’s. I had been to JC Lenny’s previously on Sunday. On Sunday, I had seen a colossal amount of pants on sale, 70% OFF! On Sunday, there were five double-sided twenty foot long racks of pants, over by the escalator. On Sunday, however, I was with my daughter. I made a mental note to come back the next day and shop for pants, alone, so that I could spend some time trying things on. So, yesterday (Monday), I went back to JC Lenny’s and somehow, all of those racks of pants were gone. Just gone.

There seemed to be about as many employees at JC Lenny’s as customers. I found one, moving  a rack of clothing (no pants) and asked her,

“Could you tell me where are the pants?”

But she ran away, hiding behind her rack of clothing! She scurried like a mouse. I chased after her,

“Excuse me! Excuse me! Where are the pants?” The sales girl stopped, trapped. Her eyes darted from side to side.

“They aren’t anywhere. They’re all over. Scattered. I have to tell him. I’m sorry, I have to tell him.”

I didn’t understand.

“So where are the pants?” I asked.

“They aren’t.”


“I’ll tell him. I have to tell him. You’re the fifth person today,” she added.

“The pants aren’t..?”

“No, they aren’t,” she said and she scurried away again.

I decided she was just crazy. I went looking for pants on my own.

I found the women’s pants, lots and lots of pants, but they were all size 1X, 2X, and 3X. I wear a ten. I found another store worker, this one seemingly normal. I decided specificity was the soul of getting what I wanted. I spoke very clearly, as though talking to someone hard of hearing,

“WHERE ARE THE PANTS SIZE TEN?” The woman smiled and said,

“Oh, do you mean dress pants?”

“No! Pants like these,” I said, pointing to my legs, which had pants on them.

“Oh, those are in juniors, other side of the store!” she said.

I walked all the way to the other end of JC Lenny’s, and indeed, I found a rack of pants. Finally! But they were in Juniors sizes, and I don’t know what size I wear in juniors. (At forty-two, I’m hardly a Junior. At this point, however, I had completely given up on finding any medium-sized grown women’s pants. Clearly, at JC Lenny’s, they assumed that as soon as you turned twenty-three, you were a 1X.) So, I tried on twelve pairs of “Juniors” pants. Two of them fit. The two that fit were almost exactly the same style as some pants my nine-year-old daughter wears, but whatever. Pants! I just needed some freakin’ pants!

I went to the check-out with my two pairs of pants. Huzzah! No line! I was triumphant.

“Would you like to get a JC Lenny’s charge card?” the well-dressed clerk asked.


“It will save you thirty-two percent today,” she added.

“Oh, well, okay… if it doesn’t take too long.”

“Really?” she said. “Woo hoo! It won’t take long at all.”

“Um,” I was suddenly uncertain, but she was already typing in my license number.


I stared at her. Her name tag said, “Mary.” (Not her real name.)

“Shama wa shosh ka…? How do you pronounce your name?”

“Shoshanah Marohn.”

“Ah, shashamah… what a beautiful name!”

I attempted to smile. The time was 1:03 PM. I could see it on her register, which even counted the seconds: 1:03:24… 1:03:25… She had me enter my social security number into a keypad. My birthday. She had me sign. She double checked my address. I don’t know what she was doing and then…

1:07:13 PM “The paper didn’t come out,” she said, “The paper is supposed to come out and then the diddly thing and then I scan it and then… but the paper didn’t come out.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll just put it on another card.”

“No, no,” she said. “No. We will figure this out.”

“I would like to leave, though,” I said. She looked concerned, only for a moment,

“Are you on your lunch break?”

“Well, I mean, no, but I do want to leave.” She was suddenly not concerned.

“Oh, okay. I will re-enter your name. That might work.”

“Really, I can just pay on another card…”

1:14:27 PM She was saying it again, now, more agitatedly,

“The paper didn’t come out,” she said, “The paper is supposed to come out and then the diddly thing and then I scan it and then… but the paper didn’t come out. I re-entered it and the paper didn’t come out. You see, the paper is supposed to come out.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll just put it on another card.”

“No, no,” she said. “No. We will figure this out. I will call the LDS.” (What does LDS stand for? She was calling the Latter-Day Saints?) “I will call the LDS.”

“Really, I can just pay on another card…”

“NO! I am calling the LDS.”

At this point, I considered running. Unfortunately, she had my driver’s license. But I could re-apply for one. I mean, I have a passport. But then there was an issue with the soda. I had gotten thirsty and taken a soda from the cooler. I had taken a sip. I only had a ten dollar bill. I had already taken a sip of the soda, so I should really pay for it, and if I ran away they would have all of my information from the credit card application and come after me for that soda I drank and didn’t pay for… I could leave the ten dollars on the table, but that’s really too much for a soda. What could I do? I was trapped.

1:23:01 PM She was typing again.

“The paper didn’t come out,” she said, “The paper is supposed to come out and then the diddly thing and then I scan it and then… but the paper didn’t come out.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll just put it on another card.”

“No, no,” she said. “No. We will figure this out.”

“Really, I don’t care at all about the credit card. I just want to leave. I need to leave here sometime soon.”

“The LDS is coming,” she said.

Then the LDS came! Hallelujah! But, she just … oh, for the love of God! She did exactly what Mary did, and the LDS said,

“The paper didn’t come out. The paper is supposed to come out and then the diddly thing and then I scan it and then… but the paper didn’t come out.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll just put it on another card.”

“Just let her put it on another card,” said the LDS. (I love you, LDS., I thought.) “Just give her the discount manually, and let her put it on another card.”

Now, we were getting somewhere! I took out my credit card. The end was in sight! I would escape soon! I took another sip of my soda. Mary was typing in the register again. We were getting places! It was going to all be okay! The LDS was half-way across the store when Mary yelled to her,

“But the paper didn’t come out, the paper is supposed to come out and then the diddly thing and then I scan it and then… but the paper didn’t come out. How do I charge her if the paper didn’t come out?”

The LDS turned around and looked at us, I with my half-drunk Coke trickling out of my mouth in rage, Mary with a pleasant, yet questioning look on her face. My pants, on the counter. Not my pants, yet. Just the pants. Pants living in Purgatory. A no-man’s-land of ownership, where the pants were. There, on the counter in JC Lenny’s.

We’re still there. If you’re going to the mall today, could you drop me off a granola bar and a cup of tea? I would be so grateful. I’m at JC Lenny’s, at the Juniors register.