In the Moment of the Stanky “Oh No”
FACTS OR NAH???
Est. Read Time: 5 minutes. Read Time brought to you always by the Ashburton Energy + Hair Logistics Group, in association with the Bradley Hills Bureau of Corrections.
Tuesday 5/17 7PM — Can’t Even Comedy (Hollywood) Always a party.
(And since this is the only show I have coming up, I’llll have some prit-tee well-cooked new material to debut.)
Hello, Sternal Journalists!
This is the literal last week I’m pushing off the big interview I’ve been hinting at, but here’s a tiny excerpt to keep you warm:
“I'm a Sagitarian who's done DMT and I can't hide it anymore.”
You’re curious. You’re at least curious. So this week, I’ve reached into my bag of tricks and pulled out a very short story I wrote about going to a magazine stand around the corner from my apartment in LA. Magazine stands hold a special place in my heart.
When I was working at Maxim—a history I only feel comfortable namedropping so often because of just how inconsequential it’s proven in my career—I remember the assistant a few desks over worked for a guy that called himself “The King of Radio!”—like, he would answer the phone like that. It was sort of a joke, but only sort of—
and the assistant one day peaked over the half-cube dividers and said, “Hey man! You’re in magazines. I’m in radio. We’re in the two biggest dying industries.”
Oh fuck. I truly hadn’t realized it until that moment.
So anyway, it’s kind of cool to live around the corner from a little marketplace dedicated to that wheezing husk of a life trajectory I foolishly bet on.
Here’s the story.
Like a Good Neighbor
Or: In the Moment of the Stanky “Oh No”
This morning, when I went to buy her hangover Gatorades, the man who worked at the magazine stand around the corner–it has a truly formidable magazine collection but also carries cigarettes, paper towels, snacks, drinks–told me in a jovial enough way, “I feel like shit today.”
I asked if it was one of those days, and he said, “No. Well, I’ve been having these seizures.” But he was smiling and said it like I already knew it (which I didn’t), and like I already knew him (which I didn’t).
He wasn’t covered in tattoos the way some people are, but there were tattoos on every section of his visible body. One on a knuckle, one on the neck, something on the forearm, a little something for the face. I wonder if maybe sleeves are too expensive for a lot of people, but he still wanted to broadcast the desire to be truly all tatted up. Or maybe he’s just frugal and/or practical about his tats.
“I don’t know if you heard, but I had a seizure here last week.” Again, he’s smiling. Almost bashful. Almost proud.
“Oh, no, I didn’t.” I really put some stank on the “oh no” to let him know I was listening and I cared. This was for a couple reasons: first, it sounds shitty and embarrassing to have a seizure at work, especially when you work in outdoor customer service. There is something about someone who works at a magazine stand in LA in 2022 where it feels like they should be and are invincible.
Like even if they got robbed at gunpoint, they would have a bigger gun or quicker reflexes, and you’d see security footage of them turning the tables on the perpetrator on Instagram on some rap news meme account with a caption like “nobody want smoke like LA magazine stand cashiers!!! FACTS OR NAH???”
Like when you’re a kid, you think nothing bad can happen to your parents, and you grow out of that, but you subconsciously keep a bit of that delusional invincibility applied to some people and characters in your life.
So it just doesn’t feel like that guy had a seizure at work, but he did. “FACTS OR NAH???” I guess nah.
The other reason I wanted him to know I was listening and I cared is that I liked that he thought that I might have heard. That I was in the inner sanctum of neighborhood whisper networks.
I cared because I appreciated being elevated to the ranks of a local business owner or a nosy dog walker. Or maybe by being a person who wanted to show they cared, maybe that just is who I am. Maybe I’ve earned the title of neighbor just by being neighborly.
Maybe I’ve earned it by having a partner who loves to drink, but is terrible at processing hangovers. “Buy 10 Gatorades and get one instance of hyperlocal affinity FREE.”
I think about all that in the moment of the stanky “Oh no.”
“Yeah,” he grinned for some reason. “And yesterday? I had a seizure on the Metro.” He shook his head, still smiling. Tattoo by his eye still wrinkling.
“Well, I hope you feel better soon.”
“Thanks man, have a great day.”
Many thanks to the HFMP writing group for reading a slightly earlier draft of this yesterday and providing always meaningful feedback. But if you, Sternal Journalist, have thoughts, I’d love to hear them as well! In exchange, here are some…
The Shaming-Industrial Complex. Article. This review of two books about shame in a New Yorker I found from a few weeks back considers shame as both a psychological state and a social phenomenon. Nobody’s ever pointed out to me how different these types of shame are, and I think it helps cut through all the bullshit people talk about when they talk about cancel culture.
Once Upon a Time at Bennington College. Podcast. A podcast all about and only about about the fact that Bret Easton Ellis and Donna Tart were in the same class at hippy-dippy richy-rich enclave Bennington. It’s Gossip Girl for navel-gazing literary fuckwads and I love it.
Mama Tried. Album. Merle Haggard (and The Strangers) has always been a loose blindspot for me in my country music love. I listened to this one while making breakfast this week and loved it. If you’re intrigued, but not intrigued enough for a whole album, my favorite is “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me.”
Putting flowers in a toilet in a park. Activity. I meeeean look at this:
Anyway! Thanks as always for reading and much love to all of you!
Have a wonderful week,
P.S. I spend anywhere between two and twelve hours a week on the Sternal Journal. If you enjoy receiving it (and are RICH) consider becoming a paying subscriber. For just a few bucks a month, you can provide me with a bit more time to come up with fun topics, poems, and interviews; and you with probably fewer typos.