Sour Beers and Tarot Cards

One week into 2019, I had a tarot card reading at a brewery. This was a first for me. As a Hufflepuff, I tend to avoid The Dark Arts. And as an anxiety-ridden soul, I tend to avoid things I can latch onto as proof of my imminent death. (Web MD is among The Forbidden, as are thrillers about germ warfare and, for whatever reason, Gone Girl.)

However, while at the bar, a friend approached me with an interesting proposal: a tarot card reading for the mere price of a sour beer. Her friend needed practice—and a drink—and was willing to do some readings. I was nervous, but intrigued.

“Have you ever had a reading before?” she asked.

I hadn’t. But as a child, I’d been scarred by Muppet Treasure Island and the possibility of picking up something with The Black Spot.

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Muppet Treasure Island’s “Black Spot.” The stuff of nightmares.

“It won’t be like that,” she said.

So I agreed.

I sat down, still unnerved. I waited for her to ask me about my life, to dish details that she would later reposition as revelations. But she did not. Instead, she asked me to shuffle the deck and think. Think about a problem I was having, something I was wondering or trying to work through. Several thoughts crossed my mind. “Am I on the right track here in Chicago? Which theater should I try next? What’s up with me and dudes?”

I cut the deck and placed it in three piles representing the past, present and future. The stacks were by no means neat; my dry little witch hands had failed to tuck them into three tidy piles. This, she explained, meant something.

She suggested I pull the cards that jutted out the most. These were the cards with something to reveal.

The first card I pulled was The Kindred, a card that represents home and welcome, but it was upside down. This, she said, could mean I haven’t yet completed the step before The Kindred. That I haven’t allowed my roots to sprout because I’m still waiting for some feeling of assurance.

This resonated with me. I don’t feel like I’ve really “dug in” to the whole comedy scene because I’m not sure where I fit in. Do I want to do improv? Or write? Or both? And where? And what if I fail? I haven’t allowed myself to fully commit to anything because I’m afraid I won’t belong.

The second card, representing the present, was Two of Knives, also upside down. Knives are useful tools, she said. But when the card is reversed, it means I’m harming myself in some way. That I might be beating myself up over a decision, or an indecision.

“Girl, you think too much,” she said. “Get out of your head.”

Noted.

She also asked me to think about what I might be aggressively avoiding (the flu), if I’m in a rut (perhaps) and how I can fix it.

My future card was The World, which I immediately took to mean I was a warlock.

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Actual image of me after drawing The World. Where my horcruxes at?

But it wasn’t what I thought.

It did not, in fact, point to my future world domination. Rather, it could mean that I feel like I’m back where I started. (Which is true, since I just finished iO classes.)

The fact that it appeared upside means that I haven’t yet completed the previous phase, The Awakening. That I need to look at myself and my gifts, learn to appreciate them, and learn to let go of past lives, relationships, insecurities, etc.

The last card we drew was my favorite. It was The Traveler of Knives, and it was the only card right-side up.

This, she said, was basically telling me to say, “Fuck it.” To get out of my head and follow what I feel is right—not to the detriment of others—but in a way that will allow me to carve my own unique path. It reminded me of some advice one of my favorite improv teachers gave me: “If you feel it, do it.”

In the end, I left this reading feeling really good. It reminded me of a therapy session: the practice of picking a specific thought, and dedicating some time to work through it, to consider it from all angles. (Side note: tarot readings would be a great way to sneak in some therapy for someone who “doesn’t believe in therapy.”)

Would I do it again? Yes.

Would I pay more than a sour beer? Probably not.

Will I, from this day forward, refer to myself as The Warlock Who Drew The World? Absolutely.

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Reflections

In an effort to journal more often, I decided to write down a few things I did, learned and realized in 2018. These are in no particular order.

Things I did in 2018:

Traveled abroad for the first time as an adult.

Went to Hogwarts with my mom and sister.

Graduated from iO’s improv program.

Became a Godmother.

Ate a rancid pistachio.

Watched some of my best friends get married.

Started a writing project with people I’m really excited to work with.

Gave a dog the Heimlich.

Joined an indie improv group.

Wrote for two sketch shows.

Almost finished Anna Karenina.

Turned 30.

Got a face cyst.

Went to summer camp.

Had an international romance.

Saw John Legend, Beyonce, Jay Z, and Chance The Rapper live.

Went to Qdoba with The Phantom of the Opera.

Met a Bravo! Housewife in real life.

Went on some dates.

Remained celibate.

Things I learned/realized in 2018:

Nothing from my wine classes except that I am unable to retain information from wine classes.

“We’ll be ready for these school boys; they will wet themselves with blood,” is the scariest lyric from Les Mis.

I whisper in my sleep.

The Salem witch trials were not in Salem, Oregon.

There is another Salem, and it is in Massachusetts.

I’m supposed to be paying my taxes quarterly.

I am lactose intolerant.

Prince Oberyn is in season 4 episode 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If you give a dog a tablespoon (or teaspoon? I forget) of hydrogen peroxide, they will immediately vomit.

A lot of stuff about Irish whiskey. Ask me about it and I’ll steal an hour of your life.

I don’t think I like shrimp anymore.

The Spirit of Christmas

Warning: This post contains spoilers for “The Spirit of Christmas.”

A few nights ago, I treated myself and my cats to a sappy Christmas movie. “This will be fun,” I thought, as I snuggled into the couch with my wine and blue corn chips. I landed on The Spirit of Christmas, a TV movie undoubtedly born of a focus group for single 20-something females.

From Netflix: “As Christmas approaches, attorney Kate Jordan travels to Vermont to oversee the sale of an inn, where she falls for a handsome but cursed ghost.”

I of course had some immediate questions, but — damn, you Netflix! — the research was solid. Ghosts, old-timey inns, Christmas, how could I resist?!

So, I watched it. But within minutes, I began to lose my shit.

To be clear, I have many, many issues with this film and Kate and Daniel (the ghost)’s relationship. However, these are the few I wrote down:

1  He’s a fucking ghost.

2  Not only is he a fucking ghost, he’s a fucking ghost with baggage. He’s dead, he’s cursed, he regularly haunts an inn, he’s pining over his ex-girlfriend who ended up marrying his brother. Hard pass.

3  He’s a dated ghost. He died 90+ years ago, so odds are, he’s sexist, more than a little racist and definitely not vaccinated. How the f is this girl going to introduce him to her friends and family? If you thought your MAGA Uncle was bad at Thanksgiving, can you imagine bringing around a wealthy white dude from 1901?

4  He’s a dick! He has 12 days with this girl, and he spends the first 3-4 days berating her. At what point do they fall in love? At what point does she think, “Man, I know this dude is dead, and also kind of a dick, but I think this could work.”

5  Syphilis. He definitely has it.

6  They barely know each other, and yet he forgoes eternal life in heaven with his former lady-love to live – and die again! – with a chick he’s known for 12 days. Twelve days! That’s still the infatuation period! What if, two months in, the hormones wear off and they realize they’re completely incompatible? How is he going to jump back into the dating pool? How is he going to explain himself to another potential mate?

New girl: “How are you still single?”

Daniel: “Well, I died. But then I came back to life for this girl because we thought we could make it work. Turns out, we’re just too different. Plus, she’s registered to vote.”

7  Does he age? Or will he stay the same forever, watching Kate slowly deteriorate beyond the point of Hollywood likability?

8  Is he sterile? Are they going to have kids? I hope not, because, again, HE’S. NOT. VACCINATED.

9  Wait, did she just pass out from kissing him? Never in my life have I passed out/fallen asleep while kissing someone. During sex, sure, but while making out standing up? Impossible.

10  This is a more general issue with the film, but how come we never see sappy romances about young, single dudes who “work too hard” to settle down and find love? Why is it always women who are confronted about their work ethic? Idk, maybe we work hard so we can avoid SLEEPING WITH DEAD PEOPLE.

Happy Holidays.

 

 

 

Swiping Right Into Hell

I swiped left on a man because his Bumble picture was taken in a Joe’s Crab Shack.

It was at this moment I realized I might have a problem.

And that I might also be kind of a bitch.

It happened so quickly I barely had time to register what I was doing by the time it was done. My friend, Bumbling vicariously over my shoulder, yelled out, “No! Wait! It’s not Joe’s Crab Shack it’s Joe’s Steak House!” But it was too late. By the time she got to “crab,” my fingers were already flying across the screen to shield my eyes from the horrors therein.

I’m not proud of what I did, but it was instinctual. Visceral. My ovaries, folding in on themselves at the thought of mating with someone in an “I Got Crabs At Joe’s” shirt.

It wasn’t right, but it was real. And at the very least, it got me to ask some tough questions of myself, specifically: why do I hate every dude I meet?

Like any respectable, self-centered human, I of course blame my parents. My dad, presumably scared shitless at the prospect of raising two daughters, made certain my sister and I understood two very important lessons: 1.) Men are pigs, and 2.) Everything’s a rip off.

Could it be that his warnings worked so well, too well, that they guaranteed the end of House Clark?

I think it’s likely.

I think it’s also likely – perhaps more likely – that I am the problem. When presented with the opportunity to hand-pick a mate, I turn into the monster my father groomed me to be. That is to say, I rip men to shreds. I pick apart their profiles with reckless abandon, violently swiping away those who displays signs of romance (emojis) or outright insanity (“Ask me anything you want to know 😜”). Fishing photos, boating photos, baby photos, gym photos, and any sort of Jesus or CrossFit reference are also grounds for immediate and irrevocable elimination.

Ellipses are unforgivable. But the real tragedy is now I’ll never know what sort of guys I normally attract. 

Once I’ve whittled my matches down to a small – but elite – group of sea-fearing atheists, the real work begins.

First, I test the waters with a GIF. Dwight Schrute and Buster Bluth and are my baits of choice, as both say “I’m casual, I’m hip and I’m probably a little left-leaning.”

If he responds favorably (Impossible! I hate everyone!) I find something wrong with it. If he responds unfavorably, it supports my theory that dating is dumb and why am I even on here.

I am not a nice person on Bumble.

My friends think I sabotage myself in order to prove there’s no one out there for me. I think no one gets my humor (see exhibit below), and that men are time sucks.

(On the left, Rex, the sea lion. On the right, me questioning Rex’s mortality. It’s been months and I’ve yet to receive a response.) 

I get that a lot of this stems from insecurity. Make fun of yourself before anyone else can, reject people before they can reject you, blah, blah, blah. But, still. Why am I so unwilling to give someone a chance? Why am I terrified at actually liking someone and why, for the love of God, can I not get an update on Rex?!

It’s Not You, It’s Me

I’ve decided to start dating again. Which means I’ve decided to go on one date and call it a year.

I’ve been out of the game for quite some time, but I understand it still works relatively the same: you meet at a bar, you forget meeting at a bar, you wake up to a mysterious text from “R. Dumbledore Glasses,” you exchange witty messages for weeks on end until finally someone says, “Let’s just get this over with.” So you meet.

Romance may be alive and well. But I will not stand for it.

My prep for this date begins well in advance. I spend an hour trying to make my hair look effortless. Like I totally forgot about the date (because I’m so busy and important!) that when I remembered, I yanked out my ponytail, walked into the wind and let Jesus take the wheel. I do my makeup lightly. I want him to think I’m a natural beauty. That I don’t even care about makeup. That my big, dark eyebrows are such a hassle (“Ugh! Genetics!”) and not in fact an elaborate illusion.

I imagine what I’ll say when he compliments me.

“Stop, I’m a mess!”

But I’m not a mess. I’m a masterpiece.

Next, I call my roommate into my room for the dressing portion of the program. I have no idea what to wear. My black jeans feel too fancy, my boyfriend jeans no longer fit. I’m not mad about it; I’ve always wanted an ass that won’t quit. But not having these jeans really spoils my cool/casual idea.

“What’d you wear last time you saw him?” She asks

“My Slytherin shirt,” I respond.

She nods, and tells me to wear the black jeans, a cotton t-shirt and my leather jacket. I put them on and observe.

“I look like a little dick,” I say.

“No, you don’t,” she says. “But we need to give you a waistline.”

We then attempt to tuck my shirt into my jeans in a haphazard way. Like somehow, I raised my arms, and the front, left edge of my shirt made a miraculous leap into the waist of my jeans, falling **just so**.

15 minutes later, we nail it.

5 minutes later, I have to pee and we have to start all over.

When I’m finally deemed fit for public viewing, we head to the kitchen for shots of tequila. My roommates and I started this ritual my first month in Chicago when, against all odds, all three of us had a slew of dates lined up. Before each date, we all took a shot. None of the men stuck. But the tequila did.

I meet my date at the bar and am pleased with myself for recognizing his face. It’s been over two months since we met, and the last we saw each other, I was so drunk I admitted to being a Hufflepuff.

In spite of this, our conversation flows pretty comfortably. We reintroduce ourselves, talk about work, friends and relationships. He asks if I’m on Bumble.

“I don’t have time. Wait, that’s a lie. I could make time, I just don’t want to. Dating is such a waste of mental space, you know?”

I sip my drink.

“Why? Are you on Bumble?”

He is.

Later, we exchange of pick-up line horror stories. I tell him my favorite: the time a man offered to buy me a drink because I looked “vulnerable.”

“I hate it when men offer to buy me drinks. It’s like, ‘Go away! I don’t want to talk to you!'”

We sit in silence for a moment.

“You know I’m going to buy your beers, right?”

“Yeah. Sorry. My bad.”

I sip my drink.

At the end of the date, he asks if I had a good time.

“Honestly, I can’t tell,” he says.

This shocks me. And it is at this point I realize I spent the entire date shitting on romance. I was the dating equivalent of a bad interviewer. Had our conversation actually been a job interview, it would have gone something like this:

“So, what interests you about this job?”

“Nothing really. I don’t even want to work.”

No wonder this man thinks I’m an asshole.

But I’m not an asshole. I just don’t know what I want, and, apparently, that reads loud and clear. I don’t want a boyfriend, but I enjoy the attention of men. I enjoy the attention of men, but I hate the power this gives them. This imbalance of power is a constant struggle in my life. I let everyone else dictate how I feel about myself. So when I say I don’t want to “waste the mental space on dating,” I mean I don’t want to waste time working through the self-loathing that inevitably follows.

Or as I prefer to put it, I’m just too damn busy and important!

Tax Day

“I’ve made a horrible mistake.”

This is the first thing I said to the UPS Store clerk when I walked in 15 minutes before closing on April 17.

I’d just finished my taxes. And I needed help.

 

I didn’t care that he wasn’t a CPA. I didn’t care that this wasn’t the post office. I needed a government official. An authority figure. And he was the closest I could find.

“I’ve made a horrible mistake,” I repeated. “Several, actually.”

He laughed. Asked me what I did, what I needed.

“I think I need to print my returns, but I’m not sure. Do you think I need to print them?”

He shrugged.

“I submitted them online, but it told me to print something and mail it in. That seems ridiculous. Do you think that seems ridiculous?”

He shrugged again.

“I feel like I’m missing something. Do you think I’m missing something?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve never done my taxes myself,” he admitted.

While I was not attracted to this man, this struck me as an immediate turn off. I like my men independent. Self sufficient. Smart enough to do their own taxes and fuck up their own taxes like a responsible adult. Certainly, I should have never been allowed to start mine without a CPA present. But still. What a little bitch ass.

“I have a voucher. I owe a million dollars. Not a millions dollars. But a lot. This is my first time being self-employed,” I gushed. I tend to over-share when I’m nervous.

“I think you just need to mail that voucher,” he said. “Want me to print it?”

I emailed him the voucher and he handed me a blank envelope.

“Here. Start addressing this while I go print your stuff in the back,” he said.

I studied his face. At this point, I was certain I’d be going away for 10 to 15. And though I knew prison would change me, I hoped I’d be kind enough to thank his little bitch ass when I got out.

When he came back, I handed him the finished envelope.

“I spelled Cincinnati wrong. Do you think they’ll take it?”

“Yeah, probably,” he said.

“Cool,” I responded, as if the envelope didn’t include a check for my entire bank account.

He stamped my letter, dropped it in the mail bin and charged me for his services.

“Thanks for your help,” I said, picking up the credit cards, Euros and receipts I’d strewn about in the chaos.

“You’re welcome. Hey. Good luck, man,” he added ominously.

I studied his face again. He knew something, this government official.

Yeah. I’m going away for a long time.

Things I learned In Ireland

I’m home. It’s taken me a week to feel like a human again, but I’m home.

Let me be clear: I did not think I’d survive this trip. I never think I’ll survive anything that’s outside my usual routine, so this trip was huge for me. I cleaned my car before I left in case I died. I also took my diary because I didn’t want to be remembered by my sad stories and bad jokes. I started my taxes but didn’t finish them, because I can’t afford them. And that was the one thing I felt comfortable burdening my family with.

Self-employment taxes aside, it was a real treat to come home alive.

As anticipated, my journey to the airport was a shit show. I couldn’t find the bus, and when I did, I had to find coins on the ground to pay for it. The bus driver was nice enough to help me. I am, it would seem, officially out of money.

This didn’t stop me from buying a grilled cheese, coffee and two scones at the airport. I am grateful for my credit card, though I fear it will be my undoing.

While at the airport, I reflected on my trip and found myself surprisingly sad to leave. Certainly, I missed my kitties, my roommates and my weekday sobriety. But I had an amazing time. And I’ve become addicted to the record-breaking likes on my Instagram photos.

I did not write every day as promised. But I did take notes of things I learned. Thus, I give you a rambling list of Things I Learned In Ireland:

Never ask for a “ride.” Ask for a “lift.” Apparently, asking for a ride is like asking for sex. Lesson learned.

Irish people are incredibly accommodating. When I met my friend Tony’s mom, she offered me some tea. I turned it down to be polite, and somehow ended up with tea, a plate of scones, cornbread and two shots of Poitín (Irish moonshine). The next day, Tony’s sister drove me — after having just met me! — to Derry because she is amazing, and –

Easter Monday is a thing. And everything shuts down, buses included.

Guinness really is better in Ireland. Something about pasteurization, idk. But you better believe I’m gonna brag about it every time you see me. “Ummm when I was in Ireland…”

In Ireland (see? It’s happening already) you don’t order drinks for yourself, you order drinks in rounds. This was a particularly hard rule for me to follow. I hate when people buy me drinks, especially men. I like to assert my dominance, and I don’t want anyone to think I owe them a ride. But I swallowed my pride for the sake of tradition. I don’t expect it to happen again.

Converters turn hairdryers into flame throwers.

Moms are amazing. I knew this already, as I love my mom to pieces. But seeing my friend Megan in mom-mode was something I’ll never forget. Kids are insane. They ride waves of manic elation and utter despair all day, every day. One moment, they’re laughing like crazy at “rock, paper, scissors, poop!” The next, they’re sobbing because they didn’t want sausage for lunch. At one point, Owen (Megan and Tony’s youngest boy) turned to me and said, “Jojo, I like you,” and I swear to God my heart fell out of my body. How anyone rides these waves is beyond me. But Megan does it without even batting an eye. She is unreal. I’ve always said that she hit the jackpot with those kids. But after this trip, I think the kids hit the jackpot with her.

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Baby sheep look like cats from afar.

 

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I like traveling alone. I was nervous to do this, but I’m so glad I did. I met a lot of great people and I never once felt lonely. I saw what I wanted to see, ate where I wanted to eat, slept when I wanted to sleep. I spent a lot of time sitting at bars, trying new beers, listening to music and eavesdropping on locals. It never felt weird. The only time I felt unsafe was my last day in Dublin, when some strange man approached me to tell me he liked my style (first red flag), asked if I was alone (second red flag) and kept following me after I brushed him off (all the fucking flags).

I like eating alone. I’m a monster when I eat, so it’s better this way. But I really enjoyed my fancy solo dinners.

I like being alone. Which bodes well for me, as I will be dying alone.

People hate Americans. Or maybe just me. Or maybe just Trump. Either way, next time I travel internationally, I’m wearing a Democrat lapel pin. Or Friend of The Pod shirt. Trump is the laughing stock of the world. We are the laughing stock of the world. And we should be ashamed. I know I am.

I don’t have a top lip when I smile.

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Hostels aren’t so bad. I did not – and will not – publish a sequel to Hostel –Night 1, as the details of what followed are unfit to print. I will say, though, that I met a lot of cool people from all over the world. I made a friend from Holland, an enemy from Russia, a pub advisor from Dublin, and a whiskey tasting/donut eating companion from D.C. I met a German guy who offered me a ride (no, a lift! Dammit a LIFT!) to Dublin, and a welder from I forget but somewhere in England. The three handsome Lebanese men (who were delighted to hear themselves described as such) and my two girl roommates – Lauren and Shannon – were among the highlights of my trip. Like a Week 6 Bachelor contestant, I didn’t come to make friends, but I left with some nonetheless.

 

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Miriam, a new friend from Holland.

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Sweaty Galway hostel friends in Dublin.

 

Scones are the shit. I could (and did) live on scones.

People think American girls are bitchy and elitist. An Irish girl told me I was “so normal for an American.” When I asked what she meant, she said a lot of people think we’re like the girls from The Hills and Laguna Beach. I laughed and assured her that I wasn’t. But deep down, I was flattered. Part of me has always wanted to be a beautiful, snooty socialite. So this was quite pleasing to hear.

Craic (pronounced “crack”) is everywhere. Good gossip is good craic. Good fun is good craic. Good sex is . . . a craic ride? Who knows. But if you want to know where the party is, you ask, “Where’s the craic?” This does not translate in America for obvious reasons. Which is why I often worry for the reputation of our dear Tony Kelly.

My hands look dead in photographs. 

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From the Game of Thrones tour pamphlet: Coldhands drinks at local pub.

To tell 24-hour time, you just subtract 2 from the second number. I am impressive, I know.

All in all, it was a life changing experience. Something I never thought I would or could do. And I can’t wait to do it again in 40 years when I’ve recovered.