In 9th grade, all students at my school were required to take Language Arts. To my dismay, this turned out to be a public speaking class disguised as a writing class, which meant that my easy A was about to become a desperate C. Though friends have pointed out that I can be loud as fuck in public, especially while talking about embarrassing stories, I suddenly lose the ability to be coherent when placed in front of an audience.
I start talking about a mile a minute, sweating all the while as my face either turns as red as a drunkard’s, or as pale as someone about to pass out. My eyes will dart all around the room as if trying to identify who from the crowd is about to get up and shoot me. Whatever latent paranoia I have (which is a LOT) kicks into high gear, and I become convinced the audience is plotting my downfall at all times.
So yeah, public speaking and I don’t really get along.
But sadly, this class forced me to do it on a regular basis. It all culminated on one unfortunate day when we had to read a short story that we had written out loud to the class.
The assignment was to write a “funny” retelling of a classic fairy tale, and we all had to choose different ones. As a somewhat angry and depressed teenager, my idea of “funny” was a dark as shit Goldilocks and the Three Bears that took place in an apocalyptic future where weapons were as common as loose change. The body count in my story was startlingly high, and I was probably only saved from arrest by virtue of this being written before Columbine. My tale ended with both Goldilocks and the bears burning to death after Goldie’s flame thrower showers the house with fire. Goldie manically mutters that the temperature is now “juuuust right” as her hair bursts into flames.
I did not know in advance that we would have to read this out loud.
I heard about the change in the lesson plan during lunch, as students who had the class earlier in the day recounted their classmates’ “hilarious” stories. My only thought was, “I’M FUCKED.” I knew very well that my story was going to be seen as the ravings of a homicidal maniac, and I ran to the computer lab to shit out a different story in the ten minutes remaining before class.
I was unsuccessful.
And thus I found myself perched on a stool at the front of the class, having to read out loud some of the most disturbing shit I had ever written. As the bullets began to fly and blood ran from one end of the bears’ cabin to the other, I started to feel like I was watching a car wreck from afar. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop the brutal scene that was unfolding before me. Soon enough, my anxiety crested and I completely lost it. I began to laugh hysterically, describing the deadly fire between giggles as I gasped for air. I actually started crying as I plowed through the morbid tale, laughing so hard that my words about graphic murder came out as squeaks. I eventually slid off the stool to the floor in a desperate attempt to abort the insanity. The teacher insisted I continue reading from the cold linoleum. He did not much care for me.
In the end, I received a C- on the story (my teacher cited disliking “black humor”), and I gained a reputation for being batshit INSANE for the rest of my freshman year of high school. Fucking fantastic.
So, my former boss had boobs.
This, in of itself, is not remarkable. However, when she sustained an injury to said breast that she insisted was my fault, I found myself face to face with a lot of boob meat.
It all started when I decided I simply had to have a pet in the office. Our soulless span of cold grey cubicles seemed like a parody of a stifling office, and I was beginning to crack. I had already decorated my cube with a lava lamp, a Rubik’s cube, some putty, and other assorted toys, but it still felt like a desk of despair. Perhaps it was the lack of visible windows, or my beautiful view into a dangerously overcrowded supply closet that maimed many a fellow employee.
Whatever the reasons, I somehow felt that introducing LIFE would be a good start.
The natural cubicle pet is, of course, a plant. But given my previous experiences with plants of all shapes and sizes, I knew that I would somehow manage to care it to death within a few weeks. Either that or it would thrive, but then become infested with tiny mites that would then spread across the thinly carpeted floor. Plus the aforementioned lack of sunlight would doom all but the heartiest vegetation.
No, I wanted something that would move.
And so came the purchase of an ant farm. To save myself time and frustration, I opted for the creepy blue gel version of the farm, in which the unfortunate ants would both dig, eat, and shit out only a space-age gel the color of Windex until they ultimately died from despair. Because owning an ant farm as an adult is truly one of the more depressing experiences out there. As the Onion so eloquently observed, an ant farm is a “fun, interactive way to teach children ages 5 and up about unceasing, backbreaking toil and the cold, inescapable reality of death.”
The ants are all female, and fucking PISSED OFF when you receive them in the mail. I placed mine in the workplace fridge to calm them down, which upset many coworkers who felt I was doing some sort of cruel experiment. In a way, I suppose I was. After depositing the now semi-comatose ants into the enclosure, they quickly perked up and began to dig. And die. And dig. And then muse on the ephemerality of life. And then die some more.
The bodies piled up quickly, and the living ants seemed determined to dismember the dead rather than dig more pointless tunnels. A fat ant with glasses was at some point hunted down by a roving pack of insects covered in war paint. The conch lay forgotten at the dead end of a tunnel into which no one dared enter, for a spectral beast lurked within.
Anyway, each day the environment within the farm became more and more bleak. I occasionally had to pry open a corner of the lid to allow the ants some precious oxygen. But upon lifting the plastic, every ant who still possessed the will to live immediately tried to swarm out. They were shockingly fast, and had large mandibles that would leave fiery welts on your fingers.
And so the day finally came when my coworkers begged me to set the ants free. Most were now lying on the surface in a stupor, unwilling to eat, drink, or move. They were waiting for their inevitable extinction.
My boss, a kindhearted soul, took it upon herself to empty the remaining ants into a nearby park. Tired of looking at a constant reminder of my own mortality, I gave her permission to do what had to be done.
She came back with stings on her boobs as the imprisoned ants had ravaged her chest in their haste to escape. She threw the empty ant farm, which resembled some sort of horrible chemical bomb, into a park trash can. I imagined it being surrounded by the NYC bomb squad and detonated within hours. She showed me her battle wounds with a mixture of anger and pride, as if to show me that she had been strong enough to do what I could not.
But she still blamed me for the whole fiasco, and ant farms are now not permitted in the office. However, her boob scars were showed to all for weeks afterwards.
So, SantaCon is (by this point) an international parade of Santas and drunkenness.
The NYC one is pretty huge every year, though I had never gone before. Mostly because I didn’t want to be trampled by surly Santas. But since I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to wear a costume in public, I decided to attend.
The celebration was on December 15 this year, and it was crowded, but luckily not the shit show I had been anticipating. I dressed as a reindeer and swam as a furry lump of brown in a sea of cheap red velveteen. People were drunk, and I got stepped on a few times, but most people were actually more jolly than out of control. Every bar even vaguely on the Santa route had people lining up for 30+ minutes just to get inside, so my co-worker and I popped into the largest bars we could find. Once inside, it was nearly impossible to get a drink, but with patience, we were finally able to enjoy ourselves amidst the nearly 30,000 people dressed up and hammered that day.
Also, these photos have once again reminded me that I need to lose some weight. Sigh. Below are also photos of a packed Santa bar (off the route, so at least you could breathe in there), and this one girl’s awesome homemade menorah costume. All the candles lit up!
So I came back to work after the weekend, and Ichigo had only half of his tail.
I flipped out and figured he had fin rot, and started reading up on the condition. I had some Bettafix medicine, but that was it, and apparently most people who keep Bettas don’t even LIKE Bettafix. Sigh.
But the more I look at Ichigo, the more I think it was a mechanical, rather than bacterial, laceration of his tail. Maybe he got it caught in the filter uptake and it got shredded? Maybe his ceramic barrels cut him up badly? Maybe he just freaked out and chewed off his own tail? Or maybe he blew out his fins by flaring so much at his own reflection?
Whatever the reason, I immediately took everything out of the tank except for his little leaf hammock and the gravel. The live plants were looking a bit worse for wear considering they were only a week old (brown leaves, brown spots, etc.), so I chucked them and got silk plants. His barrel toy turned out to be a razor-infested death trap, and though I’ve filed down the rough patches, I’m too scared to put it back in.
After a few days floating in aquarium salt and Bettafix, Ichigo looks much the same, though at least he hasn’t lost more tail. He’s eating well and swimming around as much as ever, so hopefully he’ll pull through.
But I bought him all kinds of new goodies, including a new log toy (much smoother than the barrels) and a pre-filter sponge to protect Ichigo’s little fins. I also did a full water change, though the picture makes it look cloudy. Sigh.
I think I need to make a baffle for the filter, though. It seems to be pushing him around now when it didn’t before. Or maybe I just didn’t notice?
I have spent more on this fish than I am comfortable admitting.
Oh, man, you guys. I am excited. About a fish. A fishy friend! Of my very own!
Okay, I’ve never had a pet all on my own. My parents took care of all our pets when I was younger, so this is my first foray into pet ownership. So cut me some slack.
But yeah, today I got a betta fish for my desk at work! Click on any of the supply images to buy them online.
Here’s my current tank set-up. I am going out to buy some plants tonight. The pet store only had the sharpest, most knife-like plastic plants I had ever seen, so I passed on them.
And here’s little Ichigo himself! Ichigo means “strawberry” in Japanese, which I thought fit his coloring. I’ve been fussing over him all day, which probably isn’t healthy for either of us, but I just want to make sure that he’s happy!
UPDATE: Tank now with real plants and a background to give it some depth. Except now Ichigo won’t stop flaring at his damn reflection.