Monthly Archives: October 2014

Queen Kong and the force of will

i love the kong ball. it’s just the right size to drive esme insane.
see, her mouth is just BARELY BIG enough to carry the kong, if it’s dry. it’s funny. it has to be heavier than her skull, and she kind of runs with it with a cocked head, like she’s listening for worms.
anyway, i’ve discovered that, when the kong is wet, she can’t carry it. it slips out. rolls a bit. drives her nuts. she’ll start pawing at it, almost angrily. she’ll rise up on her hind legs and punch it with her front paws. stupid ball.
only because i’m a prick, i like to dunk it in the tub before we play. i’ll toss and call her name when she’s trying to pick it up. make her want it badly. ‘eeeeessssmmmmmeeeeeeee.’ ‘where’s the toy, esme?’ ‘boy, i sure wish i had a toy to throw to a dog.’
she goes berserk. sometimes she’ll begin to sprint to the jacuzzi without it. ‘to hell with that. piece of shit ball. i’ll just go up there and get scratched like i never even wanted that dumb…’
and then she will stop in her tracks, dart back to that delicious orb. ‘i can’t quit you, baby. just roll over for mama. stick that divot up in the air for me.’ and she’ll wrestle and wrestle and wrestle. she ain’t leaving.
the ironic thing is, teddy is right there to help. he’ll stand a few feet away and watch the sumo match. ‘i can pick that…ball?… up and take it anywhere you want. i could even take it to dad, cuz he sounds like he reeeeaaaally wants it. oh, and check out the turd i just left. it’s awesome!’
but every every time he gets near the kong, esme lunges, snaps him away.
finally, she gets it in her maw. trots to the tub. she’s panting hard, so it makes her look like she’s smiling. maybe she is. ‘now try hiding in the grass, sumbitch.’
she’s coming up the stars. the kong hits the third stair, rolls out of her mouth. she watches helplessly as it drops underneath the four-step platform to the jacuzzi.
she ain’t panting now, so the smile is gone. now she’s fucked. she’s gotta wedge her globular head in the wood frame, bat at the ball with her noggin (she couldn’t pick her nose with those deformed little legs, let alone reach a under a stair) and hope it rolls out.
20 minutes. i swear, six songs played on itunes before i heard a thump and saw the kong roll out.
she pounces, picks it up without any problem.
i see why. it is caked in mud, dirt, grass, shit and slobber from her brutal courtship.

now she’s got it, though. sisyphus at the top of the hill. she places the crap-covered kong precisely on the ledge, grinningpanting with more vigor than before, and stares at me.
‘throw it, motherfucker.’
to the sheer force of will, even in the face of stairs.

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Michael Ingram: An Appreciation

If you were lucky enough to know Michael Tyrone Ingram, your life was better for it.

Michael was a wondrous contradiction. He wasn’t a socialite, but every relationship he forged meant something, to him and the object of his love. If you liked Mikey, you were going to like people who liked Mikey.

He wasn’t a ladies man, but he had so many who adored him. His final conscious moments were spent surrounded by the women who meant the most to him — Mikki, Jocelyn, Rachel — and who sang him good night.

He didn’t travel much, but he could tell you more about the city you just visited than you could.

He was the kind of guy who’d offer you his kidney.

Below are some memories and anecdotes about a man who touched more lives than he could ever know, and whose life, despite burning out like a Roman candle, will glow long after we’re all gone.

If you knew Michael, please feel free to join the chorus. Share a moment, a laugh, a joke. Michael lived for those.

If you didn’t know him, read on. Michael was as welcoming as a soul gets.

And we will dearly miss his.

Michael loved the movies. He worked for years at a theater, then at Blockbuster, and finally as a Hollywood regular at premieres and screenings. He once joked he was going to change his name to Plus One, but there was no need since he was becoming a “studio bigwig.”

Michael and I met at Lenox Mall, where we worked the box office. We were the only college kids at the theater, so the manager put us in charge of the money.

Big mistake. We weren’t going to steal anything, but we were going to goof all day, by his design.

Michael loved the cuties that came to mall, and developed a system where he would knock on the counter when a hottie was coming up to buy a ticket. We knocked so often the manager once came in and asked “who the hell is hitting our windows?” Michael convinced him it was faulty air conditioning.

The system worked fine until Michael, as his nature, got competitive. The guy would dive for tennis balls on an asphalt court, and he turned the box office into an Olympiad for flirting.

If a cute girl were coming up to buy a ticket, but she was behind a sweaty hick tub of lard, Michael would intentionally drop a bill on the floor, leaving the Orca to me while he waited on the girl. I caught on, and soon we were dropping money, coins, paper clips, anything to avoid the uglies. It must have been a sight, the line running the length of the mall outside the theater, while we were stooped over, nowhere to be found.

It should have been enough to get us fired, but we ended our days at the theater for another reason.

New management had the idea of putting high school girls in the box office, thinking guys would be more likely to buy a ticket if it came from a ditz. Michael, never one to duck the moral stand, asked for a meeting with higher management. He said he would gladly go back to selling popcorn, but asked that I stay on box office to keep the lines moving. The manager thanked Michael, and said he would look into it.

Michael was fired by the time he got home.

When I came in that night, one of the scumbag bosses said Michael had been fired, and to keep my mouth shut or the same would happen to me. I waited until the weekend rush lined up, then walked out of the box office and went home.

Michael heard about what happened, found me at the small independent theater The Tara and we worked together there for the rest of the summer. We had to clean the theater after every midnight showing of Caligula, which was the equivalent of Georgia porn.

But it remained an incredible job, because we never had to face it alone.

Hobos loved Michael, for some reason. Once he tried to help a homeless woman by letting her sleep on his couch in DC for a night. She would forever love him. Occasionally, she’d leave a chair on the porch for Michael. Or you’d hear her scream from the front door, after leaving a paper bag full of beets and kidney beans on the porch, “Michael, I got some food for ya!!”

Another time, a vagrant sat next to Michael on the bus, pulled out a clove of garlic and began eating it like an apple. The smell was so bad Michael got out and walked 2.5 miles home.

But my favorite came on the METRO commuter train in Atlanta.

We had just come back from a movie, were sitting next to each other laughing, when a sanely-dressed woman in the bench across the aisle began muttering. We couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying, but we began hearing the vitriol boil.

She must have thought we were gay, because she kept saying “fag,” “fucking fags,” “you’ll burn in hell.”

A black guy sitting a row in front of us heard the commotion, and told her to “leave those guys alone.” Perhaps he thought we were gay, too, but wasn’t going to have that bullying.

She got quiet for a moment, then began muttering, now worse. “Fags,” “faggots,” “worse than niggers.”

That was it. The guy stood up, walked to her, spit in her face. Stood there, daring her to say another word.

She wiped the sputum from her face, stood up, walked out at the next stop. As the doors closed, she turned, put her hands to the glass outside our bench and screamed “FUCKING FAGS” as the train pulled off.

We were quiet for a moment, not quite sure what happened. After a minute, Michael looked at me.

“Do you think she liked me?”

You could make an album of Michael’s phone messages.

While he wasn’t a drinker, Michael enjoyed the occasional Ambien.

And Ambien enjoyed him. Julie and I kept a voicemail for months he left once after taking the sleeping pill and chasing it with his homemade amaretto sour.

I’m still not sure why he called, because he lived on the second floor of our house and was passed out by the time we got home.

But he loved to chat when was a little stoned.

“Howdy howdy,” he said. “I was just…calling. I took some Ambien and I’m feeling kinda spacey. I’m standing…I’m dizzy. I’m standing and I’m….DIZZY! Anyhooooo, see you in the morning.”

He never once asked us to erase it. Even enjoyed listening to it. Michael didn’t fear laughing at himself, and was usually the loudest one laughing.

One afternoon, when I was in his place, Michael hit the play button on his machine and I was surprised to hear his voice on it. Michael said he occasionally left himself voicemails to remember important chores after work.

“A lot of people do it,” he said, half-defensively. “It’s not weird.”

Except, he conceded, the part where he told himself goodbye.

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To Caroline, with love and squalor


my only sister,
so teddy doesn’t care for fetching anything that’s not in water. i mean, it doesn’t get his fur standing at all. if he catches the ball, sometimes, when esme and i are playing, he’ll trot inside with it. seriously, esme has to go inside and take it like a bottle from a fussy baby.
and if you try to take the ball from ted, he starts away. might run. weird. just wants to chew it.
but lately, he’s been trusting me. bringing it to the edge of the jacuzzi, holding it over my hand.
not to taunt. if i leave my hand still, palm face up, he’ll put the ball there.
won’t completely release, doesn’t fully trust yet that you won’t just throw away the thing we both love so much. why toss that precious, when you know you’re going to miss it and want it and maybe fetching is just an under appreciation of what we have, he says with such earnestness.
holds the ball there, with me, for me, as if it were fucking waterford crystal.
so what he’ll do, he’ll leave it half in my hand, half in his mouth. and sis, we sit there, maybe 3 minutes (that’s long. time it sometime). maybe through a song. but we both hold the ball, and i just put my face in the side of his and just breathe him in. god that sounds so fucked up when i write it, but we do. sometimes i tear up, there in his nape, thinking these different species, who can never speak, can never know what the sky looks like through the others’ eyes. soso heartbreakingly distant.
but there, right then, holding that toy, coddling it like a baby we’re gonna baptize. man, we are on the same page: let’s just sit here and touch. let me put my face in your hands.
i get so taken by the moment, i don’t want the second hand to move, i want to fade to granite there.
and i really will think this, i swear it even if you don’t believe it true.
i will think: my fucking god, what can be truer than this? there’s nothing i could love more than this.
but you.sis
like, at least six times more than that.
so, whatever six times infinity is, that’s all the candlepower brightness and rubber ball bounciness i send to you, my better heart.
i love you.



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